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   1. Luke Jasenosky Posted: May 20, 2006 at 03:46 AM (#2028446)
Spot on, Mike. This type of behavior is beyond juvenile. As discussed in a previous post, however, the growing chorus of disgruntled voices appears to be only making the bunker mentality of the management even stronger.

Nice Spiro Agnew reference by the way. The similarites between the Nixon White House and current Cub ruling class are not minor. With this latest outburst, it looks like MacPhail and Hendry have been studying the Haldeman playbook a little too intently.
   2. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 20, 2006 at 03:58 AM (#2028456)
McGrath and Sullivan are just the 2006 version of Stone/Caray in 2004. If you don't like the way you're portrayed in the media, there are two ways to change it:

(1) get your act together and fix the things being criticized; or
(2) blame the media for being unfair.

We shouldn't be at all surprised that the Cubs are choosing the latter option. The former requires an admission - explicit or implicit - that the Cubs screwed up, that they made bad signings and put together a lousy team fronted by a lousy manager, or that the GM is bad and the President screwed up by extending him. Or both.

Admissions like that make you look weak, or incompetent, or stupid, or possibly all three. Better to kill the messenger.
   3. Walt Davis Posted: May 20, 2006 at 04:26 AM (#2028490)
I want to make one thing perfectly clear: :-)

I am not defending MacPhail and Hendry ...

but baserunning gaffes aside, Jones is doing exactly what could be expected. His OPS stands at 798 (career 783). His OBP is 320 (career 327) and his SLG is 478 (career 456). He stunk in April but he's been good in May and is now back where you'd expect. His major flaw could be easily rectified if the Cubs had enough sense to carry a platoon partner for him.

Average-ish corner OFs get paid $5-6 M a year these days. The Jones contract, while a year too long and/or for a smidgen too much money, is a perfectly blah contract and his play is not a major reason for the Cubs' suckitude (esp in May). Neither of course is he going to be part of the solution.

Jones should probably be no higher than Public Enemy #8:

1. Trib
2. Baker
3. MacPhail
4. Neifi
5. Pierre
6. Hendry
7. Matthews/Cline

with Womack and (I'd guess) Brenly shooting up the charts.
   4. Hang down your head, Tom Foley Posted: May 20, 2006 at 04:59 AM (#2028548)
Cub fans were never this despondent before 2003.
   5. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 20, 2006 at 12:13 PM (#2028608)
but baserunning gaffes aside, Jones is doing exactly what could be expected.

This is correct, and of course, it does absolutely nothing to vindicate the Cubs for being in the lousy position they're in: fielding a high-priced yet mediocre team, and lacking the organizational infrastructure to reverse the trend.

I've said it before: MacPhail has been on the job for ELEVEN YEARS. Look at what he's accomplished. The fact that he not only still has his job, but that he apparently thinks all is well, and his bosses in the Tribune seem to have no interest in showing him the door...it speaks volumes about how deeply and irreversibly diseased the Cubs organization is.
   6. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 20, 2006 at 01:14 PM (#2028626)
Jones should probably be no higher than Public Enemy #8:

1. Trib
2. Baker
3. MacPhail
4. Neifi
5. Pierre
6. Hendry
7. Matthews/Cline


I'd move Hendry a heck of a lot higher than #6 -- he's probably #3 on my list, possibly even higher. I'm also not sure if Pierre is that high on my list either.
   7. 100 Years is Nothing Posted: May 20, 2006 at 01:22 PM (#2028631)
It is about time someone is being held accountable for this train wreck.

Good job Andy and Jim!
   8. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 20, 2006 at 01:38 PM (#2028635)
I've said it before: MacPhail has been on the job for ELEVEN YEARS. Look at what he's accomplished. The fact that he not only still has his job, but that he apparently thinks all is well, and his bosses in the Tribune seem to have no interest in showing him the door...it speaks volumes about how deeply and irreversibly diseased the Cubs organization is.

And I've said this before: The problem isn't that MacPhail hasn't produced, per se. At the MacPhail level, the Tribune can -- and I would say should -- only judge him by numbers, namely revenues and profits, not wins and championships. This is the case in virtually every other organization.

On that level, clearly MacPhail has produced -- continued sellouts and ever-increasing revenues and profits that simply cannot be ignored. In the Tribune's eyes, there is no reason for the Tribune to show him the door.

The problem is that MacPhail has apparently adopted the same standard with respect to evaluating Hendry and Baker -- judging them not based on the last two seasons of on-field results, but based on one season three years ago and a constant stream of packed houses and revenue streams.

What is truly troubling is the fact that these revenues and attendance persist despite lousy teams and an organization that is too preoccupied with doing whatever minimal efforts it needs to sustain their revenue stream. I'm not saying that the fans should boycott or make a statement -- that's pointless -- but the fact is that because profits remain high, there is no one in the organization that has any real urgency to address the true problems at anything more than on a superficial, PR-driven level.

For years, this has been an organization that has needed to go in one of two directions -- either blow out the payroll and sign FAs Yankee/Red Sox style and accept a $130-150mm payroll, or blow up the team and truly rebuild, knowing that a 65 win season will result, rather than stumbling into one by surprise. The Cubs have consistently chosen neither option. Instead, they've always looked to plug holes while new ones spring all over the place.
   9. Mike Isaacs Posted: May 20, 2006 at 01:39 PM (#2028636)
Jones is doing exactly what could be expected.

I know this post was rather nasty and harsh against Jones -- perhaps a bit unfairly so. But the repeated base-running mistakes and his performance at the plate in his first weeks in a Cubs uniform were worthy of serious criticism from daily beat reporters who were doing their jobs. To have MacPhail try to exert influence to try to soften coverage of Jones and the rest of the team speaks volumes about the little weasel that he truly is.

Jones is not a terrible player and is now playing about as well we can expect. But that doesn't mean signing him wasn't terrible, IMHO.

Where you place him on the list of Cubs woes is fine if we're only talking about right now and the lost season of 2006. But if and when Hendry in the future tries to dig this team out from under this mess, Jones is the most troublesome position player on the team. He's the epitome of mediocrity at a traditionally important offensive position, and the Cubs are stuck with him for two more years. Pierre is gone without any problem if the Cubs want to make a change. But Jones locks the team in.

