Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rating the Hate 4: Live Free or Suck Hard

We've hated the position players, the pitchers, and the coaches, but the hate probably most deservedly belongs with the guys who wear the suits, or in Jim Hendry's case, the rumpled sports jacket.

Jim Hendry - 8.0 - As much as everything that Hendry touched turned to gold last season with resurrecting Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds off the scrap heap, rolling the dice and winning on a rookie catcher, acquiring a front line starter in Rich Harden to counteract the blockbuster acquisition of Sabathia by the Brewers, and flip-flopping the roles of Dempster and Wood, the exact opposite has occurred with just about every move he has made this season.

Obviously, the acqusitions of Bradley, Gregg, and Miles could have worked out better, but those acquisitions are just the tip of the iceberg. Suddenly all the extensions he has given the veterans have turned into the worst contracts known to mankind. Soriano has been a disaster and I cry whenever I look up how much money the Cubs still owe him, so I'm just going to say its about twenty times more than I'll ever make in my lifetime and leave it at that.

Fukudome and Bradley are both untradeable without eating most of the money owed them, and even then its debatable whether they can be moved. Guys with value like Lee and Zambrano have no-trade clauses. It is very difficult to see how this roster can be much different next year given that the new owners can't be ready to eat millions of dollars in salary with almost nothing of value in return that would keep the people in the seats.

My big problem with Hendry is that he failed to build up the farm system as both the Director of Player Development and then when he was elevated to General Manager. When the Tribune allowed him to spend money that they thought soon would be on a different owner's books, he failed to build a team that could close the deal when the playoffs started.

Yes, Lou Piniella felt that the team needed more left handed balance in the lineup, but it was Jim Hendry who settled on the brittle, angry, over-rated Bradley as that left-handed bat. He was the one who made the decision to make Mike Fontenot an everyday player. He is the one who gave $5 million dollars to Aaron Miles for having one freak season in his entire career of being a shitty hitter and crappy fielder.

Hendry has been given every opportunity to build this team from the inside and by spending like a maniac and neither plan has worked.

It would be one thing if he was never right. If he was just a terrible General Manager who botched everything, we could just be pissed that Hendry even has a job, but this is the guy who stole Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. He did resurrect Dempster's career, and Ted Lilly could be one of the best free agent signings in the history of the Cubs. He managed to undo Lynch's albatross around the club's neck named Todd Hundley. He has had great moments.

Those teases make us want more. They make us want to believe that this is the guy who will answer our cries and end the years of championshipless baseball. But then he gives Aaron Miles $5 million and i start to think he must have done it while he was really drunk.

It makes one wonder whether he can do anything to correct this mess and get a team that isn't such a mediocre, fundamentally baseless team out on the field. My hate level is higher than maybe he deserves, but he has done almost nothing right this year at all.

Crane Kenney - 8.5 - The problems in the Cubs organization start at the top, and that, right now, is Crane Kenney. Kenney is the one who greenlighted Jim Hendry's spendathon, and it will be Crane Kenny that will continue in his role and expect us to pay for all of Jim's mistakes while the roster doesn't improve and the window for this team closes completely.

He hasn't been in the job long enough to be blamed for the the entirety of the Cubs' failure this year, but he hasn't done anything to correct the fundamental flaws in the Cubs' system. He is more concerned with developing revenue streams than players in the farm system. The Cubs can't seem to evaluate talent with any degree of proficiency, but Crane gets on the radio and talks about the Triangle Building and improvements to Wrigley Field.

Obviously, putting butts in the seats and being creative in finding revenue streams is important to anyone who doesn't want to be hiking out to Schaumburg or some other suburb to watch the Cubs play in a new stadium with a jumbotron, skyboxes, swimming pool, and whatever other crap they throw into ballparks nowadays. My point is that he should occasionally sound marginally concerned about the actual product that his entire organization is producing, and not just what is on the field that very moment.

Crane Kenny is not a baseball man. He is, at best, a casual fan in a position of power. He thinks it would be great if the Cubs win the World Series, but I don't get any indication that is what drives him when he goes into work each day. A baseball man probably would have questioned Hendry's acquisition of Soriano, and I'm not 100% convinced that Hendry didn't receive orders to sign the star power of Soriano as a marketing tool meant to make people forget about the stench of 2005 and 2006.

Even if that isn't true and he hasn't been around long enough for the hate rating to go into Miles territory, its up there pretty high because I still can't forgive him for bringing in a f---ing priest to bless the Cubs dugout before the playoffs last year. That was ridiculous and unforgivable of a man that is supposed to set the tone for the organization.

Sam Zell - 9.0 - Zell's purchase of the Tribune and subsequent announcement of the sale of the Cubs coincided with the beginning of the 2007 season, and the drawn out sale of the team has been the elephant in the room ever since.

His desire to avoid taxes and extend the bidding process to draw out the largest value for the team completely backfired as the economy tanked, banks stopped loaning money to anyone, and the intrinsic value of the franchise declined precipitously.

There was a time when Mark Cuban thought he would have to bid $1.2 billion on the team to even be taken seriously and now it looks like the Ricketts may have seriously overpaid at $845 million.

Now the team is faced with having about $450 million in debt. Its not hard to envision a dismantling of the team and its high-priced talent in order to allow the Ricketts to pay down that debt faster.

So, instead of selling the team quick, he allowed a spending spree to financially screw the team long-term because he didn't think it would be his problem for long. Then, when they had dug themselves a hole that only spending more money would fix, he froze the salary level and tied Jim Hendry's hands as injuries and general crappiness beset the team.

This is what happens when your owner could give a flying f--- about baseball. This is the sort of shit that only happens to the Cubs.


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