With news coming out this morning that Eric Wedge being named the manager of the Seattle Mariners, the Chicago Cubs have one less option to fill their void.
Honestly, I never really felt that he was ever a real option to be the new manager of the Cubs. In my mind, there have always been only three true options to take over the job. On the list of people who I feel will take the helm are Mike Quade, Ryne Sandberg and Joe Girardi. At the moment, two of the three are available and looking for managerial work, while the other is currently leading the New York Yankees to what could possibly be their 28 World Series title. In some peoples minds, that could put a potential kink in any plans of hiring him. Not in mine though.
I fully believe that the plan to interview him is clear. Earlier in the off season, General Manager said that he wanted to have a new Manager named by October 15, which was yesterday and obviously didn’t happen. The owner of the Cubs though, Tom Ricketts, quickly followed up Hendry’s October 15 suggestion with a date of his own. The date he suggested was November 15, which would give Hendry and Ricketts a chance to interview a manager who was unavailable because he was still working. Someone like Girardi. Some fans would question though, as to why Girardi would even consider leaving a job as prized as the Yankees for the Cubs. In my mind, and yes I have nothing to go off of other than my own thoughts, Girardi will be the new Manager of the Chicago Cubs.
Before I start in on why I think Girardi will be the new manager, we need to make clear his contract situation. He and the Yankees have a mutual option for 2011. What this means, and sorry if it sounds as though I am talking down to you, is both sides must want to be back in order for this to kick in. One would have to assume that if the Yankees win the World Series, their ownership will want him back and exercise their option, but if Girardi does not want to come back, he will not be there. Same with if the Yankees do not win the World Series and Girardi wants to come back. If the Yankees don’t want him, he will not be.
Back to why I fully believe Girardi will be the new manager. Ricketts is not a stupid man, you don’t become a billionaire by making stupid decisions. He would not be waiting as long as he says he is willing to, if he did not have a good hunch that he will get what he wants. But why would Girardi be so willing to leave the Yankees for the Cubs job?
Go back four years ago when both the Cubs and Yankee jobs were open. Girardi openly stated that the only two jobs he would covet the most were the Cubs and the Yankees. We all know how that ended, the Cubs signed Lou Piniella and Girardi headed to the Yankees. He now had one of the two jobs he wanted about all others, and he was very successful. In his third year with the Yankees, he won the World Series and still had a year left on his deal. He proved that he could lead a team, no matter how loaded with talent, to a championship. This year, he looks to be leading another strong favorite to yet another title. After winning back to back titles, Girardi would have nothing left to prove in New York. He could very well be up for another challenge. A much harder challenge of leading the Cubs to their first World Series in 65 years, and their first championship in 102. A daunting task no matter who you are.
I know that this is just speculation, but the thinking surrounding the situation makes sense the more you think about things. This is no sure thing, even though one report has Girardi’s agent saying Girardi would take the Cubs job. One thing that may stop Girardi from taking the job, is already being saddled with a hitting coach and a pitching coach. He may not like the idea that his coaches are already chosen for him. He may demand they get fired so he can bring in his own guys. That may very well be what keeps Girardi from being the Cubs new manager.
According to one report earlier in the week, Will Carroll started a rumor where Quade would be named the Manager with Sandberg being his bench coach. While this idea would have been fine with several people, according to Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley on 670 The Score, a friend of Sandberg basically said that if Sandberg was not named the manager, then he wouldn’t be with the Cubs. Now, this is just third or fourth hand news, much like the game of telephone, so you don’t know how reliable the friend of Sandberg is. However, Carroll retracted his thoughts of what might be the following day.
This would be a bad idea, because the moment the Cubs started a long slump the fans would start demanding Sandberg take over. You would have a split fan base and a split club house. That is no way to win. You have to have a manager who the fans and players know are the boss. If Girardi was named manager with Sandberg as the bench coach, that would be different. There would be no question that Girardi was the man in charge.
