Tonight, Chicago Cub fans will finally be able to find the peace they have been lacking since the beginning of the season. The last game of the 2011 season will be played, and the Cub fans will finally be put out of their misery. There will be no popping of celebratory champagne for a division clinching performance, though some might throw back a few beers in celebration for what will likely be the departure of current Cubs Manager Mike Quade.
While I will never celebrate in the firing of anyone, I doubt I will shed a tear if he receives news that he will not be retained for the 2012 season. When that happens though, is anyone’s guess. Cubs owner Tom Ricketts may leave that decision for the new General Manager to make; which means that Quade might technically still be the manager of the Cubs for at least a little while longer. No one knows how long the processes will take for the Cubs to find the person they feel is the right choice to fill the spot vacated for Jim Hendry, though I still believe that they almost have to already have reached a handshake agreement with someone to assume the responsibilities of the job. Otherwise some of the recent moves by Ricketts do not make me feel too optimistic about who will be the new General Manager.
In a recent blog, I wrote that Ricketts may not be a brilliant baseball man, but he is a brilliant businessman. This was in reference to the re-hiring of Oneri Fleita as the Vice President of player personnel, saying he would not hire a new General Manager and tell him that he has to take this person on as a key member of his team; at least not someone who was already established in that job. When Fleita was re-signed I assumed that Ricketts and the General Manager that he must have a handshake agreement with had to of signed off on the move to retain him. Now I am not so sure if the Cubs and Ricketts have a handshake deal with someone to take over the running of the team, at least not an already established General Manager.
In yesterday’s Chicago Sun-Times there was a report that the Cubs and Ricketts were reaching out to Ryne Sandberg to mend fences. There was speculation that he may be tabbed to be the new manager of the Cubs for 2012. While I would not be against such a move, I do not want him to be hired before the new General Manager is named. That would almost certainly be the end of any speculation that the Cubs will hire someone like Theo Epstein or Andrew Freidman. There is no way that they would take on a job where they were forced to take someone that they may not want managing their team, that is unless as I have said (and I am sounding like a broken record here) they have a handshake agreement with Ricketts and the Cubs and have signed off on the move.
If the Cubs do not already have something worked out before hand, then I do not want Sandberg hired; at least not yet. They must leave something for the new General Manager to do if you want to get someone who is already known as a great General Manager. I know that the chances of getting Epstein or Freidman has been a long shot from the beginning, but the hope is still alive as long as Ricketts and the Cubs do not take all the decisions out of their hands. In all reality, the Cubs will most likely wind up with the assistant General Manager of Epstein or Freidman, or maybe even the assistant General Manager from the south side Rick Hahn. Those people may be willing to take the job and be told who their most important personnel members will be.
You can explain away keeping Fleita by saying you want the person who knows your farm system, and the young talent keeping his job so you do not lose a step. That is at least understandable to a point, whether or not you agree with that thought process. But hiring a new Manager before the General Manager makes no sense. Neither does firing the current one for that matter. Perhaps the new guy likes Quade and wants to see what he can do given a real team who has a real chance to win. I highly doubt this, as even with a talented team who had actual expectations, I am not sure that Quade could win a World Series. That is not to say that this season completely falls on Quade’s shoulders and he is the reason we looked as horrible as we did. There are other reasons why the Cubs failed besides the apparently ineptness of Quade, but that is another discussion for another day.
With the baseball season winding down in Chicago, the focus of fans of both ball clubs in town will be focused squarely on the management situation. The fans of both the Chicago Cubs and White Sox will be waiting to see exactly what is going to take place with both their General Manager and Manager of their ball clubs. But screw the White Sox, this is a Cubs blog, so that is where I will be directing my attention today.
At the time of this writing, there are only nine games left in the Cubs season, which means there are likely only nine games left in the managerial career of Cubs Manager Mike Quade. I am sure that there will not be many tears shed when Quade is officially shown the door and wished the best in his future endeavors. Before I go into exactly where I believe the Cubs might go next year in the managerial hunt, I have to give my two cents on why I feel that Quade was the right man for the job coming into the 2011 season.
