Renteria also came with a nice backstory. Born on Christmas Day 1961 and raised in Compton, Calif., he was such a good player at South Gate High School that he was drafted in the first round by the Pirates in 1980 despite his size (5-foot-9), just ahead of Terry Francona (Expos), Billy Beane (Mets) and John Gibbons (Mets). He had a cup of coffee with Pittsburgh in '86, then got traded to Seattle, which used him as a utility infielder. The Mariners released him. The Tigers released him. The Expos released him. The Tigers released him again. He bounced around the Mexican League and persevered through a fractured skull and a spiked eye until Rene Lachemann, the manager of the expansion Florida Marlins, brought him back to the majors as a utility infielder in 1993. As Lachemann, who managed the Cubs for one day in 2002, says, "I'd pay to go see a movie about Rick Renteria."
When his playing career ended, Renteria took a few years off to help his wife, Ilene, raise their four kids, then rejoined the Marlins in 1998 as the manager of the Brevard County Manatees. He paid his dues in the minors, managing in the Marlins' and Padres' systems, until Padres manager Bud Black -- the pitcher who served up Renteria's first major league home run -- put him on his staff in 2008, first as the first-base coach, then as the bench coach.
More hands-on than Sveum and relentlessly upbeat, Renteria clearly won over the Cubs players early in spring training in Mesa. "He came up to me the first day," said newly acquired pitcher Jason Hammel. "And he slapped me on the face almost like your grandfather talking to you. He made me feel very welcome. I'm excited."
"So far, he's been really good," catcher Welington Castillo said. "Like, 'Hey, I've got your back, enjoy the game and play hard.'"
Delightful as he's been, Renteria has left the beat writers a little frustrated because he plays it close to the vest and doesn't give them much information. But then, that's because they're after headlines and he doesn't want to make them.
That's another thing about being a Cubs manager. You're working for millions of owners, not just one. "Everyone wants to help," says Trebelhorn, the manager in 1994 and now a coaching mentor in the Giants' organization. "And that doesn't help."
Then again, there is this fabulous resource: the Fall Guys, the fraternity of former Cubs skippers. So, as much for our edification as for Renteria's, we went in search of them.
"The Peerless Leader" passed away in 1924. But if you think you're safe in assuming he has nothing to offer us in the way of advice, you would be out.
Chance left a gift to his successors in the form of "Maxims Of The Peerless Leader: Chance's Don'ts for Baseball Managers," published in Baseball magazine in 1912. They go as follows in the boldface; our annotations are in the italics:
Never trade a man you have any use for. The time will come when that man may fill in. Dennis Eckersley and Dan Rohn were traded to the A's for Brian Guinn, Dave Wilder and Mark Leonette, April 3, 1987.
Don't kick needlessly, but don't let any one impose upon you. It doesn't do any harm to let the other fellows see that you are watching every move. Leo Durocher needlessly played hooky in the middle of the 1969 pennant drive to visit his new wife's son in summer camp.