There hasn't been this much positivity surrounding a new Cubs manager since, well, the last one was hired.
So it goes. And we'll see how long it lasts. But reality figures to set in sooner rather than later for Rick Renteria.
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Cubs president Theo Epstein introduced Renteria as the 53rd manager of the Cubs during a conference call with reporters Thursday. Renteria recently had hip-replacement surgery and has been unable to fly. The new guy gets a three-year contract, and the club holds options for 2017 and 2018.
In fairness to Renteria, this is his first big-league managerial gig, so it's natural for him to be excited. But over the course of a half-hour, he gushed positive thoughts.
"Actually, the assumption that our team won't be able to play at high level, quite frankly, I don't make that assumption," he said. "I assume that every team that's put on the field -- and it may sound naive -- that goes and plays between the lines has a chance to win a ballgame every single day. One of the things we have to continue to move toward is to lay expectations before them.
"If we were to come in here and assume we're going to lose, what kind of expectations have been laid for the players that are here? The reality is that my expectation is that we're going to compete and win."
Renteria, who turns 52 on Christmas Day, replaces Dale Sveum, who was fired after two seasons in which the Cubs lost 101 and 96 games. The Cubs aren't expected to win in 2014, but in keeping with the theme of the day, Renteria was hearing none of it.
"I have to tell you, I look at this like I've done every other thing in my life," he said. "I look at the players I have. My biggest concern is what I have and not what I don't have. I quite frankly don't even think about things like that.
"I think the players that are here are very good athletes, very good potential baseball players. It's just incumbent on us to try to bring them forward and try to bring it out of them. I take this responsibility with a lot of pride and an understanding that everybody's just going to possibly count us out. My personality doesn't allow for being counted out."
Renteria, a former utility infielder in the big leagues over parts of five seasons, most recently served as the bench coach for the San Diego Padres. A native of California and of Mexican descent, he managed Team Mexico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. He also has eight years experience as a minor-league manager, including with the Kane County Cougars (now a Cubs affiliate) in 1999.
Cubs president Theo Epstein called the search for a new manager "thorough," and it took more than a month to complete, with the Cubs interviewing Brad Ausmus (who was named manager of the Tigers), A.J. Hinch, Eric Wedge, Dave Martinez and Manny Acta.
"Rick was tremendous in the initial interview with us," Epstein said. "He excelled in the follow-up and in the many phone calls we had. There was a month's worth of due diligence: phone calls to countless players who have played for him, coaches who have coached with him, players who had him as a manager in the minor leagues. You can't find anyone in this game to say a bad word about or even a neutral word about Rick Renteria.
"He excelled throughout the entire process. We took our time because we wanted to be thorough, and we had the benefit of being so. It was clear to us Rick was the right man for the job."
One of the reasons the Cubs fired Sveum was an apparent lack of communication with the team's younger players, particularly shortstop Starlin Castro and first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Renteria said communication will be ongoing in his tenure.
He joked that with four children, he's been part of a "youth movement" for most of his adult life.
"I still think you have to have conversations with players on a daily basis," he said. "You have conversations with your players during a ballgame. You have conversations with them when you don't think you're having conversations with them.
"The reality is most players have and like structure. I think most players like guidance. When you're the teacher, when you're the adult, so to speak, you have to have a feel of when you're supposed to turn up the heat a little bit when you're talking about accountability.
"Everybody seems to think that accountability means screaming at somebody, that you've got to show the whole world you're holding them accountable. The only person that needs to know that I'm holding them accountable are his teammates, himself and the coaching staff."
Part of that communication will be in Spanish with players who have that as their first language. Renteria is bilingual.
"I'm hoping that I happen to be a good coach who happens to speak Spanish," he said. "I think the ability to communicate in the same language, sometimes it creates a little bit of a comfort zone, allowing those players, once again, to gain some confidence. The reality is baseball is played between the lines and has its own language, and that language is performance."
Epstein said Renteria would be introduced in Chicago within the coming weeks.
As far as the coaching staff goes, Epstein said that would be a collaborative effort, with some turnover and some holdovers. Pitching coach Chris Bosio is likely one of those holdovers.