There were all kinds of reasons to love Joe Girardi as the next Cubs manager.
He had local ties, of course, but his seven years running the Yankees to three division titles and a World Series provided the gravitas.
The Cubs wanted him. They were willing to write a big check. Girardi chose to stay in New York for family and other reasons.
So, the Cubs lost out on their first and best choice to replace Dale Sveum. But this is why Theo Epstein gets paid to be smart. This is when he gets paid to be smart.
Epstein and his bunch have spent several years trying to identify star players. Making the best of bad Cubs teams, Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod have stocked the system with great potential. There’s no guarantee, of course, but the Cubs haven’t looked this promising for a long time.
Now Epstein must identify the next star manager. He won’t be a star now. The hope is that he will be by the time Epstein’s scouting and development machine churns out product.
Whoever Epstein presents at a news conference will be a tough sell. It’s a long way down from Girardi to Next. But it won’t matter if Epstein’s choice proves to be a young player whisperer. That sounds like the way Epstein would go after saying the next manager will need to love his players before administering tough love.
Epstein also talked of leadership qualities, if not actual managerial experience. It sounds as if we should prepare for someone to learn the managing part of managing while on the job.
The new manager’s ability to develop talent has to come first. Players win. The running of a game expertly likely will come second, if it comes at all.
It’s early, and I could be wrong, but it feels like the candidates we know about fill a profile of another bridge manager like Sveum before Epstein hires the guy he expects to win. I don’t know who the next Cubs manager will be, but he probably won’t be as good as the guy who follows him.