Cubs

Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

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Manager questions are multiple-choice; Wedge out

Friday, Oct. 15, 2010
6:25 PM

By Patrick MooneyCSNChicago.com

Within a span of 31 days, the White Sox and Boston Red Sox introduced new managers. One had never done the job before, but was a name on the South Side. The other was an outsider in New England, and fired the last time he had a chance to run a major-league team.

This was late 2003 and less than 23 months later those two men won World Series titles for two franchises that combined had gone 174 years without a championship.

It would be impossible to clone Ozzie Guillen, and the White Sox organizational structure might not work elsewhere. And Terry Francona could have just as easily been remembered as the guy who managed Michael Jordan and the Double-A Birmingham Barons.

But you never know where the next great manager might be coming from or going. The White Sox once fired a young Tony La Russa. The New York Daily News went with a Clueless Joe back page when Joe Torre took over the Yankees. Before Bill Belichick became a football genius, he had to be fired by the Cleveland Browns.

The Cubs are carefully heading toward a decision on their manager for Year 103 since their last World Series championship. Mike Quade a baseball lifer who has managed only 37 games in the majors would represent a philosophical shift from Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella and whats been described as the celebrity manager.

I've hired two really good managers that did very, very well here the first couple years, general manager Jim Hendry said at the beginning of the search process. And then for a lot of the reasons not blaming them things don't always go (up). It looks like it's going that way and then we got derailed a couple times.

Hiring Ryne Sandberg could help sell tickets and energize the fan base the same way Guillen did and if you needed a reminder of that the Cubs sent out invoices on Friday to their season-ticket holders.

There are five pricing tiers for 13 different sections at Wrigley Field and it all depends on the date andor opponent. Youll find a range that runs from 8 to 112 per ticket, plus a 12 percent amusement tax, and the overall average price will essentially remain flat in 2011.

Then again, Francona wasnt a huge name in Boston and this summer the Red Sox reached their 600th consecutive sellout at Fenway Park. Like Francona who was dismissed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2000 maybe Bob Melvin and Eric Wedge only need another opportunity.

Wedge, who met with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts earlier this week, will be the next manager of the Seattle Mariners according to an SI.com report late Friday afternoon. The former Cleveland Indians manager was linked to several openings. He wont be coming to Wrigleyville.

Look at the four managers still analyzing matchups and not hunting or fishing or golfing and youll see that part of this postseason is about second chances. Or that they dont have much in common except for the fact that their teams are in the league championship series that begin this weekend.

The Indians fired Charlie Manuel during the middle of his third season in Cleveland. Manuel, a former hitting coach, has won at least 85 games in each of his six years with the Phillies and is chasing his third consecutive National League pennant. Manuel, 66, has West Virginia roots and was shaped by the years he spent playing in Japan, yet wound up helping give the city of Philadelphia its first professional championship since 1983.

Fifty-five-year-old Bruce Bochy was born into a military family in France, where his father was stationed, and eventually developed into a major-league catcher. Those skills inform the way Bochy handles a pitching staff thats one of the best in the game. He lasted 12 seasons with the small-market San Diego Padres, and it took until his fourth year in San Francisco before the Giants made the playoffs.

Ron Washington, 58, had no experience managing in the majors until he took over the Texas Rangers in 2007. In spring training he survived what looked like a devastating report he tested positive for cocaine last year. Before Fridays Game 1, he was reflecting on that failed drug test and his relationship with general manager Jon Daniels.

He didn't judge me (and) I could never say enough about that support, Washington said Thursday in Texas. When youre a manager, a lot of times you get hired to get fired. And whenever that time comes and I hope it's a long time in the future I hope that I can always have him as a friend.

In this business, thats the probability facing the next Cubs manager hired to be fired.

Joe Girardi, who turned 46 on Thursday, could be the perfect fit. Born in Peoria and educated at Northwestern University, the ex-Cubs catcher might want to come home with his family or stay in New York and perhaps build another Yankees dynasty. Fired by the Florida Marlins in 2006, he might appreciate the stable organization he already knows.

Hendry has said that the only instructions Ricketts gave him were this: Get the best man for the Cubs. Get the best man for the future. For that role, there is no central casting. And we might not know who that person truly is for at least three more years.

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy: 'Scary part' of COVID-19 is how fast deadly virus spreads

Cubs' Tommy Hottovy: 'Scary part' of COVID-19 is how fast deadly virus spreads

Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy is home in Kansas City for a couple rare days during the baseball season. His mom wants to meet him for lunch, and his sister, a grade-school teacher in town, just had a baby that he hasn’t had a chance to see yet.

“How much would I love to go get to see her and my new nephew?” Hottovy said. “Can’t do it. Just can’t.”

Not this time. Not with what’s at stake. Not when possible threats to health and professional purpose lurk in every unfamiliar hallway, byway and unmasked face while the Cubs navigate their first multi-city road trip of the season.

Don’t believe the risk of spread and large-scale COVID-19 team outbreaks are that sensitive, extreme and potentially swift? Just ask the Marlins and Cardinals, whose outbreaks in the first week of play put their seasons on hold and threatened the status of the league’s season.

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“I’m not leaving the hotel. I told my family and friends and everybody [in Kansas City],” Hottovy said. “We all signed up for this, to make sure that for this to work we all have to make those kinds of sacrifices. I love my family to death and would love to get to see them, but right now this is our home.”

