NICK CAFARDO I SUNDAY BASEBALL NOTES
The reasons managers are hired these days can often be perplexing. The recent trend has been to hire younger managers who can better relate to players, communicate better with them. That is why we have Alex Cora in Boston and Aaron Boone in New York.
Not long ago, being a bench coach for a winning team really meant something. That guy was always coveted when a team was searching for a new manager. Cora, in fact, was that bench coach with the World Series champion Astros, and so Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski figured Cora might be worth exploring. Dombrowski did, and he hired Cora.
Now we have Ron Roenicke, an old-timer compared with others in coaching and managing. He’s 61, and he’s Cora’s bench coach on the best team in baseball. If you need a tried and true, consistent, even-keeled manager, this is the guy.
Roenicke spent parts of five seasons managing the Brewers (2011-15), and when expectations weren’t met, he was fired. It wasn’t a justified firing, as most aren’t, but Roenicke understands that managers are hired to be fired. He had spent six years as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach with the Angels, which is likely where the Brewers got the idea that Roenicke might be a good choice for manager.
Roenicke seemed content to go to his Southern California home and call it a career, but Dombrowski and Cora called and laid out what they had planned. Roenicke liked what he heard and accepted the job as Red Sox bench coach.
Roenicke acknowledges that he misses being a manager and would return to managing “if it’s the right situation.” What the “right situation” is is unclear, and Roenicke would have to consider if it was a good fit for him.
“I miss it,” Roenicke said of managing, “but I really enjoy what I’m doing now. Coaching is fun. It’s rewarding to be able to work with the players.”
Roenicke never knew what drew the Brewers to him, he just knew that when the teams he managed in Milwaukee didn’t meet the expectations of ownership he would be gone. And that’s what happened. Roenicke was 342-331 with the Brewers, including winning 96 games in 2011. But the Brewers started 7-18 in 2015, and Roenicke was fired.
“It was a good team coming in [to 2015] and I didn’t perform well, and when that happens you know it’s a matter of time,” he said.
Roenicke sat at home for two months before the Dodgers called to see if he’d be interested in being their third base coach. The Dodgers made the playoffs that season, and Roenicke transitioned back to coaching.
“No, it wasn’t hard,” he said. “I was let go after the first month. And I had a great time with that team. When I went back to coaching, obviously the focus is different. The thing you take care of is the players. As a manager you’re taking care of coaches, medical staff, the press. So, it’s different.”
Roenicke said what he thought would happen with the job as Red Sox bench coach has happened.
“Alex and Dave both explained enough to me what they thought was going to happen,” he said. “I liked it enough and left some people I really like in Anaheim to come here.”
Roenicke, who also was brought to Boston to possibly mentor Cora, said, “He’s picked it up quickly. He’s really sharp, which I knew he was. Even when I had him as a player he was different than the others. I figured he’d do this pretty quick, but it takes a long time to figure out personalities and how to protect your players in the press and upstairs. He listens to me and runs ideas by me all the time.
“And he does implement things I’ve suggested. He’s got a sharp mind and he has certain beliefs and we do disagree from time to time, but that’s fine. We talk it out, sometimes during the game and sometimes after, but we always have a solution to whatever we disagree on. We come up with common ground. I think if we didn’t have that I wouldn’t be happy with the job, but he listens to me and respects my opinion, and that’s all I can ask for.”
There could be managerial openings coming up with the Blue Jays, Rangers, Orioles, Cardinals, and perhaps even the Angels, as the rumors are Scioscia might be done after 19 seasons.
Roenicke would offer a stabilizing influence. Players always seek his input and advice. Fellow coaches also learn from Roenicke’s experiences, and certainly Cora has benefited this year from such a veteran presence. Roenicke is getting a lot of attention for being on the coaching staff of a successful team.
No, he’s not the young manager some organizations are seeking, but he is a baseball man who really knows the game.
