The Cubs have been obsessed with the Boston Red Sox business model, the Yawkey Way street festivals, the high-definition video boards and Fenway Park’s spectacular renovation (Your Ad Here).
The Cubs bought the brand name for baseball operations with Theo Epstein. Their next manager could be sitting in the Red Sox dugout, with multiple sources indicating they have potential interest in speaking to bench coach Torey Lovullo once the World Series is over.
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The Cubs are said to be using this week to continue doing background work on candidates, making follow-up calls as they look for someone to replace Dale Sveum (who was the third-base coach on the 2004 Band of Idiots that changed everything for the Red Sox franchise).
The St. Louis Cardinals – and The Self-Proclaimed Best Fans in Baseball – are exactly where they expected to be: Chasing their 12th World Series title. But 12 months ago, the idea of Fenway Park hosting Game 1 on Wednesday night would have sounded crazy.
The clubhouse had revolted against Bobby Valentine, who pushed all the wrong buttons as the Red Sox finished at 69-93, last place in the American League East. A megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and a winter shopping spree on mid-level free agents (like ex-Cub Ryan Dempster) changed the team’s identity.
John Farrell had been a very good pitching coach for the Red Sox, winning a 2007 World Series ring, and an underwhelming manager with the Toronto Blue Jays (154-170 overall record and two fourth-place finishes). Lovullo worked for Epstein in 2010, managing Boston’s Triple-A affiliate before spending two seasons as Farrell’s first-base coach in Toronto.
As the bench coach during a 97-65 campaign that has restored the faith in Red Sox Nation, Lovullo watched Farrell evolve into a potential Manager of the Year.
“You’re a little closer to the fire,” Lovullo said. “You’re closer to making the decisions and you see the flow of the game and you understand exactly what the manager sees. It just has given me great experience to manage the game from inside the dugout.
“As you’re coaching the bases – as I have done in the past – you miss a lot because you’re on the field half the time. Being so close to the action has given me a regenerated perspective.”
One Boston insider described Lovullo as an extension of Farrell while interacting with players, coaches and the baseball operations department. Those communication skills – the ability to connect not only in the clubhouse but also with the front office – are viewed as essential while the Cubs continue their youth movement.
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After Epstein fired Sveum, he pointedly said: “There has to be a clear, unified message.”
Lovullo, 48, managed eight seasons in the Cleveland Indians system before moving to the Pawtucket Red Sox. Farrell – who was Cleveland’s farm director during part of that time – strongly endorsed Lovullo before the Red Sox clinched the pennant with Saturday’s Game 6 win over the Detroit Tigers.
“To me, he’s a manager-in-waiting,” Farrell told reporters in Boston. “He’s going to have opportunities until he ends up securing one of the jobs. He’s been integral to the success we’ve had here. He’s a great baseball mind. The conversations and the feedbacks – just the insights he gives – he’s going to be very good.”
There would appear to be a comfort level with Lovullo and The Red Sox Way.
Cubs executives – including Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod – also used to work for the San Diego Padres. This search has featured its own kind of West Coast bias, focusing on two Padres in particular – bench coach Rick Renteria and executive A.J. Hinch.
Brad Ausmus’ name has repeatedly popped up since Sveum Watch began in September. But even with the Dartmouth College education and 18-year playing career in the big leagues, it’s hard to imagine the Cubs hiring a Padres special assistant with zero managing experience outside of Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic.
[Kaplan: Cubs should make bold hire and go with Ausmus]
Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez – who interviewed last week and knows the Chicago market after playing for the Cubs and White Sox – would be a bold outside-the-box hire. The Chicago media can keep rooting for it, but there’s zero chance the Cubs would hire Ozzie Guillen now.
Despite the speculation – and the strong impression made two years ago when the job went to Sveum – Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux is not viewed as a candidate this time around.
Lovullo’s name also surfaced in reports on Monday after Jim Leyland stepped down in Detroit. The Tigers drafted Lovullo out of UCLA in the fifth round of the 1987 draft. But all that will have to be put on the back burner.
[MORE: Dusty in Detroit? Baker reportedly has interest in Tigers job]
“We would like for everybody to remain focused on what we have here first, this being the priority,” Farrell said. “But we don’t want to get in the way of potential opportunities for someone, either. Hopefully, if those requests come in, they would be sensitive to what we’re going through as well.”