The next two weeks are absolutely crucial for the Cubs.
No, not for 2011. It's crucial for 2012.
So on goes the conversation about whether Jim Hendry will be the general manager after this season, but in reality next season begins right now.
Owner Tom Ricketts has made it sound like Hendry and Co. will be back next season, though he certainly reserves the right to change his mind in October, and any public position he takes at the present means precisely nothing.
The only problem with that is the changes for next season begin immediately, and if ultimately Ricketts determines Hendry won't be here, the owner will have missed another chance to get this right.
Ricketts already has allowed Hendry to make the Matt Garza deal, sending four top prospects to Tampa, and he allowed Hendry to give Mike Quade two years on his deal, not to mention many other key moves that affect the future.
Now, he's allowing Hendry to determine the shape of the 2012 roster with moves that Hendry will make before July 31 -- or moves that he'll choose not to make.
Either way, Hendry is putting in place the pieces or removing those he doesn't believe are necessary.
He's also holding on to players who might have great market value because he believes they will be a big part of 2012 and beyond. He may be right or he may be wrong with those choices, but whatever the choices are, they'll be Hendry's.
So if Ricketts really has it in mind to make major front-office changes at the end of the season, the changes should have been made already.
Not in October, not in September and not even 15 minutes from now. Those changes should be made immediately.
So speak now, Mr. Ricketts, or forever hold your GM's hand through another winter, spring and summer.
If changes are made after this season, and if Ricketts fires Hendry then after letting him shape the team now, he's going to look really foolish and will have some serious explaining to do about why the changes weren't made in June when the season was obviously over.
Frankly, it would be unconscionable.
No fan am I of Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez, but the criticism of Ramirez for skipping an exhibition game is really unfair.
Ramirez probably deserved to be the NL starter in the All-Star Game and wasn't even selected until Sunday morning, long after he planned to join his family on holiday.
I don't blame him one bit for blowing off a game that long ago stopped being relevant on any level.
Boston manager Terry Francona on the All-Star Game: "Maybe the significance of this game has run its course. … There's maybe better ways to figure out home field. … I just think the way they're playing the game, with the fan voting, they want interviews in the dugout, they want a lot of things to make it not like a regular-season game, and then at the end you end up treating it like the most important regular-season game of the year. … It's just not real consistent, and there is a lot riding on it."
Keep an eye on Graeme McDowell and Lee Westwood in Round 2.
McDowell started with a double, made the turn at 2-over, and went 4-under on the back in perfect playing conditions with a birdie-birdie finish to end the day at 2-under.
Westwood also went out in 3-over and came back to finish 1-over.
To Wheaton's Tee-k Kelly, who went wire to wire, finishing 2 strokes ahead in the Boys Division of the American Junior Golf Association Columbus (Ohio) Junior at the OSU Golf Club.
I'm the first to admit I know nothing about anything, and I know even less about U.S. women's soccer.
But I watched the semifinal game against France on Wednesday and really enjoyed Team USA's victory, and therefore intend to watch the final match Sunday (1 p.m., ESPN) against Japan.
Make me laugh
Some of David Letterman's Top Ten Signs You're Watching A Bad All-Star Game:
•It's being telecast on C-SPAN3.
•Biggest name is esteemed umpire Bruce Dreckman.
•Each team required to start at least three Kardashians.
•No matter how much alcohol you consume, it doesn't get any better.
•By the third inning, 95 percent of the players have been deported.
•It's a brisk seven hours.
•Due to the extreme heat, Bud Selig is nude.
Omaha World-Herald's Brad Dickson: "Maurice Clarett is speaking out in defense of (Jim) Tressel and Ohio State. Now if they can only get O.J. Simpson, Barry Bonds, the Chicago Black Sox, sprinter Ben Johnson and Rosie Ruiz behind them, the Buckeyes will be in good shape."
Sportspickle.com: "Home Run Derby outcome gives home-ice advantage to Eastern Conference in 2012 Stanley Cup Final."
And finally …
Miami Herald's Greg Cote: "Former Cowboys executive Gil Brandt said he thought Brett Favre might change his mind again and want to play. At least that's what I thought Gil said. I started screaming before he could finish."
•Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM.