Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why would New York Yankees want to bring Chicago Cubbie-ness to Bronx?

I used to root for the New York Yankees as a kid (my feelings about the big  ballclub in the Bronx are more neutral these days), and I can appreciate the aura that the team gives off.

That winning attitude (which some people interpret as a sense of entitlement) is about as far removed from the sentiment that one experiences if they root for the Chicago Cubs.

SO EVEN THOUGH I can appreciate the fact that people who work in professional baseball are “baseball people” first (with ties to a particular team coming second), I must admit to being amused whenever there is someone who has ties to the two franchises.

The biggest baseball winners and the loveable losers (except that losing really is never lovable). It’s just too much of a mish-mash.

So I can appreciate the sense of confusion that some people experienced when they learned that the Yankees (who think they are experiencing a long athletic draught because they haven’t won a World Series title since 2009) added a new executive to their front office.

In the form of Jim Hendry – who until a few months ago was the general manager in charge of the Cubs.

IN CUB TERMS, Hendry is successful because he put together teams that won three division titles (although that falls short of the record of Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams – an American League championship/World Series title goes a long way in this city).

 But in real terms, he hasn’t won anything (no National League championship, let alone a World Series appearance).

So why would the Yankees (who didn’t win the league pennant for 2011 even though they had the best regular-season record in the American League) want Hendry?

The key is understanding that he was given a title of “special assignment scout.” Which is a convoluted way of saying that he is a consultant. Which means he doesn’t have real, full-time duties.

HENDRY, WHO IS 56 and devoted 17 years of his working life to the Chicago Cubs organization, managed to get himself a slot within professional baseball that will tide him over for 2012 while he figures out what he wants to do with the rest of his working life.

I only hope that Hendry’s Cubbie-ness doesn’t rub off on his new ballclub. Because the sense I have always picked up on is that Cubbie-ness overcomes Yankee might!

Former Cubs managers Gene Michael and Lou Piniella didn’t have success in Chicago – even though they were hired here on the premise that they would bring their Yankees ways (both played and managed there) to our city’s baseball scene.

It didn’t work.

NOR DID IT seem to help when one-time slugging outfielder Bobby Murcer (who once was thought to be the successor to Mickey Mantle in the Yankees lineup) returned to the Yankees in the late 1970s and finally got to play in a World Series in 1981.

The Yankees lost that year, and some smart-alecks noted that the reacquisition of Murcer from the Chicago Cubs put them over the top, so to speak, in the number of ex-Cubs who played for them – thereby ensuring their defeat.

I don’t know that having a former Cubs general manager on staff hurts the Yankees in any way. In real terms, it may not mean much of anything – particularly if they don’t pay his opinions much mind.

Because when it comes right down to it, there’s probably only one baseball person with ties to both the Bronx and Lakeview who had success in both places.

THAT WOULD BE Joe McCarthy (not the crackpot one-time senator from Wisconsin).

He managed the Cubs to a National League championship in 1929, then led the Yankees to American League championships and/or World Series titles in 1932 (a four-game sweep of the Cubs), 1936-39 (’38 was also a four-game Cubbie sweep) and 1941-43.

It’s just that with Jim Hendry, I can’t help but think he’s another Gene Michael, and not the second coming of Joe McCarthy.


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