Posted by sportsmaven on June 10, 2009
Short of P Randy Wells, has anyone on the Chicago baseball landscape had worse luck than Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry? As we pass the first third of the 2009 season, it appears that every significant move that Hendry made in the offseason has stunk to high heaven. Some of those major moves include:
(UPI Photo/Brian Kersey)
Signing OF Milton Bradley — Hendry signed Bradley to his first ever multi-year contract, a 3-year, $30M sweetheart deal, partially to cover last season’s potential mistake of signing OF Kosuke Fukudome. The other part is that Bradley’s a switch hitter, adding yet another left handed hitting bat to what was once a righty dominated regular lineup. All Bradley has done this season is boycott the media, bump an umpire, earning himself a 2 game suspension, appealing said suspension while being in the midst of missing 7 games due to a hamstring injury. Now injured with a calf strain, Bradley is hitting .208 5 HR 14RBI and struggling to stay healthy.
Trading IF/OF Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians for 3 minor league pitchers — evaluating all of Hendry’s moves, this one was the most baffling. DeRosa played at least 6 positions and was an offensive force for the Cubs, keeping a big stick in the lineup while offering rest to regular position players with no drop off in ability. DeRosa, along with former Cubs P Kerry Wood, was the heart and soul of the Cubs 97 win team in 2008. His 10HR and 42RBI would by far lead the 2009 Cubs in both categories. It seems that the right handed hitting DeRosa’s only problem is that he doesn’t hit left handed.
Signing OF Joey Gathright — Gathright was an insurance policy, a way to provide speed and fielding ability at the top of the Cubs lineup. What Gathright amounted to was a poor fit in Chicago. Hendry traded Gathright to the Baltimore Orioles for IF/OF Ryan Freel, whom the Orioles activated from the 15-day DL to complete the trade. Hendry’s luck continues, as three weeks after completing this trade, Freel was back on the DL
Signing IF/OF Aaron Miles — The signing of Miles was a hedge to the DeRosa trade, as Miles is DeRosa lite. Miles plays almost as many positions, but unlike DeRosa, Miles hits with zero power. Miles played sporatically to start the season, but as he began to receive more playing time, he earned himself a seat at the table of the 15-day DL, adding further scrutiny to an already snakebitten Hendry offseason.
Keeping Rule 5 draftee LHP David Patton on the 25-man roster — This move was a particularly tough one and a huge risk, magnified by the roster turmoil the Cubs have seen in the first two months of the season. Patton was outstanding in spring training, making the decision to keep him a very difficult one, considering it would have to be for the entire season, due to the Rule 5 rules. Once the season began, Patton suddenly became hittable and unreliable, which is not a huge suprise from a young player who had never played professional baseball above the Class A minor league level. Keeping Patton tied manager Lou Piniella’s hands in two ways: first, Patton was virtually unusable in any situation outside of blowout victories or losses; second, Patton cost the Cubs a roster spot for a more reliable pitcher, or a position player, which would have been useful when 3B Aramis Ramirez went down with a shoulder injury.
Signing RHP Chad Fox — Hendry took yet another flyer on the oft injured pitcher, and once again, it ends with what appears to be a season and career ending injury. Fox ended last season with a major elbow injury prompting a brief retirement, only to be lured out of retirement for another go at bullpen work. In his second appearance against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 8th, Fox threw a wild pitch and grabbed his arm in obvious pain. He is on the DL again and it appears that this time, his injury may be career-ending.
Other issues that are not directly related to Hendry moves, but have happened under Hendry’s watch as GM this season include:
- The Ramirez injury
- Carlos Zambrano’s injury and subsequent 5-game suspension and $3,000 fine for bumping an umpire while vehemently disputing a call at home plate in a game on May 27th, then 6 days later blows off a team flight to Atlanta without permission.
- LHP Ted Lilly’s fined $1,500 and nearly suspended for being ejected while arguing balls and strikes – in a game where he was not even pitching.
