Wayside Mandate

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What happened to the rule in baseball that minority candidates had to receive interviews for high profile jobs as managers and general managers?

Is it no longer in effect?

Does it receive a waiver when a club decides to hire a “star” executive or field boss or promotes from within using the “next in line” approach?

Why is it that Theo Epstein was essentially rubber-stamped to go to the Cubs with the Cubs not fulfilling the requirement of interviewing a minority?

Or that Ben Cherington was promoted as Red Sox GM without so much as a peep from MLB that they had to talk to other candidates to satisfy the rule?

Initially I felt that the rule was a half-hearted attempt to appear progressive in name only; I didn’t think it would do much good; if a club has a specific person in mind for a job—and that may have race as a part of the subconscious exclusionary process—there’s not much that can be done to change their minds.

But what if a candidate walks in and wows the prospective employer? And what if that candidate’s reputation is boosted by the fact that teams were forced to interview them when, short of the mandate, they might not have done so?

Executives chat regularly; it’s a relatively closed society. They complain about players’ behaviors; their bosses; the media; and other mundane aspects of doing a job that many think is the pinnacle in baseball.

Doesn’t it make sense that if a Demarlo Hale or Bo Porter go in for an interview as manager and doesn’t get it for whatever reason that doing well will boost them for another opportunity?

But baseball has given a pass to clubs like the Cubs who hired Epstein away from the Red Sox; watched silently as Epstein hired Jed Hoyer from the Padres; and may look the other way when he hires his next manager whether it’s Ryne Sandberg (the “Cubs institution” excuse—which can be altered to make light of the Cubs being something of an institution) or Terry Francona (Epstein and Hoyer know and have worked with him before) to replace the fired Mike Quade.

The Padres promoted Josh Byrnes to take over for Hoyer.

No interviews?

Why?

Of course in some situations there is a “token” aspect to interviewing a candidate because of his or her racial profile, but it’s a means to an end.

Ten short years ago, there was one minority GM—Kenny Williams of the White Sox, who is black.

The minority managers from 2001 were Dusty Baker, Don Baylor, Jerry Manuel, Tony Perez, Davey Lopes, Felipe Alou, Hal McRae and Lloyd McClendon.

Failed retreads Buddy Bell, Bob Boone and Jeff Torborg were also managing that year.

Today, we have Manny Acta, Ron Washington, Ozzie Guillen, Fredi Gonzalez and Baker on the job with three openings with the Cardinals, Red Sox and Cubs.

Journeyman manager Jim Riggleman has been mentioned as a possibility for the Cardinals.

Jim Riggleman? The same Riggleman who quit on the Nationals in a self-immolating snit because they didn’t want to exercise his option for 2012? That guy? Teams want to hire him to manage?

I wouldn’t even consider him after what he pulled with the Nationals.

The Athletics hired Bob Melvin as interim manager after firing Bob Geren and gave him the full-time job. No minority interviews.

The Nationals hired Davey Johnson—their interim manager and a supremely qualified candidate with a terrific resume of managerial success, but someone who appeared tired at times in 2011 and may have lost his managerial fastball—no minority interviews.

What about Willie Randolph? Is he toxic? His strategic skills weren’t great when managing the Mets, but he had control of the clubhouse and deserves another chance.

Today Ruben Amaro Jr. and Michael Hill are working GMs; Tony Reagins was just fired by the Angels; and Kim Ng is an Asian-American woman who’s interviewed to be a GM and is currently an executive with Major League Baseball—the same MLB that is tacitly allowing clubs to selectively bypass the the mandatory minority interview rule to hire “names”.

Progress has been limited, but it’s progress nonetheless.

A rule that has helped make positive improvements in this realm is being dispatched out of convenience due to the recognition of those that are currently getting those jobs.

Epstein was going to be the Cubs boss one way or the other, but that doesn’t render the requirement meaningless.

At least it shouldn’t.

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Cubs Or Cards For Francona?

