You have to admit that it would be so “Chicago” if, sometime in the next couple of baseball seasons, the National League championship came down to a playoff fight between the Miami Marlins and the St. Louis Cardinals.
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Because that has the possibility of being a battle between a ballclub led by Ozzie Guillen, going up against one led by Ryne Sandberg.
OF COURSE, THERE are a lot of variables that have to take place for such a scenario to be possible.
For one, the one-time Cubs star and Hall of Famer would have to actually get the job of replacing Tony LaRussa as the Cardinals’ field manager. Which could happen if the Cardinals were to decide to “stick it” to their Midwestern arch-rivals and give him the opportunity the Cubs were never willing to.
For another, we’d have to see some significant improvement from the Marlins – although there are those who think they have some potential young talent, and that Guillen could be capable of giving the team the same kick in the butt that he gave to the White Sox in their World Series-winning season of 2005.
But somehow, I’m not capable of dismissing this scenario. Because I honestly believe that both Guillen and Sandberg will achieve some sort of baseball success before either of the Chicago ball clubs do.
EVEN THOUGH I’D like to think that White Sox manager Robin Ventura is capable of doing something, I can’t help but think this is an organization that seems too eager to believe that Guillen WAS the source of the team’s problems. Personally, I think the fact that the White Sox remained as close as they did until September is something Guillen should be credited for.
Not that it matters much now. He’s gone, and Miami’s baseball faithful will be the ones who benefit from Ozzie’s temperament keeping things interesting when the on-field action gets mediocre.
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Blaming Ozzie entirely seems as short-sighted as the thinking that caused the Chicago Cubs to keep Mike Quade as manager after last season – instead of realizing that the team needed a serious jolt for 2011.
Sandberg could have been that jolt last year. Now, he’s not going to get a chance this time around because new team boss Theo Epstein probably doesn’t want to have a field manager who overshadows him in public perception.
THAT IS WHY people such as Pete Mackanin (whom I remember from his days as a ballplayer when I was a kid in the 1970s) are getting serious consideration for the Cubs’ field manager slot.
It might be a chance of a lifetime for him, considering that he is a South Side native who went to Brother Rice High School and the University of Illinois before beginning a baseball career that has most recently seen him coaching for the Philadelphia Phillies but also saw him have interim managerial stints with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. It’s just as big a deal as the White Sox picking one of their former stars to run their on-field operations.
I can see why Mackanin would like to have a chance at managing a ball club in his hometown. I’m sure it would be a unique experience for him – one unmatched by any other job he has held in professional baseball.
But the idea that someone like Mackanin (or Milwaukee Brewers batting coach Dale Sveum, another possibility) is that better qualified is too much of a stretch to be taken seriously.
THE CLAIM THAT a new Cubs manager MUST have major league managing or coaching experience strikes me as a cover-up. After all, if a Cubs ballclub were to win something resembling a championship (I’m sure Cubs fans would settle for a National League pennant) with Sandberg in charge, it would wind up being perceived as Ryne’s success – not that of new Cubs team president Theo Epstein.
Not that I expect that National League pennant to come to the Cubs any time soon, nor do I expect an American League championship to be won by the White Sox anytime soon (letting their long-time ace pitcher walk away is NOT a step in the right direction). Chicago has mediocre-to-weak ball clubs that need serious overhaul and will likely take years of time in order for improvements to be made.
Which is why I fully expect we’ll see either Guillen or Sandberg (regardless of which team ultimately winds up giving him a chance to manage) running a ballclub in the World Series before either of our hometown teams make it.
And when that happens, we’ll have the Chicago baseball fans split down the middle in terms of who they’d rather see prevail, because I just can’t envision Cubs fans wanting Ozzie Guillen-run ball clubs winning a second World Series before their team managed to appear in one.