This Mark Gonzales article from the Tribune a couple of days ago lists several possible candidates for the managerial opening at Clark & Addison.
I don't want any of the men named in that article to be the next Cubs manager. So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to quickly give my reason(s) why I don't want each individual named in Gonzales' article to manage the Cubs. You might agree or disagree; that's why we are here. And then I'll name the guy I want, and tell you why. (Yes, I'm purposely being vague; I want to save my reveal for a bit.)
A. J. Hinch, former Diamondbacks manager: Has been praised for working with young players, something the Cubs say they want. But he was fired in Arizona, has just that brief experience as a big league manager and to me, seems better suited to front-office work.
Manny Acta, former Nationals and Indians manager: Also has a good reputation working with young players, but has been fired from two managing jobs and there were hints in Cleveland that he "lost the clubhouse". I don't think we need a guy like that.
Rick Renteria, Padres bench coach: More "strong teaching skills", according to Gonzales' article, but has never managed at the big-league level, something Theo Epstein says he wants.
Dave Martinez, Rays bench coach: Was mentioned as a possible candidate for this job two years ago. Has been mentioned as a candidate for other managerial openings. At a certain point you have to ask yourself, "Why isn't he being hired?"
Sandy Alomar Jr., Indians bench coach: Would very likely be the Indians' manager right now if Terry Francona hadn't been available and interested. Alomar has a lot going for him, including the fact that not only does he speak Spanish, but he's from Puerto Rico.
There's a salient point. When we were talking about a manager who could speak Spanish a number of years ago, someone brought up the fact that Lou Piniella can speak Spanish. That's true, but it's not just the language, it's the culture. Lou Piniella was born in the United States and his ancestors were from Spain. That's not something that would make a connection with young players from Latin America. Alomar would, but so would another man whose name hasn't been montioned much. This is the man I would like to see the Cubs hire.
I'm talking about Yankees bench coach .
Pena meets all of Theo Epstein's criteria. He's been good working with young players -- he did so while managing the Royals. That managerial tenure is most interesting. Pena led the Royals to the only winning season they had between 1994 and 2013, an 83-79 season in 2003 where Kansas City was in first place as late as August before fading. One of the biggest reasons for that season was Carlos Beltran's third straight solid year; Beltran finished ninth in American League MVP voting. Naturally, the Royals then traded him away in the middle of the next season in a three-way deal involving the Astros and Athletics. In return they got Mark Teahen, John Buck and Mike Wood -- not so much for a guy who helped lead the Astros to the playoffs the following year.
Pena's depleted Royals -- the 2004 Royals had a horrific pitching staff and without Beltran, little offense -- lost 104 games. When they started out 8-25 in 2005, Pena resigned:
"I can't take it any more," Pena said. Pena informed general manager Allard Baird of the decision after the Royals' loss to the Blue Jays at Toronto. "He was stunned," Pena said.
Pena has spent the last eight years as a Yankees coach, the last six as Joe Girardi's bench coach. He's been around a winning organization. This article indicates he was interested in, and being considered for, the Boston Red Sox opening a year ago that eventually went to John Farrell. Thus it seems clear Pena would like to manage again.
Pena's good with young players. As a former catcher, he should be good at handling a pitching staff. He speaks Spanish and is from the Caribbean. (Yes, the Cubs have had Spanish-speaking coaches from the Caribbean before. I think it's different if it's the manager, a different level of respect and communication.) He's also the kind of guy who, I think, could grow with his team. He's managed a team in a pennant race; you wouldn't have to move on to some bigger-name guy two or three years from now, as you might with Hinch or Acta or Renteria.
In general, teams do grant permission to speak to coaches under contract if they are being offered a promotion to manager. So Theo Epstein, who couldn't get permission to talk to Joe Girardi, should call Brian Cashman and ask permission to interview Girardi's second-in-command.
There's my choice. Tony Pena. You can let me know what you think in the comments.
There's one more thing about Pena. My recollection was that Pena, as a Pirates and Cardinals player in the 1980s, used to absolutely kill Cubs pitching. Sometimes those remembrances are skewed by a game or two, but looking at his career splits, I was right. Pena's BA and OPS against the Cubs were his highest against any team (in a not-small-sample size of 530 plate appearances).
So, beyond his obvious qualifications to be a manager, he owes us, in a way. Go get him, Theo.