Leadership - what isn't, what might be
Good afternoon, readers of Goat.
Some of you may be recent Cub fans - perhaps you didn't get into baseball as a kid, and are only finding out about the Great Game and its most personable team recently. Others, you've been hanging in a little while longer. Then there's the crusty old farts who have suffered more heart punches and upset stomachs than we can possibly count.
As you may know, it's been a long time since our favorite team won a pennant, let alone a World Series. We've spent the last six years here trying to figure out why. Maybe you're a new fan, and you don't care. All you've ever known is Lou Piniella, Alfonso Soriano, and respectable Cubs baseball. Or maybe you've signed on around the Sam-Me era, or perhaps before that, in the Ryno, Sut, Gracie and Hawk days. Probably, if you're one of them, you're good and ready for a championship of any sort on the North Side, and most likely, you're in problem-solving mode.
God knows, I am.
I mention Ryno, Sut, Gracie and Hawk, because that was the last time this particular franchise had anything remotely resembling an effective leader on the field. Oh, sure, Kerry Wood had something to say, during the times he wasn't on the DL. And Kenny Lofton was here for a few minutes. But now?
We don't have a prototypical Leadoff Man. Oh, The Riot has a nice batting average and a decent OBP right now. That may or may not last. But as I've said, that's just the minimum daily requirements of a leadoff man. If Theriot knew how to run the bases, he might be trouble. People think he oozes SWP. I disagree, he is definitely WP, but not so much Scrap.
We don't have an Ace. Zambrano, and Dempster, are paid like Aces. But neither one is. Zambrano's short fuse, inability to conserve pitches, and relative ineffectiveness have placed him in the pen for now. Dempster is not quite talented enough or strong-willed enough to be that stud-hoss ice-crushing plow that thwarts losing streaks, puts fear in other teams, and compels his fellow man to greater heights.
Both of these deficiencies can be laid at the feet of the GM. But it isn't ALL his fault.
We don't have a true emotional leader on the team, either. Being a hothead and smashing Gatorade dispensers is not leadership. Does wailing on a pop machine show you care, or that you're a big sucky-tit baby? Our so-called clubhouse leaders are Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. I infamously went off on Ramirez after the 2008 playoff sweep, when he deflected all blame from himself. And Lee, he of the gentle dignity? A great trait for a more cerebral pursuit.
Baseball is not a cerebral pursuit, at least not the way it is played lately.
Now, how about Ozzie Guillen? Well, he's a manager, first of all, and second of all, I don't believe his profane, inconsiderate Scarface rantings represent leadership, either. Oh, he's funny. He really IS a reality-show star. But we don't need that, either.
A leader accepts responsibility, and also asserts his will and makes bold statements that catches everyone's attention without being offensive. He spurs everyone around him to act. Someone like this guy. He tells his fan base to chill the f out, and at the same time impresses upon his teammates that they need to take their game up to the highest level, and lets everyone know that nothing less will be tolerated. All without pissing off any special interest groups.
Who is that guy on the Cubs? I don't see him. Marlon Byrd is not that guy. Maybe Theriot could someday become that guy? Not sure what he's waiting for, if that's the case? He has as much seniority as Dustin Pedroia, so if he has it inside him, it's time to see it. That's the only chance we have, kids.
Can you pin this one on Jim Hendry? Personally, I am not sure you can, because he has paid good money for a few men who supposedly possessed the intangibles we needed, and they haven't come through. Then again, if I were the GM (and I can literally hear all of you clicking over to another page), I would in fact try to recruit an 'intangibles' guy. Mark DeRosa had two years to show that he himself was that guy. Didn't quite do it for me, since he had little to say after the aborted 2007 and 2008 seasons.
For that was the time for the he-bull, the stud-hoss to step up and insist on no uncertain terms that history would NEVER repeat itself again. Which, I suppose, it didn't. We didn't make the playoffs last year.