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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Grantland: Keri: The Inexplicable Non-Decision-Making of the Chicago Cubs

Jonah Keri explores a painful topic for Cubs fans - Jim “What, me worry?” Hendry.

Chicago Joe Posted: August 02, 2011 at 12:19 PM | 32 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cubs, obituaries, rumors

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   1. Walks Clog Up the Bases Posted: August 02, 2011 at 02:54 PM (#3891090)
But if that's the case, could Hendry be trying to keep as many veterans as possible in the hopes of window-dressing his way to a halfway-respectable-looking season?


My original theory upon hearing that Hendry wouldn't trade Pena was that Hendry hoped to re-sign Pena this off-season instead of going after Pujols or Fielder. After hearing that pretty much every Cub was off the table, though, I subscribed to the above theory. This has been a really bad team. Take away one of its few legitimate power sources and one of its few good hitters and you've probably got a team ready to challenge the '06 Cubs in futility. Such a finish would all but ensure Hendry's dismissal.

That self-serving strategy, however, should also be grounds for getting rid of Hendry. He no longer has the team's best interest at heart.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:02 PM (#3891098)
The Cubs could trade Peña, Ramirez, Zambrano, Garza, Marmol, Byrd and Soto and they still wouldn't finish behind the new-look Astros. That should free Hendry's hand somewhat.
   3. McCoy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:07 PM (#3891104)
I think Keri misses Hendry's intentions. He didn't pull the trigger on the guys not to protect him for this season but to protect him for next season and to possibly give him a shot at an extension.

He pulls the trigger and tears the team apart this year then it is likely that they will be dreadful next year which basically guarantees he won't get an extension or at the very least a good extension (this is the Cubs afterall). He stands pat and he can hope for a bit of a bounceback next year. You trade off Marmol and Byrd and then not pick up Aramis' option and the team is not likely to be good next year. The Pena thing is a bit baffling. Even if they think they might resign him again why would you say that this season when all of your fandom hopes and thinks you are going to make a run at one of the top two FA available this season?
   4. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:25 PM (#3891115)
Aren't they dreadful NOW? How are the guys that have been #### all year going to keep this team from being #### the rest of the year?
   5. Mash Wilson Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:43 PM (#3891128)
Rare indeed is the manager at any level, in any business, that isn't concerned with protecting himself first and advancing the company's interests second. Doug Melvin, for instance, same thing. Melvin doesn't care about the 2013 Brewers because unless they win a championship now he isn't going to be in Milwaukee by then anyway.

But Melvin is much better at his job than Hendry. The Cubs suck because Hendry has failed spectacularly at his job. That he's now sacrificing the team's interests in a desperate effort to keep his job is just the latest item in a pattern of mismanagement.
   6. Kiko Sakata Posted: August 02, 2011 at 03:57 PM (#3891143)
Take away one of its few legitimate power sources and one of its few good hitters and you've probably got a team ready to challenge the '06 Cubs in futility.


As #4 says, they're terrible with Pena and Ramirez. And to put an actual number to it, the 2011 Cubs have a lower winning percentage right now (0.404) than the 2006 Cubs (0.407).
   7. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:05 PM (#3891152)
They'd have to go 500 just to win 70 games. Hendry is toast.
   8. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:15 PM (#3891162)
Keri does contradict himself within the article stating that Casey Kotchman had no value to other teams. If Carlos Pena was worth something, then Kotchman certainly was as well. Obviously Friedman has a hell of a lot more goodwill built up than Hendry, but if your premise is that Tampa is out of the race, then Kotchman should be gone. (And I'd imagine some team would give up something in return for Johnny Damon as well)

Regarding Byrd, if you trade him you're looking at an OF of Soriano's rotting corpse, Tyler Colvin's fresh corpse, and Brett Jackson next year. The FA market is brutal, so unless you think the return for Byrd can go towards picking up whatever Dodger OF's check bounces first, I don't really see the point. If the Cubs are terrible next year as Keri seems to assume, is the return on Byrd really going to be that much worse than it would be right now? And referencing his BA being higher than his career BA is just lazy when you consider he's been at or above it every year the past 5 years. His career BA is dragged down because he was terrible his first 5 years in the bigs.
   9. McCoy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:25 PM (#3891170)
Yeah, a lot of it didn't make sense. He could have written this article and used any one of the teams that he mentioned but then hand waved away.


As for the OF next year, if they make the trades they are not going to be good anyway so it really doesn't matter which corpse is out there. If you can pull off a trade that gets you some decent prospects and it helps you two or three years down the road then that is a better option. Of course Hendry won't be here in two to three years so he really doesn't care about that.

