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Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry’s Unlucky Season

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)

(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.

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Wednesday Chicago Cubs Roundup 6-10-09

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)

(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!

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Chicago Cubs Season Turning Into A Circus

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

The Chicago Cubs magical first half of the 2008 season has quickly turned into a circus-like  atmosphere for destiny’s team in the month of July.  The Cubs began the season with few distractions, allowing the team to concentrate on playing very solid baseball, leading to the best record in baseball for much of the first half of the season.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

As of late, a rash of off-field events have provided plenty of distraction for a team already bearing the weight of lofty explanations.  Those events include:

On the field, the Cubs have been less than stellar, posting a 9-11 record since July 1st.  The off-field issues may have played some role in that record, but on-field, the Cubs have been a different team as of late.  Some of the on-field issues include:

  • OF Kosuke Fukudome hitting .185 in July
  • IF/OF Mark DeRosa hitting .188 in July
  • IF Aramis Ramirez hitting .176 in July including an 0-28 stretch between July 12-22.
  • P Bobby Howry sports a 6.97 ERA in July, giving up earned runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances.
  • Scheduling: From June 10th, the Cubs played for 26 consecutive days, including a rained-out affair at the Hall of Fame on June 16th, their only “day off” in that span.  On June 29th, the Cubs played the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the week and then had to board a plane to fly to San Francisco to play a game the next night.
  • Since June 10th, the Cubs record is 20-21.  Coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs play 20 game in 20 days.
  • NL loses to the AL in the All Star game for the 11th straight year, thus securing home field advantage for the AL team, not a good sign for NL contenders such as the Cubs who are substantially under .500 on the road (22-30).

The Cubs are certainly not playing with the same energy that they displayed in amassing the best record in baseball in the days leading to the All-Star break, looking game weary while grinding out a schedule with spans of 26 games in a row and now, 20 in a row.

The Cubs seem as thought they’ve forgotten that playing baseball is fun.  The hitters look less patient at the plate, swinging at pitches they took for balls earlier in the season.  The once-vaunted bullpen, considered a strength of the team, is in disarray, with the injury to Kerry Wood forcing nearly every other pitcher in the pen to new roles.  Jim Hendry is unsure whether to make any moves when considering that considering that when healthy, there could be more players than positions.  I don’t know if this is a one week slide or if it’s a longer term issue.  I don’t know the cure to what ails the Cubs.  I do know that as of today, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers for first in the NL Central and both teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.

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Rainy Days and Mondays

Posted by sportsmaven on August 20, 2007

Carlos Zambrano made his first start after signing the 6 year $91.5 million contract last night and he looked like an entirely different pitcher.  I suppose $91.5 million would make most anyone a diferent person, but Carlos looked like the Carlos since the Michael Barrett fight — well at least for 3 innings anyway.  The 2007 version of the Chicago Cubs may go down in history as the team to break the curse, the best team that money can buy, or the biggest bust in baseball history (that’s what close to $400 million dollars in salary will buy you).

Carlos Zambrano Signs New Contract

(AP Photo/Jerry Lai)

That’s what makes last night’s rain postponed game and today’s afternoon game against the St. Louis Cardinals even more important in the here and now, take one moment, one game, one series at a time approach that Lou Piniella and his Chicago Cubs ballclub have adopted in their drive to the top of the NL Central standingsMomentum is a mysterious, sometimes fleeting force, often times, escaping at the times when it is needed the most.  The Cubs harnessed momentum on their side wth the Zambrano signing on the heels of the latest most important series of the season.  While Mother Nature lovely buckets have overflowed with much needed rain (at least for me and my newly sodded back yard), she hasn’t been so kind as of late, making the Cubs earn back that lost momentum gained at the outset of this series.  Whether the Zambrano signing/Cardinals series was an intentional marketing or motivation ploy, or just purely coincidental it seems to have worked.  Now if only Mother Nature, Ted Lilly, and the baseball gods would cooperate…..

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Chicago Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away

Posted by sportsmaven on May 14, 2007

My posts on the Chicago Cubs this season have generally not been glowing. Tonight’s post will not enter that territory either. The reason being is that the Cubs are headed for a mediocre at best season. Tonight’s game against the New York Mets is a prime example of that. Too many Cubs seasons have either begun with a flourish only to be bogged down by the realities of the level of talent, injury, or futility. Since the division winning season of 2003, the Cubs have been flat, and fundamentally flawed. There have been too many games where the Cubs failed to get bunts down, advance runners, hold runners from advancing, throwing to the correct bases, making too many mental errors, the list goes on.

Cubs Bullpen Give Another Game Away to Mets

(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

This year, the problems again happen to be the same as other years — the bullpen has to be one of the worst in baseball. The Cubs bullpen is 3-10 this season. Ten losses in the first 36 games due to your bullpen. Tonight, 3 walks in the 9th inning, walking in the winning run, by P Michael Wuertz, up to now, the most reliable pitcher in the pen outside of Ryan Dempster. The timely hitting which seemed to appear at the turn of May has given way to the maddening inconsistency that dogged the Cubs in April.

The Cubs can ill afford to hover around the 2 games under .500 mark with roughly 25% of the season already in the books.  On Saturday, the Cubs bullpen gave up 6 runs in the bottom of the 7th after scoring 6 runs in the top of the inning to take a 7-5 lead, ultimately losing that game 11-7.  Some changes need to be made and quickly for this team. The surplus of outfielders might be a good start in picking up some reliable bullpen arms. The latest injury to 1B Derrek Lee is also a great concern. It was about this time last season that Lee was injured in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent the Cubs into a downward, last place spiral for which they could never overcome. Losing Lee again would be a huge blow for this team’s chances. The Cubs have wasted brilliant starting pitching from Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill. The time for this team to come around is now. Excuses are running out, and so is time on a successful season at the rate it’s going now……

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