Saturday, October 28, 2006

Experts Look Foolish As World Series Ends

The Cardinals beat the Tigers last night 4-2 to win the World Series four games to one. It may seem odd for a Cubs fan to say this, but I’m happy the Cardinals won.

First, I’ve never had the hatred for the Cardinals that a lot of Cubs fans have. Growing up, the Mets were always the arch enemy, not the Cards. Second, my main reason for being happy is that the Cardinals WS victory flies right in the face of all of the supposed experts who said not only that the Cardinals couldn’t beat the Tigers, but that no team coming out of the NL could beat the Tigers.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s people who believe their opinions are infallible. In fact, they don’t consider their opinions to be opinions. They consider their opinions to be fact. These “experts” said that the Tigers would win the WS and that they would do it in four or five games (depending on who made the prognostication). They were wrong about the WS and they were wrong in a big way.

Don’t misunderstand, I’m not talking about everyone who had an opinion on the WS. Heck, I predicted that the Cardinals would lose the NLDS to the Padres, then I picked the Mets in the NLCS. Being wrong isn’t a crime. But these experts I’m talking about acted as if the game on the field didn’t matter. They pointed to stats as “proof” that the Tigers would win the WS. By doing this, at least in my mind, they were being disrespectful to the game. They didn’t recognize that baseball is one of the hardest games to predict and that things like heart and determination and grit and attitude mean more than statistics, especially when it comes to the post-season.

Now the spotlight turns to the off-season. Jim Hendry has his work cut out for him, but I’m hopeful that he will have the best off-season of his career. There’s a lot of work to be done, but as the WS proved, you never can tell what will happen.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cubs Add Three Coaches

I'm out-of-town, but still trying to keep up with the blog. The Cubs announced three new coaches today

As previously reported, Mike Quade was formally announced as the Cubs new 3rd base coach. Quade will also be the team's outfield instructor.

Matt Sinatro will be Lou Piniella's 1st base coach coach. Sinatro worked with Piniella previously in Seattle as the bullpen coach.

Lester Strode will be the Cubs bullpen coach. For the past eleven years, Strode has been the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator.

Still to be announced is who will be the Cubs hitting instructor. The two leading candidates are Chris Chambliss, who was Piniella's hitting coach in Cincinnati, and former Red Sox coach Ron Jackson.

I'll keep up as best I can for the next week.

BTW, the Cards just won the World Series...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Quade In, Spier Gone

What could be more exciting than more news about the Cubs coaching staff? How about the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)? Hey, let’s talk about both.

Today, the Cubs announced that Mike Quade will be joining Lou Piniella’s staff. Quade, who previously managed the Cubs AAA team in Iowa, will take over the 3rd base coaching duties. Quade is a Chicago-area native, having graduated from Prospect Heights High School in 1975.

Chris Spier, who replaced Wavin’ Wendell Kim as the Cubs 3rd base coach under Dusty Baker, will not be returning to the team. There was speculation that he would be returning despite receiving an embarrassing DUI during the 2006 season, but those rumors were put to rest on Tuesday.

I’m not going to say much about the CBA other than to say that it is far too boring to be read in its entirety. One thing I can tell you is that under the new CBA, no teams will be contracted. The Winner of the All-Star game will still get home field advantage in the World Series (It’s still a bad idea!).

Also, in the past, teams received draft pick compensation when they lost a free agent. That is being eliminated. However, the new rule is being phased in over time depending on the type of free agent involved. Trust me, you don’t want to know any more than that.

At the moment, the Cards have a 2-1 lead in the World Series. Personally, I have gotten sick of hearing all of the experts expound on how the AL is vastly superior to the NL and how no matter which team came out of the NL, they were likely going to be four or five game victims to the Tigers. I’m not saying the Cards are going to win the World Series. The Tigers are still a very good team. All I’m saying is that it’s good to see these so-called experts have to eat their words.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Is The Tribune Company Really Going to Sell The Cubs?

There was a small, rather inconspicuous article in Crain’s Chicago Business yesterday indicating that The Tribune Company has asked potential bidders interested in purchasing all or part of the company to submit “nonbinding indications of interest.” The Tribune Company owns the Cubs as well as The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and 25 TV stations.

According to the article, The Tribune Company would like to complete a deal by the end of the year. Considering the late date already, this is highly unlikely. But it does show that the Trib Co. is apparently very serious about selling their assets.

When the Trib Co was adamant that they had no intention of selling the Cubs, I thought they should sell. I had convinced myself (without really giving it much thought) that anyone would be a better owner than The Trib Co. After all, The Trib Co has a 25 year track record of failing miserably when it comes to wins and losses. Of course, they have made money with the Cubs. I suppose that is important too.

Recently, when it started to look like the Cubs might actually be sold, I started to think about the possibility of someone worse than The Trib Co coming in to take over the team. I mean, what if someone like Jeffrey Loria, owner of the Marlins, was to buy the team. The payroll would be drastically cut and the new owner would just milk the franchise for all it was worth. One thing you can say about the Trib Co is that they were willing to spend some decent coin on payroll. I’ve argued in previous posts that I thought they should spend even more, but a payroll of $100 million is nothing to sneeze at.

If I could be guaranteed that someone like Mark Cuban (other than Mark Cuban, is there anyone like Mark Cuban?) would ride in on his white horse and commit all of his considerable resources to building a World Series Champion on the north side, I’d be all for The Trib Co selling the team. But owners like Mark Cuban are few and far between. Most owners are either corporations (like The Trib Co) that have shareholders to answer to or they are conservative business people who don’t share the same love for the team that the fans do.

Mark Cuban is unique among professional sports team owners. When I say I want the Trib Co to sell, I do so with the stipulation that a well healed fan of the team with a commitment to winning buys it. Otherwise, I’m not all that crazy about the Trib Co selling.

* * * * *

As Bill Madden at the New York Daily News predicted on Sunday, Alan Trammell has signed on as Lou Piniella’s bench coach. Trammell will also be the club’s infield instructor. The only other coach confirmed for next year is pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Mike Quade, manager of the AAA Iowa Cubs, has been rumored to be joining Piniella’s staff as a 1st or 3rd base coach. Previously, it was rumored that 3rd base coach Chris Spier would be back, but since Trammell is taking on the duties of infield instructor, it makes it less likely that Spier will be part of Lou’s coaching staff.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Piniella Adding to His Coaching Staff

Bill Madden from the New York Daily News is reporting that Lou Piniella has pegged former Detroit Tigers manager Alan Trammell to be his bench coach with the Cubs. Trammell was last seen managing the Tigers to an AL record 119 loss season in 2003. After the 2005 season, Trammell was replaced by Jim Leyland and the rest is history.