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The Cubs currently have a manager so it’s unfair for people to speculate on whether or not Terry Francona is going to take over while Mike Quade is still employed—the job’s not open, so until it is he’s not a candidate.

But that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a candidate once Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are settled in and come to a decision on Quade.

Common sense dictates that if they’re making a change, they’ve informed Francona that he should wait before taking another job.

And presumably that was before Tony LaRussa retired and a potentially more inviting job came open—a job where Francona could walk in and win immediately with the Cardinals.

The teams are bitter, historic rivals and that’s only be exacerbated if their manager of choice has to pick one over the other.

Which job is better?

Which is preferable?

Let’s take a look.

Expectations.

The Cubs demands are going to be muted as Epstein sifts through the current mess, tries to clear the contracts of Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, repairs the farm system and alters the culture. Francona could run the club on the field while they retool and no one’s going to be comparing him to his predecessor—if they remember his predecessor at all.

The Cardinals are the world champions are are accustomed to contending almost every single year. With or without Albert Pujols (who’s going to have a say in whom the new Cards manager is), they’re good enough to make the playoffs in 2012. It’s not easy being the replacement for a legend and even though Francona has some hardware in his own right with two championships, there’s forever going to be the onus of the appellation of “middle-manager”; that other managers could’ve won with the Red Sox collection of talent; and the way his tenure in Boston ended was a humiliating disaster.

Being the boss and familiarity.

The Cardinals are ready-made to win, but with LaRussa’s departure, I’d be concerned that they’re going to return to their earlier attempt to go the Moneyball route with the Jeff Luhnow-types in the front office and ignore what the manager thinks. LaRussa was able to use his resume as a hammer to fend off those adjustments and eventually won the power struggle; GM John Mozeliak was the man in the middle, appeasing his bosses and the manager. If Francona comes along, he’s not going to have the sharp elbows that LaRussa did. Francona’s much more affable than LaRussa, but that might not necessarily be a good thing.

Francona can work with Dave Duncan and doesn’t have the ego to retreat from delegating responsibilities to his coaches and players.

With the Cubs, he’d have at least some say with the construction of the roster because of his prior relationship with Epstein and Hoyer.

Talent.

Short of a miracle the Cubs aren’t going to be winning anytime soon and Epstein ain’t Moses.

The Cubs have a semblance of a good nucleus with Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro forming the basis for a solid up-the-middle club; Blake DeWitt deserves a chance to play and under Epstein his on-base skills and good defense will be better appreciated.

But it’s going to take a couple of years for the Cubs to be ready to win.

When Epstein took over the Red Sox, much of the ALCS club from 2003 and championship club from 2004 were already in place due to the prior work done by Dan Duquette. The Cubs have some talent, but are far from contending status. Would Francona be willing to walk in and have his record sullied by a 75-87 season in 2012? His job wouldn’t be on the line, but it’s a weak follow-up to the Red Sox collapse.

A starting rotation with Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jake Westbrook; a bullpen with a 100-mph fastball of Jason Motte; a lineup with Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, David Freese and presumably Pujols automatically has the Cardinals in contention.

The aggravation factor.

Francona’s hands-off approach eventually exploded in his face with the Red Sox, but the Cardinals have leaders who don’t tolerate any nonsense.

The Cubs have Zambrano and Soriano. It’s in their DNA to torment the manager.

There’s not a black cloud hanging over the Cardinals as there is with the Cubs. The negativity isn’t, nor will it ever be, present in St. Louis as it is on the North Side of Chicago.

While they’re almost waiting for something bad to happen to sabotage them—they almost revel in it as if it’s a badge of honor—the Chicago media and fans might be less willing to accept the “Flubs” if they don’t look like they’re on the right track under the new regime.

The Cardinals fans and media will support the club and their manager regardless of what happens as long as Francona doesn’t screw it up. And Francona’s not a “screw it up” guy who’ll make changes just for the sake of them.

