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Roenicke to return but two coaches dismissed

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke will be back for the final year of his contract in 2015, but will oversee an altered coaching staff.

The team on Friday dismissed hitting coach Johnny Narron after three seasons in the role, and first-base coach Garth Iorg after four seasons. The rest of the staff, including Roenicke, will return.

The decisions were delivered after a week of conversations between Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio, general manager Doug Melvin and Roenicke, who met for eight hours at a Los Angeles restaurant on Wednesday and followed-up with telephone talks Thursday and Friday, all aimed at identifying areas of improvement for a club coming off an historic collapse. The 2014 Brewers became only the fifth team in the divisional era (since 1969) to spend 150 days in first place but miss the postseason.

“The plan was to take a week and let those emotions get out of the way,” Melvin said. “And to take the week to analyze the ballclub offensively, defensively, baserunning, leadership — all the things that go into our decision-making. It came down to two areas we talked about a lot: We had to have better at-bats, and we talked about some mistakes we make on the infield. We have two young infielders [shortstop Jean Segura and second baseman Scooter Gennett] we want to see continue to develop.

“That said, it’s not all the responsibility of the two coaches. They’re both good people, and they work hard at it. It’s unfortunate that sometimes when these things happen, it affects coaches as much as anybody else.”

Said Roenicke: “I like the guys we let go, and I’m never going to say it’s their fault. It’s all of our fault. It’s the players, it’s myself, and it’s the coaches. When you don’t perform in different areas, sometimes that falls on a coach or the manager. Johnny worked hard at what he did and the guys liked him, and we didn’t get it done the way we wanted to. Garth worked hard at his job, and I liked what he did also.”

Melvin declined to say when he and Attanasio reached this conclusion, but at some point they decided Roenicke remains the right man to lead the coaching staff. The Brewers reached the National League Championship Series in Roenicke’s first season (2011), but have fallen short of the postseason each year since.

In three of Roenicke’s four years, Melvin noted, the Brewers have produced a winning record. The one losing season, Melvin noted, was 2013, when Ryan Braun was suspended for the team’s final 65 games.

“[Roenicke] is only in his fourth year of managing, and he does have a reputation for winning,” Melvin said. “If you look at managers’ winning percentages, there’s 13 managers that have managed less than five years and [Roenicke] has the fourth-best winning percentage. Then look at managers [overall] — Buck Showalter has a .520 winning percentage. Roenicke, .517. Joe Maddon, .517. Bob Melvin, .516. Bruce Bochy, .502. Those are pretty good managers that he’s in company with when it comes to winning percentage, and that’s early in his career.

“He knows our organization, he’s won with our organization. The one thing that comes out of this year is winning is no longer acceptable anymore. It’s playoffs. We have to get to the playoffs.”

A vanishing offense was largely to blame for the Brewers missing that mark in 2014. After running second among National League clubs to the high-altitude Rockies in every major offensive category during the first three months of the season, the Brewers struggled to score from July onward. They fell from 4.56 runs per game in the first three months to 3.42 runs per game in the final three. Among the 30 Major League teams, only the Reds struggled more to score down the stretch.

But rather than make snap decisions in the midst of the slide — the Brewers lost 22 of their final 31 games — Attanasio and Melvin opted to spend the first two weeks of the offseason analyzing what happened.

“We talked about what we can do as a leadership team,” Melvin said. “We talked about meeting a little bit more during the season, whether we’re winning or losing. And then we talked about changes. I addressed some areas I think I can get better at to help us. I think we can be more accountable to the players if guys aren’t performing. Maybe we give them a little too much rope. Some of that is my responsibility. We talked about things we all can do — Ron, specifically, addressed a number of issues, some things he feels he can do better as a manager.”

“Anything that we discuss as a team, obviously it relates to me and what I can do better,” Roenicke said. “They had some points they wanted to run by me, and wanted my thoughts on, and to see how we can get better in those areas.”

Did it feel like he was fighting for his job?

“No, I didn’t feel like I was fighting for my job,” Roenicke said. “They wanted me back, and if they didn’t want me back, I wouldn’t have been in that meeting.”

One of Melvin’s top lieutenants, Craig Counsell, will play a prominent role in the Brewers’ search for a new hitting coach but is not a candidate for the job himself at this time. Roenicke already submitted a list of names to Counsell for review. The Brewers could actually discuss hiring two new hitting coaches if they opt to move Mike Guerrero, who joined the staff for 2014 as an extra coach, to the first base role.

