The day we learned Jim Hendry was fired, I talked about how listing general manager candidates would be lazy. The reality at that time was that there wasn’t a general manager in baseball that wasn’t a candidate. The media now seems content to say that had the Red Sox not collapsed Theo would have stuck around, but that’s naive. The very same reasons for joining the Cubs would still have existed had the Red Sox went to the playoffs and won the World Series. In the end, the Cubs got the best guy for the job.
The manager search, which we can only be relatively sure will come soon, is not like the GM search. While almost any manager would love to take over the team, the Cubs would have no interest in negotiating with another team to interview a manager. So the candidates for manager, if Quade is fired of course, would be the ones who are not under contract. Theo hired only one manager in his time as GM with the Red Sox.
Terry Francona had managed in the White Sox organization after retiring as a player and then as a third base coach for the Tigers in 1996. After the season he was hired as the manager of the Phillies and after four losing seasons was fired. He spent one year as an assistant to John Hart, Indians General Manager. The Assistant GM for the Indians then was Mark Shapiro who would become the GM of the Indians in 2002.
Hart was initially to retire, but then took the GM job for the Rangers the very next year and Francona was signed to be the first base coach. In 2003 he was hired to be the first base coach for the A’s. That season Grady Little would be fired after the Red Sox came so close to getting to the World Series and then Theo Epstein hired him to manage his team where he stayed on for 8 seasons before being thrown under the bus by the organization following this season.
I recall reading somewhere, but I cannot remember where I read this. I’m pretty sure it was in a book so I didn’t bother looking for it online, but anyway, I remember the author talking about how Terry Francona had been an old-school type manager with the Phillies, but after getting the first base job wit the A’s become more open to advanced stats. This would seem to be common in the A’s organization, but when Francona was hired by the Red Sox he wasn’t the same coach he was in Philadelphia. Not only did he spent the year in the A’s organization, but in 2001 he was an assistant to then GM John Hart whose Assistant GM was a sabermetric fan (Shapiro). He then got a job with the Rangers (Hart was the GM). Hart would not have the same success in Texas that he had in Cleveland and would retire after the 2005 season. Despite that, new GM John Daniels thought so highly of him they gave him a lot of money to stay on in an advisory role. They did not want him to interview elsewhere.
Hart is openminded, but not what you’d call a sabermetric GM. He’s more old school than that, but he’s surrounded himself with some of the brightest. The list includes Mark Shapiro, Josh Byrnes, Paul DePodesta, Neil Huntington, Chris Antonneti and the current Rangers GM John Daniels. All 6 of them, and probably a few others, have been GMs. Huntington, Antonneti and Daniels are all current GMs. Shapiro took over Hart and then Antonneti took over for him. These are all GMs that you’d consider to have a strong sabermetric background.
Maybe there’s something to Theo working around some of the better GMs and in a sabermetric organization that made him change. Maybe there were no changes other than the talent on the roster. We don’t know and likely never will. It couldn’t have hurt. I know I’ve read some who say that he was a very different manager. It may be true. It may not be. It’s 50/50.
Francona was Theo’s first and only managerial hiring. He stuck with him for 8 years and I’m pretty sure had Theo been likely to remain the Sox GM that Francona would have returned next season. I think the Red Sox learned early on that Theo was so interested in the Cubs job and there was little they could do to stop him. As a result, they knew the new GM might want to hire his own manager so they let Tito walk.
Theo is now a Cub and Francona is obviously available so people are putting two and two together and that means that Francona is a favorite to land the job. I’m not so sure that’s true. While the two have a lot of respect for one another, I didn’t get the impression from Tito that he was looking to 1) manager in 2012 or necessarily work again with Theo. I imagine working for him is demanding. You not only have the Red Sox fans, the media and ownership, but you also have the GM. It probably wasn’t easy, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
The other name thrown around almost as often is Ryne Sandberg. This is for obvious reasons and while I don’t subscribe the Ryne Sandberg Is Awesome At Everything Church, I think he’s shown over the last 3 years in the high minors that he can and does deserve a chance to manage at the highest level. He’s well respected by the players from everything I’ve read. He’d be a fan favorite and he’d be happy to take any managerial job at this point. You may not be able to push him around like Joe Blow off the street, but he’s coachable. Theo can work with someone like Sandberg. I don’t see any reason they couldn’t. Sandberg would be cheaper than Tito.
Based on what we know of Theo and the Cubs orgnazation, those are the two obvious candidates. I’ll throw out one other name that I haven’t yet heard: DeMarlo Hale.
Hale has been with the Red Sox (bench coach in 2011) for a long time. He was a player there, coached in the minor leagues and after coaching a bit for the Rangers (working with Francona for a year), he returned the Sox. He’s been considered a candidate to replace Francona. He interviewed twice last year for the Blue Jays managerial opening. It was the same opening that Ryne Sandberg was intiially a candidate of.
I don’t know much about Hale. I do know that the Red Sox and Cubs will essentially be beginning their searches at the same time. The Cubs may be a bit behind as they have to figure out what to do with Mike Quade. Hale has much stronger ties to the Red Sox of course, but he was born in Chicago. He was also hired by Theo.