New Era Begins

A new era in the Chicago Cubs front office officially began Sunday. In an unforeseen announcement following Sunday's 8-5 win over Colorado in the Cubs' season finale, Andy MacPhail announced his resignation as Team President and CEO at a post-game news conference at Wrigley Field.

John McDonough will take over as interim Team President in the wake of MacPhail's resignation. MacPhail joined the Cubs in September, 1994 after previously serving as Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Minnesota Twins, who won two World Series in his stay there.

"This isn't my proudest day," MacPhail told an entourage of reporters following Sunday's win over the Rockies. "I've worked for the Tribune Company for 12 years and the arrangement we've always had is a handshake deal. The deal was the relationship would continue as long as both parties were happy with it and content."

The Cubs reached the post-season only twice – 1998 and 2003 – in MacPhail's tenure with the club. He will assist the Cubs in what he described as "league matters" and in helping with the transition of McDonough, currently the Cubs' Vice President of Marketing and Broadcasting.

"All of you in this room know John and that he's been probably the best marketing operation in baseball," Tribune Co. President and CEO Dennis FitzSimons said. "He's creative, knowledgeable and impressive. He's been around the game for 23 years."

FitzSimons knows that the role of Team President is about distributing a winner on the field; not in the marketing department.

"John is going to work with (Cubs GM) Jim Hendry and the rest of the organization to prepare for 2007," FitzSimons said. "They have one mandate and that is to win for our incredibly loyal Cubs fans. They're going to focus on every facet of the organization to determine what we can do better to deliver a winner for our fans."

The Cubs drew over 3,000,000 fans at Wrigley Field this season for the third consecutive year, including 39,000-plus in Sunday's finale.

McDonough was asked, realistically, how soon he thought the Cubs could reach the World Series.

"Realistically, I think you want to go into every season thinking you are going to win the World Series," McDonough said. "Our goal is to win the World Series next year and the year after that. I think you have to be careful and realistic, but with the resources that were given, and with the decisions that need to be made, I think the Cubs will win the World Series and I think they'll win the World Series soon."

McDonough was then asked how the Cubs would go about doing that.

"We're early in the process," he said without going into much detail. "I laid out to Crane Kenney and to Dennis what my plan would be. I'd like to discuss it with them further. I'd like to spend some time and talk to Andy MacPhail, which I will do in the near future. I think they felt it was the right direction and the right plan.

"There are 29 other teams in baseball that have the same feeling. We need to reward these people (the fans). These are the greatest fans in the history of sports. We have not won the World Series in 98 years. We have a terrific general manager in Jim Hendry. Jim will get all the resources he needs, and it's time to win."

MacPhail said the decision to step down came about some time in July when he met with ownership officials, including Kenney (the Tribune's Senior Vice President and General Counsel) and FitzSimons.

"I met with Dennis and it was obvious to me that the losses were wearing on Dennis," MacPhail said. "He's a very competitive guy and he wants to win. He said, ‘Andy, we just have to try something different. It's tough.'

"He said a lot of nice things, which I appreciate, but I agree: it's tough. The clock on the MacPhail-o-meter has run down to zero."

The Cubs finished 2006 with a 66-96 record, their fewest wins since the 2000 club won only 65 games under then manager Don Baylor. Prior to Sunday, that was also the last time a Cubs team placed last in the division.

Among other things, MacPhail was asked why the Cubs' farm system has struggled to continually produce position players at the major league level.

"One thing is we place an emphasis on pitching," MacPhail noted. "If you look at teams that win and go into the post-season, they do it with pitching. We've placed an emphasis intentionally on pitching and if you make any objective study over the last 10 or 12 years, the Cubs have developed more pitching than any other team in the big leagues.

"With the position players," he said, "we've done poorly. Part of that is by the fact that we emphasize pitching and part of it is because we just haven't done as good a job as we should have. The only reason I didn't say we've done very poorly is because if you look at guys like Hee Seop Choi and Bobby Hill, they help bring you Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez."

Asked what was most frustrating, MacPhail said: "inconsistency."

"This year has been an example to a degree," he said. "Jim goes out and makes several acquisitions: (Scott) Eyre, (Bob) Howry, (Jacque) Jones, (Juan) Pierre. If you look at the basis of the stats over the end of the season, they gave you pretty much what you expect and hope. But it was the foundation that he thought he was building on that just sort of evaporated."

"It's been a curious thing with this franchise," MacPhail added. "The last couple of years ... we've had our most highest priced players on the disabled list for much of the season. Anything that you think you had when you go out and make additions, those guys have generally paid off.

"The measure of inconsistency has been higher here than I think it is with most clubs. I wish I could say I knew why that was."

MacPhail praised the Tribune Co. for "longevity" and continued to harp on the Cubs' endless misfortunes on the injury front.

"Too much of the payroll has been sitting on the sidelines," MacPhail said. "It's nobody's fault; just fact. Whether it was Nomar and Kerry (Wood) last year or D-Lee this year -- and obviously it's not D-Lee's fault that he broke his wrist -- but you've had too much of it that hasn't been able to be applied on the field. I don't mean that in the way of excuses; it's just a fact.

"Nobody can do anybody any good if they're not on the field," he added.

MacPhail isn't likely the only recognizable face that will soon be absent from the Cubs. Manager Dusty Baker will learn his fate as the team's skipper Monday, one day after his four-year contract with the club expired.

As for MacPhail, he said, "There's one rule that applies to everybody: you've got to win and if you don't win, it's subject to change. That's what this business is about and has always been about."


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