Thursday, October 13, 2011

Calm Down Cubbies - 2 Thoughts on the THEOcracy Era

UPDATE by the always reliable Bleacher Nation on Red Sox/Chicago negotiations as well as Padres Baseball Operations Exec Addition at bottom of this post.   Jump here.

Ok - maybe 3 or 4 thoughts.  The brain won't shut off.

1. Chicago Sports Media Is Embarrassing. The Chicago Sun-Times article repeating slanderous and unsubstantiated reports that Terry Francona's performance was affected by pain killers is despicable.  Francona went 81-42 while marriage-muddled and medicated.  According to ESPN's reports last night, this has been happening for years when the owners are "on the outs" with a player or manager: 

"I think people are starting to recognize there's a pattern here. All of a sudden it becomes personal, especially with guys who have had so much success in that uniform," Garciaparra said on "SportsCenter" Wednesday.
"If we want to go down the list ... now we're hearing about Terry Francona, before Terry ... it was Johnny Damon, before him you had Derek Lowe, you had Pedro Martinez, you had Manny Ramirez, you had myself, then you had Mo Vaughn, then you had Roger Clemens, then you had Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, and oh, by the way, one Ted Williams.
"So the list is pretty good, pretty prestigious, but it seems to happen. So there's a pattern. Is it all these guys that are bad or is there something more here?"
If I were Epstein, I would pay to get out of Boston even if it was my childhood team.  But thanks a lot Sun-Times for embarrassing our city with our new Cub GM.

2. Theo ain't God.  The Boston Globe’s article recounting incredibly loose discipline, drunkeness by the pitching staff etc... DOES go all the way to the top.  I don't blame the meltdown on Mr. Epstein.  I certainly don't blame Francona's martial and medicinal woes.  But it is a direct sign of management that allowed this to happen.  Is it true (as over-the-top 'tingles' David Haugh wrote yesterday) that Theo will change the culture as he did in Boston?  He did for better AND for worse.  The Ricketts, Kenney (or whoever is President by then), and fans had better understand that it was Theo who allowed THIS culture to occur.  You ever go into a McDonalds or Wal-Mart that was filthy or rundown?  Rarely, I know.  But the two times I did, it made sense the second I saw the overweight, slovenly undisciplined manager.  An organization reflects it's leaders.  (An update today 10-17-11 on quotes John Lester on the extreme lack of discipline allowed and authority lost for Francona.)

How did a team on trek for a 100 win season fold?  I'll give you 1969 reasons.  But I pray to God it wasn't orchestrated by a disgruntled Epstein, Francona and the Boston Globe.  Let’s be cautious about putting this guy too high up on a pedestal before he’s even been hired.  Reports are that Ricketts has given this guy TOTAL autonomy over the team answering only to them.  So let’s be cautiously optimistic here.  As were were with Dallas Green.  As we were when the Trib bought the Cubs.  As we were when the Trib sold the Cubs.  Oh, yeah.  We’re not too good at that, are we?

One of the ONLY female sports-media professionals I respect (aside from @WenB71 and @Bpepoydensmore of course) is Jackie MacMullan.  In her piece yesterday she kind of warns us that the undying dulia devotion of the David Haugh's are misplaced:
Epstein also will be forever known as the GM who fell in love with all the wrong shortstops (you've been warned, Starlin Castro). He plowed through, in succession, Nomar, Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez(twice), Julio Lugo, Nick Green, Jed Lowrie and Marco Scutaro, and likely left town unfulfilled regarding any of them.
His fascination with J.D. Drew baffled many, yet his hunch about Minnesota Twins castoff David Ortiz was dead on. He brought in unheralded Mark Bellhorn, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller, and they helped him win a championship. He imported the highly touted (and exorbitant) Daisuke Matsuzaka and Crawford, and they were colossal disappointments.
Chicago Trib - David Haugh
So let's chill on the idea that Epstein's mere presence will automatically raise World Series banners and banish goat curses.  Let's use a little perspective for once as Cubs fans.  (As a side note, what the hell has Haugh been drinking this week?  First the Tuesday article painting Cutler in Brett Farve-like images after a single game of playing until the end without his little sideline temper tantrums, and then his pandering puff piece on the "Theocracy" - which I stole for this headline by the way - anointing him as the new Christ of Clark and Addison.  Get a grip David.  Don't forget you trashed me for questioning the undying devotion to Obama in 2009 in one of your pieces.)

3. What's Thinkable With Theo?  Definitely good things.  Even my bitterness of Quade's false gold 2010 win streak can't purge all of the optimism from my ever-lovin-Cubbie-heart.  When Boston owner talks about HOW Boston built a perennial baseball powerhouse in this UK Guardian article - just look at this through Theo-thinking glasses:
Henry's concise explanation on the philosophy that made the Red Sox great in the last 10 years:"We'll look at stats no one else will look at, employ scouting in a way that has a compelling organisational context, question everything and everyone and ensure we have the best player development curriculum and protocols. In short, we are determined to outwork everyone else and hopefully be smarter every year."
4. Sandberg?  Yes Epstein offered Sandberg the Red Sox AAA job last year.  Yes the Ricketts have made it clear they want Sandberg back in the friendly confines of the Cub fan family.  But do they want him as the commander of  their remade club?  God I hope so.  In winning the first division title for the Phillies organization I believe Sandberg has done nothing but made is viability stronger.  But clearly with the Theo Epstein move the Ricketts are broadcasting that homey ain't playin' in setting the leadership and management right.  If Sandberg isn't the best candidate, or Epstein has other designs of how to build the management and culture, we will have to subject our hearts to their collective head.  But it IS encouraging with sources reporting that Sandberg might accept a bench or batting coach position with a major league club showing some change from last year's all or nothing stance.  DeMarlo Hale (Red Sox Bench Coach and Chicago native) is likely also in the running but with Sandberg's possible flexibility, getting him in the clubhouse would not be a bad step to a future Cubs head coach commission.

So thank you Tom Ricketts for the balm of Cubs baseball hope to "keep hope alive" in the heart of Cubs fans everywhere.  It is deeply appreciated.  And I can put the razor blades and rat poison away until next season.
A non-Cubs front office source tells me that, in addition to the Boston Globe’s report that compensation talks between the Red Sox and Cubs were proceeding in a “civil” and “business-like” manner, the talks actually advanced considerably late yesterday. Indeed, they advanced to the point where things look good for an early week announcement, before the Wednesday start of the World Series. The source doesn’t have a perfect read on what the compensation will be (few do), but the names he’s been hearing are Matt Szczur, Jay Jackson, and Ryan Flaherty. …Moreover, it looks like Josh Byrnes, currently the VP of Baseball Operations with the Padres, will be joining Epstein in the Cubs’ front office.
Please read the full Bleacher Nation report (and subscribe to their blog) here.


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