Ron Roenicke is a first-time manager. It’s important for fans to remember this and cut him some slack when it comes to trying to figure out his tendencies and philosophies. With that said, looking at his recent comments on Yuniesky Betancourt, he’s not going to make this patience thing easy.
“I don’t think it’s fair to try to figure out on a computer how good a guy is defensively,” said Roenicke. “You don’t know what’s in his head. Is he positioning himself right?
I will be the first to admit that fielding metrics are (at best) wildly unpredictable from year-to-year. With that said, Betancourt has been considered terrible by the advanced stats for most of his career. He’s never posted a positive UZR/150 at shortstop. He hasn’t even broken even in UZR since 2006. He’s provided six seasons of below average-to-terrible defense. This is not someone who is simply positioning himself incorrectly. This is someone who has no business playing shortstop.
It’s been six years. SIX YEARS. Seattle and Kansas City had infield coaches, right? You would think if Yuni’s problem was as simple as bad positioning, someone in the past SIX YEARS would have told him to stand in the right spot.
“How do you judge that on a computer? They say (Betancourt’s) range isn’t good but maybe he was smart enough and positioned himself well. Orlando Cabrera grades out really bad. He plays on a winning team every year.”
I’m not 100% sure on this, but I think Ron Roenicke may be the first person in baseball to describe Yuni as “smart.” Not that I think he’s dumb, but usually when scouts and analysts are using adjectives to describe him, they’re words like “lazy,” “poor,” or “worst.” Joe Posnanski once wrote that in 300 years, “Kids will be sitting around a campfire and singing songs about how bad a shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt was.” Posnanski is a very smart man who is generally regarded as one of the best sportswriters in the country. Keith Law used to work in Toronto’s front office, has a good reputation as a scout, and called him the worst everyday player in the league in 2009 while saying “he never hustles on anything.”
Yuni obviously has (or had, at one time) some talent. He’s just been unwilling to use it, and at 29, it’s unlikely he’ll suddenly feel like living up to his potential. It’s understandable that the Brewers want to save face when it comes to their new shortstop, and they want to show optimism with him like they would any other new player. Is it too much to ask, though, that we stay away from completely disregarding and bashing six years’ worth of data, scouting reports, and general fan sentiment?