Fittest loser
Article updated: 10/23/2013 9:14 PM

Cubs need to plug in a batterymate as manager

The St. Louis Cardinals got it right when they went with former catcher Mike Matheny as their manager.

The St. Louis Cardinals got it right when they went with former catcher Mike Matheny as their manager.

 

Associated Press

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The Cubs are making their managerial search much more complicated than it should be.

Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations, simply needs to find the best available candidate that is a former catcher or pitcher.

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It looks from here that the right guy to fill the Cubs' vacancy is Sandy Alomar Jr. If not him, then maybe Brad Ausmus. Naturally, reports are that neither has been interviewed for the job.

A.J. Hinch's candidacy prompts cringes because he flunked his first big-league managing test with the Diamondbacks. But at least as a player he was a catcher with a career .219 batting average in 350 games, which means he must have had a lot of time to study a lot of games from the bench or bullpen.

Curt Schilling, who occasionally makes sense as a baseball analyst on ESPN, put it well in a conference call this week: "It's always funny how this game goes in cycles and trends. Everybody seems to mimic and copy the teams getting to the World Series."

The trend in baseball for a long time has been that former catchers make good managers.

Others who come from elsewhere on the field can succeed. But the matchup in this World Series is former pitcher John Farrell, who manages the Red Sox, against former catcher Mike Matheny, who manages the Cardinals.

Going back to the league championship series, Tigers manager Jim Leyland is a former catcher. Only Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn't pitch or catch. Oh, by the way, former catcher Bruce Bochy won two of the last three World Series as manager of the Giants.

Many more catchers than pitchers have gone on to manage, but that might be changing. The Reds just promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to replace Dusty Baker.

If a team is going to hire someone who hasn't managed before, the gamble is minimized if his background is in pitching or catching.

White Sox management must be relieved that Matheny, like the Sox' Robin Ventura, hadn't managed anywhere before. There are major differences between the two, however.

Most important, Matheny inherited a team that won the 2011 World Series before he replaced Tony La Russa. Ventura inherited a team that hadn't qualified for the playoffs during the three years before he replaced Guillen.

Then there's a bigger difference: Matheny was a longtime major-league catcher and Ventura a longtime major-league third baseman. Ventura had the better playing career, but Matheny had the view that serves him better as a manager.

The other thing is that looking at the two guys, in the dugout and in interviews, Matheny looks and sounds like he has the intensity of a catcher. Ventura looks like a nice, laid-back third baseman.

OK, maybe that's just my perception because I'm partial to catchers as managers.

But, wait, we're supposed to be talking about the Cubs and not the White Sox.

Instead of Alomar Jr. or Ausmus, Cubs candidates being mentioned along with Hinch are former first baseman Manny Acta, former infielder Rick Renteria, former outfielder Dave Martinez and, for future reference, former infielder Torey Lovullo.

Some around here suggest the Cubs should interview Ozzie Guillen, and former White Sox coach Joey Cora nominated the former Sox manager for the Tigers' opening.

Guillen was a good shortstop who became a good manager. Still, the Cubs and Tigers should hire the best former catcher or pitcher available. It's the smart thing for smart administrators here and in Detroit to do.

Even a dummy like me knows that.

So, simply put, the Cubs should hire Sandy Alomar Jr. or a reasonable facsimile.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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