With the baseball season winding down in Chicago, the focus of fans of both ball clubs in town will be focused squarely on the management situation. The fans of both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox will be waiting to see exactly what is going to take place with both their General Manager and Manager of their ball clubs. But screw the White Sox, this is a Cubs blog, so that is where I will be directing my attention today.
At the time of this writing, there are only nine games left in the Cubs season, which means there are likely only nine games left in the managerial career of Cubs Manager Mike Quade. I am sure that there will not be many tears shed when Quade is officially shown the door and wished the best in his future endeavors. Before I go into exactly where I believe the Cubs might go next year in the managerial hunt, I have to give my two cents on why I feel that Quade was the right man for the job coming into the 2011 season.
If the Cubs were really rebuilding this year, I would gladly agree that the Cubs screwed the pooch by hiring an inexperienced manager to begin the road back to respectability. However, that simply was not the case. The 2011 Cubs were not in rebuild mode. In fact, I fully believe that they were in killing time mode. They knew full well that this years team would not be close to contending for anything, and wanted to wait until the young players got here and there was room in the payroll. That meant that there was at least one year that the Cubs would have to wave the white flag, and write off this season as a lost cause.
Honestly, in a no win situation where no one could have had success, I have no problem with throwing a bone to Quade. Why hire a perfectly good manager who is only to be attacked by the fans for a team that can not win? Hire a lame duck manager who you know may not be that good, so as to not start a good manager on a bad track with a bad team and have him start the real rebuilding with the fans already hating him. Now, moving forward the Cubs have a big decision to make as far as who the new manager should be when the team may actually be in full rebuild mode. That decision, will fall on the shoulders of the new general manager, whoever that may be.
With Cubs owner Tom Ricketts already having extended the player development director Oneri Fleta, there has been much talk about the new General Manager may actually already have been signed to a contract. Obviously, if he is currently under a deal with another ball club, his hiring would not be official until the current season runs the course. Which is why there has not been an official announcement.
In my mind, this has to be the case, because I can not honestly believe Ricketts would be dumb enough to extend the contract of Fleta before hiring a new General Manager! That would fall under the responsibility of whoever was hired to do that job. The mysterious man in the shadows must have signed off on the extension, or there would not be one at this present moment in time. Ricketts may not be a brilliant baseball man, but he is a brilliant business man and should know better than to hire someone and tell them exactly who their director of the minor leagues will be. The same thought process would also apply for scouting director Tim Wilkin, who will not be getting an extension. Rickets said that decision would fall on the new General Manager, which leads me to believe that if the new General Manager has already been signed, that he has decided to go in another direction.
Of course, this is all depending on whether or not their actually has been a pre-hiring of a General Manager. Whoever that may be though, is still unknown, but there are two names which get mentioned more than any others. The two top names are Billy Beane with the Oakland Athletics or Theo Epstein with the Boston Red Sox. The list of potential names is long, and filled with names that have the saber metric fans drooling.
Whoever the new guy may be, his first act will be hiring a new manager because lets face facts, there is no chance that Quade comes back next year. So the question is who should be hired to lead the Cubs into the future? The popular choice among most fans would be to bring back the man who many feel should have gotten the job last year, Ryne Sandberg. Whether or not he is the right man for the job, or will be able to deliver a winner to the north side is anyone’s guess. But, if Ricketts and the new General Manager are looking primarily for a Public Relations move that will see Wrigley Field sell out every one of the 81 home games, there can be no question that he is the right man for the job. Who knows, maybe they will get a winner out of the hiring as well. However, personally, I do not want to hire a manager based primarily on a Public Relations situation. I want the best manager for the job, if that is Sandberg, then sweet deal. Bring him in to lead our team to the future.
That being said, I want the new General Manager to look at, and interview several people for the job and not hire someone just because he is the popular choice. There are any number of managers who could very well be out there looking for work. Just look south for two of them. The rumor mill says that both Ozzie Guillen and Tony LaRussa will be looking for a job elsewhere. Neither one would sit well with Cub fans, and neither are all too likely, but I would be disappointed if LaRussa was at least not asked to come in for an interview.
In my perfect world, LaRussa would be hired to take the lead, and he would be asked to bring in Sandberg to be his bench coach. Best of both worlds don’t you think? The team would have a proven major league manager, someone who has won the World Series and has a track record of successful teams, and the fan base would get to welcome home their beloved Hall of Fame player who would get to actually manage games when LaRussa gets tossed out. He would learn on the job and just be a hop, skip and jump away from the real thing. On top of that great combination, if LaRussa is signed, one would think the Cubs would then be the favorite to land free agent to be Albert Pujols, if you are interested in him at all.
All the excitement begins in just under two weeks. This will be a very interesting off season, and everything begins Thursday, September 29, the first day of the off season!