Wisch: Is Managing The Cubs The Toughest Job In Sports?

By Dave Wischnowsky–

It’s not easy being skipper of the Yankees. It’s no cakewalk coaching the Lakers. And when you assume the reigns of the Dallas Cowboys? Well, you can expect to catch a whole lot of heat in return.

But this week in an interview with Fox Sports columnist Jon Paul Morosi, former Chicago Cubs manager Dusty Baker made it sound as if being the leader of the Lovable Losers is the toughest job in professional sports.

So, is it?

“They turn over their managers pretty quick,” Baker, now the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, said about the Cubs organization. “They don’t stick with anybody for a period of time, because everybody’s counting – Year 100, Year 101, Year 102. There’s no such thing as a four- or five-year plan. It’s a one-year plan.”

Morosi pointed out that since 1972 only one Cubs manager – Jim Riggleman, oddly enough – has been able to survive inside the Friendly Confines for more than four full seasons. In fact, the Cubs gig has become so drenched in emotion, pressure – and curses? – that after a manager does get out at Wrigley, it’s been a challenge for him to get back in as a manager anywhere.
Don Baylor, who preceded Baker at Wrigley, still hasn’t managed another game in the majors since leaving the Cubs in 2002. Lou Piniella, who succeeded Baker, burned out and retired last season before the calendar even hit September. It’s highly unlikely Piniella will manage again.

Baker, meanwhile, spent one season out of baseball before returning in 2008 to manage the Reds. And this week, he laid into his critics in Chicago who said Baker doesn’t know how to handle pitchers. And he also complained that Cubs fans were too quick to dismiss how much injuries to Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee played a role in the poor performance of his last two teams in Chicago.

“It really hurt my reputation,” Baker told Morosi. “Ever since then, all of a sudden, ‘I don’t know how to manage. I don’t know how to handle pitchers. I don’t like young players.’ … They don’t even have a clue about it. I never heard that in San Francisco.
“I was one of the top managers around, supposedly, and then all of a sudden I don’t know (expletive), know what I mean? They (the critics) were always looking for something critical, ever since I went there (to Chicago).”

Now, I think Baker is largely remembering history in the way that he wants to remember it, and not necessarily in the way it truly happened. Dusty was embraced enormously in Chicago upon his arrival. But then he made his fair share of mistakes, and he deserved his fair share of criticism (even if he didn’t deserve to find human feces in the Cubs dugout, an incident that he claimed to Morosi occurred during his final season at Wrigley Field).

However, I also don’t discount that Baker had it tough on the North Side of the Winless City after the Cubs’ Game 6 implosion in 2003. In fact, I think that after that playoff failure against the Marlins, followed in 2004 by the Cubs’ late-September collapse and the Red Sox’s subsequent world championship, Baker’s job did indeed become the most difficult in pro sports.
Before Boston finally snapped the “Curse of the Bambino” in ’04, you could argue that managing the Red Sox was the toughest sports job in the country. And that was because of the mindset of the Boston fan base, which had always been far more fatalistic than their cheerfully cursed brethren in Chicago.

Until they finally won, Boston fans expected to lose, whereas Cubs fans hoped to win. That’s a big difference. But after the Bartman incident in 2003, the mood in Wrigleyville changed. Cubs fans became more frustrated, more demanding and less satisfied to just drink a few beers and catch some rays at Wrigley Field. They wanted to see wins, too – even if they didn’t really expect them.

Essentially, Cubs fans became Red Sox fans – or, what Red Sox fans used to be (they’re no different than Yankees fans now).
And since that mood swing, the pressure associated with being the manager of the Cubs has only intensified thanks to the playoff failures of ’07 and ’08. For baseball fans, it’s difficult to truly get mad when your team never makes the playoffs (see: Pittsburgh, Kansas City). But it’s easy to get mad when your team does make the playoffs and then totally flops, as the Cubs have done with regularity during the past decade.

Now, we’ll find out soon enough if the unassuming Mike Quade is the right guy to finally pop the balloon in Wrigleyville and relieve more than a century of stress. But until that happens (if it happens), I’ll leave the Cubs at the top of my list of the toughest jobs in sports.

Although, considering the February that he’s endured so far, Tony LaRussa just might beg to differ with me today.

Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.

davewisch Wisch: Is Managing The Cubs The Toughest Job In Sports?

