It’s an understated part of the gig when you’re manager of a Major League Baseball team, the fact you’re required to meet the media before and after every game to answer the questions of the day. By nature of that arrangement, Ron Roenicke is far and away the Brewers’ chief spokesperson, forced to answer more than anyone else in the organization when things turn south.
On Wednesday, when Roenicke handled with reporters on the Brewers’ bench while the team began batting practice, he had something to say. Since he did so with the voice recorders and cameras rolling, I think it bears sharing publicly:
“A lot of times,” he said, “I’ll read something that’s been written, like during this time, obviously it’s a tough time. And sometimes when I read stuff I feel like I’ve been pointing fingers at what’s been going on, and I don’t like that. And it’s too bad that when you guys write articles, that there can’t be the question first as to why I’m answering this way.
“For instance, I read [Ryan] Braun and [Aramis] Ramirez. You guys asked me about them … and if I was just to bring up, ‘Hey, Braun and Ramirez need to get this thing going,’ that’s coming from me and I’m saying, ‘These guys need to do it.’ But when you ask me, ‘Hey, do you think Braun and Ramirez need to get this going for you to get it done?’ my response is then going to be, yes, that Braun and Ramirez are both parts. But when there’s no question there, it appears I’m the one bringing it up. And I don’t want — through all of this stuff, I’ll point fingers at myself as much as anybody else. It’s my responsibility to get this thing turned around.
“So I don’t want to read me saying it’s somebody else’s fault, because it’s not. We’re all in this together. We’re all a team trying to get the mojo back and trying to get this rolling right. These guys are going about their business the right way. They work hard. They have energy for the game. But yet, because it’s such a negative time, that when I read it, I read it like I’m pointing fingers.”
It strikes me that is a completely fair critique of news items that appeared on several outlets Tuesday, including MLB.com. Here’s the lede to my story
MILWAUKEE — Aramis Ramirez’s first RBIs in September came with Ryan Braun out of the lineup nursing a lingering right hand injury. Brewers manager Ron Roenicke knows that for his team to snap its prolonged funk, it will need more from its middle-of-the-order hitters.
“We need [Ramirez] and we need Ryan,” Roenicke said Tuesday afternoon. “We need to somehow get them back to that good spot where they are. With these remaining games, we need to have guys really performing. I don’t ask them to do anything they aren’t capable of doing. Just perform the way we know they can.”
Everything in that passage is true, and Roenicke is quoted accurately. But I am sympathetic to the critique that it suggests the manager offered up this idea to reporters, unprovoked, of needing more from those two players. He did not. He was asked a series of questions about Braun’s injury and Ramirez’s recent production, and he answered honestly. Then the quotes and the information get packaged together in a story. The questions never make it in print.
“I’ve felt this [for as long] as I’ve managed, that when I say something, I always wished that the question was written. ‘This is what was asked, and this is how I responded.’ Then, if I’m a player and I’m reading it, I’m like, ‘He was asked this question, he’s got to answer it,’ versus, ‘Why would Ron bring that up? Why would he all of a sudden just say that?’ Well, they didn’t hear the question. It has nothing to do with [a specific] article. …
“There’s no issue recently that’s been any different from the first day I managed. It’s just, during this time because I am sensitive about what I say — I’ve always thought this way, and now I’m paying more attention to it, I guess. When things are going good, players are kind of like, whatever. When it’s going bad, they don’t want to feel like they’re getting blamed for something that’s going wrong. I guess that’s why I’m more sensitive about it.”
“There hasn’t been [any finger-pointing], and I don’t want to be the guy, certainly, if a player picks something up and reads it, he’s like, ‘Well why is he pointing a finger at me?’ That’s just something I was thinking about.”
For the record, Roenicke has been candid about the Brewers’ recent failures, but has not once unduly pointed fingers at a specific player or facet of the team during its recent slide. His style has not wavered: He will not call players out, and he will not go out of his way to assign blame. I realize that some in the Twitterverse and Talk Radio Land have criticized that strategy, but Roenicke has at least been consistent.
So, there you go. Something else to chew on as the Brewers prepare to face the Marlins at Miller Park.