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   1. Chest Rockwell Posted: May 16, 2006 at 06:42 PM (#2022342)
Heard Hendry being interviewed on WGN radio last night. Just painful. Softball questions and answers like "we'vejust got to do a better job, and I'm confident we will." Not sure what else you'd expect him to say, but I wanted to pound my head into the wall after listening to him.
   2. Mike Isaacs Posted: May 16, 2006 at 06:50 PM (#2022356)
Don't have much to add to this but to say that I think it's a terrific post. It's spot-on and well articulated. I think it sums up the frustration many of us have not only with the Cubs franchise but with Cubs "culture" in general including the "watch-dog" media covering them. Hendry's Q and A answers were quite hohum predictable and maddening, but the questions not asked of him were also predicatable and maddening. He remains protected. This was a PR piece more than an interview.

Cub execs continue to refuse to rehthink the way this team is being assembled or to acknowledge misguided "philosophy." They remain insulated, and certainly the articles cited here do little to force any different kind of behavior.
   3. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 16, 2006 at 07:50 PM (#2022470)
Three words: Very. Well. Put.

I did want to make two comments on this:

The first is the insistent attempt to compare the Cubs’ woeful start of this season to the Astros’ woeful start in 2005. . . . No context is explored, no effort to analyze why the Astros of 2005 were much more likely to turn things around than the current detritus taking the field in Chicago (see Oswalt, Roy, Clemens, Roger, and Pettitte, Andy).

First, to be blunt, I think that the folks who cite the 2005 Astros (or 2004, for that matter) would draw parallels between Oswalt and Clemens and the upcoming returns of Wood, Prior, and Miller as reasons for optimism. It is placing a lot of faith on the health of the Cubs pitchers, but other than that the comparison isn't outrageous.

Second, what is missing in all this is the fact that the reason the 2005 Astros are cited so often is because what they did was so rare. If playoff teams routinely endured 2-14 stretches and 15-22 starts, it would be different.

According to bb-ref, in the period of 1900-2005, there have been 452 teams that have gotten off to 15-22 starts (or worse). Of those, nine (2%) have seen the postseason. Here's the list:

1914 Boston Braves (11-26 start, 94-59 finish) -- won NL and World Series
1974 Pittsburgh Pirates (13-24 start, 88-74 finish) -- won division
1981 Kansas City Royals (13-24 start in first half) -- won second half of division (split season)
1983 Chicago White Sox (15-22 start, 99-63 finish) -- won division
1984 Kansas City Royals (14-23 start, 84-78 finish) -- won division
1989 Toronto Blue Jays (13-24 start, 89-73 finish) -- won division
1995 New York Yankees (15-22 start, 79-65 finish) -- won wild card
2001 Oakland Athletics (15-22 start, 102-60 finish) -- won wild card
2005 Houston Astros (14-23 start, 89-73 finish) -- won wild card and NL

The fact that I can list the number of successes since 1900 alone means that the odds are pretty slim, certainly not sufficient to be playing the "everything's ok, stay the course" tactic.
   4. H. Vaughn Posted: May 16, 2006 at 08:11 PM (#2022523)
Another unmentioned aspect of the Astro turnaround - managerial change.
   5. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 16, 2006 at 08:26 PM (#2022570)
Not in 2005, Hippo.
   6. Luke Jasenosky Posted: May 16, 2006 at 08:42 PM (#2022621)
Nice point, dJf. Although I find the comparison of Wood/Prior to Clemens/Oswalt to be very optimistic, it is within reason. I did think about mentioning the rarity of the Astros' turnaround, but I appreciate you listing the cold hard facts here. Also, the Astros, IMHO, were a better constructed ballclub as well.

I notice Jason Michaels, a guy I thought would be a cheaper, better option than Juan Pierre, has turned it on after a slow start with Cleveland - he has/put up a .348/.423/.478 line in May. Juan, as we all know too well, has slapped his way to a .172/.238/.224 May.
   7. H. Vaughn Posted: May 16, 2006 at 09:29 PM (#2022699)
Ah, good point, dJf. Nice dead cat bounce from Scrap-Iron the previous year, though.
   8. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 16, 2006 at 09:31 PM (#2022703)
Not in 2005, Hippo.