If the Cubs were really rebuilding this year, I would gladly agree that the Cubs screwed the pooch by hiring an inexperienced manager to begin the road back to respectability. However, that simply was not the case. The 2011 Cubs were not in rebuild mode. In fact, I fully believe that they were in killing time mode. They knew full well that this years team would not be close to contending for anything, and wanted to wait until the young players got here and there was room in the payroll. That meant that there was at least one year that the Cubs would have to wave the white flag, and write off this season as a lost cause.
Honestly, in a no win situation where no one could have had success, I have no problem with throwing a bone to Quade. Why hire a perfectly good manager who is only to be attacked by the fans for a team that can not win? Hire a lame duck manager who you know may not be that good, so as to not start a good manager on a bad track with a bad team and have him start the real rebuilding with the fans already hating him. Now, moving forward the Cubs have a big decision to make as far as who the new manager should be when the team may actually be in full rebuild mode. That decision, will fall on the shoulders of the new general manager, whoever that may be.
With Cubs owner Tom Ricketts already having extended the player development director Oneri Fleta, there has been much talk about the new General Manager may actually already have been signed to a contract. Obviously, if he is currently under a deal with another ball club, his hiring would not be official until the current season runs the course. Which is why there has not been an official announcement.
In my mind, this has to be the case, because I can not honestly believe Ricketts would be dumb enough to extend the contract of Fleta before hiring a new General Manager! That would fall under the responsibility of whoever was hired to do that job. The mysterious man in the shadows must have signed off on the extension, or there would not be one at this present moment in time. Ricketts may not be a brilliant baseball man, but he is a brilliant business man and should know better than to hire someone and tell them exactly who their director of the minor leagues will be. The same thought process would also apply for scouting director Tim Wilkin, who will not be getting an extension. Rickets said that decision would fall on the new General Manager, which leads me to believe that if the new General Manager has already been signed, that he has decided to go in another direction.
Of course, this is all depending on whether or not their actually has been a pre-hiring of a General Manager. Whoever that may be though, is still unknown, but there are two names which get mentioned more than any others. The two top names are Billy Beane with the Oakland Athletics or Theo Epstein with the Boston Red Sox. The list of potential names is long, and filled with names that have the saber metric fans drooling.
Whoever the new guy may be, his first act will be hiring a new manager because lets face facts, there is no chance that Quade comes back next year. So the question is who should be hired to lead the Cubs into the future? The popular choice among most fans would be to bring back the man who many feel should have gotten the job last year, Ryne Sandberg. Whether or not he is the right man for the job, or will be able to deliver a winner to the north side is anyone’s guess. But, if Ricketts and the new General Manager are looking primarily for a Public Relations move that will see Wrigley Field sell out every one of the 81 home games, there can be no question that he is the right man for the job. Who knows, maybe they will get a winner out of the hiring as well. However, personally, I do not want to hire a manager based primarily on a Public Relations situation. I want the best manager for the job, if that is Sandberg, then sweet deal. Bring him in to lead our team to the future.
That being said, I want the new General Manager to look at, and interview several people for the job and not hire someone just because he is the popular choice. There are any number of managers who could very well be out there looking for work. Just look south for two of them. The rumor mill says that both Ozzie Guillen and Tony LaRussa will be looking for a job elsewhere. Neither one would sit well with Cub fans, and neither are all too likely, but I would be disappointed if LaRussa was at least not asked to come in for an interview.
In my perfect world, LaRussa would be hired to take the lead, and he would be asked to bring in Sandberg to be his bench coach. Best of both worlds don’t you think? The team would have a proven major league manager, someone who has won the World Series and has a track record of successful teams, and the fan base would get to welcome home their beloved Hall of Fame player who would get to actually manage games when LaRussa gets tossed out. He would learn on the job and just be a hop, skip and jump away from the real thing. On top of that great combination, if LaRussa is signed, one would think the Cubs would then be the favorite to land free agent to be Albert Pujols, if you are interested in him at all.
All the excitement begins in just under two weeks. This will be a very interesting off season, and everything begins Thursday, September 29, the first day of the off season!
