Unsurprisingly, the ax has fallen on Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. On Sunday night, Milwaukee announced in a statement that it was relieving Roenicke of his duties, ending his tenure with the team after four-plus seasons. The team announced Roenicke's replacement, former MLB infielder and Brewers' front office member Craig Counsell, in a press conference on Monday morning.
Roenicke's firing comes amidst a nightmare start to the Brewers' season. Milwaukee is an MLB-worst 7–18 and is already 11 1/2 games out in the National League Central. That record is no fluke: By almost any measure, the Brewers have been a disaster. Their 82 runs scored are fourth lowest in baseball, and the team's .276 on-base percentage is 29th in the majors. The pitching side of things has been no better. Milwaukee's team ERA is a ghastly 4.42, the second-highest mark in the NL, and the Brewers have given up 33 homers, second only to the Padres for the most in baseball. Add it all up, and you have a team with a run differential of -41; only the Phillies have a worse margin, at -50.
"It's all about wins and losses, and after the first month of play this year, we didn't see the progress and improvement we had hoped for," said general manager Doug Melvin in a statement released by the Brewers. "The reasons for our disappointing start are many, but we determined that it's in the best interests of the club to make this move."
What Melvin noted, however, is that it's not just Milwaukee's horrible April that lost Roenicke his job, but also the Brewers' September collapse. The Brewers led the division from the season's first week all the way through the end of August, but once the calendar flipped to September, it all fell apart for Roenicke's crew. Milwaukee went 9–17 over the final month of the year, going from one game up in the Central on Aug. 30 to finishing the season eight games back of the eventual division champion Cardinals and six games back in the Wild Card. "Over roughly the last 100 games, we have not performed at the level that we should," Melvin said in the statement.
It's been a swift fall from grace for Roenicke, who was hired as the Brewers' manager in November 2010 and found immediate success. In his first year at the helm, Roenicke guided the Brewers to a 96–66 record and first place in the NL Central. Milwaukee won its first-round NLDS matchup with the Diamondbacks but fell to the division-rival Cardinals in the pennant series. That season earned Roenicke a second-place finish in the Manager of the Year voting, but that success proved hard to replicate. The 2012 Brewers slumped to an 83–79 record, while the '13 edition dropped below .500 with a 74–88 mark. Ultimately, he finishes his time in Milwaukee with a 341–331 record.
While there's no denying that the Brewers were going nowhere fast this season, how much of that blame falls on Roenicke is up for debate. There's no amount of managing, for example, that would make up for Milwaukee's rotation having a collective ERA of 5.01, or the fact that Ryan Braun has slipped from winning the Most Valuable Player award in 2011 to a .273 OBP on the season so far. Injuries, too, have taken a huge chunk out of the Brewers, with Carlos Gomez limited to nine games on the year due to a hamstring strain and Jonathan Lucroy currently on the disabled list with a fractured toe.
Ultimately, though, the blame for a team's bad record will always fall on the manager. The poor finish in September only made Roenicke's position that much more tenuous, despite his signing a one-year extension with the Brewers to take him through the 2016 season. His firing also comes just over a week after team owner Mark Attanasio gave Roenicke a vote of confidence, telling reporters that his focus wasn't on the manager. And with Roenicke now gone, focus will likely turn to the other man Attanasio backed in his comments: Melvin. It's possible that the general manager could be the next to go as Milwaukee cleans house during this disappointing season.