Some thoughts on the so-called team meetings

On Saturday Tim explained how silly the Cubs are, but I came to a much different conclusion than he did after reading the same thing. Let me start with just quoting some of the same things Tim did.

General manager Jim Hendry and assistant GM Randy Bush will preside over the two days of meetings. Hendry’s objective will be to give the scouts direction as the team looks to acquire new players or move some off the present 25-man roster.

I’m not even sure why such a meeting is news. Every single organization in baseball is having the same meeting. We’re approaching the mont of July and teams need to start figuring out if they’re buyers or sellers. You don’t necessarily have to be one or the other. You could be both as we’ve seen some teams do over the years. I’m not sure the Cubs are in a position to do it. They would have been after 2009, but now it’s just going to be too difficult to accomplish, but that’s not really the point.

I’m sure fans immediately thought fire sale when they read this comment, which is exactly what the media wanted us to think. I couldn’t help but think why this was even news.

I want to break the next quote into two quotes.

“In other words, don’t believe all the hype surrounding the front-office meetings next week involving top scouts and baseball brass.

There it is. The media made a big deal about nothing. If the media told us about every single meeting the Cubs executives and scouts have it would be the most boring topic on the planet. No idea at all why we even heard about this one. The meeting was nothing from the start. It was never going to be anything close to what some in the media speculated. The media tried to create a story about a meeting that takes place on a regular basis and one that all teams have.

“It’s not as complicated as people would think,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “You want to get healthy. You want Marlon [Byrd] to come back [from the disabled list], and [Darwin] Barney, and let Mike manage a club that looks a little more like the one we broke camp with, and see how we play for a while.”

Tim head-desked this one, but I don’t see anything wrong with that statement. Every GM wants to see his team healthy and the manager have a chance to manage the team they thought they had entering the season. Furthermore, every GM wants his players to get healthy so he has a better idea of what he can and cannot trade in the next month plus. He wants Marlon Byrd back for two reasons: he’s better than what the Cubs have been trotting out there and if he proves he’s healthy he’s worth a decent prospect in a trade.

Also, and you may not like this, it gives the club an idea of what they have entering next season. Do they play well enough that they think they can add some pieces? We’re mostly in agreement that they don’t, but that’s a decision they have to reach themselves and they aren’t going to do it with Marlon Byrd on the disabled list. In fact, having Marlon Byrd on the DL makes it less likely the Cubs are sellers because that’s one of their major contributors that’s been out of the lineup for a long time now. As long as there are a number of injuries the team can always say that they’d have played better were it not for the injuries and they’re 100% correct. How much better? This was a .500 team at best entering the season so there you go.

Now I’m going to quote something Tim said because I don’t think I was clear enough a few weeks ago when I wrote the article about team presidents.

It started with Ricketts giving that little talk about how he doesn’t need a baseball guy watching his baseball guy, which I know MB liked, but I don’t think he meant it how MB took it. He wasn’t saying, “I’m not going to limit the pool of people from which I pick the next leader of the Cubs baseball operations.” He was saying, “I have my leader of Cubs baseball operations right here and I’m not going to bring in anyone to oversee him, overrule him, or otherwise deter him from his plan.”

I definitely liked it. Here’s why: look at the New York Yankees front office. You have five Steinbrenners at the top ranging from principal owner and chairperson (George Steinbrenner). That’s interesting in itself since the man is dead. The Yankees have a dead man owning their team. Can you imagine how much fun we’d have if the Cubs had a dead man who owned the Cubs? That would be so Cub-like. After George you have Hal, Henry, Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal, Jessica Steinbrenner and Joan Steinbrenner. The latter 3 are all vice chairpersons, but the Jennifer and Jessica are also General Partner. Henry is the General Partner and Co-Chairperson while Hal is the Managing General Partner and Co-Chairperson.

After the five Steinbrenners you have Randy Levine who I mentioned recently. He’s the team president. You then have Lonn A. Trost who is the Chief Operating Officer and then Brian Cashman who is the Senior Vice President and General Manager. Neither Trott nor Levine, both attorneys, are involved with baseball related decisions. Those decisions are left to Brian Cashman and at least one of the Steinbrenners.

Now take a look at the Cubs front office. You have Tom Ricketts at the top followed by Pete, Laura and Todd Ricketts. The Tribune Company serves as a Board of Directors along with the latter three Ricketts and then Crane Kenny is the team President.

Kenney is no longer involved in baseball related decisions. Those decisions, exactly like the New York Yankees system, are left to the general manager and at least one member of the owning family.

What I’m saying is that I don’t care who or what they hire to replace Crane Kenney or even if they do replace him. The structure of the Cubs front office is nearly identical to that of the Yankees and they’ve won a million titles. The only way it could be more similar is if the Ricketts family found another member of their family to do whatever the hell it is they all do. The Yankees have five members of the owning family while the Cubs have four. The next person involved with baseball related decisions is the General Manager.

We can’t attack the system the Cubs have setup in the front office without also attacking the same structure that the Yankees have. Does anyone feel like attacking the structure of the greatest franchise in sports history? Yes, I realize sports history ended, but still.

Back to comments that Tim quoted.

