Ron Roenicke and the Career Afterlives of Fired Managers

As the reader will likely already know, Ron Roenicke was relieved of his managerial duties with the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. Nor was this development entirely surprising. After a successful first year with the club in 2011 — a year that ended with a trip to the National League Championship Series — Roenicke’s Brewers were decidedly more pedestrian between 2012 and -14, finishing either third or fourth among NL Central teams in every case. The club was just 7-18 when Doug Melvin et al. made the announcement regarding Roenicke’s dismissal. So, even less impressive than those recent, average-ish teams.

On the one hand, 7-18 is a bad record. On the other, it’s not obvious at all that Milwaukee’s poor play was a product of equally poor coaching by Roenicke. The team were originally projected to win 77-78 games by the methodology used at the site here — with roughly a 4% chance of winning the division and only a 13% chance of making any sort of postseason appearance (including the Wild Card play-in game). Insofar as those probabilities had dropped to about 0% and 1%, respectively, it can be said that the team was underperforming expectations. Objectively, though, the expecations weren’t particularly high to begin with.

Nor can one ignore that a number of circumstances were out of Roenicke’s control. His best player, Jonathan Lucroy, broke his toe in mid-April. His other best player, Carlos Gomez, missed two weeks with a strained hamstring. Ryan Braun, at one point a perennial All Star, had produced fewer wins than a theoretical freely available player. All told, as of today, the club’s five mostly well-compensated players have produced a collective -0.5 WAR. To what degree that’s Roenicke’s fault is debatable — with the caveat that one side of the debate is much easier to support.

As a person who lives constantly (and justifiably) under the impression that he’s about to be fired, the author of this post felt some sympathy for Roenicke. Of course, our situations aren’t entirely analogous. While, on the one hand, Roenicke has earned millions of dollars and will remain compensated by Milwaukee through 2016, my salary is more the kind that allows me to buy a fancy cheese every now and then. Still, the prospect of unemployment isn’t a pleasant one — and, in the case of a major-league manager, is generally the product of disappointing results.

What, I wondered, are Ron Roenicke’s career prospects now that he’s been dismissed from a major-league managerial position? The means by which to answer that question are manifold. The haphazard one I chose was to first identify all those managers who’d assumed that role for at least 162 games over the course of no fewer than two seasons — this, in order to work with a sample of managers who’d been given the job on a full-time basis, and not just held it in an interim capacity. I only considered managers who’d been dismissed from their jobs or not extended following the end of their respective contracts. Which, that’s to say managers who either retired (Bobby Cox, Lou Piniella) or who left of their own volition (Mike Hargrove from the Mariners, Grady Little from the Dodgers) were excluded from consideration. Finally, I considered only those managers who were dismissed at some point between 2006 and -10 — this, in order to examine a sample of former managers who’ve had the opportunity (roughly five to ten years) to move on to other positions.

After having found the relevant sample of fired managers, I performed research on the jobs they’d held since their respective dismissals. The results are below in the form of a table. An explanation of table appears below that.

# Name Team From To Yrs G Mgr Bench Base Special Scout MiLB
1 Fredi Gonzalez Marlins 2007 2010 4 555 Y N N N N N
2 John Russell Pirates 2008 2010 3 485 N Y Y N N N
3 Dave Trembley Orioles 2007 2010 4 470 N Y Y N Y N
4 Jerry Manuel Mets 2008 2010 3 417 N N N N N N
5 Trey Hillman Royals 2008 2010 3 359 N Y Y Y N N
6 Ken Macha Brewers 2009 2010 2 324 N N N N N N
7 Don Wakamatsu Mariners 2009 2010 2 274 N Y N N Y N
8 A.J. Hinch D-backs 2009 2010 2 212 Y N N N Y N
9 Clint Hurdle Rockies 2002 2009 8 1159 Y N N N N N
10 Eric Wedge Indians 2003 2009 7 1134 Y N N N N N
11 Bob Melvin D-backs 2005 2009 5 677 Y N N N N N
12 Manny Acta Nationals 2007 2009 3 410 Y N N N N N
13 Cecil Cooper Astros 2007 2009 3 341 N N N N N N
14 Ned Yost Brewers 2003 2008 6 959 Y N N N N N
15 John Gibbons Blue Jays 2004 2008 5 610 Y Y N N N Y
16 Willie Randolph Mets 2005 2008 4 555 N Y Y N N N
17 Phil Garner Astros 2004 2007 4 530 N N N Y N N
18 Jerry Narron Reds 2005 2007 3 337 N Y N Y N N
19 Jim Tracy Pirates 2006 2007 2 324 Y Y N N N N
20 Sam Perlozzo Orioles 2005 2007 3 286 N N Y N N Y
21 Frank Robinson MTL/WAS 2002 2006 5 810 N N N N N N
22 Buck Showalter Rangers 2003 2006 4 648 Y N N Y N N
23 Dusty Baker Cubs 2003 2006 4 648 Y N N N N N
24 Felipe Alou Giants 2003 2006 4 646 N N N Y N N
Total 11 8 5 5 3 2
Percent 46% 33% 21% 21% 13% 8%

The names are sorted first in order of recency of dismissal and then by number of games managed with the relevant team. Mgr denotes fired managers who’ve gone on to become major-league managers with other clubs. Bench denotes the same thing, except for bench coach. Base denotes base coach (either first or third). Special denotes certain vague positions such as special advisor, special assistant to the GM, etc. Scout refers to any positions, more specifically, within a club’s player development or scouting operations. MiLB refers to any manner of coaching within the minor leagues, specifically.

With regard to the results, there are a number of caveats to be made. First is that, for sources, I’ve used a combination of B-R Bullpen, SABR’s Bio Project, Wikipedia, and then an assortment of Google searches. It’s possible, in other words, that I’ve failed to identify every form of baseball-related employment held by this sample of 24 since their respective dismissals. Also, to that point: I’ve purposely omitted certain types of employment. Willie Randolph, for example, worked as a base coach for Team USA. Jerry Manuel, meanwhile, was recently named to MLB’s diversity task force. More than one of the above, too, have almost certainly held — like Ken Macha definitely has with ROOT Sports — have definitely held some manner of media-related position.

Rather, the objective here has been to utilize recent precedent with a view towards guessing what manner of employment Ron Roenicke might hold over the next five-to-ten years. Insofar as, once again, he’ll be receiving money from the Brewers for another 16 or so months, it’d be understandable were he not to begin his job search immediately. If this sample is any indication, however, it will be unlikely there’s roughly a 50% chance we’ll find Roenicke managing another major-league team at any point over the next 10 years. Beyond that, one finds that a third of the managers in this sample have assumed bench-coach roles — and slightly fewer that both base-coaching and special advisory positions. That would appear to be the most likely future for Roenicke and for any of the other managers dismissed over the next few months.

Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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I don’t fully understand your inclusion criteria, but why is AJ Hinch not included? He managed for 212 games over parts of 2 seasons, was fired in 2010, and has since become a manager yet again.