Asked to identify the qualities he will seek in a new hitting coach, Melvin said, “I think you have to have someone that can adapt to the personnel that you have. You’d like to get someone who can get hitters to work the count a little bit, but sometimes that’s up to the hitter.”

“We’re dealing with a very strong-minded athlete who gets to this level,” Roenicke said, “and you have to have a personality that can get to these guys and they’ll trust and listen to you. A lot of them have made it on their own by raw ability, and they need to make changes.”

Returning staff will be bench coach Jerry Narron, pitching coach Rick Kranitz, third-base coach Ed Sedar, outfield coach John Shelby, bullpen coach Lee Tunnell and Guerrero.

Roenicke’s contractual status did not change. His deal runs through 2015 with a club option for 2016.

“We’re comfortable with his, and I talked to Ron about that, too,” Melvin said.

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Roenicke: ‘I did the best that I thought I could do’

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke on Sunday morning addressed his uncertain job status. The day before, principal owner Mark Attanaaio told reporters that GM Doug Melvin’s job was safe, but could not offer similar assurances to Roenicke or the coaches.

Those comments were covered over on the site. Here’s the story about Attanasio’s general disappointment about the Brewers’ collapse, and here’s the story about Roenicke’s uncertain future.

“Yeah, I don’t know where we stand,” Roenicke said on Sunday. “Doug, I know, is meeting with Mark, and then he’s going to come down and talk with us today. So I don’t know if it will be a week or a few days, or what it will be.”

Did that make Sunday’s season finale a bit uncomfortable?

“Yeah, it’s always uncomfortable when you’re not sure what’s going to happen,” Roenicke said.

Asked to asses his own job performance this season, Roenicke said, “I’ve worked my tail off. I did the best that I thought I could do. I’m always wanting to do things better and get better at what I do, and sometimes it helps to have conversations afterward on what myself of as a group that we need to do better. You do the best you can do, and you know when you’re a manager, that sometimes if it doesn’t go well, that you’re the guy that’s going to get blamed for it.”

What would he do better?

“I don’t think there is anything that I can just come up with that I need to do better,” Roenicke said. “There are things, without a doubt, but they’re little things here and there that you listen and you think about, that maybe you can do better. But when we’re thinking about trying to figure out what happened in the season in the end, we’ve talked about everything, and I can’t give an answer on what happened. Like I told you guys yesterday, you can point to what happened, but the ‘why’ is what we really need to figure out.”

Is it possible they might never know?

“Sure,” he said.  “There’s been a lot of teams I’ve been on through the years that — you can’t figure out why you do so well sometimes, also. It’s not always the negative part. At the beginning of the season, we were winning a lot of ballgames and I was coming in here saying, ‘How did we win that game,’ because maybe we made a few miscues. We were getting away with some things, but we were winning, and you come in and go, ‘Wow.’

“If you don’t score runs, it’s always down to a small thing. ‘What did we do wrong somewhere?’ Did we give somebody an opportunity score another run because we didn’t make a play? Did we not bunt a guy over to try to get that one run. All the little things come into play, and it’s easy to see what happened in a game when it’s 2-1, 1-0. It’s pretty easy to see what could have gone wrong in those games.”

Asked whether he worried the Brewers could make changes to the field staff just for the sake of change, Roenicke said, “I can’t make a comment that way. I think you always try to improve on what you’re doing. If they think I’m not doing the job that I should be doing, then you try to make an improvement. And same thing goes for the coaches. Same thing goes for the players. If there are some things we can do different with the players in improving this, then we need to do it. If it’s taking the same personnel, players, and working with them and trying to get them better, then that’s what we have to do.

“And we do have to do something. We can’t fall in a skid this long offensively and not figure that we need to try to do something a little different. I know you guys have heard me say it a lot of times — first-pitch-swinging, yeah, we may have scored a lot of runs because of it. But it hasn’t obviously worked here in the last whatever. So that’s something that needs to be addressed. Can everybody be a little better in it? Yes. Guys can’t go from first-pitch swingers to 100 walks a year. I don’t think that happens. But we can all get better at what we do — the players included, me included.”