Yes, but when they did fire Williams in July of 2004, they were in fifth place in the NL Central: 11 behind the Cardinals, 4 behind the Cubs, 2.5 behind Cincinnati and 1.5 behind Milwaukee. They were a reasonable 5 games behind in the Wild Card, but they were TENTH in the standings. I'd say those were some tough odds, so mentioning managerial change is a nice retort to "But look at what the Astros did!"
   9. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 16, 2006 at 09:54 PM (#2022737)
I'd say those were some tough odds, so mentioning managerial change is a nice retort to "But look at what the Astros did!"

Seeing that Hendry and the local media are referring to last year's Astros -- not the 2004 squad -- I'd say that mentioning managerial changes is a lousy retort. (The 2004 Astros were last summer's lame analogy.)

OTOH, we may soon be hearing comparisons to the 2003 Marlins. That team *did* have a managerial change when they were 16-22 (which the Cubs would match with a win tonight), then regressed to a 19-29 record before turning things around.
   10. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 16, 2006 at 11:33 PM (#2022909)
Seeing that Hendry and the local media are referring to last year's Astros -- not the 2004 squad

I understand that. The point is that you only have to go back one additional year to find an example of an Astros team that turned it around in, as far as I'm concerned, nearly as spectacular a fashion, and it coincided with a managerial shakeup.

Not that I expect the Cubs to turn it around after firing Baker, mind you, beyond regressing back to the mean.
   11. H. Vaughn Posted: May 17, 2006 at 12:48 AM (#2023216)
I'd say that mentioning managerial changes is a lousy retort.

Lousy? Geez.

Actually, of the turnaround teams listed above, three got their managers fired: 81 Royals (Jim Frey!), '89 Jays, '95 Yanks (though at the end of the year). Two others, the Braves and Pirates, had managers who were in their second year of tenure with a pattern of ascending records. The White Sox were similar, though LaRussa was in his fourth year by then, each of the first three better than the other.
   12. Walt Davis Posted: May 17, 2006 at 07:03 AM (#2023947)
Yep, very good post.

As I mentioned in the primer thread on the Hendry Q&A, the most infuriating answer to me was the one about how you can't find a 1B that will hit better than Walker. Aargh!! We want one that will hit better than Neifi and I can probably find one here in New Zealand.

And as the post points out, that's the most obvious follow-up question to Hendry's nonsense along with "why not platoon Restovich and Mabry" and "why call up theriot then not play him" and "why not have a backup option (and platoon mate for Jones) to being with?"

Anyway, preaching to the choir. Still I'm not that worried about Hendry's statements on Baker here ... management always gives the vote of confidence at the first serious signs of media pressure ... then the ax falls.

Rogers article is frustrating, but then it's Rogers. Just last week he was noting that the Cubs OBP has sucked since Baker's arrival ... now he wants to give him an extension. In addition to the "convincing" argument cited above, there's the fact that he says Baker is the best candidate to turn this around. Even if that's true, that's an argument to let him finish out the season, not one to give him an extension. An argument that Baker is the best manager they can find right now so let him stay on ... and if he turns it around, then extend him ... would at least be a rational argument.

On the bright side, a majority of the folks in the poll think Baker should be fired or resign and another sizeable chunk say he should just finish the season. Only 17% are in favor of an extenions. Polls like this are crap but hopefully it will have some "PR" value. And this is certainly promising (if also scary to read).
   13. Mike Isaacs Posted: May 17, 2006 at 12:56 PM (#2024000)
On the bright side, a majority of the folks in the poll think Baker should be fired or resign and another sizeable chunk say he should just finish the season.

My only concern now is that those numbers could be fleeting. While one part of me is pleased to see that Zambrano apparently has found his game, another part doesn't want to see the hostile climate in Cubland come to an end. There is strong demand right now for change, and although predictably there are no signs that Cubs brass is listening to those demands -- at least not yet, the worst thing that can happen IMHO is a cool-off because of a small stretch of better baseball.

Is that enough reason to root against the Cubs? I guess every fan has to make his or her own decision about that. It's certainly no fun to be in that position. But a Zambrano who is now pitching well and a successful return by Kerry Wood followed in a few weeks by an effective Mark Prior would make the rotation significantly better and the team more competitive. How couldn't it?

What would the poll numbers be then? And would there be any wise and sage member of the Fourth Estate even asking Hendry about Baker's job security or would it just be a given that he'll be back?

