Now that the sale of the Cubs from the Tribune Co. to Tom Ricketts and his family is finally done _ it took only three baseball seasons _ I’m sure Tom will be inundated with advice, which I’m sure already has poured in.
With that in mind, what’s a few more bits of free advice, which is always worth the price? So here we go, and feel free to add your own:
Put baseball ops on notice. GM Jim Hendry and his crew have delivered three division titles in seven years but only a 6-12 record in the postseason and no World Series appearance. Among the non-playoff years, 2006 and 2005 were disasters. This year and 2004 were winning seasons, but ultimately were disappointing, with the Cubs collapsing in epic fashion in ’04 and never really getting over the hump this year. Hendry made a nice mid-course correction by hiring Tim Wilken as scouting director in 2006. The 2010 draft will be Wilken’s fifth, and after five drafts, we should have a pretty good idea of where the system is going. But the ultimate result is how the big club does, and Ricketts should tell Hendry he wants to see the Cubs playing ball in October 2010 and be on course to do the same every year thereafter.
Hire a “baseball man.” I’ve editorialized on this before, and I’ll do it again. Go out and see if Pat Gillick, John Schuerholz or Sandy Alderson is interested in being Hendry’s “ear,” if not necessarily his boss. If you must keep Crane Kenney around as Hendry’s nominal boss, fine, but let him concentrate on strong-arming Mesa for that new spring-training home, tending bar at the Captain Morgan club and improving Wrigley Field. Hendry could use a seasoned and wise baseball man to steer him away from giving multiyear deals to the likes of Aaron Miles, Neifi Perez and Glendon Rusch.
Spend wisely, not lavishly. We’ve been over this one before, too. If our old pal Andy MacPhail were still around (and it was time for him to go when Crane pushed him out the door in 2006 so I’m not staying he still should be here), the Cubs and their fans would not be looking at five more years of Alfonso Soriano. But the Trib, in one final attempt at glory, chose the drunken-sailor approach to spending, and Tom Ricketts and his family are left with the clean-up chores. Money looks to be tight for 2010, but in the coming years, if the Cubs want to spend $100-plus on one player, he should be a pitcher the caliber of CC Sabathia or a position player who can excel in all facets of the game.
Go ahead and fix the park. If it takes a season of playing elsewhere, by all means fix up Wrigley Field. The bleacher expansion, done on the watch of MacPhail and unsung exec Mark McGuire, was done tastefully and seamlessly. Wrigley needs better food, wider concourses, bigger and better office space, a roomier home clubhouse, modern batting cages, better bathrooms and more fan amenities. Fortunately for this group, former owner P.K. Wrigley took care of the ballpark (if not the ball team) in his day, meaning the Ricketts family can probably make the existing structure work. And if you want a JumboTron on one of the rooftops, knock yourself out.
Call it what you want. The Cubs have won exactly zero world championships since the current ballpark went from being Cubs Park to Wrigley Field. So I’m not sure what “tradition” the traditionalists are talking about when they worry about selling naming rights. If the Cubs win a World Series at Ameritrade Park at Wrigley Field or McDonald’s Park because the extra revenue went to player payroll, I’m sure the traditionalists will get over it and enjoy the parade.
One last thing. Get rid of the blue uniform tops. They’re a favorite of Carlos Zambrano, but they didn’t do him a whole lot of good this year. Go with home whites and road grays, like the Cubs did under John McDonough in 2007, and scrap the softball jerseys.
I’ll collect my consultant’s fee on Friday.