Tag: Jim Hendry

Theo Epstein to Chicago Cubs: 5 Ways He Retools the Organization

Theo Epstein will take control as general manager of the Chicago Cubs as soon as the Cubs and Boston Red Sox finalize the deal. Epstein takes the reins of the Cubs after the haphazard tenure of Jim Hendry.

In nine years, Hendry oversaw moderate success. Hendry’s Cubs teams made the playoffs twice and went to the National League Championship Series once.

However, Hendry didn’t do a terrific job running the baseball side of the Cubs in his nine years as general manager.

Hendry spent fortunes on players who weren’t worth their pay (e.g. Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez), and the ChiCubs minor league system was as unproductive as ever.

Epstein will be a refreshing hand leading the club. Following are five ways he’ll recalibrate the Cubs organization.

Begin Slideshow

Chicago Cubs and Jim Hendry in the Final Analysis

Jim Hendry has already gotten the pink slip, so a lot of the venom Cubs fans may have felt is gone. Now, it is time to pick up the pieces and move on. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pieces to pick up. The Cubs have a top-five payroll and stand in fifth place in their division. That alone tells you the kind of analysis that has been done. Furthermore, they haven’t been a factor in the division for several years.

Interestingly enough, this team is not devoid of good players. Quite the contrary, when you look of the number of good players they have, you wonder how they stand in fifth place. This is one of those organizations that consistently makes you scratch your head. Some teams (say the Angels or Rays) make you wonder how they win. With the Cubs, you wonder how they lose. It takes some creativity.


Key Statistics

Team Payroll: 125.0 million (sixth)

Lineup: 17.6

Rotation: 16.6

Bullpen: 18.1

Composite: 17.4

Analysis Score: -11.4


The secret to Hendry’s success (if you can call it that) is that he was not terrible in any phase of the game. The problem was that he was just bad enough to field a losing team. Still, fans could point to players like Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Starling Castro and even Marlon Byrd and say the talent is there. Yes it is, but then there were the contracts for Kosuke Fukodome, Alfonso Soriano and the maddening inconsistency of Geovany Soto.

They weren’t terrible, but they were paying through the nose for mediocre players. Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukodome all made more than 10 million dollars this year. Ramirez may have been the only one who came close to producing on that kind of level. Mind you, I said close. Keeping your job without the benefit of results takes effort. You can’t completely botch moves. They simply have to underachieve enough to the point where the powers that be won’t notice.



In reality, the starting staff isn’t really that bad. Sure, Carlos Zambrano has a toxic personality and the contract to match, but you have three solid starters including Randy Wells, Ryan Dempster and the newly acquired Matt Garza. All of them have pitched well even if their collective ERA doesn’t show it. See, the Cubs are currently last in the National League (and all of MLB) in defense efficiency rating (DER). DER is the inverse of BABIP. The Cubs have a .675 team DER this season. That means that their opponents have a collective .325 BABIP this year. So, Matt Garza is the only starter with a sub 4.00 ERA, but with better luck they could have two or three pitchers there.

That’s also one of the ways in which you can underachieve and still keep your job. While they’ve committed the most errors in the league, that doesn’t always have to be the case. It just means the team makes fewer plays. That’s usually due to lack of range. Range is not something casual fans or owners notice. The Cubs could use a serviceable fifth starter but, then again, so could most of the league. What they really need is for Carlos Zambrano to either start earning his money or go away.



Carlos Marmol has been filthy in the past, but something happened on the way to him becoming the best closer in the National League. He suddenly became hittable. Andrew Cashner was supposed to be the heir apparent, but he got hurt and has been ineffective. Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Jeff Samardzija have been fine, but none are good enough to hold down the closer’s spot in Marmol’s stead. So, they have been stuck with his inconsistent performance.


Response to Crisis

The Cubs were out of it before the season got going and Hendry was out too as it turned out. So, the main crisis is how the organization is going to move forward. They traded Fukodome to Cleveland, but that just cleared a few million dollars. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano are signed long-term. Zambrano will clear the books after next season and Soriano will clear after 2014. Finding takers for them would be ideal, but they are going to have to get someone drunk to do it.

Part of the crisis will be to avoid the temptation to spend their way out of the mess. Carlos Pena is a free agent, so they have his money and the money dedicated to Fukodome clearing the books. The temptation is there to go after Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. Neither of them will be enough to take the Cubs anywhere. They would energize the fan base, but this fan base needs winning more than glitz.