For a time, I mistakenly thought the Cubs would play in the .500 range until Lee returned and then contend for some form of post-season play beside a bunch of other mediocre teams. But that was never a "favorable" scenario to me. Having this team reach a level of mediocrity again and chill the kind of heated and pointed discussion and debate we're hearing not only about Baker's future but about the direction MacPhail/Hendry has taken with this franchise is not necessarily a good thing to me.

I guess another poll question would be this: Which is preferable: a Cubs rebound that places them in the range of .500 and sort of in contention or a continued fall where Cubland pressure for serious change within the organization doesn't let up?

Since I don't think this is a playoff-bound team let alone a World Series-bound team, my goal is not for the Cubs to reach .500 again or to be perceived as having some kind of long-shot chance to reach some kind of familiar playoff position. A successful season for me now is to either see some serious changes in the way the team is run or to feel those changes are around the corner.

Even with the two weeks or so of putrid play we've had to witness, that goal still feels...well...very far off.
   14. Fred Garvin is dead to Mug Posted: May 17, 2006 at 12:59 PM (#2024002)
Actually, of the turnaround teams listed above, three got their managers fired: 81 Royals (Jim Frey!), '89 Jays, '95 Yanks (though at the end of the year).

Fair enough (and as I said, it would be an appropriate response if the Cubs were talking about the 2003 Marlins), but what I was responding to was the idea of citing "managerial change" in response to the Cubs' reference of last year's Astros, who didn't change managers.

BTW, I should note that my statement that "here have been 452 teams that have gotten off to 15-22 starts (or worse)," and "[o]f those, nine (2%) have seen the postseason," though accurate, is also misleading. The Cubs shouldn't be compared with teams that started worse than 15-22.

Instead, including the win last night, it would be more accurate to say that of the 146 teams that have gotten off to 16-22 starts, four (2.7%) made the playoffs --

1983 Chicago White Sox -- finished 99-63, division winner
1996 St. Louis Cardinals -- finished 88-74, division winner
2001 Oakland Athletics -- finished 102-60, wild card winner
2003 Florida Marlins -- finished 91-71, wild card and World Series winner
   15. Andere Richtingen Posted: May 17, 2006 at 02:05 PM (#2024044)
There is strong demand right now for change, and although predictably there are no signs that Cubs brass is listening to those demands -- at least not yet, the worst thing that can happen IMHO is a cool-off because of a small stretch of better baseball.

Substantive change is simply not going to happen given the current corporate structure in the organization. The only way things will change is if the Tribune Company sells the team (which might not be a bad idea for them, considering the hot water they're in financially -- on the other hand, selling a profitable sector might not be so smart). MacPhail is entrenched. Hendry is signed long-term. I'm all for firing Baker, but replacing him is unlikely to solve anything.

I guess another poll question would be this: Which is preferable: a Cubs rebound that places them in the range of .500 and sort of in contention or a continued fall where Cubland pressure for serious change within the organization doesn't let up?

Doesn't matter one way or the other. Any attempts this organization makes to change are bound to fail. As long as these people are in charge, the only hope is that they will wander bass-ackwards into a good situation, like they almost did a few years ago.
   16. Mike Isaacs Posted: May 17, 2006 at 02:43 PM (#2024077)
Having lived through so much of this stuff, I guess I don't disagree with the larger picture that you paint. The corporate structure of the Tribune Company that breeds complacency at every managerial level is likely to still be in place no matter what happens this year. I'd love a scenario where the Trib. sells this team, but I'm not holding my breath -- even with the company's financial burdens.

Still, there have been "better times" under the Tribune Company than other times -- better baseball men in place by comparison. Should this season remain a disaster, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that a better manager than Baker is selected for next year and that Hendry begins to rethink -- at least to some degree -- the way he has constructed this team.

That certianly wouldn't solve the fundamental problems with the Cubs that you raise regarding their ownership. But given what we realistically can expect as fans at this point, I'd rather see some continued fan pressure for change on this team than a mediocre team clearing the way for the same kind of off-season complacency that brought us to this season.
   17. MM1f Posted: May 18, 2006 at 06:16 PM (#2025960)
Zinger from Rosenthal: http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/5612148
"If the Cubs want Baker back, they should make him a long-term offer. If Baker balks, then the team would have reason to fire him, not that it would accomplish anything.

The Cubs would remain the lowest-scoring team in the National League. They also would be hard-pressed to find a quality replacement for Baker

Lou Piniella wants to manage a contender, remember?"

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