“It’s no different than I would tell you a month ago,” he said. “My main objective would be to see how we do by the end of July and also make logical decisions that help the ballclub for next year, too.”

I actually like this comment. Do I trust Hendry to make logical decisions that help the ballclub next season? Probably not, but you can’t advertise your players for sale at the end of June. Have the Astros done it? Have the Royals done it? Has any team in baseball told the baseball world which players they have that are available? For that matter, has any team in baseball ever announced which players they want to trade? If the Cubs said publicly they’re selling all players, they don’t really have a fire sale. They have a garage sale instead because teams aren’t offering maximum value for something someone else is desperately trying to rid themselves of.

The game plan will include going after top prospects and young players from other teams. Three Cubs players — Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez — with no-trade clauses or 5-and-10 no-trade rights have responded to media inquiries about whether they would accept trades.

This is a quote that I think we all have to read carefully and I realized after reading it two to three times the first time that it was written this way for a specific reason. The first sentence states some game plan about going after top prospects and young players. Keep in mind this so-called game plan is from an unnamed source so we must take it with a grain of salt. Also important, there are two things they are going after: top prospects and young players. More specifically, the best prospects they can get for what they are trading because, well, that’s just how it works.

It’s interesting that the next sentence is written right after the first, because the implication is that those players are going to bring top prospects and young players in return. I can tell you for a fact that the Cubs know they aren’t getting prospects for Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez. I’m left to think only one thing: Gordo, or whoever it was that wrote it, combined those two sentences for a specific reason.

I don’t think the second sentence has anything to do with the first. I don’t even think they’re connected in any way. There was no quote from even an unnamed source. This was Gordo writing something that would get some hits so you include some popular names that are searched on google. Then you throw in top prospects, young players, trade, no-trade clause, 5-and-10 no-trade rights and accept trade and you’re going to get a shitload of hits over the years simply because you combined so many words that fans are frantically searching during the baseball season in July. It would not surprise me one bit to learn this entire two sentence paragraph was written by someone other than Gordo.

I know from running ACB over the years that popular search hits have to do with trades, rumors, no-trade clause, salary, contract, popular player names and top prospects. That paragraph is written with the specific intention of getting hits from search engines.

For example:

The Cubs of Major League Baseball will trade players like Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano if a team like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers or Cardinals are interested. They would want top prospects, preferably ones from the MLB Draft’s first round, which takes place in June, so they would have plenty of service time remaining before they’re eligible for free agency. They might then negotiate a free agent contract for a long-term deal keeping him in Chicago while at the Winter Meetings in December. Along with other young players and/or prospects like Starlin Castro, Brett Jackson, Trey McNutt, Matt Szczur they could win the division by 2013 and be World Series Champions.

Over the next year, that paragraph is going to lead to a lot of hits on Obstructed View. There are two months listed. I’ve named 3 popular Cubs, five of the most popular teams in baseball, talked about several prospects, winning the division, a specified year, the World Series and its champion, the MLB Draft, and free agency. About the only thing I could to get more hits would be to randomly say something like Albert Pujols traded, Pujols signs with Cubs, Barry Bonds and steroids, A-Rod, and of course Brad Fucking Snyder. Or how about the one sentence search engine hit machine?

What does Metta World Peace mean?

You know that shit is going to be searched for along time by a lot of people.

You see, journalists may be bad at their jobs, and beat writers covering baseball may be especially bad, but their articles are filled with popular search terms.

There’s also one additional thing we have to accept as Cubs fans. As baseball fans for that matter. Those who run organizations have two jobs: put butts in the seats and be good. It’s arguable which one is more important to any franchise and a franchise like the Cubs, being good is less important than it is for others. Their goal will always be to put butts in the seats. Winning is secondary. It has been my entire life and will be the rest of my life.

There are a number of things to blame for this. Wrigley takes its share of blame for sure. I don’t care if you like Wrigley or not, but you have to acknowledge that since the Cubs fans love Wrigley so much and would go watch a shitty team there that it’s part of the problem. There’s less incentive for this team to win because they have the attraction of Wrigley Field. The number of fans can be blamed, as well. There are a lot of Cubs fans. As a result, their attendance will always be better than teams with similarly bad records. Chicago is a very large city. There’s obviously a lot to do there, but going to a baseball game is one of them. People who aren’t baseball fans will attend games just so they have something different to do. There are others of course, but those are the three big things as far as I can tell. They all enable the the Cubs to focus almost solely on the bottom line and focus little time and energy on winning baseball games. There’s not much you can do about the size of Chicago or the number of Cubs fans. There’s not a lot you can do about Wrigley at the moment either.

We root for a team that has much less incentive to win that most other franchises. My brother used to tell me when we were kids that the Cubs didn’t want to win a championship. I thought he was full of shit at the time, but I think there is some truth to that. Once the Cubs win a championship, this idea of them being the lovable losers vanishes. They become a team that outspends all but a team or two and we know how much fans enjoy hating those who spend money. I don’t believe the Cubs have been actively trying not to win, but I also don’t believe they’ve cared as much about it as other teams might.

People talk about what the Cubs may lose if they left Wrigley. Well, what might they lose if they actually won a championship? Just as much. If you think Wrigley means as much as some do to the Cubs then you also have to think that continuing to lose is equally important.


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