Analysis Score: -11.4 (29th)

Final Analysis

Actually, this rank seems pretty close. The only thing that remains a mystery is why it took ownership so long to pull the plug on Hendry. The emperor had no clothes and was running around in the buff for several seasons. Chicago is an intriguing job, so chances are they will attract a big name. Don’t be surprised if that guy gets this team competitive in a hurry.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Chicago Cubs, Jim Hendry Finally Part Ways

In a move that was no surprise to most Chicago Cubs fans, the Cubs and general manager Jim Hendry parted ways on Friday.  Hendry’s initial track record—the only general manager to take to the Cubs to three playoff appearances—does not seem all that bad, but during his tenure, Hendry overspent on many players that never lived up to their contracts.

I look at the departure of Hendry in two different ways.  I can appreciate his effort, at times, to make the organization better.  He was able to pry away guys like Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee for virtually nothing, but he also gave an aging Alfonso Soriano a $136 million contract.  In Hendry’s defense, someone else was going to give Soriano that money, and it is hard to know whether or not he could live up to that contract. 

Soriano’s first two years in Chicago made it appear as though that contract was worth the money, but ever since, his play has declined.  I supported the decision to sign him then, and I still think it was the right move.  The Cubs at that time had not been to the playoffs since 2003 and needed something to get them over that hump.  Soriano provide some pop at the top of the lineup, which in turn allowed the Cubs to win two straight central division titles, but ultimately their 136 million dollar man never showed up.

On the other sign of the coin, Hendry’s biggest blunder was the signing of Milton Bradley. In no way did Bradley seem like a good fit with the Cubs, or any team in general.  He was a problem from day one, never contributed on the field, and was suspended at the end of the season. 

Hendry was able to trade Bradley during that offseason for Carlos Silva, who at first seemed to be a nice return, but during a spat with the manager and Hendry this Spring Training, Silva too was sent packing.

When I look back at Hendry’s tenure with the Cubs, I will remember the three playoff teams he put in place and the great deals he made.  However, like all other Cubs general managers in the past 100-plus years, he just couldn’t get it done.  There’s always next year…

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Jim Hendry: Looking Back on the Former Chicago Cubs General Manager

It’s been three weeks since I’ve attempted to sit through a whole Chicago Cubs game.

Sure, I skimmed through game recaps and trade possibilities, but I could barely finish those, either.

Tom Ricketts must have had the same sick feeling in his stomach because he couldn’t even wait until the end of the season to fire Jim Hendry, the now-former Cubs general manager.

It’s an odd feeling, change. At least in Chicago.

Right when you get excited, you remember it’s been over 100 years since the Cub’s last World Series victory, and surely lots of changes were made over that span.

We’ve run out of excuses, Cub fans. The curse of the billy goat, the black cat, the “Bartman ball”—now Hendry is playing the role of scapegoat (and, perhaps, rightfully so).

Hindsight’s bias brings down harsh judgement in sports. No one is safe: athletes, coaches, general managers, even owners.

Milton Bradley? Wrong move. Alfonso Soriano? Right move, if it had only been a two-year contract. Greg Maddux? Right move. Mark DeRosa? Right move. Letting Mark DeRosa go? Terrible move.

The list can go on.

Hendry’s tenure with the Cubs is somewhat reminiscent of Kyle Farnsworth’s: You never knew what to expect. He had his jump-for-joy days, and he had his excruciatingly painful days.

Nonetheless, it was the right time for change. New ownership, new direction.

But I want to take a moment to thank Jim Hendry for the most exciting years to be a Cubs fan in my lifetime. I will never forget the magic of the 2003 season. The meltdown…it hurt. Any Cub fan will tell you that.

But there was never a better time to be at a Wrigley Field night game; never a more exciting time for Cubs fans to stand as one during the top of the ninth, cheering for the last three outs of a Cubbie win, not to mention the traveling entourage that was Cubs Nation.

The overwhelming crowd of Chicagoans in Atlanta against the Braves in first round of the 2003 playoffs, chopping their Cub hats like the Atlanta Axe, chanting and singing as though it were a home game, is the single greatest sports memory I have.

The swiftness of how that ’03 team was put together at the end of the year was beautiful to watch.

The additions of Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and (my personal favorite Cub of all time) Randal Simon turned the Cubs into serious contenders.

Oh, nostalgia. The goosebumps you give are warm and painful.

