McAdam: Will Cherington roll dice with Alomar?

McAdam: Will Cherington roll dice with Alomar?
November 10, 2011, 1:33 am
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BOSTON -- When the Red Sox front office first began assembling names to interview for their managerial vacancy last month, the name that seemed to elicit the most excitement was Sandy Alomar Jr.

In canvassing others around the game and doing their due diligence, the Red Sox consistently heard nothing but positive things about the former catcher.

"As we were doing research on candidates," said general manager Ben Cherington, "his name kept coming up. I was actually with Sandy (in 1998 with Cleveland) and saw him in the clubhouse and saw the leader he was back then, the respect he had in that clubhouse. I've been sort of following him since then.

"And the research we did more recently, his name just kept coming up as a guy who has a ton of respect in the baseball community. He's an incredible talent, has instincts for the game, awareness --- that family just knows baseball better than most other families do."

Alomar would seem to have it all: instincts, leadership qualities, bloodlines, the ability to converse with players in his native language, Spanish, and a long successful playing career as a catcher that should translate into being able to run a pitching staff.

What he doesn't have, however, is any managerial experience.

Of any kind.

Anywhere.

He hasn't managed in winter ball or the minor leagues. He hasn't managed in the Arizona Fall League, a good proving ground.

In fact, of the five candidates the Red Sox have brought or plan to bring to Fenway to discuss the job, Alomar is the only one to have never managed a game at any level.

Pete Mackanin had two partial-season stints as an interim manager in the big leagues. Dale Sveum managed Milwaukee for a dozen games and a playoff series, and also managed three seasons at Double A. Torey Lovullo, due in Friday, has managed at every level of the minor leagues, including, most recently, at Pawtucket in 2010.

Gene Lamont, who will interview Saturday, managed both the Chicago White Sox (where he earned A.L. Manager of the Year honors) and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Alomar is missing that key ingredient. Or so it would seem.

Going back through recent history, it's hard to find a Red Sox manager who came to the job without at least some managerial experience. Terry Francona had four years in Philadelphia. Grady Little managed in the minor leagues.

Jimy Williams had previously managed in Toronto, and before him, Kevin Kennedy had managed Texas. Butch Hobson had managed multiple seasons in the minors. Joe Morgan was a minor-league manager seemingly forever, and John McNamara, his predecessor, had big-league managerial experience with four different franchises.

The last manager of the Red Sox to have not previously managed anywhere, in fact, was Joe Kerrigan. Kerrigan's 43-game stint, as most Red Sox fans recall was, in a word, disastrous.

Cherington went out of way to note that Alomar performed superbly in the game simulation exercises the Red Sox put every candidate through.

"Despite not managing a game," Cherington noted, "he sees the game very much like a manager does."

This is a particularly tough time to hire someone without experience, given how the team imploded in the final month of 2011, bereft of discipline and professionalism.

And this market isn't the best to learn on the job. Expectations are always high and tolerance for mistakes is almost non-existent.

"Some people take different routes," acknowledged Alomar. "I chose this way. I've learned a tremendous amount. I feel like I'm prepared to manage a major-league team even though I didn't manage in the minor leagues."

Alomar passed his first test Wednesday and didn't do anything to take himself out of consideration.

"It was worth getting to know him better," confirmed Cherington. "He's going to be a major-league manager, whether it's 2012 or sometime after that, I'm very confident."

The question is: Does Cherington feel confident to make his first managerial hire an unproven one, one without any experience?

It would constitute an enormous risk on Cherington. Indeed, if he hires Alomar, regardless of how it turns out, it may tell us more about the new GM and his willingness to take risks and trust his own instincts, than it does about Alomar himself.