State of the Cubs: First base and the Rizzo/Renteria connection

State of the Cubs: First base and the Rizzo/Renteria connection
October 14, 2013, 2:15 pm
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Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki

State of the Cubs

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Anthony Rizzo didn’t develop into the 30-homer, 100-RBI monster the Cubs hoped for this season. That’s part of the reason why they’re now looking for a new manager.

Cubs executives met with San Diego Padres bench coach Rick Renteria on Monday in California. Tampa Bay Rays bench coach Dave Martinez is expected to interview in Chicago later this week.

Team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are looking for a teacher. Renteria has spent the last decade as a Padres coach or manager in their minor-league system. He also managed Team Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic and the Cubs are looking for a stronger bilingual voice.

The inconsistencies of young core players made you think there was a real disconnect between Dale Sveum, his hitting coaches and the front office.

But the overmatched Rizzo of 2011 – who hit .141 with one home run and 46 strikeouts in 153 plate appearances for the Padres – would still probably take these 2013 numbers. Rizzo hit .233 with 23 homers and 80 RBI, but went through too many hot-and-cold streaks and failed with men in scoring position.

Renteria was there for Rizzo Watch Part I and witnessed the first baseman’s big-league debut. Renteria should at least have some unique insight into Rizzo during the interview process. Whether or not that connection makes a huge difference, there is said to be enthusiasm within the front office for Renteria’s candidacy.

Throughout October, will take state-of-the-organization snapshots, rewinding the 2013 season and looking ahead to the future, trying to figure out what’s next for the Cubs.    

Rizzo on Rizzo: “I’m going to take a lot of positives out of this year. The only thing people are going to rag me on is the average, but things could have been different easily there. Things didn’t go my way sometimes, but that’s the game of baseball. I’m not happy with that at all. But I’m going into the offseason pretty confident that I can hit .300 and do all the other things that come along with it.”

In the clutch: Rizzo hit only .191 with runners in scoring position and there were times where he appeared to be lost at the plate. He didn’t look like the guy who handled all the 2012 hype and generated 15 homers and 48 RBI in 87 games after his promotion from Triple-A Iowa. Part of that decline can be written off as bad luck, with a .258 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that was 23rd out of the 25 qualifying first basemen in the majors. His line-drive percentage also sunk from 24.4 percent in 2012 to 19.6 percent this season.

[2003: Wood will never forget wild ride]

Getting comfortable: Three weeks after Sveum threatened to send Rizzo and Starlin Castro to Iowa, the Cubs announced a seven-year, $41 million contract for their face-of-the-franchise first baseman. The deal could run through 2021 and ultimately be worth some $70 million. Money changed the perception and expectations for a player who – despite his struggles – still finished fifth in the National League in doubles (40) and sixth in walks (76).

Vogel-bomb: Dan Vogelbach has drawn comparisons to Prince Fielder and Chris Farley, with team officials raving about his power potential and magnetic personality. Listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds, Vogelbach emerged as an emotional leader for Class-A Kane County, hitting .284 with 17 homers and 71 RBI in 114 games. He posted an .895 OPS in a playoff push with advanced Class-A Daytona. There are questions about the defense and body type at age 20. But if both leagues adopt the designated hitter in the near future, the Cubs might have a good internal option. 

Vogelbach on Rizzo blocking his path: “We’re in this moment. You can’t control what happens (in Chicago). (The Cubs) are your big-league club. You want to know how they’re doing. But it’s not something you worry about because, quite frankly, you can’t control what they’re doing up there. Just like you can’t control what somebody is doing one level ahead of you. All you can do is go out each and every day, go about your business and play hard. If you do that, everything is going to take care of itself in the long run.”