The Cubs can improve their RF situation by providing a serious platoon for Jones. But he's being paid the bucks for being an everyday right fielder and there seems a resistance to think of him in any other terms. The contract is what is so appalling about his acquisition -- not so much Jones himself.
   10. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 20, 2006 at 02:41 PM (#2028651)
New handle for me in honor of our man Andy.

And I've said this before: The problem isn't that MacPhail hasn't produced, per se. At the MacPhail level, the Tribune can -- and I would say should -- only judge him by numbers, namely revenues and profits, not wins and championships. This is the case in virtually every other organization.

I think this is completely untrue. Revenues and profits are a concern, but baseball operations are generally seen as brand-enhancing operations, not cash cows. The fact that the Tribune Company only cares about that is, in fact, the disease. In other organizations, at least the good ones, the baseball operations guy is judged on what the team does on the field.

Look around the rest of the division. The Astros field a winning team nearly every season, and they do it with lower payrolls and less income. MacPhail is a screwup.
   11. Artie Ziff Posted: May 20, 2006 at 07:58 PM (#2029540)
Baker is a lot lower and Hendry is a lot higher on that list. Baker can only play the hand he is dealt. With a terrible dealers in Hendry and McPhail, as predicted, he was destined to lose this season. Chicago needs health and stronger signings to ever improve.
   12. Meatwad Posted: May 20, 2006 at 09:09 PM (#2029780)
dont forget that hendry is getting baker they type of players he loves, "speedy" hacking vets.
   13. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 20, 2006 at 09:14 PM (#2029785)
dont forget that hendry is getting baker they type of players he loves, "speedy" hacking vets.

But is that because Hendry likes "speedy hacking vets" or because he's deferring to his manager? I agree with somebody who suggested that Hendry's got the skills to be a decent GM in the right situation.

Nevertheless, if I owned the Cubs I'd fire both Baker and Hendry, just to be on the safe side.
   14. Meatwad Posted: May 20, 2006 at 09:31 PM (#2029798)
agreed, and mcphail just as a stop gap
   15. Walt Davis Posted: May 20, 2006 at 11:10 PM (#2029860)
More expounding on Jones:

1) I agree that this was a typical Cubs signing of a mediocre player to plug a hole rather than a player who would really make a difference. That is an organizational problem that's been going on for years. Unfortunately, the Trib has yet to take the plunge and sign a really top-flight FA (other than extending their own which, with the exception of Maddux, they've generally been pretty good about). This I see as, likely, more of a Trib problem (and maybe a MacPhail problem though it goes back much farther than that) than a Hendry problem.

1a) Jones is the right sort of player for a team that's legitimately good and needs to plug a hole; he's also a reasonable player for a young-ish team that's not good and needs a few legit major-leaguers around to keep from embarassing themselves. The Cubs are in that tricky middle-ground where they need a real impact player to hopefully move up to "legitimately good" but they're good enough that plugging a hole might be enough to win the wild card with a little luck. Under the circumstances, Jones was a decent signing.

2) One Hendry problem highlighted by the Jones signing is that the Cubs continue to do a horrible job of developing position players. The problem wasn't signing Jones to fill a hole in RF, it's that the Cubs constantly have holes (or impending holes) all over the place on offense with no one in the organization to fill in. Coming into this offseason, the Cubs were only set at C, 1B, and 3B. By Cubs' standards, it's a minor miracle that we had as many as two within-organization options for those 5 holes. And imagine how much worse this season would be if they had managed to follow through on their plan to trade Walker! Anyway, as I said above, Jones was a decent signing to plug the RF hole ... the problem was too many holes and not one was filled by an impact player. And again, this is a Hendry problem though I'm uncertain how much it reflects his "innate" ability as a GM or his inability to figure out how to work successfully within the constraints of Trib/MacPhail/Baker -- not that it matters much which it is.

2a) This inability to develop position players has been present for over 15 years now (since the Palmeiro/Grace days) and appears to also be an organizational problem. Hendry probably was the best farm director the Cubs have had in a long time and he wasn't able to do it either (though by Cubs standards, Choi and Patterson are pretty good). Which raises the question of what is the Trib doing that screws up the minor leagues? I can't imagine they care that much and they've been reasonably willing to fork over signing bonus money. So I will lay blame for this with the fact that they continually hire mediocrities or worse as GMs (and presidents) -- so the blame comes back to Hendry.

2b) Hendry's unwillingness or inability to overrule Baker on playing young players has been the biggest mystery of these last 4 years. That the Cubs have generally not traded their prospects (at their peak value at least) suggests that Hendry does value them, yet they give them little chance to succeed in the majors.

3) I disagree with the notion that the Cubs, or good teams, need strong RF. Championship teams are almost always mediocre (or worse) at one, two, or even three of 1B, LF, RF. Lee, Murton, Jones is no worse than Konerko, Podsednik, Dye or Berkman, Burke, Lane and not much worse than Pujols, whoever, Encarnacion.

3a) And his contract is small enough that the Cubs can easily eat it. It's small enough that he's tradeable. This is what average (or worse) corner OFs cost these days (Sanders, Encarnacion, Burnitz, Jones all got basically the same contract except the ancient guys got fewer years)...and they will likely cost a little bit more in 2007 and a little bit more in 2008.

3b) So I do not see Jones as the biggest obstacle to turning this team around in 2007-2008. I'm not sure I see him as an obstacle at all -- he's not part of the solution (i.e. not a difference-maker) but he's not a substantial problem for future success. Those substantial problems start with the Trib/MacPhail/Hendry/Baker in the FO; the lack of impact players in the minors (unless Pie really breaks out); and on the field it's the health of Wood, Prior and possibly now Lee (wrist injuries scare me), the need for an impact bat somewhere, whether Murton is going to develop into a decent player, CF, 2B, and the bench. That's a lot of holes (again) before we worry about our mediocre RF.
   16. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 20, 2006 at 11:18 PM (#2029873)
I think this is completely untrue. Revenues and profits are a concern, but baseball operations are generally seen as brand-enhancing operations, not cash cows. The fact that the Tribune Company only cares about that is, in fact, the disease. In other organizations, at least the good ones, the baseball operations guy is judged on what the team does on the field.

