The Cubs need a shakeup — and I have the ingredients

Today’s column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

The Cubs need a shakeup — and I have the ingredients


June 11, 2011

It rained again in Wrigleyville this week.

And then it poured.

By this point, though, I’m used to it. Both literally with the buckets of precipitation that the city has swallowed this spring and figuratively with the myriad miscues that the Cubs keep pumping out.

And I’m hardly the only one.

Fact is, if things keep going the way they have so far for the Cubs this season – which, by the way, is on pace for nearly 100 losses – the seagulls at Wrigley Field might outnumber the fans by September.

Or August.

Maybe July.

Yes, on the North Side of Chicago, it’s dark days – even when the sun shines – as the Increasingly Less Lovable Losers continue to bumble their way out of contention and into Chicago sports oblivion.

If you want hard evidence on how much cachet the Cubs are losing, ponder this: In 2009, the average attendance at Wrigley Field was a robust 39,610. In 2010, it dropped to 37,814. And now, after 31 dates in 2011, it stands at just 34,818.

If that keeps up, the team will draw nearly 390,000 fewer fans this season than it did just two years ago. And all those empty seats? Well, they add up to a whole lot of money.

Maybe even as much as Alfonso Soriano makes.

Clearly, with losses piling up and fans steering clear, the Cubs have to do something. Cages must be rattled. Straws need to be stirred. But, as senior baseball writer Ken Rosenthal wrote earlier this week, “The worst thing about the Cubs? You can’t even blow them up.

“Left fielder Alfonso Soriano, immovable. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, immovable. Right-hander Carlos Zambrano, movable only if he is in the right mood to approve a deal.”

That very well may be true, and I don’t expect many roster changes right now – although I do expect plenty when as much as $50 million comes off the Cubs’ books after the season.

Beyond the lineup, though, I think Chairman Tom Ricketts – who so far has succeeded only in erecting a Toyota sign at Wrigley Field – needs to make major changes to the team’s management to get disenchanted Cubs fans to buy back in. Mike Quade and Jim Hendry aren’t cutting it.

And there are two names I’d be most interested in seeing replace them and breathe excitement back into the ballclub in 2012:

Ryne Sandberg and Greg Maddux.

Now, did that wake you up, Cubs fans?

Last fall, I thought the Cubs made a mistake when they hired Quade as manager instead of Ryne Sandberg. I felt that Ryno had done everything asked of him by the organization and deserved his shot. I still do.

And while I hardly blame all of the Cubs’ current woes on Quade, I’m pretty sure that Sandberg wouldn’t be doing worse. In fact, judging by the 37-22 record and five-game first-place lead that his Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs were enjoying as of Thursday, it’s entirely likely that Sandberg would be doing better.

Either way, the Cubs would be more interesting.

And the same could be said if Maddux replaced Hendry. Now, currently, the four-time Cy Young Award winner is in just his second season as Special Assistant to the GM, so Maddux might be considered too green to run a ballclub just yet.

But I’d love to see what kinds of moves one of the most cerebral ballplayers of all time would make. And I know that a Ryno and Mad Dog would make me interested in the team again.

Which is a lot more than I can say right now.