Quade though, should be considered a very serious candidate. He took over a team, granted when there was no pressure, and put together a fantastic record. He took a team that apparently had no idea how to win, and actually made them win. He has the backing of several players who have already given their support to him, and said they would fully support him as the manager going into 2011. He may very well be the right man for the job.
Taking out the record he put up as manager of the Cubs, the greatest qualification he might have is the current roster. He knows the players who will be on the team better than either Girardi or Sandberg. While Sandberg may know the kids better, Quade knows the veterans and already has their support. one thing you need if you are going to succeed as a manager, is the respect and support of your players. That is likely one thing Piniella lost as the season went on last year. Despite the complete lack of managerial experience, only a month and a half, that alone might very well make him the favorite for the job.
One reason he might also be the man to take over, is the Cubs can have more power over him than they would Girardi. They can tell him that if he wants the job, he must keep both Larry Rothschild and Rudy Jaramillo as his pitching coach and hitting coach. You can easily force that on someone who is looking for their first real job. Much more than someone who has already cut his teeth in the majors.
The final candidate for the Cub job is Sandberg. He is the obvious fan favorite for a majority of Cub fans, though not all of them. From the very beginning, he was the man most fans wanted to succeed Piniella and lead the Cubs into the future. He fits each and every qualification that Ricketts said he wanted in the next Cubs manager, and would seem to be the favorite. If the Cubs are going to go on the cheap and bring in a bunch of rookies, than I would agree that Sandberg would be the man to hire, mainly because he knows the kids that will be up here and what they can do. He knows exactly what he can expect out of them, and how hard to push them. Much like Quade has the support of the veterans on the team, the kids in the minors are all pulling for Sandberg, likely out of being familiar with him and the feeling that they have a better chance to make the club if he is the manager. Who knows for sure though.
Like Quade, the Cubs can also have control over him and tell him who his coaches are going to be if he wants the job. Both Rothschild and Jaramillo have contracts and are not likely to be fired. Sandberg would have to keep them on board if he wants the job. That wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world though, as he could use all the help he can get with the current roster. They know the players better than he does, and could help him along the way. That is a much better scenario than a rookie manager starting with a team where he barely knows any of the players, with a pitching coach who needs to learn the pitchers and a hitting coach who needs to learn the hitters.
Quade and Sandberg, while being stuck with both Jaramillo and Rothschild would still be able to name their own bench coach.
Out of the three, I still have to believe that Girardi will be the man to take over. While Ricketts and Girardi can not officially talk until the end of the season, we all know that conversations take place through back channels. A “friend” of Girardi’s talks to a “business partner” of Ricketts or something like that. The rule that blocks conversations is the easiest rule to get around, because of all the back channels. I just can not believe that Ricketts would risk ruining relationships with the other two candidates just to talk to Girardi if he did not have something to give him the idea that he would in fact take the job. By giving the impression that you don’t want to hire anyone until you talk to Girardi, you are basically saying that he is your top choice for the job. How would you feel if you were Quade or Sandberg then? Yeah, we want you as our manager, but only because he turned us down. You were not our first choice.
One reason they are waiting, is because they can. Apparently, despite reports, no one is banging on Sandberg’s door to be their manager. Reports were that he was in the running for the Toronto Blue Jays, but how real are those reports? He doesn’t have the power to tell them to wait on his answer. Being a rookie manager, if he were to tell them to wait, they would laugh him off and go in another direction. Plus, he would be stupid to turn down a chance at a job because he wants another one.
No matter what happens this next month, nothing is certain. All we know, is there will be a new manager. Who that is, no one can be certain.
Since the news first came out, the person that I wanted to be the new owner of the Chicago Cubs, was Tom Ricketts. I wanted him as the owner, because he is a Cubs fan, and knows of the pain and torture we have been through over the past hundred years. I felt that he was the right choice, because we would finally have a face to the ownership team, and someone who would be passionate about what happened on the field, and would not just be about the bottom line. I will hold off judgment on how he has handled things in his first year until a later date, but if you have been following my blog this whole year, you know that there have been financial restraints, which I have mentioned a few times in earlier blogs.
