Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

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Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
6:25 PM

By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com

Within a span of 31 days, the White Sox and Boston Red Sox introduced new managers. One had never done the job before, but was a name on the South Side. The other was an outsider in New England, and fired the last time he had a chance to run a major-league team.

This was late 2003 and less than 23 months later those two men won World Series titles for two franchises that combined had gone 174 years without a championship.

It would be impossible to clone Ozzie Guillen, and the White Sox organizational structure might not work elsewhere. And Terry Francona could have just as easily been remembered as the guy who managed Michael Jordan and the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

But you never know where the next great manager might be coming from or going. The White Sox once fired a young Tony La Russa. The New York Daily News went with a Clueless Joe back page when Joe Torre took over the Yankees. Before Bill Belichick became a football genius, he had to be fired by the Cleveland Browns.

The Cubs are carefully heading toward a decision on their manager for Year 103 since their last World Series championship. Mike Quade a baseball lifer who has managed only 37 games in the majors would represent a philosophical shift from Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella and whats been described as the celebrity manager.

I've hired two really good managers that did very, very well here the first couple years, general manager Jim Hendry said at the beginning of the search process. And then for a lot of the reasons not blaming them things don't always go (up). It looks like it's going that way and then we got derailed a couple times.

Hiring Ryne Sandberg could help sell tickets and energize the fan base the same way Guillen did and if you needed a reminder of that the Cubs sent out invoices on Friday to their season-ticket holders.

There are five pricing tiers for 13 different sections at Wrigley Field and it all depends on the date andor opponent. Youll find a range that runs from 8 to 112 per ticket, plus a 12 percent amusement tax, and the overall average price will essentially remain flat in 2011.

Then again, Francona wasnt a huge name in Boston and this summer the Red Sox reached their 600th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park. Like Francona who was dismissed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2000 maybe Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge only need another opportunity.

Wedge, who met with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts earlier this week, will be the next manager of the Seattle Mariners according to an SI.com report late Friday afternoon. The former Cleveland Indians manager was linked to several openings. He wont be coming to Wrigleyville.

Look at the four managers still analyzing matchups and not hunting or fishing or golfing and youll see that part of this postseason is about second chances. Or that they dont have much in common except for the fact that their teams are in the league championship series that begin this weekend.

The Indians fired Charlie Manuel during the middle of his third season in Cleveland. Manuel, a former hitting coach, has won at least 85 games in each of his six years with the Phillies and is chasing his third consecutive National League pennant. Manuel, 66, has West Virginia roots and was shaped by the years he spent playing in Japan, yet wound up helping give the city of Philadelphia its first professional championship since 1983.

Fifty-five-year-old Bruce Bochy was born into a military family in France, where his father was stationed, and eventually developed into a major-league catcher. Those skills inform the way Bochy handles a pitching staff thats one of the best in the game. He lasted 12 seasons with the small-market San Diego Padres, and it took until his fourth year in San Francisco before the Giants made the playoffs.

Ron Washington, 58, had no experience managing in the majors until he took over the Texas Rangers in 2007. In spring training he survived what looked like a devastating report he tested positive for cocaine last year. Before Fridays Game 1, he was reflecting on that failed drug test and his relationship with general manager Jon Daniels.

He didn't judge me (and) I could never say enough about that support, Washington said Thursday in Texas. When youre a manager, a lot of times you get hired to get fired. And whenever that time comes and I hope it's a long time in the future I hope that I can always have him as a friend.

In this business, thats the probability facing the next Cubs manager hired to be fired.

Joe Girardi, who turned 46 on Thursday, could be the perfect fit. Born in Peoria and educated at Northwestern University, the ex-Cubs catcher might want to come home with his family or stay in New York and perhaps build another Yankees dynasty. Fired by the Florida Marlins in 2006, he might appreciate the stable organization he already knows.

Hendry has said that the only instructions Ricketts gave him were this: Get the best man for the Cubs. Get the best man for the future. For that role, there is no central casting. And we might not know who that person truly is for at least three more years.

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Cubs: The Aroldis Chapman Show begins at Wrigley Field

Rage Against the Machine’s “Wake Up” blasted from the Wrigley Field sound system at 9:51 p.m. on Wednesday as Aroldis Chapman trotted toward the mound. Nothing would get lost in translation as the Cubs unleashed their new closer on the White Sox.

Chapman didn’t feel the full rush of adrenaline, because a revived offense scored five runs in the eighth inning, ending the save situation and any real suspense for the crowd of 41,166. The game within the game became looking up at the 3,990-square-foot LED video board in left field for the velocity reading after each pitch and listening to the oohs and aahs.

Chapman made it look easy against the middle of the White Sox lineup, with 13 of his 15 pitches clocked between 100 and 103 mph in the ninth inning of an 8-1 victory. That triple-digit default setting, fluid left-handed delivery and intimidating presence showed why the Cubs made a game-changing trade with the New York Yankees.

