By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) Winning a franchise’s first World Series title in more than a century is some tough business.
And so is being a Major League Baseball manager.
Rick Renteria learned a harsh lesson on both counts this afternoon when the Chicago Cubs finally confirmed the worst-kept secret in baseball by officially firing their manager after just one 73-89 season, during which he led the team to seven more wins than a year prior and did nothing wrong except not be Joe Maddon.
As team Cubs president Theo Epstein explained in a difficult-but-classy statement released by the franchise: “Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season-ticket holders. Those actions were made in good faith.
“Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent.”
And the moment that the superstar skipper of the Tampa Bay Rays entered the job market, it spelled the end of Renteria’s ever-so-brief tenure on the dugout bench at Wrigley Field.
With this Halloween now being anything but a happy one for Renteria, a gut reaction is to feel sorry for the guy and think that the Cubs really gave him a raw deal. You should feel that, and they most certainly did. But don’t weep for Renteria.
Having understandably turned down other opportunities within the Cubs organization, he’ll still get paid two years’ salary for doing nothing. He now has a chance to earn another paycheck on top of that. And there’s a strong likelihood that at some point in the future he’ll get another shot to manage elsewhere. Speculation on Friday afternoon was already swirling that the Twins might be interested in Renteria for their vacant job.
In a sport in which cutthroat already is business as usual, Epstein and Co. did exactly what they needed to do by replacing Renteria with Maddon – and what’s needed is being even more cutthroat than usual in order to finally end more than 100 years of championship frustration at Wrigley Field.
Consider the Renteria firing this way: If the Cubs had a rookie outfielder who had a solid but unspectacular debut season and the Cubs then signed as a free agent who was one of the best two or three players in baseball to play over him, you wouldn’t feel particularly sorry for the rookie. Rather, you’d celebrate the superstar’s arrival.
The Renteria-Maddon situation is the same thing. The only difference is their position isn’t on the field.
And besides, when it comes to raw deals with the Cubs, Ryne Sandberg got one when Mike Quade and Dale Sveum were hired over him despite having paid his managing dues in the minors. Sveum got one when the Cubs fired him after two seasons during which they gave him no talent to work with. And now Rick Renteria has gotten one, too.
Cubs fans know how they feel. After all, they’ve been getting raw deals from the Cubs for 106 years.
And in the end, that’s the deal that really matters.
So, what do you say, Joe Maddon? Let’s make a deal.