A recent development in Major League Baseball has seen former players take the reigns as a manager or coach with their former team.
The White Sox once employed their former shortstop, Ozzie Guillen, in the managing capacity. Now the team has its one-time third baseman in Robin Ventura in that seat. Joe Girardi, a former Yankees backstop, currently manages the Bronx Bombers. More recently, the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus, who used to be a catcher in Detroit, to replace the retired Jim Leyland as their bench boss.
In Cleveland, the Indians have a pair of their ex-players calling the shots. Terry Francona, who spent a season a Tribe player, is of course the manager of the team. The Indians also have Sandy Alomar, Jr., a key component of those successful 1990s squads, as its first base coach.
Alomar is not alone as Cleveland players from that era to have gone on to coaching careers. Charles Nagy was the pitching coach for the Diamondbacks until they let him go in October. The newest addition to the coaching ranks was Omar Vizquel. On Nov. 18, the former Tribe Gold Glove shortstop and potential Hall of Famer, joined the Tigers as their first base coach, infield coach and base running coach. He spent 2013 as minor league infield instructor for the Los Angeles Angels.
It is unfortunate that Vizquel is now with Cleveland’s biggest rival in the American League Central Division. However, his hiring sparks a good discussion about what other former Indians could find their way into the coaching ranks at the Majore League level.
With Alomar on board, the Indians have a link to their glory days in a Tribe uniform. Eventually, Alomar could and should become an MLB manager. With that in mind, it might be nice for Cleveland to bring in another familiar face that its fans can relate to.
One possibility could be Carlos Baerga. As a second baseman for the Indians in the early 90s, he was as good as anyone at the position when it came to hitting. He has visited Cleveland during past spring trainings. As a player, he was good with the media and seemed to be a team player. Those are certainly important qualities for a coach. Baerga could probably teach hitting pretty well. He has never been a coach at any level. If he were ever so inclined, why not start with the Tribe?
Another intriguing name is Kenny Lofton. The stolen base and center field wizard had three stints with the Indians. An outfield featuring speedsters like Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley and possibly Drew Stubbs could benefit from his tutelage. Bourn, Brantley and Jason Kipnis could probably get some good base-stealing pointers from Lofton. He’d be a good fit as a base-running or fielding coach.
On the mound, former Cleveland hurler Dave Burba has been a pitching coach at the minor league level and on the independent circuit. If he ever finds his way to the big leagues, Tribe fans would remember him fondly as a big part of the end of the Indians’ run of 90s success.
Perhaps Nagy could eventually find his way back to Cleveland. He was one of the Tribe’s more successful starting pitchers of the 90s. Bob Wickman, Cleveland’s all-time saves leader might make for a good pitching coach, as well.
There are a lot of names that could be tossed around and debated from the Tribes past as far as who would be good in the coaching ranks. Former catchers, who had a hand in everything as leaders on the playing field, seem to make for the most successful coaches or managers. They had to act as coaches, in handling a pitching staff. Alomar’s former backup, Tony Pena, has been in the coaching ranks for more than a decade.
Athletes with good work ethics, who are good with the media and seem to serve as leaders on and off the field are the ones generally thought of as potential future coaches. It is obvious as to why, as those are ideals that should be passed on to current players. That said, someone like a Jim Thome or Orel Hershiser would fit that bill. Hershiser is a successful baseball announcer, who likely would not leave the nice broadcast seat. Thome could probably be a good hitting coach.
Eventually Alomar will no longer be on the Tribe bench. That will be bittersweet. It would be nice to see another name from Cleveland’s proud baseball heritage fill his spot when that day comes.
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