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For years, we’ve been told that we’re supposed to hate Chicago Cubs President Crane Kenney. The media writes about him as though he slept with their collective mother, but, when it comes time to delineate just what he did to get under their skin, they offer vague allusions to meddling, glory-hogging, and Greek priests.

And, when the Cubs were searching for a new general manager, many shrieked in fear that Kenney would queer the deal – particularly when it became clear that the Cubs were looking at Theo Epstein, a man who would probably require a title higher than GM. I tended to sate myself with the belief that, if Tom Ricketts trusted Kenney, then that was good enough for me. If there’s anything Ricketts has done ever so clearly over the last year, it’s earn my trust.

I’ve said many times that, while I didn’t necessarily doubt there was reason to be wary of Kenney, I’d never quite seen it written. I tried my best to remain undecided.

Well, Paul Sullivan has done his best to decide for all of us, writing a long, thorough piece on the past and future of Kenney.¬†Sullivan frames the article in terms of “what will Kenney’s role be now that Epstein is here,” but, to me, it’s far more valuable as a “here’s why so many of us hate Crane Kenney” article.

If true, it’s hard not to agree with those media members who repeatedly, if opaquely, dump on Kenney. A notable selection:

His business contacts and ability to enhance Wrigley Field revenues make Kenney a valued asset of the Ricketts family, while his reputation for turning the ballpark into his own playground annoys others. An associate of both Ricketts and Kenney said the Cubs owner feels they “owe” Kenney.

“Tom is an uber-fan when it comes to the Cubs, but he doesn’t know baseball,” the associate said. “He looks at Crane as someone who deserves his undying loyalty because he helped him with the financials of the sale.

“Someone advised Tom that he needed a sacrificial lamb when he took over, to separate them from (Tribune Co.). But he wouldn’t do it. He kept Crane, and really did nothing at first to change the culture, except to extend employees’ benefits. The talk at the (Tribune) Tower was that Crane wanted more than anything for the Rickettses to retain him so ultimately he could wind up commissioner of baseball.”

Those who’ve worked with Kenney describe him as a driven individual who ingratiates himself to whomever is in charge, whether it was at Tribune Co. or at Clark and Addison Streets. There’s no shortage of detractors, including one fellow board member of a local nonprofit organization that Kenney once served on. The source said their relationship soured almost immediately after Kenney touted himself as a fundraising expert.

“He made a big deal about how much money he was going to raise for us, and got some publicity for it,” the source said. “The day of the fundraising event, he showed up and didn’t get any of the money he’d promised, yet he acted like he’d done nothing wrong.

“When you’re dealing with nonprofit organizations, it’s a very polite world, and no one calls you out when you do something like that. I was in control then, so when it came time to reappoint (the board) I just made sure he wasn’t on it.”

Certainly not the most flattering portrayal. That story, you’ll note, is the kind of thing fans have no visibility to – but the media might. That’s why I was reluctant to deny the media’s distaste for Kenney, even if they hadn’t yet offered up much in the way of proof. But, without that proof, neither was I willing to just jump on the “Clown Kenney” bandwagon. Now, I’m leaning that way.

Still, I tend to suspect that Kenney can’t possible be as bad or as meddling as he’s portrayed, or Tom Ricketts would have given him a swift boot when he dumped Jim Hendry. There are rumors that Kenney remains invaluable to the Wrigley Field renovation process – specifically, the procurement of public funds – and, as soon as that process is formally set into motion, he will be broomed. I doubt too many would cry out in sadness if that happened.

In the meantime, Kenney’s role has clearly been marginalized. While Kenny will remain on board, for now, as the Cubs’ President of Business Operations, his involvement in any way with the baseball side of the organization is at an end.

  • Fishin Phil

    Brett,

    Do you put any stock in the rumors that Kenney was part of the compensation hold up?

     

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m not sure. I tweeted a bit about it when the rumors came out, but didn’t write about it here because no one could tell me what the upside was for Kenney. For those who don’t know, the rumors – originally coming from Boston, mind you – were that Kenney was holding up the compensation fight for “personal gain.” Given that Kenney helped the Cubs land Epstein, and everyone already knew at that point what Epstein’s job would be, I don’t see any possible upside for Kenney in holding up the deal.

      I think it’s more likely that the Red Sox were holding up the deal – I’ll be writing about the fight in a few days when I’ve got more information, but the sense I’ve gotten is that it was always John Henry causing the problems – and they leaked to the media that Kenney was a problem, knowing that it was a story that could possible gain some traction in Chicago.

  • EQ76

    Oh my God!!! They killed kenny!  You bastards!

    • Internet Random

      As a general rule, we don’t get enough South Park references here.

      If I were drinking milk when I read the “Whatevuh, I Do What I Want” box score, it would have shot out my nose.

      • EQ76

        I agree, that one was priceless.. I’m seriously you guys,

         

  • John

    I have met the guy a few times, and he seemed like a pretty nice Guy, but the deal with the Greek Priest was ridiculous.

    • Internet Random

      “Politicians” are always nice the first few times you meet them.

  • JulioZuleta

    He looks like a cross between Luke Wilson and Johnny Red Kerr

  • Mike

    Sounds like a lot of guys I work with, suck up to management, claim they”ll do this or that, when the time comes they’re no where to be found! We refer to them as a “Blow Hard”

  • CubFan Paul

    i wonder if Crane will give up the biggest office at Wrigley for Theo..

  • Lou

    Well, the media gets far worse that ripping on Crane. Today, I heard the argument from the Chicago media that Cubs fans shouldn’t consider the importance of Wrigley Field when attending their next Cubs game. So baseball fans shouldn’t go to Wrigley next year if the team’s not winning because no one should enjoy (or take in) the atmosphere there? That’s exactly the message this radio personality was trying to get across. Huh?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Obviously the product on the field (and winning) is important, but let’s not kid ourselves: Wrigley is a cathedral that is, itself, worth taking in.

      Theo, himself, said so today.

      • Lou

        Yeah, it’s Dan Bernstein, on the Score, so I don’t take much stock in what that guy says. Just upset me because he went further to say how the Cubs shouldn’t be about family bonds and tradition in enjoying games. Either he had an off day, which is doubtful, or someone should check his meds.

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