"You have to make haste slowly in this business," says Bob Whitlow, the new athletic director of the Cubs. Clearly, the Cubs are making haste with record-shattering slowness. Much as Whitlow, a retired Air Force colonel with no professional baseball background, would like to help win some games, his first chore is even more vital—and difficult. He must establish a chain of command, a task that has already proved touchy. Unless he succeeds there could be even more damaging repercussions on the playing field than those wrought by the ponderous multiple-coach system of the last two seasons.
Whitlow has more or less done away with that coaching setup by naming Bob Kennedy as head coach, or' 'manager," for the entire year. Or did he? Kennedy signed his contract on Nov. 14, intimating very strongly that he was the head coach. Whitlow did not join the team until Feb. 1, and it was not until 19 days later that he announced Kennedy as "manager." This brought up the question of whether Owner Philip K. Wrigley had selected Kennedy. Whitlow says he did not.
"All the players seem to like Whitlow, but they don't know what he's doing," says a Chicago sportswriter. What Whitlow is trying to do is to learn as much about the game and the organization as quickly as he can, a ticklish job since he must pick up much of his knowledge from Kennedy and General Manager John Holland. Several times Whitlow has stated his desire to sit on the bench. Asked if this met with his approval, Kennedy curtly answered, "I'd prefer not." Told of this, Whitlow tactfully said, "I can learn more by watching from the stands."
After seven weeks on the job, Whitlow was requested to redefine his duties at a press conference. His reply: "Actually, I've been shifting gears mentally and becoming more familiar with every phase of the operation." It was an innocuous answer and one which hurt no one's feelings, something that Whitlow will have to be increasingly careful about. If he can straighten out the muddled front-office affairs of the Chicago Cubs, he will have to be regarded by everyone as the best athletic director in organized baseball.
Chicago batters have an emaciated look, a condition that has more to do with their hitting (they were seventh in the NL last year with a .253 BA and eighth with 126 HRs) than the fact that not one of them weighs over 195 pounds. There is a good chance, however, that there will be more muscle in this season's lineup. Some of it should be supplied by rookie Nelson Mathews. At 6 feet 4 and 195 pounds, he is the biggest of the Cubs. Improved performances are expected from Ron Santo and Lou Brock (.263 in 1962). Andre Rodgers hit a much overlooked .278. Most of the offense, though, will be geared around Billy Williams and Ernie Banks. The smooth-swinging Williams (.298, 22 HRs, 92 RBIs) is a pleasure to watch—provided you are not a pitcher. And, although Banks's days as a 45-homer man may be ended and he had the worst average (.269) of his nine-year career in 1962, he is still the most dangerous man on the club. To bolster the offense, the Cubs plan to run even more than a year ago, when they stole 78 bases, the most for them since 1929.
Head Coach Kennedy is hoping his pitching will be improved this year (third-worst ERA in the majors in 1962). Most of his hopes revolve around Larry Jackson (16-11, 3.75 ERA for St. Louis last season), who is the first real topflight starter the club has had in years. Backing him will be Bob Buhl (12-14, 3.87 ERA) and Cal Koonce (10-10, 3.96 ERA as a rookie). Koonce, though, won only two games after July 13. For fourth and fifth starters, Kennedy will have to call on Dick Ellsworth (9-20, 5.08 ERA) and Glen Hobbie (5-14, 5.22 ERA). Laboring in an undistinguished bullpen will be knuckle-bailer Barney Schultz, Dick Le May, ex-Cardinal Lindy McDaniel and Don Elston. McDaniel, once the best reliever in the league, has had two bad years in a row and was unimpressive this spring. Elston, who also ranked with the finest a short while back, pitched only 21‚Öî innings in the second half of last season.
Rodgers, overshadowed by the record-making play of Second Baseman Ken Hubbs (78 consecutive games without an error), has become one of the finest defensive shortstops in the National League. Third Baseman Santo may be a trifle slow getting started at times, but he has improved in the field. Rodgers, Hubbs and Santo were largely responsible for the Cubs' 171 double plays, the third-best total in the major leagues. In the outfield, Williams and Brock are a little less than glue-fingered, but Center Fielder Mathews catches everything in sight. Overall, the Cubs can count defense as one of their few pluses.