The Cubs second trip, which started with a 6-1 victory Wednesday in Kansas City and continues to St. Louis before finishing in Cleveland next week, coincides with stepped-up COVID-19 protocols from Major League Baseball following the Marlins and Cardinals outbreaks.

The Cubs already had protocols in place that exceeded MLB’s original mandates and that are in compliance with the new mandates. And a month into the league’s restart they remained the only team without a player having tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: Cubs better prepared than MLB to finish COVID-19 season — which is the problem

In fact, Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant decided on his own to start wearing a protective mask on the bases when the Cubs played last week in Cincinnati, where three Reds players were sidelined either by positive tests or self-reported symptoms as that series opened. And first baseman Anthony Rizzo told ESPN 1000 on Tuesday that he plans to keep a mask in his pocket while in the field in St. Louis and will consider wearing it when somebody reaches base.

“No matter what measures you put in place, when you’re trying to pull off a season that requires travel in the middle of a global pandemic, it ultimately does come down to personal responsibility,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said. “And everyone is at the mercy of the least responsible person because of the nature of the spread of this disease.”

Nobody knows that more than Hottovy and many of the Cubs who watched their pitching coach deteriorate in real time during daily Zoom sessions in May and June until the worst symptoms of his frightening monthlong bout with the virus forced him to hand off his job duties.

Whether Hottovy’s experience led directly to the Cubs’ more extreme safety policies or the individual players’ apparent hyper diligence, MLB’s recent coronavirus outbreaks and other cases at least raise questions about whether some teams and players — or even the league — respect the potential severity of a virus that has killed more than 158,000 Americans in five months.

“I don’t think people underestimate that aspect of it; I think they underestimated how easy it was to spread,” Hottovy said of the outbreaks — including a Cardinals outbreak that reportedly was traced to one asymptomatic, outside individual familiar with the team.

Hottovy called the highly contagious nature of the virus “the scary part of this,” both in terms of the potential to quickly render an organization unable to field a team as well as the subsequent, inherent risk that poses to family members and others who might, in turn, be among those who then become severely impacted by the virus.

And the hardest part, he said, is not letting down your guard within the team bubble when it’s easy to trust that when it’s only teammates in the room that it’s OK to disregard masks, distancing and other safety measures.

“That’s when it gets dangerous,” said Hottovy, whose team talks often about assuming everyone — including each other — has the virus.

So just like in Cincinnati, neither he nor anyone else in the Cubs’ traveling party plans to go anywhere but to and from hotels and ballparks during their trip.

“Listen, you don’t have to search too far for a reason to take it serious,” Cubs second baseman Jason Kipnis said.

“I have three of my close friends who got it, that are over it. But the symptoms are as real as it gets from the sounds of it. And I think you have guys who are risking stuff coming and playing this season, whether it’s Craig [Kimbrel] and his daughter [heart condition] or Anthony [Rizzo] and Jon [Lester] with their [cancer] history.

“You’re paying respect to them and doing your teammate justice by not being the one to kind of go out,” Kipnis added. “It’s one of those years where, hey, you’ve got to buckle down and stay the course. I think everybody’s going through it, so you don’t want to be the one that kind of screws this one up.

The Cubs’ 10-2 start to a 60-game season seems to further incentivize that discipline — some players in recent days even suggesting the discipline in following the protocols has carried into the professionalism on the field.

It’s impossible to know if any of it will be enough for the Cubs to keep their moving bubble secure, much less whether the two outbreaks that MLB seems to have withstood will provide the significant enough wakeup call that MLB and team officials have suggested.

“The vast, vast majority of everyone involved in this enterprise, the players and staff, are doing a solid job so far in making a lot of sacrifices,” Epstein said. “And we just have to get everybody on board. And hopefully these two outbreaks are enough to get everyone to the point where we have essentially perfect execution going forward, because that’s largely what it will take.”

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Cubs' David Ross defends Javier Báez, doesn't 'nitpick' baserunning lapse

Cubs' David Ross defends Javier Báez, doesn't 'nitpick' baserunning lapse

Cubs shortstop Javier Báez recognizes he should have run out of the batter’s box.

“It was my mistake,” Báez said after Wednesday’s 6-1 Cubs win over the Royals. “I thought that ball was foul.”

With two on and no out in the fourth inning Wednesday, Báez hit a towering pop fly down the right field foul line. He hesitated in the batter’s box for a few moments, leaving shortly before the ball dropped in fair just inside the line.

“I kind of lost it, but the wind started bringing it back,” Báez said. “Even [Royals catcher Salvador Pérez] was kind of surprised and he was like, ‘I think it’s gonna be fair,’ so I started running.”

Báez wound up with an RBI single, scoring Kris Bryant from second and moving Anthony Rizzo to third with no outs. He likely could have wound up at second base with a double, setting up the Cubs with two runners in scoring position and no outs. 

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The inning ended shortly after, as Willson Contreras grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, scoring Rizzo to take a 2-1 lead, and David Bote struck out two batters later. In the end, the moment didn’t hurt the Cubs, who never trailed after taking that fourth inning lead.

After the game, Cubs manager David Ross defended Báez and said he didn’t talk to him about running that ball out.

“I think that’s a really close play,” Ross said. “If I want to be the type of manager that nitpicks every little thing... These guys go out and play their butt off every single night for me and for this group. 

“If I feel like they’re dogging it, we’ll have a conversation. I feel like that’s a play that he may have assumed was foul. I think Javy’s one of the most exciting players and he plays hard every time I see him out there on the field. 

“So, I don’t have a problem with a guy that brings it every single day.”

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