Hillcrest had fallen twice to North Lamar in a state playoff matchup of Panthers, 7-2 on May 19 in Paris and then 12-11 on May 21 in Dallas, and with it my playing career was over.
Less than two weeks later was the 1987 MLB Draft, and while I had no delusions of my own name being on some team’s list, I remember tearing open the next issue of Baseball America to see where the best players I’d grown up playing against would get taken.
There were Duncanville righthander David Nied (Braves/14th round) and his teammate, lefthander Chris Hill (Mets/42nd), who was my BBI teammate.
Dallas Baptist second baseman Jeff Baum (Royals/38th), who I’d played against when he was at Thomas Jefferson in Dallas. W.T. White righthander Lee Jones (Padres/12th). Skyline catcher (and future Skyline coach) Herman Johnson (Braves/50th).
Texas A&M third baseman Scott Livingstone (A’s/3rd), who was responsible for the most nervous moment in my life as an athlete (he was a senior at Lake Highlands when I was a freshman at Hillcrest — he was a left-handed hitter, and that year I was a second baseman). Several picks later: Waco Midway’s Brian Lane (Reds/3rd), who was my opposing shortstop when we played them in the state playoffs my sophomore year. The Rangers took UT third baseman Scott Coolbaugh with the next pick in the third round, and would use their 17th-round pick on University of Houston outfielder Omar Brewer, who I think may have been the first former Hillcrest baseball player ever drafted.
The first round in which the robust Texas territory didn’t have a player selected that June was the eighth, a round in which nine future big leaguers would be chosen, including Sacramento High School catcher Matt Walbeck (Cubs) and Eastern Illinois University shortstop Tim Bogar (Mets), and now I remember what this report was supposed to be about.
I remember the buzz when the Rangers hired Walbeck, a journeyman ballplayer but a decorated minor league manager, to be their third base coach and catching instructor after the 2007 season. After retiring as a player with the Tigers in 2003, he went straight into coaching for Detroit, winning a Low A league title in 2004 and again in 2006, and earning BA’s nod as Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2005 and 2006. The following season, Detroit promoted him to AA, where he not only won a division title but earned BA recognition as Minor League Manager of the Year, throughout all of baseball.
Texas hired Walbeck to complete Ron Washington’s second staff, and he was more than a decade younger than every other coach on the staff. It seemed like the Rangers had a young star in the fold — perhaps a future manager.
Less than a year later, right when the 2008 season ended, the Rangers let Walbeck go, saying he and Washington “had a difficult time gelling.”
Walbeck landed with the Pirates, managing their AA Altoona club in 2009 and 2010, winning the league title that second year and earning Manager of the Year accolades. But he was fired right after the playoffs.
He then caught on with Atlanta, hired to manage the Braves’ Low A Rome affiliate. He was fired halfway into the season, and the grounds given were “philosophical differences,” a more generic but perhaps not a dissimilar basis from the “poor communication skills” and “lack of preparation” that had reportedly led to his dismissal from the Pirates organization.
Walbeck hasn’t worked in pro ball since July 2011. He runs a youth baseball program in Sacramento. He turned 44 a few weeks ago.
The meteoric rise was followed by a precipitous fall.
I’m not sure whether the Rangers were relying on Walbeck’s considerable buzz on the coaching side or if there were past relationships in play (I don’t remember reading about any), but there’s no question that Bogar arrives with both: a strong reputation and lots of history with the people he’ll be working with as the club’s new bench coach.
In 1991 and 1992, Bogar’s final two seasons in the minor leagues, Ron Washington was on the AAA Tidewater coaching staff. Bogar says now that Wash taught him how to play big league-level shortstop and “got me over the hump to become a major league player.”
As a Mets rookie in 1993, Bogar was teammates with Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Special Assistant to the GM Tony Fernandez (whom he backed up at shortstop until a June trade of Fernandez to Toronto moved Bogar into the starting lineup).
He and Maddux played together in 1994, and again in 2000 with the Astros.
In 2001, Bogar’s final big league season, played alongside Adrian Beltre with both the Dodgers and AAA Las Vegas. Rangers Senior Special Assistant Don Welke was with that organization as well.
It’s safe to assume that Jon Daniels consulted Wash and Maddux and Welke and Fernandez and even Beltre about Bogar before the 46-year-old interviewed for the bench coach job earlier this month, and perhaps Tim Purpura (now reportedly in a business-side position with the organization) as well. Purpura, then Assistant GM and Farm Director for the Astros, gave Bogar his first coaching job in January 2004 (Nolan Ryan joined the Astros as a Special Assistant the next month), when the former Houston infielder was hired to manage the Astros’ short-season Greeneville club (2004) and then Low A Lexington (2005).