MacPhail is *not* the baseball operations guy. He's the President and CEO. His counterparts are not Brian Cashman, Theo Epstein, John Scheurholz, Omar Minaya, and Walt Jocketty; they are Randy Levine, Larry Lucchino, Terry McGuirk, Fred Wilpon, and Bill DeWitt.

Ultimately, he's judged by his directors and shareholders, not by the general public, and those decisions are driven by $$$.

In other organizations, $$$ is determined by wins and losses, so that to achieve the revenues and profits, one has to deliver wins and championships. Not so with the Cubs, this disconnect is the problem -- the people to whom MacPhail reports see the $$$ and don't need to worry about on-field results . . . other than to the extent that they may jeopardize the cash cow.

I'm not saying that MacPhail isn't a screw-up. You've convinced me over the last few years of this. In particular, MacPhail is a screw-up because, despite his being bulletproof, he could -- if he had a clue -- see that Hendry isn't the right person to direct the baseball operations into the future. MacPhail either doesn't see that or, worse, doesn't care.

The problem is that because the $$$ keeps rolling in, no one higher than he cares either.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: May 20, 2006 at 11:22 PM (#2029879)
It occurs to me that there's one point that's not clear:

I don't think Hendry should have gotten his extension. Neither he nor Baker has performed at a level to deserve it and, at the least, the Trib/MacPhail should have waited to see how this season went before extending either one.

But Hendry has been extended which means he'll be around for at least one more year (I know the extension's through 2008 but I wouldn't be surprised to see him fired next year). And I think he is an average-ish GM who would be better without Baker, so I can live with that. Like Jones, Hendry's not part of the solution and I'd rather they went out and got a good GM but I remain uncertain as to how big a part of the problem he is.

I do recognize I could be dead wrong and Hendry could be the central problem. I'm not really trying to argue against anyone, or persuade anyone to agree with me, just laying out my thoughts.
   18. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 20, 2006 at 11:23 PM (#2029881)
The Cubs are in that tricky middle-ground where they need a real impact player to hopefully move up to "legitimately good" but they're good enough that plugging a hole might be enough to win the wild card with a little luck. Under the circumstances, Jones was a decent signing.

. . . but not for 3 years. I do agree that the money, while a bit more than he's worth, is not ridiculously overpaying him. The problem, IMO, is the 3 years.

Other than that, Walt, I generally agree with your other points.
   19. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 20, 2006 at 11:30 PM (#2029890)
The problem is that because the $$$ keeps rolling in, no one higher than he cares either.

Well, the problem from McPhail's perspective isn't gross revenue, that's fine. It's on the cost side. The Cubs aren't cheap. They have one of the highest payrolls in the National League (I think it was highest at the start of last season). Even if the Cubs can't squeeze any more revenue out of Wrigley, they at a minimum should be questioning whether they need to be spending $100 million for 79 wins. The Cubs organization has shown that they're willing to carry the kind of payrolls that should be good enough to win 90+ games regularly. So from that perspective, if I were a Trib shareholder, I don't know that I'd be feeling like I was getting my money's worth from McPhail (and Hendry and Baker, of course).
   20. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 20, 2006 at 11:31 PM (#2029891)
I don't think Hendry should have gotten his extension. Neither he nor Baker has performed at a level to deserve it and, at the least, the Trib/MacPhail should have waited to see how this season went before extending either one.

Agreed. The problem is that Baker/Hendry are still being judged (a) by 2003 and (b) compared to past Cubs GMs and managers.

IMO, Hendry has done virtually nothing positive for this organization since the Nomar trade of 2004, and several things negative. The fact that he may have started out better than past Cubs GMs is an indictment of the past; it's not a reason to justify staying with him in the future.


Like Jones, Hendry's not part of the solution and I'd rather they went out and got a good GM but I remain uncertain as to how big a part of the problem he is.

This is where the discussion between Andere and me about MacPhail kicks in. We agree that the problem is that MacPhail continues to bring in people who can't seem to deliver -- and given the organizational blindspot toward developing position players, Hendry's lack of success is doubly troubling.

I think Andere and I also agree that even if Hendry goes, MacPhail is not likely to find someone who can fit the bill. The problem, as I see it, is that MacPhail is only evaluated on the basis of the P&L, not the W/L, so as long as the cash cow remains, the Tribune won't have a reason to remove him.
   21. Mike Isaacs Posted: May 21, 2006 at 12:09 AM (#2029942)
Walt, I agree with many of the points you raise. We obviously disagree on a few of them.

Your points from 1 and 1A are basically agreements. As for 1A, I'd put it in a bit of a different way. There certainly are teams that can absorb Jones in right field and still be a winner. That might not be exactly what you're saying, but it's at least in the same ball park. Your organizational analysis of the team is not too different from mine although obviously I am severely critical of Hendry.

Likewise, I don't think Jones absolutely dooms this team for the next couple of years. It simply makes Hendry's job of turning around the offense more difficult, IMHO.

When I look at the struggles of this team's offense and the changes that are needed in a holistic way, I see Jones as part of the problem and not the solution. The weaknesses in Jones' game become more significant -- they stand out more -- on this Cubs team because the team doesn't have as many players to compensate for them. Jones is likely to give you average power in right with little plate discipline and some speed. He will strike out too much and doesn't hit lefties. All and all, a pretty average right fielder.

Now we have him for the next two years. So at what position will and can Hendry change the offensive makeup of this team? The loss of Alou and Sosa (when the latter was putting up very decent power numbers) meant a major reduction in power as well as strong OPS and OBP. Where do we replace some of that?

We'd all like to see Murton remain in left. But he's still a young player who is not generating much power and has his ups and downs. He may be better next year, but we realistically have to evaluate the offensive production that he'll provide the Cubs in 2007. If Pierre is gone, will Pie be ready for center next year? And how much offensive impact will he have in his first two years of professional baseball?

If Pie is not ready, who do the Cubs go after for center in 2007?