Today, the dream of many Chicago Cub fans has come true. General Manager Jim Hendry was relieved of his duties with the ball club. For the remainder of the season, Randy Bush will take over the day to day duties of the General Manager job. While the firing was expected to come sooner or later, the timing of the move seemed a bit off.
In press conferences by both Hendry and Tom Ricketts, we discovered that the decision to fire Hendry was actually made on July 22, almost an entire month ago. However, Ricketts decided to keep his lame duck General Manager on board the extra month in order to get the ball club through the trade deadline as well as aiding in the signing of the draft picks. Not a bad idea in terms of aiding to sign the draft picks he helped scout, but the question comes into play when discussing keeping him on through the trade deadline.
Many fans were outraged when they heard that the decision was made prior to the trade deadline, and Hendry was allowed to continue to be in power to make trades, which never came. Hendry explained away the lack of trades to his knowing he would not be retained, and not wanting to leave his replacement with the results of whatever trade he made. Fans then wondered why Bush could not make the trades for him, but you would likely get the same situation, one lame duck General Manager making moves that a new one would have to live with and work around. Bash him if you will, but knowing he is going to be fired he could have made deals that could have screwed up the franchise for years to come, more so than they seem to be now, but he was very professional in how he handled his job.
In the Ricketts version of why no trades were made, he alluded to the reasoning of there were no trades which made sense for the ball club moving forward. He might have been covering for Hendry, and trying to allow him to save a little bit of face, but whatever the reason, more veterans were not traded before the non-waiver trade deadline.
In all honesty, firing Hendry when the actual move was made, makes absolutely no sense. The only plus of this move being down now, is to give the ball club an extra month to search for the perfect replacement. Hendry should have been fired at the end of last year, which have allowed the Cubs to begin their attempts to return to a form of respectability. However, that move was not done back then, and he was kept around to make a trade which saw us trade away four prospects did a lot more harm than good, no matter what Matt Garza is able to give us in his time here.
Starting now, Ricketts will begin to search for Hendry’s successor, but will keep everything he does a secret. He said this was a private matter and would not be responding to any of the rumors that may be floating around, such as the idea that New York Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman might be an option. So if you are waiting for a lot of names to be thrown around by the media, you may get your wish, but with no confirmation of even an interview coming out of the Cubs camp, that will only be written off as pure speculation.
While fans will be celebrating this move for quite a while, you can not argue that Hendry may actually have been the best General Manager the Cubs ever had. No other General Manager ever was able to bring the Cubs to the post season three years, and Hendry did so in his first six years.
At the same time though, you could also put him into the discussion of the worst General Managers in team history. No other General Manager ever put the Cubs in as big of a hole as Hendry did, even though a fair amount of blame can be shared with others. Former Cubs owner Sam Zell ordered Hendry to break the bank and former team President John Mcdonough put the finishing touches on the Alfonso Soriano deal and even added a year or two to the tail end to entice him to accept the offer. However, Hendry was the General Manager at the time, so this all falls on his plate.
Congratulations Cub fans, you got your wish. Just one question comes to mind, now what? Your other despised targets on the Cubs management team remain in power, and will likely be there until at least the end of the season. Mike Quade and Crane Kenney are both still hanging around. In all likelihood, Quade will also be shown the door at the conclusion of the season, so you will have to live with him for another month. Kenney on the other hand, may not be leaving his position anytime soon. But I guess Cub fans should be happy and willing to take what they can get.
This is the beginning of the change you have all been waiting for. The man mostly responsible for the mess the Cubs are in is gone, and a new man will soon be in charge. The road he must travel down will not be an easy one, as he has a rather large mess to clean up. First, he must find a new manager; at least assuming Quade is gone at the end of the year as is expected. Then, he must start dissecting the roster, figuring out which players to keep and which to cut out.
Whoever takes the reigns, just have a little patience. I know that after 103 years asking for patience is asking a lot, but this mess might be too big for a one year cleanup mission. Are you ready for what could be a long winding road back to respectability and a team that can be a constant contender? I sure hope so.
