Why the Cleveland Guardians believe in new manager Stephen Vogt
The Guardians have hired Stephen Vogt, a journeyman Major League catcher with no managerial experience, as their new manager to replace future Hall of Famer Terry Francona. Vogt, who retired with Oakland in 2022 after 10 seasons in the majors, spent last season as Seattle’s bullpen coach.
Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto said the Guardians weren’t the only team interested in Vogt.
“He interviewed for the San Francisco Giants job, and he was probably going to get that job if a veteran manager named Bob Melvin had not taken it. And furthermore, he was a guy the Milwaukee Brewers were looking at. This guy became like the hot commodity of several teams having only been out of baseball for one year. I have to admit I have not quite seen anything like this,” Pluto said.
Pluto said that although the 39-year-old Vogt has never been a manager, he checked every other box for the Guardians.
“Well, the Guardians made a list of, like, what they were looking for. And one of the things that they learned from being around Terry Francona for 11 years was his ability to relate to almost anyone. And what they saw was, of course, you need to understand baseball, but, you know, knowing when to bunt or when to change a pitcher, that's just a small part of the job now. So much of it, because you have such a diverse clubhouse, players want to know that they are valued. It isn't sort of like the old days (of) ‘I'll do it because the manager says.’ Vogt is a guy that was always known as a clubhouse unifier, one that people trusted,” Pluto said.
Vogt’s experience as a major league catcher was also something the Guardians valued.
“Because a catcher is almost like a coach because he sits there with the scouts (and) maybe the stat guy and preparing a game plan each day for the pitcher that's going to pitch. And no other player, usually on the roster, is so kind of engaged in connections with scouts, front office and all that like the catcher is on a daily basis," he said.
Pluto said he believes the Guardians are following in the footsteps of the Tampa Bay Rays, who hired an inexperienced manager in Kevin Cash in 2014. Cash, who was also a Major League catcher, was the bullpen coach in Cleveland during the 2013 and 2014 seasons before he was hired to manage the Rays. The 45-year-old has led the Rays to six consecutive winning seasons and five straight postseason berths. He was named the American League Manager of the Year in 2020 and 2021 and is up for the award again this year.
“So, they were kind of looking for, I think, that younger guy kind of in the Kevin Cash mode, and they think that guy is Vogt,” Pluto said.
Pluto believes another reason the Guardians are taking a chance on Vogt is that he’ll have a very experienced coaching staff around him.
“You know, the Guardians have a very strong front office. Mike Chernoff and Chris Antonetti have been together for 11 years," Pluto said. "They view this as an organizational thing and their point, remember, there were times where Francona would miss a significant amount of games because of health problems and whether it was Sandy Alomar would step in or DeMarlo Hale as the manager and then the coaching staff, like, for example, Carl Willis is revered as a pitching coach (and) they like Chris Valaika, the hitting coach."
Still, Pluto believes Vogt will face adversity.
“The disadvantage is that he is going to be tested and have to prove himself in ways that Terry Francona never did," Pluto said. "I mean, Francona walked in with the resumé, and if you weren't sure if Terry Francona knew what he was doing, you would give him the benefit of the doubt because he's done it before. So that will be his challenge. So he's going to get a chance to prove himself."