1. There’s a movement within baseball to get rid of the waiver trading period and extend the non-waiver trade deadline until about mid-August. While there are trades made during the waiver period, the exercise is time-consuming and creates a lot of administrative paperwork that even Major League Baseball would love to eliminate. “It’s just a stupid exercise,” said one National League official. “You pass players through waivers that you have no intention of ever trading. Ninety-nine percent of the good players that get claimed are pulled back, and the ones you do want to move you find what the claiming team is offering is just 25 cents on the dollar. The simple solution is to just extend the non-waiver deadline so that teams can figure what they have at the beginning of August — if they have an injury or if some player is underperforming then you look to improve your club. The way it is now is just futile. If you’re a good team, you constantly get blocked for players that could be useful to you.” This is a negotiated issue between players’ union and owners, so there would have to be mutual agreement to change it.
2. I was at Rogers Centre this past week and was talking to ESPN’s Howard Bryant about obscure players. I brought up Roger LaFrancois, who spent the entire 1982 season with the Red Sox as the third catcher behind Rich Gedman and Gary Allenson. LaFrancois had 10 at-bats the entire year with four hits. And that was it for his career. Then I thought of Herb Washington, the designated pinch runner employed by Charlie Finley in Oakland. Washington appeared in 105 games between 1974 and ’75 with the Athletics and stole 29 bases in 1974, being caught 16 times. He never had a bat in his hands. Zero at-bats in 105 games.
3. The Blue Jays’ managerial situation seems to point toward John Gibbons’s tenure likely ending after this season. Because Jays management is Indians-centric, with Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins running the team, it would be interesting to see whom they would pick as Gibbons’s successor. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale would be the perfect choice, but if they’d be thinking outside the organization, some people with Shapiro/Indians ties are former Indians infielders John McDonald and Mark DeRosa; Indians coach Sandy Alomar Jr.; Indians bench coach Brad Mills; and former Indians manager Eric Wedge, who is currently in the Blue Jays’ front office. Another excellent choice would be Blue Jays third base coach Luis Rivera, who also was once in the Cleveland organization.
4. Managerial temper tantrums are alive and well within the Chicago Dogs, an American Association team managed by Butch Hobson. The former Red Sox third baseman and manager, who is now 65, ripped the third-base bag from the ground and handed it to a fan in protesting a call in a recent game against the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.
5. For the playoffs, the Indians in the American League and the Brewers in the National League could be dangerous teams. But consider this about the Indians, according to MLB Network researcher Elliott Kalb: They entered Friday with a combined 27-8 record against the Tigers, White Sox, and Royals, but were 37-42 against the rest of their opponents. They also play another 22 games against their favorite teams the remainder of the season and therefore have the weakest schedule in the majors the rest of the way.
6. It’s incredible the firing line scouts find themselves in these days. The Mariners recently let six of their scouts go. Very good scouts in Justin Germano, Jason Lefkowitz, Lee MacPhail, Tim Kissner, Brian Nichols, and Rudy Terrasas. Austin Wates decided to leave on his own. Troubling trend.
7. Through Thursday, the Rays had played 49 one-run games and had won only 22.
8. The mystery of the waiver trading period has been why the Mariners did not block the Athletics from acquiring starter Mike Fiers from the Tigers and reliever Fernando Rodney from the Twins. The Mariners had dibs on those players ahead of the A’s based on won-loss record. The teams are competing for the final AL wild-card spot.
1. David Wright, 3B, Mets — Mets bench coach Gary DiSarcina said he’s never seen a player want to play more than Wright. “He’s done everything he possibly can to resume his career,” DiSarcina said. “If desire and effort go into his comeback, he’s done it. Everybody is rooting for him. He’s such a good person and totally devoted to getting back on the field.” DiSarcina said Wright is currently in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and at some point soon he will test his ability to play in games. DiSarcina said Wright seems more optimistic than ever about the possibility of resuming his career. Wright did not play in 2017, and has yet to play this year, because of neck, back, and shoulder surgeries. He’s played in only 75 games in the last four years. Wright, now 35, made seven All-Star Games in his first 10 years in the majors and was on his way to a Hall of Fame career. He signed a 14-year, $192 million deal, which runs for two more seasons, but his salaries decline from $20 million this season to $15 million in 2019 and $12 million in 2020.
