Epstein's search won't include Sandberg

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Epstein's search won't include Sandberg

Updated: November 3, 2011 1:01 a.m.

Theo Epsteins fingerprints will be all over the Cubs organization, from the summer league in the Dominican Republic to the cramped clubhouse at Wrigley Field.

In one of his first signature moves as the new president of baseball operations, Epstein flew to Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday and fired manager Mike Quade. The search for Quades replacement begins immediately, and will not include Ryne Sandberg.

Epstein reached out to the Phillies and asked to speak with Sandberg as a courtesy, to let the Hall of Famer know that he will not be considered for the position. In a statement that outlined the general qualities hes looking for in a manager, Epstein listed a very specific requirement.

He must have managerial or coaching experience at the major-league level.

That eliminates Sandberg, who managed his way up in the Cubs system before losing out to Quade last year. The Cardinals have asked for permission to interview Sandberg the manager at Philadelphias Triple-A affiliate as a potential replacement for Tony La Russa.

There are now three good jobs open in Chicago, Boston and St. Louis, and there will probably be some overlap on those lists. Epstein worked alongside Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington for almost a decade. They share a similar philosophy.

The Red Sox have already interviewed Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin and met Wednesday with Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, which could speed up this process.

Its possible that well be talking to some of the same people, Cherington told Boston reporters. (But) the teams are at different stages, the cities are different. I think that the right manager in Boston is not necessarily the right manager in Chicago."

Mackanin graduated from Brother Rice High School and has been an interim manager in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Sveum was the third-base coach when the Red Sox broke the curse in 2004, and was the interim manager when the Brewers made a playoff run in 2008.

Epstein has already surrounded himself with two people who were essential to his success in Boston general manager Jed Hoyer and senior vice president Jason McLeod so it wouldnt be surprising if he found someone with a Red Sox pedigree.

Terry Francona, who guided the Red Sox to two World Series titles, is now a free agent, though its unclear if hed rather recharge (or if Epstein even wants to reunite). DeMarlo Hale, a graduate of Chicago Vocational High School, was Franconas bench coach in Boston the past two seasons (including that epic September collapse).

In luring Hoyer and McLeod from San Diego, the Cubs made a deal that they would not grab any other Padres employees for a certain amount of time, which eliminates Bud Black from the list.

The Blue Jays recently changed their policy of allowing employees to interview for lateral positions. This was in response to rumors about the Red Sox being interested in manager John Farrell, their former pitching coach. So Farrell will remain under contract in Toronto.

If the Cubs wanted someone with a pitching background like Black or Farrell they could inquire about Mike Maddux.

The Rangers pitching coach has shaped a staff thats won two consecutive pennants, and the rotation should be the No. 1 priority this winter at Clark and Addison. Epstein has already spoken with his brother Greg about his part-time role in the Cubs organization (family figures to be a major consideration).

When the Red Sox fired Grady Little after losing Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, Epstein zeroed in on Francona and Joe Maddon, two candidates who didnt create nearly as much buzz as they do now.

Francona never won more than 77 games in his four seasons as Phillies manager. Maddon never had a full-time job managing in the big leagues before, but would later show a great feel for players in Tampa Bay. So Epstein who didnt comment beyond Wednesdays statement doesnt necessarily need a big name.

The Cubs have three coaches already signed for 2012 hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, bench coach Pat Listach and bullpen coach Lester Strode. Their fates will be determined by the next manager.

That man could also decide whether or not he wants Sandberg on staff, though that would probably be a major distraction. The Cubs are looking to start over, and Epsteins supposed to be an agent of change.

Why Dodgers could be a playoff problem for Cubs

Why Dodgers could be a playoff problem for Cubs

LOS ANGELES – Imagine a Los Angeles Dodgers team doing more with less getting Clayton Kershaw back to start Game 1 of a playoff series. That could become a nightmare matchup for the Cubs, if Rich Hill stays healthy and continues his late-career renaissance, and if rookie phenom Julio Urias saves enough bullets for October.   

“They would be a tough team,” said Ben Zobrist, a World Series hero last year with the Kansas City Royals, the switch-hitter the Cubs signed with October specifically in mind. “We would have our hands full because of all the lefties they have. 

“We have to do a better job against lefties overall – and figuring out how to just get more runners on base. We tend to rely on the homer a little bit too much. And in those situations, (we) have to find a way to just take our hits and hit line drives around the park.”

On Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, the Cubs didn’t have any answers for Brock Stewart, a 24-year-old right-hander out of Illinois State University who matched $155 million lefty Jon Lester for five scoreless innings. The Dodgers manufactured a 1-0 victory, and might have swept the best team in baseball out of Chavez Ravine if not for Kris Bryant’s MVP game on Friday night.

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“They have a veteran group on the field,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re always able to come up with another pitcher somehow. They got a really good bullpen. For right now, they’ve been utilized a lot, so I don’t know how that’s going to hold up, but they are good.”

Maddon couldn’t resist taking a few passive-aggressive shots, but he did compare this Los Angeles bullpen to the 2002 Anaheim Angels team that won the World Series and gave him a championship ring as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach.
  
Kershaw (11-2, 1.79 ERA) appeared to be rolling toward his fourth National League Cy Young Award when he went on the disabled list with lower back pain in late June.

“Kershaw coming off a back injury, you just don’t know,” Maddon said. “Hill’s good. He’s reinvented. He’s a curveball pitcher and all that kind of good stuff. So, of course, they can be good.”

Maddon wondered how Urias – who settled down after a rocky start to win a 3-2 game on Saturday – would hold up at the age of 20 after throwing only 80-plus innings combined last year at four different minor-league affiliates. 