My generation of 20-year-old Cubs fans doesn’t have much to be nostalgic about other than the 2003 postseason.

The 2008 season is another moment about which Cubs fans will always wonder “what if,” but getting swept as a No. 1 seed has turned that season into a Voldemort.

We do not mention it.

Jim Hendry made questionable moves, but he was responsible for the best years I’ve had as a Cubs fan, so for that I thank you, Mr. Hendry.

But now it’s time for change. For better or worse.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Chicago Cubs: Tom Ricketts Fires Jim Hendry, Forgets to Tell Anyone

First of all, Jim Hendry is gone. That’s the good news. At least I think he is. We can never be too certain when it comes to the Cubs.

His last, horrifying words, to his interim successor, Randy Bush, reportedly were “Don’t forget to hug Albert Pujols for me” or something like that, meaning, I guess, that Bush should do his best to sign Albert to a behemoth contract that will saddle the team with debt for another 10 years, or that Big Jim has some kind of thing for… No, no, scratch that, scratch that.

The curious thing about this whole business, leaving aside that it should have happened last October at the latest, is that Ricketts fired him a month ago and didn’t tell anyone. It kind of reminds me of several Seinfeld episodes when George or Jerry try to break up with their girlfriends and they won’t accept it.

The world of Cubs officialdom, where any resemblance to a serious, professional organization has long ago disappeared, tends more to the surreal every day.

Imagine this, your boss calls you in and tells you you’re through, that he has lost all confidence in you. Then he either asks you to stay on and supervise one or two projects upon which the future of the organization depends, or you ask him to let you stay on and supervise two or three projects upon which the future of the organization depends.

I mean, where else on Earth can this happen and then be presented to the public as something you would even admit in your wildest drug- or alcohol-addled dreams to having done or even thought about?

But that’s what happened, at least that’s what we are told happened, and, truth to tell, you cannot make stuff like this up, can you?

In any case, Hendry proceeds to oversee a trade deadline scenario where teams make offers on half-a-dozen eminently available players whom Big Jim declares untouchable, household names like Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Marlon Byrd, etc., all of whom will undoubtedly have statues commissioned shortly in the Wrigley Field Walk of Fame.

The only trade he makes peddles Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians for a bag of balls so that Tyler Colvin can play every day or so that Mike Quade can immediately bench Colvin, declaring he has to earn his starts, presumably by getting base hits when he isn’t in the game.

For the record, here are a few honest suggestions for Mr. Ricketts to consider. Hire someone with baseball knowledge to supervise both the business and baseball aspects of the Cubs. The principal duty of this person will be to fire most of the current leaders of these departments, Crane Kenney, Randy Bush, Mike Quade, and so on and to persuade them to leave right now.

This person can then hire an actual baseball GM and let him find the necessary replacements or decide who among the current scouting and player development staff should be retained.

After that, Mr. Ricketts can purchase a private corporate jet if he doesn’t own one already. You can still get a good tax write-off on them. He should then spend the rest of his time flying from one Cubs minor league outpost to the next blackmailing the respective city fathers into paying for improvements to baseball facilities the Cubs operate in their domains.

Boise, Peoria, Daytona, etc. These places are the places where sophisticated operators like Tom Ricketts can shine. And, most of all, he should just shut up and pay the bills.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Chicago Cubs: The ‘New Big Z’ Should Be Himself Without Restraint

Carlos Zambrano has been to the mountaintop and back.

He has braved the treacherous climb, studied with the celebrated Dharma bums in the Himalayas, found inner peace with the spirit of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and even spent a few months in the swamps of Dagobah under Jedi master Yoda.

He is ready.

Of course, Luke Skywalker also thought he was ready and then hurried off only to have his hand cut off by his asthma-bound father Darth Vader at Cloud City. While I’m pretty sure Zambrano’s appendages are safe, he still controls much of the Chicago Cubs’ density—I mean, destiny—this season.

Sure, he may do as much damage to the dynamic of the Chicago Cubs this season as Anakin Skywalker did when he basically killed all the Jedi Knights once he joined the “Dark Side,” but he could also do as much good as the Skywalker family eventually did for the freedom of the galaxy. You see, the problem with Zambrano is that too much can be a bad thing but—and hear me out on this—too little may also.

