The Angels announced, to nobody’s real surprise, that they were hiring Joe Maddon for three years to be their manager. It really doesn’t seem like Joe spoke to any other teams (surprising, since the Padres certainly look like they’re the closest thing to the Cubs team he took over), and the Angels had Buck Schowalter as their Plan B. Which is to say, Maddon was Plans A-Z.
Now that we can finally put a bow on the most successful five years in Cubs history, what’s next?
It appears that they’ve now interviewed everyone from the good (Joe Espada, Will Venable, David Ross) to the bad (Joe Girardi) to the ugly (Gabe Kapler). Which also means that it’s basically down to them deciding who they want, talking turkey, and running across the street to Sports World to get a jersey made for the press conference.
While the Red Sox announced hiring Alex Cora while he was Astros’ bench coach, the Cubs might wait until the Strohs are done playing before announcing, if he’s their guy.
But one can’t help but think it’s Ross, and only Ross. The Cubs have not-so-quietly courted him for some on-field role (mainly as a bench coach) since he was carried off the field following the 2016 World Series. The fact that he actually showed up for an interview might be enough to indicate he has enough interest in the job for the Cubs to offer it.
Of course, the one thing everyone uses as an argument against hiring Ross (and I admit to having at least a modicum of reservation on this particular score) is he’s still “Grandpa Rossy” to a lot of the guys in that clubhouse. I don’t think anybody who manages the Cubs will ever have to air out guys like Jon Lester, Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant or Jason Heyward – Ross’ best friends from his time playing for the Cubs. The other guys left from the 2016 team are all veterans now, so I don’t see Ross having to get on anybody’s ass. Besides, the triumvirate of Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod have done what they can to make sure the Cubs have a roster of guys who don’t need to be micromanaged. I’m not sure this particular concern is warranted.
However, the fact that the Cubs let the best manager in Cubs history (Maddon, in case you needed reminding) walk means they clearly want a culture change. And the question remains whether Ross would bring that change after being part of the Maddon Cubs for two highly successful years. This same argument could be made against making Venable the manager, although there’s not a lot of doubt that he’d be a damn fine one. In fact, I’m sure a large part of the interview process centered around this, and if anybody who is currently with the Cubs (don’t forget Mark Loretta) gets the gig, it’s because they aren’t going to go the full Maddon route.
Espada brings the best of everything – winning culture (Astros), none of the familiarity with the potential for breeding contempt, and no doubt that he’d be an excellent big league manager. If the Cubs really want the breath of fresh air, this is the guy to go with. Full disclosure, even though he’s the last guy I mention, he’s the first guy I want. Of course, only because Raúl Ibañez decided he didn’t want to manage yet.
So if you want to read tea leaves between now and the actual announcement, here’s a tip. If they don’t announce while Houston’s still playing, that means it’s Espada. They’ve talked to everyone, they’re making their decision now. If it’s Ross/Venable/Girardi (Kapler would be a disaster), they can pretty much announce at any time.