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On Praising Or Criticizing The Cubs

It seems inevitable.

The Cubs make an offseason move, whether a trade or free-agent signing. The comments begin to roll in... many of them negative. Criticism of Jim Hendry. Wash, rinse, repeat. Then I chime in, almost reflexively giving some approval, however cautious, to whatever deal has been made.

Why does this happen? I've said at times to those who appear to be constantly negative, "Why are you even a Cubs fan?" Of course, that isn't true. You certainly can be a fan of a sports team and be a constant critic -- although, personally, I don't see how you get any enjoyment of following that team out of doing so. But to each his or her own.

We are approaching the sixth anniversary of this site -- February 9 is the date -- and in blog years, that's like decades. My feelings about the Cubs are well known; despite the lack of championships, I choose to be an optimist, to think that each move that is made, each change that happens, will be one that improves the team. Obviously, I wind up being wrong a fair amount of the time. I hope people here realize that and know that if I'm wrong, I'll admit it, and if I haven't, it's only because I take many positions here and I don't necessarily remember each one -- although people here also don't let me forget that!

For example, I didn't hesitate to criticize the Jacque Jones signing when it was made. I actually attempted to praise the signing of Milton Bradley, even though it wasn't the signing I wanted. We don't have to go over and over that one. I have consistently written about how I think the organization has made mistakes in pricing tickets, and wrote this long post about the problems in the bleachers last May, which may have helped lead to at least one solution -- the issuance of wristbands for over-21's to buy alcohol, which did help solve the problem.

Some here have asked what my role is. I'm a blogger. To me, that's kind of a cross between a reporter and a columnist. I try to get Cubs news posted here as quickly as possible for people to discuss, in some cases adding my own opinions later. One thing I've mentioned, seemingly often this offseason, is the feeling I get from many posters that no matter what the Cubs do regarding deals, or what the organization does, is that "everything the Cubs do is wrong". Maybe that's a little bit over the top, but that's the impression I get. Some here then think, if I then defend the move, that my position is "everything the Cubs do is right".

The truth is somewhere in the middle. While Jim Hendry has made some very poor decisions (the Bradley signing and the other moves made to spend those dollars; the Juan Pierre trade), he has now been Cubs GM for more than eight years, since July 5, 2002. Incidentally, that puts him in the top third of all major league GM's in longevity -- only eight others (Brian Cashman, Kenny Williams, Mark Shapiro, Dave Dombrowski, Terry Ryan, Billy Beane, Dan O'Dowd and Brian Sabean) have served longer, and only Sabean (hired in 1996) and O'Dowd (hired in 1999) have more tenure in the National League.

So he must be doing something right. In those eight years, the Cubs have won three division titles -- yes, that's not enough, of course we all want a World Series title -- and vastly improved the farm system under Tim Wilken, hired by Hendry away from the Toronto Blue Jays. Hendry is well respected by his colleagues as a people person and someone who's fair in dealings, and that has allowed him to make some deals that have benefited the franchise.

Are all of those deals great? No, certainly not, or the Cubs would have done better on the field. The moves made after the 2008 season, essentially breaking up a 97-win team just because they lost three in a row at the worst possible time, have hurt the team for the last two years. I choose to believe that the moves made this offseason -- which filled three holes (first base, right-handed setup, and a major league starter) -- will result in significant improvement.

If I'm wrong and they don't, I'll be happy to criticize and say they haven't. I was one of the first calling for Lou Piniella to step down last year when it was clear he was making wrong on-field moves, losing interest in leading, and bashing reporters for making strategy suggestions in postgame news conferences. If Lou had left in May, when I first called for that, would it have made any huge difference in the results of the 2010 season? Probably not, but given what eventually did happen, his departure was the right thing to do.

This site exists to bring Cubs fans of many disparate views together. If any of you feel I've come down too hard on you simply for disapproving of Cubs moves, I'm going to try not to do that. Criticism, when backed up with logical arguments and facts, is always welcome here. At the same time, if I disagree with that criticism, let's have a discussion of the issue without personal attacks and profanity (not saying that anyone specifically has been doing this; it's just a site rule). Personally, I like the moves made this offseason. Do I love them? One of them, yes -- signing Kerry Wood was absolutely the right thing to do, from every perspective. The Cubs needed a solid righthanded setup man, Wood is a solid clubhouse leader, and popular with fans. (Note the order I placed those factors in -- that's the order they should be in.) Carlos Pena, if healthy, was also a solid move. Did the Cubs give up too much for Matt Garza? Maybe, but I choose to believe he's going to put up better numbers in the NL Central than in the AL East. Will the Cubs suffer without a lefthander in the rotation? Maybe, but it's possible that one of the prospects received for Tom Gorzelanny will become a decent major leaguer down the road.

The bottom line is, though, I'm a Cubs fan. (And saying this is not intended to criticize anyone else's level, intensity or method of being a Cubs fan. Everyone here chooses their own way.) I want to believe, every year, that "this is the year", as Ron Santo used to say. Many times that optimism may not be justified, but one day it will be, and then we can all celebrate together. Until then, let's all keep this the most civil, intelligent, and best place to discuss Cubs baseball.