For now though, I want to address one thing with him. Mr. Ricketts, please do not let your Cubs Fandom overtake your business smarts. Do not let that little kid inside of you tell you how to run your ball club. These thoughts are coming straight from the Chicago Businessman lunch that recently took place this past week, where a major player from each of the Chicagoland teams held a Town Hall meeting of sorts. Your description of what you want your new manager to be shows me that you are letting your fandom overtake your business smarts.
For those who missed what he said about what he is looking for in a new manager, allow me to fill you in on what was said. Directly from his mouth (as reported by Chicagobreakingsports.com) Ricketts said the following “We have to have a manager who really understands … the scrutiny you get and (must) be able to handle those periods in June when you lose three games in a row and people start talking about Year 103 of the curse,” Ricketts said. “We have to someone who understands what they’re getting into.”
Going off that quote, one would absolutely have to assume he wants either Joe Girardi or Ryne Sandberg to take over the role of manager of the Cubs in 2011. Personally, I would love to see either one of these two men wearing Cubbie Blue, leading the Cubs into the future.
The problem I have though, is the thought that he believes the Cubs need a manager who “understands the scrutiny” that comes from being the Cubs manager or being able to handle things when “people start talking about Year 103 of the curse” Those are not the qualifications I would be looking for when selecting the next manager of the team. The Cubs do not, I repeat do not need a manager who understands the Cubs culture to be successful. The Cubs do not need someone who knows what it would mean to Chicago and the fans of the Cubs to win a championship here. Personally, I would much rather have someone who is the best available candidate than someone who “knows the Cubs culture”.
Who knows, perhaps Sandberg or Girardi are the best two candidates available. If they are, then great; sign them up to lead the Cubs in the coming years. Just do not hire either of them to be the manager just because they understand the pressures of playing for and winning with the Cubs.
Mr. Ricketts, you are a very smart business man. Too smart too allow your heart to overtake your head. Do not pander to the group of Cub fans who truly believe that we need someone who knows about the past to be successful. That is just not true and you know that. However, from your words of what you are looking for, I wonder if that is truly what you feel or if you are just giving that group of fans what they want.
If that is truly how you feel, and what you think we need in a manager to win, then I am afraid that the wrong man bought the Cubs. I am glad a Cubs fan owns the team, but I don’t want a fan to run things. That is not how you win a championship. You don’t win by letting your heart control things. Find the best man for the job Mr. Ricketts, and don’t select him just because he happened to play for the Cubs.
Again, if that best man is either Sandberg or Girardi then great, there would be no finer end to the long drought than seeing an old face lead the way to the promise land. But the taste of champaign will taste just as sweet with someone else at the helm.
Today I am starting a series on the future of the Chicago Cubs, and will be focusing on various aspects of decisions that need to be made before the start of next year, as well as decisions that may need to be made. Obviously, the first and most demanding need is who will replace Cubs Manager Lou Piniella as we look to 2011. That is what I will be looking at today, focusing on three of the more talked about names to replace Piniella and why they should be looked at as a manager, and why they should not be given the job.
With Piniella making things official that he will retire at year’s end, something we all knew would happen anyway, there has been plenty of speculation as to who should replace him at the Cubs helm, and who will replace him. There are several names that have popped up and have been named as candidates already, but who would be the right fit? Who would be the manager most likely to finally give the Cubs and their fans their long overdue reward?
The first name on the list, who I believe to be the favorite, at least among fans, is Cubs legend and Hall of Fame player Ryne Sandberg. He first showed interest in managing the Cubs after the2006 season when they decided not to re-sign Dusty Baker. At the time, General Manager Jim Hendry felt that Sandberg was not qualified to do the job, and suggested that he work his way up the system to prove that he was not only capable to manage the big league club, but that he was willing do to what he needed to do in order to get the much needed experience. Whether or not Hendry thought making him earn his spot by managing in the bus leagues would make him change his mind, I am not sure. All I do know is that Sandberg did exactly what he was asked to do, and did so without complaint. Now, with Piniella acknowledging that he would not return, Sandberg has already been named as a legitimate candidate for the job.
