Joe Girardi and the Search for the Next Cubs Manager

The Cubs know what they are looking for in a manager. The front office is looking for their new manager to be dynamic and creative with tremendous energy as well as a track record of developing Major League talent and while one with a Cubs’ background would help, it is not necessarily a priority.

Did Theo Epstein have anyone in mind on Monday when he detailed what the front office is looking for to lead the big league team next year and beyond?

The Cubs are expected to ask the Yankees for permission to interview Joe Girardi. Multiple reports on Monday indicated that Joe Girardi is the Cubs’ target and according to David Kaplan, Girardi is “far and away the number one choice.” Kaplan reported during his show (720 WGN) on Monday night that the front office will give Joe Girardi what he wants in order to hire him to manage the team. The Cubs are not looking to be cheap and realize they will have to recruit him in order for Girardi to leave the Yankees.

Joe Girardi is under contract until October 31 and the Cubs cannot officially talk with him about the job until then without receiving permission from the Yankees. Multiple reports have suggested that Girardi is interested in talking to the Cubs about their managerial opening, but the New York media does not think Girardi will leave what he once called his “dream job.”

The Cubs search for a new manager will officially begin on Tuesday. Epstein said that is when the team will start asking for permission to speak with potential candidates. If there is a coach or a manager currently in playoffs that the Cubs are interested in, Epstein said they would wait until his team is eliminated before contacting him about the job.

The Cubs goal is to hire a new manager before the General Managers Meetings, which begin on November 11 and run through November 13, if not before then.

Searching for a New Skipper

Theo Epstein’s message throughout his press conference was the fact the front office did not feel the young players on the Cubs’ roster were not being developed properly at the big league level. Epstein refused to name names when he was asked which players were not being handled properly.

Epstein said, “It’s tricky to develop young players at the Major League level. There has to be a clear, unified message.” Epstein feels that collectively the Cubs failed to provide a clear, unified message to the players.

Epstein pointed out on Monday that the Cubs “will prioritize the person’s track record and managerial experience and in lieu of the latter, consider his leadership skills.” But having a big name manager won’t be key in the search process.

From, “There’s no pressure whatsoever to hire a big-name manager. We want to hire the right manager. We’re at a critical point in our building process, where our very best prospects are soon going to be young big league players, and it’s absolutely imperative that we create the best environment possible for young players to come up here and continue to learn and develop and thrive at the big league level, and win ultimately. That’s not an easy thing to do.”

Theo Epstein pointed out that after two years running the team, he and the front office has “a better feel for the organization.” And according to Epstein, the “perception around baseball is the Cubs are coming fast, and the Cubs are coming strong.”

Dale Sveum

Dale Sveum spoke with the media outside of Wrigley shortly after the news surfaced that the Cubs let him go. Sveum said he was shocked and disappointed. Sveum explained that two weeks ago he could not imagine being fired. Sveum said the first time he had an idea that something could be wrong was after Theo Epstein’s non-comment in Milwaukee.

Sveum pointed out there “were good things accomplished” over the past two seasons and he feels the organization as a whole is 100 percent better than it was when he was hired. Sveum said he is “proud of everything” his coaching staff did and feels a lot was accomplished but the job he and his staff did was “obviously not good enough.”

Sveum added that the focus was on the Cubs’ young players while he was managing the team and acknowledged he knew what he signed up for when he took the job. Sveum did admit that all of the losing was very frustrating.

Dale Sveum enjoyed “every single minute” of being the Cubs’ manager and wish “it could have lasted longer.”

As Sveum said, “We do all these jobs to be fired.” The Cubs owe Sveum nearly $1 million for the third year of the three-year deal he signed with the team in November of 2011. Sveum would like to catch on with another team as soon as possible.

Theo Epstein on Communication with Dale Sveum

Theo Epstein made sure that it was clear that the front office met with Sveum during the All-Star break to discuss their concerns about how he was running the team. Epstein indicated everything went fine, as far as Sveum is concerned last year, but the first half of this past season is when a red flag was raised as to how he was running the team. Epstein pointed out he told Sveum at the break that he would have the second half to “work on things.”