Zambrano was the only semblance of passion in last year’s lifeless, heartless and pathetic Cubs campaign. Derrek “6-4-3 inning-ending double play” Lee deserved plenty of guff for his lack of obvious concern. Aramis Ramirez couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat at the time, Alfonso Soriano looked like Wyle E. Coyote in left field and Kosuke Fukudome did more spinning in the batter’s box than the late DJ AM ever did in the booth.

The whole season lacked anything special, and the entire roster looked as if it was joining manager Lou Piniella in his impending retirement.

Heck, even the hot dog vendor deserved a little bit of the fury. It was THAT bad. Honestly, Zambrano’s outburst in late June was not the worst thing to happen and, as usual, Jim Hendry blindly threw him under the bus to maintain appearances and the status quo. The same GM who hired Piniella—a manager that had thrown more temper tantrums than all of the ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ put together—now was condemning a MUCH younger man for doing the same thing.

While I don’t condone showing your teammates up, I do support players calling a spade a spade when calling out an entire team that hadn’t shown positive life since their brilliant general manager thought adding clubhouse great Milton Bradley was a good idea. Zambrano hit the boiling point many Cubs fans had been at all season, yet he was entirely at fault according to Cubs brass and the Chicago media machine, but they all failed to see that he was calling himself out as well.

Hendry, as usual, missed a real opportunity to call out his cast of wayward (and overpriced) toys, but—just like he did when he failed to handle the Ryne Sandberg managerial situation professionally—he showed he lacked the stones to lead. Having the guts to gamble is not the same as having the intestinal fortitude to be a leader. Hendry unfortunately lacks this, which is why he couldn’t bring himself to hire a manager who just might challenge him on how he ran the ballclub.

Mike Quade is a good man, and a solid coach, but make no mistakes about it: He is a “yes” man from head to toe. Zambrano, on the other hand, is not. He speaks from the gut, which can be misinterpreted in the sound bite world we live in these days, especially in Chicago, where the media calls fall and winter “QB Hunting Season” and the summer becomes a hot mess of pessimism.

The awfully negative Chicago media loves to give stupid nicknames like “Old Z” and “New Z,” or “Good Rex (Grossman)” and “Bad Rex,” but here’s a little secret for you: He’s the same guy no matter if you change his name to “Good Z,” “New Z,” or even Pee-Wee Herman. The Cubs have spent four years trying to reign in a wild horse and it obviously isn’t working.

If memory serves, the last major blowup Zambrano had was in 2007 when he gave catcher Michael Barrett a judo chop to the grill. The result? Piniella blew his fuse a few games later and the Cubs went on a magical run to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Don’t let the media fool you: Emotion and getting in a teammate’s face can work magic when the gauge is on empty. It’s the “crawling into a hole and quietly fading” that gets me worked up, and Zambrano’s emotion doesn’t tolerate that. He wants to win that bad, and if you don’t want it at the same level, then you better take some self-defense classes because you deserve anything Zambrano brings to you.

After 102 years without a World Series, I’m sure plenty of Cubs fans would agree that enough is enough. You’ve got to want it as bad as he does, or this isn’t going to work.

I’d love, for once, to see the Cubs and their management give Zambrano all the slack he needs to be himself. It’s not a coincidence that his performance has gone down since they began worrying about his psyche. The minute you tell someone to not be themselves, you’ll also see their performance resemble someone else as well.

You can’t have both.

In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker had the greatest potential as a Jedi Knight but he gave into his anger and emotion too much, which led to his destructive nature and him becoming Darth Vader. But when given unconditional love regardless thanks to his son, who believed in him, it was Anakin (as Darth Vader) who eventually defeated the Emperor by throwing him down the reactor shaft.

Unconditional love and support throughout the early part of his career fostered in the golden age of Carlos Zambrano. Perhaps a little freedom, some support and some emotional space might bring him back to the days when he mowed down opponents like defenseless Ewoks and gave a team in contention the emotional boost it needed down the stretch.

Too much of anything is a bad thing, and that goes for restraint as well.

Me, personally, I’d rather not see “New Z” or “Old Z.” I just want to see Carlos Zambrano, the pitcher who has shown electric brilliance more than a few times and still has plenty left to showcase. If you bottle that up with the right mix, you’ve got something sweeter than Yoo-Hoo and more potent than any ginger root west of the Great Wall of China.