Roenicke will remain in Milwaukee for a few days after the season, and said he would continue to operate under the assumption he will be back for 2015. He is, after all, under contract.

Near the end of his Sunday morning media session, Roenicke was frank in answering a basic question:

Did he think the pressure of trying to hold first place simply burned some players out?

“Yes, I do,” Roenicke said. “I think, especially for some younger guys, I think it’s very difficult. It may be [the answer]. It’s a grind to be in first and having teams trying to catch you all the time and trying to maintain that. If you go into a slump, you think ‘we have to hold on and get it back again.’ It’s a grind. That’s part of it, though; do you have grinders on your team to get through that part? Do you have grinders on your staff making sure guys are doing the right things and staying positive? A lot goes into that.”

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Attanasio on Brewers: ‘They’re better than this and they didn’t show it’

The highlights will be distilled into a story at Brewers.com as soon as possible, but here is the entirely of what principal owner Mark Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin told reporters in a passionate question and answer session this evening. The bolded sections stood out to me; let me know in the comments what stood out to you:

Melvin began by jumping the inevitable questions about the job status of manager Ron Roenicke and his coaching staff, saying. “I think what you guys want to address is the manager and coaches. We have a process of going through that at the end of the year. This year has been a little different because of us playing the way we have here, and hoping to get in the playoffs late. Those are coming a little bit later, our interviews.

There’s nothing I can answer in regard to the manager and coaches at this time. We’ll talk about the team and the performance of the team.”

When Attanasio was asked about Roenicke’s performance, he turned to Melvin, who said, “I think he’s disappointed.  We’re all disappointed in a lot of our responsibilities to the club. I can look back at myself and say, with some of the decisions we made, did we make the right ones?

“We played very well for a period of time. I would hope that Ron and the coaches, and would hope the players also feel there’s a responsibility for them because we thought we had a good enough team to go to the postseason. When we started out the way we did, we thought we did.

“My biggest concern about the entire season is these losing streaks. Why did we go 2-11 before the All-Star break? We went 6-22 last May. In the end, we’re going to be 81, 82 or 83 wins. That’s probably six or seven wins away from making the playoffs. Over the course of 162 games, it seems like a small amount. What makes it tougher is identifying the issues and the problems because we’ve got a small difference in games winning to go to the postseason. If we won 65 games, it would be easy to identify the problem. You probably stunk in every category doing that. We did have some issues in a lot of categories. You can’t pinpoint anything specifically. If I had to, we’d probably say the offense in the second half of the year was the biggest problem. We’re wondering why did we perform well offensively in the first half of the year and not the second half.

“The old cliché, you want to get off to good start. Well, we did. We didn’t finish strong. I don’t know if next year we’ll be hearing, ‘You guys have to finish stronger.’ There’s a lot of areas we didn’t perform up to expectations. For short periods of time and short spurts. The extended losing streaks are my big concern.”

Asked about Melvin’s job status, Attanasio said, Doug’s standing here so obviously he’s coming back.” 

More Attanasio: “On Aug. 25 I was in San Diego. We won the game, 10-1. The clubhouse was buoyant; the team had an unmistakable swagger on the field. So much so that the Padres owners were coming by and saying, ‘You guys are so big, so strong. Everybody can hit the ball out of the park. How did you guys put this team together?’ From that day, we’ve kind of gone backwards. It’s a mystery in sports.

The short answer is I haven’t handled it well. Honestly, I haven’t slept. Going into September, Doug and I were still working on everything we could to get the team to the playoffs. We [traded for] Jonathan Broxton. That was upwards of an $11 million commitment at the time, if you look at increasing the buyout with his trade option with what he’s owed this year and next year. We thought we were making the playoffs at that point in time. Frankly, even into mid-September I believed in this team and thought they were going to turn it around. They just didn’t. And, so, you can pick the adjectives — frustrated, disappointed, catatonic. Very disappointed.

“In fact, I’m disappointed in the team, disappointed in the guys. They’re better than this and they didn’t show it.

What will he say to the team?

“We talk about team meetings, typically, team meetings aren’t effective in major-league baseball,” Attanasio said. “One of the reasons I’m going to deal with it is this is going to be the first year I don’t address the team as a team at the end of the year. This will be the first time I don’t because I’m just too unhappy, and what’s the point of another meeting to dwell on things? I’m going to talk to some players individually. I’ve started that already and I’ll finish that today”.