With Tom Ricketts now entering the second full year as owner of the Chicago Cubs, the fans are ready to start passing judgment. As a matter of fact, they started passing judgment on Ricketts during and after his very first year as the owner of the team. How fair or unfair this is, boils down to each and every person and their own personal opinions. However, allow me to go on the record here and now and tell you just how unfair the fans are being for calling him out already in response to the Cubs and their failure to be a competent team in 2010, and having less than stellar expectations for 2011.
In the mind of some fans, they expected immediate results and a complete turn around as soon as Ricketts officially became the owner of the team. They wanted him to immediately fire Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry, start releasing various players and to spend millions of dollars to bring some top players to the club and turn them into a contender. They expected him to turn the Cubs into the New York Yankees of the National League. Unfortunately, that was not a realistic demand. To be honest, that is still not a realistic demand for the fans to make of him.
Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry screwed over the financial books for the Cubs for a few years with his mad spending in 2007 and 2008. He left them with a king sized payroll which tied the financial hands of the Cubs and whoever would have would up owning them for a few years until the contracts all expired. While fans all blame Hendry for signing all these players to the contracts that were handed out like candy, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. For one, the Tribune Company, which was owned by Sam Zell at the time, told Hendry to spend like there was no tomorrow in order to pump up the team’s value in order to sell at a higher price. If he had not done so, he would have been fired and someone else would have done what Zell wanted. Blame Hendry all you want, but when your boss tells you to do something, you follow orders if you want to keep your job.
Actually, if you want to dig a little deeper, Hendry is not completely to blame for the Alfonso Soriano deal either. Current Chicago Legend, John McDonough was the man who pulled the trigger and actually finished working on that deal for Soriano. Being the new president of the Cubs, he wanted to make a big splash with the team. That is exactly what he did when he signed the over paid slugger.
Regardless of who is to blame for the money problems the Cubs are in, I fully believe that the fans criticism of Ricketts is coming in far too early. He is not a miracle worker and can not make immediate changes over night, or even in a year or two. His first year asking for massive changes was just completely unreasonable. The man just spent $900 Million on the Cubs, and in my mind over paid for the team, and fans wanted more. They were hoping he would clean house of the overpaid and over rated talent that was festering on the roster and bring in bigger and better super stars. That was not a reasonable request when you sit down and think rationally about things.
On the other hand, he has also made a questionable moves which does paint him in a bad light. Trading for Matt Garza goes completely against his “build from within” philosophy. With that trade, our farm system turned from one that has a number of young and promising up and coming talent, to one that is very bare. The Cubs still have a few good prospects, but they lost their best ones in the over paying for Garza, who according to all the advanced statistical analysis is almost the same pitcher as Randy Wells. This trade is not a good way to go about building from within if that was your mindset. At the moment, he seems far more interested in promoting the product instead of trying to win ball games. Which means, if that is the case, the Cub fans are in for a world of hurt for a long period of time. If this continues, the Cubs will be returning to what life was like under the Pre-Zell Tribune company.
In my honest opinion, you can not really start to judge the job that Ricketts is doing until at least the start of the 2012 season. The reason I say that season, is because the financial handcuffs get loosened quite a bit on Ricketts. Over $40 Million will be coming off the books and he will have some money to work with. Granted, he will still have a few more years of Carlos Zambrano and Soriano to deal with, but there will be plenty of money that he will be able to play with. Right now, he has very little money and roster space to play around with. He has not been able to do much of anything other than figure out how to upgrade Wrigley Field and keep the place from falling apart.
If Ricketts is serious about turning this franchise around, he needs to go about business better; and the sooner the better. Year one I can write off and clear him of blame for the disastrous outcome of the season. He said that he wanted to sit back and let the baseball people underneath him take care of the baseball business. I can even accept that he kept Hendry around, as he knows the team and what they need better than anyone else does at the moment. While that was not a very popular move in the minds of the fans, I can at least understand the decision.
With the second year underway, and prospects still not looking too bright, I can still clear him of almost all blame and criticism as he is still buried under the mess that he was left by Zell and his demands to beef up the payroll. He was left with a big bill to pay and he is still suffering from the contractual obligations that were given to him.
