There has been much in the way of news as the Cubs fired Mike Quade and eliminated various candidates, including Ryne Sandberg, from their short list of names. In the meantime, they’ve reached out to other guys like Dale Sveum (I know who he is, but you don’t, but that’s what Google is for) and Mike Maddux. Brad from Cubs Stats wrote a piece for FanGraphs regarding potential candidates and their attributes if you guys are interested. What do fans want in a manager? If you ask me, I don’t really care what fans want, and I hope the Cubs, who have brains oozing out of their nostrils now, won’t care either, not even what I want. Well, they should care a wee bit, maybe. What qualities should a good manager possess?
It sounds from the many news snippets that the new Theo regime wants a manager who will stick around longer than a couple years. There’s a chance that the manager will be fired because the team will probably suck in 2012, but if Theo and Ricketts are patient about this Cubs retooling process, the manager is probably safe for the short term. I won’t go into too much detail on each candidate because Brad already did it so well in the FanGraphs article above, but generally, the Theo Trio wants a manager who is receptive to new baseball ideas, who will continue to embrace and teach the Cubs Way as soon as they write the book on it, and has at least some major league experience so that they will theoretically be able to handle pressure and player attitudes and needs. Doesn’t sound too bad.
What the front office wants and what we as fans want will probably intersect for the most part. Managing a game isn’t really rocket science if you break it down. The general manager gives you a group of 40 guys to choose from on the 40-man roster. You select 25 of them for the active roster, then use them accordingly. You set a rotation to ensure that your best pitchers will eat up the most innings. You set the lineup to ensure that your best hitters get the most plate appearances. You keep track of the pitchers’ abilities as the game goes on and make sure his arm doesn’t explode or that he isn’t stuck in a bad situation because of an unfavorable matchup.
The GM will usually let the manager do whatever he feels is right on the field. I would bet that a GM like Theo/Jed prefers that the new manager won’t issue intentional walks like candy, or give up outs in situations where you can blow the game wide open. Regular walks happen, and so do outs, but if your strategy is to willingly concede them, you’re probably not the right manager for the new Cubs.
The GM will probably want the manager to use the best relievers in the optimal situations and not save the “closer” for the 9th or 10th innings or beyond when he could have made a difference at an earlier point in the game. The manager should also think outside the box and find creative ways to set up platoons for both position players and relievers to get the most favorable matchups. The general rule of thumb is that a manager might be worth about one to two wins over the course of the season, but with the Cubs, especially early on, those one to two wins could be huge.
Fans, like the GM, would prefer that the manager doesn’t throw his guys under the bus. Part of that is to ensure the player’s confidence isn’t shot, and an even bigger part is that, even if the team hates that player and wants him traded, at least the player isn’t trashed publicly so that his trade value asymptotically approaches zero. The new Cubs manager has to be smart about this.
The new manager should be receptive to new ideas as we already said, and that includes how to set the defense for each batter/situation, possible defensive platoons, and a great many things that I’m not smart enough to think of, but the new Cubs are. The manager should know how to maximize the 25 guys on his team, and try to squeeze another run out of a lineup that might contain guys like Darwin Barney and Tony Campana in 2012. The manager should definitely play Geovany Soto much more than Koyie Hill, but we’re fairly confident that the new front office realizes that Koyie is garbage.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter who the manager is as long as he can win more games than he loses. All is forgiven if he takes the team to the World Series, and wins. Plenty of the best managers in the history of the game have done stupid crap, sometimes consistently. The construction of the team is much more important than the manager, and as long as the manager doesn’t lose those 1-2 games of value that he accrues over the season, the team will be fine. Of course, it’d be nice if the manager were a Hall of Fame first baseman too, but beggars can’t be choosers.