Cowley: I was wrong, it really is a Cubs town
By joe cowley firstname.lastname@example.org November 6, 2011 8:24PM
Updated: December 8, 2011 8:14AM
I was wrong.
Not in the premise at the time, but in the outcome.
It was nine months ago that I wrote a column declaring Chicago a “Soxtown.’’ It now seems a lot longer than nine months.
Let’s flash back to early February, however, before the “I told you so’’ e-mails and tweets are fired in my direction.
Cubs fans were no longer angry with the organization. They weren’t happy, they weren’t disgusted. They really weren’t anything, other than numb. There was no confidence in then-general manager Jim Hendry and a collection of players that even a mother would have a hard time loving.
There was more talk about regret that Mark Cuban wasn’t allowed to buy the Cubs, rather than focus on the reality of the Ricketts’ era being as sexy as nude photos of Chaz Bono.
It was as if the North Side had quit, finally surrendering to Billy Goats, curses and 103 years of futility.
Fourteen Red Line stops south, the climate couldn’t have been more opposite.
The Sox were coming off a disappointing 2010 season, but were going “All in.’’ They had the face of the franchise in manager Ozzie Guillen back for at least two more seasons after announcing they had picked up his 2012 option.
More importantly, they opened the checkbook like never before, spending a franchise-record $127 million by re-signing fan favorites like A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, and also bringing in the likes of Adam Dunn and Jesse Crain. Final pieces to the playoff-run puzzle.
Even the Guillen-Ken Williams feud was on simmer.
What could go wrong?
North Side renovation
Now, just look at the last two weeks to get a pulse on where both teams are.
The new Brat Pack — minus the excessive drug usage and Molly Ringwald — was finalized, with Tom Ricketts dropping the gloves and acting like an elite owner in landing Theo Epstein.
Epstein then brought in baseball’s brightest minds, naming Jed Hoyer GM and Jason McLeod senior vice president for scouting and player development.
Out was manager Mike Quade, in was an interview process to find a new skipper with more simulations than the average CIA agent has to endure.
Sure, Crane Kenney is still lurking around, but Epstein has drawn a clear line in the sand. All things on the baseball side are the Brat Pack’s. Figuring out new bobblehead figures and how to keep Ronnie Woo Woo in the stands for 2012, that’s closer to Kenney’s wheelhouse.
Cubs fans now have hope, a reason to care again. Maybe like they’ve never cared before. Epstein’s presence doesn’t guarantee a playoff appearance, a division title or a World Series, but it guarantees that things will now be done the right way.
That means a strong farm system, a heavy presence in Latin America and a foundation that had been ignored under old ownership.
Not just talk of a changing culture, but action toward that change of culture.
Reversal of fortune
Then there’s the Sox.
Gone is Guillen, taking his talents to South Beach after his general manager began shopping him there at the end of the 2010 season.
Don Cooper — the pitching coach — has a four-year contract and power that he’s slowly been weaseling for, while new manager Robin Ventura has a three-year deal.
As far as the rest of the surrounding staff to help Ventura — who has never managed or coached at any professional level — there’s new bench coach Mark Parent, who was managing in Class AA Reading, new hitting coach Jeff Manto, who said on radio last week that he basically doesn’t want Dunn walking, and new third-base coach Joe McEwing, who may or may not keep that position, as he is currently in the interview process for the St. Louis Cardinals managerial vacancy.
It’s as if Williams sat in his office and picked names out of a hat of “Who?’’
“I want us to be boring now,’’ Williams said a few weeks ago in a radio interview. “I want us to be boring everywhere except on the field.’’
No, the two organizations couldn’t be heading in as opposite directions as they are.
So I was wrong.
One word: Cubstown.