Cubs Stay Loyal to Organization, Fire Rick Renteria

In news that was more overdue than it was surprising, the Cubs announced on Friday afternoon that they had fired Rick Renteria, the 53rd manager in club history. He was let go after holding the position for only 51 weeks, less time than was given to either Mike Quade or Dale Sveum.

But where those two were seen as either stopgaps or disappointments, Renteria was viewed as a possibility to grow into the role along with his young team. While he certainly made his fair share of mistakes as a rookie skipper, Renteria instilled a positive attitude and got along well with the players and media alike.

None of that mattered, however, when Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays, and Theo Epstein said as much in the statement he released regarding the firing. I had hoped to spend some time breaking down Epstein’s words to decipher the truth behind his notoriously cryptic GM-speak, but alas, he was pretty transparent (and said as much himself).

Much like his end-of-season postmortem, Epstein came right out and stated the motivation and thought process behind the change on the bench. It was pretty refreshing actually, and after being called everything from tamperers to classless, I applaud the forthright nature of Friday’s statement, which read:

Today we made the difficult decision to replace Rick Renteria as manager of the Chicago Cubs. On behalf of Tom Ricketts and Jed Hoyer, I thank Rick for his dedication and commitment, and for making the Cubs a better organization.

Rick’s sterling reputation should only be enhanced by his season as Cubs manager. We challenged Rick to create an environment in which our young players could develop and thrive at the big league level, and he succeeded. Working with the youngest team in the league and an imperfect roster, Rick had the club playing hard and improving throughout the season. His passion, character, optimism and work ethic showed up every single day.

Rick deserved to come back for another season as Cubs manager, and we said as much when we announced that he would be returning in 2015. We met with Rick two weeks ago for a long end-of-season evaluation and discussed plans for next season. We praised Rick to the media and to our season ticket holders. These actions were made in good faith.

Last Thursday, we learned that Joe Maddon – who may be as well suited as anyone in the industry to manage the challenges that lie ahead of us – had become a free agent. We confirmed the news with Major League Baseball, and it became public knowledge the next day. We saw it as a unique opportunity and faced a clear dilemma: be loyal to Rick or be loyal to the organization. In this business of trying to win a world championship for the first time in 107 years, the organization has priority over any one individual. We decided to pursue Joe.

While there was no clear playbook for how to handle this type of situation, we knew we had to be transparent with Rick before engaging with Joe. Jed flew to San Diego last Friday and told Rick in person of our intention to talk to Joe about the managerial job. Subsequently, Jed and I provided updates to Rick via telephone and today informed him that we will indeed make a change.

We offered Rick a choice of other positions with the Cubs, but he is of course free to leave the organization and pursue opportunities elsewhere. Armed with the experience of a successful season and all the qualities that made him our choice a year ago, Rick will no doubt make an excellent major league manager when given his next chance.

Rick often said he was the beneficiary of the hard work of others who came before him. Now, in the young players he helped, we reap the benefits of his hard work as we move forward. He deserved better and we wish him nothing but the best.

We have clung to two important ideals during our three years in Chicago. The first is to always be loyal to our mission of building the Cubs into a championship organization that can sustain success. The second is to be transparent with our fans. As painful as the last week was at times, we believe we stayed true to these two ideals in handling a sensitive situation. To our fans: we hope you understand, and we appreciate your continued support of the Cubs.

It’s hard to remember at times that this is, first and foremost, a business, and one that’s now worth a reported $2 billion at that. Actually, if you happen to have $200 million just lying around, you too can get in on all that’s going on with this rebuild. I think we could scrape it together if everyone who reads this pitches in $10 million or so.

In all seriousness, it does appear as though the slow burn of the first three years of this rebuild is finally nearing the powder keg. When the other shoe drops and Joe Maddon is officially named as the Cubs’ 54th manager (and 3rd hired by Epstein), likely on Monday, it’ll be a clear signal to the rest of baseball that the Cubs are ready to compete in earnest.

It’s also a clear signal to the fans that they can feel free to raise the bar on expectations now. To be sure, the team is still going to experience some growing pains, but the days of sitting back and hoarding high draft picks are over…we hope.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t at least a little concerning that this is the second year in a row I’ve written a post about the Cubs firing their manager but I’d also be lying if I wrote that I wasn’t excited about the immediate future of this team. Rick Renteria deserved better, but the fans deserve a team that’s willing to do what it takes in the pursuit of the goal of bringing a title to 1060 W. Addison.

And that’s exactly what the Cubs did on Friday when they put the organization ahead of an individual. No more excuses, no more hurry up and wait. Now who’s ready for Spring Training?

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