Not much in sports in guaranteed, but for many years you could count on seeing some familiar faces in the dugouts of Major League Baseball clubs. Managers like Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa were a constant presence for the sport. But now, Joe and Tony are out of the game, and they have given way for a new generation of managers who will try to follow in their footsteps.
One of these new coaches, Mike Matheny, is filling LaRussa’s role as skipper of the World Series champion Cardinals. You may remember Matheny’s name from his 12-year career as a catcher, when he won three Gold Gloves with St. Louis. After his retirement in 2007, Matheny signed to be a special advisor for the Cardinals, and he has quickly risen in the coaching ranks, becoming the youngest manager in the MLB this year. Only time will tell how Matheny will fare as a Major League coach, but he is a beloved figure in the St. Louis area, and he should have the support of his players from day one.
There are also two new coaches in the Windy City. Dale Sveum is the lesser-known of the two, and he will take over the Cubs managerial duties. He, much like Matheny, spent 12 years in the Majors, jumping from team to team. He served as interim manager of the Brewers back in 2008 and stayed on as a hitting coach until he took the Cubs job this year. Sveum has received numerous accolades for his coaching ability in the past, and I fully expect him to be a respected MLB coach in a very short time.
On the South Side, Robin Ventura is getting ready to start his first season as the White Sox manager. Ventura had one of the greatest college careers of all time in his years at Oklahoma State, when he was named an All-American three times and set an NCAA record with a 58-game hitting streak. He nearly hit 300 homers in his pro career and was the recipient of six gold gloves at third base.
Of these new coaches, I would have to say that Ventura is the early front-runner to have the most successful coaching career. He will bring a steadying presence to the White Sox, something they did not have while Ozzie Guillen was at the helm. Granted, Ozzie won a World Series, but he did so while being one of the most volatile figures in MLB history. Ventura is a veteran of the game, and he was always known as a very smart player. This will translate well for him as he journeys into the world of being an MLB manager.