The Cubs have been busy replacing a good chunk of the coaching staff this offseason after some were let go (Chris Bosio, Gary Jones, John Mallee) and others departed on their own (Eric Hinske).
Another coach is gone now, bench coach Dave Martinez, headed to the Nationals as their new manager on a three-year deal. As is the modern custom, this won’t be officially announced until after the World Series.
Before I get to some potential choices to replace Martinez, I wanted to address this ridiculous Steve Rosenbloom column from Sunday’s Tribune in which he whined about being lied to by Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein:
Maddon fairly admitted Thursday he was lying before Game 4 of the National League Championship Series by saying he had no choice but to support his coaches during the playoffs. Maybe, maybe not. Maddon easily could’ve said, “We’re trying to win a playoff series. We’re trying to win the World Series. That’s our goal. That’s our expectation. If we fail, we’ll look at everything and make whatever changes we deem necessary.’’
In my country, we call that the truth. That’s not pressure on a coaching staff. That’s the truth because that’s the object of the exercise.
First of all, the question shouldn’t have even been asked. In the middle of the NLCS, you’re asking questions about next year’s coaching staff? What’s Maddon going to say? No matter how he answers, he’s got a problem. — even answering in the way Rosenbloom suggested would have thrown the staff under the bus. Rosenbloom continued:
Credibility and trust, see, aren’t just optics for the public. They’re concerns in a clubhouse, too.
Well, yes, that’s true. But does anyone really think that Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon aren’t honest with their players and staff? The message inside the clubhouse is often not intended for public consumption, and it ought to remain that way, in my opinion.
First, because the Cubs don’t need to telegraph their intentions to the 29 other teams they’re competing with.
Second, and more importantly, Theo and Joe and the rest of the baseball ops team don’t owe us the truth. All they owe us as fans is to put a winning organization together and to win baseball games and championships. Given that these men produced something no one else was able to do in 108 years, I’m willing to give them a lot of leeway on how they put the organization and team together, and it doesn’t matter what they tell us in public. Just do the right thing in private, and it appears here that they have done so. The message is: We won, but in order to win again, we need to make some changes. I’m fine with that.
Beyond that, when Maddon came in as manager, the only coach he brought with him was Martinez. The others were all holdovers. They lasted three seasons and brought a World Series title; now, Joe and Theo want to make changes. I think they’ve earned that right without having to tell anyone why.
Now, on to the change at bench coach. There are a number of men who are well qualified for this position. I’m going to mention a few of them and their qualifications; you might have other choices.
Before I begin, one man I’m specifically not going to mention in connection with this position is Ryne Sandberg. It became absolutely clear to me seven years ago, when Sandberg was passed over by Jim Hendry in favor of Mike Quade, and again six years ago when Theo & Co. gave him what appeared to be a courtesy interview before hiring Dale Sveum, that Sandberg was never going to be named Cubs manager. His tenure as Phillies manager was a disaster; it was absolutely the wrong situation for him, working with an older team that was on the way down. Sandberg had won awards both in the Cubs and Phillies organizations for his managing with young players; that appears to be his best talent. Being a bench coach under Joe Maddon, I believe, simply would not work, for a multitude of reasons.
Personally, I think we should all admire Ryne Sandberg for his Hall of Fame career, thank him for the work he did in the Cubs farm system as a manager, and enjoy him in his current position: “franchise icon.”
I’m also not going to mention Joe Girardi. Why would Girardi take a spot working under Joe Maddon when he could take a year off, work in broadcasting, and see what managerial positions are open next fall? That’s the most logical scenario for Girardi, who is only 53 and could easily manage for another decade.
Let’s look at some of the other possible choices.
The proverbial elephant in the room. Ross has been talked about as a coaching or managing prospect dating back to his days with the Red Sox (his second stint there in 2013-14, not his eight-game cameo in 2008). “Grandpa” showed his leadership qualities almost immediately with the Cubs and became a trusted teammate and fan favorite. He absolutely seems to have the knowledge and personality to become a coach or manager, and fairly soon, too.
He’s on the Cubs payroll as a “special assistant,” which can mean anything Theo & Co. want it to mean. He’s also working for ESPN, part-time, and I doubt that work would stop him from taking a baseball job. Whether he will get this position is really just a matter of two things:
- Does Joe Maddon want him as his top assistant? and
- Does Ross want to get back into the full-time baseball grind?
If the answer to both of those questions is “yes,” by all means, bring him on.
Here’s a bit more info about what Ross might be thinking:
Two sources familiar with Grandpa Rossy’s situation and the team’s thinking framed it like this: Ross would be on the short list of ideal candidates to become Joe Maddon’s bench coach, but it’s also doubtful that the timing will be right for someone who is raising a young family in Florida and has so many off-the-field interests. After getting so little time off this year, Ross is said to be waiting until after the World Series is over before even considering anything else for next season.
