By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Manny Acta. Rick Renteria. A.J. Hinch.
If the names of the rumored candidates for the Chicago Cubs’ managerial opening don’t excite you now that the glamour pick, Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, has opted to stay in NYC, well, you’re hardly alone.
But are you really surprised?
Because, right now, the Cubs gig is far from a plum job desired by the managerial masses. In fact, so unable was the organization to offer Girardi a truly compelling reason to move back to Chicago that he never even actually spoke to the Cubs about the job. Girardi could see everything that the position was made of from his home in New York. Without a telescope.
With Girardi’s unsurprising snub in mind, my concern is that by firing Dale Sveum a year before his contract ended, Theo Epstein & Co. have really stepped in it. I have my doubts that they’re going to be able to hire the “right guy” this time around, either.
After all, consider what the Cubs are actually offering to candidates: 1.) A position that still remains a massive rebuilding job entering its third year, 2.) An elevated level of expectations – and pressure – considering that the team just fired the previous manager after only two seasons, 3.) Management that’s already said it doesn’t plan to spend significant money this offseason to give the new manager better talent than the fired one who had just enough to lose 197 games.
Eye-balling that less-than-appealing job description – which is self-created by the franchise – the hiring situation that the Cubs currently find themselves in strikes me as similar to the one that some University of Illinois fans worried their football program might end up in a year ago.
Let me explain. After his disastrous 2-10 campaign in 2012, a sizable number of Illini fans were calling for athletic director Mike Thomas to fire new coach Tim Beckman after just one season. Other Illini fans, however, were calling for patience, even if they too doubted that Beckman was the right man to lead the Illini program. Their argument was that if you fire a coach, even a bad one, after just one season that sends a terrible message to other coaching candidates.
Who, they wondered, would want to take on a job with such little security? Especially when there would also be pressure to show immediate improvement in spite of probably not having the necessary talent to do so.
That argument wasn’t invalid, and Beckman got his second season (he’ll likely get at least a third, too). But now, in many ways, the real scenario that the Cubs have created in their managerial search strikes me as similar to that theoretical one facing the Illini a year ago.
By firing Sveum so soon, especially after he wasn’t given any legitimate major league talent to work with, I have to imagine that many managerial candidates are now looking at the Cubs situation with skepticism at best. At worst, they may see themselves becoming nothing more than the franchise’s next fall guy.
What the Cubs do have to sell is their much ballyhooed stockpile of minor league position players such as Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Albert Almora and Jorge Soler. But the fact remains that none of those players are expected to be on the big league roster that the new manager will inherit next season. Just like they weren’t on Sveum’s ragged rosters the past two seasons, which led to his demise.
Now, If Dale Sveum truly was harming the development of the young players that he did have on his roster, well, then he had to go (although, in that case, he also never should have been hired). But, nevertheless, by firing him so quickly after giving him so little talent, the Cubs have also given baseball’s most desirable managerial candidates – such as Girardi – little reason to actually desire the Cubs job.
And plenty of reasons to question it.
So, if Theo & Co. don’t end up with the manager they truly want this offseason, they have no one to blame but themselves. This situation didn’t create itself, the Cubs did.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.