Regan fits Rangers' big needs

BASEBALL

October 16, 1994|By TOM KEEGAN

Meet the Texas Rangers.

A pitching staff so poor as to be almost painful to watch. Consistently shoddy fundamentals. Botched grounders. Missed cutoff men. Base-running blunders. Runners welded to second base with nobody out, then one out, then two outs. Situational hitting? What's that?

Game after game. Year after year.

Doug Melvin, charged to right these wrongs as the Rangers' new general manager, will start by hiring a manager.

The Rangers are rich with Latin American talent, so look for the manager Melvin hires to relate well to the frustrations Latin players encounter working in a foreign culture. Also, look for the manager to handle pitchers well, since Rangers pitchers have been mishandled for so long.

In short, look for Melvin to hire Cleveland Indians pitching coach Phil Regan, a finalist for the Orioles' job. Regan, considered one of the game's brightest pitching minds, has managed in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela every year since 1985.

"Managing down here has been invaluable," Regan said from Venezuela. "It's helped me in a number of ways. What's been invaluable to me is to understand the players. For instance, the Latin players a lot of times in the U.S. are portrayed as moody. But you have to understand what they go through to play in the States. An American player comes down here and someone is there to meet him at the airport. A van takes him everywhere he wants to go. An interpreter is available at all times. And even with that, American players down here get a little moody being in a foreign culture. It's not easy being away from your own country."

Regan patterns himself somewhat after the late Walter Alston.

"He was tough when he had to be tough, which was one of the things I respected about him," Regan said. "One of the first games after I joined the Dodgers, Don Drysdale failed to cover first base and cost us the game. Alston called a meeting the next day. If you make an error or a bad pitch he would never say a word. But if you made a mental mistake, look out. He chewed on Drysdale for 10 minutes and he said if that had been Don Sutton, who was a rookie at the time, he'd be on his way to Spokane. That made us all wake up a little."

Regan handles pitchers well and relates well to Latin players, which makes him a nice fit for the Rangers.

Now, what to do about the shoddy fundamentals? Hire Johnny Oates as bench coach and Orioles field coordinator Reid Nichols to perform similar duties for the Rangers. Oates and Nichols work well together on stressing the fine points of the game.

As dugout coach, Oates would not be the center of attention. A deer can't freeze in the headlights if the headlights are shining in another deer's eyes.

Third base coach for the Rangers? Jerry Narron. A man of utmost integrity, sound baseball knowledge, sound judgment in the box and great enthusiasm, Narron would be a huge plus for any organization.

hTC If Melvin attempts to raid the Orioles' scouting department, that's where the Orioles must build a moat.

Corporate KO

The St. Louis Cardinals, much like the Orioles in their search for a manager, took the corporate path in hiring a general manager.

Slowly they searched, inch by inch, step by step.

In baseball, sometimes it's best to shed the coat and tie and do it the old way. The Cardinals might live to wish they had taken that approach.

Cardinals president Mark Lamping, a corporate climber from the brewery, was granted permission to speak to Philadelphia Phillies general manager Lee Thomas.

Most of baseball, probably Thomas included, figured Lamping would all but offer Thomas the job at the first interview, last Sunday. Instead, Lamping was not ready to commit himself and continued discussions with Thomas during the next couple of days. Lamping told Thomas to think about when he wanted to come back for a second interview.

Lamping's stalling gave Thomas enough time to think about how staying in Philadelphia might not be the worst thing. Thomas called Lamping on Wednesday and told him thanks but no thanks.

"If I really wanted the job that badly, I would have seen it through to the end," Thomas told the Philadelphia Daily News. "But I felt bad for Bill Giles and I felt bad for the Phillies. Too many people were being disrupted. I don't know of too many organizations that would have put up with a week like that. . . . I may regret it someday, but right now I feel good about my decision."

Of course, the Cardinals won't regret waffling if Walt Jocketty works out as well as many in baseball believe he will.

La Ru$$a as free agent?

Jocketty, a former assistant GM for Oakland and Colorado, was recommended to Lamping by Tony La Russa. Expected to stay in Oakland at least for one more year, La Russa could be a free agent next winter. St. Louis' Joe Torre has one year remaining on his contract, as does Gene Lamont of the White Sox.

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