Revisiting former Cubs GM Dallas Green

Revisiting former Cubs GM Dallas Green

Former Cubs GM and team President Dallas Green was in the news just the other day.

Green had some comments for Fred Mitchell regarding the Cubs and their current fight to get the Wrigley neighborhood to cooperate with the proposed renovation deal.

"It sounds like the same issues from then," Green told Mitchell.

"The fans and the people of Wrigleyville have to understand that you have a chance to lose that ballpark if you don't give the Cubs a chance to operate in today's baseball world."

Green fought the good fight for years to bring night games to Wrigley and was instrumental in that finally happening. Some readers also brought up Green’s name in response to our new contributor Jordan Benfield’s post yesterday.

I promised to revisit a post I wrote in response to Crain’s Ed Sherman. Sherman had written about the possibility that Theo Epstein would fail just as Andy MacPhail and Green previously did. I had a huge problem with that as many of us know Green was well on his way to succeeding in rebuilding the Cubs on a short and long-term basis.

Here is that post from August of 2010;

Crain's Ed Sherman writes today that Cubs fans should temper their expectations on a new GM because Dallas Green and Andy Mac Phail were also highly touted and didn't work out.

Sorry Ed, that's where I have to give you a little refresher on your Cubs history.

Dallas Green came in fresh from winning a World Series as manager of the Phillies, into an absolute hellhole of a franchise. All he did in his tenure was challenge the losing culture of Cubdom, take on the neighborhood in a fight that eventually led to lights at Wrigley Field, re-shaped the roster in short order to be a contender in less than two seasons, made a widely unpopular trade for future hall of famer Ryne Sandberg, and rebuilt a barren farm system.

Other than that, yeah he sucked.

Sherman says Green lost the momentum of the 1984 success. Ok, but that isn't the whole story. The 1985 team was de-railed by losing the entire starting rotation and then the team got old. Green however was operating on both a short term and long-term plan.

His farm director Gordon Goldsberry re-shaped the Cubs system that eventually produced Greg Maddux, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark Grace, Jamie Moyer, Joe Girardi, Dave Martinez, and Shawon Dunston. Green's biggest downfall was his huge ego and thirst for power. He clashed many times with Tribune brass and wanted the team presidency, which he eventually got. He also by all accounts had the personality of an ashtray.

Green made some mistakes.

He hired Lee Elia as his first manager. Elia was a good baseball man, but was not up to the huge task in taking on the losing culture, the media, and the fans. He turned out to be a point A guy. Then Green brought in Jim Frey who did a terrific job in leading the Cubs to a NL East title in 1984. He just couldn't bring himself to pull his tired ace Rick Sutlciffe from game 5 on an October Sunday in San Diego.

After the '85 collapse and firing Frey in 1986, Green then made his biggest mistake. He made the puzzling hire of Yankee exec Gene Michael as manager solely from looking him up in a national league baseball reference called the "Green Book".

After a terrible 1987 season, Michael stepped down and Green wanted to promote then coach John Vuckovich. The Tribsters said no, and suggested Green himself manage the club. Exit Green. He left just before all his work could have really paid off.

The Cubs then hired Jim Frey as GM who quickly got rid of Lee Smith, which then led to the trading of Palmeiro and Moyer. Frey and his farm director then went on to set the franchise back for ages with just horrid, horrid drafts. The Cubs should have been a powerhouse had Green stayed and put the right pieces around that nucleus. Maddux, Grace, Sandberg, Palmeiro, Moyer were some of the 90's best players.

Sorry Ed, but I hate revisionist history, because some of us remember what really happened.

By the way, Green currently is a Senior Advisor to the General Manager for the Phillies. How's that franchise doing? (At the time of post Phillies had been to back World Series)

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  • fb_avatar

    Great article Tom!

  • Great article, as always, guys! I'd just like to add Frey decided to save Sut so he could start Game 1 of the WS instead of going Sut, Trout for games 4, 5. HORRIBLE! Like pulling your starters at halftime of the NFC championship because you 're up 21-0. That's actually not even the equivalent. It's like sending your starters home at halftime up 21-0.

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    I wasn't even born during the Green era and I knew more about this than Ed Sherman.....It seemed like he wrote that out of spite and trying to rile up Cubs fans for no reason other than page clicks. To say Green was a failure basically tells me he wasn't paying attention and got caught up looking for negatives in every situation just like most Cubs fans do now.

    It's sad to say but we've become such a negative, unfair bunch of fans....We value short-term success over long-term prosperity in Cubdom and that culture has to stop. Green almost made that a reality and it's up to Theo and CO to finish it out and I have my faith in them. But if they fall just short I'd say kudos to them for improving the franchise, maybe the next guy can finish it. Most Cubs fan would say WS or nothing you did meant jacks&%^......Unfortunately

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I'm with you marcel I was not born yet but my father always told me and still tells me how good they could have been if they would have kept there young players. If you look around the media it seems like its open season on the cubs and tom ricketts.

  • Good article tom, Its amazing and sad how much talent that was traded from this franchise. That's why this whole curse thing is stupid, its the curse of bad management. And it seems like fans and media has not learned there lesson with trying to trade young talent.

  • In reply to seankl:

    A good management team often has to trade talent - to get talent in return. I don't fault management for doing those trades per se.

    But what they got for what they traded away was pretty pitiful after Green left.