It had been believed that Piniella would opt for his former bench coach, John McLaren , to be his bench coach in Chicago, but last week, McLaren signed on as the bench coach and heir-apparent to manager Mike Hargrove in Seattle. Rumors out of Seattle are that McLaren was made an offer he couldn’t refuse.

As a player, Trammell was hard-nosed and got the most out of his natural ability. As a manager, Trammell was hard-nosed, but couldn’t get his team of misfits to perform. Some have claimed that the players just weren’t talented enough to win. Others have claimed that Trammell wasn’t a good enough leader to get his players to play together as a team. In the end, it may have been both.

Trammell may actually be a good choice to be bench coach. He’s a baseball man through and through, and he’s a guy that players respect. He also is a guy that can be quietly effective without drawing attention to himself, a quality necessary in a successful bench coach.

Piniella’s pitching coach next year will be none other than Larry Rothschild. Rothschild has weathered the storms of three different Cubs managers. Piniella will be his fourth (Baylor, Kim and Baker were the others).

Rothschild is highly regarded in baseball circles, but I fail to see exactly what he is bringing to the team. His main strength is that he is supposed to be a master of pitching mechanics. Yet, the Cubs problems, at least in the last few years, seem to center around pitchers with bad mechanics. It’s good if Rothschild can recognize problems with pitching mechanics, but he’s not very useful if he can’t fix them.

Many believe that Rothschild is Hendry’s hand-picked pitching coach and that Piniella had to agree to taking Rothschild before Hendry would agree to a contract with Piniella. Although there may be some truth to this, it is also true that Rothschild is very familiar to Piniella. Rothschild was Pinella’s bullpen coach in Cincinnati in 1990, the year the Reds won the World Series. Rothschild also won a World Series ring as the pitching coach of the 1997 Florida Marlins.

In all fairness, under Rothschild’s tutelage, Cubs pitchers have lead the majors in strikeouts every year he has coached in Chicago. Although this fact hasn’t translated into wins as often as I would like, it is an impressive stat nonetheless.

The Cubs success or failure in 2007 will not be decided by Rothschild, Trammell of even Piniella. That determination will be made largely this off-season by the moves (or lack of moves) made by Jim Hendry. The next few weeks and months will tell that tale.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

No Shortage of Rumors Concerning the Cubs

The hot stove is heating up early this year and rumors are flying left and right. Here is a sample of some of the things being said on sports-talk radio, on the sports pages, in blogs, and at the corner tavern:

* Aramis Ramirez will have a lot of suitors if Jim Hendry cheaps out on signing the third baseman. Tops on that list will be the Angels, but never fear. Big Jim will work things out. It will be a last minute deal, but Ramirez will be playing third for the Cubs into the foreseeable future.

*Alfonso Soriano will be the Cubs #1 free agent position player target this off season. There have also been rumors that the Cubs have designs on Carlos Lee, but Houston Chronicle columnist Richard Justice (who is very good, by the way) says that Lee will be signing with Houston.

* It seems that everyone is talking about why ARod should waive his no-trade clause and agree to a trade with the Cubs. Nancy Armour does a nice job of laying out the argument for ARod coming to Chicago.

* ARod is not the only high profile SS the Cubs may be looking at this off-season. Paul Sullivan at The Chicago Tribune reports that the Cubs may be setting their sights on Miguel Tejada. Of course, this was the hot rumor last off-season, but the Orioles may actually be willing to move Tejada this year.

* Sullivan also says that Pinella may be pushing to bring in one of his “athletic” former outfielders to be a lead-off hitter. Players in the mix are Mike Cameron, Carl Crawford and Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro in particular interests me. I can’t imagine why Seattle would trade the all-star right fielder, but Sullivan says that Ichiro, who has one year left on his contract may be getting tired of not getting enough attention playing for the Mariners, a team that seldom gets any national press.

* Many Cubs fans want to dump Mark Prior, but the guy still has a tremendous amount of potential. For now, Prior is still relatively inexpensive and if he is healthy (a big if), he’ll be in the starting rotation in 2007.

* Could Eric Gagne be in the Cubs plans for 2007? The Dodger closer missed the 2006 season with injuries, but should be back in 2007. The problem is, in Gagne’s absence in LA, Takashi Saito has emerged as the Dodger’s closer and LA, who holds a $12 million option for 2007 on Gagne, will likely be interested in moving the closer. It’s no secret that the Cubs closer position will be up for grabs in 2007. Ryan Dempster had a horrible year as the closer and it’s likely that Piniella will want someone different in that role next year. Up until now, speculation has been that someone already with the organization would fill the closer slot. But with the Cubs new “win right now” attitude and increased payroll, the Cubs may have to consider bringing in someone proven and dependable to close out their games.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Poor Man's Barry Zito

Call me a bandwagon jumper, but I’m starting to like this Jeff Suppan fellow more and more. He’s making a name for himself in the post season for the Cardinals, but he’s actually had a fairly impressive career up until now.

Over the past three years, Suppan has made at least 31 starts and has a 44-26 record over than span. In a way, he’s the poor man’s Barry Zito. He’s durable, has great stuff, but comes with a much lower price tag than Zito. While he is most likely due a raise, Suppan made (just) $4 million this past year with St. Louis.

2007 will be Suppan’s age 32 season and he seems to be getting better with age. While other teams are focusing on the big three (Schmidt, Zito and Matsuzaka), Jim Hendry would be well advised to focus his efforts on Suppan. He would be a credible #2 behind Carlos Zambrano and would come inexpensively enough to allow Hendry to sign another starting pitcher or perhaps spend more on an all-star caliber position player. Plus, Zambrano and Suppan may be the best hitting #1 - #2 pitching combo in all of baseball.

By the way, I haven’t given up on my idea to sign either Greg Maddux or Jamie Moyer to come in and be a # 5 starter. They’re old (by baseball standards), but they still are getting the job done. And I think Moyer in particular will come with a reasonable price tag.

Although I’m looking forward to the World Series, I’m also looking forward to it being over so the Cubs can get busy building their 2007 ball club.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Patience Needed in ARam Negotiations

I don’t mean to be impatient, but what on earth is going on with ARam’s contract? Jim Hendry has had at least since the all-star break to negotiate a new contract with ARam. The fact that Big Jim didn’t entertain trade offers for ARam prior to the trade deadline led me (and a lot of other people) to believe that a new contract was in the works. But recently, Paul Kinzer, ARam’s agent, indicated that he and Hendry had just exchanged offers. In other words, the negotiations were just beginning.

The good news is that ARam has stated that he would like to stay with the Cubs and Hendry has indicated that he would like to keep ARam in a Cubs uniform. The bad news is that a deal isn’t done and the deadline for declaring for free agency is just around the corner. It’s getting down to crunch time, so something needs to happen soon.

Whatever happens with ARam will be the first domino to fall this off-season. Once ARam is in place or he walks, then other moves can be made. But Hendry needs to know what is going in with ARam before he can make any other moves.

I’ll try to be patient, but the suspense is killing me.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

It's Official: I Don't Like Jay Mariotti

I’ve decided that I don’t like Jay Mariotti. It wasn’t as hard of a decision as you might imagine.

Jay is what was referred to in days gone by as a nattering nabob of negatism. He is negative about everything he writes about. In yesterday’s Sun-Times, Mariotti as much as declared the Cubs 2007 season a failure. Mind you, it hasn’t been played yet. In fact, the 2006 off-season hasn’t even officially begun. Free agents have yet to declare and we are still nearly two months away from the Winter Meetings. Even so, Mariotti, in his infinite wisdom, has announced that as usual, he knows more than us mere mortals, and the Cubs are not going to the playoffs in 2007.

I’ve followed the Cubs now for more than 35 years. I’ve been disappointed time and time again. It’s not easy being a fan on the Cubs. Even so, there’s no reason to give up on next season when this season isn’t even officially over.

Of course, if Mariotti had taken that tact, he wouldn’t feed his rep of being the most negative writer in sports. Nothing is good enough for him, nobody is as smart as him, and no one is as capable. In the odd, negative world where Mariotti lives, he is definitely king.

I don’t get as worked up as some others about what sports writers have to say, but Mariotti is so far beyond the pale that I felt I had to take a stand. I just don’t like him.

In an interview a few weeks ago, Mariotti mentioned that he didn’t care what others had to say about him because every time someone wrote something about him, it just made him that much more famous. I wonder if that works when you write something on a blog that no one reads. Ha, I guess I showed you, Jay. Wait, that’s not good…

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

ARod Would be Nice, But Not Likely

I realized today that I’ve spent too much time and emotion on the issue of the Cubs acquiring ARod. In my mind, it has been the centerpiece of the Cubs off-season moves. In reality, it’s a possibility, but it by no means likely.

The focus of the Cubs off-season moves has to center on pitching. The Cubs need a top-of-the-rotation pitcher (Schmidt, Zito, Matusaka) and an innings eater for the #3-4 slot. If they can’t get one of the big three free agents, they need to turn their attention to the next tier of pitchers or look at making a trade.

In addition, the Cubs need to sign at least one FA bat. I’ve written previously about Alfonso Soriano. If Soriano is not a Cub next year it should not be because Jim Hendry didn’t put in the effort or because the Cubs got outbid. Many have opined that Carlos Lee should be the target instead of Soriano. If you look strictly at their stats, CLee may have a very slight edge over Soriano. But to me, Soriano is the more versatile ball player and he seems like the kind of player that still has untapped potential. CLee, at least to me, seems like the kind of player whose skills are going to start to deteriorate. BTW, I have absolutely nothing to base that on.

Finally, the Cubs need to try to acquire another bat via a trade. ARod would be my #1 candidate, but I’d also welcome Vernon Wells, Miguel Cabrera, or Miguel Tejada. Adding one of these guys (or another big bat) via trade would help to vastly improve the Cubs, but it is less important that the first three moves. The first three moves are necessary while adding a bat through a trade is optional.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Maybe, Just Maybe, This Will Work

When he was named President of the Cubs, John McDonough said that he had been hired to build a winning team. He said that Cubs fans deserved a winner after all of the years of frustration they have lived through.

Many people dismissed McDonough’s comments as just hype. After all they said, McDonough was head of marketing before getting the job of president and he is skilled at telling people what they want to hear. The Cubs have a 100 year history of ineptitude, they reasoned, how was a marketing guy going to turn things around?

I have another take on all of this. Maybe the hiring of Lou Piniella is the first move designed to turn the Cubs into winners. Perhaps the increase in the payroll for 2007 is another move to help the Cubs secure the players they’ll need to win. As we move forward, maybe Jim Hendry will sign the free agents the team needs. Maybe he’ll make trades that will turn things around. Maybe these players will buy into the organization’s commitment to win. Maybe McDonough really is committed to doing what he said he was hired to do. Maybe Jim Hendry will do what he has been unable to do in the past. Maybe Lou Piniella is the right man to turn Hendry’s work into wins.

I don’t now if any of this is correct, but I’m willing to drink the Kool-Aid for now. Maybe I want the Cubs to win the World Series so bad that I’m willing to buy into this plan. Maybe all of the long years of frustration are blinding me to the reality of the situation. Or maybe this really is going to be the Cubs year. I guess only time will tell.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Piniella's the Man

The Tribune is reporting that Lou Piniella will be the Cubs next manager. A press conference is scheduled for tomorrow. According to the Trib, the two parties agreed to a three year contract worth $10 million. An option for a fourth year would pay Piniella an additional $5 million.

Okay, so my boy Joe Girardi got the cold shoulder from the Cubs. Long term, I still think Girardi would have been the better choice. Even so, the hiring of Piniella has me excited. By hiring Piniella, the Cubs are making a statement that we want to win and we want to win now. You have to admit, that's better than business as usual.

The Trib article also alluded to the fact that team payroll will increase to about $115 million. That should give Hendry enough money to sign two FA starting pitchers and a FA power hitter. With the pitchers, I'm thinking of a top of the rotation guy like Jason Schmidt, although as I've explained previously, I expect Schmidt to go to Seattle. How about Jeff Suppan? He'd be a solid #2 behind Zambrano and would be significantly less expensive than Schmidt.

The other FA starting pitcher should be an innings eater. a guy who shows up for every start and pitches 6+ innings. Don't laugh, but I have my eyes on Greg Maddux and Jamie Moyer. Granted, both guys are nearly old enough to collect Social Security, but they show up every start and do their job. You could do worse for a bottom of the rotation guy.

Alfonso Soriano should be the power hitting FA. There's no way that the Cubs should get out bid for Soriano. If Soriano isn't a Cub next year, it had better be for a reason other than money (and a reason out of Hendry's control).

I'm hopeful that Piniella's presence will help make a trade or two happen. For instance, I have to believe that ARod is more likely to approve a trade to the Cubs now that Piniella is in place. Without Piniella, I seriously doubt if ARod would have had the Cubs at the top of his list.

It's great that Hendry found his new manager so quickly. Now he can turn his attention to re-signing ARAm, signing free agents and making trades.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Girardi is the Right Man for the Job

As Rick Morrisey pointed out in his column this morning, Joe Girardi is relatively inexperienced when it comes to managing an MLB club. He spent two years as a bench coach for the Yankees and then one year as the manager of the Marlins.

Pinella, on the other hand, has much more management experience. He’s managed the Yankees, Reds, Mariners, and D-Rays. He’s taken the Reds and Mariners to the post-season and he won a World Series Championship with the Reds. There’s no doubt just based on experience, Lou Pinella gets the nod to be the Cubs next manager.

Even so, I’m still pulling for Girardi. He is a more level-headed kind of guy who will more easily weather the up and downs and twists and turns that come with being part of the Cubs. He’s younger, has more time to build his career, and knows first hand what it’s like to be both a Cubs fan and a Cubs player. Plus, even if the Cubs don’t spend another penny on payroll, Girardi will be inheriting a team with a payroll nearly six times larger than the job he just left. So Joe likely won’t have any complaints about the amount of money being spent to sign players.

Pinella, on the other hand, is in a position where he has to win now. He’s 63 years old and only wants to manage for a few more years. He sees this gig with the Cubs as potentially being his swan song. If he can win a WS with the Cubs, he can walk away from the game as a hero.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of the Cubs winning now. But I’m concerned about what will happen when things don’t go quite right. What will Pinella do when Hendry fails to substantially improve the team or when the Trib Co. decides to cut payroll to make the team more attractive to potential buyers? Pinella doesn’t have the time nor the temperament to deal with these types of setbacks and disappointments.

I would be happy with either manager. In fact, I think Pinella might be in a better position to attract free agents. I also like the fact that Pinella is bilingual. But in the end, I still think Girardi is the best fit for the Cubs.

Five Easy Steps to Becoming an NL Central Contender

Have you ever seen those self-help programs that promise you “Three Easy Steps to a Happier You” or “Seven Steps to Re-growing Your Hair?” You know the type of thing I’m talking about. The author takes a complicated problem, finds the (alledged) solution, and then reduces the solution down to just a few steps that anyone can do. This is my version of the oversimplified “how to” programs, but this one is aimed right at the Cubs.

Five Easy Steps to Becoming an NL Central Contender

Okay, if I really wanted to sell my plan, I’d promise a guaranteed World Series Championship. But let’s not get nuts. A winning record would be an immense improvement, so turning the Cubs into a contender is a tall order indeed. So let’s just build a contending team and then let fate take care of the rest.

To begin with, the Cubs need a new manager. They currently have two good ones vying for the job. Both Lou Pinella and Joe Girardi are good managers. The Cubs will be in good hands, provided Hendry doesn’t find a way to screw it up.

Steps two and three involve adding two starting pitchers. Jason Schmidt would be at the top of my list, but my guess is that the Cubs won’t be in the running for Schmidt. So where do they turn then? Zito and Matsuzaka would be the obvious choices, but just like Schmidt, the Cubs will probably not go after these FA.

For step two, Hendry can pick from a list of Adam Eaton, Andy Pettite, Ted Lilly, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla, Jeff Suppan, Gil Meche, Tony Armas, Jr, Miguel Batista, and Mark Redman. Step three choices include Jamie Moyer, Greg Maddux, Tomo Ohka and Chan-Ho Park. These two new pitchers will be joining a rotation that could include Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior, Rich Hill, Sean Marshall, and Angel Guzman. Other pitchers that might be available (depending on the exercise of options) include John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Mike Mussina.

A twist to steps two and three is trading for a starting pitcher. Possible candidates include Dontrelle Willis, Jason Jennings, Freddy Garcia, and Javier Vasquez.

Step four involves signing a FA power hitter. My choice is Alfonso Soriano. Personally, I’d like to see Soriano play center or right, but if he has to play left (or even second base), I’m okay with it. Other FA power hitters include Carlos Lee, Nomar Garciaparra, Moises Alou, Barry Bonds, Jim Edmonds, and Gary Sheffield. I’m not overly interested in any of these guys. Hendry should set his sights on Soriano and not stop until he gets him.

Finally, step five involves trading for a position player. Tops on my list is Alex Rodriguez. I’ve written extensively on the trade possibilities for ARod, so I won’t re-hash them here. Vernon Wells is another guy I’m written about trading for. Add Miguel Tejada to the list of trade candidates. Any of these trades would substantially improve the Cubs.

There you have it. Five easy steps to contend in the NL Central. It’s time to get started, so let’s get busy and start with step one.

Watch for Five Easy Steps to Becoming an NL Central Contender coming to an infomercial near you.

Get Over Your Crush, Jim

Would someone please explain to me this man crush that Jim Hendry has for Bruce Bochy. Hendry is in a no-lose position by being able to choose between Lou Pinella and Joe Girardi to be the next Cubs manager. But Hendry isn’t satisfied. He has to try to screw up the situation by lusting after Bochy. Fortunately, it appears from published reports that officials at The Trib Co. have stepped in and denied Hendry permission to interview Bochy, saving Hendry from himself.

Cubs fans will gladly accept either Girardi or Pinella. Girardi is the new golden boy who holds the promise of bringing long-term success to the Cubs. Pinella is the proven leader with the win-right-now attitude. Both guys are popular choices among Cubs fans.

