The shuffle. Its not just a dance. Its not just a song. In Chicago Cubs land, currently, it is a way of life. So, for the foreseeable future it is time to learn to enjoy the song and dance.
Yesterday saw many roster fluff dumped back in to the Triple-A stock pile of ever so slightly more than laughable major league capable players. That may be a stretch or even an exaggeration, but if you get the call then your skills aren’t really anything to sneeze at. The 40 man roster was purged for the highly anticipated offseason. An offseason that is expected to see even more dramatic turnover and many difficult roster decisions.
So where does the team go? Up? Down? Stuck in a rut of mediocrity? My answer would be one of the three options.
You hear and read a lot about the plan Theo and Jed have in place. The plan has gotten pretty tricky to this point. The ownership, from all accounts, is putting pressure on the front office to keep pay roll at or below this years level. With plummeting ticket sales and costs of ownership soaring, from a business stance at the very least, you can understand why. Yet, they find themselves in a catch-22. Needing to spend money to make money. Buying talent to put butts in the seats.
In past off seasons the front office has done well to hit on one year fliers who became very tradeable assets. They have done a great job identifying talent that has been jettison off by other teams and gave them a solid opportunity to show what they are made of. (see Ryan Sweeney) The one big acquisition they have made so far, in so far as the free agent signing of Edwin Jackson, has seemingly been a bust to this point. So again, where does the team go?
The first direction hinges on a solid acquisition of coach. Giardi is not available, but who wanted the superstar anyway? Too much hype would have let to unreasonable expectations. I thoroughly believe the next coach will be someone who can relate to the young players and demand their attention. Manny Acta, the seven-hour interviewee, would fit this mold as someone who could command the attention of and respect of Latin American players. AJ Hinch comes highly touted as a player development guru, but may lack the buzz to gain instant credibility. Too bad Ryno and the Phillies worked out immediately when the Cubs seemingly would have been prepared to finally allow him to take the reins in Chicago. There could be a lot of candidates that no one knows about.
I have a proposal of two potential coaches who understand player development, have instant credibility, and are widely considered incredible baseball minds. Greg Maddux and Cal Ripken Jr.
I admit that because I grew up as a child watching these guys I may be a bit star struck with both of these names have been bantered about in various nooks and crannies of the internet. The only thing the two are missing is managing experience, but as Mike Matheney has shown, you don’t really need that with a good roster. Greg Maddux has been said to be considering throwing his name around through the back channels. Please discuss amongst yourself that possibility. Cal would rival Maddux in my choices because of his reputation as being blue collar and tough as nails. Some times when you are dealing with young, immature players, a tough dad who is affectionately known as the Iron Man, may be just what they need.
Step 1: Get a coach who commands respect and understands how to use the resources he is dealt wisely.
Step 2: Fill out the roster, like a boss. (Read next week)