Whenever a team hires a new manager, all is sweetness and light, at least for a while. Fans and media want to see the new guy succeed, and I think I speak for most everyone here when I say we'd all like to give Rick Renteria a chance to show us that he's the right guy for the job.
So let's see what Renteria had to tell reporters in a phone conference Thursday (he's been unable to travel due to recovery from hip surgery).
"The reality is most players like structure," Renteria said. "Most players like guidance. But when you’re the teacher and the adult, you must have a feel when you’re supposed to turn up the heat a little bit and talking about accountability. "Everyone seems to think that accountability means you have to scream at somebody, you have to show the whole world you’re holding them accountable. The only (people who need) to know I’m holding them accountable are his teammates, himself and the coaching staff. "The accountability factor comes in after the ballgame, in your office, over a phone call, a text (message) — by whatever means you can use it — you’re better served. I’m very secure in who I am. (People might say) ‘this guy doesn’t do anything.’ That might not be the case."
The days of the yelling, screaming manager are over, I think. We have begun a time of more thoughtful guys, and that's a reflection not only of changes in baseball, but changes in society. Who would want to work for someone who yells and screams at you when you make a mistake? I think this was something missing from both Mike Quade (who really didn't seem to have any idea how to hold players accountable) and Dale Sveum (who, reportedly, sent mixed messages, and that's likely one of the reasons he was let go). If Renteria can do this effectively, that's a big plus.
Regarding his ability to speak Spanish, Renteria said:
"I’m hoping that I happen to be a manager that happens to speak Spanish," said Renteria, who signed a three-year contract that includes two additional club-option years. "But the ability to communicate in the same language sometimes creates a little more of a comfort zone for a player. "The reality is baseball is played between the lines and it has its own language. And that language is performance."
This is the right thing to say, of course. I happen to believe it's important for at least someone on the coaching staff to not only speak Spanish, but perhaps be from one of the Latin American cultures that send so many players to MLB these days. There have been rumors that the Cubs might hire Henry Blanco as a coach. This would be an excellent choice, not only for Blanco's understanding of that culture (he's from Venezuela), but the influence he could have on younger Cubs players. When he was a Cub, Blanco was a great mentor for Geovany Soto, and it might not be a coincidence that Carlos Zambrano's decline in ability and increase in incidents began just about the time that Blanco left the team. (This is just speculation by me, of course.)
"I believe the game is about them, and it's not about me," Renteria said. "Hopefully, as time goes on, the focus isn't on me, but will be totally on the players and the joy everybody is experiencing because these guys are going out and performing."
You don't often see managers use the word "joy" when describing playing baseball, but that's something that's definitely been lacking in watching Cubs baseball over the last four years. When was the last time you, as a fan, felt "joy" about the Cubs? In the end, it is a game. Yes, it's also the players' job, but if they're not having fun out there, they shouldn't be playing. Watching the playoffs this year, it was clear that those players were enjoying themselves immensely even as they were laser-beam focused on winning. If a manager can impart that sense of fun to his team, that's a positive. (Talent helps, too, of course.)
"The assumption that our team won't be able to play at a high level, I don't make that assumption," Renteria said in a conference call to announce his hiring Thursday afternoon. "I assume that every team that is put on the field ... has a chance to win a ballgame every single day."
Oh, Rick. Oh, oh, Rick. You really don't know what it's like to be a Cub yet, do you? You'll find out. Just wait till your first "Cubbie occurrence."
Seriously, Rick Renteria sounds like a decent human being, a baseball lifer (and that's not said in a negative tone) who has worked very hard in learning his craft. Now, Theo & Jed, go get him some better players.