• Another Goat On The Northside

    Joe Maddon will not be the manager of the Chicago Cubs next year and that is not a surprise given they did not meet expectations this year. In a world where people both have too high and too low expectations for professional sport coaches and managers, the common playbook front offices take when teams under-perform is to fire the manager.

    Yes, change is needed, and yes, it is easier to fire one person, the manager, and not the team. But, Maddon is not the reason why the Cubs did not make the playoffs. First, and foremost the reason is that Cub players did not do their job. The same players who once ground out at bats in 2016 where doing nothing more than swing for the fences all this year. Second, the Cubs lineup is nothing but the same style hitter, with no diversity on the bench or apparently in the farm system, and the talent, that’s on the Theo Epstein and the front office.

    Frankly, up until this point, what Epstein and the front office have done is succeed with the easy decisions and fail at the hard decisions. How hard is it to tank year after year and stock pile on draft picks that every talent scout in America says is a good bet? When Maddon became available, was it really hard to quickly decide to drop Ricky Renteria and sign Maddon?

    Be careful for what you ask for, you just might get it. Now Epstein has to make one of the most important decisions of his tenure, who to hire to replace the manager that guided your team to the first World Series in 108 years. David Ross might be a good guy in the clubhouse, but will he have the players attention any more than Maddon? Will Joe Girardi be too hard? Who Epstein hires is crucial towards getting the most out of all the the talented players that are now starting to enter the end of their contracts.

    Worse of all, the attention on hiring the next manager redirects attention away from the real heavy lifting of the offseason, which is to make changes to the lineup so that you get more professional at bats. Changing the lineup means moving one of the core players who won the World Series, which is something Epstein has refused to do to date. If you only replace the manager and keep everything else the same, why should we expect a different result?

    On Saturday Epstein announced that Maddon will not be returning. If next year is no better, who will be the scapegoat then? You can’t fire the entire team.

  • The Lovable Losers Of My Youth

    The common denominator for all my favorite professional sports teams is that they were losers during my childhood. The Green Bay Packers were the siberia of the NFL during the 70s and 80s until Reggie White started playing for them in 1993 and three years later won the Super Bowl. Ever since 1993 the Packers have been at or near the top of the NFL.

    The Chicago Cubs were the epitome of “lovable losers” for a century. Even though the Cubs flirted with chances to make it to the World Series in 1984, 1989, and 2003 but it hasn’t been until the last five years that they have consistently been at or near the top of the league, and you know they won it all in 2016.

    Like the Green Bay Packers, the Detroit Red Wings were also once the dominant team in the NHL but during the 70s and 80s they were known as the “dead Wings.” The owners had to give away cars to get people to come to their games. In 1997 the Red Wings won the Stanley Cup, and of my favorite teams they have won more championships in my life time, winning again in 1998, 2002, and 2008. Since the calendar turned to the 2010s the Wings have been in a rebuilding phase.

    Finally, the Detroit Pistons where also perenial losers during my childhood but where the first of my faves that I witnessed winning a championship in 1989, and again in 1990 and 2004. Frankly, the championship they won in 2004 is one of the most gratifying because nobody really expected it and they upset the perenial champion Los Angeles Lakers. Like the Red Wings, the Pistons are rebuilding but apppear to be nearing returning to the tops of their league sooner than the Wings.

    Over my life time I’ve seen the long road it takes to get from basement to top floor of a professional sports league. I’ve seen how it takes for a team to learn how to be a champion, particularly from the Red Wings who had huge playoff failures after being the best team in their league the entire season.

    Of all my favorite teams, the Cubs have the most talent and I expect will have chances to win championships again in the foreseeable future. The MLB’s farm system enables a franchise to have more control over its future if they have the right leadership. The NHL is similar, which is why theirs and the MLB front offices have such a huge influence on their long term success, much more than in the NFL and NBA that seems to depend much more on health and luck.

    I am dissappointed that the Chicago Cubs will not make the playoffs this year. I will always love the Cubbies, win or lose, but I much better like where they are now, a very good team that can disappoint than a bad team that surprises.

  • Definition of Insanity

    Home Run hitting is vulnerable to breaking down. Combine that fact with an aging starting rotation and an inconsistent bullpen and you have a summary of the Chicago Cub’s last two seasons.

    The Cubs currently have 5 batters with 20 or more home runs, and one more, Jason Heyward at 19. No Cubs hitter has a batting average of .300 or better, Anthony Rizzo is hitting .286. Even if you add Ben Zobrist to the mix, the Cubs lineup is too much the same making it easy to defend.

    I understand the resistance in parting ways with the talent that got you the World Series three years ago, but I think it should be clear now that unless there are some diferent players in the lineup next year, you are going to end up with the same result.

    Many will put blame on the manager, but he is not the person responsible for the roster, that lies with the front office. You clearly see a bias towards a single style of player that is good but not diverse enough, and that really doesn’t give Madden many options to change things up.

    Ownership has some hard decisions to make during the off season. It’s easy to decide whether or not to spend money, it is much harder to decide whether the people running your team know how to change and if you do replace them, with whom?

    I expect the Cubs to replace Madden because that is the easy choice that just about every team makes at this point. A different leadership style might spark a different emotional result, but it won’t change how teams pitch to the Cubs.

  • As I write this, the 2019 Chicago Cubs have not scored a run in two and half games. In September. When you need to win games to win a division and/or make the playoffs.

    The Cubs currently do not have a single player hitting .300 or better. What you have is a lineup of power hitters, and as appealing while the home run is a fan favorite, relying on it is not winning baseball. This lineup is too easy to pitch against.

  • Go Cubs Go

    The Chicago Cubs have one of the best home records and one of the worst road records, and they have the best run differential in their division. People seem to be scratching their head over how the same team can be so good at home and so bad on the road. The problem is not the hitting, although they could be more consistent. To me the problem is the bullpen, they are giving up too many runs in the 6 thru 9th innings. Nobody in the pen is reliable.

    Twenty years ago the bullpen wasn’t so important because starting pitchers pitched more innings and more often completed games. Now, starting pitchers are only expected to pitch six innings and that means you got have more pitching than ever before.

    The Cubs overall pitching staff is not good enough. You might see an uptick in performance if they make the playoffs because the starters tend to go longer and you tend to narrow the pen down to a handful of pitchers, but I don’t expect the Cubs to get beyond be first round if they do make the playoffs.

    I don’t know what specific things the Cubs need to do for next year. I don’t think the problem is with the managing or coaching, it seems to point to the talent in pitching. Lester and Hamel will be a year older and there doesn’t appear to be any replacements coming from the minors. The window on the talent the Cubs do have is getting smaller and it will be a shame if they only make it to one World Series.

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