The Chicago Cubs and Joe Maddon parted ways after four years, and one long-awaited World Series. Their search for a new manager is in full swing.
The Cubs job is definitely one of the most sought after openings is in the entire MLB. The Cubs are awash with talent, yet they have not made it back to the Fall Classic since that 2016 win. Under Maddon, they also reached three NLCS appearances in a row from 2015-2017, and one Wild Card round loss in 2018.
With their list dwindling down to the top candidates, here is a brief breakdown of the most likely replacements.
The most likely and obvious candidate for the job is former Cub, David Ross.
Affectionately known as “Grandpa Rossy” during his time within Chicago, David Ross was a clubhouse leader. He was originally only brought to the Cubs to be Jon Lester’s personal catcher, but his role evolved into much more. He ended up playing in 139 games with Chicago, not including playoffs.
He is also a postseason record holder, and hero as far as Cubs fans are concerned. In Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, he became the oldest player to hit a home run in a Game 7. That home run was also the final at-bat of his baseball career. The Cubs ended up winning the World Series in 10 innings by one run. This ended the longest championship drought in American sports history, further cementing his legend status.
Apart from all of that, he has a fantastic relationship with most of the players on the team. A lot of the core members of the team saw Ross as a mentor during his tenure with the Cubs. It would make sense that they would respond well to his leadership.
Catchers are also the closest thing baseball has to in-game managers. They know pitches, signals, keep eyes on runners, help with shifts, etc. Many former catchers become managers, such as Bruce Bochy, Brad Ausmus and Mike Scioscia to name a few.
Hiring Ross would be a culture hire, as he has no managerial experience. Since he retired in 2016, he has been in the broadcast booth with ESPN. But, with the kind of talent the Cubs already have and tend to pick up in the offseason, Ross would really only have to not mess it up. As long as he does not do his job horribly (I.e. pitching changes, matchups and lineups), then the players will want to play and win for Ross.
Grandpa Rossy would be a great choice, even if he has no experience. Again, as long as he does not do the job badly, it would be nearly impossible for him to lose the clubhouse. Chicago will always remember him as a hero, even if he does not manage to deliver another World Series. The risk is incredibly low, and the reward for bringing him back to the dugout would be very high for the players.
Another former catcher and World Series-winning manager, Joe Girardi, is another solid option for the Cubs opening.
Girardi won NL Manager of the Year during his only year with the Marlins in 2006. Due to front office politics, he was fired after the season. He then was hired by his former team, the New York Yankees in 2008. During his nine-year tenure with the Yankees, he won one World Series in 2009. After the 2017 season, Girardi’s contract was up and he was replaced by Aaron Boone. He also made his career debut as a Cub, playing in Wrigley from 1986-1989.
Joe Girardi is an old school manager with winning experience. He may not be a typical players’ manager, such as Joe Maddon, but he does produce results with talented rosters. In the postseason, he had a record of 28-24 with the Yankees. That is good for a winning percentage of 53.8.
This hiring would speak to a different kind of culture change for the Cubs. An arguably tougher manager that would demand results from all areas of the roster may be exactly what the North Side needs. Especially after the happy-go-lucky days of Joe Maddon.
He has managerial experience in a large market, World Series-winning experience both as a player and a coach and a great baseball mind that could right the ship after a season without playoff contention. Girardi is a safe choice, and could deliver another Commissioner’s Trophy to Chicago.
Yet another Joe on the Cubs’ list is Astros bench coach, Joe Espada.
Espada joined the Astros in 2018, a year after their World Series victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers. A hot commodity for more than one managerial vacancy, Chicago sports personality David Kaplan tweeted that the Cubs were “exceptionally impressed” by his interview.
Houston source tells me Astros coach Joe Espada had a sensational interview w/Cubs front office. “He gave Theo + Jed a lot to think about. They really liked him + came away exceptionally impressed. Was it enough to overcome David Ross’s relationship w/Theo and Jed? We’ll see.”
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) October 17, 2019
He served as the Marlins’ third base coach from 2010-2013, transitioning to the Yankees as a special assistant to GM Brian Cashman from 2015-2017. The Marlins wanted Espada to manage the Advanced-A Jupiter Hammerheads club to groom him for a managerial role, but he chose to work for the Yankees instead.
The Astros have collected a record of 210-114 during Espada’s two years in Houston. They have made the ALCS in both of those seasons.
Apparently, the San Francisco Giants are also interested in Espada after Bruce Bochy retired following the 2019 season. It appears he will probably get a manager role, even if it is not with Chicago. But with the report that he impressed Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, it still is likely he could land with the Cubs. Any interviewee that steals the thunder of Joe Girardi and overshadows the personal relationship the Cubs have with David Ross is not to be taken lightly.
While there is no real managerial experience, the coaching experience could be great for Chicago. Not a sexy hire, he could turn the Cubs back into a contender.
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