I would have thought that at the very least Reed Johnson would have gotten traded for some C level prospect but even that didn't happen.
   10. bigglou115 Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:28 PM (#3891172)
Keri does contradict himself within the article stating that Casey Kotchman had no value to other teams. If Carlos Pena was worth something, then Kotchman certainly was as well. Obviously Friedman has a hell of a lot more goodwill built up than Hendry, but if your premise is that Tampa is out of the race, then Kotchman should be gone. (And I'd imagine some team would give up something in return for Johnny Damon as well)


Kotchman has no power. There's always going to be a higher market for a first baseman with power than for a BA driven firstbaseman like Kotchman. As for Damon, name one AL team in contention that would see Damon as an upgrade at DH. I can't think of one, but that would pretty much be the market for him.
   11. booond Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:37 PM (#3891182)
Why does Carlos Pena hit against LHP? .537 ops. He's been better but not recently.
   12. Brian C Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:37 PM (#3891183)
If the Cubs are terrible next year as Keri seems to assume, is the return on Byrd really going to be that much worse than it would be right now? And referencing his BA being higher than his career BA is just lazy when you consider he's been at or above it every year the past 5 years.

It's not certain by any means that Byrd will be as good next year as he is now. He'll be 34, with a series of rather uninspiring comps. Already his value is mostly in his ability to play center, but if he starts to slow down and his defense slips, then what's the point of having him in the first place?

He's a perfect case of "sell high". There's no chance his value will be higher next season, but there's certainly a good chance it will be lower.
   13. Comic Strip Person Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:42 PM (#3891186)
if you trade him you're looking at an OF of Soriano's rotting corpse, Tyler Colvin's fresh corpse, and Brett Jackson next year.

Oh, so you're going to disregard Tony Campana that easily? I've personally been wondering why he didn't get an Eddie Gaedel-like number as an homage.
   14. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:44 PM (#3891190)
Damon would be a depth move obviously. While he's played primarily DH, he can still fake it in the OF if a team was desperate(like if they were starting Juan Pierre.)

Re: Kotchman, Derrek Lee and his 700 OPS was just traded for an actual body. There's no reason to think Lee is more valuable than Kotchman.

Re: Byrd, if you're punting 2012 that's fine, but I don't think that's the right call. I also don't think it's a good idea to see just how bad we can make this team this year as we approach Pujols/Fielder/Wilson with a giant sack with a dollar sign on the outside.
   15. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#3891196)
And not trading Reed Johnson was almost less excusable than not trading Pena. I mean what the ####?? At worst let somebody take his contract, and save yourself 200K.
   16. Brian C Posted: August 02, 2011 at 04:59 PM (#3891197)
By "Wilson", you mean CJ? We're really gearing up for a big push to get a 30+ starter who's only been starting for two years? I like him too, but we're really backing up the money truck for that guy?
   17. Greg Pope thinks the Cubs are reeking havoc Posted: August 02, 2011 at 05:29 PM (#3891221)
Rare indeed is the manager at any level, in any business, that isn't concerned with protecting himself first and advancing the company's interests second.

In general, I agree. But this is assuming that Hendry's fate is controlled by the radio call in fans. When actually, Hendry's fate is controlled by Tom Ricketts. Hendry's a fool if he didn't talk to Ricketts and see what would have the best chance of saving his job. Ricketts might have said:

1. "Win as many games as you can this year." If this is the case then it's not on Hendry at all.
2. "Show me that you can position the Cubs for the best record over the next 5 years." If this is the case then Hendry failed spectacularly.
3. "I only listen to talk radio and if they're happy with you, then you'll be back." If this is the case then the Cubs need new ownership.

Why would we assume that Hendry has gotten zero direction from his management on how to keep his job? If I was in charge of a project that's failing at work, I'd be talking to my boss about how to make the best of it. I mean, sure, I'll have some excuses as to why it's failing and it's not my fault, but fixing one little part of the project isn't going to trick my boss into believing that the project is a success.
   18. Brian C Posted: August 02, 2011 at 05:35 PM (#3891223)
Why would we assume that Hendry has gotten zero direction from his management on how to keep his job?

Perhaps Hendry's been told he won't be back and this was an FU to the organization.
   19. Bob Evans Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:05 PM (#3891234)
As for Damon, name one AL team in contention that would see Damon as an upgrade at DH.

White Sox are only 4½ back. Hell, he could take over LF or RF.
   20. Shooty Survived the Shutdown of '14! Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:08 PM (#3891238)
White Sox are only 4½ back. Hell, he could take over LF or RF.