If you don’t, all you’ll have is a regretful son of a Jedi staring at a two-starred sunset, wondering what might have been had he left Tatooine with the old hermit, Ben Kenobi.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Albert Pujols MLB Rumors: What The Chicago Cubs Can Learn From Theo Epstein

Boston Red Sox GM Theo Epstein made a remark late last week that likely drew less attention than it deserved, especially as the world gears up for Albert Pujols to hit free agency after the 2011 season. 

In discussing the tactics that helped Boston sign free-agent Carl Crawford in December—despite rumors that Crawford would go to the Angels—Epstein mentioned that Boston scouted Crawford exhaustively throughout “the last three, four months of the season at the ballpark, away from the ballpark.”

That is a significant thing to admit, and although I confess to a lack of intimate knowledge about the behind-the-scenes world of big-league scouting, I cannot imagine that this level of scrutiny is within normal limits of scouting intensity. Epstein and his staff undertook that colossal task because they were very high on Crawford, and because they knew it would take a sizable commitment of both money and intangible incentives to lure him to Boston.

No player in the history of the game has demanded this kind of scrutiny on par with Pujols, whom every team would love to have. He has a very real chance at collecting the biggest contract in MLB history, and the highest per-year salary is all but assured. Five or more teams will make serious pushes to land him.

Therefore, it is time for Jim Hendry to take a page from Theo Epstein’s book on player evaluation and free-agent diplomacy. The Cubs are, almost without a close second, the top potential bidders for Pujols’ services in 2012 and beyond. If it comes down to the money, Pujols will—not might or should, but will—be wearing a Cubs uniform on Opening Day next spring.

If Pujols has other boxes on his checklist, though, the Cubs may have some obstacles to overcome. How seriously does Pujols take the rivalry between St. Louis and Chicago? Does he enjoy playing at Wrigley Field? Are there any specific players he’d like to team-up with?

Most important of all may be this question: How badly does Pujols want to win more World Series rings, and will his perception of a team’s commitment to winning swing his decision? If it will, Hendry might need to demonstrate Chicago’s willingness to get aggressive as soon as possible. 

Extending Matt Garza could be a good idea in this scenario. If the team senses Pujols will have little patience for a potential rebuilding project, they should also exercise Aramis Ramirez’s club option for 2012. Ramirez is aging and declining at third base, but he remains the best short-term option for the team unless prospect Josh Vitters breaks out in 2011 and proves himself big-league ready at the hot corner.

Should an organization really allow the preferences of a potential free-agent to dictate its decisions this way? In this case, absolutely. So long as the Cubs know what decisions will legitimiately help lure Pujols, they should act within reason to make their club as appealing as possible.

Chicago is not as down and out of a franchise as some believe: Its farm system remains ready to graduate two or three solid contributors by the start of 2012, even after trading for Garza. 

They also have solid vets like Ryan Dempster, Carlos Marmol and Ramirez alongside young stars Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner. Add a very sturdy supporting cast composed of low-cost regulars Geovany Soto, Marlon Byrd and Kerry Wood, and this team looks ready to take a step forward. 

In a vacuum, the Cubs are not merely one piece away from winning their first pennant in nearly 70 years.

Of course, Pujols doesn’t amount to merely “one piece.” He is a difference-maker, a game-changer and any other hyphenated cliche the reader chooses. He counts as two pieces at once. With the Phillies getting older faster than they are getting better and the Giants facing the specter of expenses exploding over the next two years, the Cubs could easily be the team with the inside track to a title in 2012.

Another factor makes the stakes extraordinarily high in the potential pursuit of Pujols, and it calls to mind another snippet from Epstein last week.

“We covered him as if we were privately investigating him,” said Epstein of Crawford. Similarly, the Cubs—and any other would-be investors—need to delve deeply into Pujols’ past.

For years, the whispers have floated around baseball that Pujols, whose listed age is 31, is actually two or three years older than his birth certificate indicates. Obviously, this is not uncommon among Dominican players. Vladimir Guerrero and Miguel Tejada are just two of many high-profile players whose ages proved inaccurate under greater scrutiny later in their careers. 

The question of a player’s true age may never have been this important, though. Pujols is in line for a record-breaking contract that will last until he’s 40. If he is in fact 33 or 34, his aging profile for the life of that deal looks far less appealing. 

Consider: Pujols hit .312/.414/.596. Those are elite offensive numbers, but they are the worst in every category for Pujols since 2007. At 31, that mild regression is nothing to worry about. At 34, though, it could signal the start of an unpredictable decline. Which is the truth? The answer is critical to valuing Pujols as a free agent, and the Cubs—along with other Pujols suitors—ought to have one or more hired hands to spend the next nine months in the Dominican Republic, searching for any evidence of Pujols’ true age.