- An injury to RHP Rich Harden, forcing a move to the DL that has been longer than first anticipated
- Building an ineffective bullpen, with struggling LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Aaron Heilman, and set-up man RHP Carlos Marmol’s recent struggles
- Early ineffectiveness from IF Mike Fontenot, C Geovanny Soto, and 1B Derrek Lee
To be fair, not all of Hendry’s moves this season been a total disaster. Some of Hendry’s smaller, under-the-radar moves have been quite strong, mainly:
- Bringing up Randy Wells when Zambrano went on the DL; then keeping Wells in the rotation as he has been the Cubs most dependable and effective starting pitcher of late.
- Promoting rookie IF Bobby Scales, an 11-year minor league player making his major league debut. Scales became the feel good story of the season so far for the Cubs.
- Making an 11th hour decision to keep bubble performer RHP Angel Guzman as the 25th man on the roster after a horrible spring training. All Guzman has done is become the best and most reliable reliever in the Cubs bullpen this season, sporting a 2-0 record (the first two wins of his major league career) with a 2.28 ERA, with 6 holds and a save. Over a span of 12 games since May 8th, Guzman has been perfect, not giving up a single run.
While Jim Hendry’s moves have all backfired so far this season, to his and the Cubs credit, they haven’t panicked. Odds are that players struggling this bad will rebound strongly and if the strong starting pitching continues, the Cubs still can boast the most talent of any team in the NL Central. Only time will tell if this will be enough for a third straight post-season appearance.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Aaron Heilman, Aaron Miles, Angel Guzman, Aramis Ramirez, Bobby Scales, Carlos Marmos, Carlos Zambrano, Chad Fox, Chicago Cubs, David Patton, Derrek Lee, Geovanny Soto, Jim Hendry, Joey Gathright, Kerry Wood, Kosuke Fukudome, Lou Piniella, Mark DeRosa, Mike Fontenot, Milton Bradley, Milwaukee Brewers, Neal Cotts, Randy Wells, Rich Harden, Ryan Freel, Ted Lilly | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on June 10, 2009
Today starts a new feature — a Chicago team news round up of all things important to the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs are in Houston, interleague play starts this weekend, and the bats seem to be warming up. Big news on draft day Tuesday:
(AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
The Cubs select Cal OF Brett Jackson in Tuesday’s MLB Draft
Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken is “thrilled to acquire a player like Brett Jackson”
“Cub Fan” Brett Jackson dreams comes true.
Milton Bradley talks his way into tonight’s lineup and on the field….
Cubs looking for ideas on keeping Milton Bradley healthy.
Ted Lilly beats Houston Astros 7-1, with his bat and his arm…
Josh Vitters is heir apparent to Aramis Ramirez at 3B (and at the plate)
Maybe life without Mark DeRosa is not so bad?
Randy Wells is this year’s version of Angel Guzman in seeking his first career victory.
Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano is 14,000 votes shy of a starting OF for the 2009 MLB All Star Game, and needs YOUR help!
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Angel Guzman, Aramis Ramirez, Brett Jackson, Chicago Cubs, Josh Vitters, Mark DeRosa, Milton Bradley, Randy Wells, Ted Lilly, Tim Wilken | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on June 3, 2009
The Chicago Cubs can describe their 2009 season in one word: inconsistent. The inconsistency is maddening, frustrating, and certainly unpredictable. Tonight’s 12-inning 6-5 come from ahead loss against a very average Atlanta Braves team is the latest example of the frustration and inconsistency that has enveloped this team to date.
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
June 1st is typically the time of the year when you really know what kind of team you have. It’s the time of year where it can no longer be said that it’s still early in the season. It’s not and the Chicago Cubs are still a mess. Third base is a Bermuda Triangle, the bullpen is still an unknown, with the long guys getting pounded one day, the short guys the next. Left handed relief is non-existent. Suspensions of OF Milton Bradley and RHP Carlos Zambrano, injuries, fines, missed flights, arguing with umpires, multiple beatings of the Gatorade machine, the 2009 version of the Chicago Cubs are their own worst enemies. The mess even extends to the very top of the organization, as Sam Zell and Tom Ricketts continue to slug it out, with no end in sight, over the fine details of the ownership transfer.