Or DH.
   21. Mash Wilson Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:10 PM (#3891242)
Why would we assume that Hendry has gotten zero direction from his management on how to keep his job?


Because my experience is that in most large companies middle management usually gets zero direction from upper management, if not misdirection.

I mean, sure, I'll have some excuses as to why it's failing and it's not my fault, but fixing one little part of the project isn't going to trick my boss into believing that the project is a success.


If that's true then let me assure you that you could and should be working for a much dumber boss. Very often is quite easy to trick upper management, at least for a while.

It's entirely possible the Cubs' inactivity this July came from ownership and not Hendry, though.
   22. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:27 PM (#3891251)
By "Wilson", you mean CJ? We're really gearing up for a big push to get a 30+ starter who's only been starting for two years? I like him too, but we're really backing up the money truck for that guy?


Yes, CJ. I'm not saying he'll get Pujols/Fielder money, but I'm fine giving him the 4/48-56. He'll only be 31 next year, and I consider the fact that he's only been starting for 2 years to be a good thing. A hell of a lot less miles on him than your standard 31 year old free agent.
   23. bfan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:43 PM (#3891258)
Kotchman? So his 3 years' previous OPS+ of 93; 90 and 73, at a hitting position (1B), are now forgiven, because he has had a very good half year? Please tell me GM's are smarter than that; please.
   24. The John Wetland Memorial Death (CoB) Posted: August 02, 2011 at 06:52 PM (#3891265)
Didn't Kotchman have Lasik in the off season?
   25. SouthSideRyan Posted: August 02, 2011 at 07:01 PM (#3891272)
Isn't Derrek Lee ####### terrible now?
   26. spike Posted: August 02, 2011 at 07:51 PM (#3891300)
Atlanta could certainly use Reed Johnson right about now.
   27. Eddo Posted: August 02, 2011 at 09:01 PM (#3891344)
Because my experience is that in most large companies middle management usually gets zero direction from upper management, if not misdirection.

General Manager of a baseball team - somewhere between the second- and sixth-highest position, depending on the organization - is middle management?
   28. Walt Davis Posted: August 02, 2011 at 09:07 PM (#3891352)
Aren't they dreadful NOW? How are the guys that have been #### all year going to keep this team from being #### the rest of the year?

Yeah, but not because of the guys they could trade (for the most part). Ramirez, Pena and Byrd (and Johnson in limited time) are the 3 best hitters on the team and hitting reasonably well. The offense overall is just below average with our (not very good) 25-year-old 2B and our unmovable LF being the main problems. All in all, the offense has done what was expected of it -- Pena produced well enough, ARam bounced back, Byrd maintained/improved, Castro maintained, Soto (after a tough start) has been OK, Fuku was fine, Johnson did well. If you told me all those things were going to happen this year, I'd have been pretty optimistic about the Cubs.

The Cubs' main problem has been the rotation. Z (89), Dempster (80), Garza (100), Wells (65 and injured), Cashner (injured) and all our AAAA dreck was even dreckier than most AAAA dreck. We were expecting something more like 110 ERA+ from those first 3 guys and at least 100 from Wells. The Cubs should have had more/better starter depth but the starting 5 are giving up around 1 run per 9 more than expected. The 2010 Cubs had a 101 ERA+ and added Garza and Wood; this year it's 86. The offense this year has been a bit better than last year's.

As to the article ... whether a trade is a good idea or not is almost entirely a matter of what you get in return. As a general rule, trading talent like Carlos Marmol is dumber than ten dogs. I don't know who Daniels was offering but I'd have been pissed if Hendry traded Marmol for Davis and Hunter. I don't know enough about Wieland and Erlin -- numbers look good on both, also both probably 3 years away.

And no you don't trade guys for 20 cents on the dollar just to trade guys. That's dumber than at least 5 dogs.

Look, I agree with the conclusion of this article. Hey, I wanted to get rid of Hendry at least two years ago. Not working out good deals for some combination of Byrd, Pena, ARam, Dempster, Z, Marshall, Fukudome (seemed a good enough trade) is a huge mistake on his part.

And, yes, you may not like it but the Cubs need/want to put butts in seats and eyeballs on TVs in August (Sept is likely a lost cause). A Cubs lineup of Soto, Baker, Barney, Castro, ARam*, Soriano, Campana, Colvin would be mind-numbingly awful. 100 losses would seem pretty much guaranteed. Jesus, we'd have to grab Overbay and hope for a 1-month surge. As horrible as the Cubs are, they have not lost 100 games in 45 years.

