Renteria embraces Cubs' youth movement
New skipper excited for crop of top prospects to make their way to Chicago
CHICAGO -- At the end of the 2013 season, Rick Renteria was being interviewed by three teams in need of a manager, including the Cubs. When one club became serious, he called Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations.
Renteria wanted to stress how much he wanted to manage the Cubs because he believed in the young players. Epstein was convinced, and Renteria was hired.
"From afar, I'd been following the Cubs," said Renteria, who was the Padres bench coach before taking on the Cubs' job. "There were many times when we'd sit in the dugout and I'd look over to [Bud Black] and say, 'I'd take that team right now.' And now I know what's coming up [from the Minor Leagues].
"I think the mentality and the approach the organization has been taking, to have a sustainable club throughout many years, is important," Renteria said. "My personality is suited to younger players. I've got four kids, I've been raising kids my whole life. [The Cubs] are going to be my kids now. I think I can share with them and help them understand their failures aren't the end all."
Renteria's positive vibe has been on display at the Cubs Convention, which wraps up Sunday at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.
The new Cubs manager heard fans complain about the team's lack of success as well as problems in the past such as the closer situation and instability at third base. As far as Renteria is concerned, there's no point in complaining about what the Cubs don't have. He's going to focus on making what the team does have work.
"We have a lot of young guys now at the Major League level," Renteria siad. "The challenge for me is, more than anything, to look forward. You talk about the patience. I think having a true belief in the final product helps us get there. Believe me, I have a lot of faith in the guys who are here and the guys who are coming."
One of the reasons Epstein picked Renteria was because they felt better about him handling the prospects on the horizon.
"If we're going to be so youth-centric, and we're putting so many eggs in that basket, we have to make sure they're in a position to thrive here," Epstein said Saturday. "That's one thing Rickey does well. Not only does he have a great feel for dealing with young players and young players from all different demographics, but he believes in them."
Renteria described himself as a "busy body" and said he would be active, throwing three rounds of batting practice if possible. During a Cubs caravan stop this week, Renteria, who turned 52 on Christmas Day, was challenged by a high school kid to do situps, and he kept pace with the youngster.
His message to the players is that they must be accountable and play the game right. He'll let them know when they don't.
"I'm not a guy who likes barking a lot like a dog," Renteria said, explaining that when a dog barks incessantly, you often get annoyed with the animal. "When I bite, I want it to count."
This weekend was the first time the majority of the Cubs players got to talk to Renteria face to face.
"These are going to be my kids now," he said.
Earlier in the week, he addressed the 15 players taking part in the rookie development camp and made a big impact with them.
"He made us feel like we're going to go out and play Game 7," said outfielder Albert Almora, the Cubs' No. 1 Draft pick in 2012. "I wanted to go out and play in the snow for him."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.