Cubs decision-makers were not surprised that Joe Girardi decided to continue managing the Yankees, where he's spent most of the last 18 years as a manager, coach, broadcaster and player, and now Chicago appears to be honing in on a very short list of serious candidates, including the already interviewed duo of A.J. Hinch and Manny Acta.
Cubs people will not label anyone as a "favorite" yet, but with their plan to add perhaps only one or two names to their original interview list, the assumption is they were impressed by Hinch and/or Acta and confident they will find their next manager from a roster that includes those two, plus Rick Renteria, who'll be interviewed next week, perhaps Dave Martinez and maybe one other. Martinez is said to have a good chance to garner an interview, as well.
Word is, the Cubs may put their energies into callbacks/second interviews, another indicator that they believe they have their next manager on their original short list.
Some baseball people, partly by reading tea leaves, are surmising Hinch and/or Acta may have an excellent chance. Both men have major-league managerial experience, which could be a plus over the other couple of known candidates, though Cubs people are saying it isn't necessarily a prerequisite. Dale Sveum, who was fired after two years as manager, only had brief big-league experience managing as a Brewers interim for a few weeks when he was hired in Chicago..
Hinch, now a Padres executive, has an excellent reputation for his work with prospects and young players while working as the Diamondbacks farm director before his short tenure as their big-league manager. The Cubs have made clear that strength in player development would be a major asset. Acta, currently an ESPN analyst, managed both the Indians and Nats, so he's certainly qualified.
Sandy Alomar Jr. and both Maddux brothers, the Hall-of-Fame-to-be pitcher Greg and brother Mike, have been speculated as possible candidates, but it's uncertain whether they will be interviewed. Mike Maddux, the respected Rangers pitchng coach, and Alomar, a beloved Indians coach, were interviewed by the Cubs two years ago when Sveum was hired.
Renteria, the Padres' bench coach, is known to have a great rapport with young players, and Cubs GM Jed Hoyer loved him when he was the Padres' GM.
Martinez has an excellent reputation as a Rays coach, though he wasn't necessarily viewed as managerial material when he was a Cubs player a couple decades ago.
The Cubs were prepared to pursue Girardi, the Peoria native who played for Northwestern and the Cubs, but had no strong belief they'd have a real shot at him considering it was well known that Girardi wasn't unhappy with the Yankees or his life in the northern suburbs of Westchester County.