During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the coaches selected to be a part of Manager Terry Francona’s staff.
By Laurel Wilder
Sandy Alomar Jr. is no stranger to the tight-knit atmosphere that Major League Baseball can provide. He is the son of Sandy Alomar Sr., who spent 15 seasons as an MLB second baseman, and is brother to Roberto Alomar, a Hall of Fame second baseman. Alomar Jr. spent two decades as a catcher in the majors, played 11 seasons with the Indians (1990-2000), and was hired by their organization in November of 2009 as their first base coach. However, the past few years have made the intimacy of Major League Baseball even more apparent to Alomar than ever before.
In 2011, the Boston Red Sox let Terry Francona go after the team suffered from a devastating slump in September. When looking for a new manager to replace Francona, the Red Sox organization set up an interview with Alomar.
Alomar was not offered the position with the Red Sox (it went to Bobby Valentine in 2012 and is now held by John Farrell), and in 2012 he also interviewed for the Chicago Cubs’ managerial opening. Ironically, Francona was also in the Cubs’ candidate pool. Neither Francona nor Alomar were chosen by the Cubs (the position was offered to Dale Sveum), and Alomar returned to coaching with the Indians under Manny Acta, while Francona performed a stint in broadcasting with the Fox network and ESPN.
At the end of the 2012 season, though, Acta was fired with only six games remaining. In need of a manager, the Indians had Alomar step in as the interim manager. Under Alomar, the Indians went 3-3 in their last six games.
When the season came to a close and the Indians had to hire a permanent manager, the small world of baseball became even closer, as Alomar again found himself vying for the position against Francona.
“The organization has to make a huge decision,” Alomar said at an Indians’ pregame press conference on Oct. 2, 2012. “This isn’t about who is the most popular guy or who played here and what I did in the playoffs. They have to make the best decision for the organization.”
When it came down to it, the Indians made the decision that Francona was the best choice for the organization. There were rumors of Alomar being a top candidate for the Toronto Blue Jays’ managerial position as well in 2012, which he had interviewed for in 2010 but lost out on in favor of John Farrell. However, Alomar will be back this season with the Tribe as the Indians Bench Coach, working under Francona, the man whose job he had desired only months ago.
Alomar does not seem to hold resentment for this dynamic, however, as he acknowledged during the managerial search that he did not hold the same experience as Francona.
“I don’t have the resume that Terry has. Obviously, that’s a slam dunk. I wish I did,” Alomar said. “Honestly, anyone would want a Terry Francona. I’m just gonna go out there and do what I feel I can do and let everything else take care of itself.”
“I don’t want to pretend like I’m there already because, I’m not. I’m not going to pretend like anyone owes me anything because, they don’t. That’s how I’ve always lived my life.”
Although Alomar did not land the managerial position, his attitude of simply performing to the best of his abilities and not holding expectations has served him well throughout his baseball career.
Alomar was drafted in 1988 by the San Diego Padres, and spent his first two seasons playing in the minors with the Las Vegas Stars. While there, Alomar won The Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year Award and was named the Pacific Coast League MVP. In 1989, Alomar was traded to Cleveland with Carlos Baerga, and began his time as a regular behind the plate in 1990. In his first season with Cleveland, Alomar hit .290 in 132 games.
Also in 1990, Alomar became the first rookie catcher ever to start in the All-Star Game. He was also selected as the winner of the 1990 AL Rookie of the Year Award, was elected to the Topps All-Star Rookie Team, and was an AL Gold Glove winner.
Despite his battles with injuries that prevented him from appearing in more than 100 games in his next five seasons, Alomar was elected to the AL All-Star team in 1991 and 1992. He bounced back from his injuries in 1996 and was once again named to the All-Star team. The following year, he had his best season yet; he went on a 30-game hitting streak, hit 21 homeruns, batted a .324, and was again chosen for the All-Star Game. Alomar was also crowned as the All-Star Game MVP at Jacob’s Field, being the first player to receive that award in front of a hometown crowd.
In the 1997 post-season, Alomar hit the tying homerun off the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera in Game Four of the ALDS. He also drove in the game-winning run against the Orioles in Game Four of the ALCS, and hit .367 in the World Series where the Indians fell to the Florida Marlins.
Alomar was chosen for his final All-Star Game in 1998. He began suffering from injuries again in 1999, and left the Indians in 2000 as a free agent. In his remaining seven seasons, Alomar played with the Chicago White Sox, Colorado Rockies, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Mets. He began his coaching work in 2008 with the Mets, where he served as their catching instructor during the 2008 and 2009 seasons before returning to the Indians organization in 2009. Also in 2009, Alomar was inducted in the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame. He posts a career average of .273 with 112 homeruns in 1377 games.
Alomar has taken his playing experiences with him as he continues exploring what it takes to be a major league manager.
“When I started playing, I watched the guys who did the proper things and tried to take away from it what I thought wasn’t right,” Alomar said during his time as interim manager. “The same thing with managers, mostly in communication and how they structure the locker room and how open they were. Their style of play is some of it, but the majority is communications. The players go out there and if you communicate with them, they won’t be afraid to tell you how they feel. That’s what I think I’m pretty good at.”
Ben Cherington, who led the search for the Red Sox new manager in 2011, said he first came across Alomar in 1998 in Cleveland. “I saw him in the clubhouse and I saw the leader that he was back then, the respect that he had in that clubhouse,” Cherington said in a 2011 interview with ESPN.com.
At the time, Alomar was the only candidate Boston was interviewing that did not have previous managerial experience. Cherington saw Alomar’s potential though, saying that “he’s going to be a big league manager. Whether that’s in 2012 or sometime after that, I’m very confident to say that he’ll be a big league manager sometime.”
And even though that time isn’t this year, Alomar’s close connections and tight bonds with the Indians organization leave him with a positive outlook on the Tribe and his role with the team this season.
Photo: Jordan Bastian/MLB.com