Does the team lack heart?

Attanasio: “Again, there’s a lot of euphemisms. We’ve heard heart, we’ve heard leadership, we’ve heard urgency. Just didn’t get the job done. There was a job that needed to get done and it didn’t get done. I actually think what Doug said is accurate — it started with not hitting. The one thing I’ll say that the athletes always say, ‘It is what it is.’  I think they played hard; I don’t think that was the issue.

Was it a lack of focus? 

Attanasio: “One of the things Doug’s going to do over the next couple of weeks — and he’s already started on this — is he’s evaluating everything that got us to this point. There were some good things this season, too, so we’re going to try not to forget those. When you have a 162-game season, it’s a marathon, so at Mile 21 we were in the lead and looked strong. So we want to make sure we want to embrace what got us through those first 21 miles and change out what happened the last five.”

Melvin, asked whether the Brewers’ 150-day stint in first place was a mirage: “At the end it’s going to be 8-9 games difference. Doesn’t matter when you win or how your streaks are. You have two good months, three bad months, two good months. Same as hitting streaks ­– it’s the end; what’s the difference? In the end we’re probably going to fall 7-8 games short. I hear that, I buy that but again, it goes back to, ‘You get off to a good start and finish strong.’

“We went into that San Diego series 13-8 for the month of August and lost six in a row. I thought for sure if we split in San Francisco and the Cubs, you’re still going to have a good winning streak and we didn’t. So, again, I go back to those individual streaks — that prevented us from having a good month. We’re going to take a good look and analyze our ballclub. Offense is down in all of baseball, but I know I just felt when we were successful we had an offensive swagger to us. We hit a lot of home runs. This is the fewest home runs we’ve hit since 2004. But we’ve lost talented players that hit home runs — Rickie Weeks was hitting 21 homers, Corey Hart was hitting 30 and Ryan (Braun) was hitting 41. Home runs are down in baseball, but we had an offensive swagger and teams would come in here and hate to play us in our ballpark.

“Then people like to do different things, ‘We’ve got to run more and all this stuff,’ and we got away from, ‘We only win games when we hit home runs.’ Well, that’s a nice thing. ‘We only win games when we hit home runs.’ I’d like to do that again, ‘We only win games when we hit home runs.’ That’s something that we haven’t done in the last two years. We’re giving up more home runs than we hit. We played the Marlins here; we gave up seven homers and we hit three. So we’ve got to take a hard look at the kind of club you want to be. And that can change. Your personnel forces you to change sometimes. Your philosophy sometimes might force you to change it.

“But I’m a big believer in how you play in your ballpark. The Kansas City Royals are going to the playoffs and they had the fewest walks and the fewest home runs in major-league baseball because they have good pitching, they have an athletic outfield and the largest square footage of outfield in baseball. But they’ve got Dyson, Gordon and Lorenzo Cain who run and catch everything and prevent doubles and the ballpark prevents home runs. So, they win in that ballpark. The Yankees in the past have always built with left-handed pitching and left-handed hitting. So it’s something we’ve really got to sit and think about with our ballclub, what we want to do for our ballpark.”

Could the Brewers be in for more of an offseason shakeup than many expect?

Melvin: “First off, I want to find out who cares about winning and losing in the clubhouse. If there are guys in there that don’t care about winning then they probably won’t be there. As far as shakeup, it could be. We might turn the roster over a little bit. We might have to do that. It’s too early to say that. We haven’t even finished the season. Sometimes you can’t force yourself. There was a particular team that shook everybody up and now they had to shake their front office up. You have to be careful with what you do and think through the process. We’ve had a lot of changes here recently. If you look back at what your team looked like four years ago — teams are altogether different. Your roster, just through the natural causes of the system that we are in with arbitration and free agency, changes quite a bit anyways.”

Was he suggesting some players didn’t care?

Melvin: “I’m not saying that. We’ll find out. I think guys care. Our guys work hard. Maybe they put too much pressure on themselves through the streak. I’m just saying that in general it is a tough business. We’ve had guys in there on winning teams even, even our own players. You have to find out that guys want to be here. Most of them want to be here, but I want to make sure that it is not too comfortable though. We’ve got a nice ballpark and a great fan base, but it can’t be comfortable. Losing and not going to the postseason can’t be comfortable.”