June 1st is here and the Cubs are still a spring training-like mess, sitting at a record of 25-25, in 4th place in the NL Central, yet they somehow are still in the race, only 4 games out of first in what appears to be MLB’s most competitive division. Can they get their act together? Can they weather the storm of a lost 3B Aramis Ramirez? Can Bradley stay healthy and hit? Can a left handed reliever emerge from the bullpen? Hell, can anyone emerge from the bullpen with greater consistency? (right now, RHP Angel Guzman seems to be the only consistent pitcher in the pen)
If the biggest move the Cubs make this season is the banishment of the Gatorade machine from the dugout, the 2009 season will be another wash, yet another year in the 100+ year North side champioship draught.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Angel Guzman, Aramis Ramirez, Atlanta Braves, Bermuda Triangle, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Gatorade, Milton Bradley, NL Central, Sam Zell, Tom Ricketts | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on May 1, 2009
In comparison to 2008, the 2009 season has been brutally unkind to the Chicago Cubs. From top to bottom of the organization, from the ballpark workers to the fans, the fuzzy lovefest that was 2008 has been replaced by a season that has all the markings of struggle written all over the brown, yet to grow ivy outfield walls.
(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)
The Cubs struggles seem to be set in motion during a devastating post season playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to close out what was then developing into a magical season of 2008. As dominant as the Cubs were in winning 97 games in 2008, they were equally as feeble once the playoffs began. The Dodgers sucked the life out of the Cubs, exposing every weakness and shutting down the most powerful NL lineup and battering around the league’s #3 pitching staff in a NLDS sweep.
In the off season, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, tried in earnest to make his team more flexible for manager Lou Piniella. What he did was inadvertently neutered his two-time division championship team, cutting them off at the knees. Like a mad scientist, Hendry first moved to clear his entire bullpen, short of his All-Star setup man, RHP Carlos Marmol. Included in that purge was All-Star closer RHP Kerry Wood, who finally found a successful niche as a power closer. Not that he didn’t need to purge most of that bullpen, but it’s unclear to me as I watch the Cubs struggle, why Wood, the heart and soul of the Cubs team and the most tenured of all Cubs players, leader on and off the field, was allowed to depart. Essentially, Hendry traded Wood for former Florida Marlins closer, RHP Kevin Gregg, a one-sided trade then, and even more magnified in view of this horrible start.
The other perplexing move was trading 2B Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians, replacing him with free-agent RF Milton Bradley. All Bradley has done since signing a 3-year, $30M contract is injure his hamstring, get kicked out of his first game at Wrigley Field, bump an umpire while arguing, earning himself a 2-game suspension, which he appeals, all while needing to sit out at least 16 games due to that injury, incidentially, while not being added to the disabled list.
This is the type of flexibility that Hendry and Piniella wanted? A further highlight about how “flexible” the 2009 Cubs roster is, C Geovanny Soto injures his throwing shoulder and has to sit out a few games to re-evaluate the injury. While Soto is out, reserve C Koyie Hill filled in very capably, but because the Cubs don’t put Soto on the 15-day DL, they are forced to list 2B Aaron Miles and others as the backup catcher.
3B Aramis Ramirez has missed the last 11 games due to a calf injury, but the Cubs choose not to add him to the 15-day disabled list, instead forcing an out of position 2B Mike Fontenot to play third. In last night’s game, when Piniella needed to pinch-hit for the left-handed hitting Fontenot, he needed to employ Hill to finish out the game at 3rd base! Recently, 1B Derrek Lee missed time with a strained neck. 1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir covered Lee at 1B, pushing RHP Carlos Zambrano into the lefty pinch hitting role. Some flexibility. This is the flexibility that results in 14 errors and many other misplays from players playing out of position.
