We have been hearing the rumbles and the media/Twitter digs aimed at Cubs manager Rick Renteria’s in-game management for most of his first season.
Gordon Wittenmyer, however, raised the bar a bit the other day after Renteria had another of his patented pitching change fits.
Witmeyer insinuated that the Cubs skipper was inducing some real head-shaking within the organization, as well as throughout the game, with his curious strategy at times.
Now before you write it off as Wittenmyer just passing along another negative narrative, hold that thought. We will get to that another time. There does appear to be a small fire from which that smoke came. Now I am not saying Wittenmyer’s story needed to be checked out, nor am I promoting that Renteria is operating under any type of job insecurity…yet.
However, it of course piqued my interest. When I asked around about the notion that Renteria’s in-game management could be raising eyebrows within the Cubs organization, multiple sources confirmed it is a real concern.
On one hand, Renteria has done exactly what the Cubs made it a priority for him to do. He has transformed the clubhouse into a place where young players could both learn and thrive. Most notably, he got core players Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro to return to form, with both reaching the All-Star game this summer.
Theo Epstein expressed that sentiment to Wittenmyer, while letting it be known Renteria needs to improve on his in-game skills.
“The No. 1 challenge we gave him was to provide an environment for the young players to continue to develop and thrive at the big-league level, and that’s easier said than done,” Epstein said. “He’s lived up to everything that we had hoped for, especially the priorities that we gave him.
In addition, players that I have spoken with raved about the clubhouse this year under Renteria. The Cubs skipper apparently is a very good teacher and his personal skills have been lauded. Yet, other non-player sources wondered aloud if his strategy shortcomings could be too tough to overlook in the long run. The Cubs have so much riding on the next phase they are coming into.
The possibility was even mentioned to me that the Cubs may try to find Renteria a different bench coach, one who has more managerial experience .
Supposedly the Cubs are more concerned about Renteria’s usage of his pitching staff more than anything else.
Still, anything but a return of Ricky for 2015 would be a major upset. But if the Cubs brass feels that they can compete next year and Renteria hinders that somehow, all bets are off for a longer commitment. The Cubs may end up looking for a plan C guy in that case.
“As for the X’s and O’s and the in-game stuff, he’s growing into that, and it’s kind of nice that he can grow with this team”, says Epstein.
It is safe to say everyone needs to show continual growth next year, including Renteria.