Spending a week on a cruise ship tends to take you out of the sports loop.

That was my situation last week as I tuned into ESPN in my cabin and caught the hosts of Baseball Tonight talking about Texas Ranger’s outfielder Josh Hamilton.

I didn’t catch the beginning, but what I heard was something like, “If Hamilton didn’t get messed up with drugs at the beginning of his career, he might be on his way to the Hall of Fame.”

That brought back some very bad memories for me. The Chicago Cubs had him for a second in 2006 before GM Jim Hendry traded him to Cincinnati in a prearranged deal.

That was after the 2006 season when the Cubs finished with 96 losses and needed a little bit of everything, especially a left-handed power bat who could play center field.

They have been searching for that ever since, and still haven’t found that elusive lefty despite repeated attempts during the Hendry regime, including Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley.

Because of the Rule Five draft, the former No. 1 pick in the amateur baseball draft fell into their lap, only for Hendry to drop the ball and make a huge error in judgement.

Here was a five-tool guy that gave you everything you were looking for in a player, and the only risk you had in taking him was the $50,000 you had to pay to draft him. And that really only comes out to $25,000, because you can offer him back to the team you drafted him from for that amount if he doesn’t stay on your roster for the entire year.  

After the 2008 playoffs when the Cubs went down meekly to the Dodgers, manager Lou Piniella complained about the lack of left-handed hitting as the reason the Cubs lost the series.

In my opinion, that was only an excuse, but how good would the Cubs lineup have looked with Hamilton in the three-hole? Who knows, maybe they would have even won a game.

And do you know what the Cubs received from Cincinnati for him? Cash considerations.

How many games has cash considerations won for the Cubs since then?

Meanwhile, the Reds kept him for a year and traded him to Texas for Edinson Volquez, who was 17-6 for them in 2008 before going down with an injury.

They got a good young pitcher, the Rangers got a guy that some people are starting to say is the best player in all of baseball, and the Cubs got cash considerations.

Is there something wrong with this picture?

A good general manager finds a nugget every now and then.

For a guy working with a huge budget, I can’t think of one player Hendry acquired that you could say he did his homework and made a good deal.

Looking at the other side of town and the Chicago White Sox, Kenny Williams acquired starting pitchers John Danks and Gavin Floyd for nothing. He also stole set-up man Matt Thornton for former No. 1 bust-out Joe Borchard along with acquiring Carlos Quentin for a minor leaguer.

That’s not counting closer Bobby Jenks, who he picked up off the scrap heap and who helped lead the team to it’s World Series victory in 2005.

That’s a fifth of the team that is contending for a division championship this year that he put together while giving up basically nothing in return.

Hendry’s claim to fame aside from overpaid, back-loaded contracts with no trade clauses was acquiring Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee for minor leaguers.

While you have to give him credit for pulling the trigger on those deals, they were only made because the other teams, Pittsburgh and Florida, couldn’t afford them and had to dump salary.

Think of what the Cubs team would have looked like since 2003 had he not been able to pull off those deals.

In other words, he has done nothing to improve this ballclub, and in fact, has handcuffed them and doomed them to at least two more years of failure before enough of his ill-fated contracts come off the books.

And this is the guy new Cub owner Tom Ricketts feels confident can rebuild the team to championship status?

Hamilton is currently leading the American League with a .359 average along with 26 home runs and 80 runs batted in. In his breakout year in 2008, he batted .304 with 32 homers and 130 ribbies. His current OPS for you stats guys out there is .1041.

He’s tearing up the American League and the Cubs received cash considerations for him.

Do you really think Jim Hendry should still have a job?

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