Looking at the Cubs outfield in its enirety leaves me to conclude that Jones' presence in RF -- and for two more years -- makes it difficult for serious upgrade in the outfield. Not impossible but difficult. In the infield, a healthy Derrek Lee and a better Aramis Ramirez would obviously greatly improve the team's overall offense and compensate to some degree for Jones. But Ronny Cedeno is still a developing player without a lot of pop and Michael Barrett is a decent offensive catcher but not one to make a tremendous difference in the areas we're talking about.

When you take a look at the collection of players that make up this offense, there are still too many of them without enough plate patience and a willingness to wait out a pitcher. Likewise, the team could use more power. To me, Jacque Jones in RF through 2008 does not help rectify these problems: He makes it more difficult to overcome them.

Let's say Jim Hendry wakes up tomorrow and finally recognizes that the offensive areas that we have criticized for so long deserve much greater priority for improvement next year. How does he change things around? We have two young players in the lineup who are still developing and our infield corners are settled. Center field becomes the only source for a real upgrade, doesn't it?

I agree that good teams can survive without great right fielders, but right field has been occupied by some of the more formidible offensive players in baseball. Plugging in a real bat with considerable OPS/OBP potential there over the next two years could greatly impact this lineup. That's just not as likely to happen now.

The length of the Jones contract is the biggest problem for me. The money should not be such a problem, but I think it is. I'm just not convinced the Cubs will be willing to eat that contract.

A few years ago, Miguel Tejada was on the open market. The Cubs didn't show any interest. Why? They had Alex Gonzalez signed for another year. Hendry was not willing to eat any part of Gonzalez's contract for a year to go after Tejada. A review of Hendry's position back then was reiterated by a WGN radio sports anchor just yesterday. He said Hendry stated that position directly to him.

I can't think of a better example of why the Jones signing -- in terms of both length of contract and money -- is so troubling to me. I would have been happier with Patterson or Burnitz in right for fewer years for just this reason.

Thanks for a good discussion...
   22. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 21, 2006 at 01:54 AM (#2030092)
MacPhail is *not* the baseball operations guy. He's the President and CEO.

He's President and CEO of the Cubs. As far as the Tribune Co is concerned, he's the baseball operations guy. All baseball people ultimately report to Andy MacPhail, and MacPhail reports to the Tribune bosses and stockholders.

No, he isn't involved in the everyday decision-making, but ultimately the buck does, or rather should, stop at his desk.

In other organizations, $$$ is determined by wins and losses, so that to achieve the revenues and profits, one has to deliver wins and championships. Not so with the Cubs, this disconnect is the problem -- the people to whom MacPhail reports see the $$$ and don't need to worry about on-field results . . . other than to the extent that they may jeopardize the cash cow.

Inasmuch as this is true, it doesn't entirely negate the motivation to win. Sure, the Cubs can make money and field a bad team, but they make more money when they field a good one, and perhaps more importantly, the brand-enhancing power of the franchise is amplified. And if they aren't going to win, they could save a lot of money and field a less expensive team. In other words, in no way can it be interpreted that MacPhail is doing a good job of maximizing profits. He's simply doing a good enough job in a half-assed corporation that doesn't expect much. And watch what happens to those profits as the team continues to play as badly as it has the last year and half. It's one thing to get people to go to Wrigley, it's another to keep people watching them on tv and buying the merchandise. Is it as much the Tribune bosses' fault as MacPhail's? Probably, but MacPhail is really the key guy.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: May 21, 2006 at 02:22 AM (#2030113)
Interestingly enough, the Cubs ended up trading Gonzalez (and picking up some money??) after getting Nomar.

Your interpretation of the Tejada situation is clearly legit. An alternative, and possibly scarier, interpretation is that the Cubs considered Gonzalez an adequate solution and didn't feel the upgrade was worth the money. A third choice is that they underrated Tejada -- which a lot of us, including me, were doing at the time (at least at that money).

But we're in agreement that this team was and is in a "tricky" situation. For most of my Cub life, the team has been in 1 of 2 states -- really crappy or decent players almost everywhere. We're like a big payroll version of the Pirates.

So you're right, when you go position-by-position, it's hard to point to any one and say "we can easily improve this spot and if we get a stud, we'll be a good team." Barrett may be the best (hitting) C in the NL (it's a sorry bunch) and we can't get Martinez, McCann or Mauer. Nobody but Pujols is guaranteed better than Lee. Walker is average at 2B and we're not gonna get Chase Utley (we probably could get Vidro and we could have had Castillo, but I'm not sure either of those is a major upgrade). I don't know his defense, but Cedeno is probably gonna be an average-ish SS and maybe we could get an aging Tejada. Ramirez is probably top 10 at 3B (I've always had my doubts) and I don't see any likely options here. Murton deserves a shot and Jones is average-ish though likely to be worse over the next two years -- Abreu might have been available before and might be again if the Phillies flop as they usually do. CF is the most obvious spot for an upgrade, though Pierre should have been better than this, but we need to decide what to do with Pie. And of course on the pitching side, you're not gonna substantially upgrade Zambrano/Prior/Wood/Maddux/Marshall (or whoever) in terms of talent and it's not clear a big FA pitcher would be that much less an injury risk than Wood and Prior.

Folks have speculated, and I think someone did present some numbers in support of this, that it's much easier to improve a team with an obvious point of suckitude than it is one that's decent everywhere. The Cubs are often decent everywhere and that was the challenge last offseason and this upcoming offseason.

Given our farm system, to improve AND hold onto the talent we do have most likely means an FA signing (not much available I don't think) or trading for someone's aging big contract which is of course risky. We can always hope to grab a pending FA off a cheapskate team but I'm not sure we have enough prospects to get that done (and Pie would presumably have to be included). Over the last several years, there have been impact players available who could have made a big difference -- Tejada, Beltran, AROD, maybe Kent, maybe Furcal, Vlad, possibly Abreu but the Trib's (apparent) unwillingness to spend big bucks has killed us.