More Melvin: “Power hitters and power pitchers are all very expensive. [Offense is] down in the Minor Leagues, too. The game has changed a little bit. The ERA that was first in the major leagues in 2008 was 18th in the major leagues this year. Hitting is really down. There are trends in the game that you have to be on top of.  There are enough statistical numbers in there that we will take a look at everything. We didn’t play good defense either this year. Our defense disappointed us at times. We’ll take a hard look at everything. We look at players individually, we’ll look at the coaching staff, we’ll look at Ron, I’ll look at myself to see if we can put things together to come back here and get into the postseason. It’s a tough division to play in, and the Cubs are going to get better, the Pirates will be there, the Cardinals are always tough and the Reds will get healthy. I still think it is one of the toughest divisions in baseball. That’s a challenge that we are all faced with.”

Attanasio was asked about accountability: “It’s always important to be accountable, and obviously that gets sharpened in a situation like this. It’s a very difficult circumstance. It hasn’t happened that often. It’s happened with more frequency though, teams that were in first place for 150 days and then have slipped. There was one back in ’69 with the Cubs, but then in ’07 and ’08 and ’09, so it happens a little more. Does the nature of the game have to do with that or not?

It’s not that easy to really understand what happened here. If it were, we would have a quick response today. it’s not like we’re delaying the decision because it’s uncomfortable. We are delaying the decision because we need to do the work to sort through what happened. Some the things Doug said to you all, relative to things we’re looking at, it doesn’t mean we had a problem in those areas, but we are going to look at everything. We are going to look at players and there performance. We are going to look at players’ motivations. We are going to look at field staff. Doug is going to examine what he’s done.

“And frankly, there’s nothing to do about it this season, but if you go back to the four things that I’ve always stressed since I bought the team, No. 1 is being perennially competitive. Always being competitive. The good news is we have been, and frankly, I went back and looked a couple days ago no. This is little solace to me, much less anyone else who is a fan, we actually were 11th during those 10 years in wins. Actually, more wins at that point earlier this week than the San Francisco Giants. We were tied with the Rays at that point, one less loss. Now, that means we never draft low. I’m not making excuses for where we are. Never have. The Pirates had 20 years of losing, a lot of low draft picks, now they are killing it. And I respect that. I always said, ‘We gotta win, we gotta win, we gotta win.’ And we’ve got 2.8 million fans here supporting the team, we we better damn well win. Maybe that wasn’t the right approach. Maybe I should have directed that we take a step back here, which we never have. I am certainly not looking to do that now, by the way. But I do have to examine from the top, is it the right thing? 

“I’ve always felt that trying to compete — trying to provide these fans, that I do believe we put them through a lot these last couple of years. By the way, this year, for me, was as tough as last year. I know last year was misery with everything that went on, this was as difficult to disappear like this at the end of the year. is it the right thing to always try to compete? Again, I think the answer is always going to be yes, because we have 2.8 million reasons to say that. We have 2.8 million reasons to spent $110 million. But you see teams that occasionally retrench, and they seem to be doing a little better right now. We’ll look at all of that.”

What needs to happen to get the fans back next season?

“I think we need to give the fans a reason to come back,” Attanasio said. “That means we have to identify what went wrong, we have to have a good explanation for how we’re fixing it, and if we’re not making any changes, we’d better have a damn good reason for why. And I mean changes broadly speaking — same roster, same manager and coaches, same everything — we’d better say, ‘Well, it was this, and that’s why we’re not changing.’ And that’s an option. One of the things we really tried hard to do this year is build a club that we can bring everybody back. If we spent $110 million, we can being everybody back next year, including Gerardo Parra, including Jonathan Broxton. So even guys we traded for, we can bring back. The question is whether Doug and his group will recommend that we do that.

“I wouldn’t say we’re quite at a crossroads, but we’re at [the point] where you can take a path in the woods, and you take one direction or the other. We do have a lot of talent, we have experienced players. We need to identify what’s missing. Is it more power hitters? Is it more players with an edge? Is it, I don’t know. Whatever it was, it worked like gangbusters the first half of the year, and didn’t work in the second half.”

Any changes to the offseason process?

“One of the things you need to do is bring the same — if you have a good process, you have a good result,” Attanasio said. “Our processes are good. There is no issue at all with our decision-making process, and we’re just going to follow through on it. I think we take an appropriate level of risk. We have very few if any — I don’t think we have any bad player contracts. There’s a lot of things we’ve done well as a result of our process.”

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Roenicke, Lucroy shoot down sleeve conspiracy

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke and Jonathan Lucroy did their best Sunday morning to dispel the theory that Lucroy signaled for the second plunking of Pirates slugger Andrew McCutchen the night before.

Brewers starter Matt Garza was ejected after hitting McCutchen twice in the span of three innings, and said anyone who believes he would do so the second time with a 1-2 count and two outs in the fifth inning of a scoreless game was an “idiot.” That didn’t stop a video clip from spreading around social media of Lucroy touching his facemask, then tugging on the left sleeve of his undershirt, before Garza threw that pitch.

“I don’t know if people don’t watch the games, but I do it all the time,” Lucroy said. “My sleeve gets caught around my elbow and I pull it up. You can go back and watch film from the first game of the season, and I was doing it.

“Look, you’re going to see what you’re going to see as a fan. And whoever thinks that – I’m not really worried about it. I don’t even need to say anything, because I’m in the right, so that’s it.”

Roenicke went further.

Asked whether Lucroy’s sleeve tug meant anything, Roenicke said, “It means what exactly what Garza quoted last night when you guys asked him about hitting McCutchen; If you think that, you’re an idiot. If you’re thinking he’s calling for that, you’re an idiot. It was a great quote, and it’s appropriate for anybody who thinks ‘Luc’ was doing that.”

Roenicke suggested there was too much at stake for both teams to have any spillover into Sunday’s season series finale.

“They understand that Garza wasn’t hitting him on purpose. Thetre’s no doubt,” Roenicke said. “That’s a smart crew over there. They understand. But they also understand that they’ve got a guy that they can’t lose out of their lineup again. I get that. I understand it. So I understand why they’re upset about it; we would be too. Regardless of whether it’s on purpose or not, it still can put your guy out of the game.

“They hit [Carlos] Gomez twice the day before that. We knew that wasn’t on purpose. One was on the foot, and one on the elbow. They pitch Gomez inside, they’re going to hit him. Gomez has been hit more than McCutchen has.”

Roenicke also was aware of the fact Pirates pitchers had hit 85 batters this season – 20 more than any other team in the Major Leagues (the Phillies and White Sox were tied for second). Brewers pitchers had hit the third-fewest number of batters (41) in the National League.

“The way [the Pirates] hit people, the way they pitch inside, they shouldn’t be complaining about anything,” Roenicke said.

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Roenicke on Reynolds: ‘He’ll bounce back’

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke expressed no reservations Friday about re-installing first baseman Mark Reynolds to the starting lineup, a day after Reynolds committed a mental error which contributed to an extra-inning loss to the Cardinals.

Forgetting there was only one out in the eighth inning of that game, Reynolds missed an opportunity to initiate what he and Roenicke agree would have been a double play to end the eighth inning with the Brewers ahead, 2-0. Instead, the Cardinals exploited the opening, scored twice to tie the game and won in 13 innings.

“He’ll bounce back,” Roenicke said. “This is one of our sharpest guys out there. That’s what’s baffling about it. This guy, instinctually, is unbelievable. That’s why when you see those things happen, it’s surprising. And, you know, why couldn’t you do it in a game that didn’t matter? Or a month ago, when maybe we were inning 6-0 in a game and you make a mistake? It’s just when he made it that was so tough.”

Reynolds was the pick to start Friday because the Pirates had a left-hander, Jeff Locke, on the mound. Roenicke’s other option would have been starting Jonathan Lucroy at first base and Martin Maldonado at catcher.

Had Reynolds’ brain fart occurred earlier in the season, might Roenicke and his coaches have made a different choice?

“No,” Roenicke said. “This guy feels worse than anybody does. Sitting him, it doesn’t make you come out and say, ‘Well, I’m going to concentrate better.’ Concentration is something that’s built up over years of playing this game and knowing, mentally, how to think about what you’re doing. There’s a lot of time in baseball between plays, and you’ve got all this time to think about everything else. Over time, you develop a pattern and a rhythm of what you do to make sure your thinking’s right. It was just one of those times when it was crucial.”

Roenicke added, “I’m playing the guys that we need to win this game tonight. Most of the time, that’s the way I do it.”

