If any franchise has a tie with its past, well ... OK, fine, that franchise would be the New York Yankees. If there is another franchise, it would be the Cubs, but for opposite reasons; the Yankees judge themselves by legacy of success, while the Cubs must swallow their history of failure. But in both cases, beloved former players become franchise monoliths, whose opinions are many and whose insights must be absorbed.
Such is the case with Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, and Billy Williams, and so the Tribune's Fred Mitchell -- the Trib's go-to guy for interviewing retired athletes -- solicited the former stars' advice for new Cubs owner Tom Ricketts. Their thoughts? Improve the farm system. Now that's groundbreaking insight:
"I feel very strongly that the farm system is where your good talent comes from," said Santo, who will turn 69 on Feb. 25. "And you need talent from trades also. I think the big picture here in the last three years is that Jim Hendry has done a fabulous job."
Said Williams: "It's just a matter of developing the farm system. If you get a good farm system, you can come up with good players from year to year. There was a time when people kind of got away from that. You want to develop some ballplayers who have an allegiance to the ballclub like Santo and myself."
Both of them are right -- the Cubs' farm system needs to improve, but not for the reasons they list. It's not about loyalty. It's about money. Developing good young talent is much, much cheaper than trying to sign every big free agent that hits the market, or trying to trade for high-priced players in the last years of their deals. Stockpiling talent at the developmental level is the best way for a franchise to not only win, but to cut costs and improve its services and hey, maybe lower ticket prices from time to time.
In any case, thanks for the momentary wisdom, old guys. You may now return to the Official Cubs Veteran Hyperbaric Chamber; you will be contacted prior to spring training. Good day.