2. Yoan Moncada, 2B, White Sox — The former Red Sox farmhand entered Friday leading the majors with 163 strikeouts. In 105 games through Aug. 8, he’d struck out at least twice in 51 of them (that was also the most in the majors, with the Rangers’ Joey Gallo at 50). It’s funny, but we all had this perception that former Red Sox first baseman Dick Stuart struck out a lot. But he never fanned more than 144 times in a season. As the Chicago Tribune recently pointed out, the two players traded for one another, Moncada and Chris Sale, lead the league in strikeouts. Sale has struck out 207 batters.
3. Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners — It’s come to this: There’s actually talk of King Felix moving to the bullpen because he’s been so ineffective. But you could see it coming. In 2014, he finished with an ERA of 2.14. That was followed by 3.53 in 2015, 3.82 in 2016, 4.36 in 2017, and 5.73 this year. Hernandez is signed through next season for $27,858,000.
4. Dillon Thomas, OF, Texas (American Association) — Thomas is having a great year and is perhaps worthy of a major league shot. The 26-year-old is a lefthanded hitter, 6 feet 1 inch, 220 pounds, who in 75 games this season has hit 12 homers and knocked in 49 runs while batting .332 with 14 stolen bases. All in 271 at-bats. Independent leagues still provide teams with that “diamond in the rough” find, as the Red Sox got with Daniel Nava once upon a time.
5. Bob Melvin, manager, Athletics — With all due respect to Alex Cora and Aaron Boone, Melvin, a former Red Sox backup catcher, has done his usual amazing job in leading the A’s into contention. Melvin has had to deal with all sorts of rebuilds and teardowns in his Oakland tenure. The two-time Manager of the Year (once in each league) appears primed to contend for the award again, after bringing together a solid core of young players with well-placed veterans around them. Melvin has been able to insert more of his personality into this edition of the team.
6. Dave Trembley, former manager, Orioles — Trembley managed the Orioles from 2007-10 and has since worked for the Astros (as bench coach) and Braves. He recently resigned his position as the Braves’ minor league field coordinator. Trembley said he resigned to pursue other opportunities in baseball. One of the best teachers in the game.
7. Dillon Tate, RHP, Orioles — Scouts who recently saw Tate pitch for the Orioles’ Double A Bowie squad were impressed with his stuff. The feeling is Tate, who was acquired from the Yankees in the Zach Britton deal, has 93-95-mile-per-hour velocity with good offspeed action. Tate was hit around for nine hits and five runs in six innings in his last start. Some have likened him to veteran righthander Edwin Jackson.
8. Peter Alonso, 1B, Mets — We thought J.D. Martinez would be the first professional player to reach 100 RBIs this season, but he was edged by Alonso, who drove in his 100th run for Las Vegas, the Mets’ Triple A affiliate, on Thursday, at around the same time Martinez hit his 35th homer and drove in his 99th run for the Red Sox. Alonso, 23, is a 6-3, 245-pounder who is hitting .286 with 28 homers and a .967 OPS. He hit the century mark in 391 at-bats.
9. Tony LaCava, assistant GM, Blue Jays — LaCava, along with Jays vice president of baseball operations Ben Cherington, are being considered for the Mets’ GM job. Also being looked at is Rays special assistant Bobby Heck.
From the Bill Chuck files — “Astros starters have made 73 starts of at least five innings in which they have allowed two earned runs or fewer, the most in the majors.” . . . Also, “Pitcher Oliver Drake has made 26 appearances this season split between the Brewers, Indians, Angels, Blue Jays, and now the Twins. He has become the only player in major league history to play for five teams in a single season.” . . . Happy birthday, Matt Clement (44) and Reggie Harris (50).
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