When the Chicago Cubs struck out on prying Joe Girardi away from the New York Yankees last year, there was plenty of discussion not only about who Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer would hire to manage the team, but also whether or not they had even made the right decision in firing Dale Sveum in the first place.
After all, firing a guy after only two years doesn’t exactly seem fair when you consider the “quality” of rosters that he had been given. In all likelihood, the 2012 and 2013 Cubs could not have won a championship in AAA, much less in the major leagues. Their win totals for the two seasons reflect that, with only a modest gain in that area in 2013 after a 61-win 2012 campaign.
Amid all of that belly-aching and strife, the Cubs went out and hired Rick Renteria, bench coach for the San Diego Padres. During his introductory press conferences, Renteria said all the right things about wanting to manage this team, and how he felt so positive about the futures of guys like Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo, but it’s been his conduct after those press conferences that has been more impressive to Cubs observers.
For starters, Renteria is not just waiting until 2015 (and the arrivals of guys like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant) like so many fans are. “The challenge for me is, more than anything, to look forward,” Renteria told the Cubs’ website. “You talk about patience I think having a true belief in the final product helps us get there. Believe me, I have a lot of faith in the guys who are here and the guys who are coming.”
That balanced approach is going to come in handy as the team begins reporting for spring training on Thursday, with pitchers and catchers arriving at the team’s brand new complex in Mesa, Arizona. Players like Baez and Bryant will be reporting to major league camp, and even though they aren’t expected to make the opening day roster, Renteria will still be keeping an eye on them.
“I think the mentality and the approach the organization has been taking, to have a sustainable club throughout many years, is important,” he told the media at Cubs Convention. “My personality is suited to younger players. I’ve got four kids, I’ve been raising kids my whole life. [The Cubs] are going to be my kids now. I think I can share with them and help them understand their failures aren’t the end all.”
That mentality has seemingly rubbed off on the players, who are looking at 2014 in a positive light rather than through “wait til next year” colored lenses. Third baseman Donnie Murphy, who will likely be competing for a starting spot in the lineup with Luis Valbuena and Mike Olt, is one of those guys.
“We all look at [the negative outlook among media and fans about the Cubs’ 2014 chances] as a positive and it makes us even more hungry, and we want to prove people wrong,” he told Cubs.com. I think guys will bounce back. Everybody knows [Starlin] Castro isn’t that kind of player, everybody knows [Darwin] Barney isn’t that kind of player, everybody knows [Anthony] Rizzo isn’t a .230 hitter.
“We have guys who can bounce back and put together good years, and you make a decent run, and hopefully get close and make the playoffs.”
Murphy’s optimism, albeit fairly unfounded considering how bad the Cubs’ rotation and lineup are likely to be, is at least a sign that the team is trying to take after their manager. They all know that it is going to be a rough year at West Addison, and they are still going to try to make the most of it. Waiting around for reinforcements isn’t any fun, so it’s good to see that guys like Renteria and Murphy are going to try their best to make sure that the product the Cubs put on the field isn’t a lackluster one.
That attitude is a welcome one at the Friendly Confines after five consecutive seasons of finishing out of the playoffs, and Cubs fans should welcome Renteria’s philosophies about rebuilding and playing with pride with open arms.