Cleveland Guardians manager must 'grow and learn' along with his players
Baseball's Spring Training is just a few weeks away, and the Guardians' new manager is getting acquainted with his team and the fans. Ideastream Public Media's sports commentator Terry Pluto recently talked with Stephen Vogt as the young manager takes over for the legendary Terry Francona.
Vogt was at the annual Guards Fest Saturday. It was his first public appearance as Cleveland's new manager.
"Much like Francona was kind of a 'man of the people' personality, Stephen Vogt is the same thing. He just likes people. He likes to connect. He's very engaging," Pluto said.
But when it comes to Vogt managing a big-league team, Pluto said it's a "total wait-and-see thing."
That's because Vogt, a journeyman Major League catcher, has no managerial experience. He retired as a player at the end of the 2022 season in Oakland, and spent the last year as the Seattle Mariners bullpen and quality control coach.
On top of having no managerial experience, Pluto said the Guardians come with their challenges.
"The Guardians, for the third year, will be the youngest team in Major League Baseball, at least as the roster is right now. They'll be one of the lower paid ones. He is replacing, whom I would say is the best manager in Cleveland baseball history, and that's Terry Francona, a guy that in 11 years here, (has) three manager of the year titles, six trips to the playoffs, you know, all that stuff," Pluto said.
Pluto said he asked Vogt about his goal in Cleveland: "He said, 'Our mission is to have our players grow and learn as fast as possible.' And I thought, 'Okay, how do you do that?'"
Pluto said managing a young team is especially challenging because there's an element of being patient and giving players time to learn and grow, while also needing to see the results on the field.
"So that's what he'll have to learn to do, because baseball is really unforgiving. We saw it last year. At this time a year ago, when you go back to January of '23, the Guardians were 92 and 70. You know one of the baseball darlings, a big upset to win the Central Division and knock off Tampa in the first round. And the assumption was that young team would continue to learn and grow. Well, there were setbacks with injuries, some players didn't play as well and that 11th year of the Terry Francona reign was really his worst — a 76 and 86 record," Pluto said.
Pluto said it will be a huge adjustment for Vogt to go from playing to managing in one year.
"He said, 'Well, when you're playing, basically everything you do is about you.' Now, when you're managing, you sit up at night, you second guess yourself. When you've lost, you just don't have your own problems or maybe your own family problems. You got all these other players problems and they impact your job. And oftentimes you could have a good plan and tell the guys to do the right things and they just don't listen. And you look bad," Pluto said.
Pluto said a lot of what it takes to be a successful manager is letting go of the things you can't control. And applying to himself what he's trying to bring to the team.
"As he said: To learn and grow as fast as possible, the players," Pluto said. "That also applies to him."