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Why would Cubs delay picking manager unless Joe Girardi's interested-

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The Cubs may have a hypnotic pull on Joe Girardi.


Lots of people in New York are having a hard time understanding why Joe Girardi would even consider leaving the Yankees for the Cubs.

Of course, these are the same people who can't understand why anyone would choose to live outside the New York metropolitan area. Tell them you're tired of hearing about Bobby Thomson's home run off Ralph Branca in 1951 and watch them gather the stake, the firewood and the accelerant.

What they're failing to grasp is the almost hypnotic attraction the Cubs' job might have for someone such as Girardi, who grew up in Peoria, went to Northwestern and fully appreciates the hazards involved. It's like this: You know you shouldn't eat a double-chocolate doughnut because you weigh 340 pounds and you're about a molecule of fatty plaque away from a heart attack, but it is speaking to you in such a personal, loving way that resistance seems futile.

History tells us that the manager's job on the North Side is not good for anyone. It doesn't last very long, and it almost always ends badly. But ... what if- It's the most intoxicating question in baseball for anyone who calls himself a manager: What if I'm the guy who leads the Cubs to a World Series title for the first time since 1908-

It's the kind of thought that makes otherwise thoughtful, intelligent men lose their senses. Of course no one who wants to collect World Series rings would leave the Yankees. But that question: What if-

Wait a minute ... or a month

It's why the Cubs have to wait and wait and wait for Girardi, who is preoccupied with getting past the Rangers and into the World Series.

Have back-channel discussions been going on between the Cubs and people who claim to speak for Girardi- I have no idea. But the longer this goes on, the more you'd have to believe the Cubs have received indications that Girardi is interested. (If it turns out that Cubs general manager Jim Hendry never gave Girardi the time of day, somebody ought to open up an inquest.)

A month ago, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said the next manager has to arrive with his eyes open.

''We have to have a manager who really understands ... the scrutiny you get and [must] be able to handle those periods in June when you lose three games in a row and people start talking about Year 103 of the Curse,'' he said. ''We have to have someone who understands what they're getting into.''

Ryne Sandberg knows what it means to be a Cub. He understands the culture at Wrigley Field. It's where his support originated and where it now resides. The people with warm memories of Ryno from 1984 see him as the obvious choice for the manager's job.

Give me Girardi, who understands the culture but wasn't marinated in it and isn't beholden to it. Give me someone who doesn't care about Harry Caray's glasses or Leon Durham's five-hole or Ozzy Osbourne's seventh-inning-stretch rendition. Give me someone who has won a World Series as a manager, even if he did it with a collection of All-Stars.

Forget about Quade

Mike Quade replaced Lou Piniella and did a nice job, leading the Cubs to a 24-13 finish. Much has been made of the fact that several veterans have endorsed the baseball lifer. You mean the veterans who haven't won anything in Chicago- Those veterans-

If Hendry is smart, he'll ignore the Quade testimonials. You don't choose a manager based on the opinions of players who might not be around in two years. And what are players going to say when reporters ask them about a man who might be the manager next season- That they don't like him- Not a prudent answer if you're concerned about future plate appearances or innings pitched.

Give me Girardi. When the Yankees came to town to play the White Sox in late August, it was interesting what he didn't say to the media. Given the chance, he never said he wasn't interested in the job Piniella had just vacated.

He said he already had a job. He said he was concentrating on the task at hand.

Maybe he doesn't want what he coveted four years ago. But the Cubs need to find out for sure before they make a move.

For Yankees fans, it's a no-brainer. These are the Bronx Bombers! All that history! All those championships! And all these opportunities to win more! Why would anyone leave this job-

Why-

It brings to mind an ad that explorer Ernest Shackleton purportedly placed in a newspaper before one of his Antarctic expeditions in the early 1900s:

''Men wanted for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.''

The Cubs' job is like that, only with day games.

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