Ranking Roenicke: How does the rookie skipper compare to his not-so-illustrious predecessors?
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Though Ron Roenicke’s tenure as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers is scantly more than a third of a season old, he’s already led his squad to an impressive above-.500 record, as well as some key wins over formidable NL Central foes. But fewer than 60 games into his stint, how does Roenicke compare to managers of years past? The A.V. Club dusted off some history books and pitted Milwaukee’s head honcho against some of his predecessors.
Dave Bristol—1970-1972 (144-209 record)
Though graced with the honor of being the first manager in Milwaukee Brewers history, Bristol is also plagued with the distinction of being one of the club’s all-time worst. Despite previously leading the Cincinnati Reds to a winning record in each of his four seasons at their helm, Bristol failed to produce similar success with the newly relocated Seattle Pilots expansion club, re-dubbed the Brewers.
Del Crandall—1972-1975 (271-338 record)
In the first of two instances of bestowing an undeserved manager tag upon a Milwaukee catcher of yore, former Braves All-Star backstop Del Crandall took the reigns of the pitiful 1972 Milwaukee Brewers (following a 1-1 record by interim manager Roy McMillan), and rode the team even further into the ground. Crandall would chase his 54-win partial season with three consecutive losing seasons.
Harvey Kuenn—1975 and 1982-83 (160-118 record)
When people think about the greatest Brewers team, the ’82 club immediately comes to mind. After Buck Rodgers was shown the door 47 games into that historic season, Kuenn, a charismatic West Allis, Wisconsin native, stepped in to will the Crew to turn its season around. His so-so career record and relatively short time at the end of the bench don’t exactly support his local legend status, however. But apart from the short period during the Ken Macha era in which the Brewers were nicknamed “White Milk,” Kuenn was the only Milwaukee skipper to inspire a drink-related team moniker, and his impressive record of fewest legs by a manager (one) is one bound to stand forever.
George Bamberger—1978-79, 1980, 1985-86 (377-351 record)
The boring-but-effective bread encasing the sweet and Kuenn innards, George Bamberger turned his successful stint as Baltimore’s pitching coach in the late 1960s and early ’70s into a managing gig in Milwaukee. Nagging health problems and a revolving-door relationship with the team found Bamberger captaining the ship for parts of five terms, three of them non-consecutive. For the most part, he was solid, twice topping the 90-win plateau. However, Bamberger just didn’t quite have the makings to be on the short list of Milwaukee’s best managers, nor become a signature burger at AJ Bombers.
Tom Trebelhorn—1986-91 (422-397 record)
With just nine games left in the 1986 season, Bamberger handed the reins over to Tom Trebelhorn. The green manager led the club to just one losing season in the next five years. He would later make his way down I-94 to manage the (not yet rival) Chicago Cubs in 1994. Somewhere, a reader is still booing at his or her desk while drinking a morning cup of coffee from a novelty foam Hulk fist.
Phil Garner—1992-99 (563-617 record)
Owner of a .477 winning percentage and just one winning crusade during his eight-season Brew City tenure, Phil Garner had a shockingly long leash in Milwaukee. Though, looking back at some of those teams, the Brewers front office was probably glad Garner (or anyone) was willing to take the job managing its “professional baseball team.” A weird realization: You’d never see Garner and Bernie Brewer in the same room together. Odd.
Davey Lopes and Jerry Royster—2000-02 (197-289 record)
Do we need to do this one? We’re not doing this one.
Ned Yost—2003-08 (457-502 record)
In Del Crandall fashion, Edgar “Ned” Yost parlayed his time behind the plate in Milwaukee into a managerial gig. Also like Crandall, Yost inherited a terrible team from his predecessor. After a couple of Brady Clark-laden, Brooks Kieschnick-pinch-hitting seasons at the helm, Yost led the ’05 club to the long-elusive .500 season, which at the time was like winning a blowjob lottery. He was unceremoniously dismissed with a dozen games left in favor of Dale Sveum, who eked the Crew into the postseason. But let’s be honest: CC Sabathia probably ghost-managed the team.
Ken Macha—2009-10 (157-167 record)
What a pity to round out this tumultuous list of past managers with its most crushingly dull inclusion. The white-haired former Oakland A’s lame duck yawned and gum-chomped his way through two losing seasons with the Brewers—probably through the use of a series of wires and pulleys. After that, either his contract wasn’t renewed or the notion of what we humans call “love” caused his circuits to overheat. We forget which.
So there, you have it: an eclectic and largely unimpressive list of Milwaukee managers. It’s too early to tell where Roenicke will rank on this list after he’s filled out his last Brewers lineup card, but we can be certain of one thing: There’s no way he’ll be worse than Jerry Royster.