Next battle between Cubs, Red Sox could be over managers

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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.

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

From top to bottom, Cubs have all the pieces in place, including new deals for Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod

CINCINNATI – From top to bottom, the Cubs now have all the pieces in place to make October baseball at Wrigley Field a reality, year after year, with family ownership, rock-star executives and blue-chip players.

“It’s nice to keep the band together,” manager Joe Maddon said, reacting to Friday’s announcement that general manager Jed Hoyer and scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod had finalized contract extensions, matching up their timelines with team president Theo Epstein’s new monster deal through the 2021 season.

Those architects constructed what’s already a 102-win team, a division champion and the National League’s No. 1 seed, making the Cubs right now the biggest story in baseball, if not professional sports.

The lineup for a 7-3 win over the rebuilding Cincinnati Reds featured two MVP candidates (Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo), a 22-year-old All-Star shortstop (Addison Russell) and marquee free agents (Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward, Dexter Fowler). The last two games of the regular season at Great American Ball Park will feature Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks making their final cases for the Cy Young Award. 

“It always starts with ownership and then it goes into the front office and eventually gets to us when you have that kind of stability,” said Maddon, who led a stunning turnaround with the Tampa Bay Rays despite all the uncertainty that came with small-market payrolls, a charmless domed stadium (Tropicana Field) and speculation about relocation and contraction.

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“We have a great product on the field,” Maddon said. “We have the best ballpark in the world. Our fans are spectacular. The city itself – there’s no more interesting place to live than Chicago. All those factors play into the success.

“I know in the past the Cubs haven’t been as successful as they wanted to be. But I don’t know that all the different ingredients have been put into place this well.

“So looking ahead, you just want to build off what you’ve done. Last year was a good building block coming into this year. And we want to keep moving forward. Of course, our goal is to play the final game of the year and win it. Under these circumstances, I think it becomes more believable on an annual basis.”

Since Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod reunited in the fall of 2011 – updating their World Series blueprints with the Boston Red Sox – the Cubs are just the third team in major-league history to win at least 100 games within four years of a 100-loss season. The Cubs have now qualified for postseason play in consecutive seasons for only the third time in franchise history.

“We had some good pieces,” chairman Tom Ricketts said. “But the organization itself was not in a position where you could believe that there was sustainability and consistency and success on the field. Obviously, Theo and the guys that he brought with him five years ago kind of took the organization down to the studs and started rebuilding.

“The time and energy to do it the right way has paid off with a team that should be successful for years to come.”

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