Dave Wischnowsky

If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    5 Toughest Jobs in Sports:
    1. Manager of the Cubs
    2. Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys
    3. Manager of the NY Yankees
    4. Head Coach of Notre Dame football
    5. Head Coach at Kentucky (hoops), North Carolina (hoops), Alabama (football).

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Can’t really argue at all with any of those, Arse. Looks just about right to me.

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    There was a time, before the Torre years, when I would have added “Pitching Coach for the NY Yankees” because Steinbrenner scapegoated something like 20 of them in 15 years (some guys served multiple stints in that job in that timeframe). But that situation has settled down now.

  • GoCubbies!

    I think managing the Yankees is harder – with their payroll and fans, they are expected to win a world series every year:


    The Cubs are expected to lose and have loyal fans regardless

  • Jake from da burbs


    The premise of “toughest job in sports” opens itself to a wide array of possibilities and areas that would need to be considered. Based on the context of the rest of this blog post, the title should be change to “Is managing the Cubs the toughest Managing job in sports?

    With that as the context, I still dont think the Cubs job is the toughest. I’d argue that Girardi has the toughest managing job in sports. Maybe also the Cowboy head coaching spot too. Tough managing jobs have the following things in common:

    • Jake from da burbs

      1. Ownership Desire and Pressure to Win – Its one thing when the pressure comes mostly externally, as the Cubs job does but its another when it comes internally and from above as the jobs in NY and Dallas do. Until Ricketts demands winning from his GM, his skipper and his team, and holds them accountable, it pales in comparison to other cities.

      2. Large media market and huge national exposure- Cubs have a large media market but they dont have the vicious market that NY does. Yanks, Cowboys, Lakers, RedSox all have more national exposure which increases scrutiny.

      • Jake from da burbs

        3. Passionate, Loyal, Rabid, Demanding fan base – Cubs have a large passionate, loyal and even rabid fan base but they only recently started to be demanding. Cub fandom fails in comparison to anything in NY, Philly, LA etc. The other problem is that half the city of Chicago doesn’t really care about the Cubs (WhiteSox fans). That in and of itself curbs the Cub scrutiny from a fan perspective.

  • Jake from da burbs

    And this blog is not allowing me to post my 4th point…

    • Jake from da burbs

      sooo…annoying. do you know how many times i’ve tried to paste my fourth point. And I have to change it up every time because this site deletes “duplicate comments.” Aaargghh…

    • J-Dubya

      Jake from da burbs:

      The difference is that the Yankees (every year) and Cowboys (most years) are stacked with talent. And they have world class facilities to train and play in. It is easy to expect victory and deliver when you have the horses and tools to get the job done. You don’t have either with the Cubs. The expectations in other towns/teams (NY, Dallas, Lakers) is realistic because they should win with what they have.

      That’s why I would rate ND Football as No. 2 behind the Cubs. The expectations for ND were set when they were the only team with a national TV audience. Now other teams have their own cable networks. Their big advantage is completely gone, but the expectations live.

      • J-Dubya

        I find it surprising that you guys think that having an @sshat boss is so unreasonable. We all have them! The more money they spend, the more tools they give you, the more resources at your disposal, the worse they are!

        Steinbrenner was a special breed because he thought that his teams should go 162-0 in the regular season. But you know what, his personality mirrored the city. Just like Ditka & Daley. People relate to them.

        Interesting column DW. Lots of good commentary.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Looks like my comment that being a Scorehead trying to post on this blog is the toughest job in sports was censored out.

        Oh well.

      • Larry Horse's Arse

        Excellent comment J-Dubya.
        I like your analysis.
        The reason that I ranked the Cowboys and Yankees higher than ND football in my list above is that Jerry Jones is an utter @sshat as was the late George Steinbrenner, with that @sshat tradition being carried on by son Hal.

        Think of them what you will (and I am not in their fanclubs), but neither Fr. Jenkins nor A.D. Jack Swarbrick come even close to the @sshattedness of the Jerry Jones or Steinbrenner variety.

        I marched as the academic representative of another university in Fr. Jenkins’ Inauguration (Fall of 2005 if I recall), and I have known him for years, but I have been very disappointed in his tenure. He is a Thomistic scholar but is not leading as one.

      • Dave Wischnowsky

        And Jake, I concur. Excellent analysis. And really enjoy getting your insight (you too, Arse). My apologies, by the way, about the struggles posting comments. I have the same issues myself, at times.

