The Cubs have three internal candidates for their open managerial position, one of whom played for them, and yet another former Cub is on the list of candidates. Then there are the guys currently in the employ of playoff teams, one in the Dodgers front office and another in the dugout with the Astros. But there’s another name floating out there that could be really interesting.
Talked to three people employed by other teams today about the Pirates managerial opening.
All three said Sam Fuld is a name that keeps coming up inside the game.
— Colin Dunlap (@colin_dunlap) October 3, 2019
Sam Fuld, he of a mere 155 plate appearances over three seasons in Chicago, is getting a lot of love in baseball circles and could be a leading candidate for the Pirates job. Selected by the Cubs in the 24th round of the 2003 draft, Fuld debuted briefly in 2007 and then played parts of the ’09 and ’10 seasons as a backup outfielder.
He became something of a cult hero following a trade to Joe Maddon’s Rays as a result of playing like “a crash test dummy with a death wish,” making diving plays all over the outfield. As you may recall, that trade also involved Chris Archer and brought Matt Garza to the Cubs. After bouncing between the A’s and Twins for a few years, Fuld underwent rotator cuff surgery and retired on November 3, 2017.
That same day, he was hired by the Phillies as major league player information coordinator, which is kind of an amorphous title that could mean everything or nothing. According to a statement from the team, Fuld’s job was to work with every level of the big league club to “integrate the use of information in all areas of on-field performance and preparation and make recommendations regarding the most effective areas of future research and analysis.”
The role came about as a result of Fuld’s relationship with Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, for whom he’d played as part of Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic the previous spring. But more than just throwing a bone to a fellow jock, the Phillies saw in Fuld a Stanford graduate with an economics degree and guy who was well versed in advanced metrics. And given how recently he’d been an active player, he was able to relate credibly to everyone from the front office to the clubhouse.
Gee, that actually sounds like the kind of manager the Cubs are looking for. The ass-kicker enthusiasts out there might be in favor of a guy with Popeye forearms and an abrasive attitude, but Fuld’s fearless style of play may be indicative of his managerial style. He’s highly intelligent and found a way to cobble together an eight-year playing career despite being 5-foot-9 and diabetic. Sounds kind of like he knows how to scrap.
It also sounds like Fuld is getting strong interest from the Pirates, who could be looking to move quickly before a higher-profile team can snag their guy. Fuld would represent a decided change from the curmudgeonly Clint Hurdle, whose face was frequently as red as his ass, and could key a cultural shift from the Bucs’ head-hunting ways.
The Cubs hope to spur a shift of their own, a way to create enough energy to burn off the complacency that has increasingly defined the team over the last few seasons. Could Fuld be that guy? It’s entirely possible in theory, though it does seem as though they’ve got a favorite already. If that ends up not being the case, or if David Ross isn’t willing to leave the broadcast booth, Fuld is absolutely worth a look.