If all these proposed evaluation methods seem a bit extreme, it’s because they are. But then, the investment Pujols will require is extreme, too. This is the new world of baseball, and to survive in it, no team can afford to be shy.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Chicago Cubs: The Olive Branch Of Kerry Wood

When Lou Pinella announced his retirement this past fall and the Chicago Cubs tapped career minor leaguer Mike Quade as their new manager, a storm of epidemic proportions befell the front office.

First, general manager Jim Hendry hired an unknown relative to continue the starving organization’s quest for its first World Series title since 1908. As if that wasn’t enough? Hendry also spurned one of the most popular Cubs players in franchise history, Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.

While the decision boggled the minds of many fans, it wasn’t so much that Hendry made the decision, but rather how he made (and subsequently handled) the decision and its fallout.

Sandberg wasn’t immediately offered his previous post as the manager of the Iowa Cubs, where he was named the Pacific Coast League’s Coach of the Year in 2010. Instead, he was sent to pasture. A slight on one Cub is a slight on them all in this brotherhood of pain. Hurt by the perceived slight, Sandberg took an identical Triple-A job with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Needless to say: many Cubs fans were livid about the move.

From boycotts to threats of changing allegiances, many fans were huffing and puffing. Hendry had slighted one of their own. Sandberg set that perception in place the following week when he made his rounds on the talk radio circuit.

Hendry was a pariah in many bitter circles. They already struggled with the contracts Hendry had brought in (see Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome) as well as some of the head-scratchers (see Milton Bradley). However, many believed the growing pains would be bearable under the leadership of one of the most popular Cubs in history.

Hendry stood at a crossroads, and he couldn’t do right. He signed power-hitting, defensive-minded first baseman, Carlos Pena, at the beginning of December. Fans wept. Hendry began negotiating a possible trade for Tampa Rays starter Matt Garza. Fans scoffed. Hendry faced a lose-lose situation, and the Cubs faced a crisis of image (no matter how many teary episodes of “Undercover Boss” team owner Todd Ricketts appeared on).

Then Ron Santo, arguably the most popular Cub of all time, passed away.

Former teammates, friends and fans swarmed to his funeral, paying respects to a guy who loved the Cubs as much as he loved oxygen. Pallbearers included Hall of Famers Ernie Banks, Fergie Jenkins and Billy Williams, and one such guest was taken aback by his return home to pay his respects.

That guest was “Kid-K” himself — Kerry Wood.

Before Santo’s spirit left the building, Henry and Wood promised to speak again about a possible return to Chicago. Wood was a free agent, having just played a major role in solidifying the New York Yankees bullpen. He was due a large payout in the range of $7-10 million, yet something pulled him back into the most masochistic love affair in sports.

Within a week, Wood was signing a hometown discount deal for $1.5 million, and the ire of Cubs fans began to subside. Less than a month later, the Cubs finally landed Matt Garza and also brought back Augie Ojeda and Reed Johnson,two other fan favorites who had left the organization, as non-roster invitees.

The angry Cubs fans began warming up to Hendry again, muttering things like, “I love you, Cubs, but I just don’t like you very much right now.” Classic signs of an abusive relationship. Suddenly, Hendry was being likened to the outlawed friend of a friend who was now welcomed over for Pay-Per-View fights and the occasional night out for a drink. Awkward, but tenable.

Appealing to their nostalgia, Wood serves as an olive branch to the fans. Coexisting isn’t nearly as fargone a conclusion as it originally seemed. The only other moves he’s yet to make are bringing back Lou Brock, Mark Grace and the ghost of Billy Sianis and his billy goat.

Making amends takes time, effort and a fan base who is willing to forget the last 102 years of futility because — say what you want about Cubs fans — their loyalty runs deep.

Hendry may still be in the doghouse, but it’s an upgrade from where he was three months ago: the outhouse. Only time will tell if the move saves his reputation in Chicago, or if he is shown to door to oblivion like those who have come before: Larry Himes, Ed Lynch, Dallas Green and John Holland. But this relationship’s going to take some time, and perhaps a few W’s in April, to return to the glory days of 2007 and 2008.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

World Series Issues: Why the Chicago Cubs Haven’t Succeeded

After 103 years of failure and disappointment, there have to be some excuses as to why the Chicago Cubs cannot win a World Series, let alone make it to one. Cubs fans have suffered, but remained loyal for inexplicable circumstances, including injuries and blunders. It has been a highlight reel of misfortune. This will discuss the top five reasons as to why the Cubs cannot win.

