Back, back, back, back, back…

…gone.

I’ve been working on a number of projects lately, some of them you may be familiar with and others you may not (covering Big 12 football, high school football across the Northeast, writing about the PGA for BensGolf and continuing to write for Baseball Digest for instance). One project I’m really excited about will be posted here on Prose and Ivy in the coming days and I really think you’re going to enjoy it. (Stay tuned!)

Regardless, I’m back.

But like LL Cool J said to his brother Bean, don’t call it a comeback. (Back for two seconds and already a bad joke. Perfect.)

So, this season didn’t go exactly as planned. I think that’s safe to say. No one expected to see our 4 and 5 guys in the rotation hit the DL list after one start a piece. No one expected that September would be littered with call-ups. No one expected the Cubs to let Hendry steer the ship after being let go. However, all of that is exactly what happened.

With Hendry out as Cubs GM, the organization, the players and the fans are looking for a new direction. A new face to put on the team, responsible for making Wrigley Field the greatest magnet school in all the land for the most talented ballplayers in the world. Ricketts may own the team. His brother may go on Undercover Boss and his sister and others may do a great job with the community and representing the team as whole in various public appearances. I believe they do all of those things. Thing is, the most important thing this team needs to do in order to get us back in the win column over and over again in 2012 and beyond is figure out which mixture of players it is going to take to make this team feeling like Leonardo on the Titanic.

Enough with the deck chair shuffling. Let’s actually right this ship.

In order to do that, some huge decisions need to be made. Leave Pena at first or chase after Prince Fielder or King Albert. All of them have their positives and negatives. To try and decipher which of the three will have  a better 2012 or a greater impact on the overall success of the franchise in the coming years is about as guaranteed as playing a scratch off or purchasing a LOTTO ticket. More than likely, what is actually going to happen, is the Cubs will do their due diligence in analyzing the numbers (both the stat lines and the potential salary requests) and then hope for the best. More than likely, for any of three to succeed, the process is going to be less like putting together a strategy to win at Keno and more like simply finding joy in the fact that you found a twenty dollar bill in a jacket pocket that you had no idea you had coming in the first place.

Sometimes, you can do all you can and really, while the effort matters, it’s that little bit of luck that makes the difference in the end. Pena. Fielder. Pujols. Is there a wrong answer in the bunch? No. Is there a right one? Perhaps.

Across the diamond at third base presents another issue for the future GM to solve. Our-Ramis may be someone else’s ‘Ramis’ next season. Is there a better option at third base in the organization or across the league when looking at the vast majority of hot corner handlers in the bigs, than Ramirez? Not really. He is currently hitting .306 with 25 HRs, 92 RBI and 79 runs scored. Still, does he do anything for himself in selling the point to keep him a Cub for 2012 and not buy him out for $2million dollars by possibly exiting his final game as a Cub at Wrigley with a quadricep injury? It doesn’t exactly spell out c-o-n-f-i-d-e-n-c-e.

And it’s not just Rami. This team is old.

We’ve been old for a couple of years now and we are getting older. In fact, I would go as far as saying we were old in 2007. Thing is, when you are winning the Central division in back to back seasons (with a follow up in 2008), you look around the vending concession stations at Wrigley and you hardly notice the beer nozzles any longer. When you are atop the Central, they feel less like Old Style spouts and more like fountains of youth.

Cut to 2011. We didn’t win the division. Not even close. Despite the emergence of Castro, Barney and Campana we are still very, very old. While the rest of the team is giving it their all, as best as they possible can muster up, sometimes it feels a lot like a bunch old, fun ballplayers playing a game they either love, or used to love more than they do now, trying to keep up with a few whipper-snappers looking to play endlessly despite the fact that their older playmates simply can’t keep up.

One of our oldest and most favorite Cubs is also probably no longer going to be on the field next year. With a season ending torn meniscus injury in his left knee, I believe it is time to finally cut ties with Kerry Wood. Do I like Kerry Wood? Of course. What Cubs fan doesn’t? Do I wish his wife’s name was Holly? A little. Do I feel his time with the team has run it’s course? Unfortunately, yes. I understand Kerry is willing to give up some wealth in order to play for his beloved team, however, the team can no longer save the wealth and in return lose on health. Wood is simply too risky to rely on in the bullpen role we need him in going forward. Did I think a 7-8-9 setup of Marshall, Wood and Marmol was the strongest potential combo back in April? I sure did. Do I now? No.

Unfortunately, it is time to move Kerry off the field and into some role with the team if Ricketts sees fit to do so. Their special assistant to the GM announced his retirement yesterday. Perhaps that’s a role fit for Kerry. Of course, it’s a lot easier to assist a GM, even in a special capacity when you actually have a GM to assist.

The names of folks that may take over the GM role are at times inspiring, at times hilarious and at times down right horrifying. I would love to see someone with a winning track record come in and embrace the ambiance and environment and intangibles that comes along with being a part of the Cubs. However, I want them to take that, compartmentalize it and then use a winning season….no….many winning seasons to enhance why those things are so great. Because, those things are great, however, even those intangibles aren’t enough of a foundation to make this team what it can be. What we want it to be.

The Cubs are a special organization. In a recent trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it was fun to see the plaques of Dawson, Sandberg, Fergie and Ernie. It was even more fascinating to see the plaques and exhibits regarding winners such as Tinker, Evers and Chance. Those Cubs teams are from another time. Another millenium even. I understand that. I mean, you want to talk about being old, those guys are dead. Thing is, that level of success, their level of success with this ballclub is what the current owners, future GM and fanbase need to recognize, expect and aim for.

We have the greatest team in baseball to call our own. They need to do all they can so that we not only call them our own, but also be able to call them the ultimate title in the game: World Champions.

Go Cubs Go!

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