Despite taking quite some time attempting to come up with a title for this post, I have instead opted for the classical title of potpourri- which can refer to a collection of miscellaneous literary extracts. I would like to think that describes my piece tonight. Let me begin with the current manager conundrum, which is sure to be a hot topic as soon as the season ends on Wednesday evening; rather than debate on who I think should be the manager, I have chose to instead pick and choose what baseball mind would fit best for the Indians at each of the key coaching positions: Manager, Pitching Coach, Hitting Coach, and Bench Coach.
Manager: Sandy Alomar Jr.
Before I begin with any comments, let me first say that I recognize Stephanie’s comments about the possibility that Sandy Alomar Jr. could be being thrown into a difficult position taking over a team fresh off of 90+ losses; however, I think it is also important to note that aside from Alomar Jr. and Francona, there are not many “serious” options for a manager in 2013. The way the team has performed under Alomar in these past 5 games (let’s just ignore the 11-0 clunker the other night) shows that the team does indeed respond to his voice and has faith in him as a manager. Often times I would find myself yelling at the TV when watching games during Acta’s tenure, begging Asdrubal Cabrera or Carlos Santana to put forth a more substantial effort. I just felt as if the team had stopped listening to Acta after the All-Star break, something that also happened last season.
Also, it is important to note that Alomar Jr. is a homegrown winner. Sandy was a key component to the teams of the mid 90’s, and I think that is something this ball club could look up to and emulate moving forward if he is hired. His play as a player over a decade ago still earns the respect from players on the current roster, and I think that experience would go a long way towards leading a young, fairly inexperienced team.
Pitching Coach: Orel Hershiser
Listen, as much as I love listening to Hershiser call the Little League World Series, I would love to get him back into the coaching circle. Yes, it can be said that Orel had a difficult time with the Rangers pitching staff while holding this position (2002-2005) but I am not exaggerating when I say he was working with late 30’s Kenny Rogers and a bag of baseballs there (Ryan Drese, Hideki Irabu, etc). I see Hershiser as not only someone who could come in and be a stabilizing influence to the erratic arms of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson, but also as a mentor to young pitchers like Cody Allen and Zach McAllister.
Hitting Coach: Jim Thome
Of course this would be contingent on Jim deciding to retire, something that I am still on the fence on despite Jim’s injuries this season. I do not think anyone can dispute the fact that Thome is one of the games best all-time hitters, and his wealth of knowledge could really help a young lineup comprised of guys like Russ Canzler, Carlos Santana, and Jason Kipnis. There is not a nicer and more pleasant guy in baseball today, and what Indians fan does not want to see Thome throw on an Indians uniform once again?
Bench Coach: Kenny Lofton
It is true that I am 4 for 4 on 1990’s Indians greats, but can you seriously think of anyone else more qualified or skilled to be there on the bench each day? In my opinion you cannot. Lofton has likely forgotten more about base stealing and small ball than most young players know today, and I cannot think of a team in baseball more in need of a small ball mentality than Cleveland at the moment. Plus, think of the defensive instruction Lofton could provide to guys like Michael Brantley, Tyler Naquin, and Carrera. This needs to happen.
To me, these four guys are the best available men for the Indians openings. Obviously, I do not see any of these moves having serious chances besides the Alomar hiring for manager, but a guy can dream. I just like to look at the coaching staff thrown together in Arizona: Kirk Gibson, Matt Williams, Charles Nagy, Travis Fryman, etc. The coaching staff that was assembled there a couple of seasons ago is in my opinion one of the best designs in recent baseball history. Despite the Diamondbacks struggles this season, they to me are still the most entertaining team in baseball, and why I generally do not miss a game of theirs on my MLB.TV subscription. It is about creating a fun, hard-working atmosphere. The former players mentioned above would definitely provide such an environment.
Now that I have expressed my comments about the Indians coaching situation, I would like to also bring up Chris Perez’s comments this afternoon. In case you missed what Perez had to say this time, you can get the meat and potatoes here courtesy of Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Some of Perez’s most notable quotes and statements from that piece are included below for your reading pleasure:
“It sounds like a cliche, but a team does follow its manager, good or bad,” he said. “If a manager has no activity on the field. If he doesn’t argue calls or get upset, why would his team?”
“Last year we didn’t get it at all. He only gave us two speeches, one at the start of the season and one at the end and we were playing for first place up until September.”
Perez said he’d go seven to eight days at a time without talking to Acta, unless he was coming into a game in the ninth inning.
Listen, I do not believe there is anyone in baseball right now with a bigger mouth on them (let’s ignore Ozzie Guillen) besides Indians closer Chris Perez, but some of this information is quite starling to me both as a writer and a fan. First, if Acta really did only give the team two speeches in 2011, then I am sort of appalled he was even kept to manage this season. I like to refer to myself in baseball as “rah-rah” guy, or someone who is typically very active and encouraging to my teammates; through my many years of experience I have learned that not every teammate I had was like this, and that some players prefer to be quiet and just play without encouragement. The best teams I played on while growing up featured a coach who knew how to balance this active/passive approach, and it seems to me from Chris’s comments and my observations that Manny was much more passive than active. Often times you will find that passive managers tend to have their team slowly go haywire until things are out of control, and I think that is what happened these past two seasons. I would also like to point out that if Chris really went a week or more without speaking to Acta during the season, then what is baseball coming to these days? I almost feel as if Manny could have been so afraid of confrontation and instruction that he would have purposely avoided conversation with a player who he thought would argue with.
Perez’s comments aside, I still would rather have Perez on my team than be facing him in the 9th inning. I tend to side with guys who are frustrated with losing; although Perez walks a thin line with many of his comments, you cannot really say he is wrong with what he says. I think he just needs to learn a little more about knowing WHEN to say what he wants to say, thats all.
Oh, by the way there was actually a game tonight as well. After the White Sox’s playoff hopes were dashed last night with a Tigers win, the Indians rubbed salt into the wound by pulling out a 4-3 walkoff win in 12 innings. Going into the 9th inning, the game was tied 1-1 when the Indians decided to bring in Chris Perez to pitch the ninth. Perez responded in typical “tie game Perez” fashion, giving up a 2 run Dayan Viciedo home run to give the White Sox a 3-1 lead; however, Travis Hafner belted a 2-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to keep the game going -The blast was his 200th in an Indians uniform. I guess I find it hard to believe Hafner has really hit 200 home runs in an Indians uniform, but the numbers add up. I guess that is how you really know if a big time contract is worth it or not, if you can remember a lot of a players home runs, big hits, or big time pitching performances.
A Jason Donald single in the bottom of the 12th was the knockout punch, giving the Indians their 68th win of the season and White Sox reliever Matt Thorton his 10th loss of the season. This is my last game recap of the season guys, it has been a pleasure. I will of course be continuing to write here in the offseason, but on behalf of everyone here at IPL, thanks for reading and we wish you all a very happy offseason!