The Chicago Cubs kicked off their managerial search last week, sitting down with Joe Maddon’s bench coach Mark Loretta for a face-to-face interview.
The team’s search will likely be prompt, allowing the front office to focus on retooling a roster that won just 84 games this season. That being said, there are more than a handful of candidates who will sit down with Theo Epstein in the weeks to come. The first came last Thursday, when Epstein talked with a member of this year’s coaching staff, bench coach Mark Loretta.
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"“We have three or four areas where we need to improve,” Loretta told 670 The Score over the weekend. “We certainly had trouble in the bullpen early and late in the season. The defense, for sure, I think it could have been much better. On the offensive side, we struck out way too much.”"
Chicago struck out 1,460 times this season – and the team’s feast-or-famine offense stole the show far more often than Maddon or Epstein would have liked. Although Loretta played an integral role in Maddon’s coaching staff, he’s definitely a more traditional thinker when it comes to what he’d bring to the table – namely more discipline.
Last winter, Epstein announced Maddon would be more hands-on in 2019 – based on end-of-season feedback from players at the conclusion of 2018. But instead of things getting better, the Cubs got worse in almost every measurable manner – especially on defense and the base paths.
No matter who replaces Maddon, who led the club to four postseason appearances – including three-straight NLCS and a World Series title – it’ll be a stark change in the clubhouse. Most of this team’s young core have never played for anyone other than the quixotic three-time Manager of the Year.
"“I think coaching in this day and age is a lot like parenting. I think kids and millennials need a certain amount of structure. They need a schedule. They are so used to that. Driven around here, travel ball games, showcase events over here, all this stuff. They crave a schedule. There may be some initial pushback, but they like to have it. If you give them too much free time, that can go haywire.”"
Loretta definitely doesn’t represent the flashiest name on the list of candidates we know Epstein will be sitting down with. That list, of course, includes Ross, Girardi and Cubs first base coach Will Venable. It’s expected the search could expand at the conclusion of the postseason, as well.
But maybe a little less flash is exactly what this team needs. Loretta spent 15 years as a player in the bigs, spending time with the Brewers, Padres, Astros, Red Sox and Dodgers. At the conclusion of his playing days, he worked in the San Diego front office before joining the Cubs coaching staff.
"“We are not saying it should be a military-style. I don’t think that’s the way to go. I do believe that structure and accountability mixed with relationships, love and fun. We want to have fun in this game. Our trainer Tim Buss is just fantastic in team-building and getting guys together to work and have a good time. We are still professionals, and the bottom line is we have to execute. The team that executes the most usually comes out on top.”"
Execution is the name of the game – and, like Loretta pointed out, it was lacking this year. Time will tell if he’s the guy for the job. But I think this just became a three-horse race based on the comments we’re getting from the 48-year-old.