Firing a manager in the middle of a postseason run seems like an unlikely scenario in any sport however the Puerto Rican team, Indios de Mayaguez, recently fired their manager and Minnesota Twins’ Kennys Vargas may have played a role.
On January 5, after going 1-2 to start the round-robin postseason tournament, Indios de Mayaguez fired their manager Carlos Baerga, a former major league player who managed Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic in 2013 as well as led Indios to a league title in 2014. According to local reports, Vargas was one of three players that was cited as a contributing factor in Baerga’s ousting. ElNuevoDia.com reported that Vargas, along with Luis Figueroa and Martin Maldonado, had issues with the Baerga's decisions.
Vargas was among three players held out of the lineup during this past Sunday’s game. In 37 games, Vargas was leading the Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in on-base percentage (.430) thanks to a league-leading 33 walks, second in home runs (6) and third in OPS (.913). In addition to Vargas, Figueroa and Maldonado were withheld from the game against Gigantes de Carolina. Vargas and Figueroa would enter the game in the eighth inning as pinch hitters while Maldonado would enter as a defensive replacement. In his only at bat that game, Vargas drew a walk against former Twin and Gigantes reliever J.C. Romero and was immediately lifted for a pinch runner.
Indios would go on to beat the Gigantes, 3-2 after a walk-off double in the 11th.
Vargas reportedly expressed displeasure in the manager’s decisions and threatened to leave the team. After Sunday's win, the front office called Baerga to inform him that he was let go. Following the news of Baerga’s dismissal, Vargas quickly clarified with the press that he did not have anything to do with Baerga’s firing and would indeed continue with the team. (Vargas was initially slated to return to the Twins after January 8 but his team lobbied for an extension through the playoffs which the Twins granted.)
Shortly after, Baerga took to his Facebook page to announce his termination and express his displeasure in the decision. He said that he would not accept players that did not come to play 100% every day or question his managing. Whether a parting shot or an attempt to clear the air with the three players by Baerga, he finished with “[a]nd above all, thanks to the three pillars of this [team]: Kennys Vargas, Wicho Figueroa Martin Maldonado and that your example and professionalism taught us all how you should do things.”
On Wednesday, all three players returned to the starting lineup. For his part, Vargas went 1-for-4 with a home run and drove in two runs.
This is the second of such charges against a member of the Twins organization in winter ball. In November, Aaron Hicks’ Venezuelan team released him amid reports that they were upset at his attitude. Vargas’ personality or attitude has not been an issue with the Twins and is well-respected in Puerto Rico where he recently was honored in December by the Sports Journalists Association of Puerto Rico as the best major league player from the island in 2014.
For more baseball, go to TwinsDaily.com and be sure to check out the lineup for the Winter Meltdown on January 24th at Mason's in Minneapolis. Guests include Twins president Dave St. Peter and 1987 World Series catcher Tim Laudner.