“The biggest concern would probably be that he would run out of gas,” Maddon said, “not being used to pitching that late into a year. And I know they’re mindful. I know they’re going to do things to restrict him, whatever. But that would be the biggest concern there.”

[RELATED: With John Lackey ramping up for return, could Cubs go to six-man rotation?] 

The Dodgers (73-57) built a lineup around professional hitters like Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick. They have a two-way catcher (Yasmani Grandal), their own 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Corey Seager) and a lights-out closer (Kenley Jansen).

“They’re in first place,” Lester said. “I don’t see why they should be overlooked. I don’t feel like they’re overlooked. Being a part of West Coast baseball for a couple months (with the Oakland A’s), I think really everything on the West Coast gets overlooked. I think it’s the time difference and a lot of other factors that are going on. But they’re a good team. They’ve been a good team.”

Maybe the Dodgers will expend too much energy trying to fend off the San Francisco Giants, and there are conditionals to Kershaw, Hill and Urias. But that left-handed-heavy rotation could mean the Cubs will be slamming their bats and helmets in frustration in October.  

“I’m not there yet,” Maddon said. “I’m not worried about the Dodgers. I’m worried about getting our guys healthy and us playing the game properly. If it comes to that, I would be more than happy. I would be ecstatic about facing them in the latter part of the season. They can throw as many lefties as they want. They’re good, but I can’t worry about the Dodgers.” 

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs return home to face Pirates Monday on CSN

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs return home to face Pirates Monday on CSN

Jake Arrieta and the Cubs return home to battle the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN at 7:05 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Steven Brault (0-1, 3.60 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (16-5, 2.62 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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Theme trip: Cubs break down at Dodger Stadium with miscommunication between Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist

Theme trip: Cubs break down at Dodger Stadium with miscommunication between Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist

LOS ANGELES – Joe Maddon watched John Lackey board the team bus on Sunday morning wearing a Team USA onesie. The Cubs manager later noticed Aroldis Chapman in pajamas in the clubhouse on his way out to the dugout for his pregame media session at Dodger Stadium.
 
“We’ve created our own little culture, our own little identity,” Maddon said. “I just love the fact that they buy into those moments. Your stars are buying into it.”
 
The Cubs are in their own world, followed like rock stars on the road, freed from baseball’s unwritten rules and checked out from the daily anxiety and scoreboard-watching stress during a normal pennant race. 

But the Cubs weren’t in a playful mood after a 1-0 loss, even as they changed into their onesies – Mr. Peanut, Yoda, Stars and Stripes, camouflage – for the flight home from the West Coast. Almost exactly a year after Jake Arrieta threw his no-hitter here, the Cubs had their in-house TV crew shooting the postgame scene inside the locker room – look at us! – while Dodger Stadium security kicked out the Chicago reporters waiting to take pictures outside the clubhouse.   

The Cubs got a reminder that the Dodgers are a team to be reckoned with, that every-pitch focus matters, that communication will be essential in tight playoff games. That’s what this felt like, a crowd of 44,745 erupting in the eighth inning after a replay review that lasted 96 seconds confirmed the call on the field.

The Cubs lost their composure, Trevor Cahill hitting Andrew Toles with a pitch and then jamming Howie Kendrick. Cahill fielded the groundball and threw it into right field. An intentional walk to Corey Seager loaded the bases, setting up a battle between Carl Edwards Jr. and the heart of the Los Angeles lineup.

The rookie unleashed a 97-mph fastball and struck out Justin Turner on a foul tip. Edwards then went right back at Adrian Gonzalez, inducing a chopper toward third baseman Javier Baez, who made the split-second decision to throw to second, where Seager’s right foot crashed into second just before Ben Zobrist’s left foot touched it.

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“We just didn’t communicate,” Baez said. “I completely forgot about who was running down the line. We weren’t holding at first with the bases loaded. Obviously, he had like a huge lead. But in the moment, I was going back with the groundball and I saw Zo going full speed to the bag.”

But Zobrist had been playing deeper in right field to defend Gonzalez, a left-handed slugger and a slow runner. The margin for error is razor-thin when the Cubs needed 10 innings to secure a comeback win on Friday night – and the Dodgers responded by winning one-run games on Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

“I feel like the responsibility falls on me being the veteran,” Zobrist said. “It’s a tough play. It’s a reaction play. It’s a feel play. But if we communicate ahead of time, then he knows right away when he catches the ball, you go to first base with it. 

“He can’t (put) the blame on himself. It’s everybody out there. It’s more my responsibility being the older guy out there. He’s still very young and playing all over the place. And sometimes we can all get, I guess, a little bit lackadaisical with our communication.”  

If anything, Maddon was more bothered by Baez not running out a pop-up in the fifth inning, part of an 0-for-4 day and a 3-for-27 road trip that to this point had highlighted his Gold Glove defense. 

“This kid has as much instinct for the game as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Maddon said. “He just misread the moment right there. I would like to believe they’re going to communicate in the future.”

The Cubs would still leave Los Angeles with a 14-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals, their magic number to clinch the division down to 20 after a 5-4 road trip. With such a huge cushion, the Cubs also got a chance to remember what it’s like to play in front of a huge crowd where every pitch has consequences.  

“I don’t think that really matters,” said Jon Lester, who got the no-decision after six scoreless innings and didn’t look thrilled to be wearing a onesie. “Everybody here has been in playoff situations now. It’s kind of like we don’t really have to prep for anything anymore. These are situations now that guys are used to. Just go play.”