The Chicago Cubs continue to work through their list of candidates to replace Joe Maddon as manager – but we may not have an answer for weeks yet.
With the postseason field down to the final four clubs: the Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals and New York Yankees, it might be easy for fans to put the Chicago Cubs and their ongoing managerial search on the back burner.
But as those four teams chase a title, the Cubs are all systems go in terms of finding a new manager after Maddon led the club for the last half-decade, overseeing arguably the most successful run in franchise history.
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President of baseball operations Theo Epstein has made one thing very clear, though. The Cubs – from players and coaches to the front office – are looking ahead, not at the past, despite being just three years removed from a World Series championship.
There has been plenty of talk over the last two years concerning a reported lack of urgency among players. Part of that could well be Maddon’s consistently calm, never panicking persona. But with just two years left in the current contention window – it’s now or never for Epstein’s ball club.
"“We want to have a culture where when a player steps in here midseason, he’s not providing energy, there’s already energy” Epstein told The Athletic (subscription required) recently. “When a player steps in here midseason, he’s uplifted by the culture. He looks around and says, ‘Wow, every single one of these players is getting the absolute most out of his ability. He’s putting in incredible hours and making sacrifices and making great decisions to be the best version of himself as a player. Now that’s what I’m expected to do as a Cub.’ That just uplifts everybody and we’re going to continue to strive to get there.”"
This season, it sure felt like Nicholas Castellanos brought the energy to a sometimes lifeless clubhouse. Imagine what his presence could have meant with a team that played like they had legitimate title aspirations. That’s something we haven’t seen or felt at Wrigley Field in some time.
Chicago has its hands full in replacing Maddon. They’ve already sat down with former Yankees and Marlins skipper Joe Girardi, fan favorite and two-time World Series champion David Ross, first base coach Will Venable and bench coach Mark Loretta.
All bring varying experiences and personalities to the table. Girardi, of course, led the Yankees to a title back in 2009 and had what most consider to be a successful run in the Bronx. Loretta and Venable are what I’d call courtesy candidates – they’re fine and all, but they’re not what I believe the Cubs are looking for.
"“(…) I don’t think there’s going to be much thought about having to [follow in] Joe’s footsteps,” Epstein told MLB.com. “Except, I think the right manager will ask a lot of questions about what Joe did to make him so successful, and what’s not broken that doesn’t need fixing, and then what areas there are where he can make his own mark and where we can move the ball forward.”"
Whether or not Epstein is putting much thought in the idea of following in Maddon’s footsteps, you can be it’ll be a storyline in the media come next spring when the team reports to Mesa for camp.