A general view of Wrigley Field as the Chicago Cubs take on the New York Yankees in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Recently, it was announced that Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts would speak soon on the future of the team. "Within 10 days" was the timeframe given, presumably from the date of the article, which was Monday. We know that Ricketts was visiting Cubs minor league affiliates and is currently at owners' meetings in Cooperstown, which will continue through today.
Figuring that he'll be traveling on Friday and there wouldn't be any sort of major statement like this made on a weekend, the likelihood is that we'll hear it early next week.
Its content is being held pretty close to the vest; that is, I think, as it should be. I don't particularly care for "announcements of announcements" or leaked stuff that takes away from a statement of this kind that will draw a lot of attention. There doesn't seem to be a consensus here on what the content of this statement will be, either; many of you have posted in this BCB FanShot that you think he's going to announce status quo. But then, if he were going to do that, why make a late-August statement?
In any case, that got me to thinking. After the jump, what I hope Tom Ricketts will say -- whenever the statement is made.
I recently re-read the post I made the day that the Ricketts family officially took over the Cubs, October 30, 2009. On that day Tom said he and his family were committed to three things: winning the World Series, preserving and modernizing Wrigley Field, and being good neighbors in Wrigleyville. All of those are laudable goals, and they have done well, so far, I think, regarding the second and third points and I believe that they have set in motion the process of building the strong organization that will bring that World Championship to the Cubs.
But Tom also said this:
We're going to hire people we trust, give them the opportunity to succeed, and hold them accountable.
I believe it is time for Tom Ricketts to take charge of his team and to not only hold people accountable for the failure over the last couple of years on the field, but even more so, for the failure to establish a culture of accountability in the Cubs' clubhouse.
Jim Hendry has been the most successful Cubs general manager in 70 years -- because since the 1930s, no other Cubs GM had brought the team to as many postseason appearances as he has (three). Short of the ultimate goal, but he still appeared to be taking the team in the right direction, until the 97-win 2008 team was dismantled -- and for the wrong reasons, resulting in the 2009 debacle with Milton Bradley.
But this post isn't about that. It's about Jim Hendry and the baseball culture he and those he has hired to run the on-field operation have instilled.
Jim Hendry is a very nice man. I've met him briefly a couple of times; he's always been friendly and pleasant and it's my impression that he's very well-liked among his peers. Further, he's always been very good to his players, particularly players who, for one reason or another, didn't quite have a place on the Cubs. For example, when it didn't appear Sam Fuld would fit in to the 2011 Cubs plans, he included Fuld in the Matt Garza trade; Fuld has flourished in Tampa. He's done this for many players -- players love to play for a boss like that.
It's been much the same under Hendry's managers, particularly Dusty Baker, known as a players' manager, and Mike Quade. Even gruff old Lou Piniella wound up having favorites, while others (Scott Eyre, in particular) languished, and not always for the good of the team. Hendry himself plays favorites; Mike Quade, assistant general manager Randy Bush's college roommate, was named manager when he didn't seem to have the experience or cachet of some of the other candidates, and Quade was also given an inexperienced coaching staff. That has spilled over into bad decisions being made on the field and inexplicable choices, such as trading Kosuke Fukudome in part to make room for Tyler Colvin to play -- and then Colvin sits on the bench half the time since his recall.
This has all come to a head with the Carlos Zambrano incident last weekend, only the latest in many of Big Z's blowups. It seems to me that Big Z and others have, in the Cubs' clubhouse culture, run the show. In recent years it's been every man for himself, no discipline, no accountability for things done wrong, no leadership. Recently, Carlos Peña, who played in the World Series for the 2008 AL champion Rays, said that the Cubs need a culture change:
"What is Latin American culture?" Peña said. "What is the European culture? Basically, it’s a way of being.
"When I say culture of the team, (it’s) the way we interact with each other, the way we react to things, the way we view ourselves, the way we view our season. (So) what’s our identity?
"It’s just viewing ourselves in a different light, wearing the uniform with pride, just all those personal things that (should be) ingrained in us."
And what was Mike Quade's response to that? A nervous and silly joke:
Quade, when asked about Carlos Peña's comment that the Cubs need a "cultural change" in the clubhouse: "The culture? Does that mean adding an Australian, or does that mean getting a Chinese player? I don't know."
I was watching the Diamondbacks/Phillies game on ESPN Wednesday night, and the game announcers made a point of stating that most people affiliated with the Diamondbacks franchise believe that one of the reasons -- not the only one, of course, but a significant one -- for their unexpected first-place showing is, as they put it, "culture change" in the clubhouse. They mentioned that manager Kirk Gibson has instituted some rules to enforce team discipline, such as wearing jackets and ties on the road, and no cellphones in the clubhouse. They quoted Justin Upton as saying that he (Upton) felt there was a much more professional atmosphere surrounding the team.
That, I believe, is one of the biggest issues surrounding the Cubs. There's no leadership. There's no discipline. There's no one in charge. I wrote a month ago about the team's failure to stand as one outside the dugout for the National Anthem, as all the visiting teams at Wrigley Field do. It feels as if a good ol' boys' club is in charge, just buddies hiring buddies, instead of getting the most qualified people for the positions and having them lead, enforce discipline and have team unity. The inmates appear to be running the asylum. The Cubs just finished spending a record amount of money on the draft and international signings -- but there doesn't seem to be a "Cubs Way" of doing things right from the day a young player is signed. Tom Ricketts said he would hold people accountable. But in the Cubs' clubhouse, no one is holding anyone accountable. Losses pile up, players play poor fundamental baseball, and nothing changes.
And that is why I believe Tom Ricketts needs to replace Jim Hendry (and, with him, the on-field management team). As I said, Hendry appears to be a real nice guy and he did bring some winning seasons to Chicago -- the fact that those playoff teams didn't win the World Series is not his fault. He put together teams that had a shot. They just didn't finish the job. But now, I believe Hendry's time has passed. There are times when any business, any organization, needs a change in leadership to produce a change in results.
Now is that time. All of us, from fan to player to writer to broadcaster to management, everyone surrounding the Cubs, wants the same thing, a Cubs World Series title. I believe we need new leadership of the baseball side of the organization to produce that winner. In Carlos Peña's words, a "culture change".
Now, please. Before we descend into a 1950s-style era of losing.