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Cubs Convention off to Boo-tiful start

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  • Cubs Convention off to Boo-tiful start

    January 14, 2006

    BY JAY MARIOTTI SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST


    So much for any hokey premise that Cubdom is pleased for the White Sox, that Cubs fans are dignified enough to accept a World Series title on the South Side, that they're OK with Chicago's first baseball parade in eons beginning in Bridgeport while reducing Wrigleyville to a ghost town with a lot of Dusty flying around.

    These people are bitter as hell, as they should be.

    I know this because Jim Hendry and Dusty Baker were booed Friday night at the Cubs Convention, which felt more like a wake than the annual faith-and-Woo-Woo funfest. Oh, the diehards in their blue hats, blue shirts, blue shoes and blue underwear tried to remain shiny and happy, flashing those rubber BELIEVE bracelets and cheering warmly when each player was introduced. And, sure, everyone was heartened a bit by the sight of Mark Prior, who won't be shipped to Baltimore in a deal for Miguel Tejada.

    "Good crabcakes there,'' cracked Prior, thrilled to still be a Cub.

    But the cheers weakened and catcalls resonated when Hendry and Baker appeared, making me wonder if the riot police would have been summoned had team boss Andy MacPhail -- er, MacFail -- announced contract extensions for his embattled general manager and manager.

    Extreme pressure to win


    Remember all those things I've said and written about the extraordinary patience of Cubs fans, how their willingness to forgive and forget is a cross between a religion and a sickness? Seems those days are long gone, buried by a combination of Sox glory and the 97th consecutive season of Cubbie also-random.

    The downer mood only reinforces my belief that Tribune Co., under extreme pressure to win a championship after the triumphs of the White Sox and Red Sox, can't possibly issue extensions to Hendry and Baker until the 2006 season presents itself. To re-sign them for two extra years, then endure another playoff-less season, would be corporate suicide for a conglomerate that has yet to prove in 25 years of ownership that it has a clue about baseball. If there was any good news at the Hilton and Towers, it's that the extensions don't seem to be forthcoming anytime soon. In an odd twist a few days ago, MacPhail said he would spend spring training pondering whether to grant Hendry an extension before deciding at a later date. Hmmm. If he was sold on his hand-picked GM, why wouldn't he grant the extension now? And what about Baker, who continues to twist in the wind while acknowledging Friday that he isn't warm to the lame-duck concept -- or, for that matter, leaving the Cubs. "It's why I came here. I didn't come to move after four years,'' Baker said. "Look at my record. My last stop [in San Francisco], I was there 15 years. I'm 56. I think I moved five times in 56 years. I'm not crazy about moving.''

    But what if a 79-83, fourth-place ballclub that still has holes doesn't improve much? What if Dusty keeps stumbling while the Sox, who have made brilliant offseason moves, continue to contend for another American League pennant and Series? "Pressure is what you put on yourself,'' Baker said. "You can't do anything about what the Sox did. And you can't do anything about the last year of your contract.''

    Dusty feeling depressed



    It was more disturbing later to hear Baker, a man who has overcome cancer, talk about depression. He said last year gutted him emotionally and sent him into bouts of gloom, making me wonder how he'll react if the Cubs have another losing season in his final contractual year. Would he resign in midseason? "I went home, and I felt terrible. I haven't felt that way ever in my whole life,'' he told the audience. "I said to [his wife], 'Baby, is this what people feel like who are kind of depressed?' I thought about things, thought about my life, about things I want to accomplish, and I said, hey, I don't want to feel that way again.'' So? "I'm very psyched about this year coming up,'' Baker said. "Sometimes in life, you don't like it. Some years in life, you feel completely humbled to the point you say, hey, we have to rebuild this thing. I was warned by [former major-league manager] Roger Craig when I got this job to never assume. What's that they say about half of assume? I don't like feeling like an ass.''