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Melvin says no decision on Ramirez option

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin expressed surprise Wednesday about a report from Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and MLB Network indicating the team had already decided to exercise its half of third baseman Aramis Ramirez’s $14 million mutual option for 2015.

Melvin said he had yet to even broach the topic yet with Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio.

“We don’t do anything on contracts until the end of the year,” Melvin said. “Paul Kinzer is [Ramirez’s] agent. Paul Kinzer was in town a month ago and we met with him, and he never even brought it up.”

Melvin also noted that Ramirez’s option is mutual, “so if the team picks it up, he has a chance to refuse it and go try to get a multiyear deal. So that makes absolutely no sense reporting it.”

The three-year, $36 million contract struck between Ramirez and the Brewers in December 2011 calls for a mutual option for 2015 with a $4 million buyout to be paid in a pair of $2 million installments over the following two years. Ramirez, 36, has already indicated a desire to play an 18th Major League season in 2015, but has declined to declare his own intentions as it pertains to the option. As Melvin suggested, he may be inclined to test his value on an offseason third base market expected to be led by the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval.

Ramirez entered Wednesday batting .295 with 15 home runs and 65 RBIs, a pace for the lowest homer and RBI totals of any season in which he had played more than 100 games. But the Brewers have no obvious in-house candidate for third base should Ramirez depart.

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Roenicke speaks out constructively on coverage

4f48202ba7a4e.preview-1024It’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. 
 
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Gomez return appears imminent

Carlos Gomez came through Saturday’s batting practice session well enough that the Brewers have graduated to the next step: Trying to figure out where to reinstate him to the starting lineup. 

Limited to pinch-running and defense since Sunday because of a sprained left wrist, Gomez will probably slot back into the leadoff hole, perhaps as soon as Monday night against the Marlins. 

“We talked about it today. I think that’s what we’ll do,” manager Ron Roenicke said Sunday moning. “It kind of depends talking to him and where he is. If he would feel more comfortable down somewhere, we’ll do that. He hasn’t really been gone that long, so it’s more on physically what he can do.”

Gomez was to be examined prior to Sunday’s game by head team physician William Raasch. If he checked out, Gomez would be available immediately off the bench. 

When Gomez returns, the Brewers will essentially be back to all hands on deck as they look to reverse their recent losing ways. 

“Yeah, we’ve got our guys,” Roenicke said. “We’ll see with Gomey what he’s like when he comes back. I think there has to be, probably, a little apprehension when he goes to swing. We’ll kind of see how he gets through this period until he gets confident with it.” 
 
Gomez said Saturday the biggest worry is how the wrist will hold up when he swings and misses, and Roenicke added, “That’s part of what bothers you, because if he feels it again, it’s pretty hard to just let it go and swing hard again. I think he can [dial back] some, it’s just — you get a fastball inside, what do you do? You can’t say, ‘Well, I’m just going to swing 80 percent,’ when you know you’ll never get the bat head there if you do that. That’s the hard part about it.”

Two more notes about Sunday’s lineup: 
 
– Ryan Braun moving up to the two-hole and Jonathan Lucroy taking over at No. 3 is a response to the way Braun is swinging the bat lately, with renewed pain in his right hand. That was covered over at Brewers.com yesterday. When Gomez returns, Braun may fall into the five-hole. 
 
“He’s OK with wherever we put him,” Roenicke said. “But we need him to start swinging like we’re used to seeing him swing.”
 
– The Brewers usually put Lucroy at first base and Martin Maldonado behind the plate against a left-handed starting pitcher, but they did so Sunday against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright because Roenicke decided Lucroy needed a break behind the plate.
 
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Melvin on Seid: ‘He was always rooting for his players’

draft09rs0011Brewers general manager Doug Melvin’s last text from Bruce Seid was, naturally, about a ballplayer. Seid, the team’s amateur scouting director, was in Nashville watching a former Draft pick who was under consideration for a September call-up. 

“Jason Rogers crushing the ball,” Seid’s message read. 

On Tuesday, Melvin was stunned to learn that Seid, 53, had passed away of an apparent heart attack while visiting family in Las Vegas.

Later that night, Rogers doubled in his first Major League plate appearance.

“I pulled Jason aside and showed him that message,” Melvin said. “Then I sent an email to all the crosscheckers and to [special assistants] Dick Groch and Dan O’Brien, and Reid [Nichols, the farm director] and everybody that said, ‘This is really coming from Bruce, because if he was here, you would all be receiving an email that Jason Rogers got his first big league hit.’” 