There’s something to be said for being the manager of both the Red Sox and Cubs and ending two perceived curses—that’s part of what attracted Epstein to the Cubs in the first place; perhaps that would appeal to Francona. But for the reasons listed above, the Cardinals are a better job.

If offered both, the Cardinals job is a better situation and that’s the one I’d take if I were Terry Francona.

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Ryne Sandberg, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano And The Cubs GM Search

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The Cubs are looking for a new general manager and will presumably be looking for a new manager as well. It would best serve Tom Ricketts and his ownership to hire the new GM and let him select his own manager rather than bow to pockets of public pressure to bring Ryne Sandberg back to the organization. It’s been written that Sandberg would be willing to come back now that Hendry is gone.

Would Sandberg have done much better with this Cubs group than the man Hendry selected, Mike Quade? Maybe he’d have had the cachet as a Hall of Fame player to reach Carlos Zambrano, but apart from that the team is what it is and wasn’t going to be much better than this.

I completely understand what Hendry was thinking in both the realistic and Machiavellian senses when he decided against Sandberg. As I’ve said repeatedly when the “perfect” or popular choice is passed over for one reason or another, the manager can’t be seen as more powerful than the GM. Steve Phillips and Brian Cashman of the Mets and Yankees respectively shunned the focus group choice for new manager—Lou Piniella—and it wasn’t a pure baseball decision. No GM in his right mind if going to willingly hire a manager he can’t fire; a manager who won’t listen to his titular “boss” because he doesn’t have to listen to him. Piniella was quite effective at leveraging his popularity with fans and the media to force his will on the organization. With the Cubs, it worked briefly, but that success petered out and left the club with onerous contracts like that of Alfonso Soriano.

So why would Hendry, whose job was clearly and accurately on the line, hire Sandberg and marginalize himself? He didn’t and lost his job anyway, but the same thing probably would’ve happened had he hired Sandberg, so at least he went down with the manager he preferred rather than what would’ve been palatable to Cubs’ fans.

As for the team itself, despite the perception of disarray, they’re in good shape to get better quickly regardless of the new GM.

Starter Ryan Dempster is noncommittal about his 2012 player option with the club, but the Cubs should absolutely be hoping that Dempster returns. For $14 million, you’re getting 200 innings and consistency; if his services were to be purchased on the open market, he’d receive 3-4 years and around $16 million per season—ore more. It helps that he doesn’t sound as if he wants to leave the Cubs, but the question becomes whether he’d like to use his player option as a hammer to extract an extension from the new GM. If he does, I’d consider it…within reason.

The 2012 projected starting rotation for the Cubs is already in good shape with Dempster, Matt Garza, Casey Coleman and….Carlos Zambrano.

As the smoke has cleared from Zambrano’s latest explosion in which he “retired” then “unretired” and was suspended without pay for 30 days, cooler heads have to prevail.

Everyone—myself included—said that Zambrano had to be released because no one was going to take his contract and baggage. But throwing $18 million into the trash is not the way to do business; short of releasing him, what are the Cubs going to do with Zambrano? Depending on who’s hired as the GM, there’s always a chance that the new manager and pitching coach will be able to get sledgehammer Zambrano’s thick head to get something of use from him in the final year of his contract. This suggestion will and should generate eye-rolls and sighs of resignation, but unless the Cubs take a Barry Zito-type contract, they’re paying Zambrano; if they’re going to do that, they might as well try to rehabilitate him and release him if he acts up again.

Either way, it should be up to the new GM.

Aramis Ramirez‘s club option is a no-brainer and should be picked up.

The only things the Cubs can do is look at their current situation and accept that this is what they have for now and they have to make the best of it. Soriano’s going nowhere, but with Dempster and Ramirez both coming back and a tweak here and there with the fresh air of a new baseball regime, they could jump back into contention by next season.

All of this implies continue bad news for Sandberg in his quest to be Cubs manager: if the GM is from outside the organization and is going to be allowed to do what he wants, he’s not hiring a legend in the city to manage the team either because of the aforementioned power issue; so Sandberg have to continue his huff with the Phillies Triple A team and wait. Again.

