Building A Cubs Champion: Managing Management

Think back two weeks.

Just after the Cubs clinched the NL Central, even as they were resting players and struggling through the last week, most if not all of us were praising Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella for building a near-juggernaut that won more games than any Cubs team in 63 years and was likely the best Cubs team in 73, if not longer.

They seemed deep and well-balanced and built for a long postseason run.

Didn't happen, of course. So are you among those who are calling for wholesale changes, both on and off the field? If you are, I think you're making a mistake.

The club is going to be sold within the next few months -- although if you go back and read what Sam Zell supposedly wanted to do, it should have been sold more than six months ago, so who knows for sure -- and I know there are some who think that whoever the new owner turns out to be, should dump everyone and start over.

To which I say, "Huh?" You just witnessed the Cubs win the most games they have won in two consecutive seasons (182) in exactly seventy years (since 1937-38), and you want to tear it down and begin again? Why?

Instead, I would call on new ownership to keep everyone who's built this team -- because thanks to Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella, they have put together a club that should, with minor tweaks, be able to continue to contend for the long haul -- and add to the front office staff.

That's one thing the Cubs have always trailed the major leagues in -- year-round, full-time employees that can make a difference, particularly in baseball operations and scouting. Look at the team's front office list -- I counted 128 full-time employees. That's nearly dead last among all thirty teams. The Dodgers, who just blew the Cubs out of the playoffs, list 182 full-timers; the Red Sox, who Crane Kenney keeps saying he wants to see the Cubs emulate, have 178; and the Rays, who just came out of nowhere and might still win it all this year, have 160. Only the Marlins, with 110 (don't be fooled by the long list -- many of those are interns or seasonal employees like gameday personnel), have fewer year-round, full-time employees than the Cubs.

Increasing the scouting and baseball operations staffs, in particular, might get new voices involved and help current staffers who are overworked. For some of you who think I'm not statistically oriented, I acknowledge the need to look at advanced metrics in modern baseball -- in conjunction with scouting reports -- and hope that new ownership would put people in place that would lend their expertise in this area, just as the Red Sox did when they brought Bill James on board several years ago (in fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to swipe James himself from Boston). I like the job Jim Hendry and Co. have done, but I will say that Hendry, a former baseball coach, has a tendency to rely too much on "tools" rather than actual baseball skills -- resulting in too many chances being given to players like Corey Patterson (and maybe Felix Pie, though I say the jury's still out on him). That's the only flaw I see in Hendry's game.

So to Mark Cuban or the Ricketts group or whoever winds up owning the Cubs in the near future: don't tear the building down. Put a shiny new addition on it. That's how I see a perennial winner being built on the North Side of Chicago.

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