We already know that David Ross will be the next Cubs manager, but that’s only the first step in the process of revamping the team’s clubhouse culture. As much as direct experience can be overrated when it comes to a manager’s effectiveness, there is something to be said for being able to make quick decisions based on accumulated knowledge. Then there’s the matter of accountability, something managers often task their bench coaches with establishing.
Even though he was hired at least in part because of his reputation as a player with an “average pickle and huge potatoes,” Ross isn’t going to be the Cubs’ sole disciplinarian moving forward. Nor is he going to make every in-game decision in a vacuum. He’s going to need someone to not only help him ingest and parse data, but to take some of the mundane duties off of his plate in order to allow him to really flourish in this new role.
That means naming a bench coach who complements Ross’s style, someone who’s neither the complete opposite nor a clone. So who’s the best man for the job? That’s for Ross and the Cubs to decide, but I’ve got some bold choices for the role.
Oh, and after our body language piece got a few pairs of knickers unnecessarily twisted, I feel obligated to mention that not all of these are serious.
This one is really only bold because it’s so obvious. Loretta was more or less hand-picked by the front office and he’s familiar with the players and staff already, so there’s no real transition. At the same time, he came out and kind of threw the team’s culture under the bus following his own managerial interview. While his assessment wasn’t wrong, it doesn’t reflect well on him that things were so loose under his watch.
Perhaps Joe Maddon didn’t allow him to really take the reins in his role, or maybe Loretta wasn’t comfortable getting in guys’ faces as a first-year coach. If the Cubs are confident he’d be able to put his words into action in 2020, Loretta could stick around. If not, well…
The bigger issue is that whole matter of experience, or lack thereof. A manager coming in fresh out of the broadcast booth might be better served with a bench coach who’s been around the block a few times. With just one year under his belt, Loretta really isn’t that guy.
This one is bold because Riggs is both a former Cubs skipper and a feisty bugger. But he’s got plenty of experience as both a manager and a bench coach, plus he’s got recent knowledge of the NL Central from his time with the Reds from 2015-18. He’s not in the running for any managerial gigs and may not even want another one at 66 years old.
Would he want to be a Don Zimmer type, an old codger who sticks around and shares pearls of wisdom while occasionally picking fights with opposing pitchers? Riggleman still has Popeye’s forearms and can hit a mean fungo, so he’s far from the worst option.
Ew, White Sox. This one might be weird for fans on both sides of town, but Ross and Ventura have formed a mutual admiration society since their time as Dodgers teammates in 2003-04. One was a young backup catcher while the other was playing out the end of a storied career, essentially setting the tone for what Ross would be with the Cubs more than a decade later.
“He was the first to show me what it’s like to be a good teammate,” Ross said of Ventura back in 2016. “No matter your status in the game, you treat everyone the same, be humble and support your teammates.”
Setting aside the potential weirdness of putting on a Cubs uniform, Ventura has managerial experience and actually knows exactly what Ross will be going through. After all, he too was a former player with little to no coaching experience who followed a beloved World Series-winning manager. Is that too much similarity, though?
Okay, now we’re really getting bold. The former Braves manager is 78 years old and his right arm is confined to a sling after a stroke earlier this year resulted in partial paralysis. So, uh, yeah…that probably removes him from serious contention.
If he was a bit more spry, this would be a way to immediately offset any lack of experience from Ross and the rest of his staff. Then again, Cox would have to be willing to put up with the Chicago weather and there’s just no way this would happen from pretty much any perspective.
You want someone to not only keep guys in line, but put the utter fear of God into them while he’s doing it? Lackey would give new meaning to the idea of chewing guys out for stepping out of line. The former pitcher was around the team quite a bit this past season, joining them on the road and at home, and was helping to motivate them down the stretch. Even if it didn’t exactly work, dude knows what it’s like to play on winning teams and he’s got existing relationships with the players there.
The biggest issue with Lackey is that he’s probably more of the buddy-buddy type of guy that people mistakenly believe Ross will be. And he seems to be enjoying his retirement of vacations and golf a little too much to throw the uniform back on for a full season.
All things being equal, I like Riggleman out of this particular group. He’s sort of the old-school hardass who’d bring a different dimension to the mix and would allow Ross to be more of a manager of personalities. Not that Ross should be solely the “good cop,” since that would go against part of the reason the Cubs hired him in the first place.
It’s really more about having a no-nonsense guy who’s been there and done that with multiple teams in several different situations. And Riggleman was managing in the minors with the Reds not long ago, so he’s more than familiar with the various levels of hands-on instruction and communication required to reach younger players as well as veterans.
In the end, the choice is almost certain to be someone not mentioned here. For the sake of Ross and the rest of the team, it would be great to be able to retain guys like Mike Borzello and Lester Strode in their respective roles. Tommy Hottovy did an excellent job with the young relievers, not to mention facilitating rebounds for Tyler Chatwood and Yu Darvish. Anthony Iapoce is an interesting case, though he may be safe because four hitting coaches in as many seasons is…woof.
So who ya got, folks? Give me your pick for bench coach.