    Hendry wasn't nearly as introspective. He sounded exhausted, actually, not a good thing when a six-month pressure cooker is still months away. While Sox counterpart Ken Williams was fleecing the industry, Hendry swung and missed on Rafael Furcal and settled for a good leadoff man in Juan Pierre, bullpen reinforcements and an iffy, $15 million splurge on mediocre outfielder Jacque Jones. Sorry, but when the Sox become the landmark Chicago team that finally wins it all, the bigger team across town can't respond with a hot-and-cold offseason. That's why the fans were booing. In fairness to Hendry, he looked into acquiring Miguel Tejada before the grumpy shortstop chose to stay with the Orioles. But the best GMs find a way to make big things happen, as Williams has. In an offseason when everyone is watching, Hendry has not, and even though he'll win our eternal props for the heists of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez, his approval rating has dropped as quickly as Williams' has soared.

    "Obviously, no one is pleased with what happened last year,'' Hendry said. "I didn't see it coming, but I don't expect it that way again. We had a bad year. We had a great year [in 2003], a solid year [in 2004] and a bad year. We have gone about our business trying to fix weaknesses. And we're still open for business. We have a long way to go until Opening Day.'' Yes, Barry Zito is out there. Yes, Manny Ramirez is still available. But I wish Hendry would stop teasing if he doesn't mean it. He put together a major deal for Nomar Garciaparra that backfired. He threw big money at Kerry Wood, who right now is just trying to keep his right shoulder attached to his body. Hendry hits ... and misses. He implied strongly that Prior isn't going anywhere, which appeases those of us who don't want another Greg Maddux-in-the-'90s situation.

    'Completely agrees' with fans




    But if he enters the season with his current roster, the Cubs might win 87 games. No one wants to hear that after an unsightly season. "I understand how they feel,'' Baker said of the boo birds. "I was sitting there last year seeing things I haven't seen since junior high school. I completely agree with them.''

    That's about all the sides agree on. Even when catcher Michael Barrett tried to praise the Pierre acquisition, it struck a bad note. "I hate to bring up the White Sox,'' he said, "but Scott Podsednik completely changed the complexion of that team as a leadoff hitter.''

    "BOOOOOOOOOO!'' Cubdom replied.

    http://www.suntimes.com/output/mario...spt-jay14.html

  • #2
    For the record, I hate Jay Mariotti. Alot.

    Comment


    • #3
      mariotti is being a jackass as usual. from everything i hear, it wasnt nearly as boo-harsh as he is making it sound. but thats to be expected from that blowhard

      Comment


      • #4
        I don't read his stuff, but it appears as though he is reporting that facts. He doesn't say how bad the booing was, he just said there was booing. Anytime you are at a hometown convention and your team leadership is introduced and talking and they get boos that just shows how the fans are starting to feel.

        I am an eternal optimist. Every year I have great hopes for the team. This year I have my doubts. I still think they need to make some moves to sure up the line up and Hendry has not answered all the critics. Hopefully this will be a wakeup call for them.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by cubmanjay
          I don't read his stuff, but it appears as though he is reporting that facts. He doesn't say how bad the booing was, he just said there was booing. Anytime you are at a hometown convention and your team leadership is introduced and talking and they get boos that just shows how the fans are starting to feel.

          I am an eternal optimist. Every year I have great hopes for the team. This year I have my doubts. I still think they need to make some moves to sure up the line up and Hendry has not answered all the critics. Hopefully this will be a wakeup call for them.
          there were people booing in 2004 after the 2003 postseason. there will always be those kind of critics no matter what.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by rockin500
            there were people booing in 2004 after the 2003 postseason. there will always be those kind of critics no matter what.

            and they won't stop booing until we win the world series...
            "Back before I injured my hip, I thought going to the gym was for wimps."
            Bo Jackson

            Actually, I think they were about the same because I lettered in all sports, and I was a two-time state decathlon champion.
            Bo Jackson

            My sophomore year I placed 2nd, and my junior and senior year - I got smart and piled up enough points between myself and second place where I didn't have to run the mile.
            Bo Jackson

            Comment


            • #7
              Good to see both sides of Chicago uniting against Moronotti.
              Baseball is not a popularity contest. It's about one thing.

              Winning.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by rockin500
                mariotti is being a jackass as usual. from everything i hear, it wasnt nearly as boo-harsh as he is making it sound. but thats to be expected from that blowhard
                Eddie Munster said the same thing when Kenny Williams got into that tense Q and A session with fans at the 2004 Sox Fest.

                Comment

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