Impressions from Stephen Vogt’s Introductory Press Conference

0

The Guardians introduced new field manager Stephen Vogt in a press conference on Friday. Over the course of just under half an hour, Team President Chris Antonetti, General Manager Mike Chernoff and Vogt himself explained the process that led to Vogt’s hiring, why he was their choice and began to explain a little of who the Guardians’ new manager is as a person and potential skipper.

Here are my takeaways from the presser:

Antonetti opened up by talking about the goals of the Guardians organization and I was struck by a simple statement: “We seek to win multiple World Series Championships”. We all know this already as fans, but with all the talk of payrolls and young players and the new beginnings that come with a first-time new manager, it’s nice to hear the organization’s top man reaffirm this. This is one of the most respected organizations in baseball. I take a statement as simple but as ambitious as this to be earnest and genuine, even with the inherent setbacks that come with how the organization sometimes operates.

Antonetti went on to say that there were three criteria that the team wanted to achieve in hiring a new manager:

  1. They wanted a partner. Someone with shared values and beliefs, but with a perspective that would challenge them.
  2. This individual has to care about people. He needs to be able to create a fun and inclusive work environment.
  3. The third one was a little less clear because Antonetti stumbled on his words. In the introduction he said a “self-confident learner” and a few minutes later he said a “self-confident leader”. I think the gist is that they want someone who has the confidence to be able to operate a Major League clubhouse, but also someone who is willing to learn and doesn’t think they know it all.

In hearing all of this, I’m taken by how much hiring a manager for a baseball team feels similar to what I would hope for in a boss or what I would hope to be able to do in my own professional life. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that baseball is a job for people that we spend more than six months a year following and cheering for. The Guardians were looking for someone to manage their Run Scoring and Run Prevention factory.

After Antonetti was done, he handed it off to Chernoff, who only spoke briefly He mentioned how about fifty employees were involved in the interview process with Vogt. The work that went in was thorough and all-encompassing. As the press conference goes on and Vogt talks about the process as well, it becomes really clear that the Guardians wanted to make sure that they were finding someone who would be a personality fit. They wanted to make sure they found someone who worked well with their greater team on and off the field, making sure they found someone who would acclimate themselves well throughout the organization.

And now we get to the man of the hour…

Vogt only spoke for a few minutes. Here are a few short quotes, followed by my reaction in bold.

“ Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to earn this chance”. *Humble. I like this. After all, we’re the town that says nothing is given and everything is earned. Also, he seems to know the work is just beginning. Sure he got the job, but now he has to prove himself.*

“My true love on this Earth, besides my family, is the game of baseball.” *Hey, me too! Never in my life was I a good enough ballplayer to even sniff anything resembling the level of play these guys get to, but I relate to this sentence so hard.*

(Antonetti handed him some tissues at the podium since Vogt had welled up over the course of talking) “I’m gonna need these all day… And you’ll learn this is pretty normal for me.” *I didn’t write the second half of that quote down, so technically, I might be paraphrasing, but what a breath of fresh air. Seemingly, Vogt is an emotional dude. And when we refer to men, especially sports coaches, as “emotional”, it usually means fiery. You know, yelling and being animated. This is different and I dig it. It’s 2023. We need more people in leadership in the world in general who are willing to show a wide array of emotions. Also, given his emotions, it couldn’t be more clear that this job means the world to this guy right now. Consider me endeared.*

(In talking about his kids, actually wells up a little at the moment) “…Dad being gone, way too much traveling, way too many moves… and here comes another one.” *We’ve got a family man who knows the impact of his professional life on that family. Well, Mr. Vogt, let me say, that if what you say from these quotes is genuine, I hope you’re a member of this community for a long time. No more moves.*

Seriously. Maybe I am just a sap. But these four statements pretty much won me over. I don’t know a darn thing about whether Stephen Vogt will actually be a good manager, but his humility and personality jump off the screen. I don’t think it’s an act. I may not know if he will be a good manager, but I know I want him to be, and not just because he is managing my favorite team.

However, there was one small perceived misstep during his statement, in my opinion.

Vogt closed out his comments by saying that his goal is for everyone who puts on a Guardians uniform, whether it’s someone in the low-level Dominican League or on the big league club, to know what it means to be a Cleveland Guardian. That’s a wonderful sentiment. In and of itself it is great. But Vogt neglected to mention what exactly he thinks it means to be a Cleveland Guardian. If you’re going to make a statement like that then you better be ready to explain what your vision is. He nailed the rest of his introduction, this one detail was just lacking. If he had stated a compelling view I might’ve lost my mind and immediately proclaimed the Guards 2024 World Series favorites… maybe it’s in my best interests that he didn’t.

There were some very interesting nuggets in the Question and Answer session that followed as well.

