23 August 2010
Louuuuuuuu! It continues to be a Way of Life
It was only fitting on Sunday that I got news that Lou was going to manage his last game for the Cubs while in the bathroom, taking care of business, sitting down.
It was interesting to see how quickly Shite Sox fans started posting that "the Cubs were so bad, even their manager doesn't want to stay" without realizing that in fact, his Mom continues to be ill and isn't getting any better. Yep, that's right, continue to deflect the crumbling of your own hopes back to the North Side hoping people will just continue to ignore what's happening with the Mouth on the Southside, Ozzie.
I know everyone is always quick to crucify the manager of a club when they don't perform, and definitely there were times where Lou made bad decisions, but if the problem isn't any bigger than the old Torco sign to spot, the organization failed him.
I do truly believe he was the right man for the right job. But when he was saddled with having to play high-paid failures like Soriano, Bradley and Fukudome as well as the pressure to validate the "farm system" by having, (who my fave Cub Blogger Aisle 424 calls something similar to the midget circus of gnomes up the middle) Theriot and Fontenot TOOTBLAN their way through games, then it's obvious he was continually asked to make soufflé out of sawdust.
Rare compliment towards the NY Yankees forthcoming!
It says a lot about an organization that year after year they can produce high-quality individuals when it comes to running/managing ballclubs. I'm sure everyone can point to horrible examples from the Bronx Bombers, but there is a culture built around winning and not accepting mediocrity and that does transcend downward to the managers and players (who might eventually become managers). Every time Lou Pinella took the reigns of another club, it was likely related to the fact that he played, coached and was GM for a winner. After the Yankees, he took that success to Cincinnati and Seattle and then found out what it was like to try to manage a team that had no clue how to win in Tampa Bay. I really do think he saw the ability of ownership with deep pockets and a somewhat loose plan on how to build a winner with the Cubs. Hell, we did and that wasn't just by drinking the Kool-Aid.
The sadness here is that the Cubs have continued to look at the Yankees and say "Hey, they spend well above the salary caps and look at them!" but there has to be multiple layers of support beneath that for it to happen which includes quality talent evaluation, not being wimpy during Free Agent contact talks and strength 'down on the farm'. The Cubs seriously have done a relatively good job of the 3rd item, but the first two continue to bite them in the backside and when they are combined (Fuku/Bradley/Kevin Gregg) they are left with poor performers with monster contracts who they can't move OR when they move them, they have to still pay the salary.
Cub 'nation' is saddled with the 2nd highest payroll in MLB along with the 2nd highest ticket prices and we still have as many World Series trophies as we did in the 50's!!
This does keep coming back to Jim Hendry. Sure he was the GM during the 2003 year, but he had only been in the position for less than a year and it wasn't totally his doing. Yes, he worked in the organization since '95, but he was successful at the talent evaluation from colleges/high schools and had built a decent farm system which still exists today. No one is convinced STILL that he has the right talent to be a GM and make the big calls. The Ricketts' bold statements that he's still the man and will lead the search for a new Manager and will stay as GM makes every Cub fan nervous that the new owners are over their heads here and instead of understanding baseball, they are drooling at the revenue glut that is the Cubs and Wrigley Field, even if they went deep into debt to buy them.
We've yet to see a move by the Ricketts that shakes us to our core and says "Hey, here's some people fed up with these losing ways and are demanding excellence". It's just more of the same, very similar to the McCaskey's with the Bears or the days of Dollar Bill Wirt$ with the Hawks. See, the Ricketts have had to follow the comeuppance of Rocky Wirtz, someone who felt the pain of the fans (even as his own Father inflicted it upon us) and so the people of Chicago are watching.
Sadly, Lou was beaten down by the system and that combined with family matters has had him quite abruptly leave the organization. For a man who has lived baseball and excelled, this is bittersweet, I'm sure. Thanks to the guys on the field yesterday for totally hacking that up by the way. At least Lou could make 5 or 6 trips to the mound to get standing o's. Nice way to send him off boys.