When the Indians take the field again this spring, there will be a familiar face standing beside Terry Francona as he begins his tenure as manager. That man, of course, is former Indians catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. In 2013, Alomar will once again serve as the team’s bench coach and Francona’s right hand man.
That’s not to say this was expected. Despite the fact that Alomar spent the better part of 10 years behind the plate for the Indians and built up an overwhelming amount of positive fanfare, recent developments surrounding his promotion to interim manager and then subsequent snubbing for the full-time job in favor of Francona left many doubting Alomar would return. After all, Alomar had been a hot name in many managerial searches during recent offseasons and was once again slated to interview for a number of openings in addition to the Indians.
After a successful 2010 season as the Tribe’s first base coach, Alomar interviewed for the Toronto Blue Jays’ opening that offseason and was even named a finalist. The following offseason, Alomar once again interviewed for a managerial position. This time he met with both the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox. He came close to getting the ultimately doomed from the start Boston job, but ended up returning to Cleveland for 2012.
This offseason it appeared more likely than ever that Alomar would finally get a managerial job. He was rumored as a potential match with the Red Sox until they traded for Blue Jays manager John Farrell. He was then subsequently rumored to be headed to the Blue Jays, a team that had passed on him two years earlier. The Rockies, looking to get back on the right track after yet another disappointing season, threw their hat into the Alomar sweepstakes as well. Then there were the Indians, the very team that had promoted Alomar to interim manager for the final week of 2012 and had more history with than any other team in baseball.
Somehow, Alomar didn’t get any of those jobs. But, why?
One could make a case that teams view Alomar’s lack of managerial experience at any level as a detriment. It’s a valid argument. There is no way of knowing how a manager will respond to the various pitfalls of the season until they’re in the heat of battle. Even at the lowest of minor league levels, being in charge of managing in game situations and various player personalities is invaluable.
There’s also the fact that Alomar is only five years removed from his playing career; since then he has served as a catching instructor for two seasons, a first base coach for two seasons, and a bench coach for one. That’s not a lot of experience to hang one’s hat on. In today’s day and age of instant gratification, there is a tremendous amount of pressure on teams to win now. Waiting on your manager to figure things out and get his sea legs, for lack of a better term, just isn’t in the cards for most teams.
So if that’s the case, are teams doing Sandy Alomar and his managerial aspirations a favor by making him wait? I say yes.
Over the course of Alomar’s playing career, he played for 10 different managers, all of whom implemented a wide variety of strategies and tactics. As a matter of fact, it’s a rather impressive list of managers:
- Jack McKeon: 1 World Series title
- John McNamara : 1 World Series appearance, 2 playoff appearances
- Mike Hargrove: 2 World Series appearances, 5 postseason appearances
- Charlie Manuel: 1 World Series title: 2 World Series appearances
- Jerry Manuel: 1 playoff appearance
- Ozzie Guillen: 1 World Series title, 2 playoff appearances
- Clint Hurdle: 1 World Series appearance in Colorado, almost led Pirates to playoffs
- Buck Showalter: multiple playoff appearances
- Grady Little: 3 playoff appearances
- Willie Randolph: 1 playoff appearance
For those counting, that’s a total of eight World Series appearances, three championships, and handfuls of playoff appearances among that group. Not too shabby. One would have to think that Alomar learned quite a bit from each of these men over the course of his career. He’s seen what works and what doesn’t. Now, as he learns the nuances of the managerial role from the bench, he gets to do it side-by-side with Terry Francona, who has two World Series titles of his own and commands more respect around Major League Baseball than just about anyone else right now. That can only help him as he moves forward.
Then there is this fact: If Alomar desperately wanted another job, he could probably get another job. He had a solid career as a player and always displayed a high level baseball IQ that is sure to transfer to the managerial position. If he wanted the Rockies, Blue Jays, or even the Red Sox jobs bad enough he probably could have fought or petitioned harder for them. But perhaps Alomar is waiting for the right job to open up. Maybe he also realizes that he’s still not ready and has more to learn. Why else would he be willing to return to the Indians after not being hired as manager?
It appears as if Alomar has a plan in place for his future career as a manager that includes learning as much as he can from people that have being doing the job for years. He’s also not rushing into a job that is destined for failure just so he can say he finally got a managerial job. No offense to the Blue Jays or the Rockies, but what about their track records signals potential long-term success for any manager, let alone a rookie skipper? By waiting for the right job to come along, Alomar is increasing his chances for success, or even greatness.
So is Sandy Alomar the next great manager? Only time will tell. There’s no way to know right now whether or not Alomar will be a successful manager, but you have to think it’s likely considering how well he’s managed his own journey to the skipper’s seat thus far.