So it could happen. Or not. Here’s more from Ross, and it doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen:
"Hard to see me jumping back in," Ross wrote in a text message Sunday. "Was a little busy this year and never got real time off."
Here are some of the qualities Joe Maddon mentioned regarding Dave Martinez not long after the 2017 season ended:
"It's baffling to me a bit why (Martinez isn't considered) more often. He's been around a lot of winning teams here, and not only that, him as a player, that's what drew me to him a bit with the Rays. I never had been with him as a teammate but watched him play. He was such a heady, aggressive, gritty kind of player and bilingual. All that matters. He's not afraid to have tough conversation a lot of times people in that position may shy away from."
“Bilingual” is the word I want you to focus on in that paragraph. There are a large number of Latino players in modern baseball and having at least one coach who can not only communicate with them in their native language, but is also understanding of their culture, can be very important. While Martinez is bilingual, he was born in New York and grew up in Florida. Blanco, a native of Veneuzela, satisfies both of those criteria. He’s already on the coaching staff, and as a former catcher, could also be of help to Maddon and new pitching coach Jim Hickey with the pitchers.
Hyde has been the Cubs’ first-base coach for the last three seasons, and before that was director of player development in 2013, so he’s familiar with what needs to be done in the farm system. He was bench coach in 2014 under Rick Renteria, and also served in that role with the Marlins in 2010 and 2011. He’s quite familiar with the organization and would provide some continuity. This article quotes Jack McKeon, the Marlins manager Hyde served as bench coach in 2011:
"(Hyde) was very well-prepared, very aggressive," McKeon told the Tribune in 2013. "He wasn't afraid to jump on somebody if they needed to be jumped on, which a lot of coaches don't want to do.
"But he was on top of the game. He was always keeping me sharp on what you want to do, in situations he was always ready for advice. He was ahead of the game."
Sounds pretty good to me.
Farrell, recently fired as Red Sox manager, has also been a pitching coach. Two of his sons are now in the Cubs organization — they recently claimed Luke Farrell on waivers from the Reds, and Shane Farrell is on the scouting staff. Maybe that’s a bit too much family. Farrell, who is 55, might want to sit out a year and see if there’s a managerial spot open next offseason.
Foley was the longest-serving coach in Rays history — he had been in the organization since its inception and had been a coach there from 2002 through the end of the 2017 season when he was “reassigned” to another spot in the organization.
Foley served as Maddon’s third-base coach for eight years (2007-14). He might not want to leave Tampa, though:
Foley, 58, said his departure was a mutual decision.
"They were looking to make a change and I wanted to make a change and pretty much contemplated a lot of things this year as the year was going on," he said. "It's worked out great for both sides, I think. And I'll start a new chapter in the Rays organization again."
Acta, a native of the Dominican Republic and former manager of the Nationals and Indians, is currently the bench coach for the Seattle Mariners. While a move to the Cubs might be seen as a step up for him, I don’t see the Mariners letting him out of a contract for what is essentially a lateral move.
I’m putting Ozzie’s name here primarily because of this article — which was written almost exactly three years ago, when Maddon was first hired:
“This is one guy I’d love to coach for,” Guillen told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s a very good baseball man. And he’s not a guy who’s going to be looking behind his back thinking I want to take his job.
“I’ve managed before. Economically, I’m pretty good. I just want to be back in the game.”
This isn’t as ridiculous an idea as it sounds. Guillen does know the game. He’s a World Series-winning manager (even if ESPN doesn’t believe the White Sox actually won the Series). He’s bilingual and could get along well with Latino players.
In reality, this has almost zero chance of happening. I mainly wanted to hear what you think of Ozzie and whether this would even have a chance of working.
The choice of bench coach, as Joe and Theo have both said regarding the other coaching changes, going to be a decision arrived at as a group. However, given that whoever is selected is going to be the coach working most closely with Maddon, it’s likely that Joe gets a great deal of input here.
If I had to guess? Ross is the “sexy” choice. He’d be popular with the fanbase, but Joe’s not going to make any decision based on what fans think. Blanco would be a good choice to work with Latino players, Hyde would be a “safe” selection, and choosing someone from outside the organization is a crapshoot, no matter how well Joe and Theo think they know the individual.
If David Ross wants the position, I think it’s his, with the obvious assumption that somewhere down the line, he’s Maddon’s successor. But given Ross’ statement quoted above, it doesn’t sound like he’s ready for a full-time coaching gig.
Assuming that’s the case, they might just wind up going with Brandon Hyde, unless they think Blanco’s knowledge of the Spanish language and Latino culture will help.
In any case, I suspect we will know the answer very, very soon.
Who should be the Cubs’ new bench coach?
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Someone else (leave in comments)