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Cubs vs. Twins

An e-mail exchange.

From: Steve Rhodes
Sent: Monday, September 13, 2010 1:38 PM
To: Don Jacobson; Marty Gangler
Subject: Sandberg

On management style, he said: "The Minnesota Twins have a way they want to play that is taught to every player in their system and that is what I want for the Cubs if I am the manager. Players have to know what is expected of them and what will not be accepted before they get to Wrigley Field."

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MARTY: This is provided you bring up players that are actually good enough to play in the majors. Typically the Cubs bring up no one that is very good and the "stars" of their team have recently all been acquired through free agency and brought up through other teams' minor league systems. Also, the Cubs can't typically wait for minor leaguers to go thru their growing pains on the field because they need to win now (which is weird because they never do yet never commit to even a 3 year plan) and will the fans let them off on the cheap letting 12 young guys play without a few huge marquee names. The Twins also do things this way because they have to - and it's great because they aren't stuck with the big ticket vets that they have to play, because they can never really pay them anyway. There is just less on the line and it lends itself to just solid no frills baseball. And you can be pretty solid that way.

To me, it's the Yankees that require even the top level free agents to conform to the Yankee way. Maybe that is the model to strive for. I don't think you can't get away with the Twins style in a lot of ways on the North Side and you just don't have too many homegrown guys on the roster. I will say that this year is the exception and that has turned into a complete disaster. Maybe this will help in the future, but it doesn't look good now - although I think things are looking up with Quade.

But it is a good thing to say. Pulling it off is a different story.

DON: Marty, do you think Cubs fans would walk away if the team said, "hey, from now on, we're going to start building through the draft and develop a team with home-grown players . . . " with the implication being it'll take awhile? Because I'm pretty sure this is the only way they're ever going to be consistently competitive. Would there be no patience for that?

MARTY: Have you seen the stands these days? Attendance is already down and the owner is cash strapped. I'm all for it myself, but I don't think it flies. I see people walking away from that.

DON: Then . . . ouch! Lean times ahead for the Cubs at the gate because I don't see them ever being able to go back to their "competing with the Yankees & Dodgers for the biggest free agents" strategy, which didn't really work too well, anyway.

I could be way, way off, but my guess is that they're going to be forced to go the "grow your own" route due to financial necessity . . . especially with all the crappy mega-contracts that Hendry gave out still hanging over them. And if so, Sandberg would be the perfect choice for manager since he's very familiar with the farmhands and who's going to fit into his way of playing ball. The biggest piece of unfinished business is booting Hendry because he's incapable of building a major league team through the draft. They'd also have to bring in new scouting and minor league execs who are committed to Sandberg's demand for consistent style throughout the organization . . . as well as drafting players who fit whatever style he has in mind.

MARTY: Ding ding ding. I'm with you on this brother. I guess it's great to SAY you want to be the Twins but without gutting the front office they probably have no chance to do it.

They'll sign Dunn to play 1st in the off season.

STEVE: A few points, if I may:

1. I like what I've heard from and about Sandberg but I'm not necessarily endorsing him. I wanted Girardi instead of Lou and I would still make Girardi my top choice. But Sandberg looks better and better to me as an alternative.

2. It's not just the Twins that have an organizational philosophy, it's just that they are the clearest example of a Twins Way. They used to talk about the Orioles Way and Dodger Way. The Braves and the Cardinals are also examples of organizational philosophy (built more to suit the style of their current managers, but still) and of course the A's have had their way, which in turn influenced Boston successfully and Toronto not so much (J.P. Ricciardi was allowed to keep his job way too long).

3. Brenly has expressed the same notion; it's just not something that Hendry has been interested in or allowed to do or is capable of building.

4. Hendry has to go. For so many obvious reasons.

5. People underestimate the impact of the Yankees farm system upon their success. It is the core of their success; free agents they can bid for add those extra key players, but just as many flame out. Boston also has an excellent farm system.

6. The Twins don't *have to* do it that way. They may be from a "small market," but Carl Pohlad was richer than God. Similarly, they have a pretty decent sized payroll right now and it will only get bigger. What they do isn't to be cheap except in the free agent arena, where they aren't much different than teams that aren't the Yankees or Red Sox. They do it that way because that's what Tom Kelly, the team's archangel or whatever, believed in it. And if you go back in time, the Twins have always had a strong farm system, thanks in larger measure to farm director Jim Rantz. That's why they used to be considered good pickins' for teams like the Yankees during the Calvin Griffith era. They could never develop great pitching, though. But then and even more so now, it's a way of evaluating talent and training that talent, which is what Billy Beane is also interested in. Starlin Castro may be in the hunt for a batting title, but I'm not sure the Twins would have brought him up or given him the at-bats without knowing how to tag out runners at second; or at least he would have learned how to do that in the minors even if he is only 20. Or they would have drafted someone who knew how instead. Having a good batting average is meaningless if you are costing your team more runs than you are producing.

7. I'm not sure about the patience of Cubs fans. I think the "win now" mentality has passed; it didn't really exist until the latter years of Tribune ownership, in part because the team was too embarrassing for such a rich company and also as the 100th anniversary approached. And yes, now we are approaching a lower budget era - thanks Tom Ricketts! That's probably why Ricketts has been so focused on marketing and advertising but I think he's making a big mistake thinking he can be the next coming of John McDonough and expect Cubs fans to swallow it. Still, I think the empty stands now are because the team is such a joke and so below expectations - and so unlikable as usual. A team full of young players on the rise would at least get some affection.

8. But their farm system sucks, so you can't just say "play the kids" when the kids suck. That's why rebuilding will take some time. They would need to stock the farm system with a different kind of player - and different scouts and managers. So what Sandberg is really talking about is a long-term approach - the kind of approach Hendry has always rejected, including when he told Brenly to get lost four years ago.

That's my view, anyway.

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Comments welcome.


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