During Joe Maddon’s last couple of years as Cubs manager, there was quite a bit of churn in the coaching staff. From 2017-19 the Cubs went through two bench coaches, three pitching coaches and three hitting coaches, as well as miscellaneous changes in other coaching positions.
You can probably guess that this provided too many mixed messages to Cubs players. I’m not saying that the coaching changes were a cause of the Cubs’ failures over the last couple of seasons, but they certainly could not have helped much.
It had been assumed by some that new manager David Ross might keep a fair number of the 2019 coaching staff, as at least some of them appear to be favorites of the front office. But during Ross’ news conference, Theo Epstein emphatically stated that Ross is “not a puppet” and that he’d be his own man as manager.
Changes on the coaching staff appear imminent. Ross has sent text messages to members of the current staff and said he hopes to solidify his staff before the general managers meetings in two weeks in Scottsdale, Ariz.
This should hint to you that Ross has probably been thinking for quite some time about who he might want to retain, and who he might want to replace. Also:
Theo said he and Ross will work through coaching staff decisions immediately. Plan is to retain some of last year's staff, but Ross has some people from the outside who Cubs may add to the fold.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 28, 2019
The first order of business here is likely going to be a new bench coach. I’m not sure what Mark Loretta did as bench coach (other than get himself suspended for “inappropriate conduct during a Replay Review”), but it would seem that Ross, who has no managing or coaching experience, might want an experienced coach or former manager to be his right-hand man in the dugout. It seems like Loretta, at least, is probably odd-man-out here, while pitching coach Tommy Hottovy, catching coach Mike Borzello and batting coach Anthony Iapoce (all apparently favorites of Theo Epstein) might stick around.
So, let’s look at some possible choices Ross might have for bench coach.
Ross is quite familiar with Farrell, who managed him in Boston in 2013 and 2014. Farrell has seven years as a major-league manager and won the World Series with the 2013 Red Sox. He also served as a pitching coach for four seasons in Boston before departing to manage the Blue Jays, so he could help out Ross and whoever is the new pitching coach (or Hottovy if he stays). Two of Farrell’s sons already work for the Cubs: Jeremy Farrell has been in the organization for four years as a minor-league coach and coordinator and was recently named Assistant Director of Baseball Development and Shane Farrell is a Midwest area scout. John Farrell is currently a scout for the Reds and an ESPN analyst.
Gonzalez has 10 years’ MLB managing experience with the Marlins and Braves and spent the last three seasons as Miami’s third-base coach. He was not retained after the 2019 season. Gonzalez is a native of Cuba who grew up in the Miami area and as a native Spanish speaker, he could help Ross in communicating with Cubs players who also are native Spanish speakers. He’s also got a Ross connection — he was Ross’ manager in Atlanta in 2011 and 2012.
The former Cubs manager (1995-99) has also managed the Mariners, Padres, Nationals and Reds, and has been a bench coach for the Nationals, Reds and Mets. The Mets job was his most recent assignment, and overall he’s been a coach or manager in the major leagues since 1989 for eight different organizations. This vast experience could be a big help to Ross. It should be noted that the five years Riggleman spent as Cubs manager matches Maddon for the longest Cubs managerial tenure since Leo Durocher’s.
I’m including Sveum here because he “checks the boxes” — former manager, current bench coach. As you certainly know, Sveum managed the Cubs for two of the worst seasons in franchise history, 2012 and 2013. Those years were by design during the Cubs rebuild, and thus Sveum didn’t have much material to work with. Sveum was fired the night the 2013 season ended (with a year left on his contract) and a couple days later was hired by Ned Yost to be Royals hitting coach. He was promoted to bench coach in Kansas City in 2018. It would be somewhat odd for a recently-fired Cubs manager to return in this capacity, though it should be noted that the Cubs gave Sveum a World Series ring after 2016.
As noted, Sveum is currently a bench coach and teams don’t often let coaches out of contracts for lateral moves. But, with a new manager coming into Kansas City, Sveum might find himself looking for work soon.
Perhaps you can think of someone else David Ross might hire as his bench coach. Leave your thoughts in the comments.
If David Ross and the Cubs replace Mark Loretta as bench coach, the new bench coach should be...
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Someone else (leave in comments)