Rick Renteria was fired Friday as Cubs manager.
This, you know.
It's really hard to evaluate his "tenure" as Cubs manager, given the abrupt and awkward way in which he was let go. I put "tenure" in quotes because, well, it hardly was anything of the sort. The last man who managed the Cubs for fewer games than Renteria (162, one full season), other than interim guys, was Bruce Kimm, who took over from the fired Don Baylor (after one interim game managed by Rene Lachemann) and managed the final 78 games of the 2002 season, with a 33-45 record. It's pretty clear that Kimm would have liked to keep the job; it's just as clear that Jim Hendry had no intention of keeping him after Dusty Baker became available. (We don't have to rehash the Baker regime, just stating a fact.) Even Mike Quade got more than one full season, managing the final 37 games of the 2010 season before being hired for 2011.
You'd have to go back to 1991, when Jim Essian managed the final 120 games and then was let go, to find another manager who led the Cubs for less than one full season.
What, then, to make of Rick Renteria's one year? A month ago, when I was grading the 2014 coaching staff, I gave Rick a "B" and said:
Ricky did all right just by not being Dale. That is to say, one of the reasons Sveum was fired was reportedly that he didn't do well by Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro in aiding their development. The mere fact that those two came off bad years to be All-Stars in 2014 is credit to Renteria, as well as the players' hard work. RR's lineup selections were sometimes bizarre, although I suspect the front office had some input into those. The fact that he would always, always, always switch pitchers to get the platoon advantage drove me nuts; there's utility in the platoon advantage but it's not as much as you might think. The eight-man bullpen gave him little bench flexibility and I'm hoping the team will go back to a seven-man pen in 2015. Overall, RR was neither great nor awful in his day-to-day strategy, mostly playing things by-the-book. He did lead the major leagues in manager ejections this year, which is saying something given the replay-review system, which is supposed to cut down on those kinds of things.
I'll stand by that statement. Renteria's best legacy to the Cubs is his handling of Rizzo and Castro, both of whom rebounded from rough seasons to have excellent years in 2014 and build a solid base for even better play in 2015. I suppose some of the lineup decisions Renteria made were because he had little roster flexibility with the eight-man bullpen -- but then, the eight-man pen was foisted on him in part because he wasn't making smart bullpen choices.
The record reflects a man still growing into the position and someone who did get better over the course of the year. With the new replay-review system, manager ejections were way down in 2014, but Renteria led the major leagues by being tossed six times. That might indicate a man who's trying to make his mark, to show that he's not just going to be pushed around, and someone who has his players' back.
In all, I think the Cubs are a better team for having Rick Renteria as manager for one season, as Theo Epstein said in his press-release statement:
Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.
I agree with Theo. Renteria did show all those characteristics and more. He seems like a standup guy, someone who never makes excuses, and though his constant "up" personality and smile could get a little bit grating when things weren't going so well, I can see why a manager in that situation would want to show that to his young team.
There are now two managerial openings -- with the Rays, with Joe Maddon on the cusp of being announced as the Cubs' new manager, and with the Twins, who have not replaced the fired Ron Gardenhire a month after season's end. Renteria could be a candidate for either, and there's already news about him possibly having talks with the Twins:
Terry Ryan, the #Twins GM, is now considering whether to bring in Rick Renteria for an interview for their managerial opening.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 31, 2014
Well, that'd be interesting. He might work very well with a young team in Minnesota, a team that has quite a number of young Latino players, something that Renteria's fluency in Spanish could help. The Cubs play the Twins at Target Field June 19, 20 and 21, 2015. That'd be an interesting meeting if Renteria does wind up managing at Minnesota.
I wish Rick Renteria well. He did his best, and was let go due to unique circumstances. Here's hoping he lands another managing job, and takes another team to a place higher than he was allowed to lead the Chicago Cubs.