More than most people who feel unappreciated by their bosses, Terry Bevington can relate to Rick Renteria.
Bevington was the White Sox manager left in limbo as former Sox GM Ron Schueler pursued a potential replacement — not once but twice during his tenure on the South Side from 1995-97. Not that such baseball precedent in Chicago will make Renteria feel any better about the Cubs being expected to announce the hiring of Joe Maddon as early as Friday, according to a source.
"It is pretty awkward but it's not a slight against Renteria, it's just somebody looking at a guy they think is magical,'' Bevington, 58, said Thursday from his home in Collierville, Tenn. "I think Rick Renteria did a pretty good job last year. But if I was him now, I would seriously consider trying to move on. If I had to do it all over again, after that second time, I'd have left.''
That second time came after the Sox finished 85-77 in 1996. Bevington was walking out of the ballpark on the final day of the season when he bumped into Schueler.
"He goes, 'Terry, you did a nice job but Jerry (Reinsdorf) is making me interview Jim Leyland,' because Leyland had just left the Pirates,'' Bevington said. "I was like, 'Tell me straight, Ron, I'm a grown man. Do you want me or not want me?'''
The answer came when Schueler and Reinsdorf flew to Pittsburgh to offer Leyland a $1.5 million salary he turned down, according to Tribune archives. A year earlier, the Sox flirted with Tony La Russa after he parted ways with the A's.
"Jerry just had such admiration for La Russa and Leyland that, in his mind, pursuing those guys wasn't a slight against me,'' said Bevington, fired after the '97 season and never managing in the majors again. "Jerry meant no harm. I have the utmost respect for him. But I will say this, man. He was trying to make things better but he undermined me. It was a bad feeling.''
Somewhere, Renteria nods.
Before the North Side adjusted to calling him Ricky, it appears Renteria will join Bevington on the list of former Chicago managers.
The Cubs went 73-89 under Renteria, who did nothing to deserve losing his job. Renteria met the organization's primary goal in helping revive the careers of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. He wore a smile as often as he put on his No. 16 jersey. He never complained, at least openly, about fielding a major league team in Chicago often with less talent the Cubs' Triple-A team in Iowa. He made unorthodox moves with his bullpen, made no friends with umpires who ejected him six times for arguing and made baseball observers scratch their heads at least once a homestand. But the baseball lifer never embarrassed the franchise or treated people around the team with anything but respect.
Still, the Cubs owe Renteria nothing but the money remaining over the final two years of his contract. If Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer executed this exit with class, they looked Renteria in the eye, thanked him in person for his professionalism, answered any questions and shook his hand. The Cubs' obligation to do whatever's necessary to end a 106-year championship drought trumps any responsibility to be as nice to Renteria as he is to everybody. The Cubs need not feel compelled to offer Renteria a job in the organization that he might be loath to accept anyway. They hired Epstein in 2011 to win a World Series, not friends.
Cry not for Renteria, who has millions of reasons not to feel too devastated about beginning October with a vote of confidence and ending the month without a job. It's more unfortunate for Renteria than unfair. He had to know the temporary status of his job when he took it. Whether it was Maddon now or Joe Girardi later, somebody with postseason experience always was going to tapped to take the Cubs to where they haven't been since 1908. Once Maddon became available through a contractual quirk of fate, the process accelerated and the Cubs did what was best for their organization by pursuing one of baseball's top managers.
Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts recently expressed hope that the franchise shed the label "Lovable Losers.'' This will help. Nobody around the league loves the idea of a team executive unloading a manager only weeks after endorsing him publicly. Nobody loves a franchise who pursues somebody for a job that isn't open. Baseball's unwritten rulebook is thicker than "War and Peace." A longtime former baseball executive agreed Thursday that the Cubs likely broke the code — if not tampered — by pursuing Maddon while Renteria twisted in the wind but suggested it happens more often than people realize.
When it happened 18 years ago on the South Side, Bevington understood. Maybe Renteria understands now too. Ultimately, in a pro sports world defined by winning, it doesn't matter.