Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

256127.jpg

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.

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

For Cubs, winter meetings will be all about the hunt for pitching 

As the Cubs prepare for the winter meetings outside Washington, D.C., their messaging might as well be: It’s the pitching, stupid.

This is an arms race that will never end, the Cubs trying to defend their first World Series title in 108 years, build out a bullpen that looked pretty thin by November and target the kind of young starter who could help anchor their rotation for years to come, ensuring Wrigleyville remains baseball’s biggest party.

Major League Baseball’s owners and the players’ union avoided a foolish labor war by crafting a new five-year collective bargaining agreement that should spur some action next week. As executives, scouts, agents and reporters begin to flood into National Harbor on Sunday, the Cubs will intensify their search for pitching, everything from headliners to insurance policies to prospects.

“That’s been the significant bulk of our efforts,” general manager Jed Hoyer said, “trying to identify those kind of starting pitchers and those kind of relief pitchers and how to match up with them. It’s definitely not going to be through lack of trying on our part to make that kind of deal. That’s now. That’s at the deadline.”  

That’s all-consuming. The Cubs are preparing for Opening Day 2018, when Jake Arrieta will probably be in a different uniform after signing his megadeal, John Lackey might be kicking back in Texas and enjoying retirement and Jon Lester will be 34 years old with maybe 2,300 innings on his odometer. 

The Cubs have unwavering faith in their pitching infrastructure at the major-league level, from the scouting and analytic perspectives that identified the right sign-and-flip deals during the rebuilding years to the coaching staff that helped mold Kyle Hendricks into a Cy Young Award finalist and a World Series Game 7 starter.

Mike Montgomery notched the final out against the Cleveland Indians and the Cubs see him as their next big project. The lefty checks so many of their boxes, from age (27) to size (6-foot-5) to pedigree (former first-round pick/top prospect) to the change-of-scenery confidence boost/mental reset.

Forget about the White Sox trading Chris Sale to the North Side and don’t just think about obvious names or trade partners. Maybe it’s making a deal for a guy you never heard of before and sifting through the non-tender bin. 

Remember how team president Theo Epstein framed the Montgomery trade with the Seattle Mariners this summer – comparing him to All-Star reliever Andrew Miller – and that gives you an idea of how they can address their pitching deficit this winter. 

“If your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end,” Epstein said.   

While the Cubs did Jason Hammel a favor by cutting him loose and allowing him to explore the market as one of the best pitchers in an extremely weak class of free agents, Montgomery has only 23 big-league starts on his resume. 

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

The Cubs had five starters make at least 29 starts this year, while four starters accounted for 30-plus starts in 2015, a remarkable run that led to 200 wins.

“As we’ve talked about so many times,” Hoyer said, “we do have an imbalance in our organization – hitting vs. pitching – and we’re trying to make sure we can accumulate as much pitching depth as possible. 

“We were very healthy this year, which was wonderful and a big part of why we won the World Series. I don’t think you can always count on that kind of health every single year. Building up a reservoir of depth – preferably guys you can option (to the minors) – is something (we’re trying) to accomplish.”  

The Cubs have Jorge Soler stuck in a crowded outfield plus the types of interesting prospects who appear to be blocked – catcher Victor Caratini, third baseman Jeimer Candelario, infielder/outfielder Ian Happ – to make relatively painless trades for pitching (if not the kind of blockbuster deal that dominates coverage of the winter meetings).

The Cubs figure to add a lefty reliever, someone like Boone Logan or Jerry Blevins. The New York Post reported the Cubs were among the teams in pursuit of Brett Cecil, who got a four-year, $30.5 million deal and no-trade protection from the St. Louis Cardinals, another sign of how shallow this free-agent pool is for starting pitchers and a reflection of a postseason where the bullpen became a major storyline. 

The idea of Kenley Jansen intrigues the Cubs – and Aroldis Chapman made a favorable impression during his three-plus months with the team – but Epstein’s front office already made the major upgrades for 2017 by spending nearly $290 million on free agents after the 2015 playoff run. Philosophically, the Cubs also see smarter long-term investments than trying to win a bidding war for a guy who might throw 70 innings a year. 

With that in mind, the Cubs could get creative and have looked at free agent Greg Holland, a two-time All-Star closer with the Kansas City Royals who didn’t pitch this year after having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.  

Remember that Chapman left the New York Yankees and joined a team that had a 56-1 record when leading entering the ninth inning. If Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. can’t handle the late shifts, then the Cubs could always go out and trade for another closer in the middle of a pennant race.    

The Cubs have the luxuries of time, zero pressure from ownership, their fan base or the Chicago media and a stacked, American League-style lineup. 

“Right now, we could go play from an offensive standpoint and feel very good about our group,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to still continue to look to improve the depth in our bullpen, improve the depth in our starting rotation. Those are things that probably never go away. You probably never stop trying to build that depth.” 

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

What will LeBron James wear to pay up on Cubs World Series bet with Dwyane Wade?

LeBron James is coming to town, and he will be all decked out in Cubs gear.

The Cavs are in Chicago to take on the Bulls Friday night at the United Center and it's time for LeBron to pay up on his World Series bet with Dwyane Wade.

The two former teammates made the wager during the World Series as LeBron's hometown Indians took on Wade's hometown Cubs, with the loser wearing the winning baseball team's gear when they showed up in the opposing city. This is LeBron's first trip to Chicago this season.

Wade and LeBron already acknowledged they're having fun with this and have a whole spectacle planned with a national TV audience.

LeBron told the Akron Beacon Journal he's not going to try to take the easy way out and just toss on a Cubs jersey. He is planning socks, hat, pants and possibly more. But he won't wear cleats or bring a glove with him.

[SHOP CUBS: Get your World Series champions gear right here]

When the Cubs won it all a month ago Friday, Wade posted an Instagram photo of LeBron wearing a Cubs uniform:

And ESPN had a cutout of LeBron sporting a No. 23 Cubs road gray jersey outside the United Center Friday morning:

CSN Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill wonders whether LeBron will don signature Joe Maddon glasses, too.

This is gonna be fun, you guys.