by Kent Sterling
The hire of Rick Renteria by the Chicago Cubs was the result of a managerial search that resembled an archeological dig. Who would fans accept as a plausible successor to Dale Sveum, Lou Piniella, Dusty Baker, Jim Riggleman, Tom Treblehorn, Jim Essian, Don Zimmer, Herman Franks, Charlie Fox, Preston Gomez, Whitelockman, Elvin Tappe, and on and on. That’s not a tough bar to clear.
But how many of those candidates would take a call from Theo Epstein knowing what question he might ask?
Other ‘options’ in addition to Renteria included Eric Wedge, Manny Acta, Dave Martinez, A.J. Hinch, and others who escaped the trip to the career gallows accepting the Cubs job represents. There was no truth to rumors that Cubs brass reached out to former manager Jim Marshall, who led a previous failed rebuilding effort from 1974-1976, and is surprisingly still living at the age of 82. That should give Renteria some hope that while accepting this job may be a career ender, it may not kill him.
We spent some time on the phone with Renteria just prior to the announcement of his hiring:
- KS: Rick, how were you not able to avoid accept the Cubs job?
- RR: I’m just not very good at saying no, I guess (laughs). (Boston Red Sox bench coach Torey) Lovullo already used the old “the club won’t let me talk” bit.
- KS: The Cubs have a habit of dealing every valuable piece out from under managers in July. Were you able to get Theo or Jed to guarantee that would n’t happen in 2014?
- RR: They do what?
- KS: The Cubs trade the veterans with bulky contracts in exchange for money to sign international guys and pick up some farm system bulk.
- RR: These international guys they signed, are they close to being able to come north.
- KS: Not unless America goes to war and the draft is reinstituted. They are 16, according the their records.
- RR: Christ. (mumbles for 35 seconds)
- KS: What do you think about the pitching?
- RR: (Jeff) Samardzija and (Travis) Wood are pretty good. Remind me who else they have.
- KS: Edwin Jackson, and maybe Jake Arrieta, but there are rumors that Samardzija might be shipped to Arizona.
- RR: What!? Samardzija to Arizona, and we have Jackson? He’s consistently mediocre. Hey, maybe we’ll deal him too.
- KS: You think, with three years at $13 mil per left on his deal?
- RR: Who’s getting 13 each of the next three?
- KS: Jackson.
- RR: Edwin Jackson? (inaudible)
- KS: How about the position players? Only Wellington Castillo hit better than .255
- RR: They have that Castro kid at short – a 200 hit machine. Like him a lot.
- KS: Had 207 hits in 2010, but hit .245 last year with a .631 OPS.
- RR: Who did?
- KS: Castro.
- RR: My God, what have I done?
- KS: Anyway, welcome to the Cubs.
- RR: Yeah, thanks. (soft sobbing continues until I finally hang up)
That is the conversation I would have had if I was so indifferent to another man’s happiness on the day he believes his dream has come true.
There is no chance that the Cubs will retain Reneria after the 2015 season when the kiddie corps finally makes its way north and reasonable people will again believe the Cubs will win more than they lose. That will open the field of managerial candidates beyond retreads looking for one more shot and first timers whose imaginations work better than their eyes.