By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) I do not want to have to do this. I really don’t.
The Cubs/White Sox comparison is something I try to pride myself on avoiding and understanding that neither team matters to the other. In a perfect world, each team’s fan base would understand that the Chicago baseball teams are in different leagues and have little impact on the performance and outcomes, on the field and off, of the team on the opposite city pole.
But Ronnie Woo Woo and the Ligue family and the Seventh Inning Stretch and the Guillen kids let me know this is not a perfect world.
Following the hiring of Robin Ventura as White Sox manager yesterday, a few tweets and statuses popped up on my social media accounts with the mention of Ryne Sandberg. I knew immediately that the Sandberg virus, lying fairly dormant since the rumors of Theo Epstein perhaps taking over as Cubs’ General Manager gained some legitimacy, would now un-Magic Johnson itself.
A quick Twitter search of “Ventura Sandberg” led to 42,971,500 tweets about how Ryne Sandberg would be affected by the Ventura hire (that number is just an educated estimate. I stopped counting after fifty).
Stop. Stop, stop, stop, Cub fans.
Sorry, I do not mean all Cub fans. Not the segment that does not concern itself with things that do not impact the team they root for. I speak to that misguided mob of malfeasants that use the White Sox as a benchmark for what the Cubs should be doing with the ballclub.
Robin Ventura is not Ryne Sandberg. Ventura’s being a former beloved player for the team he now manages does not validate Sandberg any more or less as a potential skipper than prior to the hire. The White Sox are a different organization in many, many ways than the Cubs are, and their offseason moves are not to be necessarily emulated by the North Siders or any other MLB team.
But fools who believe in loyalty and tradition — and “Bleed Cubbie Blue” and terrible beer and dead legends mattering and everything else that has helped the team not win a damn thing since Spainards were a threat to our well-being — will demand Sandberg for manager for no other reason than he played for the Cubs and might be sort of OK maybe because he won insignificant games in the minors. And thanks to Sox GM Kenny Williams, such idiots feel legitimized now, even though he operates in a much different way than the Cubs have.
Williams, for instance, is not really a model sabermetrician. Many of his moves have shown that, as did various statements from members of the organization during the team’s stint on MLB Network’s “The Show.” The Cubs have shown of late a willingness to embrace the New School of baseball, as evidenced with Tom Ricketts sniffing around champions of the science like Epstein and Tamp Bay GM Andrew Friedman, his the under-the-radar-but-potentially-impactful hire of stats nerd Ari Kaplan in June of 2010, his firing of the mostly anti-SABR Jim Hendry, and various statements Ricketts has made suggesting he’s in favor of going Moneyball.
Akin to the Williams’ regime as far as stats go is that of the Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. Per a piece from MLB.com’s Dan Smith from January 2010:
“I think defensive statistics are the most unpredictable stats there are,” says Charley Kerfeld, a former big league reliever who now serves as a special assistant to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr.
“And since I’ve been here, we don’t have an in-house stats guy and I kind of feel we never will. We’re not a statistics-driven organization by any means.
“I’m not against statistics. Everybody has their own way of doing things. But the Phillies believe in what our scouts see and what our eyes tell us and what our people tell us.”
Of course, the Phillies M.O.—along with spending money—has produced very positive results of late (and there are those who believe that the Kerfeld and the Phils are putting on a clever ruse because they show several signs of being a metric-studying organization—walks, baserunning, good defense), and I’m not saying that giving in completely to the SABR machine is what all organizations should do. Scouts’ eyes have a place in analysis, too. But all that from Kerfeld sounds very Hendrian, no? And who else is currently working in the Phillies system?
Ryne Sandberg. Ryno played his career in a system that trusted eyes and eyes alone, was given his first managerial position in that system, and then moved to another system that claims to employ much of the same ethos. Mr. Ricketts does not seem to share such a philosophy on the game, and I doubt his choice of GM will either.
Robin Ventura is on the same page as Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf, or at the very least seems like a guy who, for the immediate future, will avoid their wrath of paper cuts by being on a different one… unlike his predecessor. The former Sox third baseman probably knows, like Williams, that his team will not be very good for a while and that he will be required to grow—often painfully—with some of the on-field patchwork the GM will presumably be making.
Sandberg may make a fine big-league manager in any system with any philosophy. Maybe even in the Cubs’ system. But fans have to realize that just because Mike Ditka and Ozzie Guillen led the teams they happened to also play for to respective championships does not mean that such a thing is not rare. Most great coaches were not great players, and banging the drum for a former player who “deserves a shot” makes you an SNL sketch.
After over a hundred years of not winning, nobody “deserves a shot.” This isn’t a piñata, though this team certainly has been beaten like one. Every position in the Cubs organization demands competence and the skill that gives the team the best chance possible of winning a World Series (oh, hello, Crane Kenney).
Whomever Ricketts picks as the new GM knows this, and while there will be sound bites about “what Cubs baseball is all about” and “tradition,” i.e. sucking, whoever that person is will not consider Sandberg based on his affiliation to the Red and Blue. So let Sox fans have their Golden Boy back, and let him do what he may on the South Side, Cub fans. Concern yourselves with what is best for winning, not for looks or PR.
The former gets you trophies. The latter gets you Ronnie Woo Woo.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.