Oct 16, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; New York Yankees bench coachTony Pena
is interviewed before game three of the 2012 ALCS against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Cubs were looking at the wrong man in the New York Yankees organization to be their new manager.
Yankees bench coach Tony Peña is the perfect man for the Cubs job.
Peña, 56, exceeds all of the criteria Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein laid out for the type of candidate upper management is looking for.
1) Managerial or other on-field leadership
2) Expertise developing young talent
The Dominican Republic native, Peña led the New Orleans Zephyrs (then-Houston Astros Triple-A affiliate) to a first place finish in the East Division of the Pacific Coast League after three seasons.
He also took the Águilas Cibaeñas of the Dominican Winter Baseball League to two domestic championships in 1998 and 2000, and the 2001 Caribbean Series title.
In May of 2002, he replaced Tony Muser as the Kansas City Royals manager. He led them to their only winning season between 1994 and 2013, with an 83-79 record in 2003 and received the 2003 American League Manager of the Year Award too.
During the 2003 season, the baseball world saw a young Puerto Rican outfielder named Carlos Beltrán shine under Peña. Beltrán finished ninth in AL MVP voting and was traded midway through the next season in a three-way deal with the Astros and Oakland Athletics. The Royals received Mark Teahen, John Buck, and Mike Wood while Beltrán carried Houston to an National League pennant in 2005.
After going 8-25 to start the 2005 season, Peña expressed his displeasure with the Royals front office and then-Royals General Manager Allard Baird and resigned.
In November of 2005, he was named the first base coach for the Yankees and was interviewed to fill the Yankees manager job after Joe Torre retired in 2007. After the 2008 season he shifted to his current role as bench coach.
Still need more reasons to like Peña?
1) He was a catcher
2) Fluent Spanish speaker
3) He has a mustache (there is a point to this)
Since the 1994 lockout nearly every team that has won the World Series has had a dynamic catcher leading their team. The exceptions being the 1997 Florida Marlins, 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks, and 2005 Chicago White Sox. With Peña’s experience developing talent and the Cubs looking for a new signal caller in Brian MCann or Jarrod Saltalamacchia, one can only dream of the potential.
Former Cubs skipper Lou Piniella did speak Spanish but the difference with Peña is he is a native speaker. This means Peña will be able to communicate and relate to international players from Spanish speaking nations on a more personal level.
All of the four major sports teams in Chicago have won a title since 1985 and all of their coaches have had something in common – a mustache or solid facial hair. Mike Ditka (1985 Bears), Phil Jackson (’91 to ’93 and ’96 to ’98 Bulls), and Joel Queeneville (2010 and 2013 Blackhawks) all had mustaches with Ozzie Guillen (2005 White Sox) sporting a goatee. This could be a mere coincidence or maybe an element needed for next Cubs manager.