With the team off to a rather mediocre if not disappointing start to the season, rumors have begun to surface about Chicago Cubs’ manager, Lou Piniella’s job security. These rumblings are a bit premature, but they did pique my curiosity as to just who might be the next Cubs’ skipper. Regardless of what happens this year, Piniella’s contract is up at the end of the season so even if he survives the remainder of this baseball season there is no guarantee he will be back for more. With that in mind here is a countdown of prospective candidates along with my own thoughts on each one as to the likelihood of them being hired.
6. Jody Davis
Cubs’ fans will remember Jody as the starting catcher for the Northsiders in the mid to late 1980’s including the 1984 Eastern Division winning team. Davis was a popular player throughout his time with the team. One of my worst childhood memories was when he was traded to the Atlanta Braves in 1988.
Jody does not have much managerial experience, and is a dark horse candidate at best. He did manage the Cubs’ Single-A affiliate, Peoria Chiefs for a couple of seasons with some success. He is currently managing the Cubs’ low Class A team the Boise Hawks. Davis has also served as a roving catcher instructor for the Cubs.
Davis was my favorite Cub’s player growing up, but realistically he has no shot at the Major League job at least not for awhile. Jody’s quiet demeanor will not work in his favor, and honestly he is probably best served as a minor league manager and instructor.
5. Alan Trammell
Like Davis, Alan Trammell is a long shot to take the reins of the Cubs. He was an All-Star caliber player throughout the 1980’s and was part of a World Series Championship with the Detroit Tigers in 1984 where he was also named world Series MVP.
Trammell does have Major League managerial experience as he was the Detroit Tigers’ head man from 2003-2005. His record was not stellar however as he had a 186-300 win-loss record over his three year stint including an American League record 119 losses in 2003. Trammell was not completely to blame though as the Tigers were in a rebuilding phase, and he had very little in the way of talent on those teams to work with.
Trammell has served as the Cubs’ bench coach under Piniella since 2007. He was a well-respected player in his time and has earned an equally respectable reputation as a coach. With that being said, the only way I can ever see Trammell taking over the Cubs would be if Piniella were fired midseason, and that would only be on an interim basis. Even if that scenario unfolded, Trammell would merely be keeping the Manager seat warm until a permanent replacement was hired.
4. Lou Piniella
I know this is an odd add to the list, but I decided to put Lou here because it is possible he could be the Cubs’ manager for a long time to come. Before this season started there were reports that Lou could stay on as Cubs’ manager for as long as he wanted. To his credit Piniella has had one of the most successful runs as manager in franchise history with two Division titles and three consecutive winning seasons under his belt.
“Sweet” Lou has compiled an impressive resume as a Major League manager including a World Series Championship with the Cincinnati Reds in 1990. He has also been named Manager of the Year three times over his career with the most recent being in 2008 with the Cubs.
Lou will turn 67 by the end of this season, and has made some comments to the effect he was leaning toward retiring. He has shown signs that the pressure of trying to bring an end to the Cubs’ 102 year World Series drought and the constant media scrutiny that comes with Chicago sports teams has started to takes it toll. I feel he has never fully recovered from being swept by the Dodgers in the 2008 Playoffs, and his managerial skills have been slipping ever since. My gut tells me Lou’s tenure as Cubs’ manager will come to an end after this season no matter what the team does. Then again if he decides he wants to try and make another run, he may be given the opportunity.
3. Bob Brenly
Like Jody Davis, Brenly is a former catcher. He spent almost his entire career with the San Francisco Giants. Brenly was never a star player, but was known more as a steady and serviceable backstop.
Brenly served as the Arizona Diamondbacks’ manager from 2001 to part of 2004 before being fired. He does have a World Series title on his resume having won the Championship in 2001 his first season with the D-backs. He has a .536 win percentage as a Major League manager with over 300 wins all with Arizona.
