Joe Maddon’s seat has been getting warmer since late last season, with just about everyone around the game assuming that he won’t be brought back when his contract expires. The necessary flip-side of that potential parting of ways is that the Cubs will need to find a new manager, something they’ve reportedly be planning for since at least the start of the 2018 season. They had even reached out to Aaron Boone about a coaching position prior to his selection as the Yankees manager.
Among the shifting group of names that have been mentioned in connection with the Cubs gig, the two most frequent and prominent are David Ross and Joe Girardi. There are others out there of course, but we’re sticking with those two for the purposes of this piece because they were both mentioned recently by The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal ($).
In a piece focused on which teams may be seeking new managers for next season, he led with the Cubs and their precarious playoff position. Citing Theo Epstein’s recent comments, which seemed pretty damning based on what we’ve seen from the Cubs this season, Rosenthal wrote that failure to advance in the postseason could well spur the front office to seek a new voice.
The court of public opinion is pretty sharply divided on Girardi, who’d fall more into the old-school basket and was himself the victim of an underperforming team and a chilly relationship with the front office in New York. Given what we know about the Cubs’ love of analytics and their focus on relationships, not to mention a league-wide trend toward younger (and cheaper) managers, Girardi seems an incongruous fit.
Rosenthal thinks so too.
A homecoming for Joe Girardi? There would be a better chance of the Cubs hiring David Ross – another former catcher, though one with no coaching or managing experience – to be their Aaron Boone.
The idea of Ross taking over for Maddon isn’t new by any stretch, and not just among fans who can’t hear his name without thinking about him being carried off the field on the shoulders of his victorious teammates. Many executives around the league have held the opinion that the Cubs job would be Ross’s once it came open. The front office has fanned those flames by openly discussed a desire to have Ross more involved with the team and lamenting the leadership void his retirement created.
It all makes sense, right? Maybe too much sense, even though Occam’s razor would tell us that’s the way things should go. But does Grandpa Rossy really want to get out of the cushy confines of the broadcast booth in order to put a uniform back on? After all, the pressure of managing in Chicago is a helluva lot more daunting than sliding down a hill on a slab of cardboard at the Little League World Series.
So let’s say Ross doesn’t want the job and the Cubs don’t want Girardi. Surely there are other former Cubs catchers we could name. Scott Servais has experience and the Mariners might be looking for a new direction. Damon Berryhill is currently managing the Gwinnett Stripers, the Braves’ Triple-A affiliate. Jody Davis was just at Lee Smith Day, so he’s available.
Seriously, though, there are a few other legitimate candidates out there. I’m a big fan of Mike Borzello, who’s been on Maddon’s staff as more of a behind-the-scenes guy and who’s worked for the Yankees and Dodgers as well. Not sure he’s the kind of guy who wants to be in front of the camera, but he’s been integral from an instructional and strategic standpoint.
Then there’s Will Venable, who was brought on as a front office advisor and since moved to first base coach. A two-sport star at Princeton before a solid MLB career, Venable has the Ivy League pedigree and ballplayer street cred to appease both the brass and the clubhouse.
Our Michael Canter has an avowed affinity for Brant “Oh No!” Brown, the former Cubs outfielder who’s now serving as a hitting strategist for the Dodgers. Brown spent several years coaching in the minors following his retirement as a player, then joined the Dodgers prior the 2018 season. Relatively young by managerial standards (he turned 48 in June), Brown has an instructional background and familiarity with the Cubs organization.
But now I fear I’ve already gone further down this rabbit trail than I intended, so I’ll leave you to churn through these and other names below. I’ll close by saying I hope Rosenthal is right about Girardi not being the top choice, as I don’t believe he’s a good fit for what the Cubs need. We may find out before long how this all plays out, because anything short of a World Series probably means a change.