Thursday, December 19, 2019

Bells and Boones

The Twins needed a new bench coach after Derek Shelton left to become manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. During the weekend they landed Mike Bell, who had been the farm director of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

I would imagine that the vacancy was eyed by a number of wanna-be managers. It was opened, of course, when Shelton landed one of those jobs. The Twins new regime is developing a reputation for forward thinking -- not, I would think, on the level of Tampa Bay or Cleveland, but getting into that territory -- and a struggling organization might well look to poach somebody from such an operation.

Bell, who played briefly in the majors (31 plate appearances with Cincinnati in 2000), is part of one of a pair of three-generation baseball families that are oddly parallel. The other is the Boones.

Patriarchs: Gus Bell and Ray Boone

Gus Bell was a distinguished center fielder with Cincinnati in the 1950s. He made four All-Star teams in five years (1953-1957), not bad in a league that featured Willie Mays, Duke Snider, Stan Musial and Richie Ashburn throughout that period and had the likes of Frank Robinson and Hank Aaron for parts of it.

Ray Boone was a distinguished infielder in the American League in the 1950s -- started as a shortstop with Cleveland, moved to Detroit and third base, played his declining years at first base bouncing from team to team. He didn't make as many All-Star teams as Bell did, but he drew move MVP votes.and got votes in more seasons.

Second generation: Buddy Bell and Bob Boone

If you really work at it, you can make a Hall of Fame case for either of these guys, but neither is in and that's quite acceptable. Boone's case was more plausible during the brief period when he held the record for games caught. The Two Pudges, Rodriguez and Fisk, have long since passed Boone, but Boone is the only one of the top four all time who doesn't have a plaque in Cooperstown (the other is Gary Carter).

Boone won seven Gold Gloves (mostly after he was no longer competing with Johnny Bench for that honor) and made four All-Star teams, but nobody ever constructed a batting order around him.

Bell was primarily a third baseman, with six Gold Gloves in the middle of his career and several seasons of down-ballot MVP votes. Eighteen years in the majors and no postseason appearances; that might be a record, at least for the divisional era.

Both these guys were managers as well, and neither was successful. Which is a bit of an understatement. Bell got 1,243 career games as a skipper with three different teams (Detroit, Colorado and Kansas City) and racked up a .418 winning percentage. Boone had a shorter managerial career (815 games, Kansas City and Cincinnati) and a .468 winning percentage, with no .500 seasons.

Third generation: Bret and Aaron Boone; David and Mike Bell

The two Boones were the more distinguished players of this generation, and Bret in particular. He was a good second baseman who developed notable power in his 30s and drove in 141 runs in 2001. He finished his career with the Twins and was later named by Jose Canseco as a steroid user, which Boone has publicly denied.

Aaron Boone's playing career was less than Bret's but he hit a famous playoff homer for the Yankees and, of course, is now their manager.

David Bell was a teammate of Bret Boone with the Seattle Mariners, including their marvelous 2001 season when the M's won 116 games and then flopped in the playoffs. He's now the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.

And Mike Bell ... well, as a player he's least distinguised of this bunch, but miles better than the rest of us. And his new job might put him in line to join his brother in the managerial ranks.

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