So that's why I think we probably need to move a big name. As I mentioned in another thread, I'd love if we could get good return for Ramirez. If the Angels can get back into it, maybe they'll be desparate to solve their 3B problem. Maybe the Phils or Indians will tire of the Bell/Boone show. The other contenders seem pretty set at 3B.

So that probably means trading some pitching, which probably means Wood or Prior. Wood turns 30 next year, I think his contract is up after next year, I think he still has some sexiness attached to his name. Hopefully he can pitch well (and healthy) the rest of this season.

There is of course one obvious spot which the Cubs could upgrade substantially, easily, and cheaply -- the bench. And adding a platoon partner for Jones upgrades RF pretty substantially and that should be easy and cheap. I hope getting rid of Baker would lead to some improvement in OBP even with the same hitters.

Anyway, I agree the Jones signing was disheartening -- it's another in a long line of blah, water-treading, underproductive moves. But I think we're in agreement that the real problem isn't the Jones signing in isolation but that pattern of blah, water-treading, underproductive moves.

If nothing else it would be nice just to play armchair GM without having to include phrases like "given the Trib won't pay for a big FA" and "given Baker won't play the young guys" and "given Wood/Prior will get hurt" and "given they only have to be decent to sell out", etc.
   24. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 21, 2006 at 12:22 PM (#2030288)
Vlad Guerrero was also available after the 2003 season. The Cubs showed no interest in him, because they were happy with Moises Alou and would have had to eat a large portion of his salary to get rid of him. Alou rewarded them with one of the best seasons of his career (along with all of the kvetching and baserunning gaffes) but wouldn't it have been a lot better to have Vlad? The Cubs seem to have no problem paying their doghouse players to play on other teams, so I don't buy the excuse that they couldn't have done that with Alou.
   25. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: May 21, 2006 at 12:26 PM (#2030289)
Here's the problem: Coming in to 2006 we had 2 positions that didn't have in-house players to fill it: Right Field and Center Field. With Pie on the way, there's no reason to get a centerfielder for several years, whereas we don't have anyone in right, so either a 1 year place holder or a trade for someone that would provide above average offense would have been a good idea. Hendry, in his infinite wisdom, chose to sign a below average right fielder for 3 years, eliminating the chance to make a major upgrade within the next few years. He also traded 3 players for what I hope is just a placeholder.

And that's what's wrong with the Cubs. Hendry can't seem to figure out how to improve the lineup significantly through free agency. He did a great job of stealing Ramirez and Lee, but our offense was average even with them last year. I just don't see any hope for the Cubs making the playoffs anytime soon unless Lee has another 2005 and our starters have another 2003 type year (minus the Estes performance.)
   26. Dan The Mediocre is one of "the rest" Posted: May 21, 2006 at 12:29 PM (#2030290)
I bet that if we had Vlad in 2004 that we'd have won the wild card. Moises and Sammy were terrible at the end of the year, while Vlad was still killing the ball.
   27. Neil M Posted: May 21, 2006 at 11:57 PM (#2031029)
Wood turns 30 next year, I think his contract is up after next year, I think he still has some sexiness attached to his name. Hopefully he can pitch well (and healthy) the rest of this season.

Hmmm. The Trib is reporting that he may miss his next start due to 'soreness' in his shoulder.
   28. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 21, 2006 at 11:59 PM (#2031031)
Hmmm. The Trib is reporting that he may miss his next start due to 'soreness' in his shoulder.

Heh. One start and it's already acting up. The Cubs must plan on having him be the savior from the bench this year.
   29. Neil M Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:00 AM (#2031032)
Well. that link doesn't work at all well. It's an O'Sullivan report.
   30. Neil M Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:03 AM (#2031038)
Wood hurting, Hill sent down for Wuertz; it looks like the return of Glendon Rusch. Amazing what a couple of scoreless innings of relief can get you when you're a crafty veteran.
   31. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:05 AM (#2031042)
They've run through everyone else, though. Guzman, Hill, Williams all failed in one way or another. Who's left at AAA that we haven't seen yet this year?

I'd still rather see Williams come back up and get the shot, but I'm resigned that the chances of him ever getting a real shot with the Cubs at this point are about 1000:1.
   32. Neil M Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:09 AM (#2031052)
At this point I'd rather see Guzman or Williams try to work through their problems than watch Rusch get 6 or 7 outs and then start tossing BP balls again. Hill I can do without. His mopish body language speaks volumes, all negative to me.
   33. Neil M Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:11 AM (#2031062)
mopish?

mopey? moping? mopeful? mopious? mopetastic?
   34. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:11 AM (#2031063)
I'm just looking back at what our young pitchers have done so far this year in the back of the rotation:

Hill - 4 starts, 0-4, 9.31 ERA
Guzman - 4 starts, 0-2, 7.00 ERA
Williams - 2 starts, 0-2, 7.30 ERA

That's 0-8 in 10 starts (plus a handful of relief appearances for Williams) with an ERA around 8.00. For comparison:

Rusch - 5 starts, 1-5, 7.31 ERA
Wood - 1 start, 0-1, 7.20 ERA

Put the 5 together, you get 1-14 with an ERA around 7.70. Let's be stunned this team stinks this year with that kind of performance from the 4/5 slots in the rotation.
   35. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:13 AM (#2031069)
mopish?

mopey? moping? mopeful? mopious? mopetastic?


foppish?
   36. Neil M Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:16 AM (#2031094)
Probably because I waited so long for Guzman's arrival, I want to cut him some not-too-justifiable slack so I'll just point out that two of his starts were blighted by Novoa coming on and allowing all inherited runners to score. Not much of a defense, I know, but I'm sentimental.
   37. Neil M Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:20 AM (#2031112)
Rusch - 5 starts, 1-5, 7.31 ERA

You're being kind to the man. He was 1-4 as a starter, with an 8.46 ERA.
   38. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:22 AM (#2031121)
Williams had the one start in Pittsburgh where he allowed 1 earned run in 6 innings (2 runs total). That one, and Rusch's 6 IP, 3 ER start in the same series are the only two quality starts of the 16 made by those 5 pitchers.
   39. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:26 AM (#2031134)
You're being kind to the man. He was 1-4 as a starter, with an 8.46 ERA.

