New Cubs manager Rick Renteria brings a smile to work

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Rick Renteria
Rick Renteria is all smiles as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs.

To follow up on a point that I made on the radio yesterday, I didn’t really plan to say very much about new Cubs manager Rick Renteria (and I’ll be calling him Rick-Rent from now on, because I inexplicably like the way it sounds). I didn’t mean to lead off my discussion of the Cubs with him and Dale Sveum. But it was a snap decision, and I think it gets at what I hope is a change in the vibe abound the Cubs this year.

The old saying goes that you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. And thinking about the old and the new Cubs managers, those are two metaphors that serve very well. In the month or so that I’ve seen Rick-Rent in action, he seems to be a jocular sort of guy. He smiles, he engages with those around him, and he seems — at least on the surface — to be the kind of person you’d want to work for. He’s pure honey, all the way.

Sveum, who served as manager of the Cubs in 2012 and 2013 and was let go with one year remaining on his contract, appeared to be the exact opposite of this. If he ever smiled in his two years as Cubs manager, it happened so fast I missed it. His body language always seemed to be stiff and severe. He seemed like the kind of a boss where you did what he wanted because you feared the consequences if you didn’t. That’s one way to run a ball club, certainly, but it shouldn’t be a surprise when the results aren’t always what you want them to be.

Perhaps I’m off base on one or both counts. Maybe Rick-Rent puts on a nice-guy front, and maybe Sveum is a sweet guy behind the scenes. I only know what I see on short video clips, and I’d be lying if I said I paid close attention to them. Impressions based on facial expressions and body language aren’t scientific, by any means. But in speaking about Rick-Rent, I said that he seems to be everything Sveum was not. Whether that’s right or wrong, that’s how it appeared to me. And if this observation has any basis in truth, I think the Cubs will be moving in the right direction this year.

A firm hand is needed, on occasion, to keep everyone on the same page and help players reach their full potential. But a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and a smile from one’s manager can also go a long way. We’ll see if that translates into more wins for the Cubs in 2014, but I’m already more hopeful than I have been in awhile.  Now that Rick-Rent has brought the honey, I’m hopeful the Cubs will enjoy the taste of it.

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