While the moves related to the Indians roster have not necessarily been staggering this offseason, their managerial and staff moves have caused a bit more upheaval. Kevin Cash has left the organization to assume the position of manager with the Rays and the Indians have said that they have a number of internal candidates that could replace him with the big league club, which means the tremors of this decision could be felt throughout the organization should a minor league manager be tapped to take over as bullpen coach.
The minor leagues have already felt a shock wave of change, though, when the Indians chose to part ways with long-time Mahoning Valley Manager Ted Kubiak, who had been a member of the Indians organization for 21 years, 16 of those spent in the Indians farm system.
Kubiak is 72 and has long been known as one of the first managers that young players meet when they begin their journey with the Indians. He spent six seasons overall with Mahoning Valley and managed at every level of the minor leagues except AAA Columbus. Kubiak was the manager behind the 2010 Lake County Captains Midwest League championship win, and led minor league teams to the postseason on five different occasions in his career.
Kubiak, who spent 10 years in the majors as a utility infielder, is himself no stranger to the postseason. He won three World Series rings with the Oakland A’s from 1972-1974.
The decision for the Indians to part ways with Kubiak is an interesting one. Carter Hawkins is quoted on Cleveland.com praising Kubiak and his influence, saying that Kubiak “impacted generations of players and staff members.”
“He’s an outstanding baseball man and we’d love to keep him in the organization,” Hawkins is also quoted as saying, ending by stating that the organization “just felt we wanted to make a change.”
Kubiak is said to still be looking for opportunities to manage and coach, and the Indians said they may like to see him stay in the organization as a spring training instructor.
For the Indians to part ways with Kubiak after so long seems a strange decision. He has been a strong and positive influence on young ball players and has been a mainstay in the organization. Minor league fans and players alike know Kubiak’s name and face and speak highly of his work with young players. One has to wonder why the sudden decision not to renew Kubiak’s contract was made. At 72, Kubiak likely would have retired in the near future anyway, so cutting ties so late in the game and in his career hints at decisions made for personal reasons rather than systemic and organizational need.
Regardless of the why, the fact remains that the Indians minor league system is certainly in for a change moving into next season. Internal candidates such as Charles Nagy, Jason Bere, Chris Tremie, Dave Wallace, Ruben Niebla and Armando Camacaro have been mentioned as options, and new minor league hitting coordinators are also needed after losing Alan Zinter to Texas and Luis Ortiz to San Diego. Travis Hafner has been rumored to be an option for the Indians to use as a part-time hitting coach.
Tremie and Wallace were both minor league managers with the Captains, with Tremie heading up the Columbus Clippers and Wallace taking the lead with the Akron RubberDucks. Tremie led the Clippers to the postseason this past season, and Wallace demonstrated the same success while leading the RubberDucks to the postseason in 2014, as well. Wallace also led the Captains on a postseason run in 2012. Should either of them receive the promotion to the role of Indians’ bullpen coach, dominos will fall in the rest of the minor league system as the organization moves other managers and coaches up and around to fill in the gaps they will experience.
The Indians minor league successes certainly paint their managerial and coaching staffs in a positive light, and hopefully means the change they are looking for in their ranks is one that they believe will elevate that success to an even higher level. Regardless of how the changes to the Indians’ player roster may look, it seems that the biggest organizational changes are happening right now within the ranks of the minor leagues which, although not necessarily glamorous, will have far-reaching impacts on the organization as a whole and the players who will move through the system. The Indians have said they are close to naming a new manager for the short season team, but have not done so yet. They had a strong manager and guide in Kubiak, and hopefully, these young players will be treated to someone equally as dedicated and well-received to start their professional careers.
Photo: Associated Press