By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) Cubs manager Rick Renteria delved into a tough subject Monday.
His job is to sell the players on playing with joy on a team destined to lose 60 percent of their games. Renteria got the job because of his baseball resume for communicating and developing players.
Selling small steps of progress to major-league players may be the toughest job in sports. Renteria has the dubious task of selling fans and media members as well on a short-term approach to a franchise that has promised a world championship in the near future.
What Renteria means by “having fun” is for his team to concentrate on professional play as individuals.
“It was fun for me to see (the Reds closer) warming up in the ninth inning of an 8-2 ballgame (Sunday) because these guys didn’t quit,” he said before Monday’s game. “The other manager is thinking anything can happen — that is a tribute to those guys, because they didn’t quit.”
Renteria is selling winning a few battles while you are losing the war. If you have young ballplayers, you can keep their attention for a short time with player development and “win for the Gipper” appeals. That will be a tougher sell on the players who have already been through the excessive losing for the last three seasons.
I love Renteria and his approach with the Cubs. They are positive men who work their rear ends off for the players and front office every day. The concept of getting players locked into a positive mode is a thankless job. If you don’t believe how tough it is, ask the two previous managers of the Cubs, Mike Quade and Dale Sveum.
Fun and losing are an impossible partnership, yet I admire Renteria for going there.
“I am hoping that they have fun and don’t quit,” Renteria said. “They must stay focused. We know these guys are playing at a tremendously high level.
“It’s a game of performance in the end for all of us. If they go out there in misery for nine innings it is tough to exist. The constant is every time you go out on the field you have a chance to win.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.