Not to mention the current mess the pitching staff is in right now, started by the shoddy bullpen performance out of the gate and now spreading to the once very promising performance of the starting rotation. The Cubs bullpen mess begins with the release of RHP Chad Gaudin a trade-off engineered to essentially keep Rule 5 RHP David Patton and RHP Angel Guzman, a player who is out of minor league options. Patton’s been regulary pounded, the highlight, giving up a grand slam to St. Louis Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols in a recent 8-2 loss to the Cardinals last Saturday. LHP Neal Cotts not only hasn’t been able to get anybody out, he has been a bases on balls machine, walking 6 batters in 5 innings. The bullpen picture became even more muddled when Hendry was forced to release RHP Luis Vizcaino and his $3M contract (Vizcaino was picked up in a off-season trade with the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jason Marquis) to bring up power RHP Jeff Samardzjia, who probably should have been in the bullpen in the first place. With both Marmol and Gregg struggling, RHP Aaron Heilman has been exposed and has been used too frequently, resulting in a bullpen that can’t be trusted to get anyone out at this point, much less protect any sort of a lead.
So after 21 games, what do we make of this Cubs team? Apparently, the early showing is that the Cubs are a team that still appear to suffer from the hangover of last season’s crushing playoff sweep. They also can’t stay healthy. They are also a team that can’t hit, field, or pitch. This is a team built to struggle, and struggle they will, and I predict, for the entire season. This Cubs team might not have to worry about a 3rd straight playoff disappointment.
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Aaron Heilman, Aaron Miles, Albert Pujols, Angel Guzman, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Marmol, Carlos Zambrano, Chad Gaudin, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, David Patton, Derrek Lee, Florida Marlins, Geovanny Soto, Jason Marquis, Jeff Samardzjia, Jim Hendry, Kerry Wood, Kevin Gregg, Koyie Hill, Los Angeles Dodgers, Lou Piniella, Luis Vizcaino, Mark DeRosa, Micah Hoffpauir, Mike Fontenot, Milton Bradley, Neal Cotts, NLDS, St. Louis Cardinals | Leave a Comment »
Posted by sportsmaven on May 17, 2007
I usually try to wait until after the emotions of a particular event subside before writing about that event, but today, I simply can’t wait. I just finished watching the Chicago Cubs enter the bottom of the 9th inning against the New York Mets with a 5-1 lead and with closer Ryan Dempster on the mound. Starting pitcher Angel Guzman pitched a heck of a game and has battled for over two years to get his first major league victory and was in line to do that today until that Cubs bullpen in typical format, gives up 5 runs in the bottom of the 9th to give away yet another game and lose in walk-off fashion, 6-5.
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Now I realize that every man in that bullpen is working hard and trying to get outs. Nobody is trying not to win, but this is just unbearable to watch. I mean, I recall a bitter game on July 28, 2002 against the St. Louis Cardinals on an ESPN Sunday Night Baseball broadcast when Antonio Alfonseca and others gave up a five run lead to lose a game by 1 in the ninth inning (Cards were losing 9-4 in the bottom of the ninth; Edgar Renteria hit a three-run homer to top off a 6-run comeback to win the game for the Cards, 10-9) and today’s game brings back memories of that painful night. The Cubs went on to finish that season 67-95.
The end of today’s game was completely crushing for Cubs fans. Yes, the Cubs are 3 games under .500 for the season, but this seems like a team that is going nowhere fast. There is no consistency on this team, unless you count the fact that they are consistently inconsistent. One day it’s the offense not hitting, going 0-16 in bases loaded situations until Aramis Ramirez’ grand slam homer on Tuesday night, one day, it’s the defense not making plays or making errors. Most every time, it’s the bullpen blowing leads, giving up runs in mop up duty. The bullpen has clearly been the achilles heel of this team, racking up a 2-12 record so far through the not so young season. This is quickly turning into another lost season unless something is done now. Better get some new bullpen guys and fast.
So, for $300 million, we get this? The new ownership can’t get here fast enough, in my opinion…..
Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: Angel Guzman, Antonio Alfonseca, Aramis Ramirez, Chicago Cubs, Edgar Renteria, ESPN, New York Mets, Ryan Dempster, St. Louis Cardinals | 1 Comment »