When the first betting odds came out for who would replace Joe Maddon in Chicago, it was bench coach Mark Loretta at the top of the list. Maddon himself was actually second at that time, just ahead of David Ross. The landscape has changed significantly over the last 10 days, with Loretta sliding back as Ross jumped to the front of the line.
Far more interesting than that, however, is the shift that has taken place among the other names on the list, most notably Joe Espada. Currently serving as AJ Hinch’s bench coach in Houston, Espada spent several years at various levels of the Marlins organization and even served as a special assistant to Brian Cashman in New York before a period as Joe Girardi’s third base coach.
With +300 odds, Espada finds himself sandwiched between Ross and another former Cub, Mark DeRosa. Though DeRo hasn’t been mentioned at all outside of fan speculation, his odds jumped from +750 with Bovada in late September to +400 with BetOnline as of this past Thursday.
Girardi finds himself sixth on the list behind all the aforementioned candidates and…Hensley Meulens? The Giants bench coach has been mentioned in connection with previous openings and is the favorite to replace Bruce Bochy in San Francisco, but he has yet to be brought up in Cubs circles this time around.
I found it a bit puzzling that Raul Ibañez wasn’t on this list, since he is one of the few external candidates to have been named by a reliable source. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported last week that the Cubs would be looking at him, and we heard prior that they’d identified Ibañez as a potential Maddon successor prior to the 2018 season.
Part of the reason for those non-existent Cubs odds might be that Ibañez is second (+300) to Mike Matheny (+200) for the Royals job and first (+250) for the opening in Pittsburgh. Oddly enough, Sam Fuld does not appear on the board for that latter organization, though I’m guessing he will if and when updated odds are posted.
But let’s get back to the titular topic of Girardi as a sleeper, which is really something of a misnomer since everyone in the game is well aware of his desire to get back into managing. The only man to appear on the board for each of five teams featured in this round of odds — and he’d surely be near the top for the Mets had they had those posted yet — Girardi is almost certain to land a gig. That said, he doesn’t seem like a great fit for the Cubs.
The popular sentiment among those who believe otherwise is that the former Yankees skipper’s take-no-shit attitude is the perfect remedy for a group of coddled prima donnas who need to be whipped into shape. Yeah, okay. Thing is, Girardi was allowed to walk in New York for almost the exact same reasons that Maddon is no longer in Chicago. When a manager tunes out his front office and decides to go rogue with his decision-making, it’s time to move on.
That said, it’s entirely possible that Girardi has changed his ways and that his relationship with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will be better than it was with Cashman. There’s also the matter of experience, which, while vastly overrated by most laymen, is something Girardi possess infinitely more of than the others in line for the job.
If nothing else, the Cubs want to pick his brain about a variety of things related to their team and what he’s seen from the outside. Not only is Girardi the only known candidate with actual managerial tenure, he’s the only publicly-named interviewee from outside the organization. That fresh perspective may be helpful, especially if the Cubs are indeed going into this with a blank slate.
“We have an open mind,” Epstein said during during this year’s postmortem presser. “You always learn a lot when you have an opportunity to do a managerial search. Manager of the Cubs is such an esteemed position, you should have access to just about anyone in the industry you want to talk to.
“Through the managerial interview process, I think you learn a lot about what you’re looking for, too, because the right candidates can open your eyes to things you never even thought of in the first place.”
Though all the signs have been pointing to Ross thus far, Patrick Mooney isn’t ready to dismiss Girardi ($) out of hand. So if you’re the kind of degenerate gambler who’s looking to lay a little cheddar on a prop bet, you could do worse than Girardi at +700 (or whatever he’s at now). But maybe keep your wager to a minimum, because I still don’t think it’ll happen.