Already eliminated from the playoffs for the fourth year in a row with a declining winning percentage each year and without a championship since 1908, the Chicago Cubs have long since reached the time to look ahead to “next year.”
Some things have changed since the last time we’ve reviewed the situation. The man hug that reverberated around the baseball world earlier this season between free agent-to-be Albert Pujols and then-Cubs general manager Jim Hendry (see linked article below) lost its sizzle when the amazingly-resilient GM was finally sacked last month after nine high-spending but uneven years in the chair.
While it remains to be seen, some believe the Cubs’ new owners, the deep-pocketed Ricketts family of Ameritrade fame, will try to make a splash this winter.
One theory, presented by the Chicago Sun-Times and based on comments from a major league source, says the Cubs are considering the idea of getting the key members of the early-2000’s Cardinals band back together.
Specifically, the dominoes might fall in this order. First, Walt Jocketty is lured from Cincinnati to the North Side to replace Hendry. Then, Tony La Russa is hired to manage the lovable losers. The trifecta would be complete with the signing of Pujols to man first base for many years into the future.
Though the above scenario might have seemed ridiculous even a few months ago, it feels far less crazy today. All three gentlemen will be free agents after the season and each may have good reason to look elsewhere.
Further, the usually-guarded Jocketty made a series of very positive remarks to the Sun-Times about the Cubs as an organization, the resources available (traditionally, a division-leading payroll poorly spent) and the strength of the farm system. Perhaps it was in how the remarks were presented, but it appeared to go beyond the brief, polite but non-committal comments he might normally be expected to offer.
Couple that with the uncertainty of the Pujols contract situation and a perfect storm could develop this fall and winter. Of course, it would have to be considered low odds, but think of it this way. It probably is no less likely occurring than the 4.5 percent chance the current Cardinals have of reaching the playoffs, a hope to which many are valiantly clinging. The prospect of landing this triumvirate, however unlikely, could fuel renewed hope for Cubs fans, too.