Will one of these four be next Cubs manager?

Interview process begins with Ross, Loretta, Venable, Girardi

October 10th, 2019

CHICAGO -- There is no denying that the next manager of the Cubs has big shoes to fill in the wake of the Joe Maddon Era on the North Side. Then again, there will be so much on the new manager's plate that he probably won't have much time to think about the pressure created by his predecessor.

He will be forming relationships with the players on the active roster and continuing that process with the long list of players who will come in and impact the team in 2020 and beyond. He will be forming a bond with the front office and ownership, while forging strong connections with the coaches. He will be forming strategies and dealing with the media.

"It's drinking from a fire hose," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said recently. "So, I don't think there's going to be much thought about having to [follow in] Joe's footsteps. Except, I think the right manager will ask a lot of questions about what Joe did to make him so successful, and what's not broken that doesn't need fixing, and then what areas there are where he can make his own mark and where we can move the ball forward."

The ball is currently in motion in the Cubs' managerial search.

Chicago announced at the end of last week that internal candidates David Ross and Will Venable, along with former Marlins and Yankees manager Joe Girardi, would be interviewed this week by the ballclub. According to multiple reports, Venable sat down with the team on Monday. Girardi was interviewed by the Cubs on Wednesday, and the process lasted eight hours, per the Sun-Times.

Ross, who is currently a special assistant to baseball operations for the Cubs and an analyst for ESPN, was scheduled to have his interview on Thursday, per multiple reports.

In addition, Mark Loretta -- Maddon's bench coach this past season -- was interviewed for the managerial vacancy on Thursday. Among the external possibilities, both Astros bench coach Joe Espada and Carlos Beltrán (special advisor with the Yankees) have been mentioned as potential interview targets for the Cubs.

Each candidate interviewed so far offers something slightly different:

• Ross, who is considered the favorite for the job, played for the Cubs in 2015-16 and provided veteran leadership behind the scenes. The 42-year-old maintains strong relationships not only with some of Chicago's current players, but also with the front office. He has taken on more responsibilities in the latter department since hanging up his catcher's gear.

• Loretta learned the ropes in the dugout next to Maddon last season and the 48-year-old previously spent nine years in the Padres' front office. So, not only did Loretta learn from one of the game's best while forming relationships with the Cubs' players, coaches and front office, but the former big league infielder also understands other dynamics of baseball operations from his experience in San Diego.

• Venable, 36, is only a few seasons removed from his playing days -- he retired after nine seasons in the Majors in 2016 -- but his stock is rising. The Princeton product spent a year in the Cubs' front office in 2017 before returning to the field as part of Maddon's coaching staff (first-base coach and outfield instructor) for the past two years. Maybe Venable (the son of former big leaguer Max Venable) is a long-shot candidate now, but he is clearly on the fast track.

• Girardi, 54, has what the other interviewees lack: experience. He won the National League Manager of the Year Award for his work with the Marlins in 2006 and then spent a decade at the helm for the Yankees (2008-17) with a World Series title under his belt in 2009. He's dealt with the New York market and the high expectations that come with it. Girardi also has hometown appeal: He grew up in Illinois, played college baseball at Northwestern, was drafted by the Cubs in 1986 and played for the team for parts of seven seasons.

The 42-year-old Beltrán has no managerial experience, but his name has been mentioned not only in relation to the Cubs' job, but also the one with the Mets (two of eight managing vacancies right now). The 44-year-old Espada, meanwhile, has firsthand experience with an Astros organization that has become a machine of innovation and success.

The Cubs have not announced any other interviews beyond the first four; both Beltrán and Espada are employed by teams still alive in the postseason as of Thursday afternoon.

At his season-end gathering with reporters, Epstein said the new manager will not encounter a situation where the Cubs' front office is trying to exert more control over day-to-day decisions, or how the manager goes about cultivating his own culture or team identity.

"No," Epstein said. "We're not looking to be any more hands-on at all, especially as far as messaging or inspiring the team."

Epstein also said he believes the managerial role remains vital even as the game has evolved with the rise of analytics and technology.

"The manager is a crucially important role," Epstein said. "Take Joe, for example. I still think he doesn't get enough credit for changing the whole identity of the team in 2015, creating a mindset that allowed these young players to operate without anxiety and with a lot of bravado and go out there and be themselves and perform at the highest level, including in the postseason."

Talk about big shoes to fill.

"If we find the right person," Epstein said, "he's not going to be concerned about filling Joe's shoes or living up to expectations on an individual basis. He's going to be focused on making this the best organization, the best Major League team it can be, having sustained success at the big league level, maximizing each year's chances -- so for next year, the 2020 Cubs' chances -- to get to October, and then play good October baseball."