It feels like the GM search all over again: Friday morning, and I’m putting together a round-up of relevant search tidbits. I love it.
There was a bit of a hullabaloo late yesterday over comments Theo Epstein made about former Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona, with whom Theo worked for years in Boston. Strikingly, Theo said, this: “Tito and I have spoken regularly since the end of the season,” Epstein said. “We actually spoke today. We are going to sit down together and see if it’s a fit. Clearly he would be at the top of anyone’s list as available managers. That’s probably true of any organization looking for a manager with experience and who is a proven winner. He has to be at the very top of the list. I think he has to figure out if this is right for him, and then as we continue our process and figure out where we are headed, we have to figure out the right fit in this organization, too.” And that’s the entirety of his quote, if you’re reading ESPNChicago’s account. From it (and the title of the article, “Theo Epstein, Terry Francona Talking”), you’d assume the job is Tito’s if he wants it. That’s, like, huge news. So why isn’t anyone else, besides SportsCenter, running with it?
Oh, yeah. The rest of what Theo said: “I’m not sure [Tito is a fit here], and Tito’s not sure it is [a fit]. I already brought in two guys who I worked closely with at the Red Sox in Jed [Hoyer] and Jason [McLeod]. This doesn’t need to be the Boston show recreated in Chicago completely. I think for my growth as an executive, maybe it’s the right thing to work with a new manager, maybe for Tito’s growth as a manager it’s better to work with a new boss. As I mentioned when I left Boston, you don’t want to live in the past. Eight years, 10 years is a long time to be at one place and with the same dynamics.” And now it sounds like maybe Tito would not get the job, even if he wanted it. Context and complete quotes, people. It’s important.
Also: I love that Theo said that about the “Boston Show.” This guy is not tone deaf to the beliefs and feelings of his fan base – rational or not – and it is appreciated. For what it’s worth, Theo said *if* Tito became a candidate, he would not have to interview, for obvious reasons. Dave Kaplan argues, strongly, against Francona getting the job, primarily because of how things ended in Boston.
The Cubs will be interviewing Phillies’ bench coach Pete Mackanin today. Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux is the only other candidate currently lined up for an interview, and he’ll be coming in some time next week when he’s over a bout of laryngitis. Of the opportunity to interview with the Cubs (and Red Sox), Maddux said, “I’m humbled to find how highly some other organizations feel about me. Unbelievable to hear those two teams have interest. Both storied franchises, both full of tradition, synonymous with history, ballparks that are shrines. And they have great fans year after year.”
So, why does Maddux need to be over his laryngitis before interviewing? Because the interview process sounds more like trying to get a Rhodes Scholarship than a managerial job. The interviews will start with a conventional, sit-down meeting, before devolving into a long, intricate process of having the candidate address simulated game situations, complete with rosters (both teams), statistics, player usage, and other relevant external factors that might influence the decision-making process. Sometimes Theo and Jed want answers immediately, and sometimes they give the candidate a period of time to develop a thoughtful, reasoned response. Sometimes, Theo says, they’ll even get in the candidate’s face to create pressure.
From there, the candidate gets to go home, rest, and lick his wounds, right? No. He has to face the media. Immediately after the interview. And facing the media is part of the interview process. I can’t tell you how pleased I am by this process, particularly the media piece. I’m not sure all candidates (or players or GMs) quite understand what they’re getting into by coming to Chicago, or understand what it will be like to face this particular media group, before making a decision (both by the candidate, and by management). This can only help that process.
Back to the candidate – multiple sources say Brewers’ hitting coach Dale Sveum will be interviewed next week (though Tom Haudricourt says the Cubs haven’t yet asked for permission), and the Cubs are still considering Rays’ bench coach Dave Martinez, Indians’ bench coach Sandy Alomar, Jr., and Red Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale. If that list sounds familiar, it’s because – together with the initial two – it’s the same list I guessed a couple days ago. But remember my caution: I’m not saying I’m a genius, or even that insightful – these “lists” and “reports” have a way of fulfilling themselves. Everyone thinks guy X is on the list, and suddenly, everyone is reporting that guy X is on the list. Maybe I’m prescient, but it’s more likely I’m simply good at guessing who everyone else is going to be guessing.
Another way to guess the Cubs’ list? Get your hands on the Red Sox’s list. Because Theo Epstein participated heavily in the construction of the Red Sox’s desired-candidate list before departing for the Cubs, it’s natural that there is overlap. But, so far, the presumed first three interviews are identical (Mackanin, Maddux, Sveum).
The Sandberg bullet. Theo said yesterday that all was well between he and Ryne Sandberg, whom Epstein told would not be considered for the Cubs’ job. Sandberg will instead be interviewing for the Cardinals’ open job, and departed manager Tony LaRussa is a big fan. Billy Corgan, a big Cubs fan whose Smashing Pumpkins are my favorite band (so you watch what you say), was pretty irked that Epstein did not give Sandberg a chance to at least argue his own merits. Fair point, but what Billy (my sweet Billy – I totally gave you a high five after a concert once) doesn’t recognize is the fact that the Cubs cannot bring Sandberg in for an interview and then not give him the job. The cries of execration, right or wrong, would be deafening. The new Cubs’ brass can’t afford to destroy the goodwill they currently have, and, if they don’t want Sandberg, the best move is to just not interview him at all.
As anticipated, the Cubs do not expect to pursue any sitting managers for their open spot.
When Theo and Jed pick their man, he will meet with the Ricketts-comprised Board of Directors for final approval. That will not be an issue, and indeed, is barely worth mentioning.
I think it would be hard to argue that Theo and Jed don’t already have a favorite in the clubhouse, even before conducting interviews. Whom that candidate is, however, is anyone’s guess.
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