I will admit upfront to not being the biggest Phil Rogers fan. But I usually read his columns, because he’s the Tribune’s baseball writer, and I often get the feeling that his column is used by the TribCo as a trial balloon for various moves the Cubs might make. For instance, in my mind, it isn’t out of the question that Andy McPhail called Phil up the other day and asked him to write about what a good idea it would be to extend Dusty Baker’s contract.. While I’m sure in reality Phil thought of this by himself, a Cubs mandate might explain Phil’s feeble reasons for supporting an extension for Dusty. For one thing Phil says:

Baker offers you one thing you’re not going to get anywhere else stability. The greatest failing of the Cubs in the Tribune Co. era is the tendency to make knee-jerk decisions, never sticking to a course. Jim Riggleman is the only Cubs manager since Leo Durocher to last even five years. Why not give Baker six and see what happens?

Yeah! Stability! That seems like a good reason for keeping a manager. I mean, a stable organization is a winning one, right? Well, it turns out that stability argument is one of those that sounds right, but it doesn’t really hold up against things like facts. Let’s look at the managers of the World Series Champions for each of the last 10 years, and the number of years they had been with their team when they won:

2005: Ozzie Guillen, 2nd year
2004: Terry Francona, 1st year
2003: Jack McKeon, hired midseason
2002: Mike Scoscia, 3rd year
2001: Bob Brenly, 1st year
1998-2000: Joe Torre, 3rd through 5th years
1997: Jim Leyland, 1st year
1996: Joe Torre, 1st year

So much for stability. Joe Torre is the only manager in the last 10 years to have been with a team for more than 3 years and won the World Series, and that was while managing a baseball dynasty. We can also use this list to address Phil’s other reason for keeping Dusty:

Try as I might to come up with a better alternative to Baker, I’ve failed. You could grow with a Joe Girardi, but the Florida Marlins aren’t letting him go without Carlos Zambrano or Mark Prior as compensation. Lou Piniella would buy you good press and might catch some lightning in a bottle, but he’s not a long-haul guy. An unsung choice like Razor Shines, the White Sox’s Triple-A manager, could work wonders or be eaten alive.

He can’t think of anyone better than Dusty to manage the Cubs? Really? All the other good managers are taken? Or is it possible that there’s somebody out there who deserves another chance, or maybe their first shot? Looking at our list of managers, only Jim Leyland was hailed as an important hire at the time. Torre was coming off a sub-par stretch with the Cardinals, Mike Scoscia was considered solid, but he’d never managed in the big leagues before taking over the Angels. Brenly was yanked out of the broadcast booth and given the helm, McKeon was considered an over-the-hill baseball lifer, who was going to be a placeholder until 2004. Terry Francona was welcomed by Boston simply because he wasn’t Grady Little, and Sox fans widely believed that Ozzie Guillen had been forced on GM Kenny Williams by Jerry Reinsdorf as a way to keep costs down. So a manager can come from just about anywhere, and if the Cubs can’t sift through the minor league ranks, major league coaches and ex-mangers looking to get back in the game, then maybe they’re in the wrong business.

We’re not done with Phil Rogers yet though, because next he turns his pen to the next order of business: rebuilding the team for 2007. First the budget:

Hendry should have $30 million to reshape his roster for 2007.

Fine, so what should we do with that money? First, left field:

The likely free agents include Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano and Cliff Floyd, a left-handed hitter who would offer balance and come cheaper than Lee or Soriano.

Probably a good idea, the Cubs should definitely pass up two younger, healthier (more expensive) players and sign Floyd, a guy on the wrong side of 30 with a history of injury problems. Hendry can spend he money he saves on a front line starter, right?

Get Prior healthy. Invest most of the remaining flexibility in a top-of-the-line starter maybe not Barry Zito, but someone very solid, and then sign one or two bargain arms to round out a rotation that includes Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall.

Yeah, I guess it’s not such a bad idea to keep depending on bargain bin pitchers, I mean we got a good year out of Glendon Rusch back in 2004, and that Wade Miller signing sure paid dividends. Plus, we’ll need to replace Todd Walker. We’ll need an impact guy too, since Ronny Cedeno’s offense is so bad.

Mark Loretta tops the free-agent wish list, followed by Adam Kennedy and Ronnie Belliard

Signing Loretta at this point seems like a gamble, since he’ll be 35 next year. Belliard is a good hitter, but still doesn’t have a high enough OBP and Kennedy isn’t good enough. Oh, and none of these guys can hit leadoff, which we’ll need with Felix Pie in CF next year, right?

Offer Juan Pierre a low, one-year deal to stay and re-establish his maximum value as a free agent. If Pierre leaves, find a one-year Plan B. Felix Pie is going to be a force but might not be ready until next July.

I’m sensing a theme here. And it’s the same old song from the Tribune. Stay the course with the manager. Ignore all the impact(expensive) free agents, sign some middle of the road veterans, hope that Mark Prior is healthy and bingo! Instant contender!

Just like the last two years.

Update from Mastrick: I don’t know what Phil’s been smokin’ but I want some. I’ll betcha I know what Harry Caray would have said if he’d read this article!

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