Two weeks ago, my colleague Lewie Pollis made the case as to why the Cleveland Indians should fire Manny Acta. The piece, titled The Non-Reactionary Case For Firing Manny Acta, was one of the most eloquent justifications for firing a manager that I have read and if you haven’t had a chance to read the article I highly recommend the click. Although Lewie and I both agree that Acta should be fired at the conclusion of the season (my list of reasons would be much more abrasive and extensive) neither of us would celebrate the firing. Several writers from around the Indians blogosphere (myself included) shared their feelings on the subject in our Weekly Wroundtable last week: Should The Cleveland Indians Fire Manny Acta?
The decision to replace Acta should be an easy one based on his contract status. The Indians picked up his option at the end of 2011 season so that he wouldn’t enter 2012 as a lame duck manager. If the front office sticks to their logic of not wanting to operate with a manager in a one-year contract they’d have to extend his contract. How else do the Indians expect to entice any coaches or free agents, even the second-tier free agents, to sign here? I do not believe that there is any chance that the front office extends Acta or brings him back in a lame duck status; therefore, following the conclusion of the season they will fire him and begin the search for a new manager.
This will kick off speculation of who will be the next manager of the Indians. My choice is current bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., whose resume includes a pedigree from a baseball family, a career as a major league catcher, experience as a coach, and a loyal respect for the Indians organization and its fans.
His father, Sandy Alomar Sr. was a major league ballplayer for 15 seasons and spent nearly 50 years in professional baseball. After his 15 years in the big leagues he became the coach of the Puerto Rican National Team (1979-1984). In 1985 he was hired by the San Diego Padres and spent the next six years there followed by 13 years with the Cubs, 2 years with the Rockies, and four years with the Mets. The baseball bug seems to have infected Junior, who despite making north of $28 million in parts of 20 major league seasons isn’t ready to part ways with the game.
Junior seems to have same passion. Back in 2010, he spoke of and how he started to get the bug to be a coach at the end of his career with the Mets in an interview with Megan Golden of TribeVibe:
“When I started playing back-up catcher, I was kind of like a player-coach because I was mentoring players. It was kind of interesting, players coming to me asking for advice,” he said. “It was like, ‘If I’m coaching right now, when I retire, this is a great opportunity to stay in baseball because I love the game.’”
After his playing career came to an end in 2007, the Mets asked him to stay on as their bullpen coach; with his desire to remain in the game, the decision was an easy one. He spent two seasons with the Mets before getting a phone call from Manny Acta who offered him an opportunity to join the Indians as their first base coach in 2010. With two of his daughters still living in the Cleveland area, an opportunity to return to the Indians organization made the decision a no-brainer.
“It was a slam dunk,” Alomar said. “I thought it was a joke at first, but I [thought about coming] here to the place that I played, the place that I loved and shared all my moments here and the winning tradition we had here.”
Sandy obviously has a passion for the game but he also has an affinity for the Indians organization and the city of Cleveland. There is a Chinese Proverb that says: If you would know the road ahead, ask someone who has traveled it. Sandy is uniquely qualified to understand the fans frustrations and desire to have a winnnig product on the field. He was one of the first acquisitions (part of the Joe Carter deal in December 6, 1989) that defined the resurgence of the Indians organization but success didn’t happen overnight. He had to endure through four losing seasons from 1990-1993 including an embarrassing 57-105 season in 1991 all the while watching the Indians young talent develop and mature around him. He knows the road that must be traveled and his unique knowledge of the payoff from the painful rebuild process can be shared and infect each and every player that comes to the organization.
The notion of Alomar as a managerial candidate is not a new concept. He has interviewed for several positions in the past. Sandy’s name first came up in regards to the Toronto Blue Jays job in 2010 and after three interviews joined John Farrell and Demarco Hale as finalist for the job. He was a busy man in the winter following the 2011 season as he was interviewed by both the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs for their vacant managerial jobs. The chatter about Sandy Alomar as a managerial candidate continued into the winter as Danny Knobler of CBS Sports wrote an article titled Alomar could be the next hot managerial candidate. Sandy was given a ringing endorsement by one of the current Indians when asked about Sandy as a manger:
“It wouldn’t surprise me one bit - I respect him totally. I think any player would be excited to play for him.”
As the 2012 season comes to a painful end and the front office decides what direction they want to take the team, I hope that the man they choose to lead the team down that path is Sandy Alomar Jr. He has gone through this phase of Indians baseball once already and understands the desires of the suffering fans. It would be such a disappointment to see Sandy get his shot at managing in another city while the Indians toil another year with Manny Acta in the dugout.