Well, you gotta start the dealmaking somewhere, but this one will please even fewer Cubs fans than usual.
In almost the same breath in officially announcing the appointment of Pat Listach as bench coach Wednesday, GM Jim Hendry bid good-bye to Ryne Sandberg from the Cubs organization...probably for a long, long time.
Sandberg had an unappetizing consolation prize still available after finishing second to Mike Quade in the managerial derby. He could return to his job as manager of Triple-A Iowa after winning Pacific Coast League manager of the year honors. Aiming at a big-league job, Sandberg declined the option. Now he may have a challenge even hooking on as a big-league coach anywhere with the majority of open managers' jobs filled early on and their staffs filling in.
"We spoke to Ryno the beginning of the weekend," Hendry said. "He's not coming back to Iowa. I don’t think that was ever in his plans to come back to the minors. If he wants to pursue opportunjities with someone else, all right. The Iowa decision was totally his. He’ll always be a beloved Cub. If another club wanted to pursue him, we’ll certainly do nothing to stay in his way."
Quade certainly earned his job, but Sandberg's departure is yet another in the body blows of bad publicity the Cubs have endured throughout 2010. The image of Sandberg being given the opportunity to groom himself the old-fashioned way for a big-league job, working his way up the minor-league chain, and then coming up empty will stick in the craw of a lot of fans already put off by the endless series of negatives.
And if the long-suffering rooters wanted any encouragement about the acquisition of Adam Dunn or any other big name via free agency, Hendry was tight-lipped in a conference call. A query about re-acquiring Kerry Wood, whose $11 million option was not picked up by the Yankees, got a similar no-comment even though Hendry once said the much-admired Wood, let go as a free agent after 2008, could be ripe for a Cubs job of some kind in the future.
Perhaps instead of headliners, Hendry and Quade will try to build the Cubs in the same manner as the world-champion Giants...kids, spare parts, some misfits, but a whole lot of world-class starting pitching.
"They were 5-6 back most of the year," Hendry said. "They added a few parts a lot of people questioned. It’s just like everything else, it’s whose playing the best at the end. They were 1 or 2 games from not getting in. They had a bunch of guys playing together and getting hot at the right time."
Said Quade: "This was not a marquee group of offensive folks. They had a journeyman center fielder in (Andres) Torres, who I had awhile back. The pitching can take you a long way."
Hendry had mixed news on a pair of prime Cubs prospects, center fielder Brett Jackson and pitcher Chris Archer. Jackson will be sidelined from Arizona Fall League action while Archer is advancing to the 40-man roster, which means he could make the Cubs with a good spring training.
"Brett will be out of a few weeks," Hendry said. "He has an infection in his lower left calf. It's not the same heel injury he had on the USA team. For a guy a year and half out of the dream, he’s played a lot of baseball.
"(Archer) had a great year. He’ll be put on the roster to be taken out of the Rule 5 draft, come to camp as a 40-man roster guy. We all think he’s a high-end guy. If Mike and his staff deem that he’s ready, he’ll get a look sooner than later."
Unlike the rest of the country, the Cubs aren't divided on results of Tuesday's election. They got Mesa, Arizona residents to approve a ballot measure to enable the Cubs to build a new spring training-entertainment complex on the north side of town for which they've been aggressively campaigning.
"We’re all thrilled with the vote," Hendry said. "We had such a great history with the people in Mesa. Nobody from our end of the operation wanted to leave. Tom Ricketts made it clear his preference was to stay here. Tom Ricketts and his family have made it clear top of the line facilities will be a priority. I think it will be a tremendous facility when it’s done. I think Oneri (Fleita) and our rehab operation will expand even greater in the off-season (in Mesa)."
OK, that's some medium-level news. The Cubs Universe demands the next conference call be the acqusition of a big name ... a medium-sized name ... any kind of name. Something that will turn around the endless feeling of an organization just whirling down the drain.