Before I go any further, and get labeled a Sandberg hater I must admit that he is my all time favorite Cub player. I idolized him as a child, and he was one of the main reasons I became a Cub fan. That being said, I do not feel that he is the right man for the job, at least not at this point in time. Yes, he has done everything that has been asked of him and more. There is no doubt that he has earned an interview, but that does not mean that he should be the front runner for the job. However, there is a massive difference between managing in the minors and managing in the majors. In the minor leagues, while you always try to win, you put a bigger emphasis on developing the talent for the majors before you try to win. Once you get to the majors, the developing is all over and you need to win.
There are reasons why he should be looked at as a possible manager for the ball club. He knows what winning in Chicago would mean to the city and the fans. He is a player who knows how to play the game the right way, and would not put up with players lollygagging things around the field. He would hold every player accountable for their mistakes, and ensure that they learned from them, or they would sit out until they did. Those qualities would tend to make you think that someone has the mindset and the right attitude to manage the club. He is by far the popular choice among fans, but that doesn’t always mean that he is the right choice.
However, when you look back at his playing career, what do you remember about him? He was an all around great player who became a legend in Cubbie Blue. What people tend to forget, is that he was a very silent player who always led by example. He was never one to speak his mind during his playing career, and could be compared to Derrek Lee as being the silent leader in the club house. One thing I have noticed about Chicago fans (not just Cub fans) they want a manager who is filled with the “fire and the passion” leading their clubs. Sure, as the years have passed Sandberg has become more vocal and has shown more “fire” than anyone could ever have expected out of him based on his playing career. However, in an honest moment no one would have looked at him and thought of him as being a future manager. Take away the name Sandberg, would you look at him as being a great manager? Separating your feelings about someone as a player, and what you feel they can do as a manager is not easy.
In an honest moment, I do not think that he should be the manager of the Cubs for the 2011 season. I still think that he needs a little more seasoning before he is ready. Try and convince whoever you hire to make him the bench coach. Let him see the game in the big leagues at full speed. Yes, he has seen the game at full speed as a player, but as a manager, things are completely different. You have a completely different point of view of things. There is only one problem with having him be the bench coach for your new manager. That new manager, whoever he may be, may view the situation as training their own replacement. Not too many people would be too fond of doing that.
If Sandberg does not get the job, there are three outcomes which could come of the decision. He may decide to walk away, and give up the idea of managing in the big leagues, he may get hired by another team to become their manager, or he may stick to his guns and stay at Triple A.
Another popular choice is current Manager of the New York Yankees, Joe Girardi. With his contract running out at season’s end, there is plenty of speculation that he is on the Cubs radar. He very well may be on the radar, but that does not mean that they will even have a shot at signing him. He has had a lot of success with the Yankees, so why would the Yankees be so willing to just let him walk away? In my mind, they would be idiotic not to keep him around since he has proven himself to be a capable manager of the Yankees, as he has already won a World Series and may be well on his way to winning a second. I don’t believe we have a real shot of hiring him as the manager of the Cubs for 2011.
There are reasons why he should be given a look though, if he becomes available. He has the major league experience, which Sandberg lacks. He has managed in the big leagues for four seasons now. He has seen what the game looks like in the big leagues from the sidelines, and has also shown the baseball smarts that we all knew he had from watching him as a player. Everyone knew he would be a good manager at some point down the line; the only question was where and when. But is he the right choice for the Cubs? Like Sandberg, he knows what winning in Chicago would mean for everyone involved. He loved his time in Chicago and would love to have the job. However, how good of a manager is he?
In his one year managing the Florida Marlins, he showed that he has a temper when he yelled at their owner on the field. He almost got fired for that when the incident took place in August of that year. While he may have ultimately gotten fired for that, he only lasted one season with the Marlins. That isn’t exactly a qualification that most owners like to see in a future employee.
