It’s too early to tell which big league managers could be on the hot seat and lose their job this season. But future Hall of Fame infielder Omar Vizquel is lying in wait.
Don’t get me wrong. The 46-year-old Venezuelan, who spent 24 years in the majors, won’t be content to grab the first gig out there. The opportunity has to feel right, perhaps with one of the six clubs that employed him as a player. It might also be helpful if the job was with an organization that has lots of Latino talent on the roster and in the farm system. The great majority of young Hispanic players grew up idolizing Vizquel, so the bond would be instantaneous.
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For the time being, Omar Vizquel is preparing for the future with plenty of prerequisite training.
“I’ve always said my goal was to manage after my playing days were over, but I knew it wouldn’t happen right away,” notes Vizquel, who retired after the 2012 season.”You have to pay your dues and coach somewhere.”
Last year, Vizquel took a job as a roving infield instructor with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which was right up his alley as an 11-time Rawlings Gold Glove winner. Omar hoped the position would lead to a spot on manager Mike Scioscia’s staff this year. When that didn’t happen, he accepted an offer to coach first base for the Detroit Tigers and rookie skipper Brad Ausmus. The savvy veteran also would tutor the base runners and infielders, including shortstop sensation Jose Iglesias. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old Cuban went on the shelf with stress fractures in both shins and it was pondered, albeit jokingly, that Vizquel was best suited to be his replacement.
It’s clear to me, though, Omar Vizquel will never entertain the thought of returning to active duty. He has shifted into a different gear, observing Ausmus as he wades into uncharted waters and tapping into the brain of Gene Lamont, the Tigers well-traveled bench coach.
I zeroed in on Vizquel during Detroit’s recent series with the San Diego Padres and wrote down some notes. I surmised that this man was much more than a first base coach who clicked a stopwatch and slapped a player’s rear end. The man’s eyes are always moving, analyzing and sizing up situations, and then he passes on that intelligence to his flock on the field and in the dugout. Vizquel is a student of the game who has become a teacher, and those type of guys make the best managers.
One day soon, Omar Vizquel will be the head professor.
Meanwhile, Kendrys Morales doesn’t give a damn about managing. At age 30, he still wants to play and is wondering when that will happen. The Cuban-born slugger and Stephen Drew are a pair of high-profile free agents yet to find a team, and they aren’t happy working out on the sidelines.
Scott Boras, the celebrated agent for the two veterans, is losing patience as well. He claims that a group of executives from different clubs are spreading nasty rumors about the declining market value of his clients and has threatened to file a lawsuit.
Let’s get real here. Kendrys Morales played only 31 games at first base last season with the Seattle Mariners and took the field defensively just 25 times in 2012 as a member of the Angels. Since breaking his leg almost four years ago during a home plate celebration, Morales has basically become a switch-hitting designated hitter. That’s not a bad commodity for an American League team that could use some added pop. But Kendrys turned down a handsome, $14.1 million qualifying offer to remain a Mariner, which might have turned out to be a poor decision. The only DH I know who is worth that kind of money is David Ortiz. And just recently, Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik leaked to the public that he offered Morales a three-year, $30 million deal, but there was no mutual interest.
Now, it appears Morales may have to sit out until the All-tar break, when teams are able to sign free agents without losing a draft pick. It will be interesting to see what kind of a pact Boras can negotiate for Morales. And with half the season already gone, I wonder what clubs will even want to talk.
Would anyone care to speculate?