PHILADELPHIA – Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez is keeping his eye on October.
But as the Cubs prepared to open a four-game series in Philadelphia on Thursday, Martinez also got another reminder of just how big November might be for him – as the latest chapter in the Phillies’ ongoing management shakeup played out.
The Phillies are just one of at least a half-dozen teams undergoing shakeups expected to result in managerial searches this winter – putting Martinez, a perennial finalist in recent years, in play for his first career managing job.
“You never know,” said Martinez, who interviewed for the Cubs job Rick Renteria got before last season, was interviewed for the Tampa Bay job Maddon vacated last fall, and also has been a finalist in recent years for jobs in Houston and Washington.
On Thursday, former Cubs executive Andy MacPhail, the recently hired Phillies president, fired longtime Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro and installed assistant Scott Proefrock as assistant GM.
The Phillies already were operating with an interim manager, one-time Cubs candidate Pete Mackanin. That job is one of as many as eight that could be open by season’s end.
“For me, there’s no question that I’m ready. It’s just getting the right opportunity,” said Martinez, whose 16-year career as a big-league player began as a third-round draft pick of the Cubs and included three seasons in Tampa Bay when Proefrock worked in the Rays front office.
As a rising managerial candidate since he helped put Maddon’s Tampa Bay teams on the baseball map, it was almost inevitable from the first day back in Chicago that Martinez’s reunion with the Cubs would be short-lived.
If anything, the success the Cubs are having this year enhances Martinez’s value as a candidate – for the same reasons Cub execs such as Jason McLeod are increasingly mentioned every time a new GM spot opens up.
“He won’t be easy to replace,” Maddon said, “because he understands what I like, which matters a lot. He’s able to think in advance of what I like to do because we’ve been together for so long. And that really helps.
“But I’d be happy to try to find a replacement if he gets a manager’s job.”
Martinez’s people skills and ability to relate to players of all experience levels and backgrounds has been one of his top assets for Maddon’s staffs – an underrated contribution to the rise of the young Cubs this season.
And it doesn’t hurt his resume that he would be one of the few bilingual managers in the game.
Maddon, who has lobbied for Martinez with other teams and often talks to him about managing, said the only adjustment Martinez would have to make is to integrate the off-field responsibilities into his work.
The Phillies job could be an especially attractive fit for Martinez, who has nearly a decade of experience and success with the kind of youth-centric, team-building process the Phils are starting to undertake.
“They’ve got a bunch of young, talented players,” Martinez said. “And they’ve got some really young players still developing in the minor leagues that are potentially major-league players in the near future.
“And they’ve had a tradition of winning. I got a bittersweet taste in my mouth because we were here in 2008 when they beat us in the World Series.”
Whether it’s Philadelphia or any other place, Martinez already senses another bittersweet taste coming if he winds up a one-and-done Cubs coach.
“I enjoy my job,” he said, “And I love the city of Chicago, and this organization – it gave me the start to my whole career. So I’ve always had a special place for this [team].”
And what this team has done this year is particularly special, he said.
“Everybody keeps asking me, everybody keeps telling me, `You’re ready you’re ready,’ “ Martinez said of the continually arising speculation. “But I can’t even think about that right now.
“The only thing I can focus on is finishing out this year, and getting into the playoffs and trying to win a World Series.”