The Start of Something New

Here we are. September 16th, 2011. Coming into today, the Chicago Cubs were 22 games out of the division. Their season is all but over. Cubs fans around the US know what this means. More jokes at their expense. More humiliation. More losing next season. Basically more of the same.

But wait…

This will not be more of the same. We received a small taste of what is to come almost a month ago. Long time General Manager Jim Hendry was fired by owner Tom Ricketts. This offseason will not be the same ol’ same ol’ that most of us Cub fans are used to. Some of it may be more visible than others. No matter, one thing is for sure, more change is imminent.

With Hendry already gone, Mike Quade will not be far behind. This will lead to a new GM/Manager tandem at the helm for the Cubs. Regarding the GM position, Ricketts has mentioned that he will be looking for someone who combines both the scouting and statistical worlds in their analysis of players. He also mentioned previous GM experience being a key factor in his decision making. If we are to take Ricketts at his word, then we can get rid of the plethora of rookie GM candidates that have been brought up such as Hahn, Cherington, and others.

The experienced GM’s that have been brought up continually are Epstein, Friedman, Byrnes, Cashman, Beane, and recently, Jocketty. All of the names brought up have been almost exclusively speculation, therefore, it is very hard to get a read on who is really interested. Jocketty isn’t in favor of advanced statistics, something Ricketts believes is important. His name is out. Beane, while an innovator in advanced statistics, has fallen by the wayside. Ricketts is looking for somebody experience, yes, but somebody fresher. Byrnes, while a candidate, doesn’t seem to quite have the clout around him.

That leaves Epstein, Friedman, and Cashman. It comes down to these three candidates for one reason. Ricketts is going to want to make a splash. Many people have wondered why Epstein would ever even have interest in the Cubs GM position. Boston not only views him as a god there, but it is also his home. However, the position of Cubs GM holds much glory. Regardless if Epstein stays or leaves, Boston fans will love him. He is forever beloved in that city. If he were to come to the North Side he would have the opportunity to end another “curse.” He would have the opportunity to end 100+ years of futility. The intrigue of becoming the Cubs GM is more than you may think. Winning a championship with the Cubs would put Epstein in the “Best GM of All-Time” category. How many other GM’s can say they ended these two infamous championship draughts? Nobody. That means something.

Friedman is also a popular choice. He has built the Tampa Bay Rays into a perennial contender. He has taken a team with a low payroll and made them relevant in a division that contains both the Yankees and the Red Sox. Many around the league believe he will leave regardless if it is to the Cubs or not. His name has been heavily associated with the Houston Astros as of late. Though both the Astros and the Cubs are the doormat to the NL Central this season, there is a difference in the current state of their organizations. Houston’s farm system, while improving, is still in the bottom half of baseball in talent. On the other hand, the Cubs, coming off a great draft, are regarded as having a top half farm system. The owner situation in Chicago is much more stable as well as the fact that Ricketts is ready and willing to dish out the money for good players, both in the draft and in the free agent market.

Cashman is an interesting choice. Although he isn’t the best candidate by Ricketts standards, it is plausible he could be chosen due to his name and “success.” Cashman’s whole GM career has been with the Yankees. This brings up a huge question. Can Cashman work with a much smaller payroll? The Cubs payroll will probably be $70-80 million less than what Cashman has ever had to work with. The risk outweighs the reward, especially if either of the other two candidates are interested in the Cubs opening.

This will be Ricketts first big move regarding baseball operations since his inception. He will want to make it a great one. IF he sticks to his word regarding experienced GM’s, one of these men will be the Chicago Cubs GM next season. Regardless of who it is, this WILL be the start of something new.

As a Cubs fan, I hope a few years down the road I can instead say, “This WAS the start of something GREAT.”

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