I figured that Vogt has started working on a plan to coach and ultimately manage towards the end of his career as a Major League player. The reporting that came out before his hiring spoke to this. What I didn’t realize is that Vogt has been formally preparing for this day as far back as 2009 when he was a 24-year-old player still at the High A level. He was with the Rays organization at the time and nursing an injury that had him out of the lineup. He asked their front office leadership about getting an opportunity to be in the big league dugout for home games, concerned that between his injuries and advanced age for a minor leaguer at his level he might not have much of a future playing.

Remember, Vogt would later go on to be a two-time Major League All-Star. So while he was preparing for the future, he also didn’t give up on his present. He believes that his time in the Rays dugout in ’09 was the genesis of his ability to perceive the game as a coach/manager. Landing this job has been more than a decade in the making. He spoke about having multiple notebooks of notes of things he has picked up over the years and about specifically appreciating former Athletics and current Padres manager Bob Melvin. He loves how Melvin communicates with his players. Again, the manager’s role comes back to managing personalities. The key lesson from Melvin was “know your people”. Know how to talk to them. Know when to talk to them. Know when not to talk to them.

 

In the lead-up to Vogt’s hiring, I hadn’t considered how most of the organizations he had played in and is familiar with like Tampa Bay, Oakland and Milwaukee are also smaller markets with smart front offices. While he doesn’t have much knowledge specifically of the Guardians organization, he is familiar with similar cultures. As a ballplayer, he was also somewhat of a darling of these types of organizations as an underappreciated high-on-base hitter and strong defensive catcher. I don’t think he will have any issue buying into the way the Guardians need to compete given their financial limitations.

 

There was also more talk about the thoroughness of the interview process. Vogt estimated that he spent 22+ hours speaking to team representatives in total before getting the job. That honestly leads me to wonder how deep the team got with other candidates. How many hours did they log with other potential hires? Had they sunk a lot of time in with anyone else? I would have to think so. I am in awe of the thoroughness of this process. If Vogt doesn’t work out, it won’t be for a lack of trying to get it right. Additionally, Vogt spoke to Terry Francona multiple times. It’s clear that the Guardians’ former skipper was involved in this decision and is willing to be a resource, which is great to hear in itself.

 

Lots of people believe catchers make the best managers. Vogt made a compelling case for how he thinks being a catcher is the number one factor that prepared him for the job. As a catcher, he was a position player that also had to work with the pitchers, so he knows the differences in mentality, He also believes that he made more than a hundred individual decisions on the field in every game, so he feels natural and comfortable making strategic choices that affect the field of play. In hearing all of this, I couldn’t help but think about how the Guardians have a potential future star catcher in Bo Naylor and how between Vogt and Sandy Alomar the Guardians very well may have the best mentorship possible for him. There’s plenty of reason to hope for big things from Little Naylor.

 

In a similar vein, Vogt thinks that having played so recently could actually be a strength, even considering his lack of experience. I was expecting him to suggest he had a strong handle on how the game is played differently today than in the past, but he again instead talked about how baseball is a people business. He knows how younger players tick. He knows body language and how to relate to them. He specifically mentions how important it is for young players to feel comfortable and like they belong in the big leagues.

The Guardians certainly have a crop of young guys who could benefit from being instilled with that type of confidence. I can see where Vogt is coming from. There’s certainly less of a generational gap in bringing in Vogt, which could help him connect with what was the youngest team in baseball two years running… but at the same time, the last two World Series winners have had AARP cards for more than a decade.

 

Vogt acknowledged that the biggest personal transition for him will be his new job responsibilities themselves. As a player, it was all about doing his best on the field. As a coach, it was about improving the players he was in charge of. This new role is starkly different because of all the facets it involves. Vogt specifically named the media aspect as well as interacting not just downward to his players but upward towards the front office. It’s only day one, but he handled the media close to flawlessly. We will have to see how things go when adversity inevitably ensues.

 

He’s also already talked to 7 or 8 players, including Shane Bieber. Jose Ramirez wasn’t directly named but I wonder how involved, if at all, Ramirez has been along the way. Ramirez is the franchise cornerstone. He is the guy locked up for a long time. He’s one of the best players in baseball. It doesn’t happen as much in baseball as it does in the NBA, but I have to figure Ramirez was kept informed along the way. His opinion should matter. I wonder what kind of relationship these two men will have.

It’s also interesting that Vogt was directed to Bieber. There has been a lot of talk about Bieber’s future and how he may be traded, but would he have been brought in so early if the organization didn’t feel like he had a significant future with the team? I wouldn’t think so.

 

In conclusion,

When Terry Francona stepped down, I had to reflect on how he had made me feel about my favorite baseball team. Those feelings were deeply positive and didn’t come down to just wins and losses but also an aura that his time with the team held. We don’t know much about how Stephen Vogt will fare in the dugout, but from his actions in Friday’s presser, I feel confident he has all the tools necessary to provide a similar aura. Of course, he will have to win, but I feel like the Guardians have put themselves in a good position to continue to be a classy and successful organization. They’ve certainly put the work in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com