Core values

Core values

Friday, Aug. 6, 2010
8:56 AM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

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!

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

How Cubs reached the breaking point with Kyle Schwarber

MIAMI – Theo Epstein scoffed at the possibility of sending a World Series hero down to the minors on May 16, writing the headline with this money quote: “If anyone wants to sell their Kyle Schwarber stock, we’re buying.”

If the Cubs aren’t dumping their Schwarber stock, they’re definitely reassessing their investment strategy, trying to figure out how such a dangerous postseason hitter had become one of the least productive players in the majors.

The overall portfolio hasn’t changed that much since the team president’s vote of confidence, Schwarber batting .179 for the defending champs then and .171 when the Cubs finally made the decision to demote him to Triple-A Iowa. That 18-19 team is now 36-35 and still waiting for that hot streak. 

What took so long?

“The honest answer is we believe in him so much,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday. “He’s never struggled like this. We kept thinking that he was going to come out of it. We got to a point where we felt like mentally he probably needed a break before he could come out of this. 

“The honest answer is patience. We’ve got a guy who’s never really struggled. He was the best hitter in college baseball. He blew through the minor leagues. Last year in the World Series, he performed. We just felt like he was going to turn himself around.

“It just got to a place where we felt like the right way for this to come together was to allow him to get away from the team, to take a deep breath and be able to work on some things in a lower-pressure environment.”   

The Cubs plan to give Schwarber a few days off before he reports to Iowa, an idea that would have seemed unthinkable after watching his shocking recovery from knee surgery and legendary performance (.971 OPS) against the Cleveland Indians in last year’s World Series.

But preparing for one opponent and running on adrenaline through 20 plate appearances is completely different from handling the great expectations and newfound level of fame and doing it for an entire 162-game season.   

This might actually be the most normal part of Schwarber’s career after his meteoric rise from No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft to breakout star in the 2015 playoffs to injured and untouchable during last year’s trade talks with the New York Yankees. 

“There’s been a long and illustrious list of guys that have gone through this,” manager Joe Maddon said. “When a guy’s good, he’s good. Sometimes – especially when they’re this young – you just got to hit that reset button. It’s hard for a young player who’s never really struggled before to struggle on this stage and work his way through it.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

“There’s no scarlet letter attached to this. It’s just the way it happens sometimes. You have to do what you think is best. We think this is best for him right now. We know he’s going to be back.” 

When? The Cubs say they don’t have a certain number of Pacific Coast League at-bats in mind for a guy who’s played only 17 career games at the Triple-A level.

Maddon pointed out how Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee needed minor-league sabbaticals/refresher courses before becoming Cy Young Award winners and two of the best pitchers of their generation.

New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto – another college hitter the Cubs closely scouted before taking Schwarber in the 2014 draft – has gone from the 2015 World Series to Triple-A Las Vegas for parts of last season to potential All-Star this year.

The Cubs fully expect their Schwarber stock to rebound – whether or not the turnaround happens in time to impact the 2017 bottom line.    

“I’m still sticking by him,” Maddon said. “But at some point, you have to be pragmatic. You have to do what’s best for everybody. We thought at this point that we weren’t going to necessarily get him back to where we need him to be just by continuing this same path.

“It’s not a matter of us not sticking with him anymore. We just thought this was the best way to go to really get him well, so that we could utilize the best side of Kyle moving forward.”

Bulls trade All-Star Jimmy Butler to Timberwolves

Bulls trade All-Star Jimmy Butler to Timberwolves

After weeks and months of rumors and innuendo, the Bulls finally pulled the trigger on a trade involving Jimmy Butler, trading their franchise player to the Minnesota Timberwolves on draft night.

Butler and the Bulls’ 16th pick will be headed to Minnesota for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the seventh pick, according to sources. Butler will be reunited with former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, who is the head coach and president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves.

And the Bulls get to jump start their rebuilding process, apparently with young pieces to implement Fred Hoiberg’s system and a draft pick to come.

The Bulls have long been fond of Dunn, the Timberwolves’ first-round draft pick in 2016 who struggled in his rookie season, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 assists after being the fifth pick in the 2016 draft.

 LaVine was a two-time slam dunk champion before tearing his left ACL against the Pistons in February, and it will be months before he’s able to hit the floor. He was averaging 18.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists before his injury and was part of a young trio that included Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

The question will come as to why the Bulls had to throw in their first-round pick in a deep draft, but perhaps it was an indication of their wont to trade Butler, who made the All-NBA Third Team and repeatedly elevated his game in his six seasons as a Bull.

Butler’s name had been bandied about through the trade market last year at the draft and this year at the trade deadline, with the Bulls feeling like they could only get so good with Butler being the player he developed into combined with the direction the franchise was going in, focusing on youth over proven veterans.

It’s seemingly step one in a longer process for the Bulls but after being in basketball purgatory for the last two seasons, they’ve chosen a path and for that path to be traveled, it had to be without their three-time All-Star.