Ron Roenicke’s firing, and the state of the Brewers


The Milwaukee Brewers won two games in a row Sunday for the first time this season, won a series for the first time and improved their record to 7-18. GM Doug Melvin was so impressed he fired the manager.

Who knows what fate might have awaited Ron Roenicke if his team had dared to win three games in a row.

Roenicke’s firing was a surprise only if you had Seattle’s Lloyd McClendon, which seemed a reasonable bet, in the first-to-be-fired pool. Given the investment the Mariners made in 2015, McClendon won’t be far behind.

Melvin said he made the decision to fire Roenicke when the Brewers were 5-17, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and “this came together fairly quick.” Not that quickly, given that it then took three days to act. That’s more Aramis Ramirez footspeed than Carlos Gomez.

Melvin said, correctly, that “managers, sometimes they get better,” less than two months ago when he extended Roenicke’s contract — despite the Brewers’ 9-17 September in 2014 — through 2016. Evidently, Roenicke got worse, much worse, and now the team will be paying their former manager not to manage through the end of the 2016 season.

Remember that the next time the Brewers claim they can’t sign a free agent for financial reasons.

The Brewers may not be the worst team in baseball — not as long as the Phillies are around in 2015 — but they must be the most delusional if they thought they could contend this season with the nucleus of the team that collapsed in 2014. The NL Central, with the Cardinals, Pirates and upgraded Cubs, is improved; the Brewers are worse, and since they led the division by 6.5 games last June 28, they’re 38-66. That’s more than a trend.

They’re not as bad their 7-18 start, but what did Melvin expect when Roenicke had Martin Maldonado (.178 average, .489 OPS) catch more than Jonathon Lucroy (fourth in the 2014 MVP vote), Elian Herrera (.206 average) play second more than Scooter Gennett (.289 average, .754 OPS in ’14) and Logan Schafer (.182) in center field for one less game than Gomez? Injuries hurt the 2015 Brewers more than Roenicke’s strategy.

Firing the manage is a neat trick GMs do when the team they gave them isn’t very good. It deflects attention from the latter. With Gomez back, Gennett on rehab and Lucroy aiming for a return late this month or next, new manager Craig Counsell will look good just by comparison.

Only a cynic would believe that’s why the Brewers wanted to move quickly.

Melvin helped build the best team in baseball this year, but unfortunately for the Brewers, he did it for Kansas City when he traded Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar and Jake Odorizzi (who was part of the deal for James Shields and Wade Davis) for Zack Greinke five years ago. Eighteen months after getting Greinke, Melvin traded him for shortstop Jean Segura and a couple of minor-league pitchers — or a lot less than he gave up.

Melvin is one of the longest-tenured GMs in baseball, starting in 2002, and to be fair, he inherited a team which hadn’t had a winning record in a decade. He built teams which won 90 games twice and reached the NLCS for the first time.

But it came at a cost. Michael Brantley was the player to be named later in a deal which brought CC Sabathia for half a season, and the bounty for Greinke was abundant. Imagine a Brewers team today with an outfield of Brantley-Cain-Gomez, Ryan Braun at first and Escobar at short.

Ron Roenicke might still be the manager.

Unlike Roenicke, Melvin is on the last year of his contract, though owner Mark Attanasio said before the season it was Melvin’s decision. Given the Brewers’ 7-18 start and a farm system that ranks 28th in MLB, according to ESPN.com’s Keith Law, you have to wonder if Attanasio’s commitment to Melvin will be as firm as Melvin’s was to Roenicke.

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