Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Two-Thirds "Compromise"

Future Considerations comrade and occasional contributor JR Day is one sad panda right now.

Chris DeLuca reports in the Chicago Sun Times that the entire Cubs coaching staff has been purged, and this includes Larry Rothschild.

It was a move that had to be made, just like the non-retention of manager Dusty Baker had to be made, and just like Andy MacPhail had to resign from his position as team CEO.

But all is not well in Cubdom. They are only two thirds of the problem.

Where is the last third of the problem? If we go by weight, it might be safe to say that two thirds of the problem remains, but if we go by people, which is standard in the United States, then one-third remains, and that one-third is Jim Hendry.

Up until this past season it's safe to say that Jim Hendry was given, for the most part, a free pass from most Cubs fans. Why wouldn't we give him that free pass? He built the Cubs farm system into a juggernaut in the late 90s and early 2000s, with the system gaining praise from all corners of the baseball world. He had his first downer when he was given the reins to orchestrate a trade with Florida for Antonio Alfonseca. The trade ended up netting the Cubs Alfonseca and Matt Clement, and in return, all we had to do was send them Dontrelle Willis.

At the point of the Clement for Willis trade [Branlee editorial: "Which really wasn't all that bad when you put it in context. We were getting a guy who, while not too great, was an 'established closer' (take that however you want), and we picked up a guy who could be a bottom of the rotation starter now. At that point, the Cubs thought Dontrelle was at least two years away (he turned out to be only one year away, and if he had stayed a Cub he'd just be getting his ML debut in 2006), and we ended up getting the three best years of Matt Clement's career. Coming off a decent 2001 season where we discovered that we needed another bottom of the rotation starter, Matt Clement filled that need, and he pitched damn well. At the time, it was a pretty good trade for the Cubs."] Hendry was not yet officially the general manager. That's a position he would be given in the middle of the 2002 season when the Cubs had fallen far out of contention for anything, and Don Baylor had also found his way out the door.

The Jim Hendry era started with a bang in 2003 when he put together an 85 win team that won 88 games and came within 5 outs of the World Series. It peaked in the offseason of 2003-2004 when he turned that 85 win team into a 95 win team, plus added Nomar Garciaparra at the trading deadline to fill the offensive black hole that was Alex Gonzalez. That 95 win team, however, deteriorated into an 89 win team and failed to make the playoffs.

At some point after the 2004 trading deadline, Jim Hendry forgot how to be a Major League general manager.

...or maybe it's that he just never knew how to be a Major League general manager, and all of the bomb ass trades he made just fell into his lap because of other teams' financial problems [See: Grudzielanek and Karros for Hundley; Lee for Choi; Ramirez and Lofton for Hill; the entire Garciaparra trade (which wasn't really financially motivated, unless you count the Expos trading Cabrera, but the bottom line is that the trade fell into Hendry's lap)] and the trades he's made when he actually has to go out and orchestrate the deal turn out really awful [See: Alfonseca and Clement for Willis (to an extent); the Juan Pierre trade; Maddux for Izturis (Branlee editorial: Jim Hendry, seriously, come the fuck on.)]

The bottom line here is that something happened to Jim Hendry after 2004. I don't really care what happened to Jim Hendry, nor do I care when it happened to him. The 2005-2006 disasters fall more on his shoulders than they do the shoulders of the CEO or the coaching staff. He's the one that put the team together, he's the one that made the 25 man roster, and he should be held accountable for putting together a team with an opening day payroll of 95 million dollars, when everyone knew that there really wasn't a chance in hell that the team would go better than .500.

[Edited to add: ...I completely forgot to go over the completely insane crop of free agent contracts that Hendry gave, especially this offseason. Scott Eyre, Bob Howry, Jacque Jones, to go on top of extentions for Ryan Dempster, Neifi Perez and Glendon Rusch! The former three cost us our second, third and fourth round draft picks. We're just lucky we were crappy enough in 2005 to have a top 15 pick or else our first rounder would've been gone, too. But yeah, those signings do more for the crappy situation than the trades, I just neglected to mention them. I'm trying to forget that they happened because it's just that painful, but I can't seem to shake it.]

It doesn't matter who the Cubs pick as the next manager. It doesn't matter that John McDonough was named the new president. Neither of them have any control over the talent that's on the roster. The manger puts the team on the field, and the president has to turn a profit.

Jim Hendry, you've had your four years. Hell, you've had longer than that. The past two seasons are on you, at least as much as they're on everyone else...and your time is up.

The third pillar needs to fall and it needs to fall soon.

On, there's a new counter up on the home page now that Dusty Baker's contract has expired. It's called "Countdown to a Century of Brilliance." In just more than 728 days, it will be a full hundred years since the Chicago Cubs have won a World Series...

...and there's no end in sight.

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