I didn't feel like breaking it out. I knew it was crappy, and his overall record was enough to reflect that crappiness.

You'd think with all these pitchers we'd have someone who could get people out. Meanwhile, the guys we let go:

Koronka - 8 starts, 4-1, 4.22 ERA
Nolasco's moving into the rotation because he's pitched well in Florida
Even Mitre, a guy we couldn't wait to get rid of, is 1-4, 4.89 ERA. Lousy yes, but in comparison to what we've got he's Roger Clemens.
   40. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 12:54 AM (#2031220)
He's President and CEO of the Cubs. As far as the Tribune Co is concerned, he's the baseball operations guy. All baseball people ultimately report to Andy MacPhail, and MacPhail reports to the Tribune bosses and stockholders.

Yes and no. Where I'm quibbling with you is over the word "operations." As far as the Tribune is concerned, MacPhail is the president/CEO -- not COO -- of a Tribune subsidiary. Sure, the buck stops with him . . . but notice I used the phrase "the buck." In most instances, wins = bucks, but not with this organization. That's created a disconnect.

Let me go one step further. Suppose the Cubs fired MacPhail and hired a new president who brought in a new regime. Further suppose that new president decided to do what many of us would want -- back up the truck and go with a true rebuilding effort from the ground up. This causes 3-4 season of 60 win baseball, though those of us here in BTF like their chances in years 5-6. (IOW, think "Devil Rays.")

Meanwhile, Joe and Mary Cubsfan see that the Cubs have fired Dusty (in whom they trusty'd), tossed aside their darlings Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, brought in minor leaguers they've never heard of, and started to lose not just 90 games, but 100+. They, and thousands of their friends, shift to root for the White Sox and actually do quit visiting Wrigley. Profits turn into losses over the next 2-3 years.

How happy is the Tribune with this turn of events? Why?


Sure, the Cubs can make money and field a bad team, but they make more money when they field a good one, and perhaps more importantly, the brand-enhancing power of the franchise is amplified. And if they aren't going to win, they could save a lot of money and field a less expensive team. In other words, in no way can it be interpreted that MacPhail is doing a good job of maximizing profits.

This sounds good, but I'd like proof. It seems to me that the Cubs always seem to do just enough to sustain their fan base and ensure folks return, but no more. Put another way, keeping Hendry as GM and Baker as manager, with a $90-100mm paroll that includes fan favorites like Wood and Prior keeps fans coming to games. Heck, we saw proof of that last week.

I submit that if the Cubs dropped the payroll to, say, $60mm (and getting rid of guys like Wood and Prior as a result), this would turn fans away.
   41. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 01:14 AM (#2031299)
Hendry's most recent defense of Baker

Essentially, "I didn't expect we'd be this lousy, but you can't blame Baker because of the injuries. You can't blame the players either; they are all just trying too hard." IOW, everyone is disappointed, but no one will be accountable.

As for the question of whether to extend Dusty, Hendry basically says that he's discussed the evaluation process with Dusty, who's comfortable with it. Hendry certainly didn't dispel the notion that he's just waiting for an opportune moment.
   42. KB JBAR (trhn) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 02:40 AM (#2031596)
They've run through everyone else, though. Guzman, Hill, Williams all failed in one way or another. Who's left at AAA that we haven't seen yet this year?


Ryu's still a possibility. He has a 3.12 ERA, 37 Ks, 17 BBs and 4 HRs in 48 IP at Iowa. Unless they've suffered injuries I don't know about, Marmol, Mateo or Randy Wells could be options. All of them have performed well at AA.

I'd still rather see Williams come back up and get the shot, but I'm resigned that the chances of him ever getting a real shot with the Cubs at this point are about 1000:1.


Williams has been pretty bad in AAA. In his 5 starts, he's throw 27 IP, giving up 17 runs (5.60 ERA) and striking out 10 while walking 15 and allowing 5 HR. Hill's been terrible at the big league level, but he's at least had success at Iowa. I think the Cubs should just throw Hill in the last slot in the rotation and leave him alone for a year. He's dominated every level he's been at for the last two years and it's doubtful he has anything else to learn in AAA.
   43. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 03:17 AM (#2031724)
As for the question of whether to extend Dusty, Hendry basically says that he's discussed the evaluation process with Dusty, who's comfortable with it. Hendry certainly didn't dispel the notion that he's just waiting for an opportune moment.

That's my feeling exactly - Hendry is just waiting for the opportunity to extend Baker without bringing down the hellfire that comes with giving an extension to the man steering a team directly into the basement.

The more I hear this stuff from Hendry, the more I'm convinced that Dusty will be back regardless of how the Cubs do this year *unless* one of the higher ups orders him out. Hendry may say it's his call, but he still has to answer to someone, and he's not signing the checks. The Trib company isn't going to continue to pay Baker $4M+/yr to give them 70 wins off a $95M payroll.
   44. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 03:26 AM (#2031747)
I think that if the Cubs pull near .500, that's when Baker gets his extension.

If the Cubs don't draw that close, then most likely Baker manages for the rest of the season. If the Cubs finish with more than around 70 wins, he returns for one year -- 75 wins will get him a second year.

If the Cubs win less than 70, then I think even Hendry will realize it won't be politically expedient to resign Baker, and he'll simply let Baker walk.

As for a mid-season firing, I don't see that happening unless the players come out against him (and that ain't happening).

Just my guess, of course.
   45. Kiko Sakata Posted: May 22, 2006 at 03:49 AM (#2031764)
I told my wife at the start of the season that if the White Sox make the playoffs this year and the Cubs have a losing record and bring Dusty Baker back, I thought the Sox would out-draw the Cubs next year. Sadly, I become more and more convinced every day that my hypothetical scenario is going to come to pass.
   46. Walt Davis Posted: May 22, 2006 at 07:02 AM (#2031824)
I don't think anyone is suggesting the Cubs drop payroll to $60 M. Given their revenue stream, there's no reason why, even in down years, the Cubs shouldn't field winning (or at least 500ish) teams. Not every team can be the Braves of course, but the Astros have 15 500 or better seasons in the last 20; the Cards have 13; the Dodgers haven't made the playoffs that much but even they have 14 500 or better seasons in the last 20; the woeful Red Sox have 15.

