Epstein's Cubs, Cherington's Red Sox duel for a manager

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Epstein's Cubs, Cherington's Red Sox duel for a manager

On Monday afternoon, Boston Red Sox President Larry Lucchino said the team was in the “fourth inning” of its managerial search. If Mike Maddux hadn’t withdrawn his name from their hat Lucchino and company may be in the later innings. The Texas Rangers superb pitching coach and brother of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, however, kept his name in consideration for the Chicago Cubs job–turning down Theo Epstein’s old team and hoping to head his new one.

Late last week, Maddux said it was “unbelievable to hear those two teams have interest.” Why, then, has he scratched Boston off his list in favor of a team that has gone 103 years without a championship? For perhaps the same reason Epstein, the Boy Wonder who built two title teams and helped create many more contenders, traded Beantown in for the North Side: the tall task of ending the Curse of the Billy Goat. He will interview with the Cubs on Wednesday.

There are plenty of reasons why Maddux is so coveted. The main one is his ability to handle a pitching staff, as ESPN Boston writes:

“In Texas, a graveyard for pitchers ever since the Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994, the Rangers posted their best staff ERA (3.79) since 1983. In 2008, the season before Maddux came over from the Brewers, the staff ERA was 5.37. By the next season, he had shaved nearly a full run (4.38) and it went to sub-4.00 in 2010 (3.93) before dropping again this past season.

“… It was on Maddux’s watch that [ace C.J.]Wilson converted from reliever to starter with spectacular results. All five members of the rotation won 13 or more games, and it was Maddux, responding to a directive from Ryan, who impressed upon his starters that they were expected to pitch deep into games.”

Chicago has money to spend this offseason, then there’s the history of the organization, the ivy-covered and ancient Wrigley Field, and the championship-starved fans. It is nonetheless very interesting that the Chicago job would be so coveted, considering the organization’s farm system is ranked near the bottom in the league. They also have two very untradeable contracts in Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano. And the only experienced players worth building around are Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Marmol, and Matt Garza–three position players, a closer, and a starting pitcher. Chicago has more of a core than many teams have, but the future isn’t altogether bright. After all, the Cubs did lose 91 games last season to finish fifth in the National League Central.

If they miss out on either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder this offseason, how do they possibly contend in a division that is deep with contenders? Maddux wants to be the guy to answer this question, and he’s not the only one.

Pete Mackanin, the Philadelphia Phillies 60-year-old bench coach, was the first candidate interviewed by the Red Sox. Soon after, Epstein brought him in. Then Dale Sveum, Milwaukee’s bench coach and former third-base coach in Boston, was interviewed by the Red Sox. Soon after, Epstein brought him in. He appears to like the way his understudy, Cherington, thinks.

The mirror image doesn’t stop there. Sandy Alomar Jr., who is the next-scheduled interviewee in Boston, is also said to be on the Cubs list. DeMarlo Hale, the Red Sox bench coach, is also a candidate in Chicago. He and Mackanin are Chicago natives.

The only way the managerial searches differ is Terry Francona’s Cubs candidacy, and despite Epstein’s kind words for his former manager in Boston a reunion isn’t likely. Aside from him, none of the candidates have prior managerial experience.

It is fitting that the managerial hunts are the same between these two teams, considering it is a battle between Epstein and his former team. Who gets which job is up in the air, which means the next few weeks will be full of excitement.

“I’m not going in here with the politics,” Mackanin said this past Friday. “If there is an opportunity that arises at either place (Chicago or Boston) then there is a challenge for people who have gone through my type of career and aspired to manage at this level. But it shouldn’t be about playing one against the other.”

It isn’t manager versus manager, but is it Epstein versus Boston and Cherington in some respects? Yes, and it’s enthralling.

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