While he does have a World Series championship under his belt already, with a second seemingly well on the way, does winning with the Yankees even count? They have the largest payroll in baseball and have all stars at nearly every position. Of course he should have won that World Series, and should win this year’s championship as well. With the players the Yankees have, they should never lose a championship. How will he fare with a team that doesn’t have all stars all over the diamond? Perhaps eight games under the .500 mark as he did in his only year with the Marlins? People will point out though, that his team came roaring back from being 20 games under the .500 mark early in the season. Sure, he got his team to come roaring back, after the season for them had already been dead and buried. He got them to play when things didn’t matter anymore. Is that enough to make him worthy of being the next Cubs manager? I am not so sure.
The last name I will bring up is the Cubs very own television broadcaster, Bob Brenly. He would be my top choice out of the three, though that doesn’t necessarily mean I think he is the right man for the job either. But out of the three men that get mentioned the most, I think he is the better fit to manage this club for the next few years.
No one in baseball knows this team better than Brenly. He has been watching these guys play for the past few years, and always has something to say about what they did or did not do. Yes, that is his job, but he has also been pointing out why they should have done this, or should not have done that. He knows better than anyone what flaws each of these players have, and how he feels they can and should be correcting them. You will not be able to get immediate ideas on how to improve various players from Girardi or Sandberg, at least not like you will from Brenley. He also has years of managerial experience and has also won a World Series ring. He knows how to manage a club to a championship, without a massive payroll, or an all star at every position.
No, he did not have an all star stacked team when the Arizona Diamondbacks won the World Series; but he did have a damn good team. However, he just had two of the best pitchers in baseball that season, which could never hurt your chances of winning. Even with that team and those pitchers, he still needed a broken bat single in the ninth inning to win the World Series. Granted they got that win over an all star packed team of the Yankees, which is still an amazing accomplishment. While I was able to give various reasons why I felt that Girardi or Sandberg would not be right for the job, I cannot really do that for Brenly. But, there is one thing that gives me second thoughts about hiring him as the next Cubs manager. Ask yourself this, if he is such a good candidate to fill a managerial position, then why hasn’t he been given any serious consideration for an opening over the past five or six years? There has to be a reason why he hasn’t been invited to interview for any one of the numerous openings over the years. I believe his name was only brought up once during his tenure as the Cubs Analyst, and that was when the Milwaukee Brewers had an opening.
Perhaps he was over looked for those other openings, or perhaps the other teams did not see him as all that great of a managerial candidate. Don’t even say that maybe he did interview and we just didn’t hear the news. In today’s day and age, you hear everything. If he was invited to interview, there would have been something that was said. Perhaps he was asked to interview and he turned down the job because he wanted a mental break from the daily grind, and the stress that comes with managing in the big leagues. We may never know exactly why he is still broadcasting games and not managing somewhere, but this is a reason why you have to have second thoughts, as a fan, before you give him the job. Otherwise, he would be the perfect candidate to fill the opening going into the next season.
There are several other options to fill the opening, such as maybe Tony LaRussa or Joe Torre, or any number of other experienced managers out there, but the three I mentioned seem to be the three front runners to the job. At least they are the three top names mentioned in the fan base. If I were a betting man, I would say that Tom Ricketts will go with the fan favorite and name Sandberg manager of the Cubs. If he lets his heart over power his head that is exactly what will happen. That’s not to say that Sandberg won’t make an excellent manager, or that the other two wouldn’t either. However, I do not want to see one of these three men hired to replace Piniella, not unless there are not any other more qualified candidates. Out of the three, I would select Bob Brenly immediately, if I was limited to this group. The only way I would hire Sandberg to be anything more than my bench coach going into 2011, is if the Cubs went with a youth movement and got rid of most of their aging stars, which is a lot easier said than done.
All I know, is we have two and a half months left in the Piniella era, and then two months for General Manager Jim Hendry to find our Cubs a new manager. He said he wants one in place before the winter meetings, which are in December. Two months after the season ends, is plenty of time to find a new captain of the ship, though I would not be surprised if Hendry already has a man in mind.