Rangers official Mike Daly, who will now run the day-to-day operations of the organization’s farm system, was a scout with Cleveland in 2006, when Bogar managed the Indians’ AA affiliate and was named the Eastern League’s Manager of the Year as well as the circuit’s top manager prospect by BA (the same year Walbeck was BA’s Minor League Manager of the Year).
After a season managing the Indians’ AAA club, Bogar was hired by the Rays to serve as a big league quality assurance coach. He worked in tandem with Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon on series and game preparation, including setting defensive shifts based on spray chart analysis, and he was also asked to assist with infield instruction and spring training coordination. Bogar will handle those duties with the Rangers as well.
In that 2008 season with Tampa Bay, the Rays went from last in the AL in the “defensive efficiency” metric to first. The franchise, which had lost 90 games in each of its 10 seasons, went to the World Series that year.
The Red Sox, who fell to the Rays in a seven-game ALCS that October, hired Bogar away from Tampa Bay after the season to serve as their first base coach. Rangers hitting coach Dave Magadan was on the Red Sox staff, as was Sports Psychology Consultant Don Kalkstein. Daniels probably talked to Magadan and Kalkstein about Bogar as well.
After his first season with Boston, Bogar shifted over to third base in 2010 and 2011, but not before interviewing with the Astros in October 2009 for their manager’s job, which eventually went to Bogar’s fellow Red Sox coach Brad Mills.
In 2012, Bobby Valentine arrived in Boston and made Bogar his bench coach.
Valentine had managed Bogar with the Mets in 1996.
Before the 2013 season, John Farrell replaced Valentine and brought Torey Lovullo along from his Toronto coaching staff to serve as his bench coach in Boston. Bogar interviewed for Houston manager again, as Mills had been fired, but Houston hired Nationals third base coach Bo Porter instead.
Porter — who was Bogar’s teammate with AAA Colorado Springs in 2002 — asked Bogar to be his bench coach in 2013, but Houston, though offering Bogar a multi-year contract, insisted on an unusual clause in his deal prohibiting him from interviewing for managerial vacancies elsewhere while on the Astros staff. Bogar understandably refused to sign the contract.
He instead took a job managing the Angels’ AA club in 2013. Los Angeles GM Jerry Dipoto was Bogar’s teammate with the Mets in 1995 and 1996. Angels Assistant GM Scott Servais and Bogar played together on that 2002 Colorado Springs club as well.
The Angels reportedly wanted Bogar (who took the Travelers to the Texas League Championship Series) to join Mike Scioscia’s coaching staff for the 2014 season, perhaps coaching third base in place of Dino Ebel, who was promoted to bench coach. Read any number of Los Angeles articles from the past year and you’ll see that many believed Bogar would be the next Angels manager, whenever it is that Scioscia’s time is done.
Instead, Bogar took the Texas job. He had no connection to the Rangers organization itself, but he has ties to Washington and Maddux and Magadan, and to Welke and Daly and Purpura and Kalkstein and Fernandez, and to Adrian Beltre.
When asked what he believes makes a good bench coach, Bogar told the local media that, first and foremost, it’s about the relationship you have with the manager, understanding what the manager needs, and making the manager’s day easier. He said of Washington, who coached him up two decades ago and who he credits for making him a big leaguer: “He cared for me more as a person than as a player. That’s something I’ve tried to do as a coach.”
If there’s any fear that bringing in a new bench coach — one with a “future manager” tag in the game — could be viewed by the current manager as a threat to his job, the way Bogar talks about his past with Wash should help to dilute it.
Daniels called Bogar a great communicator and a smart baseball mind, and emphasized his preparation skills and extensive experience. He pointed out that Bogar has won as a player (in Houston), as a coach (in Tampa Bay and Boston), and as a minor league manager (everywhere he’s been).
You can say Matt Walbeck has a smart baseball mind and that he won as a minor league manager, but you’d have a hard time on the rest. You can read plenty of articles that call some of those other things into question.
In Bogar’s case, you can find plenty of stories that back up what Daniels said last week. But more importantly, as far as the Rangers are concerned, there’s a roomful of people, in uniform and not, who can vouch for Tim Bogar in ways that make the Baseball America medals little more than bullet points for his Rangers media guide bio, which ought to show up in more editions than Walbeck’s did.
I was excited about the Walbeck hire.
I’m excited about the Bogar hire — and a whole lot more comfortable with it.