Chicago Cubs: Would Rick Renteria have done this well?
When the Chicago Cubs found out that Joe Maddon was available to lead their young team to the heights that their vision had, they made no hesitation to act on their good judgment and make an offer to the overly popular manager despite having Rick Renteria under contract.
Granted Renteria’s Cubs finished with a last place record in the NL Central with a 73-89 mark, but they did show a lot of promise near the end of the year with the few call-ups they had and the success of pitchers like Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, and Hector Rondon out of the bullpen.
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So there was a glimmer of light of what this young Cubs team could become under the tutelage of Renteria, but he was never given that chance.
So let’s play a game of “what if” — what if the Chicago Cubs decided against going after Joe Maddon and stayed with Renteria? Would they be in the playoffs?
You cannot deny the track record that Maddon has had in his career leading ball clubs. With the Tampa Bay Rays, Maddon compiled a record of 754-705 (.517), and he was 27-24 (.529) in 51 games with the Anaheim Angels.
In 2008, Maddon led the Rays to the American League Pennant, only to come up short against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series.
But it is more than just the experience and proven success that Maddon brings to his teams that made him appealing to the Chicago Cubs’ front office.
Being a true student of the game and embracing the way the game is scouted and viewed now with sabermetrics, utilizing the defensive shift, using the hit-and-run, and other aspects of the game that is often overlooked by the casual fan.
Maddon also can make a tough stretch into a more relaxed environment; which for a young team is incredibly valuable. Keeping things light and loose in the clubhouse and not letting the team get too up or down on themselves keeps everyone grounded and level-headed.
Even with great highs, a young team can start to buy into their own press and hype – Maddon doesn’t allow that to happen. He gives his team a set amount of time after every game, win or lose, to react and think about what happened.
Would Renteria be able to practice the same plan? Maybe, he was a “player’s manager” and could take and relate to the young guys on the team.
But he lacked the same kind of charisma that Maddon has. That’s not a knock on him, not everyone has that kind of character, it’s a gift that few are given.
Now to be fair, Maddon was given a much better team in Chicago than Renteria was handed, and to Renteria’s credit, he did a lot more than expected by most with what he was given.
Key additions for this year’s Cubs team include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Jon Lester, Dexter Fowler, Kyle Schwarber, and Miguel Montero. Not to mention full seasons with Jorge Soler and Jason Hammel.
But one could say that Renteria did have Jeff Samardzija for the first half of the season and he was excellent for the Cubs, so you could cancel out most of Lester’s season.
The other two differences are Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. Castro under Renteria had another All-Star season, batting .292 with 14 homers, 65 runs batted in, and 155 hits before getting hurt and ending his season prematurely.
Rizzo, on the other hand, did have a very good season last year, but not the MVP candidate season that he’s produced this year. He hit .286 with 28 homers and 78 driven in while being named to his first All-Star game.
Looking after the differences with each team and each manager’s makeup, I think one can say that Renteria would have had some success with the Cubs.
He probably would have had them contending for a Wild Card spot in the National League, but to say that he would have had them already clinching a spot for the playoffs with two weeks left to the season might be a stretch.
The reason Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer went hard after Maddon was no secret, Maddon has something special that he brings to each team he manages and he’s showing that again this year with this young and exciting Cubs team. The future is very bright with the Cubs with Joe Maddon leading the way.