Cubs to pick manager with unique process

November, 3, 2011
11/03/11
9:50
PM CT
Levine By Bruce Levine
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Part of the Cubs' process in finding a new manager is an innovative way of interviewing candidates.

The Cubs' team of executives will have the candidate watch video and break down game simulations. The candidate will then tell the front office team -- president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, GM Jed Hoyer and VP of scouting and player development Jason McLeod -- what they would do in those situations. Questions could range from asking the candidate whether he’d pinch hit or bring in a reliever or make a defensive change.

[+] EnlargePete Mackanin
AP Photo/Winslow TownsonPhillies bench coach Pete Mackanin will be the first candidate for the Cubs job to go through their battery of tests.
"In Boston we started with the process of trying to find the right person to manage the club, not just right person to impress during an interview," Epstein said. "The reason is because it doesn't always match up. There is a certain conventional interview you have to do where you can cover a lot of ground, but we try to incorporate some other elements to gain some insight on how the manager would actually do.

"We created some game simulations where we hand them stats and lineup cards as well as the history of the bullpen use. Then we have them watch key innings of this game. At that point we kind of walk them along through the game, then we stop [the video] and try to create a real life situation. Now he can see first and third and one out so he knows who's available in the pen and he knows who the other manager has available for pinch-hitting situations."

Written tests are also part of the process.

"We incorporate lists, some we want an immediate answer to, some we give a hour to kind of compose their thoughts," Epstein said. "It's kind of a fun process where we got to know the candidates really well. We'll have a different process with different personnel involved [this time], but we will incorporate some of those same aspects."

The system was developed by Epstein in Boston in order to get a better feel for the managing technique of each individual. The Red Sox, under new GM Ben Cherington, have continued to use the same techniques in their interviews now.

The logic behind this type of interview is that it helps to determine how people perform in real game situations under pressure. The Red Sox chose Terry Francona from that process, Tampa Ray manager Joe Maddon finished second.

The Cubs do not have a direct time table on hiring a manager. My best guess is that the process will take at least two weeks. Chairman Tom Ricketts and his family will be brought into the equation as the Cubs’ top executives get close to making a decision.

  • The Cubs and Red Sox agreed to continue to try to solve the issue of proper compensation for Epstein leaving Boston. The two sides are hopeful something will get worked out this week. Reports have indicated that progress toward a solution has been slow. Major League Baseball will get involved and make a decision if the two sides can’t resolve the matter. The only precedent for this type of situation involving a GM was when the Twins got a minor-league pitcher and $200,000 compensation for Andy MacPhail, who left to become president/GM with the Cubs in October 1994.

  • The Cubs were all good with Carlos Zambrano pitching in Venezuela this winter. Zambrano, according to an MLB source, asked the Cubs for the OK before pitching in his native country. He will begin pitching on Nov. 5 and is expected to make nine starts. The Cubs have a scout in Venezuela who will monitor Zambrano’s outings.

  • Members of the new Cubs’ front office have had conversations with special assistant Greg Maddux within the past week. Maddux told the Cubs he had some personal issues to deal with before making any decisions on his future.
  • Bruce Levine | email

    Chicago baseball beat reporter
    Bruce Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.

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