The interview stage of the Chicago Cubs’ managerial stage will begin on Friday. Philadelphia Phillies‘ bench coach Pete Mackanin will be in Chicago today to talk to the Cubs’ brain trust–President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manger Jed Hoyer, and Vice President of scouting and player development Jason McLeod–about the Cubs’ managerial vacancy. Texas Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux will follow Mackanin, in an interview that is likely to take place during the weekend.
But despite the fact that the Cubs’ managerial search is not even a week old, there have been a number of candidates to be linked to the position. Mackanin, Maddux, and Milwaukee Brewers’ hitting coach Dale Sveum to name a few. Under the regime lead by former General Manager Jim Hendry, the managerial interviews would usually take place over dinner, and Hendry and the prospective managerial candidate would talk about baseball in general and why said candidate may be a fit for the Cubs. Once Hendry picked the candidate, he would then seek the approval of the Ricketts family, who in turn, would also have a sit-down with the respective candidate.
Under Epstein, the Cubs managerial search will be different and much more extensive. While addressing the media on Thursday, Epstein mentioned that among the questions that will be asked are specific game situations. For example, if the starting pitcher has thrown x amount of pitches would the manager call for a pinch hitter or let the starter continue if he is pitching well? Also included will be what relief pitcher to bring in, as well as when to make a defensive change. To compare, it is similar to the personality tests that most companies offer to potential employees. It is a way for Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod to learn how the prospective manager would operate during specific game scenarios. That type of questioning is what lead Epstein to hiring Terry Francona after the 2003 season, and current Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon finishing as the runner-up.
That may be the biggest area the Cubs’ manager could improve on based from last season. Former manager Mike Quade never really seemed to fully grasp how important it is to make the right decision when specific situations would occur during games. Whether it was pulling starting pitcher Ryan Dempster too early from games, or leaving a relief pitcher in the game for too long, Quade had little success in making the right decisions during games.
I will say that this managerial search has much different feeling to it than the managerial search that the Cubs conducted last season. Whether it is because of the “new car feeling” that Cubs’ fans have for Epstein, Hoyer, and McLeod or the idea that no matter who the Cubs’ front office picks as the Cubs’ manager it will be a good fit, with the new brain-trust leading the managerial search the Cubs’ are in a good position. As opposed to last season, when the Cubs’ front office may have passed over candidates that were more qualified and more prepared to take the position than Quade.
As for possible front-runners, it still may be too early to tell. Terry Francona is a candidate, though, the Cubs’ may not turn to him right away. Instead Rangers’ pitching coach Mike Maddux might be leading the race, considering he brings with him a great knowledge of pitching and the Cubs’ plan to focus on the pitching staff this winter. Dale Sveum could also be among the top candidates, who–with the exception of Ryne Sandberg–was the first candidate to be linked to the Cubs’ position. The Cubs will likely decide on their next manager before the Thanksgiving holiday.