The job in front of new Chicago Cubs manager Rick Renteria is even tougher than what his predecessor, Dale Sveum, faced. And as we know, it didn’t work out well for Sveum, who was dismissed after two years in charge.
The ever-optimistic nature of Renteria will be challenged. He might never waver, but the people who help pay his salary -- the average Cubs fan -- might want to hear more than, “We’ll get 'em tomorrow” when things are going bad.
Renteria almost believes there was a higher order at work in directing his career to the Cubs. Maybe he’s right. The bilingual manager is known for his communication and teaching skills, especially with young players. Could there ever be a better job description for the current situation the Cubs face? They have young talents all over the organization, many of whom speak Spanish.
But as manager now, and not just a coach, Renteria might be tempted to fall into the trap of winning at all costs over development. If Mike Olt struggles, will he be given second and third chances? What about Junior Lake? This is the time to find out about those players, and it’s Renteria’s job to get the most out of them -- not to mention what he has to get out of Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo.
Renteria's upbeat nature will come in handy if the Cubs fall out of the race. His goal will be to make every game count for his players as if they are a contending team. All spring he could be seen clapping and encouraging and cheerleading as much as possible. It’s a fine line between doing that just enough at the major league level and overdoing it. It’s the combination of his one-on-one communication and his public persona that will determine how his players feel and respect him. In short, is he being real?
But it can’t just be all about the positive when things are going wrong. At least not when fans want some real answers. So far in spring, the positive has been reinforced, which makes sense considering what time of year it is. But, soon enough, Renteria is going to have to be realistic about what he sees if it isn’t very good. That’s when we’ll start to know if he’s a manager for the long run. Does he have the nuance to navigate through this important transition year?
His predecessor did not. But that was at a time when the Cubs were working on gutting the organization of its aging and expensive veterans. Now, Renteria’s task is much more important. As Olt, Javier Baez, Lake and others start their major league careers, it will be on Renteria to max out their considerable talent.
With a lineup that could change every day, the possibility of Triple-A call-ups throughout the season and trades that will undoubtedly take place before the July deadline, Renteria will have a lot on his plate. But he really has only one task: get the best out of his core players and allow new ones to emerge. If he does that, it’s a successful start to his managing career.