Friday, October 31, 2014

EXTRA: The Curse of Rick Renteria?

Don’t get me wrong. I really don’t think that highly of the baseball skills possessed by now-former Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria.

But a part of me wonders if his name is about to go into Cubs lore alongside that ridiculous goat owned by Sam Sianis’ uncle – the one who is supposedly responsible for the fact that the Cubs can’t even get into the World Series.


Call me skeptical that the release of Renteria as manager so that the ball club can now hire former Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon to manage the team on-field puts the Cubs any closer to actually winning a championship.

I realize that Maddon took the formerly hopeless Rays and helped make them a team with winning records – along with one that actually won an American League championship and played in the World Series in 2008.

Remember ’08 – the year that both the Chicago White Sox and Cubs managed to finish first place in their respective divisions; only to get knocked out of the running in the first round of playoffs that year?

THE CUBS COULDN’T even win a single ball game in that particular postseason. It started the latest process of deterioration that has saw some dreadful Cubs teams and has Cubs fans pleased that 2014 produced 73 victories – the same as the White Sox, whose fans were thoroughly repulsed by a ball club that could play so badly.

Then again, that’s the difference between the mindset of the two major league organizations that purport to represent Chicago.

In recent years, the Cubs were managed by Dale Sveum, who was openly regarded as an interim managed who would keep things going while the Cubs relied on minor league prospects to develop into worthy ball players.

The cheap way of rebuilding a ball club. It’s also the way that leaves much uncertain because one never knows just how close to full ability a prospect will play up to.

BUT CUBS MANAGEMENT became convinced last winter that the team had developed enough to put in a real manager.

That was when Renteria was hired away from coaching slots (and a stint managing the Mexico national team in the most recent World Baseball Classic) with the San Diego Padres.

Cubs management admitted in a statement issued Friday to announce his dismissal following one season that he actually lived up to expectations for this season. He did nothing wrong.

But the Cubs (who last year thought seriously they could lure a manager away from the New York Yankees) continue to operate under the “Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence” mode.

THEREFORE, A MANAGER who once had led a team to a World Series appearance (let’s not forget the Rays lost that year to the Philadelphia Phillies) was somehow considered all-desirable. The Cubs must have him.

Never mind that they may already have had the guy who was suited to lead them to any improvement the Cubs might achieve in the next few seasons.

So what happens if we wind up learning that a field manager isn’t all that significant in a team’s success if he doesn’t have the ball playing personnel to back him up? What if the Cubs don’t wind up with a batch of superstars on the cheap through their minor leagues? What if the next few seasons produce mere mediocrity – which would be an improvement for the Cubs but far short of all the tough talk we’re hearing from Cubs fans these days?

Will we start hearing about how Renteria’s dismissal laid a new round of bad karma on the Cubs, thereby causing them to fall short of a desired championship? Maybe we should point out that Sveum made it to the World Series (a coach with the Kansas City Royals this year) before the Cubs.

WILL CUBS FANS of a half-century from now be ruing the day that the Cubs were short-sighted enough (which, admittedly, does seem to be the mindset the Cubs have operated under for so many years) to let Renteria go?

Will Renteria’s grandchildren be brought back to a 150-year-old Wrigley Field to symbolically try to lift the hex?

You’ve got to admit that it makes about as much sense as the ways in which Sianis of the Billy Goat Tavern has often said he lifts the hex his uncle placed on the team when they wouldn’t let his goat sit in the stands with people for a 1945 World Series game?

Although I suspect that for Cubs fans, the real misery would be if the White Sox manage to improve in the next few seasons and Cuban slugger/Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu leads them back to the World Series before their favorite ball club gets there.


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