Breaking Down the 6 Known Candidates for Cubs Manager
Now that the Cubs have finished their first round of interviews, with two more prospective employees waiting until at least the conclusion of the ALCS, it seems like a good time to take a quick view of them in a group. We’ve primarily looked at them individually to this point, so having a little breakdown might be helpful.
He probably has the longest odds here, though it’s got nothing to do with his acumen or intellect. A two-sport star at Princeton, Venable had a decade-long MLB career with the Padres and others before joining the Cubs as a special assistant to the front office. He then transitioned to first base coach, where he’s spent the last two seasons.
Venable fits the profile Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer look for in their front office employees and it’s very clear he’s being groomed for something bigger, it just may not be in uniform. Because he was brought in by the front office, it’s entirely possible he’ll stick around once they end up making the decision on a new skipper.
Don’t bet on him becoming a manager for 2020, whether it’s with the Cubs or otherwise, but he could very well end up back in a front office or landing a skipper gig in the near future.
Much like Venable, Loretta has a relatively low public profile and lacks a big persona. Also like Venable, he’s got strong ties to the Padres and knew Hoyer from their time together in the front office there. He’s also familiar with Cubs while still being enough of an outsider to bring a different flavor to the mix.
At the same time, his comments about the Cubs lacking accountability and needing more discipline during practice were telling. After all, he was the bench coach for the past year and presumably had some input into those things. But the most damning of Loretta’s assessments, whether of Joe Maddon or himself, was that the Cubs had poor game planning.
True though that may be, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of your ability to lead when this stuff was going on all around you. Perhaps it was a matter of Maddon going totally rogue and disregarding input from others. Either way, this is nearly as long a shot as Venable.
He’s got over a decade of experience as a manager and had success with both the Marlins and Yankees. There’s also a little bit of nostalgia from his time with the Cubs, not to mention his status as a local product. His reputation as a hard-ass makes a lot of people think he’ll be great for the job, but he’s no longer employed by the Yankees for many of the same reasons Maddon’s not with the Cubs.
Which is to say Girardi butted heads with the front office and would ignore the suggestions of their data science in favor of his own. And though his gut may have been good when it came to making bullpen moves, something that would benefit the Cubs after Maddon’s usage, we’re seeing pretty clearly that a rookie manager can do just fine when he communicates well and has good talent.
Girardi was at the Cubs’ offices for eight hours, so unless everyone was just sitting there staring at each other, he undoubtedly had a lot to say. Unless he plugged the toilet in the executive bathroom after his early morning flight, he was probably proving to Epstoyer that he’s changed his ways. He’s not the top candidate and probably has a better shot at another job, but the Cubs clearly aren’t dismissing him.
If you agree with our expert body language analysis — which, holy cow, way too many of you took that seriously — Ross is the clear favorite here. Actually, he’s been the favorite among rival execs for at least the last year. That sentiment is pretty common among the beat writers who are around the team all the time, and a player even said to “put your money on Rossy.”
On the flip side is this strange notion among a pretty significant group of fans that Ross is some sort of softy goofball, kind of like a younger version of Maddon, who’s just a buddy to the guys he played with. While it’s true that he’s developed strong friendships with several current Cubs, it’s not because he was the life of the party. No, Ross was the one getting on them and calling them out when they weren’t putting out their best effort.
But even though it’s a little foolish to think Ross can’t manage because he lacks experience or has friends on the team, there’s a valid concern over whether he can draw the most out of non-elite players. Pushing Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Kris Bryant is one thing, but can Ross do the same with bench players and middle relievers? Sure seems as though the Cubs believe he can.
Just realized how long this is running, so I’m going to shorten up these last two. Espada has experience at all levels of the game from his time with the Marlins, Yankees, and Astros, plus he has some interesting ties to the Cubs. If they go outside the organization, this seems like the direction they’d want to take.
Espada has worked in the front office with Brian Cashman and is on the bench with AJ Hinch, so you know he’s comfortable with advanced metrics and relaying them across levels of an organization. He’s also responsible for a lot of the drills and workouts with the Astros, a team that followed a blueprint similar to the Cubs but with better overall results to this point.
Something of a dark horse in the mix, the nine-time All-Star and current special assistant with the Yankees is revered throughout the industry and is one of the favorites to move across town to manage the Mets. Señor Octubre was a late entry in the Cubs conversation, with his name first coming up following Girardi’s interview, so it’s still unclear whether the Cubs have even asked permission to talk with him.
Then again, just being mentioned the way he has been probably means the Cubs have reached out. As for his credentials, well, it mainly comes down to the leadership he displayed during his 20-year playing career and his obvious desire to learn about inner organizational workings afterwards. The Yankees thought highly enough of him to interview him for their managerial opening almost immediately after he’d retired.
What the Cubs, and most other teams, are really looking for is someone who’s willing and able to incorporate common sense and data into their decisions and who can be a conduit from the front office to the field and back. Even if Beltrán isn’t that guy for the Cubs, he will be for someone else very soon.
Rather than put actual percentages or money-line numbers on the candidates, I figured I’ll list them out in terms of what I view as their likelihood to land the job. If, however, you would like to wager on any of them, I will gladly take you up on a bet of beer.
Update: Beltrán told media members prior to Sunday’s ALCS Game 2 that he had declined requests to interview with the Cubs and Padres. He feels he’s ready to manage and shared some of his leadership philosophy, but it sounds as though he’s only got eyes for the Mets job.
Update #2: Espada is interviewing with the Cubs Monday, October 14 while the ALCS has a day off for travel. The Cubs have also added another name to the list, with former Phillies skipper Gabe Kapler coming in this week.