One insider at Clark and Addison processed the Dale Sveum news and came to this conclusion: “This place will chew you up and spit you out.”
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The Cubs have burned through 53 managers since 1900 – back when they were called the Orphans – and are looking for another one now.
The Cubs remained in a holding pattern on Friday night with the New York Yankees reportedly presenting a formal offer to Joe Girardi, who is also drawing interest from the Washington Nationals with his contract set to expire on Halloween.
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Team sources and industry officials said forget the Maddux Brothers, indicating the Cubs are still finalizing a list that already includes Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., San Diego Padres executive A.J. Hinch and ESPN analyst Manny Acta, who has managed in Cleveland and Washington.
Sources familiar with the situation said the Cubs could add another name or two to the list, with interviews possibly beginning next week. Mike Maddux, the Texas pitching coach, interviewed for the job two years ago and made a good impression, but doesn’t make as much sense this time around. Greg Maddux – a Rangers special assistant who should enter the Hall of Fame in 2014 – has resisted the idea of leaving his family in Las Vegas for this kind of full-time gig.
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And as Lou Piniella once said: “This is not some push-button operation.”
Girardi may not have full immunity from what Piniella described as “Cubbie occurrences.” But at least it wouldn’t be a shock to Girardi’s system after growing up in Peoria, playing at Northwestern University and spending parts of seven seasons on the North Side.
It certainly wore down Piniella and Dusty Baker, who got fired by the Cincinnati Reds on Friday after a 90-win season and three playoff trips in four seasons. That means Cubs writers won’t be able to pop into Baker’s office 19 times a season – plus those Cactus League exhibitions – to ask how patient Chicago fans will be with another rebuild.
After firing Sveum, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein sat in the interview room Baker described as a dungeon.
“To say this is just another job would be fooling oneself,” Epstein said this week. “There are unique elements that go into the job here. You guys (in the media) are very familiar with most of them. And there are some things behind the scenes that have been kind of new to us.
“I think I’m better equipped – we’re better equipped – to hire the next manager having been here for two years than having just researched and listened to the people that have been here.
“I think we’ve been through a lot now even just in two years. I think we maybe understand what we’re looking for a little more.”
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It’s not just the quirks of Wrigley Field, day baseball, machine politics and a media market that sees things in black and white. It’s not only the nightlife and all the perks that come with being a Cub. It can’t all be blamed on Tribune Co. or the Ricketts family or business driving baseball decisions. It’s more than Bartman, the Billy Goat, the Greek priest and 100 years and counting.
It’s the whole Cubbie experience. For all the comparisons to the Boston Red Sox model and the Fenway Park blueprint, this is a completely different animal. This is a franchise that has won one playoff series since 1908.
It wore out Baker and Piniella, who combined have won more than 3,500 games in the big leagues, ranking 14th and 16th on the all-time list and making a case for the Hall of Fame.
Baker will be asked about Games 6 and 7 of the 2003 NLCS for the rest of his life, how he handled Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and what might have been.
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Piniella replaced Baker before the 2007 season, won back-to-back division titles and had the team in first place in August 2009 before the bottom fell out.
In 2010, Piniella announced on July 20 that he’d retire at season’s end. But he only made it to Aug. 22, so he could go home to Tampa, Fla., to be with his ailing mother.
Mike Quade took over for Piniella, wound up a one-and-done manager and has been out of baseball the past two seasons. Sveum lost 197 games in two seasons and quickly joined the Kansas City Royals coaching staff.
[MORE: After getting fired by Cubs, Sveum heads to Kansas City]
The next Cubs manager will show up in Mesa, Ariz., and run a camp where his players will be asked about the importance of getting off to a fast start in 2014 – or else guaranteeing the front office will be sellers at the trade deadline.
“We’re asking a lot of our manager,” Epstein said. “We’ve made the big-league team worse through some of these trades, and yet you’re asking the manager to keep the team playing hard, keep the team focused on winning. That’s very difficult and it requires a lot of the manager.
“It requires someone who’s dynamic. It’s going to require tremendous creativity (and energy) to tackle those issues. And I think we’ll find that in the next manager.”