Begin Slideshow

Chicago Cubs: Are They Legitimate Contenders in the NL Central? (Part I)

Another way of asking this question is have the moves Jim Hendry made in the offseason improved the team and have the moves their division rivals made improved those teams more?

On the latter score, though the Brewers have improved their pitching, they have done so at the expense of their rather suspect defense. On balance, they remain a very flawed team. Let’s remember they had CC Sabathia for the better part of a year and they lost.

The same can be said of the Cardinals, whose major move has been adding an aging Lance Berkman as their everyday left-fielder, in the process weakening an already weak outfield defense. Adding Theriot as their regular shortstop doesn’t help them offensively or defensively, as the Cubs and Dodgers can readily attest. 

Aside from locking up Joey Votto, the Reds have made incremental moves suitable to a small market team. Their performance last year was a surprise, and with Dusty Baker managing their young pitchers, one would not be amiss in thinking their achievements might turn out to be a flash in the pan.

The truth is that all these teams, the Cubs included, are in that range of mediocrity where they are likely to win between 80 and 89 games no matter what and where a little bit of luck or someone having a breakout year or acquiring a difference-maker at the trade deadline will put them over the top. 

All that is predicated on the fact they play in a mediocre division. If they played in the AL East, they’d all be bringing up the rear and each GM pretty much knows it. 

In fact, that is one of my major gripes with Jim Hendry, that he is intent on building a competitive team in a weak division, not on building a really good team that will go to the World Series and win it. I’ve made this comparison before, both in my blog and in these pages. Look at the history of the Phillies in this decade, starting from pretty much the same place and having about the same budget, and you will see what I mean.

Getting back to the main question, though, you can argue that the Cubs were and always have been legitimate contenders in the NL Central, that so long as they replaced Derrek Lee with a decent first baseman, based on their performance after they dumped Piniella, they had as good a shot as any of their serious rivals.

Hendry is surely of this mindset. He thinks the Cubs lost last year because they underachieved as a team; that because Ramirez was hurt and Lee had a bad year, their offense was lacking; that the middle of the bullpen was just bad and they lacked a reliable right-handed setup man most of the season.

So Hendry announced that the Cubs needed just a little tweaking to be back in business, a first baseman, a veteran starter and a right-handed setup man. He got all of these, and on the cheap as well if you discount future considerations.

Pena will hit home runs and he’ll probably bat at least .250. He cannot be any worse than Lee was, especially on defense, and he bats left-handed. So that’s a plus even though they probably should have gone all-out for Gonzalez if they were willing to mortgage the farm for the likes of Garza.

Kerry Wood fell into their lap. If he had not, the Cubs were unlikely to have solidified their bullpen with a decent free agent and freed up any of their prospects to potentially fill out the back end of the rotation. But Wood is a plus nonetheless if they use him properly.  He’s not an everyday guy anymore, and the Cubs are fortunate to have Marshall as a left-handed alternative for eighth inning duty.

Trading for Matt Garza was the other big move. The more you look at his stats, the more you think he is by no means the pitcher the Cubs or at least Jim Hendry think he is.

He will eat innings though, and notwithstanding some of the comparisons Sabermetricians are making to Tom Gorzelanny (sometimes statistics can be misleading), he is an upgrade and he does stabilize the rotation, even though the Cubs seem to have paid a Cliff Lee or Zack Greinke price for a pitcher who is at best a Ryan Dempster.

So based on all this, the Cubs are bound to be better and comparing them to their principal rivals, they are likely to contend. With a couple of breaks, they have a good shot at the playoffs where they will get killed by the Phillies if they get that far along. This is the best case scenario, and as a Cubs fan I hope it happens and anyway it will give us all something to watch this summer.

In Part II, I will look at the 2011 Cubs in an alternative and ultimately less optimistic fashion, taking the view that although the Cubs’ offseason moves make some sense if you think becoming a contender in a weak division makes a difference, they make less sense if you think building a genuinely good team, a championship team, should be the only goal. 

I have to warn you, though, I will still conclude they could win the division with a little luck.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress