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Joe Girardi Returns To Yankees. Now What?

Now that Joe Girardi has crossed himself off the Cubs' managerial search list, who's the next choice? Or more importantly, what qualities should the next guy have?

So much for taking a few days off. Thought I'd pipe in with just a couple of thoughts about the Cubs' open managerial slot, now that Joe Girardi has re-upped with the Yankees for the next four years:

The Yankees did not disclose financial details of the contract, but a source told's Andrew Marchand that the deal is worth $16 million and includes postseason bonuses. Girardi made $3 million this season.

And, despite the possible pull of Girardi and his family to their roots in Chicago and Illinois, their current status in New York won out:

I can understand that. I wish Joe well -- and wish him luck, too, because the Yankees seem poised to enter a decline phase.

I could go on and on about names mentioned that the Cubs have already interviewed or are about to -- A.J. Hinch, Manny Acta, Rick Renteria, Sandy Alomar Jr. -- and others who have expressed interest (Mike Maddux), but instead I want to just say a few brief words on the kind of manager I want leading the Cubs. It doesn't necessarily matter who the next manager is, as long as he is willing to adapt to situations and not just go by-the-book.

A perfect example of that can be found in Game 4 of the Tigers/Athletics division series. Max Scherzer, who was the Tigers' best starter this year (yes, better this year than Justin Verlander, and by a considerable margin by bWAR), would have been on normal schedule to start Game 5.

But Jim Leyland brought him to pitch in relief in the middle innings. Why? Because he's the best pitcher on the staff and the Tigers had to, HAD TO, win the game or go home for the winter. Scherzer struggled a bit but then got out of the inning with two amazing strikeouts. If you watched the game, you saw how pumped up he was and how pumped up the team was after that.

Leyland, of course, is a veteran manager who's won a World Series, managed in another and could be in one more this year, has managed multiple playoff teams. The Cubs aren't getting one of those. But I want someone who'll think outside the box situationally in that way. Remember when Lou Piniella put Sean Marshall in left field for a batter, because he wanted him to stay in the game? The situation worked, even though the Cubs didn't win the game. That's the kind of thinking I want; that's the way a manager can affect the results of games. The kind of guy Dusty Baker wasn't during the 2003 playoffs. The kind of guy Lou wasn't in the 2007 playoffs, or in the last week of the regular season in 2008.

Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk wrote this blistering takedown of Fredi Gonzalez for not bringing Craig Kimbrel into the decisive Game 4 of the Braves' series with the Dodgers in the highest-leverage situation -- and probably lost the game for the Braves. Check this out:

Fredi Gonzalez learned this way of thinking from Bobby Cox and had it reinforced in a thousand ways by an organization which always has and, until there is new leadership, always will value and reward people who do things in painfully conventional ways. Doing things the right way, as Brian McCann might say. Indeed, if you don’t see a thread connecting all of that unwritten rules stuff from September and what led Fredi Gonzalez to use his setup man in the eighth and save Kimbrel for a bit, you haven’t been paying attention to the Atlanta Braves very long. It extends to their offseason moves and payroll decisions and everything else.

This speaks not only to whoever the next Cubs manager is, but also to Theo Epstein and the entire baseball operations department. Look, people here think I bash Theo all the time but I will give him credit for one very important thing -- he's always looking for the next way to "beat the system" when it comes to building a roster. You saw that in the spending on international free agents last summer. Now I want to see that kind of thinking in hiring a manager.

The Cubs have never really had an outside-the-box type of manager, one who's willing to take chances and experiment and do things that the media will crucify him for if they don't work. This is exactly the time to do that, in my mind.

Who is that guy? Honestly, I don't know. Maybe Joe Girardi could have been him; I know Girardi wouldn't have hesitated in using Mariano Rivera for a two-inning save if it could have won him a playoff series, or staved off elimination. Yes, of course, you'd do that too if you had the best closer of all time, but that's just an example. The key is using your resources in the right way at the right time. Dale Sveum didn't do that; that's one reason James Russell got all burned out, and the Cubs lost games because he wouldn't remove Carlos Marmol as closer until it was beyond obvious that had to be done. I want a guy who is willing to try different players in different roles, different lineup spots, different relief roles, if what they're doing isn't working -- and also someone who, when he sees something IS working, has the wisdome to leave it alone.

That's the guy I want managing the Cubs. I'm not sure if any of the candidates I've heard mentioned are that guy, and obviously, the Cubs aren't close to being a playoff team -- but find this kind of manager, and maybe he can help the Cubs get there.

The Cubs wanted Joe Girardi for his experience and managing a playoff team. They didn't get him. There aren't many out there available like that; as I noted above, I'm not sure who my choice is. I'll mull this and probably write something again early next week, since after losing out on Girardi, Theo might take his time. I know what I don't want -- not another Dale Sveum type, please. Enough of by-the-book managing.

Back to hibernation. I'll be back tomorrow; I was going to write something along these lines around then anyway, even if Girardi were still available. It might as well be now. Have at it.