However, next year, the excuses for him will come to and end as he will be losing around $57 Million coming off the payroll when the season comes to an end. The following players will most likely be gone: Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Carlos Pena, John Grabow, Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood, Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill. With all these players leaving, the Cubs will have plenty of space for some of their young and up and coming prospects to finally show what they can do. What this also means, is that the Cubs will have plenty of money to play around with, to add the players to fill the voids that the farm system can not fill.
In my books, Ricketts get a complete pass for 2010. He also gets a pass for 2011, though that comes with a suspicious eye. His third season, 2012, is when all the possible excuses come to an end. That is when he will finally be able to take charge and be able to make some serious roster moves.
The Ricketts Era may have stumbled out of the starting gate, but the race is not over.
Since the news first came out, the person that I wanted to be the new owner of the Chicago Cubs, was Tom Ricketts. I wanted him as the owner, because he is a Cubs fan, and knows of the pain and torture we have been through over the past hundred years. I felt that he was the right choice, because we would finally have a face to the ownership team, and someone who would be passionate about what happened on the field, and would not just be about the bottom line. I will hold off judgment on how he has handled things in his first year until a later date, but if you have been following my blog this whole year, you know that there have been financial restraints, which I have mentioned a few times in earlier blogs.
For now though, I want to address one thing with him. Mr. Ricketts, please do not let your Cubs Fandom overtake your business smarts. Do not let that little kid inside of you tell you how to run your ball club. These thoughts are coming straight from the Chicago Businessman lunch that recently took place this past week, where a major player from each of the Chicagoland teams held a Town Hall meeting of sorts. Your description of what you want your new manager to be shows me that you are letting your fandom overtake your business smarts.
For those who missed what he said about what he is looking for in a new manager, allow me to fill you in on what was said. Directly from his mouth (as reported by Chicagobreakingsports.com) Ricketts said the following “We have to have a manager who really understands … the scrutiny you get and (must) be able to handle those periods in June when you lose three games in a row and people start talking about Year 103 of the curse,” Ricketts said. “We have to someone who understands what they’re getting into.”
Going off that quote, one would absolutely have to assume he wants either Joe Girardi or Ryne Sandberg to take over the role of manager of the Cubs in 2011. Personally, I would love to see either one of these two men wearing Cubbie Blue, leading the Cubs into the future.
The problem I have though, is the thought that he believes the Cubs need a manager who “understands the scrutiny” that comes from being the Cubs manager or being able to handle things when “people start talking about Year 103 of the curse” Those are not the qualifications I would be looking for when selecting the next manager of the team. The Cubs do not, I repeat do not need a manager who understands the Cubs culture to be successful. The Cubs do not need someone who knows what it would mean to Chicago and the fans of the Cubs to win a championship here. Personally, I would much rather have someone who is the best available candidate than someone who “knows the Cubs culture”.
Who knows, perhaps Sandberg or Girardi are the best two candidates available. If they are, then great; sign them up to lead the Cubs in the coming years. Just do not hire either of them to be the manager just because they understand the pressures of playing for and winning with the Cubs.
Mr. Ricketts, you are a very smart business man. Too smart too allow your heart to overtake your head. Do not pander to the group of Cub fans who truly believe that we need someone who knows about the past to be successful. That is just not true and you know that. However, from your words of what you are looking for, I wonder if that is truly what you feel or if you are just giving that group of fans what they want.
If that is truly how you feel, and what you think we need in a manager to win, then I am afraid that the wrong man bought the Cubs. I am glad a Cubs fan owns the team, but I don’t want a fan to run things. That is not how you win a championship. You don’t win by letting your heart control things. Find the best man for the job Mr. Ricketts, and don’t select him just because he happened to play for the Cubs.
Again, if that best man is either Sandberg or Girardi then great, there would be no finer end to the long drought than seeing an old face lead the way to the promise land. But the taste of champaign will taste just as sweet with someone else at the helm.
