Observations, insinuations, ruminations and unvarnished opinions . . .
AS THE PHILLIES tiptoe into what promises to be a daunting offseason of adding and subtracting, healing bodies and mending fences, one pervasive fear seems to be gripping the fans.
Manager-in-waiting Ryne Sandberg will be managing somebody's big-league ballclub in 2012. And it will not be this one.
Many of you immediately concluded that Sandberg was gone the minute former Red Sox child prodigy Theo Epstein was hired to use his big Harvard brain to awaken the Chicago Cubs from 103 years of stony sleep.
Epstein helped reverse the Curse of the Bambino that held the Boston Red Sox in thrall since Babe Ruth led them to their last World Series title in 1918 - ironically over the post-Billy Goat Cubs. The Curse was finally exorcised in 2004, with the Red Sox becoming the first team in LCS history to rally from an 0-3 hole, stunning the Yankees and then sweeping the Cardinals and "Pa Bell," Tony La Russa.
The Phillies' footprints vicariously tap-danced on a moment that returned New England's 86-year inferiority complex to arrogance.
Terry Francona, unceremoniously banished here, was the manager. Curt Schilling, who lobbied his way to World Series heroism in Arizona, bloody-socked his way to Beantown immortality.
With his expensive team favored to win the 2011 pennant, Terry presided over the most precipitous final month collapse in baseball history. Francona, reportedly too zonked on pain pills for a knee gone bad to exercise proper command and control, was relieved of his job. Theo, himself in clandestine negotiations with the Cubs, was ordered to ditch a manager who had won him two rings.
If Epstein thought Boston had become an untenable situation - exacerbated by his own really bad acquisitions - he has now descended into the Seventh Ring of Baseball hell.
There should be a sign over the entrance to rococo Wrigley Field, the Field of Dreams where winning isn't everything; it's the totally irrelevant thing.
The sign should read: "Abandon All Hope of a World Series Championship Ye Who Enter Here."
In Greek mythology, the gates of the underworld were guarded by Cerberus, a giant three-headed dog.
In Cubs mythology, that dog would be air-headed Carlos Zambrano.
Theo Epstein inherits Zambrano, who might be the worst Chicago team player since Black Sox ringleader Charles Arnold "Chick" Gandil. Zambrano doesn't throw games, however. He throws whole clubhouses. Assaults teammates, glowers at them after errors.
So maybe Theo was just trying to scrawl a pre-trade smiley face on a villain who spent 30 days on the disqualified list without pay after an ejection and clubhouse meltdown last August. Epstein said he wants to get more production out of Zambrano and salary anvil Alfonso Soriano in 2012.
The Cubs owe Z, as in diZaZter, $18 million next season. One way or another, they'll be paying him that, either for playing, for being released, or for being traded.
The Cubs owe Soriano, no longer much more than an average player, $54 million through 2014.
Both players have full no-trade clauses.
Bottom line, Epstein has taken over an awful ballclub with major issues. This is not the kind of club you want to hand to a rookie manager, particularly local hero Sandberg. This is a job for Genghis Khan, Josef Stalin or somebody unafraid of blood purges. Larry Bowa, Dallas Green's shortstop in Chicago, would be perfect. There are no Scott Rolens to worry about offending with this bunch.
Theo Epstein is known for his formulaic approach to assembling a baseball team. His computer must have downloaded a virus in 2011.
Perhaps the one formula that would work for Theo is E=mc2. As in blow the thing up. Worked fine in 1945, the last year the Cubs played in a World Series.
Tuffy goes silver
USA Baseball sent a collection of prospects and minor league veterans to the Pan Am Games and that May-December mix brought home silver.
One of the catchers on the veteran side of the roster was Tuffy Gosewisch, 27, a 7-year Phillies minor leaguer who hit 13 homers at Reading last season. You might remember Roy Halladay praising Gosewisch for the way he handled him in several exhibition games last season. Tuffy shared catching duties with traded former Phils prospect Travis D'Arnaud, who was the Eastern League player of the year for the Blue Jays' pennant-winning New Hampshire affiliate.
After hanging on to finally dethrone Cuba, previous winner of every Pan Am title since 1967, in a 12-10 semifinal thriller, Team USA lost to Canada, 2-1, for the Gold. Lefthanded reliever/DH Joe Savery was a member of both the World Cup and Pan Am teams.
Jaws prophecy fulfilled
Of all the words that have been rained on the Eagles during their unseemly 2-4 start, one take by ESPN Monday Night Footballer Ron Jaworski during a preseason TV analysis of the Birds proved prophetic. Jaws said this:
"I know the term Dream Team has been mentioned. The Eagles organization despised that word. They know it is going to be difficult with zero OTAs and rookies not getting their playbook and veterans that were signed not getting their playbook . . . I think it is going to be difficult to get off to a fast start. Teams that have stability in their coaching staffs and players are going to be the teams to beat this year."
For the Eagles, so far, one out of two ain't bad.
Googlers remember . . . God sees you.
Q: Phil Rizzuto was doing his Yankees' postgame show when the news broke that Pope Paul VI had died. What was the Scooter's classic take?
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