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The Cubs’ GM Search

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Speculation as to whom the Cubs are going to hire isn’t enough; it’s already turned into the media and fans trying to dictate whom they should hire, and that’s the last thing Cubs fans and front office people should want.

The poorly disguised agendas pop up immediately.

We saw it last Fall when the Mets fired Omar Minaya and conducted an intensive and judicious search by interviewing Al Avila, Allard Baird, Rick Hahn, Josh Byrnes and Sandy Alderson. They wanted to interview Dan Jennings of the Marlins and were rejected; they even had the audacity to ask for permission to talk to current Marlins president Larry Beinfest—they were rejected there too.

Now the names linked to the Cubs are similar and depend on factional allegiances:

Pat Gillick—the Hall of Fame old-schooler who’s rebuilt teams all across baseball.

Andrew Friedman—one of the architects of the Rays who may want to have the opportunity to work with a big payroll and baseball-mad fanbase.

Brian Cashman—his contract is up at the end of the season and despite his protestations that he wants to stay with the Yankees, winning with the Cubs would be a ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Theo Epstein’s name has come up.

Some of the people the Mets spoke to are bound to be in the mix as will Logan White of the Dodgers; Kim Ng of MLB; Royals and former Phillies scouting guru Mike Arbuckle; and others who haven’t been mentioned.

Would Billy Beane be a possibility?

The Moneyball silliness is reaching its inevitable conclusion and Beane’s reputation is in tatters with another on-field nightmare for the Athletics, who have again failed to meet preseason hype. He’d be a big name for the Cubs to pursue; he’s familiar with the stat-based theory they’re said to be looking for; and both he and the Athletics have to move on from one another.

Regardless of who’s hired, it should be the decision of the Cubs ownership and no one else.

Back when the Mets were in the middle of their interviews, the wave of sentiment was twisted ham-handedly in the direction of Alderson by the likes of Joel Sherman of the NY Post.

Sherman may as well have written, “Me want Sandy” and it wouldn’t have been any more skillfully navigated than the stuff he did write; at least it would’ve been honest.

Everyone had their preferred choice for one reason or another be it a convenient story; continuity of beliefs; or name status.

But I wouldn’t want Joel Sherman hiring my GM. (Or my groundskeeper for that matter.)

And the Cubs shouldn’t want any outsiders drumming up sentiment and inviting calls to all-sports radio as to what they ought to do based on nothing other than self-indulgent propaganda.

There are many decisions that will have to be made once the new Cubs GM is in place, most notably with Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez and manager Mike Quade.

A younger, more insecure GM will want a manager who’s going to “be on the same page” as in “do what he’s told”; someone more experienced could deal with a cult-of-personality type like Bobby Valentine (who’d be a great fit with the Cubs).

Owner Tom Ricketts has to account for what would be best for the current configuration of the roster; who’d handle the Cubs checkered history; how much money there is to spend; and how quickly they’re planning to have a contender in place.

Hiring Gillick is a short-term call to win fast; hiring Friedman or Beane wouldn’t be.

Independent of what the media thinks, it’s a decision that has to be made by the ownership. The stuff coming out now amounts to little more than noise; noise that would be best ignored for the greater good.

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Jim Hendry’s Tenure As Cubs GM—An Evenhanded Analysis

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I’m not about vitriol nor praise just for the sake of partisan politics. Reactionary analysis is untrustworthy in the positive and negative sense. It’s almost universally based on the last game, week or season. Many times, the media and fans can twist a situation due to selfish interests, a lack of knowledge  or unhappiness with whomever is their target of the moment.

The Cubs fired general manager Jim Hendry yesterday. He will be replaced on an interim basis by assistant GM Randy Bush and owner Tom Ricketts is going to conduct a search, do interviews and has said he wants to hire someone from outside the organization.

What kind of job did Hendry do in his nearly nine years at the helm of one of the most difficult teams in sports—the Cubs?