The Cubs are down there with the O's -- 7 seasons vs. 6.

I don't want the Cubs to go into full rebuilding mode. Plus they have two bonafide superstars in Lee and Zambrano and a potential one in Prior if he ever stays healthy. What I want to see is (1) building a successful minor-league system and (2) signing a big, productive FA and surrounding our core with other good players to win now. As the kids come in, the old farts go and we continue to sign good FAs and trade for good, expensive players that someone else doesn't want to pay anymore to fill any gaps. That's not a formula that will always lead to a winner, much less a playoff perennial. But the Cards and Astros have done it with lower payrolls (and in the Cards case not much minor-league development in recent years) and the Dodgers and Red Sox have done it with Cub-type payrolls.

With these revenues, there's no reason the Cubs shouldn't win consistently. Hendry has at least come closer to that threshhold than most other Cubs GMs.
   47. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 07:50 AM (#2031832)
I don't think anyone is suggesting the Cubs drop payroll to $60 M.

I wasn't, Walt. I was just responding to Andere's position that "If they aren't going to win, they could save a lot of money and field a less expensive team."

My point, stated badly, was that the Cubs have to put a certain amount of money into the team -- not for the sake of wins, per se, but for the purpose of appearing to try . . . and so long as they appear to be trying, fans will continue to come to the park, thereby preserving MacPhail's job.

That said, your plan sounds good, though keeping in mind your earlier observation that one problem is that the team has no glaring weaknesses in the field; rather, they are consistently decent/mediocre almost everywhere.
   48. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 03:28 PM (#2031958)
Whomever fixed my lousy italicization -- thanks.
   49. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 22, 2006 at 03:33 PM (#2031964)
Yes and no. Where I'm quibbling with you is over the word "operations." As far as the Tribune is concerned, MacPhail is the president/CEO -- not COO -- of a Tribune subsidiary. Sure, the buck stops with him . . . but notice I used the phrase "the buck." In most instances, wins = bucks, but not with this organization. That's created a disconnect.

I agree that this disconnect exists in the Cubs organization, but it is not as complete as you make it sound. I cannot believe that a losing Cubs team will bring in as much revenue as a winning Cubs team, and the Cubs expend enough resources that they should be a winning team. The Astros have consistently spent less and won more. If the Tribune Co is at all paying attention to the Cubs organization profits-wise beyond "X amount of profit is pretty good" (and clearly they are not), they would ask why they are giving Hendry ~$8 million more every year, and consistently getting fewer wins than the Astros. They should be expecting as many or more wins than the Astros, and if they don't care about wins, they should at best give Hendry the same payroll dollars the Astros spend. In other words, MacPhail's baseball operation WASTES THEIR MONEY, and they should be able to get all of the benefits MacPhail gives them on the black side of the ledger and not waste payroll money.

Let me go one step further. Suppose the Cubs fired MacPhail and hired a new president who brought in a new regime. Further suppose that new president decided to do what many of us would want -- back up the truck and go with a true rebuilding effort from the ground up. This causes 3-4 season of 60 win baseball, though those of us here in BTF like their chances in years 5-6. (IOW, think "Devil Rays.")

I don't think 3-4 seasons of 60 win baseball is necessary. The Cubs have the financial resources to rebuild on a shorter timescale than that. They lack the knowledge resources, but otherwise I don't see why it would take that long.

Besides, the Cubs haven't won as few as 60 games in 40 years, but they did win fewer than 70 four years out of six between 1997-2002. During that time, there was an upward trend in attendance. Sure, there were important factors that helped, including a Wild Card title and a surprisingly successful team in 2001, and perhaps this is where MacPhail gets his big credit, but it also shows that people won't just give up on Wrigley.

I submit that if the Cubs dropped the payroll to, say, $60mm (and getting rid of guys like Wood and Prior as a result), this would turn fans away.

I'm not talking about cutting it that much, just down to what the Astros spend.
   50. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 03:45 PM (#2031978)
If the Tribune Co is at all paying attention to the Cubs organization profits-wise beyond "X amount of profit is pretty good" (and clearly they are not), they would ask why they are giving Hendry ~$8 million more every year, and consistently getting fewer wins than the Astros. They should be expecting as many or more wins than the Astros, and if they don't care about wins, they should at best give Hendry the same payroll dollars the Astros spend.

Tribune Answer: "We're not the baseball experts, but we know that the team was 5 outs away from a World Series and has had a string a debilitating injuries that prevented them from winning more since then. Andy tells us that there is reason for hope in the future, and we do know that he's bringing in the $$$ that we aren't seeing from our other divisions, so we're not going to meddle and risk destroying the one cash cow we can count on.

In the end, baseball is a very unpredictable thing. From what we've heard, we had a team that was capable of making the playoffs and anything can happen at that point. In retrospect, freak injuries prevented that from happening and we probably could have spent less to achieve the same result, but we probably wouldn't have had the same upside potential and, in the final analysis, because Andy MacPhail consistently brings in the profits, we'e not going to meddle over something that is soo unpredictable."
   51. Vive L'Orange! (marck) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 06:10 PM (#2032084)
There has been an assumption made throughout this discussion (which is not to say that it hasn't been extremely interesting to read everyone's thoughts), and that is that MacPhail tore into Sullivan because of Sullivan was critical of Jones' performance.

On the contrary, Sullivan reported on WGN Radio that MacPhail's problem was an alleged misquote of Jones in an article where Jones criticized the fans. (I'm guessing it was this article.) What's more, Sullivan said that the "tongue-lashing" actually happened a few weeks ago -- not last week, as reported in the Sun-Times.

Apparently, MacPhail claimed that Jones was not down on the Cubs fans. This looked like he was trying to save Jones' image more than he was trying to cover the Cubs' idiocy in signing him to the contract he has in the first place.

Why MacPhail is arguing that Jones was misquoted rather than Jacque himself, I have no idea.
   52. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 06:29 PM (#2032105)
Apparently, MacPhail claimed that Jones was not down on the Cubs fans. This looked like he was trying to save Jones' image more than he was trying to cover the Cubs' idiocy in signing him to the contract he has in the first place.

