Back in Anaheim, Roenicke finds fit with Angels
Former MLB manager returns as third-base coach, glad to be on same page with bosses
For Ron Roenicke -- and, for that matter, Bud Black -- the Angels were an ideal landing spot if the Dodgers' managerial vacancy didn't work out. But before he agreed to return as third-base coach and rejoin the staff of longtime manager Mike Scioscia, there were certain things Roenicke wanted to hear from Billy Eppler; certain things the first-year general manager reassured him of rather quickly.
"Some people don't think experience is important, and I think, with the conversation I had with Billy, the things that he had to say were right in line with the way I think," Roenicke said in a phone conversation on Monday, six days after returning from a Caribbean vacation. "I know Mike has also been really impressed with the conversations that he's had so far with him."
Roenicke -- the Angels' third-base and bench coach from 2000-10, then the Brewers' manager from November 2010 to May 2015 -- doesn't believe experience is valued enough these days. He thinks too many managing jobs are going to those who haven't done enough coaching, and he believes synchrony between a front office and its coaching staff is paramount.
The latter was a key issue between Scioscia and former Angels GM Jerry Dipoto, who was hired as the Mariners' GM in late September and promptly named Scott Servais -- the former Angels executive who hadn't coached at any level -- as his new manager.
Like Servais, there's Craig Counsell, who replaced Roenicke immediately after a short stint in the Brewers' front office. Or Dan Jennings, the GM-turned-manager in Miami for the last 4 1/2 months of this past season. Or Robin Ventura, Mike Matheny, Brad Ausmus and Walt Weiss, who got their first managing gigs with little to no prior coaching experience.
"It's one thing to hire a coach that has gone through the Minor Leagues managing or coaching, or in the big leagues has coached for a while. ... If you give that guy an opportunity to manage, I think that's great," said Roenicke, who mentioned Giants bench coach Ron Wotus and Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach as deserving future candidates.
"But a guy that has never put on a uniform before and coached? No, I don't believe in that. I think you're missing a lot. Now, will he eventually get there? Yeah. Maybe in five years, he becomes a really good manager, I don't know. But there's a learning curve. And to think that there isn't a learning curve is disturbing to me."
Roenicke still aspires to manage, but would be happy to merely remain a coach for the rest of his career. He simply wants to work. The 59-year-old got antsy in the three months he spent without a job this past summer, so he returned to his role as a third-base coach with the Dodgers in the middle of August and eventually got back into a flow.
"The first couple of days, I was lost," Roenicke said. "I thought, 'Oh boy, what am I doing?' And after a while, I was like, 'This is why I enjoyed this so much.' It's an intense job. There's a lot of pre-planning, but there's a lot of just quick decisions that you have to have good instincts at. And I enjoyed that."
Roenicke considers himself aggressive, which is exactly what Scioscia wants out of his third-base coaches. Roenicke believes that if you force the issue at home, the numbers will ultimately fall in your favor. And he thinks that is especially the case these days, with outfielders practicing their throws to home far less frequently.
"The thing about Ron, he's got a great eye for the game," said Black, the former Angels pitching coach who was recently hired as Eppler's special assistant. "He sees the game in a very in-depth way that is conducive to playing winning baseball. He's got a great eye for talent, he's got a great in-game awareness. I think he's a guy that teaches. He leads. He does many things during the course of a day that makes an organization better and players better."
Roenicke maintained a house in San Clemente, Calif., and remained good friends with Scioscia during his time in Milwaukee. He spoke to Eppler before interviewing for the Dodgers' job and said he quickly became convinced that the Angels would be the right fit. It was familiar, sure. It wasn't a rebuilding effort, which is always ideal.
But he also trusts Eppler's vision. And he believes there will be synergy between the front office's ideas and the coaching staff's methodology, which was sorely lacking in the time Roenicke was absent.
Time will tell.
"Something we always talked about with Mike, with Joe Maddon, with Buddy, is making sure that we're always doing things the right way," Roenicke said, referencing Scioscia's original coaching staff. "If it's something new, bring it to us, we'll think about it, we'll see if it can work, and if it's better, we'll use it. And I like that thinking. You don't just do new things just to do them and stick with them if they don't work.
"Today's game has changed some, and I think you have to adjust to what's going on, but the experience is so huge. You're dealing with people; you're dealing with young men that you have to be able to reach. ... In today's game, which seems to be going a little bit away from that, any time I hear someone talking about things that are important to me, it makes me feel good about that person and being with them."