Next battle between Cubs, Red Sox could be over managers


Next battle between Cubs, Red Sox could be over managers

Updated: Thursday, Nov. 3, 11:45 p.m.

The Cubs and Red Sox still havent decided what Theo Epstein is worth, and it doesnt sound like theyve made much progress on settling the compensation. The next battle between these two historic franchises could be over a manager.

Epstein had to start thinking about candidates on Sept. 30, once it became official that Terry Francona wouldnt be returning to the Red Sox.

Epstein continued doing background work with his eventual replacement general manager Ben Cherington even after he decided to jump to the Cubs and both sides negotiated to break the final year of his contract.

Once Epstein fired Mike Quade, theyd be working from similar lists. Phillies bench coach Pete Mackanin a Brother Rice High School graduate who already interviewed at Fenway Park will do the same on Friday at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs and Red Sox have also received permission to interview Mike Maddux, which will probably happen next week, once the Rangers pitching coach recovers from laryngitis.

I dont think either organization is going to defer to the other, Epstein said Thursday. Its the responsibility for us to get the right person for the Cubs, and for Ben to get the right person for the Red Sox. Im not sure thats going to be the same person: Different markets, organizations are in a different place right now.

Epstein spoke with Francona on Thursday and theyve remained in contact since the end of the season. Thats the bond they formed after winning two World Series titles together.

Epstein knows Francona so well like the back of my hand that they wouldnt need a formal interview. Francona could be in play for the Cardinals job.

Clearly, he would be at the top of anybodys list as far as available managers, Epstein said. Thats true of any organization. If we were to look at it and say: Whos somebody with experience? Whos a proven winner? Whod be a real asset? Hes got to be at or very close to the top of the list.

Its got to be the right fit here. Im not sure it is, and Titos not sure it is. But we have a relationship that transcends the professional side of things, so weve stayed in touch.

Epstein has already brought in Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, two executives with a Red Sox connection. Along with assistant general manager Randy Bush, they will bring a candidate to chairman Tom Ricketts and his family.

This doesnt need to be The Boston Show recreated in Chicago, Epstein said. For my growth as an executive, maybe its the right thing to work with a new manager. For Titos growth as a manager, maybe it will be better for him to work with a new boss.

You dont want to live in the past.

The Cubs are not believed to be pursuing any current big-league managers, which would eliminate Joe Maddon (Rays), John Farrell (Blue Jays) and Bud Black (Padres).

Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, who already interviewed in Boston, will be in the mix. Sources said bench coaches DeMarlo Hale (Red Sox), Sandy Alomar Jr. (Indians) and Dave Martinez (Rays) also could be involved in the search.

The past will guide Epstein in this sense: The Cubs will use a screening process similar to the one that revealed Francona and runner-up Maddon after the 2003 season.

Beginning with Mackanin, candidates will sit down for a traditional interview. But they will also likely have to do game simulations. Afterward, theyll meet with reporters, to see how they handle the media in a big market.

Back in 2003, someone like Francona might have been handed statistics, lineup cards and a history of bullpen usage. The game would be paused at a key situation, like first and third, one out in a late inning. Given whos available in the bullpen, and knowing whos available to pinch-hit, theyd be asked: What would you do in this situation?

We try to create some intensity, Epstein said. So we got right in his face and asked for an answer pretty quickly. We werent looking so much at what the managerial candidate said in terms of the strategy that he would employ. But what pieces of information he would use, what his thought process would be in trying to make a decision.

So even if the Cubs and Red Sox dont zero in on the same manager, their searches will almost certainly have a similar look and feel. Both are moving faster than the Epstein compensation negotiations.

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

With the chance to book their first trip to the World Series since 1945, the Cubs benched the player with the biggest contract in franchise history and started a 22-year-old rookie who began this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Now that says something about Clayton Kershaw’s overall brilliance and Albert Almora Jr.’s precocious nature, but it also again spotlights Jason Heyward’s offensive spiral during the first year of that $184 million megadeal.  

Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field, well-rounded skills and clubhouse intangibles certainly helped the Cubs get to this point – up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series – but manager Joe Maddon wanted to go in a different direction for Saturday’s Game 6 at Wrigley Field.   

“Kershaw’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “You look at his numbers, he’s been absurd versus lefties, (so you) get another right-handed bat out there and the way Albert can play defense really makes it a little bit easier.

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“If we didn’t have the opportunity to do something differently tonight I wouldn’t have. But we do. Albert just presents well at the plate – and well on defense – to the point where I thought we needed to give it a go.”

Almora – the first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here with the sixth overall pick in 2012 – could be the 2017 Opening Day starter in center field if Dexter Fowler cashes in elsewhere as a free agent.

After posting career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631) during the regular season, Heyward has gone 2-for-28 (.071 average) in the playoffs and will probably need to reboot during the winter.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of internal work done in the offseason with him, no question,” Maddon said. “You know he’s not satisfied with the year. (But) he was a big part of our 100-plus wins this year.

“It is something that he has to work on – and he will work on it – but by no means is anybody giving up on him. He just needs to probably clear his mind a little bit when this is all said and done and get back to the drawing board.”

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

Cubs hoping Kyle Schwarber can make World Series comeback

As if the possibility of clinching their first National League pennant in 71 years didn’t create enough drama and excitement in Wrigleyville, the Cubs have sent Kyle Schwarber to the Arizona Fall League, hoping he can add another chapter to his October legend.
Schwarber earned this chance after beating every expectation in his recovery from major surgery on his left knee in April. The Cubs haven’t ruled anything in or out – and still need to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers one more time this weekend – but they want to see how he responds on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox and ultimately decide if he would be a viable designated-hitter option for the World Series.
Schwarber gained clearance on Monday from Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL after a devastating outfield collision during the first week of the regular season. Schwarber immediately phoned president of baseball operations Theo Epstein after the six-month checkup.   
“I wasn’t expecting the call,” Epstein said. “We got news that was beyond better than we could have expected by any reasonable standard. 
“He asked for a chance to do this. And with as hard as Kyle has worked and as much as this means to him – and potentially to us – we wanted to give him that opportunity.”

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Schwarber flew from Dallas to Los Angeles, where he hit in the cage at Dodger Stadium that night. As the Cubs continued with what has been a classic NL Championship Series, Schwarber hit again on Tuesday and then left for Arizona on Wednesday to ramp up his baseball activities and prove whether or not he could again be a difference-maker in October.
Schwarber, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Indiana University, generated 16 home runs in 69 games last season and then set a franchise record with five homers in the playoffs. 

The Cubs still have to deal with Clayton Kershaw on Saturday night in Game 6, and judge whether or not this layoff is too long, even for one of their best young hitters, especially against what would be a dynamic Cleveland Indians pitching staff.
But the Cubs would also never bet against Schwarber.

“We’ll see where this goes,” Epstein said. “We’re not getting ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of work to do here before this becomes pertinent. But it’s a testament to how hard Kyle has worked to even be in this position where it’s a possibility.”