I was looking over CCD's latest post this evening at Waxpaperbeercup, and I got stuck on one particular paragraph (no, not the one where he links to my blog - but it is appreciated):
"The complaining about Piniella and Hendry is now being heard throughout the fandom and the media. I’ve gotta be real honest here, I wouldn’t fire either one over this season. Yes, the team has not lived up to expectations, but they have not been awful either. After the success of 2007 and 2008 I think both Hendry and Piniella have earned the opportunity for a mulligan."
I'm with CCD on not firing Lou. This team would have gone the way of the 1985 or 1990 Cubs long before now with almost anyone else at the helm. With all of the injuries, and all of the piss-poor performances from guys all over the roster, it is simply amazing that the Cubs are still only 4 1/2 games out of first.
As for the reprieve for Jim Hendry, I can't agree. Jim has used his mulligan. He's actually used a few. I have defended Hendry for years, but the mounting indictments against him have grown to where I can't argue for retaining him with a straight face. It seems that for every right move he has made, there are three that need to be corrected later, usually by either eating a ton of salary or overpaying for a free agent that is meant to correct the mistake.
It took him at least a year longer than anyone else to come to grips with the fact that Kerry Wood and Mark Prior were never going to lead this team anywhere besides the All Injury Hall of Fame and we lost two prime years of Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee's careers as a result. He was fooled, not once, but twice by lefty toolsy little centerfielders who were supposed to be keystones in the organization for years.
He caved to whatever marketing-side pressure he got in not moving Sammy Sosa before he fell off the table (and yes, I was screaming for him to trade Sosa to the Yankees for a package of players that included a young and productive Alfonso Soriano). Then he caved again after the Dusty debacle to sign a name and gave the aging Soriano a ridiculously long deal that seemed foolish even before Soriano lost any semblance of being a 40-40 guy.
Hendry was incapable of filling the holes in right and center as a result of his mismanagement of the roster, despite being given ample money to sign free agents to do so. He gave $48 million to a player that the Cubs hyped as a mix of Ichiro and Hideki Matsui. I took that to mean that Fukudome wasn't as fast as Ichiro and didn't have Matsui's power, and would therefore be quite mediocre. That has, unfortunately, been proven quite true.
To fix that error, he went out and signed Milton Bradley because he drove in a career high 77 runs last year. Forget the malcontentedness and propensity to get injured. Jim Hendry thought a guy who drove in less than 80 runs in one of the most offensively friendly ballparks possible outside of the Rockies, and surrounded by an absolutely stacked lineup was worth $30 million. I said in February that the best case scenario was that we get the equivalent to Mark Grace, and here we are with his high OBP and hardly any other run-producing accomplishments. Who is the novice and who is the expert here?
Granted, the man had limitations this year, but it is these limitations that has exposed his exceedingly inconsistent decision-making ability when it comes to improving the roster. In past years, it has been masked by making splashy, expensive deals to improve the roster. This year, with the ownership question lingering over him, he has been unable to unmake what he made.
I'm sure he knows that signing Aaron Miles was a colossal mistake. I'm sure he's wishing he had just taken a big pile of money and burned it instead of handing it to Miles. But he can't do anything about it. He's already eaten so much salary this year with his other bad contracts that he probably can't go to his bosses and explain again how he pissed away $5 million for no gain and that the roster spot is more valuable than Miles' warm body occupying it.
The Cubs have had bad luck this year. There is no doubt that no GM could have foreseen all of the crazy shit that has happened to the Cubs since they broke camp in Mesa. Nevertheless, this year has done nothing to show that Hendry has any clue how to build a consistent winner short of tossing money around.
This organization needs a plan, and all levels need to work to that end goal. In the Jim Hendry era, the Cubs have nobody developed in their system that can be considered a key building block. Geovany Soto may still be if he can stay off the weed and lose some damn weight, but his rookie season is looking more like the aberration than the rule.
Ryan Theriot is not a shortstop. He is a mediocre second baseman playing out of position because Hendry failed in every effort to fill the shortstop position by other means. He has performed admirably given his lack of height, talent, and intelligence, but he is not an All-Star and he never will be.
Jim Hendry stole Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. He managed to acquire two halfway decent players in exchange for Todd Hundley when it seemed unlikely anyone would be willing to part with a bucket of spit for him. He signed Ted Lilly from a hospital bed. He rolled the dice on Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Jim Edmonds, and Kenny Lofton and won.
He has done good things, but he can't seem to oversee a farm system that can produce any players better than the occasional flash in the pan. He can't keep the payroll from climbing through the roof without seeing results on the field. He can not close the deal.
If this team can't manage to reverse its fortunes and climb into the playoffs, Hendry needs to go. Assuming the new owners are in place sometime before the end of the year, I would argue that anything short of a miraculous World Series run should mean a change for next year.