Hendry would be well advised to forget about the guy with the big noggin and just concentrate on Pinella and Girardi. Don’t screw up your first big off-season move, Jim. This is a no-brainer. Just flip a coin and let’s move forward.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What a Crazy, Mixed Up Story

The on again/off again Bruce Bochy story is on again. Or is it off again?...Yesterday, the Padres announced that they have granted Bochy permission to talk ot other teams. It is rumored that both the Cubs and Giants have asked to interview Bochy...Meanwhile, the Sun-Times is reporting that the Cubs have agree in principle to hire Lou Pinella. The article indicates that the announcement of Pinell's hiring will be made after the NLCS. Thre sun-Times article went on to say that "higher ups" at the Trib Co. refused to let Hendry interview Bochy...At the same time, The Tribune is reporting that Bochy is still very much in the running. The article said that Trb officials are concerned that Pinella's price tag will be too high and Bochy is the more cost-effective alternative. Doubters believe that the Bochy story in the Trib is just a red herring to held moderate Pinella's contract demands...Where is Joe Girardi in all of this. The once front runner for the Cubs manager job had a second interview with the Nats. They are apparently very high on Girardi. It was also announced that Joe G. will be doing some TV for Fox during the World Series...Bob Brenly's name is not even being whispered anymore in relation to the Cubs job. Brenly interviewed with Hendry, but he is considered to be an extreme long shot to get the job. However, he is high on the list in Texas and still a viable candidate on San Francisco...The agent for Aramis Ramirez and Jim Hendry exchanged contract offers this past week. They are expected to talk again this weekend...No news on Juan Pierre. In this case, no news may really be good news.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Let's Talk About the Players

With so much emphasis on managers recently, I haven't had time to post much of anything about the players. Before I go there, here's one more bit of news on who the Cubs manager might be.

Probably the guy that is third in line behind Girardi and Pinella is Bob Brenly. Brenly has also interviewed with the Giants and Rangers, and is said to be a front runner to replace Buck Showalter in Texas. Brenly replaced Showalter in Arizona and led the D'Backs to a World Series Championship in 2001. Brenly appears to be the Yin to Showalter's Yang.

Even though the off-season hasn't officially begun in MLB, that hasn't stopped the speculation about where some of the top free agents might end up in 2007. Of the free agent pitchers, most of the buzz has been about Barry Zito and Jason Schmidt. Zito has been rumored to be heading to NY, but no one is sure if it will be the Mets or Yankees that will claim the pitcher. However, I don't think Zito will be heading east. Zito is a typical Californian who is laid back, writes music, and has aspirations to act. I don't see him leaving California. While Oakland probably won't be able to afford his asking price, I think San Diego will. With the money the Pads have to spend this off-season, expect to see them make a strong run at Zito.

Schmidt too may be staying out West. Seattle has their eye on him and will likely make a generous offer to acquire his services. Especially if the M's can move overpaid 3rd baseman Adrian Beltre, they will pull out all of the stops to acquire Schmidt.

So what about the Mets and Yanks? What are they going to do for pitching? I think both will make a really strong run for Japanese hurler extraordinnaire Daisuke Matsuzaka. It is going to take big bucks to acquire Daisuke, and both the Mets and Yanks have proven they are willing to spend big bucks. I don't expect the Cubs to be a serious player in the Daisuke sweepstakes.

The Yanks pitching problems could have a profound impact on the Cubs. The Yankees have a $17 million option on Mike Mussina next year and reports out of NY claim the Yanks likely will not pick it up. They also have a team option on streaky Jaret Wright that likely won't be exercised. Randy Johnson's back problems are only getting worse and his future is uncertain. Carl Pavano's health continues to be a question mark, so he is far from a sure thing for next year. And Tanyon Sturtz is scheduled to be a free agent. That leaves only Chien-Ming Wang as a sure thing starter for the Yankees. They are desperate.

The Cubs have pitching prospects they could package and move to NY in exchange for ARod. A package of Rich Hill, Angel Guzman and someone else might just intrigue the Yankees. Hill has proven himself and Guzman is a highly regarded prospect. What about Mark Prior? If he can return to his 2003 form, Prior could be one of the pieces the Yankees so deperately are looking for.

Before the Cubs start looking at making trades or signing free agents, they'll need to decide what is going to happen with Aramis Ramirez and Juan Pierre. ARam's manager said this past week that he and Jim Hendry have exchanged offers, so at lesat they are talking. News has been scarce about Pierre, but I would expect the Cubs to offer him arbitation. I doubt if Pierre will accept arbitration, so he'll likely hit the free agent market.

Sad News from NY

Obviously, the top news in baseball yesterday was the death of Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle. Lidle was in a private plane that crashed into a high rise condo building on New York's upper east side. Initial reports indicated that Lidle was piloting the airplane, but it was later learned that a flight instructor was also in the aircraft with him, so it is not known who was actually flying the plane. Lidle was 34 years old and leaves behind his with and young son.

In other news, Peter Gammons reported that Cubs GM Jim Hendry's top manager candidate is Bruce Bochy. I would just write this off if it wasn't coming from the Dali Lama himself. In the end though, it doesn't matter because the Padres have denied Hendry's request to interview Bochy.

I'm not sure what Hendry's infatuation is with Bochy. He of the big head has been the manager of the Padres for 12 years and I can't think of anything remarkable that has happened during that time for San Diego. They did make it in to the post-season each of the past two years, but were eliminated both years in the first round. Bochy has a losing record as a manager (951-975), which after 12 years managing in the NL West would make me suspect.

Lou Pinella spoke briefly to reports about the Cubs managerial opening. He indicated that he thought it would be a terrific opportunity for anyone and that he was interested in the job. Pinella has been compared on other blogs to Dusty Baker, but I would have to disagree. Pinella is much more fiery (so is a canned ham) and is an "in-your-face" type of manager. He brings passion and energy to the ball park, something that has been sorely lacking in recent years. Pinella has spoken well of Dusty during MLB broadcasts this year, but I think that has more to do with respect for Dusty personally than it does for Pinella's admiration for Dusty's managing ability.

Even so, I still think that Joe Girardi is the best fit for the Cubs opening. He is a good manager of people, seems to have a good feel for both veterans and younger players, and his management style is still adaptable. I'm not opposed to hiring Pinella, especially if it would increase the Cubs chances of trading for ARod. But I do think that Girardi is the best fit for the Cubs.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Latest Manager News

There's a lot to cover today, so let's get started.

The biggest news is that Joe Torre will remain as the manager of the Yankees. According to reports, George Steinbrenner wanted to fire Torre, but the Boss was convinced to keep him after discussions with GM Brian Cashman and other team officials. Apparently, Steinbrenner had to be convinced that it was not Torre's fault that the Yanks bowed out of the playoffs in the first round. Didn't George watch the playoffs? If he did, he wouldn't have had to be convinced of what really happened.

