Yes I am back on the message board "pimping" my book...the other day I posted a tweet from Dave Kaplan of a phailed trade during the regime of Andy MacPhail...therefore I though it phitting to post Reason 92, which comes from Chapter 8 MANAGING...Generally and Bad. Once again, I apologize for the odd look that comes from transferring the type-set font of the book onto the message board, and once again I cannot thank enough all of you for your purchases and kind words.
It didn’t take long after Andy MacPhail joined the Cubs as President/CEO for some members of the Chicago sports media to cleverly (implied sarcasm) spell Andy’s name Mac F-A-I-L. Andy was doomed to fail in Chicago; many factors were working against him. Andy didn’t necessarily help himself, and bears plenty of responsibility for his demise with the Cubs.
Andy MacPhail was a third generation baseball man, whose father (Lee) and grandfather (Larry) are the only father/son members of the Hall of Fame. The MacPhails were not players; they operated Major League franchises. Andy MacPhail had a difficult time winning over many Chicago fans because of his appearance and persona. As a Chicago sports fan for almost 40 years, I can tell you there is an element of meathead-ism amongst Chicago fans. A bookish-looking guy such as Andy was not going to get many free passes in Chicago. Chicago is a sports town in which many people (not me) still worship a football coach in Mike Ditka who once broke his hand punching a locker.
MacPhail was hired on September 9, 1994, and resigned on October 1, 2006. Andy came from the Minnesota Twins where he served as General Manager, winning two World Series championships within a four-year span. MacPhail’s accomplishments were considered impressive because of the Twins’ status as a small market team with a minor budget.
The Cubs did make the play-offs twice during MacPhail’s reign; in 1998 and the ill-fated 2003 season. By traditional Cubs’ standards, two play-off appearances in twelve years isn’t that bad. However for organizations that readily compete for championships, two out of 12 would be totally unacceptable. Having 12 years to succeed and only coming close once…Andy belongs on this list. MacPhail served as Cubs’ president, CEO, and even G.M. for a brief period. Let’s take a look at the 11 seasons under Andy MacPhail’s watch:
- From 1994-2006 the Cubs had four winning seasons and seven losing seasons.
- The Cubs won one play-off series…2003 vs. Atlanta.
- In those seven losing seasons, the Cubs lost 90 games five times! (Repeat five times in your head…like hearing Ed Rooney say “Nine Times” from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.)
- The Cubs finished higher than third place only twice in those 11 seasons, in a division often regarded as one of baseball’s weakest.
- MacPhail may not have directly selected them, but under his watch the Cubs had 13 1st round draft picks. Kerry Wood, Corey Patterson, Mark Prior, and Jon Garland you have heard of; the rest of the picks either never made it to the Major Leagues or never did anything of significance.
- Of those four “good” 1st round picks, Wood showed flashes of brilliance between injures, Prior’s injuries shortened his once-promising career, and Jon Garland was traded for Matt Karchner and won himself a World Series. Corey Patterson (once a top prospect) became a serviceable fourth outfielder/ occasional starter.
- The horrendous signing of Todd Hundley also took place under MacPhail.
Next let’s look at positional stability under MacPhail’s reign; here is the number of different players who started for the Cubs from Opening Day 1995 until Opening Day 2006:
CATCHER: Wilkins, Servais, Santiago, Girardi, Hundley, Miller, Barrett (7)
1st BASE: Grace, Stairs, McGriff, Choi, Lee (5)
2nd BASE: Sanchez, Sandberg, Morandini, Young, DeShields, Grudzielaniek, Walker (7)
3rd BASE: Buechelle, Hernandez, Orie, Gaetti, Andrews, Mueller, Stynes, Bellhorn, Ramirez (9)
SS: Dunston, Sanchez, Blauser, Hernandez, Nieves, Gutierrez, Gonzalez, Garciaparra (8)
LF: Bullett, Gonzalez, Brown, Rodriguez, White, Alou, Hollandsworth, (7)
CF: McRae, Johnson, Buford, Patterson (4)
RF: Sosa, Burnitz (2)
SP: Bullinger, Navarro, Mulholland, Tapani, Trachsel, Lieber, Wood, Zambrano (8)
Over an 11 year period, there should be some stability at a couple positions. Just gaze again at the positional changes listed above…what a mess! These year-to-year changes were not due to rampant player movement; these positional changes followed a pattern of failure…new guy… he fails…another new guy…he fails…etc.! This amazing lack of continuity has many consequences:
- constant locker room chemistry changes
- constant changes in double-play combinations
- pitchers getting used to different catchers…almost every year
- catchers getting used to different pitchers…almost every year
- managers understanding of their players’ talents, abilities and limitations
- constant quitting of uniform tailors (I can only speculate.)
I could go on and on with the problems this kind of positional turnover creates. All teams have constant turnover in 21st Century baseball, yet they don’t have it at almost every position.
Andy MacPhail’s failure with the Cubs (Reason 92) was not due to lack of effort. Professional baseball is a game of results. After 11 seasons MacPhail’s Cubs had two play-off appearances, a couple of successful draft picks, five really lousy seasons, and perpetual change at almost every position. On October 1, 2006, Andy MacPhail stepped down from his position with the Cubs…it may have been his most accurate decision.