After firing Dale Sveum on Monday, Sept. 30, the search for the 53rd manager in Chicago Cubs history is underway. Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein said he knows what the Cubs want in their next manager, they just don't know who that person is.
Many think that person is New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi, an Illinois native and former Chicago Cub player. Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he wouldn't give the Cubs permission to talk with Girardi, who's contract runs out Oct. 31. Cashman is scheduled to meet with Girardi's agent to discuss a new contract, giving the Yanks the first crack at re-signing the manager.
If the Yankees re-sign Girardi, there's a long list of possible replacements including Padres vice president/assistant GM and former Diamondbacks manager A.J. Hinch. Texas Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux and Cleveland Indians bench coach Sandy Almora Jr. were in the running two years ago.
Epstein said he isn't pressured to hire a "big named manager" and wants to hire the "right manager". "We are at a critical point in our building process. Our very best prospects are soon going be young, big league players, and its absolutely imperative that we create the best environment possible for young players to come up here and continue to learn, continue to develop, and thrive at the big league level," Epstein said.
Epstein said they would look for candidates with managerial experience, but wouldn't rule out those who haven't managed, especially if they show strong leadership skills. "There have been first-time major league managers who are outstanding leaders immediately as they came in the door, so why limit ourselves to those who have managed previously in big leagues," he said.
"We are asking a manager to develop and establish a winning culture around a team that's just lost 100 games for the past couple of years. While the front office is being very transparent about taking a long term view. While the front office is trading away 40 percent of the starting rotation each year. So that's something that requires a lot of leadership, a lot of energy, a lot of creativity, requires a dynamic person who can handle that. So those are the criteria. Someone that can accomplish that. And clearly we want the person to have expertise developing young talent, either with a player development background or developing young talent in the big leagues previously."
Whoever the Cubs hire will have their work cut out for them as two of the Cubs core players, shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo, struggled in 2013 at the plate, and Cubs management will be looking for the new skipper to get the pair back on track. Its also likely prospects SS Javier Baez and 3B Mike Olt will be in Wrigley sometime in 2014 and serval young pitching arms are also getting closer.
"Its tricky to develop young players at the major league level, I think they have to be supported fully along the way, there has to be tough love, but there has to be love before there's tough love, you have to be patient with them, there has to be clear unified message, they can't be getting different signals from different directions."
Epstein said the infusion of youth headed to the big leagues was the reason for the change saying they "needed to get it right before they come up. We need that spark of a winning culture."