Today is a brand new day in the world of the Chicago Cub fans. At 11 o’clock in the morning, Tom Ricketts was officially introduced as the new owner of the ball club. For Ricketts, the day started with the press conference, and led into a few interviews with the sports radio stations in Chicago. Throughout the day, he has said several things which will make Cub fans excited about the future of the team, under the leadership of Ricketts and his family.
At his introductory press conference, Ricketts said all the right things. That is exactly what you would expect him to do to be perfectly honest. While you would expect him to be completely upfront and honest with you, somewhere in your brain you would have to know that he will also tell you exactly what you want to hear. You should also note, that talk is cheap, and results speak far more then words ever do. I am not from Missouri, which is the show me state, but I want to see him back up everything he said. If he is able to keep his word, and accomplish everything that he said, he will be the best possible owner the Cubs could have gotten.
During his introductory press conference, Ricketts started out by introducing his family, and thanking everyone involved for making everything possible. Once all of the formalities were taken care of, the time had come for him to take care of business, and lay out a basic blue print for what Cub fans could expect from him as owner. The first thing on his agenda to relay to the fans, was that he had a few messages he wanted to pass along.
The first message he gave to the Cubs, was that he was here to win the World Series. That was a dream come true to hear from your owner. That statement alone had to make Cub fans everywhere smile, as the thought of finally winning the World Series would be a dream come true. The only other time we had a major figure head in the Cubs organization was when John McDonough talked about the Cubs winning the World Series. Hearing the actual owner of the ball club mention that as an actual goal speaks volumes more then someone in upper management. Hearing the owner make that one of his goals, makes the fans feel that this is more of a priority.
The second message Ricketts talked about, was Wrigley Field. He went on to say that he wants to improve the Wrigley Field experience for the fans that go to the games today, and to preserve the experience for all future generations. This is key to many Cub fans, who love the everything about the ballpark, and would be upset if the team ever left the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. The place is a historic landmark, and personally, I hope that Ricketts and his family does whatever they are able to do, in order to keep the Cubs playing there until they have no other choice but to relocate.
Some of the other topics he approached to improve the ball club, was to start at the bottom, improving the farm system. This has been a problem with the franchise for several years. When Former Cubs President Andy McPhail first came to the team, he spoke of how he was going to build the farm club to produce great talents, much like his former team, the Minnesota Twins. That is one of the many goals that McPhail was unable to accomplish in his time with the team. If the farm system is able to be taken to a level can is able to produce quality major league talent, the team has a whole will have taken a gigantic step forward to reaching their ultimate goal of winning the World Series. However, this goal will take some time to accomplish. You can not rebuild a farm system over night, a complete restructuring takes years to accomplish. Just knowing that this needs to be done, puts Ricketts in a class above every other owner the Cubs have had in recent memory.
As far as the current state of the team, one thing that may trouble Cub fans was that Ricketts says that the team, as they currently stand, has enough talent to win the World Series. This will not sit too well with those fans who think that there needs to be massive changes in order to make this team a contender. If Ricketts truly believes the club from 2009 has enough talent to win the World Series, then he wont go out of his way to improve the ball club. This could very well confirm what I have been saying all along that there will not be many moves, if any, to improve the ball club. While he mentioned that there would be a slight increase in payroll. When you consider that there are several players who will be getting pay raises, that will likely be the “slight increase” in payroll that the Cubs will be getting.
One topic he has not touched, was the subject of Milton Bradley. He waives off the question, laying everything about him at the feet of his General Manager, Jim Hendry. While the general thought is that he must be traded, a noncommittal response might be the best way for Ricketts to go. However, a comment at the press conference which flew under the radar might worry you, as a fan of the Cubs. One reporter proposed a hypothetical situation, along the lines of what we expect to happen with Bradley this off season. The question was, what would his response be if Hendry asked for permission to execute a trade that would benefit the club, but mean they would have to eat some of the contract in the process. The disturbing part, was not Ricketts response, which was that he would consider the situation and see if the trade would benefit the club. What was disturbing, was when Todd Ricketts (Tom’s brother) chimed in before his brother could answer the question. What Todd said, was that “Jim knows better then that”. Knows better then what, is what should worry some Cub fans. Should he know better than to ask permission to make a trade to better the team? Or should he know better than to ask to eat some of a contract? This could be a bit troubling, if what Todd said means that they will not trade Bradley if they have to eat some of the contract. Just speculation on my end, but that one statement might be cause for concern.
