Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Matter of Attitude

To build the 2006 version of the Chicago Cubs, the Tribune company ponied up nearly $100 million. GM Jim Hendry used that money to build a team made up primarily of injury prone players, players on the downside of their careers, and players that no one else really wanted. The result has been a disasterous season (so far) that shows absolutely no signs of improving.

The thing that has bothered me the most about the construction of the Cubs over the past few years is that they haven't signed or traded for any really good players. Think about it. How many perennial all-stars do the Cubs have? How many future Hall-of-Famers? The answer to both questions is "none."

Derrick Lee has been to the All-Star game, but he doesn't qualify as a "perennial" all-star. Aramis Ramirez, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano. None of them are perennial all-stars.

Greg Maddux is a sure-fire Hall-of-Famer, but his best years were spent in Atlanta. Maddux is a good guy to have on the team and he has shown glimpses of his past success, but there's little doubt that he is on the downside of his illustrious career. Other than Maddux, the Cubs do not have any player that is or looks to be an eventual Hall-of-Famer.

How does that compare to other teams? First, let's look at the Cardinals. With a lower payroll, the Cards have managed to put together a roster that includes Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen, and Jim Edmonds, all perennial all-stars and all legitimate HOF candidates.

The Braves sport a team that includes Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones and John Smoltz. The Braves also have a payroll significantly lower than the Cubs. The Mets, who admittedly have gone on a spending spree over the past couple of years, have Pedro Martinez, Tom Glavine, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and up-and-comer David Wright on their team. Granted, the Braves and Mets are currently going in different directions, but the point is that both teams include very good ball players.

There are other examples as well, but the prime example is the New York Yankees. Love him or hate him, George Steinbrenner always makes sure that his team is a legit contender. Having a losing season but making lots of money is never satisfactory to Steinbrenner. Contrast that attitude with the attitude of the TribCo.

On their roster, the Yankees can boast a perennial all-star and/or a potential HOFer at almost every position. Just go around the diamond. Randy Johnson, Mike Mussina, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, and Gary Sheffield. The only starter not included on this list is the Yankees' second baseman Robinson Cano and he's doing a really nice job for the Yankees.

So my question has always been, why aren't any of these big name, outstanding players on the Cubs? Admittedly, these players normally come with a high price tag, but regardless of the industry, doesn't the best almost always cost more? Unfortunately, Jim Hendry has spent nearly $100 million to put together a mediocre (at best) team. He is willing to overpay mediocre players, but refuses to pay the going rate for the best players in the game.

The Cubs should dominate the NL Central. They should be contenders for the playoffs every year. They represent a large market, they are the fifth highest valued team in all of baseball, and they are backed by an owner with plenty of money. Some of the highest profile and most talented players in the game should make up their roster. The Cubs should not be a team made up largely of no-name, mediocre players. I'll concede that every team needs to have a mixture of players, but the best teams have some superstars on their roster.

The Cubs, because of the type of high profile franchise they are, can't afford to take a lot of time to rebuild. They should start right now trading away the players that are not part of their future and adding players that will contribute in the years to come. They should also prepare to add big name, high profile players to their roster. Of course, this is what they should do. But with Jim Hendry still in charge, this is likely not what they will do.

The Cubs need an attitude makeover. They need to be the "Big Dogs" in the NL Central. They need to be the team that every other team in the NL is trying to beat and trying to be like. They have the resources to do this. It's just a matter of changing their "lovable loser" attitude and commiting to winning. It all starts will a change of attitude.


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