Let’s take a look.

Trades.

Before anything else, Baseball-Reference saved me hours of digging through Hendry’s various trades with a handy historical record of all trades made between franchises. Check it out.

  • The good:

February 2, 2005: The Chicago Cubs traded Sammy Sosa and cash to the Baltimore Orioles for Dave Crouthers (minors), Mike Fontenot and Jerry Hairston.

Sosa had to go and the Cubs got the useful Fontenot and Hairston for him.

November 25, 2003: The Florida Marlins traded Derrek Lee to the Chicago Cubs for Mike Nannini (minors) and Hee-Seop Choi.

Lee was a leader and had several fine years for the Cubs.

December 4, 2002: The Los Angeles Dodgers traded Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros to the Chicago Cubs for Chad Hermansen and Todd Hundley.

Hundley was finished; Grudzielanek and Karros were two experienced veterans who contributed greatly to the 2003 Cubs who came within five outs of a World Series berth.

November 26, 2002: The Milwaukee Brewers traded Paul Bako to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later. The Chicago Cubs sent Ryan Gripp (minors) (December 16, 2002) to the Milwaukee Brewers to complete the trade.

Bako made Greg Maddux happy.

December 15, 2003: The Chicago Cubs traded Damian Miller and cash to the Oakland Athletics for Michael Barrett.

Barrett put up solid numbers and set Chicago ablaze with his classic one-punch knockout of A.J. Pierzynski.

July 30, 2009: The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Chicago Cubs for Jose Ascanio, Josh Harrison and Kevin Hart.

Hendry robbed the Pirates.

July 23, 2003: The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Kenny Lofton, Aramis Ramirez and cash to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later, Matt Bruback (minors) and Jose Hernandez. The Chicago Cubs sent Bobby Hill (August 15, 2003) to the Pittsburgh Pirates to complete the trade.

Two words: Aramis….Ramirez.

December 18, 2009: The Seattle Mariners traded Carlos Silva and cash to the Chicago Cubs for Milton Bradley.

Getting rid of Milton Bradley—even for Silva—deserves credit.

  • The bad.

December 7, 2006: The Cincinnati Reds purchased Josh Hamilton from the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs had a deal in place with the Reds before the fact to take Hamilton and trade him to the Reds and made a few bucks; needless to say, they should’ve taken a shot on Hamilton, but it’s understandable—given his history—that they didn’t.

December 31, 2008: The Chicago Cubs traded Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians for Chris Archer (minors), John Gaub (minors) and Jeff Stevens.

The Cubs got some solid young talent for DeRosa, but the machinations were misplaced. DeRosa was their unsung hero on and off the field in 2008; manager Lou Piniella didn’t want to trade him; and the trade of DeRosa was made essentially so they could sign Bradley.

A team trying to win a championship can’t be trading versatile veteran leaders to restock the farm system and then sign a Milton Bradley.

January 6, 2009: The Chicago Cubs traded Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies for Luis Vizcaino.

You know what you’re getting from Maquis and that’s okay; you also know what you’re getting from Vizcaino and that’s not okay.

November 13, 2008: The Florida Marlins traded Kevin Gregg to the Chicago Cubs for Jose Ceda.

Ceda’s done nothing for the Marlins despite ridiculous minor league strikeout numbers and a wicked slider; if the Cubs were getting Gregg as a set-up man for Carlos Marmol, then fine, but they weren’t. They got him to close. Gregg was and is entirely untrustworthy as a closer.

I understood the logic by letting Marmol do the heavy lifting before the ninth and to let Gregg rack up the overrated save stat, but it didn’t work. It was a bad idea. Marmol should’ve closed from the beginning of the season; he wound up taking over late in the season when it was already too late.

December 7, 2005: The Florida Marlins traded Juan Pierre to the Chicago Cubs for Sergio Mitre, Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto.

Yeah. This was not a good trade.

