Congratulations, Assholes. You Got Your Wish. (Fuckers.)

>> Monday

Things with which I will agree:

-Dusty Baker is probably not the greatest manager who ever lived. Dusty Baker is probably not the best manager in baseball currently. (Ok, well, not a manager at all now, but you know what I mean.) Dusty Baker--all baseball-managing qualities considered--may not be a "good" manager at all.

-If Dusty Baker has one fairly obvious weakness, it's a bias toward favorite, usually veteran players (e.g. you know who). If the Cubs actually commit to developing young talent--as well asactually playing it at the major-league level (as they should but doubtfully will)--Dusty is probably not the best guy to have managing the team and not playing said young hotshots.

Thing with which I do not agree:

-The firing of Dusty Baker and subsequent hiring of Joe Girardi / Lou Pinella / Lou Brown / John McGraw resurrected in the flesh will significantly improve the Chicago Cubs.

I realize only fools actually do believe this (as I immediately alienate the very people I wish to convince), but it warrants some discussion anyway.

The success of the Chicago Cubs organization as a business relies on but two things: 1) a gate draw, e.g. Sammy "baseball been very very good to me look at what a happy happy smiley grateful Latino stereotype I play for you" Sosa, and 2) a scapegoat, e.g. Corey Patterson, Ernie Broglio, Guy With Billy Goat, "Torn Miniscubus" (the injury demon that preys on Kerry Wood's musculoskeletal system), Jim Rigglefebvressianfrey-Zimderocher.

So it makes perfect sense that when my parents went to Wrigley to watch loss No. 80-something a couple weeks back--a purely electric experience, they assure me--many of the late-season belligerents at the park were concentrating their hostility toward the managing situation, even brandishing signs with "hire Girardi"-type slogans.

For those fans, the scapegoating fixation has been satisfied. Now throw them a Barry Zito signing, and presto!--they're lickin' your salt just like before. (Hush now--that wasn't intended to be dirty.)

All year, the Dusty issue has served as an excellent single-source distraction for a multi-faceted-ly bad Cubs season. And now by turning on the guy they sold as a savior in equally overblown fashion three-and-a-half years ago, the organization has bought itself another season (at least) of suck--probably two, if they hire that pleasant, clean-cut Italian boy born and raised nearby.

As has been said so so many times, managers don't make a damned difference in the proverbial grand scheme of things. Even Tony LaRussa--the reputed manager-god and most intensive, scholarly, dedicated competitor in all of sport--concedes in his own collaborative biography-type book, a book written in large part to elicit a fond appreciation for baseball managing, that managers only make a few games difference over the course of a year.

It's an opinion that's impossible to quantify, but I agree with Tony. And even given some room for single-season variance in the performance of a manager, it's 100% inane (--inanity is quantifiable so you know--) to attribute either the 2006 Marlins' 10+-game performance above expectation to Joe Girardi or the Cubs' 15+ games below expectation to Dusty Baker. In fact, it's reallly pushing it--I would say--to even attribute a half or a third of those differences to the managing.

So while Dusty admittedly had his faults, he also had some pretty rare strengths. As non-players without locker-room access, we have to take it on faith that Dusty had a special knack for relating to talented veterans and keeping them happy. I also credit him for taking a lot of press heat away from his players--a lot of times really really embarassing himself by saying really really crazy or stupid stuff. These qualitites didn't always reflect well on him, yet they served as strengths nonetheless. And like all managing strengths, they amount to virtually nothing.

I'll hash out my reasons for these general opinions on managing sometime soon, but tonight's not the night. Maybe I'll wait until the Cubs hire the next poor bastard to take Dusty's spot. Mostly, my point for tonight is this: managing changes make for good tabloid-style shit but have little relevance otherwise, despite how badly a certain blogger wanted to kill Dusty not so long ago. (Sorry Pat; I promise I ain't pickin' on ya. You were sure right about one guy in there.)

Sure, there were reasons to fire Dusty Baker, just as there are reasons to fire any manager at any given time from any given team. But no matter how compelling those reasons may be, I always have to wonder--what difference can it make?

5 comments:

Patrick 7:47 AM  

You know I agree with most of what you are saying. All of these articles about Lou Pinella bringing a w.s. here is a bunch of baloney. Yeah, I do think the team would actually be better in with a guy like that, but what the Cubs needs to do is put smart money into this team. Increase the payroll to 110-120 million and do it smartly. I think the Cubs will have a ton of money left over WHEN they get rid of Jones (he had a pretty good season, prolly easy to trade), not resign Ramirez whom will immediately start dogging it again next year with his new contract, etc.

Vinnie 12:38 PM  

I'm kind of afraid they're gonna splurge for Zito. And as much as I like Zito, I think A) he's gonna get overpaid no matter where he ends up because of his celebrity, past Cy Young, connection to a winning franschise, extraordinary early career success, etc. and B)he's the kind of guy who might get spooked by the Wrigley atmosphere and Cub fan disposition.

Just because the Cubs have money, I really don't think free agency is the answer right now, as much as everyone would love a quick fix. One of these years, they are just gonna have to bite the bullet and commit to acquiring and developing young talent. The Jacque Jones, Jeromy Burnitz, Juan Pierre patchwork shit needs to stop.

As far as free agency goes, they already missed their best chances. They could've had Tejada; they could've had Beltran. If there were any marquee signings that could have made an impact the last few years, it was those two. But that ship has sailed.

I say hang onto Lee and Zambrano like dear precious life, and beyond that, stockpile talent, whether that's committing to the young talent you have or acquiring more.

They also blew their chance with Pierre. They could've really fleeced some sucker team that's in love with fast contact hitters and doesn't care about walks. Like I've said before, guys like Pierre are the overvalued commodity of the day.

Unfortunately, I think the Cubs are one of those sucker teams.

Nathan 11:48 PM  

At least you're subtle about your passionate hatred for Neifi Perez.

Patrick 12:16 PM  

I still think it would have been dumb to sign Beltran and I am still nnot sold on the giving up on Prior thing. Rothschild was just fired, so lets see what another pitching coach can do with Prior. Word is that the Cubs are thinking of hiring Sutcliffe...I dunno what that means, but lets wait before we get the chopping block. Also, the Jacque Jones deal wasn't that bad, he had a pretty good year and they will definitely get something in return for him when they get rid of him.
And the ship hasn't sailed on Tejada. He will be available this off-season. But how much are you willing to give up for him? The Cubs need a new CF, will need a new RF, 3B, SS, a ton of pitching, so there are a lot of ways to remake this team. Lets see what Hendry does this time.

Vinnie 12:32 PM  

I meant Tejada in free agency, before he signed with Baltimore. And yeah, Jones was serviceable. He's also awful in the field. And remember one more thing: The difference between Jones and Beltran or Tejada (besides the obvious) is that I'm talking about paying top dollar for guys with tremendous offense at positions where offense is rarer. Jones plays right field (poorly). That's a position where offense is easier to come by. He's patchwork. A neutral body on a decent team. A plus on a bad team. That's all.

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