So why am I reporting this Torre news on a Cubs blog. Because Torre's situation does impact the Cubs. Had Torre been fired, the likely successor to pilot the Yankee ship would have been either Lou Pinella or Joe Girardi, both in the running for the Cubs skipper position. With Torre staying in NY, both candidates are still in the running.

Pinella has already been interviewed by the Nats, but has told them that he is not the guy for their job. According to Pinella, the Nats are in the process of building a team and don't expect to compete for a while. Pinella indicated that the Nats situation is not a good fit for him.

Pinella also had a discussion (as opposed to an interview) with Giants GM Brian Sabean about the open managerial position in San Francisco. Pinella indicates that he will be having further discussions with the Giants. SF bench coach Ron Wotus has also interviewed for the Giants opening.

Girardi has also spoken to the Nats, but no announcements have been made by either party. The Nats are also interested in Houston bench coach Cecil Copoper, White Sox third base coach Joey Cora, and Yankees first base coach and former KC Royals manager Tony Pena. Yesterdays interview with the Cubs was at least Girardi's third since being fired by the Marlins.

Oakland A's coach Ron Washington was once rumored to be a contender for the Cubs job. However, his name hasn't been heard in relation to the Cubs recently. The Rangers, who fired Buck Showalter last week, have expressed an interest in Washington.

Bruce Bochy's name continues to be uttered when talking about the Cubs opening. Bochy still has a year left on his contract with San Diego and is owed $1.9 million. Hendry has not asked permission to interview the San Diego skipper yet, but Bochy appears to have jumped ahead of Bob Brenly in the Cubs managerial sweepstakes.

Speaking of Brenly, he appears to be the front runner at the moment for the Giants managerial opening. He has already spoken to the Giants and is scheduled to interview with the Cubs later this week. Although I like Brenly, I think he would be a better fit in SF than in Chicago.

If I were handicapping the managerial race (and considering that you are reading this, I guess I am), I would list the odds as follows:

Joe Girardi (2-1)
Lou Pinella (3-1)
Bruce Bochy (8-1)
Bob Brenly (10-1)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Girardi Gets an Interview

Joe Girardi interviewed with the Cubs today. Naturally, there was no news about what went on in the interview, like what questions Girardi was asked, what answers he gave, or how many donuts Jim Hendry ate. But the thing I don't understand is why teams are so secretive about the day the interview is going to take place. The Cubs confirmed they were going to talk to Girardi and Girardi confirmed he was going to talk to the Cubs. But neither side would devulge what day they were going to talk. Why is the day such a big deal?

Girardi has already interviewed with the Washington Nationals and apparently has an offer to do some broadcasting next year. In an interview with the Daily Herald, Girardi indicated that he had also been approached about other open manager positions and thought a decision would be made by the end of the month.

Rumors are swirling that the Cubs are also going to interview Padres skipper Bruce Bochy. According to published reports, Hendry was interested in interviewing Bochy in 2003 when he hired Dusty Baker (remember him?), but the Padres refused to allow the interview. However, rumor has it that the Padres are interested in replacing Bochy, and Hendry is apparently still interested in talking to him. I'm luke warm on Bochy. I like him only because I can't think of anything I don't like about him. He does have an unusually large head, but that shouldn't stop a guy from managing the Cubs.

Even more rumors are swirling concerning the future of Joe Torre and Alex Rodriguez. The New York Daily News reported that Torre will be fired, although they failed to say when or who this news came from. In essence, they made up the whole story. Even so, that did not stop other news outlets, including ESPN, from reporting the news (and crediting the Daily News).

Getting rid of Torre makes no sense. The Yankees made the post-season for the 11th straight year (10 of those as division champs) and then ran into a Tigers team with a far superior pitching staff. The Yankees went 20 straight innings without scoring a run. That's usually not the manager's fault. Of course, making sense has never been the Boss's strong suit.

On the other hand, the ARod rumors make a lot of sense. I've got to believe that in his heart of hearts, ARod would rather play almost anywhere other than NY next year. I've also got to believe that the Yankee organization and players would rather approach 2007 without ARod and the hype surrounding him. He's a helluva player, but in NY, he's a poor fit.

Naturally, I'm hoping the Cubs can put together a package of players to bring ARod to the friendly confines. I wouldn't anticipate any of the problems he had in NY to follow him to Chicago. Of course, the Cubs likely won't be the only suitor the Yankees will be dealing with. Perhaps tops on the list is the Anaheim Angels (I know they're called the LA Angels of Anaheim now, but I've chosen not to participate in that ruse). Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 07, 2006

RIP Buck O'Neil (1911-2006)

John "Buck" O'Neil, former Negro League great, died yesterday in Kansas city. He was 94 years old.

The following information about Buck was taken from The Cub Reporter:

"O'Neil was born in Florida in 1911 and attended Edward Waters College in Jacksonville. He signed his first professional baseball contract in 1935, and toured with Syd Pollock's Ethopian Clowns. He joined the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro American League in 1937, and moved to the NAL Kansas City Monarchs in 1938. He played 1B for the Monarchs for many years (where he was a long-time teammate of the legendary Satchel Paige), helping the Monarchs win four-straight NAL pennants 1939-1942. O'Neil joined the U. S. Navy after the '42 season, and served three years as a Seabee in World War II, before returning to the Monarchs in 1946.

"O'Neil won the NAL batting title in 1946 while hitting .346, and played in the Negro League World Series that season as the Newark Eagles (champions of the Negro National League) led by Monte Irvin, Larry Doby, and Leon Day defeated the Monarchs in a hard-fought seven games to win the Negro Leagues championship.

"Buck was named player-manager of the Monarchs in 1948, and over the next eight years, helped develop many future major leaguers. "

Buck also had a connection to the Cubs. In Kansas City as the manager of the Monarchs, he helped to develop several future Cubs players, including Ernie Banks. In 1955, O'Neil was hired by the Cubs to be the first African-American scout in Major League Baseball. He became the first African-American coach in MLB for the Cubs in 1962 as part of the famed "College of Coaches."

This past summer, the Hall of Fame failed to induct Buck into the HOF. This seemed like an odd move to me. Buck was a top notch player in the Negro Leagues, helped develop several future major leaguers, won several championships as manager of the Monarchs, and did as much as anyone to bring notoriety and respect to the Negro League. Despite the HOF slight, O'Neil always remained upbeat and positive, and served as a prime example of a guy who loved the game of baseball.

