It appears that Ricketts has done it...he has brought in a Theo Epstein-esque figure. It happens to be Theo his own bad self. Kurt is right. Bringing in Dusty Baker when we did was big. Soriano was big. Piniella was big. This is big-cubed. Get yourself to your local college, and learn some basic statistics, because Cub World is about to get dragged into the 21st Century. And yeah, it might be 11 years late, but shoot, considering we're still languishing in the 19th Century, that's a big order to fill.
As you may recall, expectations going into 2011 were a bit meh. For the first 24 games of the year, we won one, lost one, won one, lost one...the very meh of meh-ness. Mike Quade seemed like the meh man for the meh job. But then it quickly went from meh to gawd-awful, and the one prevailing thought I had the entire time was:
"Gee, I am sure glad they didn't hire Ryne Sandberg to manage this mess. I would hate to have to hate him."
How about now? What are your expectations going forward? If Theo does his job right, and I am confident he will, the 2012 Cubs will be bad. Real bad. Horrifically, comically bad. Rebuilding, starting from scratch, ground up, cliched bad. Your expectations should be almost nil. What I am looking for, the next two years or so, is nothing more or less than the development of young players in the positions they should be playing. For instance, Starlin Castro should be stuck third in the lineup, playing third, and whatever else happens, he should be left alone to grow in the position, and learn how to carry a team offensively while not killing them in the field.
So, since we expect nothing, not wins, not glory, nothing more than effort and fundamentals? Isn't this just the bestest time of all to bring in Mr. Effort and Fundamentals? Every day of his Hall of Fame career, Ryno took BP and infield. When he didn't feel like doing that anymore, in 1994, he gave back millions in salary. Some say he quit, and admittedly, he did. We can talk professionalism all we want, but if Larry Himes was your GM, purposely wrecking the Cubs so that he could build them back up with Sammy Sosa as the focal point, you were coming off the worst injury of your career and were not exactly earning your league-leading salary, and oh yeah your marriage was crumbling, I wonder how you would cope. I am afraid I would have done exactly the same thing he did.
I might be giving him huge benefit of the doubt, but I always felt like there was a certain honor in what he did that year. Ultimately, he realized he quit too soon, came back for a couple more productive years, then in a better frame of mind took some time off to finish raising his family.
When he decided he wanted to manage baseball teams, he didn't insist on starting on top. He rode the buses, paid the dues, only to have Jim Hendry give him lip service when his turn came up. In retrospect, Hendry did him a favor, as I noted above. But, how about now?
If Castro is going to be one of your cornerstones, then Ryne Sandberg is THE man to guide him through the next few years of his career. Starlin doesn't need some clown without credibility trying to teach him the finer points of being a major league star. A Hall of Fame infielder, who has over a decade of dealing with the team, the park, the city, the media and the pressures of being the Cubs Cornerstone. Somewhere along the line, Ryno appointed himself as the defender of Baseball Played the Right Way, which is heavy handed, but still.
Considering the current and recent direction of the Chicago Cubs is that one where veterans dictate policy, veto trades, exercise options, and live with the same comfortable certainty as any other member of a posh country club, we need a man who approaches the game of baseball with a single minded focus of maintaining what is good and improving what is bad. Any new blood who hopes to make a contribution to the team, from Brett Jackson on, would benefit from having Ryne Sandberg manage them. At least initially.
Eventually all managers wear out their welcome, and it will happen to the Ryno too. Someday, eventually, Cubs fans will cry out to have the Ryno replaced. But I believe if he took charge this past year, he would have been doomed to fail, just as Quade was. But I think, now, he's as good a candidate as many, and better than most, to take over this team at this time.