With another season ending in disappointment for Chicago Cub fans, is it too early to shout out the refrain, "Wait Until Next Year?"
That's the slogan of the Chicago Cubs, whether they realize it or not. No other team in the history of sports has been mouthing those words for a longer period of time; 102 years to be exact.
The slogan actually culled by the new ownership group, Tom Ricketts and family for 2010 was "Year One." I guess that was because it was their first year running the team, and it sounds a helluva lot better than "Year 102," and "We Still Can't Win This Damn Thing."
Next April is, "Year 103" and it's time the Chicago Cubs fix the mess that they created, and start doing things the right way.
There is only one man for that job and his name is Ryne Sandberg.
Sandberg came to GM Jim Hendry after the 2006 debacle and asked to be considered for the Cubs managerial job that went to Lou Piniella. At the time, Sandberg had no coaching or managing experience.
Hendry suggested he get some before he tried his hand managing at the Major League level, so he gave him a job managing in the low minors.
That was four years ago.
Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg started riding the buses, staying in cheap motels, and eating at fast food dives to reach his dream of one day managing his beloved Cubs.
He's had success including being named Manager of the Year in the PCL this year.
He's considered one of the leading candidates for the job, along with Cub interim manager Mike Quade, who had a 24-13 record after taking over the team from Piniella.
That's a very good record, and many of the current Cub players are saying Quade should get the job based on his trial run. That's all well and good, but anyone was an improvement over the played-out Piniella, who should have been sent home a long time ago.
Sandberg didn't get the opportunity to take over the team and see how he would do, but several of the players on the roster played for him and admired his managing style in the minors.
He helped to develop and teach them the right way to play the game, just like he said in his Hall of Fame induction speech.
Aside from running the bases, going the opposite way, hitting the cutoff man, and giving yourself up to help your team, he also meant play hard and play the game the way it should be played.
In other words, don't stand at home plate and admire your handiwork. Run hard out of the box. That ball you're admiring might not reach the stands.
Those are words that Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez need to hear, and they will, from a guy who gave up everything to go down to the minors to work on his craft.
This wasn't a baseball lifer looking for a chance. Sandberg could have retired and lived like a king for the rest of his life with the money he made playing the game. But he had unfinished business, and that business was to teach today's players how to play the game the right way.
He also has ideas. When interviewed a month ago, he mentioned that the Cubs need to set up a systematic way of doing things in their minor leagues throughout the organization, so players will know what is expected of them. Any players that come to the Cubs parent team should know beforehand how to play.
Why have the Cubs failed for over a century?
It's because they keep getting people from outside the organization who have no clue what you have to do to win playing half your games at Wrigley Field.
The Cubs play more day games than any other team in baseball. That sets up late nights on the town, and coming in hungover for the next day's game. You have to make sure you build your team with the type of players that will be able to handle the temptations and do the right thing.
Playing in Wrigley Field also allows you to know the quirks and nuances of the park. When the wind blows out, it's a hitters paradise. But when the wind blows in, runs are few and far between if you build your team with a bunch of softball hitters.
You need players that can run the bases, steal, bunt, and do whatever is necessary to create runs when the conditions are not favorable. Sandberg knows this because he played here for so many years.
He won't be fooled like a Dusty Baker or Lou Pineilla, who had no idea what they were getting into coming to manage the Cubs. And while Quade has been here coaching for the past four years, he has never seen a team that was built to win in this ballpark. Sandberg has. He played on it.
The 1984 Cubs had speed at the top of the lineup, with the "Daily Double" of Bobby Dernier leading off and Sandberg in the two hole. Both players got on base, worried the pitchers with their ability to steal, and ran the bases with perfection.
They set the table, and let the others drive them in. The Cubs had six players that year with over 80 RBI's.
The 1984 Cubs were one game from the World Series because they had the type of team that could flourish both at Wrigley Field and on the road. The only other team they've had since then that could do that was the 2003 Cubs after they acquired Kenny Lofton in a late season trade.
That team was only five outs from the World Series before disaster struck, but it was the right type of team to have a chance to win it all.
Ryne Sandberg knows what it takes, and more importantly, maybe he could pass it on to JIm Hendry, to tell him what he needs to succeed.
Sandberg has the secret to winning at Wrigley. He also has the dedication and desire.
And one more thing: bringing back a hometown hero to run your team has had previous success in Chicago.
Mike Ditka took over a sad-sack franchise, and led the Bears to the Super Bowl in 1985.
Ozzie Guillen brought the Chicago White Sox their first World Series championship since 1917.
See the pattern here?
That's why Ryno is the right man to end the drought on the North Side of Chicago.
Tell me I'm wrong.