Epstein: Rick Renteria the 'clear' choice for Cubs

Epstein: Rick Renteria the 'clear' choice for Cubs
November 7, 2013, 9:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

After Joe Girardi decided to stay with the New York Yankees, anything else was going to be a Plan B for Theo Epstein and the Cubs.

Girardi's mantel is full of World Series rings and even a Manager of the Year award. He checked off every box on Epstein's list.

Instead, when word broke Wednesday the Cubs were going to name Rick Renteria as the 53rd manager in franchise history, most fans had the same reaction: "Who?"

[MORE: Learning from Cubs history, Renteria keeping his eyes forward

Renteria isn't the big splash the fanbase was hoping for, but the Cubs don't view him as a consolation prize, either.

"Rick's reputation is impeccable," Epstein said Thursday. "He stood out throughout the process as a great fit for the Chicago Cubs as we head into our next chapter.

"As we discussed at the beginning of this process, we were looking for somebody with leadership qualities and leadership experience, somebody who has a track record of making an impact at the major-league level and somebody who can really connect with players and create an environment in which our young players can learn, develop and thrive. I believe we found all these things in Rick Renteria."

[CUBS: Who is Rick Renteria?]

It's been more than five weeks since Epstein fired Dale Sveum. The Cubs were the last MLB team to fill their manager vacancy, thoroughly vetting each candidate.

After a 15-year playing career, eight seasons spent coaching in the minor leagues and six years as a member of the San Diego Padres' staff, Renteria got his first chance to call the shots.

"[We made] phone calls to countless players who played for him, coaches who coached with him, players who had him as a manager in the minor leagues," Epstein said. "You can't find anyone in this game to say a bad word -- or even a neutral word -- about Rick Renteria. He really excelled throughout the entire process.

"We took our time because we wanted to be thorough and we had the benefit of being so and it didn't change how we felt. In the end, it was clear to us that Rick was the right man for the job."

[RELATED: Rick Renteria's baseball career timeline]

Renteria has a history with the Cubs front office, working with senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer with the Padres. Epstein also said he tried to hire Renteria as a field coordinator for the Red Sox minor-league system more than a decade ago.

"It was very clear when I was in San Diego that Rick was going to be a big-league manager, and pretty quickly," Hoyer said. "I remember my first year there in 2010...and the one guy [on the coaching staff] I really singled out that was the best worker and most prepared and most positive guy down there with the biggest impact was Rick.

"People that have that kind of reputation don't come around all that often in this game. He's earned it and I'm really happy for him."

[ALSO: Bud Black on Rick Renteria -- '(Players) will know where he stands'

With Renteria in place, he will now collaborate with Epstein and the rest of the front office in evaluating the rest of the coaching staff. Epstein said there will be some turnover and announcements will be made on the coaching staff in the coming days and weeks.

As for Renteria, the 52-year-old California native isn't trying to rewrite the book on managing big-league players. To him, it's very simple: He's in the people business.

"My approach to every player on every club that I've ever been a part of is to engage the player and the human being first," Renteria said. "It might sound kind of crazy, but they happen to be human beings that are playing baseball.

"One of the biggest things that I know players need is confidence. I believe over the time that I've been in this game, I've been able to provide that type of impact.

"The players we have are excellent players. Things don't always go well -- one thing we have to remember is it's a very difficult game to play -- but once these guys settle in and really believe and trust themselves, I think they'll be able to perform extremely well."