FORT MYERS, Fla. — They were first thrown together as minor league roommates in the late 1970s. Ron Roenicke was an outfielder from southern California and Mike Scioscia a catcher from a suburb of Philadelphia.
The Dodgers considered them both good prospects, players who could help what was already one of the best teams in the game.
“All we ever did was talk about baseball and think about baseball,” said Scioscia, who was quick to return a message from a reporter wanting to talk about his old friend. “It was a great time in our lives.”
Scioscia made it to the Dodgers first, in 1980. Roenicke followed a year later. They played for Tommy Lasorda and looked around a clubhouse that included Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Davey Lopes, Steve Garvey, and Pedro Guerrero.
“Your job was listen and learn,” Roenicke said.
When Scioscia became manager of what were then called the Anaheim Angels before the 2000 season, one of his first calls was to Roenicke to become his third base coach. They spent 11 more years together and won a World Series in 2002.
So you can understand why Scioscia was thrilled when the Red Sox named Roenicke their interim manager last week.
“He’s going to do a great job for that team,” Scioscia said. “Ron is insightful and he has a great demeanor about him. A great baseball mind, too. I’m glad to see Ron back managing. They’re not ideal circumstances, but he’s the right person for that team.”
Scioscia’s coaching staff included bench coach Joe Maddon, who went on to manage the Rays, Cubs, and now has the Angels. Pitching coach Bud Black managed the Padres for nine years and now manages the Rockies.
Roenicke managed the Brewers from 2011-15 and unexpectedly has a second chance with the Sox after Alex Cora lost his job.
“We were all good friends,” Scioscia said. “I was so fortunate to have them as coaches. I can’t take credit for what they went on to do. They were all such good baseball minds.”
One coaching staff produced three managers; that’s how impressive the Angels were. They played fast, they were fundamentally sound, and they came at you with waves of pitchers.
The game has changed now, with more emphasis on trying to hit home runs instead of putting the ball in play. But Scioscia had watched Roenicke adapt.
“Ron has picked things up very quickly over the years and he certainly understands how to connect with players and what their passions are,” he said. “He’s got a pretty good way about him. There’s no panic.”
Scioscia predicted Roenicke would successfully juggle playing aggressively with what the analytics say is the right decision.
“He’ll find that balance,” Scioscia said. “That’s what you need in the game today. I watched from the other side the way the Red Sox played in 2018. They played good baseball and Ron was right there for all that.
“You want to put pressure on the opposing pitcher, and the Red Sox have the players who can do that.”
Nobody called it analytics 20 years ago. But Roenicke said he, Scioscia, Maddon, Black, and the other Angels coaches would spend hours after games discussing how best to make out a lineup or use certain players.
“Ron and Joe used to talk about wanting to shift more than we did,” Scioscia said. “We talked about using a four-man outfield against Barry Bonds. There were a lot of things we considered, but you couldn’t quantify it at the time.”
In today’s game, somebody can run the numbers right away to see if an idea makes sense. That used to take several days if it happened at all.
“Players always look to the manager, and Ron can communicate that information to them,” Scioscia said. “That’s important, that and teaching the game to young players. He’ll work well with his coaches.”
In what has been a brief time as manager of the Sox, Roenicke comes across as easygoing. He was largely in the background during his two seasons as Cora’s bench coach, and that seemed to suit him.
Don’t be fooled. Roenicke will be direct when it’s needed. Scioscia said Roenicke is the kind of friend who will tell you if the bottle of wine you brought over to dinner isn’t to his liking.
“He’s as competitive as it gets,” Scioscia said. “He’s a winner. He’s very sincere, very honest. He’ll tell people what he thinks. But those are positives when you have that job.”
Scioscia left the Angels after the 2018 season. But he has stayed connected to the game and will be watching the Red Sox this year.
“I get it’s difficult with trading [Mookie] Betts. But they still have a lot of players who have World Series rings,” Scioscia said. “Ron’s going to get a lot out of them. He’s going to work hard at that job. He was their best choice.”