9:58 AM CDT, October 17, 2013
Cubs season-ticket renewals went out this week. Yeah, baby, seize on that Manny Acta mania.
Or is it Rick Renteria fever?
No, wait, it’s Dave Martinez delirium.
The good news for season-ticket holders is the Cubs will not raise prices next season. Same goes for expectations, looking at the known managerial choices.
Theo Epstein is working his way through his yawn list of candidates to replace Dale Sveum, Epstein’s first mistake as manager. Epstein probably shouldn’t be able to make a second mistake, but he probably will be given the chance anyway.
After writing that Joe Girardi’s decision to stay with the Yankees meant that Epstein already has lost his Next Manager Press Conference, I had several emailers suggest the Cubs trade for Rays manager Joe Maddon. Like, trade Starlin Castro for him right now, no questions asked, done deal.
I’m willing to throw in Jeff Samardzija, seeing as how nobody knows what he is. A No. 1 starter? A No. 4? Overpaid no matter what? The only thing we know is that Samardzija is 28 and will be over 30 -- probably well over 30 -- by the time the Cubs threaten to become any good.
You know what’s frustrating about this? It’s that the suddenly small-market Cubs didn’t hire the small-market genius, and I’m not talking about Billy Beane on Oakland. I’m talking the other coast. I’m talking Andrew Friedman, the Rays general manager. The Cubs reportedly knocked on that door and maybe even toilet-papered his yard to get his attention. But Tom Ricketts couldn’t pry him loose.
Bummer. Friedman was my first choice to replace Jim Hendry because of the miracles he worked with little money and a lot of player-evaluation and development smarts. Friedman looks like a bigger miss now that the Cubs are managing their baseball operations like a small-market team instead of a franchise that dominates the third-largest city.
Friedman didn’t just develop talent that went to the World Series and competes regularly with the rich kids in the AL East, but he also found the right manager in Maddon, arguably the best in baseball.
The Cubs couldn’t lure Friedman out of Tampa. They haven’t traded for Maddon. Maybe their only hope is a brush with greatness --- hiring Maddon’s bench coach with the hope that Martinez learned every lesson Maddon could teach.
If nothing else, Martinez’s presence would make the exchange of lineup cards before Phillies games a lot more interesting.
Epstein, of course, has two World Series rings while Friedman doesn’t have even one. Epstein of course, stocked and restocked the Red Sox with talent to win their last game in 2004 and 2007. Epstein, of course, did it with a ‘roided-up middle of the order, so now he has to find another kind of game-changer.
What’s Spanish for “game-changer?’’
Speaking fluent Spanish is believed to be a priority for the Cubs' next manager, given all the young Latinos coming through Epstein’s system.But here’s the thing: Sveum lost his job largely because he failed to communicate in English with Anthony Rizzo. Seems so Cub, doesn’t it?
Rizzo had a lousy 2013. So did a lot of other young Cubs, but Rizzo is supposed to be the keeper. He didn’t respond to Sveum’s tough love. He didn’t think he had to earn the right to bat third. His regression was a central reason Sveum is an ex-Cubs manager.
And that’s where it gets sticky for Epstein and Jed Hoyer.
If Rizzo’s lousy 2013 was a referendum on Sveum, then a lousy 2014 from Rizzo will be a referendum on Epstein and Hoyer. It will be a disaster for the credibility of their program. It will prompt calls for impeachment because it will continue a trail of major-league bad.
Hoyer has been with three organizations that made it a priority to acquire Rizzo. Epstein has been with two of those franchises. Rizzo has had more uniforms than good major league seasons. Just to clarify: not a good thing.
It’s possible that Rizzo has been overrated and overhyped. Hard to believe, I know, when talking about a Cubs prospect, but it’s possible Rizzo might never figure out how to be a No. 3 hitter, or any kind of major-league hitter, just like it’s possible that Epstein and Hoyer never get this done.
Suddenly, the remaining three years on Epstein’s contract seem less than necessary. Or maybe too long to wait.
What’s Spanish for “When is Friedman’s contract up?’’
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