Friday, Aug. 6, 2010
By Frankie O
Now that the Cubs season is pretty much over, I guess its time to talk about the future. At least thats what Im doing at the bar to calm the masses. But as Ive found, that might not be much better. The Cubbie faithful are no longer happy with the lovable losers tag. As someone who has spent most of his life tormented by teams that I love, I can definitely relate. I think the Cubs are in a position that tough questions must be asked. Just because you ask doesnt mean you dont care or arent loyal, in fact, I would argue just the opposite. And that point gets to the root of the issue in the fan perspective.
The impression of the teams is that fans dont understand, that they should calm down and the impression of the fans is, if you lose, at least look like you care, or have a plan. From my perspective, I have a hard time defending the Cubs and have to agree with their fans. This group of players seem to lack energy on a consistent basis and the popular consensus is that its the managers fault. Tough to be fire and brimstone every day when youre a losing ball club, but thats what fans expect out of a Lou Piniella coached team. Im not talking about the psychotic Carlos Zambrano episodes, but a grind it out, show up every game mentality that you can watch any time you turn on a Twins or Phillies game. This does not look like a Piniella coached team at all. That he has already announced the fact that he will not be back, has left many folks at the bar who are talking Cub baseball to openly question his motivation. Is that any way for one of the all-time competitors to go out?
The more important question is: Where is this franchise headed and whos going to lead it? That would be the plan part. The lack of communication by the new ownership group has to be the main concern of the Northside faithful. During their very public purchase, their fan credentials and commitment to turn the page on the futile history of the franchise was front and center: YEAR ONE. As this year goes on, the question is: Year one of what? Seems like more of the same to the people Im talking to. I know you cant change this mess overnight, but where is everyone? Obviously, this process is going to take time, but it would be great if I, or anyone who could make a difference, had some answers to share with the many curious as to where this is going.
My constant response is that, despite the huge contract issues they have for at least the next two years, and they are huge, this Cub group would be well served to check out the case-study in turning around a moribund franchise: The Chicago Blackhawks. What the Hawks have done in such a short period is as stunning as it seems obvious. For years, I listened to disillusioned hockey fans lament their fate as season after season turned to disappointment. Then, due to an obviously unenviable situation in the passing of his father, Rocky Wirtz took over one of the Original Six franchises and restored it to its rightful place of prominence. With the quickness! He did it with an all-out focus on improving the franchise in every way, on and off the ice, even if it meant going against the well established views of his late father. He put his stamp immediately on the team. In a business 101 he did it by having a vision and then acting on it. His best two moves, or perhaps one in the same, (Again, Im just a bartender!) were hiring the best at what they do, to be at the top of the organization. John McDonough, off the ice and Scotty Bowman, on the ice, are as good as it gets. Together, they made some tough decisions and some common sense ones that were all driven towards the same thing: to be a franchise that is as good as it gets in every way: One Goal.
Any new owner of an established business, I think, is well served to take care in making decisions that will have long-term effects on their new acquisition. I also think that they should seek counsel from those that are well versed in that business. Say, someone who has had a lot of certifiable success in that business. (Rules me out!) On the outside, the Cubs off the field prowess appears to be as strong as ever. But, there are not a lot of problems getting tickets when you walk up to the window lately, and I did notice that Forbes magazine recently valued the franchise at about 100 million dollars less than what was recently paid for them. I wont even pretend to portray that I understand what that means, but, ONE HUNDRED MILLION?! In less than a year? I would think that putting a viable, got-to-see, winning team on the field would be priority one. In that regard, someone that I would like to talk to, who is semi-retired, has THREE rings, and a history of winning baseball in his wake, is Pat Gillick. That is one guy who knows how to put a team together. Ask Lou. What would it hurt to have him come in, for a price that he cant turn down, to observe every level of this franchise on the field and give his recommendations on a path forward after this season comes to a conclusion in two months? He is someone that would get everybodys attention here with his presence and would give a huge amount of credibility to that path, very much like Bowman did with the Hawks. He doesnt have to have all of the control, or fire everyone in his sight. He could just be a wise old sage who offers an opinion on how to end 102 years of futility, not that anyone is counting!