In one of the lighter moments of the press conference, Ricketts was asked if he believes in curses. What he said in response, was exactly what I had hoped he would say. He said that there is no curse, and any player who believed that there was a curse, would be moved to a “lesser cursed team.” From my stand point, this was the best thing he could have said. For too long Cub fans have looked to the past, and blamed goats and cats for why the team has failed to win the World Series, instead of where the blame really does belong. No, not on Steve Bartman, but on the players and managers who have failed to deliver in crunch time. Pinning the blame on something other than what has the biggest impact on the outcome of a game is a lame duck excuse, and knowing that Ricketts has stated that he wants nothing to do with players who believe in the curse, is a great step in getting the negativity as far away from the ball club as possible.
As I said at the beginning, talk is cheap. Anyone can talk the talk, and tell the fans what they want to hear in order to make themselves look better. As Cub fans, all we can do is believe that he is being up front and honest with us. He is a fan, just like we are. He knows the pain and heartache we have all been through over the years. What is important to keep in mind, is with the state the Cubs are in, he will need more then one off season to improve the club to the status he wants them to be in. Have patience, and do not go after him if the team falls short of expectations in his first season as owner.
The Chicago Cub fans are getting excited, and are looking for good things to come in the 2010 season. One reason they are happy, is with the departure of the Tribune Company and Sam Zell as the owners. With Tom Ricketts now taking control of the ball club, there is a new sense of optimism is overcoming the masses. They believe that with Ricketts as the new owner, a man who has suffered through years of heartbreak like we have, he will stop at nothing to win the World Series with the Cubs. After all, isn’t that the goal of every team in baseball every year? You could argue that the Tribune Company (and Zell for that matter) never tried to win the World Series until the fans had the taste in their mouths after being five outs away in 2003. Since then, they have spent more money then any fan could have imagined their team ever spending. Sure, they made a bad investment or two, but they spent the money fans wanted them to spend.
The very first move that Ricketts made, was signing Rudy Jaramillo to take over the duties of hitting coach. As I stated in my last blog, many people in baseball feel that Jaramillo is the best hitting coach in the game today, his resume speaks volumes. With such a move, some fans believe that this will be the start of a massive upgrade in player personnel, bringing in some off the best talent that money can buy. They figure that if Ricketts is going to go out and get the best hitting instructor, then he must be also determined to sign the best players available. How true that is, remains to be seen, as we are still close to a month away from free agency beginning. However, there are several reasons to believe that there will not be the spending spree that Cub fans have been dreaming of.
First and foremost, the situation with Milton Bradley will hold up the Cubs spending until everything is resolved. Ricketts and Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry need to know exactly how much money they will have to eat of his salary before they start looking at players outside the organization. Much like with what happened at the end of the 2004 season when they were trading declining Cubs megastar Sammy Sosa, the organization will be handcuffed until a move is made. Why do they have to wait you might ask? Simply put, he makes $9 million next season. If Hendry is somehow able to find a team willing to take his whole salary, and lets be honest that wont happen, then he has $9 million more to work with. Knowing how much money you have left to spend is a big advantage when you are negotiating with players and against other teams. In all likelihood, Ricketts will have to eat at least half of Bradley’s remaining salary. That is money he is spending that you wont see on the field of play, and takes away from what can be spent. Hopefully, a trade of Bradley comes at the start of the free agent period, or even before hand. If this goes the same route as the Sosa trade, who was traded just before Spring Training of 2005, then the Cubs will miss out on most of the better free agents. Reports do say that there are several teams interested in trading for Bradley, and Hendry remains confident that he can make a deal without eating a majority of his remaining salary. So we will have to wait and see what happens.
