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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Chicago Cubs Franchise Is Not Doomed
Let's be honest: Will's recent article was straight-depressing. And who can blame him? The state of Chicago Cubs affairs is in great disarray.
When Tom Ricketts came to the Cubs, I was among the excited and optimistic. Yeah, I am not a beer-drinking bleacher bum and do not identify with the "college fan" types, but when the new owner is mentioning Bill James and hiring stats guys, I became more than willing to forgive him any number of past transgressions.
Anyway, this year has been rough. And we're on a down-slope, that much is certain.
Still, despite the rough 2011 season, despite the Jim Hendry regime's refusal to embrace statistics, despite everything, I think the Ricketts may still be solid owners.
I often compare the Cubs organization to that of the Rays front office, which used sabermetrics and statistics to catapult itself from terribleness to competitiveness in a span of 3 years (2005 through 2007). When the new ownership, led by Stu Sternberg, took over, they cleaned house — but not entirely. Sternberg already had the likes of Andrew Friedman on staff and learning the ropes.
In other words, the Rays ownership was able to begin rebuilding immediately because they already had an infrastructure of leadership in place. Ricketts does not and has not had that same advantage — unless he hired Ari Kaplan with the intentions of moving him into a GM-level role. Sternberg had been a part-owner for a while before taking full leadership, so he also had experience in his roles too.
So, I'm wearing my optimism goggle on this one. I think Ricketts may well be a far better owner than we can tell. Yeah, I may not agree with the whole "let's paint over the dilapidated gravestone that is Wrigley Field" policy, but a new owner cannot come in, remove Wrigley, and expect anything but a drunken riot.
And, rather than clean house in an industry he has no experience in, perhaps Tom has decided to slow play it, learn the ropes, give the present regime a chance to repeat their past success, and then execute a new strategy.
Of course, if the Ricketts do not significantly restructure after (or during) this present season, then I think the problem may be deeper, but I'm willing to wear the goggles until then.