July 31, 2006: The Chicago Cubs traded Greg Maddux to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Cesar Izturis.

They were dealing Maddux because he was a free agent at the end of the year, but it should be illegal to trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis in any case.

January 5, 2008: The Chicago Cubs traded Angel Pagan to the New York Mets for Corey Coles (minors) and Ryan Meyers (minors).

The Cubs could’ve used Pagan.

February 2, 2009: The Chicago Cubs traded Michael Wuertz to the Oakland Athletics for Richie Robnett (minors) and Justin Sellers.

Wuertz was highly underrated.

  • Either/or; neither/nor.

July 31, 2004: As part of a 4-team trade: The Boston Red Sox sent Nomar Garciaparra and Matt Murton to the Chicago Cubs. The Minnesota Twins sent Doug Mientkiewicz to the Boston Red Sox. The Montreal Expos sent Orlando Cabrera to the Boston Red Sox. The Chicago Cubs sent Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris to the Montreal Expos. The Chicago Cubs sent Justin Jones (minors) to the Minnesota Twins.

This was a gutsy move on all ends and could’ve worked big time for the Cubs had they not faded at the end of the season and missed the playoffs. Nomar played well for them over those last two months.

January 8, 2011: The Chicago Cubs traded Chris Archer (minors), Hak-Ju Lee (minors), Robinson Chirinos, Sam Fuld and Brandon Guyer to the Tampa Bay Rays for Zach Rosscup (minors), Matt Garza and Fernando Perez.

The Cubs gave up a lot to get Garza; Garza’s pitched well this year and in some bad luck. He’ll be with the Cubs through 2013 unless he’s traded; they’ll be able to recoup their prospects if they do that.

July 31, 2010: The Chicago Cubs traded Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and cash to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Brett Wallach (minors), Kyle Smit (minors) and Blake DeWitt.

DeWitt has use; they got some young talent for Lilly and Theriot.

***

Contracts.

This will include both free agent signing and extensions given to players already with the Cubs.

OF Moises Alou—3-years, $25 million.

Alou was excellent in his time with the Cubs.

RHP Greg Maddux—3-years, $24 million.

Maddux was his durable, consistent self in his return to the organization that drafted him.

RHP Ryan Dempster—free agent for $300,000 after being released by the Reds in 2003; signed a 4-year, $52 million contract after 2008.

Dempster was used as a closer and was mediocre; he moved into the starting rotation in 2008 and was masterful. He’s a good, consistent starter who’s delivered more than could ever have been expected.

RHP Bob Howry, 3-years, $12 million.

Howry was durable and mostly good.

INF/OF Mark DeRosa—3-years, $13 million.

It appeared to be a classic overspend on DeRosa, but as stated earlier, he was the key player in their 2008 run to the best record in the National League.

OF Alfonso Soriano—8-years, $136 million.

A disaster. Plain and simple.

LHP Ted Lilly—4-years, $40 million.

Lilly was a good pitcher for the Cubs.

OF Jim Edmonds—signed in May 2008 after being released by the Padres.

Edmonds looked shot for the Padres, got to the Cubs and rejuvenated his career with 19 homers in 85 games.

OF Kosuke Fukudome—4-years, $48 million.

Fukudome was an underappreciated all-around player with pop and a good eye.

OF Milton Bradley—3-years, $30 million.

Bradley had a great year with the Rangers in 2008 on and off the field; there were no problems whatsoever. Was it reasonable to think he’d continue that trend with the expectations the Cubs had after their 2008 flameout and Bradley’s status as the “missing piece”?

No.

OF Marlon Byrd—3-years, $15 million.

Byrd’s been everything the Cubs expected on and off the field.

1B Carlos Pena—1-year, $10 million.

They knew what they were getting. Homers, walks and a .200 batting average.

3B Aramis Ramirez—5-years, $75 million with 2012 option for $16 million with a $2 million buyout.

Ramirez has been one of the best and most underrated third basemen in baseball for years; he’s also been an intensely loyal Cub.

