Friday, September 30, 2016

Chicago baseball leadership may remain the same, regardless of ’16

The Chicago sports scene usually is focused on football by this time of year, what with both baseball clubs usually being out of the running. Only the hardcore (such as myself) care by the time Game Number 150-whatever of the regular season comes around.
Will Theo get bubble-gum card as a Cub?

But with the Bears playing in a funk (who knows if they’ll ever win a game), perhaps we should be paying attention to who will be leading our city’s two ball clubs in future seasons.

FOR THE CUBS, the guy who actually is the general manager’s boss learned he got an extension of his contract.

Theo Epstein, the Ivy League-educated guy who led the Boston Red Sox to a pair of World Series titles and a string of contending teams, learned he’ll get a raise – from $8.5 million this year up to about $10 million per season for the next five years.

Not quite the rate you’d pay for a star slugger or ace pitcher. But certainly good money that I’m sure most of us would consider to be an unattainable fortune.

That’s what Epstein gets for putting together ball clubs that won a division title in 2015, then followed it up with a 100-plus wins team that may well have a shot at winning the Cubs their first World Series title in 108 seasons.

HECK, IF THEY even make it to the World Series, it would be a first in 71 seasons for the Cubs.
Will he, or won't he, return?

So I suppose the Cubs should be excused for not waiting until after the World Series to give Epstein, their president of baseball operations, the big prize. He’s already accomplished far more than past general managers such as Andy MacPhail, John Holland and Dallas Green.

I particularly remember the latter as the guy who came from managing a World Series-winning team in Philadelphia (the first Phillies team to ever win the “big one”) to take over leadership of the Cubs. Remember that the Cubs were “coming out of hibernation!,” only to peak with that ground ball going through first baseman Leon Durham’s legs.
The reason he won't be fired!

Epstein has quite a negative legacy to overcome. He may well have overcome it, even if the Cubs technically fail and never actually win the World Series. He's big enough that he can get away with publicly backing Hillary Clinton's presidential bid (or so says the Sun-Times' Sneed), even though Cubs ownership has made it clear they're backing Donald Trump.

BUT EPSTEIN ISN’T the only person who has the potential to stick around Chicago.

For White Sox field manager Robin Ventura learned the same day that his fate is in his own hands. White Sox management has no intention of firing him – even though the bulk of the five seasons he’s been in charge have wound up being losing seasons.

As things stand now, it would take an absolute winning streak against Minnesota Twins this weekend for the White Sox to finish at .500. The Twins may be a weak ball club, but even they’re capable of winning a game occasionally.

The official line is that it’s up to Ventura himself to decide if he wants to return. His contract expires at season’s end, and he’s remaining quiet about his fate. No word on what he has been getting paid to manage in recent years – other than the presumption that it was far less than the $8.5 million he peaked at as a ballplayer during his stint with the New York Yankees.

WHICH MAKES ME suspect he’s getting pressured to quit. To give up. To walk away, in some sort of face-saving move. He’ll be able to deny that he was fired for his 373-432 win/loss record – a .464 winning percentage. Particularly pathetic because it started in 2012 with the White Sox as a contending team.

There are many White Sox fans who are eager to see him go. They want to see someone get their head chopped off as a gesture that someone is being punished for the losing Sox ways.

But it seems that Ventura gets bonus points for the fact that he is the greatest third baseman ever to play for the White Sox – which actually says more about the low level of quality that has manned the “hot corner” than it does about Ventura’s ball playing abilities.

It also means there’s the potential for more of the same in 2017. As in a Cubs team that contends for a division title and a White Sox team that stirs up dreams of an all-Chicago World Series – a fantasy that may take many more decades for our sporting scene to achieve! But may come sooner than the next Bears’ Super Bowl!


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