Staying with the Bradley situation, Hendry will have to get a player back in any deal that is made. Add that players salary to whatever you may have to eat on Bradley’s deal, and that takes a good percentage out of the budget that has been set for the 2010 season. Maybe Hendry will get lucky and be able to make a trade for a guy who does not make as much as Bradley, or makes the same amount, and the Cubs just have to eat the difference in salary. Some of the rumors included the Cubs trading Bradley to the Tampa Bay Rays for Pat Burrell who had as bad of a year as Bradley did, and also makes $9 million next year. This would seem like a perfect fit, don’t you think? Both teams want to get rid of a player that didn’t work out and their salaries match for the following year. Maybe the Cubs would just have to eat the remaining $12 Million for the 2011 season. However, some reports stated that the Rays would only take Bradley if the Cubs ate most, if not all, of his contract. Another rumor was a possible swap with the San Francisco Giants for Aaron Rowand, which would benefit both teams. With Rowand owed $36 Million over three years, and Bradley owed $21 over two, a Giants executive said he would approve that deal. Cubs would take on more guaranteed money over a longer period of time, and more per year but they would be rid of Bradley. The Giants on the other hand would be saving $15 million in the end. Whether or not either deal is made, remains to be seen.
If the Cubs are unable to find a deal for Bradley, they may have to ultimately eat the entire contract, especially if they are deadset against bringing him back. Much like with paying a portion of his salary in a deal, that money will be included in the budget, and take away what can be spent on possible free agent candidates. While some may look at cutting him as freeing up $9 million for the 2010 season to spend elsewhere, in all reality you are just giving away that money while keeping every cent on the books. If they have to eat his entire salary, there will need to be other moves made to accommodate losing that amount, and fans may not like what happens in the aftermath of that move. So just be careful what you ask for Cub fans, you may not like the end result.
Enough about Bradley, and on to some other possible reasons why the Cubs will not be able to go on a spending spree to bring in star players. Obviously, there is a lack of open positions. As I have stated a few times, the Cubs really only have one or two open spots that can be filled. The main spot which may be available to upgrade is second base. Depending on what transpires with Bradley, there may be a spot open in the outfield at either Center or Right. Unless you want to ditch some of the younger talent we have on the team, such as Ryan Theriot or Geovany Soto, the moves that can be made are severely limited because of open positions. Don’t start with the “trade Alfonso Soriano” or “trade Kosuke Fukudome” to free up positions and money. That will create more mess like the currently have with Bradley. If you think the Cubs will have to eat a lot of money to get rid of Bradley, imagine what they will have to eat to get rid of Soriano. Do you really want to limit the team financially even more? I would hope not. So the lack of positions is another major roadblock in making massive changes.
A final reason, are the rumors that there are certain clauses in the bankruptcy filing which will significantly limit any and all moves that the Cubs are able to make. Ricketts may very well have his hands tied financially for at least the first year of his ownership tenure in regards to the payroll of the players. If this is in fact truth, then Ricketts may not be able to add anyone to the team to improve them. If people are unaware of these set limitations on Ricketts, they may turn sour on him when they come to see that there hasn’t been much done at all to improve the team. Don’t get confused by the adding of Jaramillo, his contract does not get added into the Cubs overall team budget, and wont effect how much they will, or will not, be able to spend in upgrades. According to Carrie Muskat and her Cubs blog, they expect the budget to remain close to the 2009 version, allowing only for pay increases for current players making up the difference.
Like many fans, there is a list of players who I would love to see the Cubs sign. There are also Cubs who contracts are up that I want to see them resign. But all of these may very well depend on the Bradley deal, and the bankruptcy rulings which might limit upgrade. The offseason is a long one, and hasn’t even officially begun yet. As time goes by, there will be more information coming out as far as how much the Cubs will be able to spend for the upcoming season. After the Cubs have their Organizational meetings, we should learn a bit more about how much money they have to spend. With the General Manager, and Winter Meetings, we will learn more about the direction Hendry and Ricketts will be going for the 2010 season. But for reasons I have just stated, do not expect a lot of moves, or anything real major. If you do, then I am afraid that you will be highly disappointed.