From, “This is the last thing I expected last winter. I sat here last year and was very complimentary of Dale and the job he did in 2012, and I stand by that. This was really unexpected. When we all started to have concerns in the front office and discussed them toward the end of the first half, it was clear we were all thinking the same thing and the first step was ‘Hey, we need to sit down and have a brutally honest talk with Dale and get his take on this and hear from him, and then look for ways to allow him to adjust in the second half.’ That’s what we did.”

Many pointed to the way he handled Starlin Castro throughout the season as one of the main problems that the front office had with Sveum but the first issue could have been when Sveum indicated that any player on the roster, including Castro and Anthony Rizzo, could be sent down to Triple-A.

Theo Epstein and Dale Sveum had “a couple of beers” on Sunday night and that is when Sveum found out that the Cubs would be making a change. The two met for a few hours and got things off their chest.

Theo Epstein’s Statement

Theo Epstein released the following statement on Monday on the firing of Dale Sveum

“Today, we made the very difficult decision to relieve Dale Sveum of his duties as Cubs manager. Dale has been a committed leader for this team the last two seasons, and I want to thank him for all of his dedication and hard work. I have a lot of admiration for Dale personally, and we all learned a lot from the way he has handled the trying circumstances of the last two years, especially the last two weeks, with strength and dignity.

In his own authentic and understated way, Dale always put the team first and never complained about the hand he was dealt. He and his staff helped us excel in game planning and defensive positioning, contributed to the emergence of several players, and helped put us in position to make some important trades. I have no doubt that – much like Terry Francona, whom we hired in Boston after his stint with a losing Phillies club – Dale will go on to great success with his next team. We had hoped Dale would grow with our organization to see it through the building phase to a period of sustained excellence; instead, I believe Dale, who felt the weight of losing perhaps more than any of us, will grow because of this experience and find excellence elsewhere.

Today’s decision to pursue a new manager was not made because of wins and losses. Our record is a function of our long-term building plan and the moves we have made – some good, a few we would like back – to further this strategy. Jed and I take full responsibility for that. Today’s decision was absolutely not made to provide a scapegoat for our shortcomings or to distract from our biggest issue – a shortage of talent at the major league level. We have been transparent about what we are, and what we are not yet. Today’s decision, which was painful for all of us, was made to move us closer to fulfilling our ultimate long-term vision for the Cubs.

Soon, our organization will transition from a phase in which we have been primarily acquiring young talent to a phase in which we will promote many of our best prospects and actually field a very young, very talented club at the major league level. The losing has been hard on all of us, but we now have one of the top farm systems in baseball, some of the very best prospects in the game, and a clear path forward. In order for us to win with this group – and win consistently – we must have the best possible environment for young players to learn, develop and thrive at the major league level. We must have clear and cohesive communication with our players about the most important parts of the game. And – even while the organization takes a patient, long view – we must somehow establish and maintain a galvanized, winning culture around the major league club.

I believe a dynamic new voice – and the energy, creativity and freshness that comes with this type of change – provides us with the best opportunity to achieve the major league environment we seek. We will begin our search immediately – a process which will be completed before the GM meetings in early November and perhaps much sooner. There are no absolute criteria, but we will prioritize managerial or other on-field leadership experience and we will prioritize expertise developing young talent. We have not yet contacted any candidates or asked permission to speak with any candidates, but that process will begin tomorrow morning.”

Coaching Staff

Dale Sveum’s coaching staff has been told they are free to look for jobs with other organizations. The front office will make recommendations to the new manager on which coaches they would like to see him keep.

Most feel the front office would like to have Chris Bosio and Dave McKay back, as well as Lester Strode. As for Jamie Quirk, James Rowson, Rob Deer and David Bell, the general feeling is those four coaches will not return. Bosio and McKay had positive influences on the players during their two years on Sveum’s staff.

News, Notes and Rumors

According to Dan Bernstein, look for the Cubs “search” to include at least one minority candidate while the team pursues Joe Girardi.

Rick Morrissey opined that Joe Girardi may want to re-think any Cubs’ offer.

According to David Kaplan, one name that could surface for the Cubs’ job is Bud Black.

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Quote of the Day

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