Cubs’ offseason breaks the mold

Chicago Cubs fans everywhere are bemoaning the lack of action taken this offseason by general manager Jim Hendry.

Fans complain that he took too long to unload Sammy Sosa, marginalizing the Cubs chances to compete for marquee players like Carlos Beltran and Troy Percival.

According to the founding principles of the corporate science that is baseball today, a team should bid outrageously each offseason for talent upgrades or face drowning in a market of big spenders.

Cubs fans have been lucky to stay afloat, considering in light of the stingy spending history of the Chicago Tribune. And now we cry for more like spoiled toddlers.

Hendry was the first GM to demand more from the Cubs’ owners, and he succeeded in building a supremely talented farm system, and complimented the homegrown superstars with veteran free agent additions.

Almost one year ago, Sports Illustrated predicted that Hendry’s project would win the World Series, and the Cubs are returning a team that is unquestionably improved from last year’s on the basis of health alone.

In an era when fans demand quick results from their hard-earned cash, some are quick to forget the value of patience.

Teams are no longer allowed a grace period to “come together.” Instead of growing to love a quirky weak link for the character and charisma that he adds to the team, people chastise great players and “demand” changes from management because of weeklong slumps.

Which cause yearlong slumps.

Hendry seems to have a vision of a young Cubs team growing together and learning to complement each other’s nuances. By not spending money in a wild free agent market, Hendry protected the integrity of his talent system and created flexibility for the future – when the Cubs will have to shell out even more to retain current talent.

Hopefully, if this Cubs team wins the World Series, then fans will at least have known the key personnel for a while. Red Sox fans all seem so bittersweet-maybe to some degree it’s because they couldn’t get over the hump until they spent more than everybody else (just about).

Refreshingly, the Cubs aren’t trying to exploit that system; they’re trying to beat it. Sammy Sosa didn’t want to be a part of the team, and having him around hindered any trends toward cohesiveness-he’s a player who wanted to leave.

If you want to leave, you can-and that’s only reason to part with the face of a franchise.

With Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, Todd Walker, Michael Barrett, Nomar Garciaparra, Greg Maddux, and (soon) Jeremy Burnitz all signing in the last few years with the Cubs, there are already plenty of new faces.

Hopefully they choose to stick around for a while. Many of those players chose to play for the Cubs in part because they wanted to be a part of the Wrigley Field experience.

Newly elected Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg probably wishes now that he was around to profit off of the current free agent frenzy.

He was overlooked for Hall status for the last few years because he played for a bad Cubs team his entire career.

Nevertheless, as a Cubs fan, I will surely look back with greater fondness on his 11 years at second base than I will Nomar’s stay at shortstop. Even if Nomar hits .400 and the Cubs win the series.

Teams should have character, and fans should be allowed to build relationships with their teams. Kids shouldn’t have to hear that their favorite player got shipped out of town every year.

Jim Hendry ought to be applauded for not messing with a good thing. And if it turns out it’s not a good thing, I promise I’ll learn to love it anyway. Can’t be too hard, right?

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