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Today the Cubs go for a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, which would almost certainly end their playoff hopes. At a minimum, it would make them feel very, very embarrassed. Make it happen, Cap’n…

  • In his Friday press conference discussing the firing of Jim Hendry and the future of the Cubs, Tom Ricketts all but said Crane Kenney was a lock to be retained for the foreseeable future. Ricketts said Kenney handles the business side of things, and handles it well. My only beef with the conclusion was that I would prefer that the Cubs have a “baseball” president/Director of Baseball Ops. As for Kenney, himself, I didn’t really have a broad-based opinion. But the Chicago media clearly does. Phil Rogers says Kenney has meddled in the “baseball” side of things for years, and others frequently call him “Clown Kenney.”
  • The worst account comes from Gordon Wittenmyer, who says that Kenney gave a press conference at the Winter Meetings in 2008, noting that Jim Hendry would be free to add players as he saw fit, even if it meant adding to the payroll. The Cubs were deep in talks to acquire Jake Peavy at the time, who would have added substantially to the payroll (thank God for unanswered prayers, eh?). Wittenmyer says Kenney stepped off the dais, and approached Hendry in private to remind him that everything he’d just said was a lie, and that if Hendry wanted to add any players, he could only do so where there was a dollar-for-dollar reduction in payroll. If true, it’s an ugly portrayal of a “suit” who was doing his best to keep public perception of the organization at an all-time high when prospective new owners were readying their final bids. If I’m Tom Ricketts’, I’m pretty annoyed about that today. So, given Ricketts’ public stand on Kenney, I’m not sure how much I believe the story, actually. Usually, the truth is a little more gray.
  • Jim Hendry has suggested that the Sam Zell-led ownership in between the (pre-bankruptcy) Tribune Company and the Ricketts family from 2007 to 2009 is a primary reason the Cubs have been in such a hole in 2010 and 2011. It feels like a convenient excuse, but I’m sure there is some truth to it.
  • Aramis Ramirez offered a very interesting, tongue-in-cheek quote about his 12 first-pitch homers this year. “I’m Dominican,” Ramirez said. “We go out there and swing. We don’t walk much.” That actually makes me wonder a bit – might it be a cultural thing, coming up in the DR – to swing more freely? Given the development of facilities in the DR propagated by big league teams, I can’t imagine that’s still the case, though.
  • Phil Rogers says the plan to add an additional Wild Card team in each league is a virtual done deal, and the playoffs will be expanded to include a one-game death-match between the two WC teams in each league. Ugh. I’m totally down with the addition of another WC team, but a one-game playoff? Are you serious? That’s supposed to determine which team is better? A three-game series would be bad enough.
  • A retrospective on prospect Josh Vitters, and a discussion of whether we should still have our hopes up.
  • 2011 top pick Javier Baez toured Wrigley Field yesterday before heading to Mesa, Arizona to start working. It’s unclear whether he’ll play on the rookie ball team to start, or whether he’ll be doing instructional work. Dillon Maples is expected to check out Wrigley today, and he’ll probably also head to Arizona soon thereafter. Shawon Dunston, Jr., who’s already in Arizona, suggests he won’t be playing until instructional ball starts in the Fall/Winter.
  • Speaking of prospects, Tom Ricketts plans for all new prospects to receive a book on the history of the Chicago Cubs.
  • Randy Wells deleted his Twitter account yesterday, claiming it was hacked on Friday night, and the hacker sent out a single tweet: “All you hatred slash bloggers go to bed. Jim Hendry is a great man! That’s all he should be judged on!” The message – again, which Wells claims was not sent by him – does sound similar to statements Wells made about Hendry after the GM was fired on Friday. I make absolutely no statement as to whether Wells’ account was actually hacked by someone who sent out a single tweet that was very much in line with Wells’ opinion, or whether Wells simply regretted what he’d said and took down the account.
  • Fishin Phil

    “Aramis Ramirez offered a very interesting, tongue-in-cheek quote about his 12 first-pitch homers this year. “I’m Dominican,” Ramirez said. “We go out there and swing. We don’t walk much.” That actually makes me wonder a bit – might it be a cultural thing, coming up in the DR – to swing more freely? Given the development of facilities in the DR propagated by big league teams, I can’t imagine that’s still the case, though.”

    They say you don’t walk off the island.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, I mean, I can see as a 16-year old being scouted, showing “plate discipline” isn’t going to get you signed. But, by the time you’re 32, you’d think that mentality would be long gone. Again, I think Ramirez was partly joking.

      • Fishin Phil

        That would require “player developement”, something we have been woefully lacking in the past. I hope that is one aspect that changes moving forward.

  • http://www.obstructedview.net Aisle 424

    Chicks dig the long ball, not OBP. Baseball management-types may now appreciate the value of OBP, but homeruns are still king. Why do you think everyone still bitches about steroids and doesn’t give a damn when a pitcher gets caught cheating? If I’m a guy that is good at hitting homeruns, and I have had success doing it by jumping on the first fastball I see throughout my 32 years on this planet, I’m probably going to keep doing it.

