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The Cubs Need Leadership at the Top

The Cubs Need Leadership at the Top
Crane Kenney

While many Cubs fans, as well as some national writers like ESPNs Keith Law and Baseball America's Jim Callis, were impressed by the Cubs performance in the draft, it also highlighted what the Cubs have been sorely missing during the Crane Kenny/Jim Hendry era: leadership.

What made this draft successful wasn't luck or extra hard work -- Wilken and his staff always work hard.    The difference this year was Rickett's leadership in the process.  He took charge.  He made sure that the Cubs scouting efforts were not made in vain.  It was a refreshing change for a team that hasn't seen someone just take control and made sure things got done in quite some time.

The problem I have with this is that it shouldn't be the owner of a team stepping in and getting things done.  It should come from the President of Baseball Operations or the GM.

It was pointed out to me by an astute reader that when Ricketts was asked whether having a successful draft and building a farm system was simply about putting more resources in to it, the Cubs chairman somewhat disagreed.  He said, "it's more than that" but said nothing else on the matter, leaving us to wonder what exactly he meant by that statement.

I now believe he meant leadership.  After all, the resources were in places.  The money is there.  The Cubs have the right scouting personnel.   What was missing was someone to say, "Here's what we're going to do, you just put in the work and  I'll make sure you have everything you need to get it done."  That's what was missing and that's why Ricketts had to step in.

Where was Crane Kenney?  Where was Hendry?

This is the single biggest concern I have with that pairing.  It isn't the bad contracts and the recent failures.  It's their inability to provide any kind of leadership to a franchise that has lacked direction for a very, very long time.

This isn't just about the draft.   This is about not having a single, coherent team philosophy that starts at the top and permeates down to the last coach in the minor league system.  What is the Cubs plan?  What is their identity?  When you're a Cub, what exactly does that mean other than being a lovable loser?   Do you think it's like that with the Red Sox or the Yankees...or even the Rays or Rangers?

I don't.

The closest thing I can see to a plan with this team in Hendry's tenure is, "Let's go into the offseason, spend some money, patch a few holes and hope everything pans out."  That can get you an occasional good year or two, but it doesn't build you a consistent winner.  It doesn't build an organization with a strong foundation that you can continue to build on year after year.

The Cubs, of all teams, should recognize this.  They've had two separate eras where I believe they were on the brink of building this kind of organization:  The Dallas Green era in the 80's and the Andy McPhail era in the early 2000's.  Both provided strong leadership at the top and had a definite philosophy as to how they wanted to build a team.  Both built a strong farm system that was among the best in the game.  What stopped both from continuing forward was a meddlesome, profit-oriented ownership.  In each case, these baseball men stepped down out of frustration and were replaced by lackeys willing to follow the business model of the suits in charge.  In Green's case it was Jim Frey, who went on to dismantle everything that Green had built; and in McPhail's case it was John McDonough, who ushered in the spending frenzy era, and then Crane Kenney who's most known for his conspicuous absence from any important baseball decisions.

But I'm not absolving Hendry from this either.  When he was under McPhail's guidance he had some direction and looked like a promising GM.  Under McDonough, he  just went along for the ride -- but he was young, and didn't have the clout to step in yet.  It's under Kenney where Hendry has really failed.  There was a total void in terms of leadership and Hendry did not step up and take charge.  It took Ricketts to come in and eventually take control.  That should not happen.  That's why it's time for the Cubs to make changes at the top and bring in some real leadership.

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  • Indifference.

    That's the single most permeating attribute of the Cubs organization at this point. You can see it in the front office, and with the veterens. I do believe Quade wants to win, but perhaps he just doesn't quite know how yet, and is too reliant on players being self-motivating.

    Not that that's a bad thing, but it isn't going to get you far when the guys you rely on to win you games aren't overly concerned with winning games.

