While the Rick Renteria hire was anti-climactic, it's a solid hire and he has gotten some raves from players and his manager. He was the favorite early on and that support just never seemed to waver as other candidates came and went.
The attention now turns to who will help round out his staff. It seems the Cubs will keep a few coaches on and may recommend a few others. The focus will be to create the best possible learning environment to guide what will arguably be the Cubs best wave of young prospects to reach the majors since the mid to late 80s.
There are certainly some interesting ideas being floated around, but first, let's start with the man at the top, Rick Renteria..
Not a whole lot is know about Renteria as a person. I've heard that he'll make the Cubs a more aggressive, energetic team on the bases and we have all heard that he is considered a great coach. Carrie Muskat quotes Bud Black in her most recent article for the Cubs website,
Ricky is highly regarded in our game from people in and around baseball -- general managers, managers, coaches and players," Black told MLB.com in February. "In time, he's going to get an opportunity to manage. He's a great baseball guy, has a great baseball mind, is passionate about the game. He's done a lot. He's played, he's coached and he's managed in the Minor Leagues. He has a great feel for players."
Players were equally effusive,
"It's a tough day for the Padres to lose someone with the knowledge and the energy Ricky brings," San Diego catcher Nick Hundley said. "The city of Chicago is getting a great baseball guy, someone who comes to work each day with the kind of passion and energy that's tough to match.
"When you're dealing with someone on a daily basis, six months during the season, two months in Spring Training, you want to know your boss is going to be consistent and is going to have your back. We have that here with Buddy [Black] and the Cubs will have that with Ricky."
He has his players' back -- now that should be music to Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and all the Cubs young players' ears.
Meanwhile, what about handling the tough Cubs media? We mentioned that in a previous piece at how that should not be underestimated. After all, you can say you have your players' back, but what happens when you get grilled day in and day out? Can you resist the temptation to deflect the heat? Former Padres pitcher Jake Peavy thinks Renteria will handle the media just fine,
“Chicago can be a tough town media-wise, on either side of town,’’ Peavy said. “Me knowing Rick, he’s a professional and he’ll handle that. He’s very truthful and honest.’’
Peavy also praised Renteria for his teaching and communication skills.
Rounding out the staff
We know that three Cubs coaches will stay on: Chris Bosio, who just signed on to stay for at least 2 more years while Mike Borzello and Lester Strode will also remain. Borzello received a lot of credit for improving Welington Castillo's defense last year.
Bruce Levine has thrown some interesting names into the ring,
Alex Cora and Mariano Duncan have been favorites for Renteria"s coaching staff. Bosio remains for two plus (Henry) Blanco possible.
None of those names should sound strange to readers here. We've been big fans of Mariano Duncan because of his work with Daytona hitters. We've seen many Cubs hitters progress at that level, particularly with their approach and plate discipline. Javier Baez gives Duncan a lot of credit for his improvement, even texting him to say thank you after he left for Tennessee,
"He said, 'Thank you for having patience with me for the whole year. It means a lot to me,'" Duncan said. "I texted him back and said, 'Thank you for listening and making the adjustments.' When I texted him back, I said, 'Don't thank me for that. I get paid to do that and to try to develop you guys and make you a better player.' All the credit should go to him. He works so hard and he listens. He did everything he is supposed to do on the field."
Duncan's attention to detail and preparedness was a big key,
"The only thing thing I'm concerned about with him is to pay attention to detail and come every day to play the game right," Duncan said. "He had a little bit of a problem in the beginning, but he made the adjustments and you see what kind of year he had.
"One thing I texted him was that the only thing I want from him is when he goes to the big leagues to stay humble, and when he gets to the big leagues, be the same Javy that he is right now in the Minor Leagues," Duncan said. "He texted me back and said, 'I promise I'll do that.
The only downside to hiring Mariano Duncan would be not having him there to develop young budding stars -- but many of those stars will join Duncan soon if he is indeed hired.
Cora was acquired in 2005 by Theo Epstein's Red Sox and is familiar with the FO's philosophy. Blanco was known for his leadership ability as a backup catcher for the Cubs and his catching experience could help take Castillo to the next level.
Meanwhile, Gordon Wittenmeyer speculates that A.J. Hinch could still be factor,
Hinch could yet figure into the Cubs’ larger plans as they fill out Renteria’s coaching staff with a strong emphasis on player development skills — assuming the former Arizona Diamondbacks manager and former big-league catcher would take a coaching job.
That’s how highly he is regarded by the Cubs front office. And he has a strong relationship with Renteria.
It's highly questionable as to whether Hinch would leave his job as VP of Professional Scouting/AGM of the Padres to serve as a bench coach, but you won't hear me complaining if he does. That would be a major coup for the Cubs and give the Cubs two great teachers in the dugout as the Cubs begin promoting their highly touted prospects.
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