  • MichiganGoat

    Not that I’m a Crane fan, but some of this might be due to the press needing someone to sling mud at. Right now Hendry is in the eulogy stage and columnist needs new villian. I still see Ricketts bring in a baseball guy in the off season, his praise of Crane is the same non-guarantee praise he gave Hendry. Maybe Crane will be retained in a new roll.

  • Dave

    I’d never trust a man with that haircut

    • TWC

      OR that sweater vest. ::shudders::

  • Matt Murton

    So according to ESPNChicago.com, Garza thinks Friedman is the man for the job… Anyone looking to argue with him, his Matt-Clement-wannabe-beard, and his 97 mph fastball? Didn’t think so.

    But really, I’m wondering why Friedman hasn’t been talked about as much as someone like Byrnes… I feel like he’d be a no-brainer for the job. To be able to stay competitive in a market like Tampa in a division with Boston and New York, that guy has a great baseball eye. Imagine his ability to invest *wisely* in a farm system, rip off teams with deals like the Garza one, PLUS having the money to spend *wisely* on big time free agents…

    • Jeff

      I like Tampa, and the way they develop talent, but I don’t think Friedman is the perfect fit here because of it. Tampa was bad, for a long time. They had top 5 picks in almost every draft for a while. That talent stockpiles as long as someone who is even halfway competent is in charge. I don’t think people realize how bad the Cubs have been at drafting, so Tampa just looks really good in comparison. I do think Friedman should definitely be in consideration, and probably more than Byrnes. I have been reading that Ricketts was really wanting to go hard after Brian Cashman after he let go of Hendry and someone with high level baseball influence throughout the league talked him out of it. I also think he might be looking at the biggest and brightest names before he even thinks about any assistant gm’s.( i read he was even wanting to talk to Theo Epstein) I know it’s not likely, but it is nice to know he’s not just going to say “oh well, I can’t get the best, so here’s what we’ll do”, which has been a Cub philosophy for a while.

      • Toosh

        Hahn would be the perfect fit. Qualified, Chicagoland native. Cub fan.

        • bacboris

          Toosh, more times than not I’ll tend to agree with your opinion but this time I have to disagree with both you and Jeff up there. As great as Fielder (at or less than 6 years) or C. Wilson would be, Friedman has to be the best pick up the cubs could hope to get. While I get Jeff’s argument, that highlights the only positive that Friedman had to work with.

          Look at his resume:
          - No one has bested him in a trade. Short of AA’s magic voodoo powers in Toronto, no one is better at managing their roster than Friedman. Imagine if the cubs were in a situation like the rays last year with so many bull pen arms hitting FA. How many would we have overpaid to keep? Exactly, I get those shivers down my spine.
          -Unlike our cubs, the rays under Friedman have excelled at picking up draft picks and in building a well-regarded training/drafting/and scouting mechanism throughout the world. In Latin America and the Caribbean they might only be behind the Red Sox in terms of facilities and all of that with no fan-base revenue and cheap owners.
          -What could there possibly be in his background, that wouldn’t have cubs fans drooling? Imagine signing Castro into a deal like Langoria was. Or in having a roster without perpetual dead-weight. Hell maybe even the feeling of knowing your organization has a 5 year plan that they stick to and can handle most injuries/drafting variances.

          All I can say, is that if in the end ricketts could only choose at start of this off-season between: A) Hiring Friedman, B) Eating nearly all of Sori’s contract, and C) Bringing on Fielder for 5 years. I wouldn’t lose a minutes sleep if he chose option A.

          • Toosh

            Thanks for the kind words and I have no problem with your opinion. If Ricketts wants an experienced GM, Friedman would be an excellent choice.

  • Toosh

    As long as Kenney stays out of the baseball side of the Cubs, he might not hurt anything.

  • umpirejim

    I agree with the media Kenney & Quade have to go if your serious about rebuilding this organization. I like them to see them keep Maddox as a assistant GM and get Sandberg as manager. Reason for Sandberg he knows what’s down on the farm.

  • jstraw

    Having to time your ace’s starts so that he’s rested for a death match is going to be hell for WC managers. Then if you win, what…he pitches the fourth game of the DCS? It’s jacked up.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Totally, completely agree.

    • MichiganGoat

      Agreed one game just isn’t right. A friend proposed the following: a three day, three game series, all games played at the home field of the WC team with the better record. I like this for a couple of reasons: 1-it would give all divisional winners a break to set their rotations and hence another benefit to winning your division, 2-It wouldn’t add an extra week to the playoff schedule, 3-it would speed up the pace of the playoffs…which is just drags too long.

      • Sandberg

        A 3 game series is too long. You end up having division winners sitting for 4-5 days. This causes them to lose their rhythm and puts them at a disadvantage.

