The managerial search being conducted by President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein, General Manager Jed Hoyer, and Vice President of scouting and player development Jason McLeod is much different than any search that former General Manager Jim Hendry conducted. From interrogating the prospective managers on game-type situations, to having the candidates go through a simulated press conference with the media. The Cubs’ brass want to examine how the candidate conducts himself in every aspect of being a major league manager.
Philadelphia Phillies‘ bench coach Pete Mackanin was the first candidate to interview, and according to his account, the heads of the Cubs’ baseball department put him through the grinder.
Mackanin, a Chicago native, told reporters that “it would be a thrill to take this Cubs’ team to the top and be a part of it.” Mackanin’s has spent the past 30 years working with organizations in different capacities. During those 30 years, Mackanin has spent time as a scout, minor league manager, and has been a part of numerous major league coaching staffs. Though, Mackanin has yet to have the label as full-time major league manager. In 2005, Mackanin spent time as the interim manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Similarly, Mackanin was the interim manager of the Cincinnatti Reds towards the end of the 2007 season.
There is no question that Mackanin has the experience that Epstein and company are looking for in the next manager of the Cubs. However, that same experience may come with a fault. While Mackanin suggested that he was a “young 60″, 60 years old is still 60 years old no matter how you look at it. When you consider the fact that Epstein’s and Hoyer’s combined age is 74, the front-office tandem may prefer a younger manager. The idea is that whoever the next manager is, he is someone that can fill the position for the next 5 to 8 seasons. While it is more than possible that Mackanin can meet the long-term requirements of the position, there still is some risk involved in hiring a manager for the long-term who is already 60 years old.
Despite the fact that Mackanin is 60 years old and comes from the “old school” of baseball, the managerial candidate is embracing the modern nuances of the game. Here is what Mackanin offered when he was discussing the different “tools” available to managers in evaluating players as well as game situations.
‘‘Any tool you can use to succeed, you better use it,’’ he said. ‘‘Video. Statistics. Let’s face it — statistics mean something. It’s not just a number. If a guy’s a .300 hitter, if he’s a .250 hitter, that’s what he is. That gives you an overall general look at what kind of hitter he is, and then you can delve deeper into leveraged indexes and ways of looking how he’s been used and his replacement value and things like that.
‘‘A lot of the decisions you make during a game are tough. There’s a lot of gray areas. Do you bunt? Do you hit and run? Do you take him out? Do you leave him in? The bottom line is the more tools you have to make that decision, they might lead you to a decision you wouldn’t make if you didn’t have those tools. Chicago Sun Times
That concept would seem to blend well with the philosophy of Epstein and Hoyer. The knock on the Cubs’ baseball department over recent seasons have been that the team has been stuck in the stone ages. The front office lacked a true scouting department, with the exception of Tim Wilken and Oneri Fleita, and that in turn lead to the Cubs’ scouting reports being less than adequate. The importance of scouting reports, and the “tools” that Mackanin speaks of can not be overstated. Because that would then make the decisions that a manager has to make during the game that much easier. Something former manager Mike Quade could have benefited from last season.
While Mackanin was the first candidate to interview for the Cubs position, I do not think he will be the candidate to land in the Cubs’ manager’s seat. The two front runners for the position are Milwaukee Brewers‘ hitting coach Dale Sveum, and Texas Rangers‘ pitching coach Mike Maddux. Sveum will interview for the position on Monday, and Maddux will interview with Epstein and Hoyer a few days after that.