Hoyer remains bullish on manager Rick Renteria
BY GORDON WITTENMYER Staff Reporter June 2, 2014 10:00PM
METS AT CUBS
Tuesday: Zack Wheeler (2-5, 4.31 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (1-1, 3.20), 7:05 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Wednesday: Daisuke Matsuzaka (2-0, 2.54) vs. Edwin Jackson (3-5, 4.81), 7:05 p.m., Ch. 9, 720-AM.
Thursday: Jacob deGrom (0-2, 2.42) vs. Travis Wood (5-5, 5.15), 6:05 p.m., CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: June 2, 2014 11:13PM
First-year Cubs manager Rick Renteria made it clear from Day 1 on the job — and every time he’s been asked since — that he believes the only measure of success for him and his team is winning.
Then he made it to June with the top-performing starting pitcher in baseball (Jeff Samardzija), a bullpen ranked 10th in the majors and second in the division, a free-agent pitcher (Jason Hammel) exceeding most expectations and hoped-for rebound starts from two cornerstone players (Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo) who slumped in 2013.
So what does it say about the manager that the Cubs have the worst record in the majors two months into the season?
“Obviously, we have some things that have gone well,” Renteria said, “and there are some things that we continue to need to improve on. We’re chipping away. Are we where we want to be? Obviously not.”
Clearly, nobody outside the organization expected the Cubs to reverse a four-year trend of losing. And despite Renteria’s persistent and lofty talk about expecting to win, the front office has said more than once he won’t be judged on wins and losses with the roster he’s been given.
But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t raised eyebrows at times for going to a short bench early in games, for some of his game strategy (i.e., bunt decisions), or some of his bullpen tendencies and decision-making.
General manager Jed Hoyer on Monday again absolved the manager and staff of responsibility for the record, given the hand they’ve been dealt. Hoyer also lauded strong performances from Castro and Rizzo.
“Anytime you’re a first-time manager or first-time GM or first-time pitching coach, no one steps into those jobs and not have some learning to do,” Hoyer said.
“He’s shown that aptitude to keep learning and keep getting better, and he’s done a nice job.”
Among the problems out of Renteria’s control were a $4 million closer (Jose Veras) who misfired his way out of the role in less than two weeks, the need to carry an extra reliever (reducing the bench options) and a mostly platoon lineup with huge production gaps.
Hoyer said the front office takes some of the responsibility for that, too, because of an organizational plan involving the transition of some first-time relievers (such as Justin Grimm and Neil Ramirez) and general preservation of the young power guys (such as Hector Rondon, Ramirez, Brian Schlitter and Pedro Strop).
“Given the experience some of these guys have in the bullpen, we’re trying to actively make sure we don’t overuse these guys,” Hoyer said, “which results in a 13-man bullpen, which results in a shorter bench.
“And [Renteria is] totally on board. We understand if we’re going to have this power bullpen long term we can’t abuse these guys as young relievers.”
As for the hitters, that figures to be a matter of waiting for Javy Baez, Kris Bryant, et al.
For now, nobody has been shut out more than the Cubs (eight times), and their records in extra-inning games (1-6), one-run games (3-10) and two-run games (2-8) are miserable.
For his part, Renteria said he would “not necessarily” have done anything different in his first two months managing.
“How we are judged in the end, I really don’t concern myself too much with it, because I have to worry about what’s going here right now,” he said. “[Judging] is done by everybody, by the media, by the fans, by the front office. I can’t control that.
“In the end, what I am or am not, or what we are as a team or are not, will be judged by everybody else.”