Let's be rational here. As I was reading Al's wonderful column this morning--and do every morning--I was relieved to see he believes exactly what I believe now and have believed since about Jan.1 of 2005:
The 2005 Cubs were not built to win a world series!
At best, the 2005 Cubs had an outside shot at the wild card!
I know that's hard to swallow folks, but it's true. I'm sorry, but this team may have talent, as Al noted, but there were alot of question marks going into the season--an unproven closer, an inexperienced bullpen, an aging All-Star at short trying to resurrect his career, no lead-off man, no left-fielder, Wood? Prior? (let's not forget that everyone wondered whether these two could a. stay healthy and b. pitch consistently well)--these question marks were only further exacerbated by the plague of injuries at the start of the season. The only way this team should have reached the World Series and competed with the top teams in the league (Boston, Anaheim, ChicagoWS, NYY, Stl, Hou, Fla, Atl) is IF it had an injury-less, perfect season--in short, the team would have had to overachieve all year long, and that wasn't going to happen with the injuries and inconsistent contributions of some B- players.
What we have to ask ourselves, is considering the defecit that this club started with is it fair to be calling for Dusty Baker's head? Sure, the guy makes some decisions that at times can be difficult to swallow--his strategies can be questionable--but to blame the season on him is irrational and unfair. I will repeat what Al has said: ""Firing Dusty Baker will not solve this team's problems." It just won't--That's a fact! We're better off sticking with the continuity and allowing the front-office to build a team that is deep from the bench to the pen, which is exactly what Hendry didn't do for 2005 (namely because his hands were tied by a certain Dominican baby).
The steps that need to be taken to recussitate this team for next year: the acquisition of a "bullpen" (because we might as well scrap 90 % of the guys we have in there now), a fifth starter and a lead-off hitter (who preferably plays center). What this team doesn't need next season is a new system and a new manager/coaching staff--that would set us back.
I'd be more interested in seeing the discussions on this board shift from bashing Dusty (which is not only excessive but also getting redundant and childish), to focusing on really why this team isn't working and what can be done to solve the issues that have confounded us this year. The fans' expectations were ridiculously and unrealistically high this year for a team that had no margin for error--don't pin that on Dusty. I will say it again: this team was a B average team going into the year, folks. As cub fans we should all know sometimes it just doesn't happen the way you want it to--hell we know patience, let's use it.
The right thing for Jim Hendry to do is to address our biggest problem right now, which is the personnel on the field--There's no point in firing your manager when the players are inadequate.
Please stop making this into a disastrous and tragic season. It is neither. It's been a tough go, and we as fans don't need to add fuel to the fire by spewing out so much hyperbole. Frankly, none of us should be surprised that we're watching a .500 baseball team.
Thanks for being the sensible leader on this topic, Al.