And I actually would have liked to see the Cubs being buyers. Rasmus, Bourn and reportedly nearly Span changed hands for not very much with Rasmus and Span (nearly) going to non-contenders. Would Dempster and Marshall (and heaps of cash) to the Cards have not been enough for Rasmus? I suppose the Braves 9th, 17th, 42nd and 58th best prospects are still better than the Cubs top 4 but we could have at least called about Bourn (maybe they have a Darwin Barney fetish too!) And, true, his value may never be higher, but it's also true that Marlon Byrd at $6.5 M next year will probably still be a bargain.**

Anyway, I encourage dumping on Hendry. But that doesn't allow us to pretend down is up. The same incentives the Cubs had to trade these guys are the same reasons they wouldn't get much in return. Unless you can point to an actual deal turned down or at least a similar sort of trade, you can't say with much confidence that there were opportunities lost here. Yes, we obviously could have gotten at least Aaron Baker for Carlos Pena -- Baker is a 23-year-old 1B at A+ ball with a career 262 BA, traded for Derrek Lee -- i.e. he'll be lucky to turn into Steven Pearce or Micah Hoffpauir. If you can show me we might have gotten somebody who'd turn into Carlos Pena or Randy Wells then I'll be really, really pissed.

As it is I'm just despondent. Hendry continues on in his perfectly "meh" ways making moves which, in isolation, are "OK, not good" and add up to a moribund franchise. I'll be pissed at Ricketts if Hendry's not gone on Oct 1 but I don't think this lost trading deadline did any real damage to the Cubs' future.

* Barring a move of AROD to DH, there just wasn't much of a market for ARam this year, at least among teams the Cubs would deal with (i.e. not the White Sox or Brewers ... and the Sox sold more than bought anyway). The Indians could use him so Hendry should have at least called them; also the Tigers before picking up Betemit.

** Keri also made the odd claim that BJ Upton would bring more value in an offseason trade. I can't understand why that would be and, if it's true for Upton, I don't see why it's not true for Byrd. (That's not to say that Byrd should bring the same return as Upton (who's still just 26) just that whatever magical properties there are that make the last pre-FA year of an above-average CF more valuable in the offseason would seem to attach to Byrd as well as Upton).
   29. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: August 02, 2011 at 09:35 PM (#3891369)
The problem with trading ARam is that the third base position is so thin across MLB that Chicago's best move is probably to bring him back for 2012. The team has enough money that it shouldn't completely punt next season for the thrill of a few B- prospects.

As for Byrd: he is total trade bait. His best trait is "center fielder" and the Cubs will almost certainly be counting on Jackson to be a regular contributor next year.

There is really no argument for keeping Pena - other than an attempt to appear terrible rather than hopeless. Of course, rosters are about to expand which means they will probably be playing a bunch of kids in a month, anyway. And what's wrong with giving Brian LaHair a chance? He has absolutely owned AAA the past two seasons.
   30. Mash Wilson Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:04 PM (#3891384)
Eddo: If sixth, yes. If second, no.

I could have said "lower" and "higher" but the point remains the same. It is common for managers to not have a clue what their bosses want, and for their bosses to actively avoid telling them. Setting a clear goal is setting yourself up to be blamed for failure later. Managers all the way down the chain try to avoid that.
   31. Eddo Posted: August 02, 2011 at 10:39 PM (#3891400)
Eddo: If sixth, yes. If second, no.

I could have said "lower" and "higher" but the point remains the same. It is common for managers to not have a clue what their bosses want, and for their bosses to actively avoid telling them. Setting a clear goal is setting yourself up to be blamed for failure later. Managers all the way down the chain try to avoid that.

Sure, sixth is "middle" management if you're just considering people with "manager" in their job titles.

There is no way the position of GM is anything but upper-level management, especially at the Major League level. If Hendry does not communicate with the Ricketts family, then that's (yet another) sign that the Cubs organization is truly dysfunctional.

It would not be normal.
   32. McCoy Posted: August 02, 2011 at 11:47 PM (#3891431)
While we can quibble about the term middle management I think the point remains true regardless of what title you put on Hendry. Ownership could be very communicative in their opinions on what they expect out of Hendry that doesn't mean he'll actually be judged by those opinions.

Also, I doubt the Ricketts have been very clear on what they want. They are not baseball people. I don't see them being the type of people that could lay down a very clear and detail ladened goal system for Hendry. How in the world are they going to judge the farm system of the major league team? How are they going to know if the team is in good position for 5 years down the road. There only tangible measure they got is wins and losses.

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