The ball now lies in Joe Girardi's court.
It seems like I have been writing this story line forever. It was a pipe dream to some, so many moving parts. However one of those parts was moved Monday.
Theo Epstein rang the "alarm bell" he spoke of last week. In firing Dale Sveum, Theo said it was about the kids and that's the way it should be. The biggest issue I've had with Sveum all along was his handling of young Cubs such as Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo. At times it seemed the former Cubs skipper was taking out his frustrations, trying to break the front offices nice toys.
When I first broached the Girardi subject, I made it known the Cubs front office was ultimatley concerned about the regression of core players. Epstein confirmed that much in his press conference, and he also pointed to communication issues and a lack of a cohesive message from the coaching staff, damning stuff.
"There are some specifics I'm not going to get into because they wouldn't be appropriate," Epstein said of the problems with the clubhouse environment. "It's tricky to develop young players at the major league level. They have to be supported along the way. There has to be tough love, but there has to be love before there's tough love. You have to be patient with them. There has to be a clear, unified message. They can't be getting different signals from different directions. Collectively, collectively, myself included, we failed to provide that."
On the subject of the somewhat awkward press conference, two things seemed apparent to me. Epstein isn't a good liar (a good thing) and everyone had a hard time side stepping the New York sized elephant in the room. Epstein fell just short of providing a picture of Girardi when explaining the criteria for the new hire. Girardi by the way has told some that the most fun he ever had managing was working with a young Marlins team in 2006.
Gordon Wittenmeyer writes the Cubs now have backed themselves in a corner by needing to hire Girardi. There maybe some truth to that, at least publicly. Now that everyone expects the hire, there isn't much of a plan B in some minds. Wittenmyers' sources also tell him that Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney could be pushing for the marketing aspect of a Girardi hire.
My sources have maintained all along that Ricketts does not have his hands in this move. Ricketts trusts this front office to hire who they please. This ownership will not interfere, they know better. Would they be beyond thrilled with the hire? You bet, but this is strictly Epstein being concerned about who's taking care of his kids.
I don't see this as the Cubs firing Sveum strictly for the chance to hire Girardi. The Cubs needed to fire Sveum regardless, Girardi's availability just happens to be the stars aligning.
It is all pretty much in Girardi's hands now. The Cubs will make the phone call to the Yankees today, but it's ultimately Girardi's call that counts. Something tells me the Cubs have a pretty good indication how that call will go. If you have been following my stuff, many of the things you read today is old news.
The Cubs now only hope Girardi starts spreading the news and leaves New York, New York for his kind of town.