He was remembered around baseball on Wednesday for that fierce dedication to his players, many of whom took to Twitter to express their admiration. 

“My heart hurts today [because] he world lost another great man,” said Josh Prince, Milwaukee’s third-round pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, Seid’s first as scouting director. “A man of dignity, respect, honor and loyalty. Bruce Seid thank you for everything.”

“RIP Bruce Seid,” wrote 2013 second-rounder Tucker Neuhaus. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without this man believing in me.”

Seid was a 17-year veteran of the Brewers’ front office, a former fourth-round Draft pick of the Chicago Cubs who never made it to the Majors as a player but nonetheless impacted the league, and will do so for years to come as his picks continue to advance.

After stints as an area scout with the Padres and Pirates, Seid spent nine seasons in the same capacity for the Brewers. Among the players whom he drafted and signed were former top prospects Nick Neugebauer (second round, 1998) and Rickie Weeks (first round, 2003). Seid was promoted to West Coast crosschecker from 2007-08, then to the team’s top amateur scouting post after the Mariners hired Jack Zduriencik to be their GM.

Seid has directed the Brewers’ last six Drafts, which have netted five players currently on the active roster: Khris Davis, Scooter Gennett and Mike Fiers from the 2009 Draft, and Jimmy Nelson and Rogers from 2010. He also played a significant role as West Coast crosschecker in drafting Logan Schafer in 2008. 

Melvin gathered those six players outside the Brewers’ clubhouse Tuesday night to share the news of Seid’s passing.

Seid was visiting his 81-year-old mother and some other family members in Las Vegas at the time of his passing. Several days ago, he emailed Melvin asking to extend that visit.

Melvin, of course, agreed.

“I told him, ‘Bruce, you need to take time off and get away from the game once in a while,’” Melvin said. “He was always a guy who wanted to be at ballgames. Couldn’t wait to get to the next game or the next tournament. I’ll miss our conversations. Last week, we were on the phone for over an hour talking about players. He was always rooting for his players. The guy never stopped.”

Look for more reaction to Seid’s passing on Brewers.com this afternoon. 

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Pagnozzi among Crew’s callups

The Brewers’ September call-ups included one new player and a quartet of returning ones, including a starting pitcher for Monday’s series opener against the Cubs. 

The moves involved five players: 

  • Jimmy Nelson was recalled from Class A Brevard County and is scheduled to pitch at Wrigley Field after spending the weekend on the roster of the Brewers’ Florida State League club, a paper move that allowed the big league team to add a bullpen arm. 
  • Right-hander Matt Garza and left-hander Wei-Chung Wang were reinstated from the 15-day disabled list. Garza had been sidelined by a left oblique strain since the first week of August and is scheduled to rejoin the rotation on Wednesday. Wang, a seldom-used Rule 5 Draft pick, had been on the DL since July with what the Brewers termed left shoulder tightness. 
  • Logan Schafer was recalled from Triple-A Nashville in time to bolster a potentially-depleted outfield corps. Starting center fielder Carlos Gomez said he felt a pop in his left wrist during a swing in Sunday’s loss to the Giants, and while x-rays were negative, Gomez is “doubtful” for Monday’s game, according to manager Ron Roenicke. Schafer has batted .183 in 119 Major League plate appearances this season and was demoted to the Minors when the Brewers traded for Gerardo Parra on July 31. 
  • The newcomer is catcher Matt Pagnozzi, whose contract was purchased from Nashville to be an emergency option for the final month. To create space on a full 40-man roster, the Brewers shifted injured infielder Jeff Bianchi to the 60-day DL. Pagnozzi is the nephew of former Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi, and has logged big league time in his own right for the Cardinals, Rockies, Pirates and Astros. 

The Brewers on Monday also expect to be joined by reliever Jonathan Broxton, acquired Sunday in a trade with the Reds. Broxton projects to pitch as a set-up man for closer Francisco Rodriguez.

So, six “new” players if you count Wang, but only two bats, and no Rob Wooten. Since Wang rarely pitched from April to June, it’s difficult to imagine the young lefty seeing significant action in a pennant race.

Remember, the Brewers can always make more additions after Nashville concludes its season on Monday. 

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