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August 2011 Archives

The Hendry Chronicles

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I have been down on Jim Hendry since basically the end of the 97-win 2008 season. But, I know that I don't know everything that goes on inside the Cubs, and it was easy to blame him for a handful of things he seemed to do or didn't do.

So at a few days distance from the Hendry dismissal, I have tried to develop a balanced opinion of the full Hendry era. Here we go:

Great job, Jim:
Dusty Baker hiring (Aggressive, though quick team re-build was required in 2003.)
Aramis Ramirez trade (Best move by Hendry as GM?)
Eric Karros/Mark Grudzielanek trade (Great timing, great role players.)
Nomar Garciaparra trade (Right competitive move at the right time.)
Ryan Dempster signing (Long-term project paid off.)
Juan Pierre signing (Nice effort at re-design.)
Ted Lilly signing (The famous EKG signing.)
Mark DeRosa signing (Great judgment recognizing his great utility.)

Pretty good job, Jim:
Derrek Lee signing (Solid, strong character, great 2006, but ultimately lacked energy.)
Lou Piniella hiring (A bet on a big name, history worked during regular season.)
Kerry Wood re-signing for 2011 (Feel-good move, but he still has value.)
Marlon Byrd signing (Great character, decent hitter/fielder, good money move.)
Greg Maddux signing (Most effective during final tour, and got his 300th win as a Cub.)
Rich Harden trade (Like Nomar, nice competitive move. )

Not so good job, Jim:
Kerry Wood departure after 2008 (Wood incorrectly became his emblem for lovable loser identity.)
Mark DeRosa trade after 2008 (Like trading four players, left Cubs with lack of depth.)
Juan Pierre departure (Quality lead-off man replaced briefly by Soriano.)
Kosuke Fukudome signing (Decent idea, but poor judgment on overall talent, price.)
Matt Garza trade (Good, but not worth the prospects Cubs lost when they should have been re-building.)
Carlos Pena signing (Overall pleasant addition was completely unnecessary.)

Really bad job, Jim:
Alfonso Soriano signing (Poor understanding of his remaining talent, value, shortcomings.)
Milton Bradley signing (Right stats, but character issues were already well known.)
Carlos Zambrano handling (Was given too many chances, kept until trade value became almost zero.)
Joe Girardi non-hiring as manager (Piniella an easy choice, but Girardi so obviously the right choice.)
Ted Lilly trade (Shipped most reliable starter, strong character guy, didn't get enough back.)
Not trading Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano (All these deals were doable at some point, and recognizing when is a GM's job. He was hamstrung by his own contracts, though recent hub-bub suggests he was coaxed into them by others. Also, blame Ricketts for making him a lme duck right before this year's trade deadline.)

Rare feats

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The Cubs have won seven in a row, and the White Sox beat the Twins in Minnesota. How often do we get to say that?

Enjoy the feeling, because these rare feats are simply bit of good fortune in otherwise dark times. The Cubs are obviously--if not mathematically--out of contention. Sure, they finally have the winning streak they said was in them all along if it weren't for those darn injuries. (Or maybe it was Kosuke Fukudome's reign of terror that kept them from streaking earlier.)

But, this streak more likely stems from a lack of pressure on the Cubs to win, and perhaps too much pressure on the exciting, young Pirates (against whom four of the seven wins came), and now floundering Reds, to win. Look at it this way: The Cubs have to go 32-16 the rest of the season to finish with a .500 record. Even if they go insane and pull off something like a 36-12 rec--an incredible .750 winning percentage (Or close to it--I was no math major) they still hve to count on the Brewers and Cardinals to play very poorly the rest of the way, well under .500 in both cases.

A winning streak may give fans something to feel good about for a short time, but it may also be happening at the worst possible time for a franchise that still needs much more turnover from the top down. A winning streak is just the sort of thing, I fear, that will make Tom Ricketts believe that injuries really were the problem, and that Jim Hendry and Mike Quade did yeoman's work just keeping the team together rather than backing up the truck.

That doesn't mean I won't enjoy seeing the Cubs win. I just won't believe it means anything. Call me when the streak hits 15.

The Sox beating the Twins in Minnesota, 5-3, thanks to Mark Buehrle and Carlos Quentin, is an aberration, too. The Sox have shown little offense in recent days, and though they are still just 6.5 games out of first place, Detroit seems much further ahead.

Quentin's two homers last night were more of the same for the Sox, who when they win, seem to have just enough power and just enough pitching to do it. The line-up still has too many dogs--you now who you are--which became extremely evident recently when Paul Konerko went down with an injury and no one stepped up.

The Sox had a brief engagement with a .500 record, but now they sit five games below that mark. They did give us a little hope when the edged Detroit into two of three games, but they showed in recent bouts with Boston and Minnesota that even if they somehow could win the division, they belong nowhere near the same league as the A.L. East giants.

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