To: Tom Ricketts
CC: Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer
We met once. You probably don’t remember. It was at a fancy, thousand-dollar-a-plate fundraiser at the UIC Forum, a Friends of the Chicago Library thing where they give out awards to three writers and have a million other writers milling about. You probably paid the thousand bucks; not me, I was one of the other million writers, so me and my wife got free chicken and wine. If you DO remember, though, what you probably remember is that I had some pretty good ideas about Bunting, Beating the Shift, and Mental Health Days for Players.
Very good ideas, if I can say so.
And that brings me to the reason for my letter. I think I’d make a better Cub manager than Joe Madden, or at least would like to be considered his logical replacement in a couple of years when he rides off into the sunset to make tie-dyed wrist bands or paint endangered desert rats or whatever it is he’s going to do in his Next Phase.
I don’t really know the formal application process, so how about we do this? I’m going to briefly give you my credentials and then some thoughts on what I’d bring to the Cubs. Then I’d like to give you a couple reasons this is a good idea to hire me.
First, a little about me. I’m a writer. Been a teacher. Run a non-profit literary group. Stay-at-home dad. Played ball in my youth, but peaked a little early; I’d say the 12-year-old Citizens National team was probably the year everything clicked best, and I can dig up the stats from that if you need them. (Upon request). And I’ve watched a lot of Cubs baseball. I mean: A LOT. You couldn’t tell me anything about Steve Swisher I don’t already know, and don’t even try to sneak a Carmen Fanzone trivia question past me. You could say I’ve been studying the Cubs since I was a little kid, which goes back to the Fergie, Billy, Ron, and Ernie days.
Here’s what I know:
• My general philosophy is, “Don’t overthink this.” The other day, Mike Montgomery was cruising along—one hit, no walks, no runs—when he gave up a little roller toward third that the batter beat out for a single. Montgomery struck out the next two batters. Then Joe comes strolling to the mound, takes Monty out because he’s a lefty and there’s a righty coming up. Everybody watching the game could see that Montgomery was fine—more than fine—and if Joe stays in the dugout we’re out of the inning. In other words, believe your eyes, not your spray charts.
• No reason these professional hitters should keep grounding out against the shift. When I’m manager of the Cubs, Rizzo and Schwarber and the rest of them will learn (we’re going to go Old School and play Pepper all offseason) to poke the ball to the vacated spots. Over and over and over and over, until, POOF, shift’s done. That’s when we get back to ripping base hits up the middle and to the pull side. Our training t-shirts will say, “Shift This, Motherfuckers!” (Trademark applied for).
• Stealing bases is helpful and we should do it more. Me, I’m not a big advanced metrics guy. I don’t know all the whatnot about increased chances of winning and all that. What I know is a guy on first probably doesn’t score on a hit but a guy on second probably does. I also know that really fast guys can steal bases, or even not-quite-as-fast guys can steal bases against shitty catchers or disinterested pitchers. Yet when I look at our Cubbie base runners, they look like they got shit to catch up on with the first baseman and can’t be bothered to even get a decent lead. They look like they’re waiting for a shuttle to come by and take them to home plate. Me, I’m going to tell Almora to go ahead and swipe, especially in cases where, say, Addison Russell and then the pitcher are coming up next. A base hit to score him might still be unlikely, but two hits gets you into Winning the Powerball territory.
• Tyler Chatwood and The Like: Unusable. Un-usable. I know, I know, I’m the manager (or should be). I don’t sign players or negotiate contracts, I just make out the lineup cards. I also know you can’t send Tyler to the minors due to contract whatnot. But here’s how I’m going to bail Theo and Jed out of their colossal fuck up: make Tyler want to quit. If I understand correctly, we’re on the hook to pay not play guys under contract. So give him an inning in a blowout. Have him chart pitches in both ends of a double header. I might ask him to get Cole Hamels some Gatorade or help look for Pedro Strop’s sunglasses. Like that. Ultimately, Tyler is going to ask himself, “Do I want to hold Jon Lester’s jock for the next five years, or go down to the minors and see if I can get this fixed?”
• It’s a long season and guys need days off. But here’s where you all have it wrong: it’s not a day off if you still have to come to the job. I hear Maddon say, “We’re giving Bryant the day off today,” but that’s not true. Kris Bryant had to come to the ball park. He had to dress. Take hitting practice. Stretch. Sit on the bench for four hours. That’s not what you do on a day off; that’s what you do when you get dizzy and somebody makes you sit down for your own good. My idea is: don’t come to the office today. Sure, us Cubbies will be one short that day, but we can roll the dice once in a while and odds are a 15-inning game won’t bite us in the ass. Especially with pitchers. Kyle Hendricks isn’t scheduled to start until Sunday? Hey, take your kids to the zoo on Saturday, Kyle; enjoy some family time. Brandon Morrow just saved three straight games and is “unavailable” for the fourth? Go hit the blackjack table, Brandon; we’ll see you game after next. Everybody on the team except Tyler Chatwood gets a mental health day a month.
• My idea about bunting is, just learn how to do it. No matter who you are. Being an enormous home run hitter doesn’t mean you can’t square around and lay one down. When we need a bunt, anybody wearing a Cubs jersey should be able to make it happen. When do we need a bunt? Let’s say there’s a pitcher, pretty good one, but he’s lousy at fielding bunts. Our own Jon Lester is a prime example. Bunt at him. And then do it again. And again. I mean, a wicked curveball and nasty cut fastball and high velocity mean nothing if you can’t get outs on the seven footers, right?
I have lots more good ideas, but let’s leave it here for now. You should hire me not only for my good ideas, but another thing, as well: cheap. Joe Maddon’s knocking down, what?, five large a year. Believe me, I’m going to do it for less, A LOT less, and we use the savings on a bullpen arm. Also: nights work for me, and since you hardly play day games anymore, I’m pretty much open.
I think the next step is to sit down for an interview. I can come to Wrigley pretty much any time (I’ve got a very flexible schedule right now), and am fine either way: skybox or those premium seats down near the rail I see you at sometimes. You choose.
I look forward to this opportunity. Yours, Don