Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy. MLB.com reporters Corey Brock and Lyle Spencer contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MILWAUKEE -- Anaheim and Green Bay bear few similarities. It's Disneyland vs. Dairyland. Freeways vs. frozen tundra. Rod Carew vs. Ray Nitschke. But here's something they share: Both places have become breeding grounds for coaches with higher aspirations. In Green Bay, former Packers head coach Mike Holmgren's first staff in 1992 included five assistants who would graduate to lead teams of their own -- Jon Gruden, Dick Jauron, Steve Mariucci, Andy Reid and Ray Rhodes. Other Holmgren assistants would follow. Nearly a decade later, the same thing started happening in Anaheim. Mike Scioscia took over as manager in 2000 and his first staff included bench coach Joe Maddon, pitching coach Bud Black and third-base coach Ron Roenicke. Maddon was hired to manage the Rays before the 2006 season and Black took charge of the Padres a year later. Now comes Roenicke, who took over as bench coach when Maddon departed for Tampa Bay and was tabbed last week to be the new manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.
"I loved working on that staff, because I felt like we were competent in every area of the game," Maddon said. "You felt really good working under Scioscia because you just felt good about every game. "We won [the World Series] in 2002, and many times you can't say that a coaching staff had a really big impact on it. But I think that coaching staff did. I really did. There were so many little things -- in-game moves and adjustments -- that made a difference." Maddon was a holdover from the previous regime of Terry Collins and actually finished 1999 as the Angels' interim manager. Scioscia and Roenicke went back to their days playing with the Dodgers, and were once roommates. Black pitched in 15 Major League seasons and was the Indians' Triple-A pitching coach before Scioscia brought him in. The group also included hitting coach Mickey Hatcher, first-base coach Alfredo Griffin and bullpen coach Bobby Ramos. Hatcher and Griffin are still with the Angels, and Ramos went to Tampa Bay with Maddon and is on the staff there. "There was always a great discussion on a daily basis about baseball, which was led by Mike," Black said. "Mike did a great job of empowering his coaches, the whole freedom-of-speech thing, and listening to us talk about our team. "It was a great dynamic from different personalities that meshed together. We had a great time with each other and enjoyed being around each other." The way Roenicke sees it, the success of that staff boiled down to one thing: then-Angels general manager Bill Stoneman hired smart people. "That, really, is the key," Roenicke said. "It's just like players. Coaches can help turn good players into really good players. But if you don't have good players to begin with, I don't care how good the coaches are, they're not going to become really good players. Bill just hired good coaches, and because of the development that happened, yeah, you're looking at a number of guys who had a chance to go on to manage." They learned on the job together. "Mike hadn't managed for very long at that time," Roenicke said. "So all of us talking probably helped Mike in some of his thinking as much as it helped us. Because Mike is so intelligent, has such a great feel for the game and for players, over the years he has become a great manager. All of us going through it and picking things off each other, watching Mike handle the media and players, it helped us develop our skills." It happened relatively fast. The Angels won 82 and 75 games in Scioscia's first two seasons, then won at least 89 games in seven of the next nine seasons and made it to the postseason six times. They won the World Series in 2002 by overcoming a 3-2 series deficit against the Giants. "Some of the best times I've ever had were in those early years with the Angels, when we'd get together as a staff and talk baseball," Scioscia said. "What I enjoy with all those guys is the deep baseball connection we have. We spent a lot of time talking baseball -- and other stuff. There were common bonds, a great sense of community there. We could relate to each other on a lot of levels. That's what made it so great when we broke through in '02, and then when we continued to have some success." Did they know then that the Angels would become a feeder system for Major League managers? "I don't know that [moving up to manage] really crossed our minds then, but as time went on, other people started to talk about it," Maddon said. "It kept getting brought up. But when you're locked into your own job, you don't entertain those thoughts very much. "But the system [Scioscia] put in out here was so successful, that other teams started looking here." The latest of those teams is Milwaukee. Coming off two losing seasons, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin brought in Roenicke, 54, who won the job thanks to three outstanding interviews and rave reviews from former colleagues like Maddon. As Melvin, assistant GM Gord Ash and special assistant Dan O'Brien called around seeking input on the Brewers' managerial finalists, they kept hearing about Roenicke's commitment to the Angels' aggressive style of play, born during Scioscia's playing days with the Dodgers. Milwaukee officials are hoping to see Roenicke usher a return to the running game. "He's a very bright baseball mind with a terrific background," Scioscia said in September. "I think he's very prepared to manage in the Major Leagues. He has managed successfully in the Minor Leagues and has been a strong voice and presence on our club. He did such a great job when he filled in for me when I had to be away, I wondered if I should even come back." He kids, he kids. "But, seriously, Ron is a first-rate baseball man," Scioscia said, "and I wish him all the luck in the world."