    • Sandberg

      Totally, completely disagree. :)

      The major problem with the baseball playoffs is that far too many wild card teams advance. Wild card teams *should* be put at some type of disadvantage. They didn’t win their division, and should have to play some type of price for that. The added bonus is that this plan won’t extend an already too long postseason.

      Nothing but good from this plan as far as I’m concerned.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I don’t disagree that winning the division needs to have a little something special to it, but one game? One game? Bah. That’s football, not baseball.

        • Sandberg

          Out of curiosity, what would be your plan to give the winning wild card a disadvantage? If anything, 3 game series puts the team playing the wild card team at a disadvantage.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            I say a five-game series in the WC round, and then seven-game series the rest of the way. Do what you need to do to the regular season schedule to make that happen. But I’ll never win that battle.

            • Sandberg

              Assuming no travel days off for the WC teams, a five game series would give the division winners a week off. With travel days, you’re talking 9-10 days between the end of the season and the first time the division winners play.

              You don’t think that would massively skew things to the winning wild card team’s advantage?

              I agree with you on shortening the season, I hate that baseball’s champion is determined in different weather than 90% of the season.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                The off-time is an important part of the discussion, but, of course, that’s true in every sport that rewards the better teams with byes. They get to rest up and start fresher than their opponent; but, the argument goes, they’re “cold.”

                My guess is if it were analyzed statistically, the advantage skews to the team taking the time to rest (though, I know that resting up in football is probably more valuable than in baseball).

              • MichiganGoat

                That’s why I like my friends three game series idea (all in a row, homefield to the WC with best record. Then start game 1 of the divisional series on the fourth day. This gives the division winners an obvious advantage and shouldn’t add too much time to the playoffs.

  • NL_Cubs

    Here’s my take on the front office situation at 1060 W. Addison. Ricketts came into the ownership role as a good business man but not a strong acumen of being a baseball man other than being a fan. Before cleaning house and putting his stamp on the organization, he needed to take inventory of talent, skill sets and personalities. As the evaluation takes place, Ricketts continued to surround himself by baseball people who are familiar with the day to day operations. i.e.Hendry and Kenney.

    Once the evaluation period is complete, then Ricketts starts making changes with organizational philosophies and personnel with Hendry being the first to go.

    Next will be Kenney and I believe it will happen in short order. I suspect once the next GM is in place and has warmed the seat, the target will be on Kenney’s back. The Ricketts have been talking with the city of Chicago about getting public funds for the $400M renovation of “The Old Maid” Wrigley Field and I think Crane Kenney has been part of this process. Once that deal is done securing the city help/dollars, then Kenney gets the long awaited exit interview from the organization.

    The culture must change from bottom to top. Keeping the motto of business as usual and being ok with the label “lovable losers” is no longer acceptable in Cubs Nation, whether your in the front office or a fan.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not a bad theory. I know many people who would be happy if it played out that way.

    • jstraw

      I’m coming to the belief that Ricketts believes that he can become a baseball man by immersion. I hope he can and frankly, I think maybe it’s possible. It’s absolutely clear to me that whatever meddling Kenney did with the baseball side in the past, that’s over. Rickett’s is unequivocal, the GM answers directly to him. Ricketts plans to *be* the baseball man overseeing his baseball men. He may have a little Ted Turner in him after all.

      I think he’s a patient man. I think he wanted to spend a couple of years in school before taking the gloves off. I think they’re off. He fired Hendry and did it in manner that ensured the best possible transition. He greenlit *paying* for a fancy draft class. He’s made statements that when added up, constrain Kenney’s role. He’s blunt about Zambrano. He’s got three very sensible bullet points laid out for the qualifications of the next GM. He’s expressed a preference that Wilken and Oneri remain. I think we’re about to hear BIG ideas for the renovation of Wrigley.

      My hopes for Ricketts have done a major about-face since the draft.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        Great stuff. I don’t see why he Ricketts couldn’t become a great baseball man (if he’s not already). Just look at Friedman: he left Wall Street and, within a few years, was completely running the Rays.

        • jstraw

          Exactly so. And Ricketts is quick to remind us that while his siblings make up the rest of the board, the Cubs are his *job*. He’s not taking time out of his trading day to play at baseball, it’s what he does. If I’m right, I *like* that he bristled at the suggestion that he needs a director of baseball ops. He’s hired himself for that job and looks like he’s going to make sure everyone, including Crane Kenney, knows it.

          • willis

            I came away from this whole weekend with a sense of confidence in Ricketts that I hadn’t had or even close before. It seems to me that his balls have dropped and he has a directional plan in place which he will use to make this team a competitor. I loved his interview last night as there was no politics going on. He shot it straight which is refreshing.

            It’s a nice breath of fresh air.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Ditto. And then I keep pinching myself. It’s still the Cubs… don’t get your hopes up, I say to myself…

              But then my hopes get up anyway.

        • Fishin Phil

          I have to say, I am more impressed with Ricketts every day. I actually feel he will make a good choice on the next GM. I can not remember ever feeling any degree of confidence in the Cub’s front office before.

      • MichiganGoat

        Excellent points!

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