      • Jake from da burbs


        If your argument was the Cubs job is harder because of having do deal with the sheer stupidity of management (Hendry, Kenney) and inability to make good, sound personnel decisions, I would grant your argument. But I believe you are arguing that the Cubs job is harder because the manager does not have the resources, especially financially, to compete with teams like the Cowboys and Lakers and Yankees. I would disagree with you there. Cubs spend money, they just make bad decisions on how to spend it.

  • Jake from da burbs

    HAHAHA!!! LOL… Nice!

    • Jake from da burbs

      Wow… Arse, they did censor your post. My Comment here was based on your witty quip about the cbs website… watch out big brother is watching…

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    I would also say that being the Head Coach of an NHL team might also be considered as a generic category…..seems like the half-life for those guys is about 15 months.

  • the hole in Adolfo Soriano's gold glove

    Nope. You’re all wrong. Cubs’ managers only last a few years, then the pain is gone. The toughest job hands down is watching the Cubs as a fan, year-in, year-out. We’re stuck with this job for a lifetime, with no contract buyout, no chance of getting fired and NO CHANCE OF GOING TO THE WORLD SERIES.

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      Hence there ought to be a sign at each entrance at Wrigley saying, “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.”

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Hahaha. Excellent point. Hmm, perhaps I should rethink this whole thing … :)

  • Larry Horse's Arse

    By the way, “the hole in…” I’m glad to see you posting on Wisch’s blog.
    Not as large a group posts here as posts on Bernsies’, but I’m always impressed by the intelligence of the posts/posters here.
    Wisch is an excellent writer and his blog is always thought provoking.

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Thanks, Arse. And you, too “the hole in” for chiming in. Trust me, there will be plenty of baseball blog topics this spring, summer — and fall?

      Always enjoy as much intelligent opinion and banter as we can round up. I know there’s plenty of it available from the readers on this site.

  • the hole in Adolfo Soriano's gold glove

    Thanks for the kind words and encouragement, Mr. Arse and Mr. Wisch – though you guys may live to regret the latter. And nice reporting and writing, Dave; I’ll have to take Larry’s advice and explore the Wisch list a little further beyond the handful of articles I’ve already read. It will be interesting to see if Quade’s demeanor, his lack of managing resume for the media to use for constant comparison and the lowered expectations for the club this year will play into his favor. I’m kinda wondering if the Bears’ luck with intangibles that helped propel them to a division title is going to follow the Cubs’ fortunes this year. Is Wainwright’s injury just the beginnning?

    • Dave Wischnowsky

      Really, it’s been so far, so good for the Cubs since Quade’s hiring (I was more in the Sandberg camp, but I’m completely open to seeing what Quade can do).

      The Cubs had a better offseason than I anticipated, picking up very solid pieces in Pena, Wood and Garza. And now the Cardinals appear to be falling apart. The Cardinals’ failure to sign Pujols before spring training this season is a win-win for the Cubs. Because, now he’s either going to leave, or the Cardinals are likely going to have to overpay to keep him. Either way, it helps the Cubs. And, clearly, losing Wainwright is a serious blow to the Redbirds. There’s no way it can’t hurt.

      I ended 2010 with minimal interest in 2011 for the Cubs, but I’ve definitely become more curious as the months have worn on. I think there’s potential for it to be a season actually worth watching on the North Side.

      Then again, it’s the Cubs. And they could just as easily lose 95 games. Ha.

    • Jake from da burbs

      Well with Dusty in Cincy, we can certainly expect one or two young arms to also go down there.

      Milwaukee is going to be tough this year but they are already bracing themselves for Fielder’s farewell. Maybe that keeps them distracted? I also wonder about Milwaukee’s bullpen which has been a constant area of need for them. LaTroy Hawkins and Takahashi Saito will compete for the closer spot… I think.

  • Val

    Why would it be? 2.5 million attendence with the same result, whether the team is comprised of allstars, or bums..I think its the easiest job in sports…Cubs will end up where they always do…rain or shine…

    • Larry Horse's Arse

      So easy that a Manager who was considered as a possible HOF candidate (if he did well with the Cubs) quit in abject despair and utter defeat halfway last season.

      I’m a Sox fan……..Ozzie would not survive a season in the job.

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