Cubs' hire likely a bridge to championship manager

Make up your own minds whether to offer Rick Renteria congratulations or condolences.

The Cubs are expected to introduce him as manager today, which doesn't figure to inspire many of their fans.

Renteria isn't exactly Joe Girardi and the Cubs aren't exactly expected to be World Series contenders for a few years, so the beat and beatings figure to continue awhile for the franchise with the longest championship drought in sports.

The hire actually is a win-win proposition.

From Renteria's viewpoint, the job pays well and is one of only 30 in the major leagues.

From the Cubs' viewpoint, if Renteria doesn't work out they'll replace him easily enough.

Yes, this is another mulligan for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. Most of us step up to the first tee and get one; Renteria is Epstein's first and he has another in his pocket before the Cubs get to where he wants them to be.

We're talking Dale Sveum ... Rick Renteria ... who'll be the next in line?

By firing Sveum after last season, Epstein conceded that he blew his first chance to hire a Cubs manager.

One theory is that Epstein has to get this one right or be a registered failure.


If Renteria brings in the wrong reliever, sends up the wrong pinch hitter, fills out the wrong lineup card ... well, Epstein can move on to his next manager behind Door No. 3.

The odds are against Renteria still being in the Cubs' dugout when this team should by design start winning. No, I'm not referring to the Year 2525 but more like sometime this decade.

History indicates Renteria will be gone just before the Cubs begin to win. If, that is, the Cubs ever do begin to win. For the sake of this discussion, we'll accept Epstein's word that they will.

All Renteria can hope for is that he turns out to be Earl Weaver, Sparky Anderson or Joe Torre rather than Hank Bauer, Davey Bristol or Buck Showalter.

Weaver succeeded Bauer just as the Orioles' dynasty reached a consistent championship level in the 1970s.

Anderson succeeded Bristol just as the Reds were becoming the Big Red Machine about that same time.

Torre succeeded Showalter in the mid-1990s just as the Yankees were on the verge of winning four World Series in five years.

Cubs' owner Tom Ricketts hired Epstein two years ago to turn the Cubs into the Orioles' dynasty, the Big Red Machine and the championship Yankees, perhaps all rolled into one.

But Epstein didn't necessarily hire Renteria to be the manager when the project is complete. The rebuilding timetable still affords the Cubs the opportunity to make another change in managers.

Three for a dollar, in other words.

One historical mystery is whether the Orioles, Reds and Yankees would have won when they did even if they hadn't changed managers or whether change was necessary.

Who knows?

What we do know is that Renteria is coming in to develop promising youngsters into legitimate major leaguers the way Bauer, Bristol and Showalter did for their respective teams.

But not even succeeding at that assignment will guarantee that Reneria is around to convert those players from talented individuals into a championship team.

If everything goes according to plan and the Cubs actually do become primed for a World Series in a few years, it probably will be about time to change managers again.

Unless Renteria proves too good to be fired sooner than later, Epstein's third choice will be the most significant.

So, seriously, it doesn't matter whether Renteria inspires anyone around here today. Odds are that he'll be gone by the time the Cubs are ready to inspire.

At least Rick Renteria will be able to say that the money was good.

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