By Dave Wischnowsky–
CHICAGO (CBS) On Tuesday night, while Derrick Rose was misfiring at the end of regulation in Miami, Chicago Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster – fresh off an 11-1 victory over the Mets – plopped himself down in the interview room at Wrigley Field and told the pack of assembled reporters, “not a fan in Chicago cares what I have to say right now.”
He was right, of course.
But, judging by the woeful attendance turnouts at the, um, Friendless Confines this season, it’s not just the Cubs’ postgame pressers that aren’t finding an audience this season. It’s their performances, period.
And you can’t blame the Bulls for that every night.
Fact is, with a record of 21-26 after Wednesday night’s rain-shortened loss to New York, the 2011 Cubs are painfully mediocre. But perhaps even worse than that, they’re painfully dull.
This Cubs team has no compelling personalities on the field. And it doesn’t it have any in the dugout, either. (Actually, without Ron Santo, it has fewer in the broadcast booth, too.)
And, so, as this season sluggishly unfolds, I can’t help but wonder if Cubs fans wouldn’t be more interested in these (Less) Lovable Losers if HOFer Ryne Sandberg was managing the team instead of ho-hum Mike Quade.
I know I would be.
Last fall, the Ricketts family surprised – and disappointed – me when they opted to hand the Cubs’ managerial reins to Mike Quade instead of Sandberg following Lou Piniella’s retirement. I had a difficult time understanding how Quade guiding the team to a 24-13 record in 37 meaningless games down the stretch outweighed what Sandberg had accomplished in three strong seasons as a manager in the Cubs’ minor league system.
And I still don’t get it.
In case you’re wondering, Sandberg’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs – the Triple A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies that Ryno latched on with – were swept in a doubleheader on Tuesday night.
That pair of setbacks dropped their record 27-18 (.600) and cut their lead over Scranton and Pawtucket to three games. Not bad, huh?
Now, that’s not to say the Cubs would be doing much (or any) better this season with Sandberg calling the shots (the roster is still flawed). Although, who knows. He’s proven he can manage. But I do believe that they wouldn’t be doing any worse with Ryno on the bench.
At the same time, I’m not laying all the blame for this season’s ever-so-lackluster start – both on the field and at the turnstiles – on Quade (again, that roster). I don’t dislike the guy. It’s just that I don’t think he’s exactly helping the Cubs’ cause much, either.
I certainly know he’s not causing me to watch him.
I do think though that even with this same Cubs roster, I’d be much more engaged in the team if Sandberg was its manager. Even if he were heading up a struggling team, I’d still like to see how the franchise icon handled himself – and handled game situations.
Instead, Mike Quade’s Cubs often just have me handling the remote to switch channels. And when it’s only May and I just can’t get into the Cubs, then you know something’s really wrong.
After all, back in 2003, I was the guy who would often drive 90 miles from my apartment in Ottawa, Ill., to Wrigley Field to catch a Cubs game.
On a weeknight.
For a standing-room only ticket.
On Tuesday, though, I had to will myself just to walk the six blocks to Wrigley from where I now live – and I ended up bolting to a bar after the fifth inning to watch the second half of Bulls-Heat.
Now, if Ryne Sandberg was the manager?
Well, I would have at least stayed until the sixth.
I’m kidding. But I am dead serious when I say that if the Cubs want to halt this precipitous slide down Chicago’s totem pole of sports popularity, they need a serious injection of talent, excitement …
Do you agree with Dave? Post your comments below.
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. Read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.