He started thinking about one day becoming a manager more than 10 years ago, he said. He believes his background as a catcher is an advantage. He thinks he can successfully manage Carlos Zambrano and associated demons – admittedly with the possible help of a “stun gun.”
And as much as anything, Sandy Alomar Jr. – the four-time White Sox catcher who still lives in Chicago – says he appreciates the perhaps less-obvious call of interest from the Cubs after getting no call from the White Sox before they surprisingly hired Robin Ventura over Paul Konerko to replace Ozzie Guillen.
Alomar, who interviewed with both the Boston Red Sox and Cubs this week, was rumored to be one of the early favorites for the White Sox job but was never contacted.
“I don’t take that personally,” he said Friday after becoming the fourth – and likely final–candidate to interview for the Cubs’ vacancy. “I have a lot of respect for the White Sox organization. They brought me here many times. I think what [GM] Kenny [Williams] did over there with Robin opens doors for many other people get opportunities to manage without experience.
“They don’t owe me a call. They don’t owe me anything. They did what they did. You wish them the best of luck. Kenny always treated me with respect when I was there. I have no problem with it.”
So now that he’s in the running to manage across town, how would he go about burying the White Sox deeper in the Chicago shadow of the Cubs? How would he manage the clubhouse, the uniqueness of the ballpark and schedule, and the ultra-uniqueness of Zambrano?
And what might make him the best candidate for this job, compared to Pete Mackanin, Dale Sveum or Mike Maddux?
“I think I bring a lot of things to the table that maybe some other guys don’t bring,” said the six-time All-Star catcher, who also has a rookie of the year award and a Gold Glove on his resume. “In regards to being a player, going through injuries in the past, spending a lot of time in the minor leagues as a player, how many times I played in the postseason [five times], going to a World Series [twice], playing for 10 different managers and they all participated in the postseason. Seven of them went to the World Series, and three of them won the World Series [Jack McKeon, Charlie Manuel, Ozzie Guillen].
“I have played for winning people all of my career, and it gave me the opportunity to learn the values and take ability from other people and incorporate it to myself.”
Alomar on other topics:
ON THE ADVANTAGE FOR CATCHERS AS MANAGERS: “You make moves on the fly all the time, you call games on the fly. You’ve got to react and make decisions according to the plans you put in prior to the game and visualize the whole field. And sometimes even manage the guys on the field. You’re the only guy facing the other players … that can see what the defense positioning is. …
“Having all that in play, I think that helps the catcher make a lot of decisions. And it happens fast.”
ON HIS REPUTATION OF COMMANDING RESPECT: “I take a lot of pride [in that]. I treat people the way I want to be treated. … I never disrespect a player. There were times that I argued with a player about certain things when I was a player, but it was just a team thing. It had nothing to do with personal [issues].”
ON WHY THE CUBS HAVEN’T WON IN A CENTURY AND HOW HE WOULD CHANGE THAT: “Many things go into winning. Everybody talks about the day games. Yeah, the day games are a hard thing, but you have to be able to adapt as a player. That part of a good baseball player, being able to adapt to an organization that has a lot of day games, is huge. … We are human beings. We are driven by excitement. This is a very exciting ballpark. People can come here and get excited even though there are day games.”
ON WHAT HE KNOWS ABOUT THE PRESSURE, HISTORY AND DESPERATE DESIRE TO FINALLY WIN ON THE NORTH SIDE: “This is an exciting crowd. People come here to support their team every year. I’d say this [to] the team. You’ve got to give them a good show. You go out there and play hard. What you can ask players is to go out there and give 100 percent. Sometimes you don’t see a guy giving 100 percent, it might be for different reasons – guys that are banged up, playing like that, you have to really tip your hat to some of the guys who have wear and tear on their bodies and still take the field for you. … But the fans deserve a good show, because they’ve been very supportive.”
ON HANDLING ZAMBRANO (WHO HAS ONE YEAR, $18 MILLION LEFT ON HIS CONTRACT): “Zambrano carries a lot of emotion on his sleeve. A lot of people from Latin American countries – those emotions come from way back when you’re a kid. The style of baseball that we play when we’re a kid in Puerto Rico, the Dominican, Venezuela and maybe even Mexico is that when you’re a kid over there you’ve got to win, you’ve got to perform. And I think that as you grow, you think that you have to bring that with you.
“When you become a professional sometimes you treat the game like you’re still a kid. You want to have fun, but those are things that have to be addressed. [I’d] have conversations with him, try to get in his mind to see what’s going on and hopefully figure it out. Otherwise, bring a stun gun.
“He’s needed. He throws a lot of innings. And he can pitch. Hopefully, he can come and be able to do the things that he can do. Everybody needs pitching, so he’d be very valuable to come back and pitch.”
WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO GET THIS JOB PERSONALLY, CONSIDERING HE LIVES IN BUCKTOWN AND HIS 7-YEAR-OLD GUYS TO SCHOOL A FEW BLOCKS FROM WRIGLEY: “Sleep in your own bed, that’s great. But that doesn’t [out]weigh everything. There’s many other things that have to be weighed before you’re comfortable in a situation. I’m in Cleveland right now to this point, and they’ve done a great job over there. They really like me a lot. But situations like this and opportunities like this are huge and you have to really take that into consideration.”
ON CUBS’ GRUELING INTERVIEW PROCESS, INVOLVING SIMULATIONS AND EVALUATION EXAMS: “Very thorough. They don’t leave any stone unturned. They go through every situation in the game. They’re very professional about it. They’re very bright about what they do. I had an opportunity to have an interview with Toronto last year and that was pretty good also, but they took it here to a different level. Kind of like what you see Jon Gruden doing with NFL quarterbacks – but more thorough. Kind of interesting. And fun. …”
ON HOW OPEN HE’D BE TO LINEUP “SUGGESTIONS” FROM THE FRONT OFFICE (A GROWING TREND IN THE GAME – WITH THE JURY STILL OUT ON WHETHER IT’S MORE HELPFUL OR HARMFUL): “I’m a guy that always listens. I’m not a guy that knows it all. And I delegate a lot to my staff. I communicate with everybody, front office included.”
ON HANDLING HIGH-PRICED VETERANS WHO MAY NOT BUY AS DEEPLY INTO A TEAM AGENDA BUT WHOSE CONTRACTS SUGGEST REGULAR PLAYING TIME: “We had conversations about this with Theo and the front office here. That’s one of the things that’s going to be hard. But the bottom line is we try to win ballgames and you try to create a team concept, a family concept. Communicating is a big part of players responding to you. … You’ve got to give your guys an opportunity to vent out and explain themselves. And [tell them] what you expect of them and what’s going through your mind – explain myself when I make a decision.”
ON RELYING ON VOLUMES OF MODERN-DAY STATS VS. GUT IN DECISION MAKING: “[Stats] help, but that doesn’t tell you the whole story of the game. There’s also a lot of gut-feeling decisions that you’ve got to make. But if you have a stat that you see a flashing number where you see this guy doing very good against this other guy, you can use that during a game in a key situation, yes. But we can not just depend on stats alone.
“I don’t [want] to become a fantasy manager. And I want players to be able to manage themselves. The goal for a good manager is to have players that are able to manage themselves on the field and be team baseball players – not fantasy baseball players.”