The Chicago Cubs have cut ties with manager Mike Quade, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced Wednesday. Quade got his big break when the Cubs hired him as interim skipper after Lou Piniella retired in 2010, going 24-13, then stayed on for one (far less successful) full season at the top step of the Cubs' dugout.
The Cubs needed this. For one thing, Quade (while a terrific guy) was a miserable tactician and a poor manager of the Cubs' young assets. He did not fit any longer, and besides, the Cubs need "a clean slate," as Epstein put it.
It's time to look forward, and to that end, Epstein immediately ruled out Ryne Sandberg as the next in line for the job. Sandberg may or may not be a good manager in the long run, but right now, hiring him would be more a nod to Chicagoans' nostalgia than to any definable, tangible asset in the dugout.
Terry Francona is in play, which would complete the transplant of the Red Sox management cadre to Wrigleyville. Francona headlines this list of 10 guys who would fit nicely into the newly vacant role.
Hale is a native Chicagoan. That might work for or against him in this new regime, which seems much more rational and less affected by such considerations than was its predecessor. It might not matter at all.
What does count for something is that Hale has been a good soldier under Epstein and Terry Francona for a solid decade now, never making big waves but always keeping a keen eye on all elements of the game. Hale excelled at individual instruction, which should count for something if this is a short-term rebuilding hire.
Valentine did a fair job with the Mets 10 years ago, but wasn't really developed fully as a big-league skipper at that point. He went to Japan for a long stretch, and has been visible on ESPN over the past few years.
Somewhere in that process, Valentine seems to have developed a more open-minded tactical approach. At the same time, he retains a passion for fundamentals on the field. He would be a fine fit, and would bring a jolt of energy to the Cubs dugout.
Hale was a third base coach for the Red Sox before landing the promotion to bench coach. When he did, Bogar got the nod in Hale's vacated position. He has done well there, and he is a solid candidate for a number of jobs.
He probably fits best in a coaching role, but if the Cubs choose a development-oriented skipper for the near term, Bogar could be a good one. He would have some helpful tips for Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, whose best positions he defended exceptionally during his playing career.
One of the five best baseball minds ever, Maddux has never taken interest in pitching coach positions. Under the right circumstances, though, he could well return to a big-league dugout as a manager, and if he did, you have to think Maddux would make a Hell of a manager.
The Indians endeavored to hide Alomar a bit by bumping him from first base to bench coach. That was enough to scare off the White Sox, who are strapped for cash and needed to make a quick, cheap hire. It will not scare off the Cubs. Alomar might get a long look, as he's one of the game's most well-respected coaches.
Riggleman has managed the Cubs once before, and could be a solid candidate to return. He walked away from the Nationals over a salary dispute, but it hardly seems like the Ricketts-era Cubs are skimping on management money. Riggleman handles bullpens exceptionally well and would be a great fit even as a coach under some other hire, if that were the way it all shook out.
Sveum worked for the Red Sox as third-base coach (there's that position again; did you know Brad Mills also left that very spot to become the Astros' manager?) back when the Red Sox won the 2004 World Series. He then moved on to Milwaukee, where he filled that role, as well as being the bench coach and hitting coach, and he heroically led the Brewers as emergency interim manager to the 2008 Wild Card.
He seems now to be right on the cusp of another step. The Red Sox have their sights on Sveum, as the Cubs also seem to. If he does not defect somewhere to take the helm in some dugout, it will be a stunner.
Having successfully raided the Red Sox and Padres for their most important managerial assets, the Cubs could steal from another organization known for great process by nabbing Tampa Bay's bench coach out from under Joe Maddon. Martinez's credentials are self-evident: he has the beard, and he has Maddon, and honestly, what else does a guy need on a resume?
Francona is not merely the most famous available option; he's the best. He was a top-five manager in 2011, and since none of the top four are changing places anytime soon, Francona could rejoin his long-time boss in a more adventurous, wilder, Midwestern version of Boston. It would be another in what's become a long line of coups in one autumn on the North Side of the city.