    You've seen Wrigley when it's full of excitement and passion. That's the fire that the entire organization needs to have. The Cubs *should* be right up there with NY and Boston in terms of the great franchises in baseball, and of baseball's history, except that they're not.

    But they could be.

  • In reply to Cameron Macpherson:

    They certainly could be on that level with the right people. I think Ricketts is the right kind of owner to build a strong staff, whether that included Hendry in some capacity remains to be seen -- but I do not see Hendry as a leader. IF he's kept they absolutely need a competent PBO to set a tone for Hendry to follow.

    With regard to Quade, I think the lack of leadership comes from the top as well. I know GMs don't make lineups, but when your GM says we made a trade so that Colvin can play -- and then your manager doesn't play Colvin, then something is definitely wrong. Everybody just seems to be doing their own thing.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And when he does play Colvin, he slots him 8th in the order. It's ridiculous really. Colvin has almost as many RBI(in 200 fewer at bats) as Marlon Byrd who has hit smack dab in the middle of the order all season....and Colvin is hitting what .130?

    It goes back to being too old school. Why do you bat a guy 3rd, 5th, 6th in the order, all season long, when the numbers tell you he is not a good run producer. It's driven me mad all year. The guy has 22 RBI in 350 AB's...and he's hitting over .300. That's hard to do. It seems like Byrd may be best slotted as a #2 or #8 hitter in this lineup. Quade seems a bit stubborn in his ways.

  • John, I'm not a big Cub fan though I grew up as one. Trading Lee Smith for two losers, letting Maddux get away, Palmeiro, Mark Grace leaving with Gonzalez to win it all with the Diamondbacks.When you look at Boston who was a perrenial winner year after year for decades, but only finally won a Championship in the 2000's it tells you how many lightyears the Cubs are away. Sure Wayne Huizenga comes in, and assembles a World Series winner in short order, but how often does that happen? I give the Cubs credit for spending, and legitimately trying to put together a winner/win it all with Pinella.

    The thing is, the Cubs routinely/historically do the two things you can't do: spend your money on losers like Sorianio who can't defend and Milton bradley who is a basket case of all basket cases, and second they don't draft winners. Weren't Derrick Lee and also Ramirez products of the Cubs farm system? They bring up talent at times, but niether of these guys are winners in my book.

    That said, if Ricketts(the owner not the bone disorder, ha, ha) but if he's a savvy builder as you perceive him then maybe the Cubs finally assemble a winner. Myself, I don't view him that way at all, but as another naive outsider who will botch things up, and then go on the cheap with "rebuilds" to save money. But hopefully I'm wrong becasue having a savvy onwner who will do what it takes financially is huge. Despite the pessimism I truly hope the Cubs assemble a winner, and finally take home the championship so White Sox blabbermouths like Steve B(St)one can shut their sanctimonious pie holes.

  • In reply to RoadWarrior:

    Hey Road Warrior...good to hear from you!

    Lee and Ramirez weren't products of our system but they were acquired with prospects that the Cubs developed.

    I'm a fan of Ricketts. I think he knows exactly what's going on in that franchise and I think he has a plan on how to fix it. But time will tell, I guess. I think the Cubs will be competitive again in a couple of years and then we'll see what happens from there.

  • Excellent clairvoyance with today's early topic here John. I agree that during that interview Ricketts was thinking about the lack of leadership. You could tell he had a lot to say on the matter, but really couldn't even say one word. With today's good news, I think this was proven. Very exciting now as the search begins for a new leader. Hopefully new leadership will soon come in at manager & PBO as well.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I channeled my inner Miss Cleo this morning!

    You were the one who got me thinking about that statement! And it's funny how he used that same word...leadership. Looks like we were right on that one.

  • I said it before, I think in 4-5 years we join the Yankees & Red Sox as the elite organizations in baseball. It might take a little longer to win a World Series, but I think soon we will be seing this team compete virtually every year, with a strong foundation in the minors from top to bottom. I see Ricketts has a vision, and I believe in it.

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