Buck will be sorely missed, but always remembered.

Friday, October 06, 2006

News From the Worldwide Leader

The boys over at ESPN were stirring up the waters today concerning the Cubs. The Dali Lama (Peter Gammons) said that it looks like Jim Hendry and John McDonough may be on the verge of their first spat. According to Gammons, McDonough prefers Joe Girardi as the Cubs next manager, while Hendry wants Lou Pinella.

For McDonough, Girardi has the connection to the Cubs and the appreciation for the Cubs place in history that McD wants in a manager. Pinella, on the other hand, is Hendry's guy because of Pinella's reputation as a players manager (despite his oft viewed fight with Rob Dibble during Pinella's days with the Reds). Hendry feels it will be easier to sign free agents with Pinella in place, which may be true. The question is, who will make the final decision? McDonough or Hendry?

Buster Olney is reporting that the Yankees may be forced to trade ARod, unless ARod has an exceptional post-season. Olney's reasoning is that he doesn't think ARod can can have the type of performance he is capable of in the situation he finds himself in in NY. The fans are constantly on him, the media expects way too much out of him, and even his teammates are relatively unsupportive. In fact, another reason the Yanks may need to move ARod is because of the toll the ARod sage takes on his fellow Yanks.

Olney's comments track with the observations I made a few days ago concerning ARod. I don't see any way he can return to the Yankees in 2007 and be expected to perform considering the untenable position he is in. And this creates an opportunity for the Cubs. The Cubs have the arms that the Yankees would need in exchange for ARod, and they also certainly have the need for his services, particularly if they don't re-sign Aramis Ramirez.

Which brings up another point. Much is being made in blogdom about the imperitive of re-signing ARam. ARam is valuable, but he is not irreplaceable. Free agents can be signed, trades can be made. The Cubs can contend, even without ARam. Granted, he is one of the better 3rd basemen in MLB. However, a contending team can be built without ARam's services.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cubs Manager Watch - Day 4

According to Bruce Miles over at the Daily Herald, you can cross Buck Showalter off your short list of Cubs manager candidates. Showalter is too much of a control freak, according to Miles, and he's not someone that Hendry is interested in. Apparently, Hendry interviewed Showalter previously and was not overly impressed with him. So there's another one down.

The article by Miles indicated that the current manager candidate list includes:

Joe Girardi
Lou Pinella
Bob Brenly
Manny Acta
Ron Washington

I'm pulling for either Girardi or Pinella. I like Brenly, but I don't think he would be significantly different than Dusty. As you'll recall, Brenly was brought in to manage the D'Backs after control-freak Showalter built the team and the D'Backs were looking for less of a disciplinarian (i.e. more of a players manager) to lead the team. Brenly built a reputation as a laid back manager who didn't get in his players faces and who tended to overuse his pitchers (sound familiar?). Having said this, Brenly won a WS in his second year in Arizona, so I can't be too critical of him.

I honestly don't know much about Manny Acta or Ron Washington. If the Cubs decide to go with an unproven, no-name manager - particularly if they would like to go with a minority candidate - Acta or Washington may get the nod. However, I've got to believe that both of these guys are extreme long shots.

Juan Pierre and Aramis Ramirez have both apparently made comments that they would like to see who the Cubs next manager is before they make a decision about coming back in 2007. So it looks like the first off-season move for the Cubs (at least the first addition) will be the signing of a manager. Players can declare themselves as free agents during the first 15 days following the end of the WS. That means Hendry has about a month or month-and-a-half to find a manager, sign him, and negotiate with Pierre and ARam. It's going to be a busy month.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Day Three of the McDonough Era

A slower day today on the Northside than we've seen the past two days. The biggest news was that it was announced that all of the Cubs coaches would be released, including pitching coach Larry Rothchild. The announcement indicated that the coaches would be available for re-hire if the new manager wants any of them.

Speaking of new managers, Jim Hendry confirmed today that Joe Girardi is on his list of managerial candidates. This is certainly not a surprise, but it's always nice to get confirmation of something that we all suspect.

As expected, Buck Showalter was released today by the Rangers. Buck has made a career of building teams up to the point where they are WS contenders. He did this in both NY with the Yankees and in Arizona. The problem is that he has never been able to get the team over the hump. It appears that the Ranger may be ready to contend for the AL West in 2007, but they'll have to do it without Showalter.

Buck has the reputation as a disciplinarian, which would probably be welcome at Wrigley Field, but he might be too much of a disciplinarian for the Cubs. I've always liked Showalter, but I don't like the idea of him managing the boys in blue.

Rumors also started circulating today that Dusty Baker may be in line to take over the Rangers. While I think this would probably be a good fit (lots of horses and an AL team that doesn't require double switches), I'm a little tired of talking about Dusty. I wish him well, but it's time to move on.

There's also some news concerning Toronto CF Vernon Wells. Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi indicated that he is interested in signing Wells to an extrension, but he doesn't plan on breaking the bank to do it. Wells had previously indicated that he would like to play closer to his home in Texas after his contract with Toronto expires, but more recently he said that he is open to returning to the Blue Jays. If it doesn't look like Ricciardi can sign Wells to an extension, he may decide to trade the center fielder rather than have Wells leave and not get anything for him. If that happens, I'd like to see the Cubs swoop in and trade for him. I'd rather see Wells patrolling CF at Wrigley than Juan Pierre.

Wells is currently doing post-season commentary on ESPN. He's intelligent, well-spoken, and appears to be a solid citizen, not to mention a helluva good ball player. He'd be a very nice fit playing for the Cubs in 2007.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Who's Next?

In all likelihood, the next thing Jim Hendry is working on is hiring a new manager. As of last night, the candidates that were most talked about were Lou Pinella, Bob Brenly, Freddi Gonzalez, and Joe Girardi (assuming he is fired by the Marlins). Others being speculated about are Buck Showalter, Dave Righetti, Ron Washington, Bud Black, Mike Quade (AAA Cubs) and Razor Shines (AAA White Sox).

Things are happening quickly. Leading NL Manager of the Year candidate Joe Girardi was fired today by the Marlins and was quickly replaced by Freddi Gonzalez. So if you are keeping score at home, cross Gonzalez off your list.

Does his sudden availabilty make Girardi the front runner? That's hard to say, but he does have some things going in his favor. First, he is an ex-Cub and is remembered fondly by the fans. This may be an important consideration, especially to marketing-oriented Cubs President, John McDonough. He also is considered to be extremely baseball savvy, something that was sorely missing during the Dusty years.

