Joe Girardi’s crew cut and World Series rings would have been the perfect image for this rebuilding project. The marketing machine would have loved the homecoming hook, the Peoria kid who grew up going to games at Wrigley Field.
But the Cubs aren’t obsessed with a big-name manager. Deep down, they had doubts Girardi would really leave the New York Yankees and wondered if he was just using them to leverage a reported four-year, $16 million deal.
So the Cubs will keep moving forward in their targeted search to replace Dale Sveum. Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez and San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria are expected to interview next week, a major-league source said Thursday.
In contacting club sources and industry officials throughout Girardi Watch, a profile has emerged for what team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer want to see in the 53rd manager in franchise history:
• The Cubs are looking for a bilingual teacher who can develop young players. From All-Star shortstop Starlin Castro to minor league player of the year Javier Baez to $30 million Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, this clubhouse will be filled with important Latin players in 2014 and beyond. There’s X-factor outfielder Junior Lake, building-block catcher Welington Castillo and projected Triple-A Iowa infielders Arismendy Alcantara and Christian Villanueva.
If the next manager doesn’t speak Spanish, his bench coach almost certainly will.
• Sandy Alomar Jr. comes from baseball royalty and interviewed for the Cubs job two years ago. He has spent four seasons on the Cleveland Indians staff and got exposure to Terry Francona, who led the Boston Red Sox to two World Series titles while working with Epstein and Hoyer. So when Francona shifts Alomar from bench coach to first-base coach after a 92-win season, it’s a sign the Cubs think he’s not ready to move into the manager’s office yet.
• You can’t clone Joe Maddon, who has those distinctive black glasses, the experimental hairstyles and more than 137,000 followers on Twitter. But the Cubs are looking into Martinez, who has been working next to the innovative Rays manager for six years. That includes a shocking run to the 2008 World Series and five seasons with at least 90 wins. Martinez, 49, played parts of four seasons on the North Side.
• Renteria – who went by “Rich” during his player career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins – managed Team Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He has a history with Hoyer, the former San Diego GM. He has spent the last decade as a Padres coach or manager in their minor-league system.
• The Cubs have already interviewed Padres executive A.J. Hinch and ESPN analyst Manny Acta. They would have to bet on Hinch’s pedigree (Stanford University/big-league catcher) and track record as the Arizona Diamondbacks farm director, looking past his managerial record (89-123). Or give a third chance to Acta, who went 372-518 in almost six rebuilding seasons with the Washington Nationals and Indians.
• If you’re scouting American League playoff teams, there’s a small chance the Cubs could ask to interview Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo. But Oakland A’s bench coach Chip Hale is not viewed as a candidate.
• You’d have to at least listen if a brilliant baseball mind like Greg Maddux really was interested in the job. But the future Hall of Famer with the sick sense of humor hasn’t shown a willingness to leave his family in Las Vegas. And this is still a team that has lost 197 games across the past two seasons, making that outside-the-box candidate even less likely.
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• As Ozzie Guillen might say, there’s no (bleeping) way the former White Sox manager gets the Cubs job this time.
• There wasn’t a cause-and-effect between Girardi’s expiring contract and Sveum getting fired. Those issues with the front office had been building since at least April.
Girardi has a network of back channels and influential allies he used to go after the Cubs job when Dusty Baker had that ugly ending in 2006. Girardi was said to be a favorite of John McDonough, the team president at the time and future Blackhawks CEO. The Girardi-to-Chicago rumors started again when Lou Piniella retired in 2010.
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But Girardi and his Northwestern University degree wouldn’t have accelerated the timeline and changed the fundamental economics for a franchise waiting for a renovated stadium and new television deals. Ideally, the next manager will develop all these young players, grow into the job and stay there if/when the Cubs are ready to contend. If not, well, you saw what happened to Sveum.