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Piniella Successor Job Requirement: Cubs Experience

George says the next Cubs manager should be part of the Cubs family.

ryne sandberg
ryne sandberg

A commitment to graft speed onto the front end of power to play "under the wind" at Wrigley Field. Ability to call for squeezes, hit-and-runs, take-two-and-hit-to-right, whether it's 30 degrees or 100 degrees. Speed never takes a day off.

Check.

A  realization you have to be creative with your roster to handle the 9-to-5 schedule at home that changes to 4-to-midnight on the road, the switching over and over again for six months that has worn down a slew of past teams.

Check.

Blinders and earplugs to ward off the pressure, largely from sports-talk show hosts and writers who lean on the crutch of goats, curses and "Cubbie Occurrences" instead of profiling holes in the organization and bad moves by the brass. What happened 30, 60 or even 100 years ago logically should have no bearing on the present, but it does.

Check.

Understanding of the city and the fans who pay your salary. They are one of a kind.

Check.

If Tom Ricketts and Jim Hendry really want to hit the nail on their next managerial hiring, these job requirements should top their list. Specifically asked if background as a Cub to alleviate the attendant pressure was important on Tuesday, minutes after Lou Piniella formally announced his forthcoming retirement, team chairman Ricketts said it is "not a pre-requisite."

The last full-time Cubs manager who also played for the team was Don Zimmer. Zim's experiences as a player included being led by the crazy "college of coaches" scheme in 1961. That's almost a different era of baseball. But the pre-steroids 1980s more resemble today's game -- five-man rotations and the start of bullpen specialization.

Ryne Sandberg was a speed-and-extra-base-hit sparkplug of the 1984 Cubs and a 30-homer producer for the 1989 Cubs. Both teams won the NL East with league-leading offensive totals that featured a fine balance of speed and power. Although he was drafted and developed by the Phillies, Sandberg has always considered himself a Cub.

Joe Girardi was a brainy gamer good enough to start behind the plate as a rookie for the '89 Cubs. He came back as an elder catcher-turned-coach- or manager-in-training in 2000. Better yet, Girardi was a childhood Cubs fan in Peoria. He used to drive around with his father on business, the pair listening to Vince Lloyd and Lou Boudreau on the radio. Later, while attending Northwestern, he'd take the L to Wrigley Field.

Both Sandberg and Girardi have the passion and emotional involvement to immerse themselves in their jobs. Sandberg has left open another team calling him after a minor-league apprenticeship. But make no mistake about it, he wants the Cubs gig -- why else would he have put up with tough minor league travel as a Hall of Famer used to comfort? And, remember, Sandberg would have managed many of the players the Cubs plan to bring up in the next few years. Familiarity and existing relationships must count for a lot.

While Marlins manager a few years back, Girardi all but confirmed he'd devote himself body and soul to managing the Cubs if he ever got the chance.

Sandberg and Girardi must top the list of Ricketts and Hendry. Their search has to start with this pair and work backward. The contact  with Girardi will be tough as the Yankees postseason could take them to Nov. 1, when the Cubs brass want their manager solidly in place for their organizational meetings.

There can't be a long break-in period where the new manager acclimates himself to all things Cubs and Chicago. That was the situation with Piniella, Dusty Baker and Don Baylor, none of whom had any past Chicago connections. They were all good men, but they were hampered. But there's not a moment to waste, not an ongoing education to endure.

The new manager must hit the ground running, with both himself and his team.