Brenly is currently part of the Cubs’ broadcast team with Len Kasper. He has made it no secret that he would like to manage again on the Big League level. He most recently interviewed for the Milwaukee Brewers job, and his name has been linked to many of the available positions over the last couple of years. It is only a matter of time before he gets another chance, however I don’t think it will be with the Cubs. Do not get me wrong, I think the Cubs could do much worse, and in my opinion Bob Brenly is the second best man for the job.
2. Joe Girardi
Girardi, yet another former catcher, is an intriguing option. He is a former Cub having played with the team from 1989-1992 and again from 2000-2003. Known more as a defensive catcher he was an All-Star in 2000 as a Cub; his only appearance. Girardi was a member of three World Series Championship teams as a player with the Yankees in 1996, 1998, and 1999.
Joe Girardi is the “it” manager in baseball right now. He got his first shot with the Florida Marlins in 2006 where despite the lowest payroll in baseball he kept the team in Wild Card contention. And, though the team ended the season with a losing record, Girardi was still named Manager of the Year. Due to several unfortunate altercations with Marlins’ owner, Jeffrey Loria, Girardi was let go after only one season. His success in Florida however made Joe a hot commodity and every team in baseball looking for a manager wanted him. Joe wisely waited for the New York Yankees to come calling and he was named skipper in 2008. He legitimized his place as a talented manager by leading the Yankees to a World Series crown in 2009.
Girardi is in the last year of his contract with the Yankees. The team is heavily favored to return to the Fall Classic again this year, and will likely try to retain Joe as manager.
In my opinion Joe Girardi is the best option and the perfect man for the Chicago Cubs. It would take a lot to lure him away from the high-profile Yankees’ job, but it is not out of the realm of possibilities. Girardi is a native Illinoisan who grew up a Cubs’ fan. He has enjoyed his greatest success both as a player and a manager with the Yankees, but could the desire to be the man who returned the Chicago Cubs to glory be enough to lead him back to sweet home, Chicago.
Girardi is used to dealing with the stress that comes from the constant scrutiny of a near fanatical fanbase as well as the ever-hounding media of a large market, high-profile team. He is known for his no-nonsense style which is exactly what the Cubs need. He has also proven he can win with a large or small payroll as he is able to get the best out of the players. Again, this is something the Cubs could sorely use.
1. Ryne Sandberg
Sandberg is a Cubs’ legend. He was a perennial All-Star and Gold Glove winner as the Cubs’ second baseman throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Though he never won a championship he was a league MVP in 1984 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. He is the only Hall-of-Famer on my list. His number 23 has since been retired by the Chicago Cubs.
Sandberg has never managed in the Majors though he did interview for the Cubs’ job after the 2006 season; a job that eventually went to Lou Piniella. Instead, Sandberg was given the opportunity to hone his skills at the Minor League level. He started out with the Cubs’ Class A Peoria Chiefs team whom he led to the Midwest League Championship Game. From there Sandberg spent a season managing the Cubs’ Double-A Tennessee Smokies, and he is currently the manager for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs.
The Cubs’ new owners, the Ricketts’ family, have a soft spot for former Cubs’ stars, hence the hiring of Greg Maddux as an assistant to General Manager, Jim Hendry. To hear many sports outlets around Chicago discuss Sandberg, you would think the job was already his, and I believe this makes Ryne Sandberg the odds on favorite to be the next Chicago Cubs’ manager. I am not saying Sandberg would do a bad job, but his lack of experience managing at the Big League level is a hindrance as the Cubs do not have time for someone to learn on the job. What the team needs is someone who can help develop the Cubs; young prospects like Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro while also getting some of the higher priced veterans to set aside their egos and learn how to play and win as a team. At this stage of Ryno’s career I do not believe he is savvy enough to pull that off.
“Jody Davis (baseball)”, Wikipedia.org
“Alan Trammell”, Wikipedia.org
“Lou Piniella”, Wikipedia.org
“Bob Brenly”, Wikipedia.org
“Joe Girardi”, Wikipedia.org
“Ryne Sandberg”, Wikipedia.org