Mike Quade, who was under contract to be Cubs manager through the 2012 season, was relieved of those duties Tuesday by new Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein. In the press release announcing this move, Epstein said, among other things, that the next Cubs manager:
must have leadership and communication skills; he must place an emphasis on preparation and accountability; he must establish high standards and a winning culture; he must have integrity and an open mind; and he must have managerial or coaching experience at the major league level.
I added the emphasis in that last sentence, because that rules out the man many Cubs fans wanted to see get the job -- Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who has spent the last five years managing in the minor leagues (four in the Cubs organization, 2011 with the Phillies), but who has no major league coaching experience except for spending September and October in the Phillies dugout as a sort of coach call-up. In fact, Sandberg could conceivably wind up managing the Cubs' arch-rival, the Cardinals; Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweeted that the Cardinals have asked permission of the Phillies to talk to Sandberg.
That would be ... well, it would be weird. And unlikely; the Cardinals seem more likely to promote one of their own coaches, 3B coach Jose Oquendo or bench coach Joe Pettini, before Sandberg. (And can you imagine Sandberg's conversation with Mark McGwire?)
But what of the Cubs? Who are the likeliest men on Theo Epstein's short list?
Everyone's probably thinking "Terry Francona" -- that would complete the
Beatles reunion Red Sox management reunion in Chicago. But Francona seemed burned out at the end of 2011 and his "communications skills" didn't help the meltdown in the Red Sox clubhouse. Francona, to me, seems more likely to take a year off than manage in 2012.
Here are a half-dozen other possible future Cubs managers, based on nothing more than me outright guessing. (Hey, it's what you're probably doing too.)
Theo Epstein knows Sveum well, and so do Red Sox fans -- he was the third base coach on the 2004 Boston World Series title team. He then coached in Milwaukee, and bizarrely became their interim manager with 12 games left in the 2008 season when Ned Yost's team nearly collapsed under some of his odd decisions. So he does have some managerial experience, and did lead the Brewers in the 2008 playoffs. He is being considered for the Red Sox job, too.
Martinez has been bench coach in Tampa Bay for the last four years under Joe Maddon. Maddon was a respected coach under Mike Scioscia for many years, and it is presumed Martinez has the same sort of pedigree. He's also a former Cub, originally drafted by the organization. If he's hired, he is in a way the anti-Sandberg. He was traded away by the Cubs in 1988 when there were rumors flying (never corroborated) that he was fooling around with Sandberg's first wife Cindy.
Hale has been Francona's bench coach in Boston for the last three years. He replaced Sveum as 3B coach when Sveum left for Milwaukee. Are all of these guys related or something? Hale managed for nine years in the minor leagues. He was born and raised in Chicago, for whatever that's worth.
Mackanin has been a minor league coach and manager and major league coach for almost two decades, currently the bench coach in Philadelphia. He's also been interviewed in Boston; if he's hired for a managerial slot, it's likely that Sandberg would replace him. Mackanin also grew up in the Chicago area. (But then, so did Mike Quade. That didn't seem to help him much.)
Sandy Alomar Jr.
Alomar has been a coach for the Cleveland Indians for the last two years. He was just named their bench coach for 2012, but Cleveland would certainly let him go for a manager's job. He never played for the Cubs, but his father was a Cubs coach for several seasons.
Randolph hasn't been mentioned for many managerial jobs since he was fired by the Mets halfway through their 2008 season. He managed them to a playoff spot in 2006, but they collpased the next year. He's been a bench coach for both the Yankees and Orioles. If you want someone who has zero connection to the Cubs or Chicago, this might be the guy.
There are six names (seven, if you count Francona). If you've got another one, leave it in the comments. But hurry, because I wouldn't be surprised if we hear the Cubs have hired a manager by early next week. Theo & Co. seem to be working very quickly.