CHICAGO'S POTENTIAL MORE INTRIGUING THAN BOSTON'S EXPECTATIONSBy Jon Greenberg
It's no surprise that the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs are interested in some, if not all, of the same manager candidates. It's like the Ricketts brothers supporting the same political candidates. Like minds and all.
Mike Maddux, Dale Sveum and Pete Mackanin are mutual candidates for the open jobs. Maybe Sandy Alomar Jr. is, too. He should be. Terry Francona is on the Cubs' list after leaving the Red Sox.
Which team is the better fit for the available managers-to-be? You'd think Red Sox, but dig a little deeper and you might change your mind.
While the Red Sox organizational history, not to mention the players currently on the roster, certainly tilts the scales eastward, there are obvious drawbacks to the Boston job. For one, you have expectations, almost impossible ones. Second, there are the lingering questions about the team's clubhouse collapse. Third, filling Francona's shoes won't be easy.
In Chicago, there is a finite amount of hope about the North Side team, even with the Mighty Theo in charge. Replacing Mike Quade won't be tough. Trust me, there won't be a lot of "When Mike was running things" type of questions.
The Cubs also have the benefit of Epstein and Jed Hoyer operating with newfound enthusiasm. Hoyer called this new start "intoxicating."
"Based on my conversations with Theo," Hoyer said. "I think he feels the same way."
No one expects much from this Cubs team and that can be dangerous for the other teams in the NL Central, especially the Cardinals and Brewers, both of whom could be dealing with significant losses. There is, at the core of this team, potential, and it'll be interesting to see how some fresh eyes gauge the situation.
When free agency opens, I have a feeling Tom Ricketts is going to get talked into spending a little more money than some pessimists anticipate; probably not Prince Fielder money, but a lot of signings that emphasize pitching and defense. Attention to fundamentals makes a manager's job easier.
The Cubs job always carries with it the specter of past failures, but maybe this time a clean slate makes for a better destination.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
NEXT RED SOX MANAGER SET UP TO SUCCEEDBy Joe McDonald
Sure, both are great baseball markets and historic franchises, but when the candidates look at the present and the future of the organizations, it should be clear that the Red Sox are the better option.
The next manager of the Red Sox will inherit unlimited resources, a potentially potent team (most of the team's best players are locked into long-term deals) and a deep minor league system. Sure, the Red Sox finished the season in disarray and there's some clubhouse cleaning up to do, but this is still a stacked roster filled with freshly motivated players.
The Cubs, on the other hand, finished 25 games out in the NL Central, have had two straight losing seasons and have a roster full of questions. How would you like to be staring at a staff on which only one pitcher who made more than 20 starts -- Matt Garza -- had an ERA under 4.75? And don't even get us started on Carlos Zambrano.
No thanks. Not exactly the recipe for a long career on the bench.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, have been one of the most stable franchises of the last decade. They've had 14 straight winning seasons and have made the playoffs in six of the last nine years. That kind of stability usually means job security for the skipper.
As for the farm systems, the Red Sox have one of the best in the American League, thanks to Theo Epstein. Sure, Theo is now at the helm in Chicago, but it will be at least five years before that club -- whose minor leagues were ranked 20th in the latest Keith Law rankings -- starts to see the fruits of his labor in the draft. Whichever manager is hired by the Cubs will likely be fired by then.
Pressure? Sure. With high expectations, an impatient fan base and plenty of media, Boston is one of toughest jobs in baseball. But it also can be one of the most rewarding, an apparent contradiction Terry Francona acknowledged time after time during his eight seasons with the Red Sox.
Yes, the next manager of the Red Sox will face many challenges and constant scrutiny, but it's an opportunity anyone in the baseball world would choose over a job leading the rebuilding Cubs.
Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.