RHP Carlos Zambrano—5-years, $91.5 million with 2013 vesting option.

Of course it looks horrific now, but when Zambrano signed the contract, he was 26; in the middle of an 18-win, 2007 season; had pitched over 200 innings for 5 straight years; looked like he was a rising star because he was a rising star; and he could hit.

Why wouldn’t you lock up a pitcher with Zambrano’s talent at that age?

Who knew he was going to freak out the way he has? Signing him up until he was 31 or 32—through his prime, healthy years—made complete sense. There were no problematic behaviors; no major attitude issues to note or be concerned about.

It hasn’t worked. Hendry’s not to blame for Zambrano.

***

Drafting and development.

In 2003 the Cubs drafted Sean Marshall, Jake Fox, Casey McGehee, and Sam Fuld. They took Tim Lincecum out of high school in the 48th round.

They picked someone named Ryan Harvey with the sixth pick in the 1st round that year directly in front of Nick Markakis; Chad Billingsley was taken by the Dodgers at 24.

In 2004 they drafted Fuld again and Micah Owings. They didn’t have a 1st round pick.

The only Cubs draftee from 2005 to make it to the big leagues is a pitcher named Donald Veal. Their 1st round pick was a lefty pitcher named Mark Pawelek; later in the 1st round, Garza, Clay Buchholz and Jed Lowrie were taken.

In 2006 they drafted Tyler Colvin in the 1st round and Jeff Samardzija in the 5th. Kyle Drabek, Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy, Chris Coghlan, Daniel Bard and Chris Perez were taken later in the 1st round.

That year, they signed Starlin Castro as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic.

In 2007 they had the third pick in the 1st round and selected a third baseman named Josh Vitters; Vitters is struggling in Double A. In that draft, they took Darwin Barney, Brandon Guyer and Andrew Cashner.

Matt Wieters, Matt Dominguez, Madison Bumgarner and Jason Heyward were taken later in the 1st round.

They drafted Cashner again in 2008, this time in the 1st round. Not much of note was taken after him in the 1st.

The success/failure or 2009-2011 has yet to be determined.

***

Managers.

Hendry hired Dusty Baker after the 2002 season after Baker’s bitter divorce from the pennant-winning Giants.

When you hire Baker, you know what you’re getting. He’s probably going to win; he’s going to push his starting pitchers hard; he’ll rely on his veterans and players he likes. There’s been a long-running debate as to whom is responsible for the injury-wracked careers of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior.

Wood was battered as a rookie by Jim Riggleman. This is fact.

As for Prior, by now I’d say it’s clear that even if there’d been a set of usage guidelines to stop him from throwing 120-130 pitches on a regular basis, he still would’ve gotten hurt. You can lay the responsibility on Hendry or Baker if you like, but I disagree with it.

There was the choice of worrying about tomorrow tomorrow or trying to win when there was an opening; the Cubs went for it and almost made it. Baker came close to getting the Cubs over the threshold to the World Series and it didn’t happen.

After Baker, the Cubs hired Lou Piniella.

After his negative experience and allegations of being lied to about how much money would be spent when he managed the Devil Rays, Piniella wanted to win; he wanted to win immediately; and he wanted veteran players to do it.

The Cubs under Hendry gave him what he wanted and he, like Baker, almost won. In fact, had Piniella chosen to start Lilly over Dempster in game 1 of the 2008 NLDS, he might have. It was a tactical blunder on the part of the manager that gave the Dodgers the first game of the series and the momentum to sweep. Lilly didn’t pitch in the series.

Piniella is a frontrunner and when things are going good, he’s fine; but he was unable to get through to Bradley (and openly said he hadn’t wanted to trade DeRosa). It was Piniella’s mistake to entrust the closer’s role to Gregg. By 2010, the manager was halfway out the door and quit in August.

Mike Quade earned the managing job with a solid showing after taking over for Piniella. He was selected over the more popular choice, former Cubs hero Ryne Sandberg. