What About Bob?
Mike Quade’s Cubs continue to play better than Lou Piniella’s Cubs, now 13-7 since the latter drifted away weeping. Small sample size, sure, but still nice for the candidacy of a seemingly good guy.
Even as Quade’s audition rolls on, Jim Hendry is conducting a very public search for other options. Add the name of Bob Melvin, now, to the list that already includes Ryne Sandberg, Eric Wedge, Pat Listach and others.
But why talk to Melvin when his mentor is right there in your TV booth?
Melvin was Bob Brenly’s bench coach in Arizona when they won the title. Brenly appears to be ready to manage again, as he’s delicately discussed his future without quelling such speculation. It would make sense to interview the man who helped teach Melvin, and who has been watching this team closely for years.
Odd that Brenly’s name is not mentioned as prominently as it once was as a possibility.
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Talk to former NFL union reps, and ask about how differently they were viewed by management upon accepting the job, particularly during contentious times. NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, for example, wanted to continue playing this year, but retired. Here’s what the National Football Post wrote about that:
“The elephant in the room regarding Mawae is whether the unresponsiveness from NFL teams is due to his stewardship for the union. If pressed on this, every team would say of the eight-time Pro Bowler something like “We like Kevin but we are (a) looking to go younger at center or (b) happy with what we have.” Of course, no team would mention labor publicly, but inside NFL personnel offices it was likely discussed.”
Dave Duerson is another rep who believes his involvement with the union hastened his ouster. The long-held wisdom is that influential, union-active players have a target on their back.
Which brings us to Hunter Hillenmeyer. He is out for the year — apparently against his will — suffering the aftereffects of a preseason concussion. Hillenmeyer is a prominent union leader, and a vocal proponent of concussion awareness. Easy for management to force him to practice what he preaches, while removing him from the locker room.
Yes, players on IR can still be with the team, and Hillenmeyer can continue his work as a rep. But injured players are ghosts: the connection with teammates dissipates and weakens, and the symbolic power of leadership is lessened when not in a helmet and pads.
I am not accusing the Bears of outright nefariousness, but it would be naive to ignore the facts and the league’s history.
Hub Arkush takes your calls on the Bears and the NFL at 5:00, and Zach Zaidman will report from Lake Forest.