The first impressions from Tuesday’s press conference apparently bothered Chapman enough that he initially refused to speak to the reporters waiting around his locker after his debut. There had been questions about his 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy, the off-the-field expectations from chairman Tom Ricketts and where the wires got crossed with coach/translator Henry Blanco.

After taking a shower – and listening to a few associates inside the clubhouse – Chapman agreed to two minutes of questions with catcher Miguel Montero acting as his translator.

“It happened,” Chapman said when asked about his portrayal in the Chicago media. “Don’t want to go further with it.”

The controversy will begin to fade after Chapman struck out Jose Abreu swinging at a 91-mph slider that almost scraped the dirt, forced Todd Frazier into a routine groundball and struck out pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia looking at a 103-mph fastball.

“It’s just entertaining to watch the gun, beyond everything else,” manager Joe Maddon said. “He’s a different kind of a pitcher. You don’t see that every 100 years or so. He’s just that good. Everybody talks about the fastball. How good is the slider? The slider is devastating.

“He was very calm in the moment. He was able to get through the last couple days to go out there. It was almost good it wasn’t a save situation just to get his feet on the ground.”

Picture the drama and the excitement when Chapman isn’t throwing with a seven-run lead and has to get the final three outs in a playoff game at Wrigley Field.

“I’m not impressed – I thought we were getting a guy that threw 105,” winning pitcher Jason Hammel joked. “I’ve never seen anything like it.

“It’s jaw-dropping. To see that type of velocity and command, it’s almost unfair to have a slider and offspeed pitches after that, too.”

This is what the Cubs envisioned when they decided to weather the media storms and absorb the PR hits, how Maddon could reimagine the entire bullpen and the whole team would sense the game-over feeling when the ball is in Chapman’s left hand.

“That’s a confidence-booster for us and it’s a morale kick for anybody out there,” Hammel said. “For the other side, it’s got to be black clouds: ‘Oh man, we can’t let the bullpen get in there.’”

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

Cubs felt the inevitable sense of trading a big-time prospect like Gleyber Torres

The New York Yankees directed blanket coverage of the Cubs in the weeks leading up to the Aroldis Chapman deal, looking closely at prospects throughout their farm system. Three names figured to be prominent if the Yankees decided to sell and the Cubs wanted to make a blockbuster trade: Gleyber Torres, Eloy Jimenez and Ian Happ.

The Yankees made Torres their headliner in that four-player return from the Cubs, getting the organization’s top prospect and a supremely talented defensive shortstop out of Venezuela. The Cubs invested $1.7 million in Torres during the summer of 2013, the signing formalized the same day as the Jake Arrieta trade with the Baltimore Orioles.

This has been years in the making for Theo Epstein’s front office, building the first-place team that drew 41,116 to Wrigley Field for Wednesday night’s 8-1 crosstown victory over the White Sox, watching Chapman throw 13 pitches in the ninth inning that hit triple digits on the huge video board, understanding that the Cubs had to sacrifice parts of their future for the now.

“That’s the right word – inevitable – just because of the timing of when we thought we were going to be good,” said Jason McLeod, the senior vice president of scouting and player development. “We all knew as we were doing this that there was going to come that time when you trade the player that you not only feel is an impact-type prospect, but the organization just loves the person.

“Gleyber certainly fits that. That was one of the tougher calls I’ve ever had where we’re trading a guy, just because of how much the kid meant to us personally, and just hearing him, too.

“He was – as you would expect (with) a 19-year-old – shaken up and saddened by it, just because in three short years he had dreamt of nothing but being a Cub and playing here at Wrigley. I just told him: ‘You’ll still be wearing pinstripes. They’ll just be a different (color).’”

The Cubs didn’t want to trade core guys off their major-league roster and have a middle-infield foundation with Addison Russell, Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist. So they gave up a high-floor player from Class-A Myrtle Beach while holding onto Jimenez and Happ and seeking out more possible deals before the Aug. 1 trade deadline.

“All of them would have been hard to swallow,” McLeod said. “But we know that’s part of why we try to stockpile as much talent as we can.”

The Cubs can market Happ as another polished college switch-hitter with first-round pedigree, second baseman/outfielder versatility and an early ETA (already at Double-A Tennessee during his first full season of professional baseball).

Jimenez – who got a $2.8 million bonus out of the Dominican Republic during the same signing class as Torres – enjoyed a breakout performance during the All-Star Futures Game in San Diego and almost has a .900 OPS at Class-A South Bend.

At the age of 19, with a 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame and a smooth right-handed swing, Jimenez reminds the Cubs a little bit of Kris Bryant during his freshman season at the University of San Diego, meaning the sky is the limit.

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

Tonight on CSN: Cubs-White Sox finale from Wrigley

The Crosstown Classic concludes on Thursday at Wrigley Field as the White Sox square off against the Cubs on CSN Chicago. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 6 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

Today’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale (14-3, 3.18 ERA) vs. John Lackey (7-7, 3.79 ERA)

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