Of course, for all that has been said about his big baseball brains, it also appesars that he may be tone deaf when it comes to dealing with his employer. Girardi had a very well documented row with Marlins GM Larry Beinfest, and owner Jeffrey Loria. The Marlins front office was all too willing to leak anti-Girardi info to the press. And while he was being lambasted in the newspaper and on sports talk radio, Girardi refused to comment on the situation. I don't know what happened behind closed doors, but I have to say that I'm much more impressed with the way Girardi handled the situation than I am with Marlins management.

There are also rumors coming out of San Francisco that Bob Brenly could be on the move to replace Felipe Alou with the Giants. Brenly is a former Giant and the fit for him in San Francisco seems pretty good. If Hendry has Brenly at the top of his list, he'd better move quickly. The Giants won't be waiting for the Cubs to make a move.

I've heard arguments saying that Sweet Lou (no relation) is either the perfect fit for the '07 Cubs or would be a horrible choice. So the camps are pretty well polarized. I have an interesting theory involving Lou as the next Cubs manager. It's probably just wishful thinking, but it's influenced by a rumor I heard earlier this summer.

As you may remember, Lou Pinella was Alex Rodriguez' first manager in Seattle. When ARod was suffering through a tough slump this past summer, it was Lou who talked him through it. ARod's situation in NY has been well documented, but what hasn't been as well documented is the toll the ARod saga has taken on his teammates. They are tired of answering the constant questions involving their increasingly sensitive teammate. So what you have is an unhappy ARod suffering the slings and arrows of the unrelenting NY media, and a NY Yankees team exhausted by all of the questions surrounding ARod. It seems to me that moving ARod in the off-season would be in everyone's best interest.

So where could ARod go? Naturally, I'm thinking Cubs. And I think this scenario is a lot more likely if Sweet Lou is the Cubs manager. ARod would be welcomed with open arms and he would be hailed as a conquering hero if he could lead the Cubs to the promised land, ala Curt Schilling with the Red Sox. But what would it cost?

The Yankees need pitching. The Cubs have a plethora of young pitching. Sure, it might also cost a promising young position player (Felix Pie?), but we're talking about the Cubs getting arguably the best player to ever play the game.

This is a longshot, but if Hendry hires Lou Pinella to manage the Cubs, keep your eyes open. The rebirth of the Chicago Cubs could be right around the corner.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bye, Bye Dusty

As expected, the other shoe dropped today for Cubs skipper Dusty Baker. Technically, Baker was not fired. His contract expired at the end of the season and the Cubs have decided not to re-sign him.

I am not as big of a Dusty hater as some. Neither am I a big Dusty supporter. I think Dusty is a good guy with some baseball knowledge who also gets along well with his players. What he is not is a master technician or a skilled leader. In order for Dusty to be successful, he needs to have a well built roster with some power and he needs things to go well (i.e. no injuries, no distractions, and no conflicts). Obviously, that was not the situation he found himself in with the Cubs, particularly in 2004, 2005 or 2006.

To me, this last point is Dusty's biggest sin. He is not a leader, he is not a motivator, and he is not a guiding force for positive results in the midst of turmoil. And to be a successful manager in MLB, you have to be able to lead a group of disparate players toward the common goal of winning, even when adversity arises. If the prerequisite for your success is that you have to have a team that is so well built that even you can't screw it up, then you're probably not a good manager.

There was a phrase that gained popularity over the past couple of years on blogs and chat rooms that perfectly describes the situation with Dusty and the Cubs. It was said that for the Cubs to win, the team needed to be "Dusty proofed." What people meant when they used this phrase was that Jim Hendry needed to make moves to save Dusty from himself. The most famous situation was Dusty's penchant for batting Neifi Perez second in the order. When Neifi was traded to the Tigers, blogs said that Hendry was just trying to "Dusty proof" the team.

Unfortunately, Hendry did for too little to "Dusty proof" the team. It was Hendry who built a team that Dusty had no chance of leading to the post-season. Sure, Dusty did a poor job with the players he was given, but Hendry set him up for failure in both 2005 and 2006. There were several managers who could have done a better job than Dusty did those two years, but I don't think there was anyone on Earth that could have built the 2005 or 2006 Cubs into a winner.

Goodbye, Dusty. You didn't do a very good job in your four years with the Cubs, but it wasn't all of your fault. Your boss, Jim Hendry, is primarily to blame for the fiasco of the past two years, and now he's in charge of rectifying that mess. There's a saying that applies to this situation. "The same thinking that created the crisis will not solve the crisis." For the sake of the Cubs and their fans, I hope Hendry changes his way of thinking.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bye, Bye Andy

Surprisingly, after today's game - the final game of the season - Cubs President Andy MacPhail anounced that he was stepping down and Cubs Marketing Director John McDonough was taking his place on an interim basis. McDonough didn't let the "interim" title stop him from announcing that the Cubs are going to win the World Series. He was less specific about when that would happen.

If nothing else, I like McDonough's enthusiasm. From the beginning, he seems to understand that the whole reason you spend payroll dollars and build a team is to win baseball games. He also seems to understand that the long-suffering Cubs fans deserve a front office that is as commited to winning as the fans are.

The moves made by the McDonough-Hendry regime will be the real measure of whether the Cubs are as commited to winning as McDonough claims they are. But for now, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and expect that they'll make some big off-season moves to improve the Cubs and make them (at least) competitive in 2007.

The first order of business that they'll be dealing with is the future of Dusty Baker. I expect that he will not be re-signed and he will be an ex-Cubs manager tomorrow (10/2). My hope is that Hendry will announce a new manager fairly quickly. My top four candidates are (in no particular order):

Lou Pinella
Bob Brenly
Joe Girardi
Freddi Gonzalez

Whoever gets the job, I hope he establishes a tough-minded, winning attitude in the clubhouse. This year's "victim" attitude was established and nurtured by Dusty Baker. Say what you will about the numerous injuries suffered by the Cubs. The manager can't allow the team to accept losing. Unfortunately, Dusty not only took on the role of a victim, but he then instilled that attitude in his team. The new manager will need to destroy that attitude from the very beginning and instill a "no excuses" mindset in the clubhouse. From what I know about the four candidates listed above, I don't think any of them will accept anything but a winning attitude.