    Palmeiro and Moyer for Mitch Williams?
    Dennis Eckersley for what essentially amounted to a sack baseballs?
    Lee Smith for two also-rans named Schiraldi and Nipper

    Add to that the somewhat understandable reasons that Maddux couldn't hang around and instead ended up in Atlanta,....

    That's a set of teams that could have had a much more solid core.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Well - I guess I have to blame Green for (at least) the Smith deal,...

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    Sorry - meant the Eck deal.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    That's true but you also have to keep players who are building blocks. You keep trading building blocks for other building blocks then someone is going to get hurt in the trade. You settle on a core and you go with it. There are alot of cubs who got away that were good players.

  • Us long time Cubs fans sure have through alot. Theo and Co.
    are baseball men have gone through alot themselfs and
    hopefully learned by their mistakes. By the end of July we
    should know if they have what it takes. Garza (if healthy) will
    be their biggest test.

  • Thanks guys the Green era is one John and I always talk about and wonder what would have happened had he been able to finish it out?

  • It really goes to show too that no GM is infallible and we shouldn't put impossible expectations on them. In the end we hope they make more good moves than bad and build the team to the point where they can withstand those mistakes better than they can now. The Cubs are a few years away from that. It's going to take time but I think when it gets done it'll finally get done right.

  • Sure enougn - Green had his issues - the biggest being his ego. But look at the Cubs record and contention (at last) in 1984 and 1989 and note who were the core players during that noticable upswing in fate when compared to the Cubs of the 1970s.

    Those guys who almost got it done in the mid-late 1980s were players brought in or developed during the Green Tenure for the most part

    The next decade of 'management' (to use the term loosely) was a nearly unmitigated disaster.

  • I still think trading Carter and Hall for Rick was bad.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    At least that trade had a significant short-term gain for the Cubs. Sutcliffe almost got them over the hump in 1984.

  • I remember the entire rotation being injured. How often does that happen? Also, at one point, the Cubs had more injured players than there were DL spots. If the Trib' had left Green alone, the Cubs would've had been a lot better off.

  • Have a hard time not saying Sutcliffe deal was worth it he was an ace and also helped them win in 89.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Here, here. The trade gave us the '84 cy young winner who anchored us into the playoffs & gave us a great chance at winning it all. We SHOULD have made the WS, would've been a MUCH better series than what the padres offered. 2 best teams in baseball- cubs/tigers, 2 great old stadiums (even though we would've had to play at comisky- little known fact), we had the nl cy young winne, MVP, fireman of the year, manager of the year, gm of the year- we just choked. Frey managed the NLCS with too much confidence- almost like a manager who felt safe in knowing we'd win or at least be back. Thoyer's whole point- we need to build a franchise who has chances REPEATEDLY, not just build a super team for right now.

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    Nice article Tom.

    I don't recall there being any controversy over trading DeJesus for Bowa (and Sandberg). Yes, Bowa was almost washed up then, but DeJesus was coming off one of the worst years for a big leaguer in history, although he was a popular player simply because he always hustled and that goes a long way towards winning over the fans. But Bowa had a long history of being on winning teams and they were hoping that would rub off on the Cubs. (Something Ed Lynch tried with he brought in Jeff Blauser)


    I was pretty sad at first also when they traded Joe Carter and Mel Hall for Sutcliffe. Carter was supposed to be a beast (and pretty much would turn out to be), and Hall was an exciting player in most of his Cubs days, including a great Willie Mays style catch in old Olympic Stadium in Montreal. But it didn't take long for Sutcliffe to start paying dividends.

    I was sadder when they traded Buckner for Eckersly, simply because Buckner was my favorite Cub for years. But that was another good trade for each team.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    I remember DeJesus still being very popular at the time.

  • If it weren't for Greene's hiring, we'd never have heard Lee Elia's tirade against some fans.,0,5241709.mp3file

  • Cubs just picked up on waviers a 37 year old infielder. Getting
    Rick was not worth it. Just remember Bagwell

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    If the Cubs don't get Sutcliffe in 84, they most likely don't win the division. He went 16-1, where else would those wins come from? Bad luck got them in the playoffs. I still hate Steve Garvey, Leon Durham pulled a Buckner before Buckner, and Sutcliffe simply ran out of gas in game 5.

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    Cubs just purchased Kevin Gregg, picked up Cody Ransom, and DFA'ed Takahashi and Lillibridge. The revolving door has started!

    This is going to be a long year as we cycle various bodies

    I don't really have an opinion of any of these 4 guys; they are all just roster filler, basically

  • Besides being wrong, Ed Sherman is a Sox fan, so who cares what he says? ;)

  • In reply to midwestlefty:

    Don't really but I like to point out how good Green was IMO.

  • fb_avatar

    Holy crap the Cubs just made a ton of roster moves.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Kind of like me rearranging the dog poop in my back yard.

  • Nice article. I also love the photo of Dennis Green, because I have that poster in the background on my basement wall.

  • In reply to thunderpup12:

    Thanks and oh I used to love that poster. I want one.

  • Nice write up. I was 10 years old in '87 but I remember a lot of this. The most bitter part of my childhood was '92 and Maddux's exit to the Braves. I found it almost impossible to forgive him for leaving until many, many years later.... Still hate the Braves though.

    May Stanton Cook burn in hell, whenever that bastard gets around to dying....

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