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Cubs made right decision by saying 'Ry-NO'

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The split between the Cubs and Ryne Sandberg was the fallout of the new way of doing baseball business under the new Ricketts ownership.


It wasn't about choosing to cut ties with Ryne Sandberg or disrespecting the Hall of Famer.

The split between the Cubs and their popular icon was the fallout -- maybe inevitable -- of the new way of doing baseball business under the new Ricketts ownership.

And if it's what it seems to be -- a focus on a bottom-up, organizational approach to trying to solve a century-old baseball problem on the North Side -- then it's the right approach. Even if it means some hard-to-swallow results along the way.

The 2011 season might become one of those results, depending on what general manager Jim Hendry can do with modest payroll flexibility this winter, and what a few back-nine and cloud-nine veterans can do on the field next year.

For now, the collateral damage is the guy with his No. 23 flapping over the ballpark, with Hendry confirming that Sandberg, as expected, declined to return as the team's Class AAA manager after losing out on the big-league job to Mike Quade.

But while it's tough to see Sandberg go, it's just as tough not to give the Cubs credit for making what they felt was the best decision over the easy one in choosing the lesser known, less-sexy name for the job.

That's not the way it went during the last three hiring processes, when high-profile managers were hired each time. And given the uncertainty of the on-field product coming off this season, it doesn't give the marketing department much to work with.

Whether Hendry ultimately made the right decision, the Cubs at least seem to be taking the right approach as they head to Year Two under the Ricketts ownership with promises to bolster the player-development operations and create a talent pipeline that hasn't produced a competitive core of hitters since Sandberg's playing days.

It was evident again Wednesday when the Cubs confirmed the return of former minor-league manager Pat Listach as Quade's bench coach and the promotion of longtime organization instructor Dave Keller to special assistant on the staff.

Certainly, Sandberg had built a four-season resume suggesting he could be part of that emphasis. That's why he was a finalist for the big-league job. He said he ''felt good about the process'' the day of Quade's hiring, albeit ''disappointed.''

Once that decision was made, the split was all but assured. It would have taken extraordinary circumstances for him to join Quade's staff, if only for the fishbowl feeling that would have resulted in cries for Ryno every time the Cubs lost three in a row.

Though the Cubs kept the Iowa job open for him, ''I don't think that was ever in his plans to be in the minor leagues after this year,'' Hendry said, adding, ''He'll always be welcome here. He knows that.''

Sandberg said after the Quade decision that he planned to look into big-league jobs with other teams. Most of the openings on staffs have been filled, and where he goes next is unclear. But the Cubs don't want him to leave; they just don't want him to be their manager.

And remember, it was Sandberg in 2006 who approached the Cubs about the job Lou Piniella got, despite no experience. To his credit, he went to the minors and gained that experience. And to the Cubs' credit, they took him seriously, and then made a tough choice.

''He'll always be a beloved Cub, and hopefully we'll hook up in the fashion he wants to, in the near future,'' Hendry said.

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