I've heard Sullivan interviewed on the Score and although he (and also Dan McGrath) said the meeting took place weeks earlier, he didn't reveal that the issue was how Jones felt about Cubs fans.

Still, regardless of what the issue was, it doesn't reflect well on Andy and Jim that they (rather than Jones) took Sullivan aside. If anything, the fact that they are more concerned with preserving Jones's image than his lousy play is even more concerning.
   53. Vive L'Orange! (marck) Posted: May 22, 2006 at 08:41 PM (#2032209)
Still, regardless of what the issue was, it doesn't reflect well on Andy and Jim that they (rather than Jones) took Sullivan aside. If anything, the fact that they are more concerned with preserving Jones's image than his lousy play is even more concerning.

I took it more as management trying to preserve the image of the Cubs -- at least in relation to their fans. God forbid the Cubs fans (paying the second highest ticket prices in MLB) actually voice disgruntlitude with the Cubs, um, lackluster play.

Which is not to say I don't entirely agree with you, dJf. Just wanted to clarify what MacPhail's issue was, at least according to the WGN Radio interview.

(I was hoping WGN was going to post the audio of that Sullivan interview, but to date they haven't.)
   54. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 22, 2006 at 08:54 PM (#2032217)
I took it more as management trying to preserve the image of the Cubs -- at least in relation to their fans.

Ok, then "If anything, the fact that they are more concerned with preserving <strike>Jones's</strike> <u>the Cubs</u> image than <strike>his</strike> <u>their</u> lousy play is even more concerning."
   55. Jerry Mumphrey Posted: May 22, 2006 at 09:11 PM (#2032231)
It looks all too obvious to me that McPhail has taken issue with the Jones criticism because he thinks it's his big chance to say "I told you so" to all second-guessers and armchair GM's out there. He's not about to swoop down in defense of Pierre, Dusty's strategy, Clines, Hendry, Neifi, Rusch, Dusty's lineups, Enrique Wilson, counting on injured pitchers, etc. because the years-long criticism of all of those things is easily demonstrated to be spot-on. And they are mistakes that are being repeated ad nauseum with no lessons taken away by management. But with Jones we have a special case where the sports writers and fans identified him as an overpaid wash-out from the beginning, but then suddenly he busted out and started hitting at his lukewarm career norms over the last month and a half. Now McPhail, armed with the Jones 'turnaround', can come back self-righteously and blast a media figure for being short-sighted on Jacque Jones with hopes that the media will tone down all their other beefs for fear of being 'so owned' by McPhail in the future. It's weak, but it's all he has.
   56. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 23, 2006 at 01:24 PM (#2033111)
Tribune Answer: "We're not the baseball experts, but we know that the team was 5 outs away from a World Series and has had a string a debilitating injuries that prevented them from winning more since then. Andy tells us that there is reason for hope in the future, and we do know that he's bringing in the $$$ that we aren't seeing from our other divisions, so we're not going to meddle and risk destroying the one cash cow we can count on.

In the end, baseball is a very unpredictable thing. From what we've heard, we had a team that was capable of making the playoffs and anything can happen at that point. In retrospect, freak injuries prevented that from happening and we probably could have spent less to achieve the same result, but we probably wouldn't have had the same upside potential and, in the final analysis, because Andy MacPhail consistently brings in the profits, we'e not going to meddle over something that is soo unpredictable."


Well, of course the Tribune Company would respond with the best turd-polishing job they could muster, but it's nothing more than that. MacPhail has a track record of 11 years, more than enough to escape the vagaries that make W/L record an unpredictable thing.

Clearly, MacPhail has no coherent plan to establish a solid baseball organization, and never has had one. "Slow, solid and unspectacular" was the best he could come up with in 1994, and shows that he was making excuses from the minute he took the job.
   57. Dusty's Least Favorite Base-Clogger (Roy Hobbs) Posted: May 25, 2006 at 07:54 AM (#2036344)
I don't think Hendry should have gotten his extension. Neither he nor Baker has performed at a level to deserve it and, at the least, the Trib/MacPhail should have waited to see how this season went before extending either one.
<blockquote>

Well, I'm sure Mcphail didn't want to get involved in a hotly contested bidding war for Hendry's talents. Can't you just picture the suitors lining up--and firing their current G.M.'s--just to be in the big stakes game of the Hendry auction!

The Royals may fire Baird, so there's one team McPhail would have had to keep an eye out to "stealing" Hendry had he gone into the offseason without the preemptive strike of the 2-year extension. Hendry better hurry himself to sign his "better-half", Baker, before the Cubs string together a 3 or 4 game winning streak and all the near-miss contending teams start thinking they can get over the hump by playing Dustyball in 2007. There's always been a huge market for ex-Cub managers as we all know.
   58. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 26, 2006 at 01:32 PM (#2037990)
Presented with no comment other than my continuing flabbergasm, the latest interview with Andy MacPhail is here (RR).
   59. Hendry's Wad of Cash (UCCF) Posted: May 26, 2006 at 02:56 PM (#2038076)
Q: What are some of your overall observations of this Cubs team?

A: I think the element that needs to improve as soon as possible is runners in scoring position. We are 30th among 30 teams in our batting average with runners in scoring position. You are not going to win many games unless you become more productive in those situations.


The Cubs management has just latched onto this stat as the "real" reason the team isn't playing well. Never mind that we've had the worst pitching in the league over the last month too (though I guess that's all supposed to change once Wood and Prior get healthy and start winning Cy Young Awards again).

Beyond that, this whole fiasco has really intensified my hatred for the Astros. If they hadn't made their stupid comeback last year, then the Cubs couldn't keep pointing to it as something that could happen - like it's a yearly occurrence that at least one team recovers from a 15-30 start to make it to the World Series.

In other news, Barrett got 10 games.
   60. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 26, 2006 at 03:06 PM (#2038087)
Barrett 10 games
Anderson 5 games
Cora (Sox 3B coach) 2 games
Barrett, Anderson, and Pierzynski fined

All but Cora can appeal, of course.

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