The Cubs Next Manager
Given the sudden retirement of Lou Piniella, the discussion of the Cubs managerial situation has intensified. Many Chicagoans are calling for the pursuit of current New York Yankees manager and former Cubs catcher, Joe Girardi. Others -- including many sportswriters -- have formed a Ryne Sandberg campaign. I, on the other hand, am rooting for dark horse candidate Dave Martinez. Let's explore this issue:
I am not a fan of Girardi. I'm told that the media has hailed Girardi as a statistically-minded and numbers-friendly manager, but I have seen little evidence of it. Last year, the venerable Dave Cameron twice derided Girardi for managerial decisions that bordered malpractice. In a piece entitled, "ALCS Coverage: Girardi Is Nuts," Cameron even went so far as to say:
Someone stop Joe Girardi before he manages the best team in baseball right out of the playoffs.In a follow-up piece entitled, "WS Coverage: Girardi Screws Up The Line-Up," Cameron continued to vent his frustrations:
Someone warn PETA – a dead horse is about to get kicked again. That horse, of course, is Joe Girardi and his never ending ability to put a less than ideal Yankee team on the field in critical situations.Those who do not frequently read the work of Cameron may wrongly think him to be a quick-tempered, fast-reacting blogger, but he -- in fact -- is not. His typically mild temperament makes the present accusations all the more damning.
That being said, the Yankees are a pretty savvy organization -- certainly not as efficient or crafty as the Red Sox or Rays, but prudent (and fortuitously wealthy) nonetheless. I'm inclined to think they would hire some one who's at least acquainted with some basic advanced statistics (basic advanced?).
So maybe he's not that bad of a choice, and maybe he's using numbers that are so advanced and brilliant that his actions look crazy or stupid. Either way, it may not matter. As mb21 of Another Cubs Blog notes, there are some logistical obstacles to overcome before the Cubs even entertain the thought of nabbing Girardi. I expect it won't happen, and I really hope it doesn't.
Sportswriters have suggested it, fans have called for it, and even Andre Dawson approved it. It seems any and everyone wearing blue and red want former Cub Ryne Sandberg to take the job. At this point, it seems pretty likely -- he interviewed in 2006 for the job, but ended up getting hired in the minors instead. It appears that this was all part of a grooming program to ensure his head was dripping with useless, old-baseball knowledge before he had his chance to watch the Cubs lose in person.
Honestly, I'm okay with the Ryne Sandberg possibility. In general, managers don't make a huge impact on their team's performance -- almost no impact compared to that of the GM. Consider how the Yankees still won the World Series in 2009 despite the mind-bottling handiwork of Girardi. So hiring Sandberg would be fun, you know, because he's like a former Cub and stuff.
Martinez is the current bench coach for the Tampa Bay Rays and has not even been suggested as a candidate for the managerial position. Why do I want him? Well, like I noted above, the manager really has marginal impact on the team's performance, so even if he was the greatest or worst manager in history, his impact will be minimal. I want Dave Martinez because he is a symbol of change. Martinez has spent the last few years as bench coach for the most progressive and statistics-immersed team in baseball. From the front office to the dugout, the Rays know how to properly analysis their talent and apply the wisdom of sabermetrics to everything they do. I want Dave Martinez because he makes a symbolic gesture of goodwill, a veritable sign of commitment to Tom Ricketts' promise of making the Cubs into the Red Sox. But the Chicago Cubs have made me a connoisseur of disappointment, so I am carefully tempering these hopes.
In the long run, the manager's position does not matter. What matters is the coming direction and drive of the front office. If Ricketts is content with Hendry, then Hendry must improve -- he must augment his scouting expertise with greater statistical awareness. If Ricketts is ready for someone else, he must execute that process with the wisdom he no doubt gained from his years in business and not allow the archaic and handcuffing baseball culture dictate his decisions. He must take charge and use his very hands to make this team what he wants it to be.