We know very little about the upcoming baseball offseason. But now -- in light of Lou Piniella's upcoming retirement -- we do know the Chicago Cubs will be hiring a new manager. And we know the sentimental favorite -- Cubs Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg -- told the Chicago Tribune he would like the opportunity to replace Piniella after this season.
Sandberg manages Chicago's Triple-A affiliate and has been climbing the organizational ladder for several years. He's the odds-on-favorite with three months left in Piniella's tenure. But Sandberg isn't the most intriguing candidate. That honor belongs to Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, who is nearing the end of his original three-year contract in the Bronx.
Girardi, remember, spent seven seasons with the Cubs during his 15-year playing career. He's from Peoria, Ill., graduated from Northwestern and interviewed for the Cubs job after the 2006 season when the organization ultimately hired Piniella. Girardi is a Midwestern guy who grew up a Cubs fan. He's also successfully managed two teams at the opposite end of the baseball spectrum: the 2006 Florida Marlins, with their $14 million payroll, and the 2008-2010 Yankees, who practically play with Monopoly money and deal with a 365-day media circus in New York.
But the issue here isn't whether Chicago would want Girardi -- they would be dumb not to take a look at a guy who has a manager of the year award and a World Series ring. No, the overriding storyline is whether Girardi is interested enough in the Cubs to leave the Yankees and whether the Yankees are stupid enough to let Girardi walk.
A contract extension from New York likely puts the kibosh on all the Chicago chatter, but Hal and Hank Steinbrenner haven't offered one yet, which is curious given that Girardi just won a championship and the Yankees have the best record in baseball. The closer Girardi gets to the offseason without a deal, the more likely he becomes a real candidate in Wrigleyville.