Grace: Girardi Likely Stays Put, So Hire Sandberg

mark grace

Popular former Cub Mark Grace, now a TV analyst, knows who he'd hire as new Cubs manager.

Mark Grace does not have insight into Jim Hendry's mind. But the all-time favorite Cub-turned-baseball announcer believes Ryne Sandberg should be the first and only choice of Hendry as the next Cubs manager.

Why Grace's opinion? He's one of the select players who was a longtime teammate of Sandberg's while also serving as Joe Girardi's teammate in both his Cubs tours of duty.

While Grace was in town Saturday to work with Josh Lewin on the Fox's Game of the Week telecast of the Sox-Tigers game, I asked him to compare both old comrades' qualifications, since Sandberg and Girardi both "get" Cubs culture and would have an emotional stake in the job.

"I like them both, they're both good guys," Grace said. "I think right now, out of the gate, if I'm Joe, on a baseball decision, why would you leave there (Yankees)?  If you want the best left-handed starter, they go get it for you. If you want the best right-handed power hitter, they go get it for you. Right now, the Cubs aren't in that situation.

"I'm going to assume Joe is going to stay in New York and I would say they're crazy if they don't take Ryno."

Grace's reasoning is the Cubs have all upside in hiring Sandberg.

"For four years now he's been riding the buses and paying his dues," he said. "It's a PR bonanza. He's a Cub. He's a Cub. I'm just assuming Joe Girardi stays in New York. In my opinion, it's a one-horse race.

"Tony La Russa. Bobby Cox. Jim Leyland -- they all had to start sometime. Ryno in my opinion is ready. Manager of the Year in the Pacific Coast League. I don't know what else he needs to do."

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts' recent description of his ideal manager sounds like a profile of Sandberg. Working with the young players Ricketts desires to stock the roster tops Sandberg's qualifications.

"He knows these players. He's managed these players. He played well in that ballpark. How many Hall of Famers went down and rode the buses. He obviously wants to do it.

"I would be shocked if they gave it to someone else. Joe would be a great pick, too, but I'm assuming he's staying in New York. Ryno in my opinion is the only guy."

Notice in this train of thought there was not one mention of Mike Quade. So far, Quade has passed his managerial audition with flying colors. The game results may be meaningless, but the tenor of the Cubs has perked up after the team was DOA under an obviously tired Lou Piniella.

Given the logic that Girardi would not leave a World Series-caliber team short of a first-round playoff flop and anger by the Steinbrenner family, the managerial derby should be a two-horse race between Quade and Sandberg.

But Grace's opinions make so much sense they hit you right between the eyes. Perhaps Hendry's biggest task is finding a way to have both Sandberg and Quade work for him at the big-league level. 

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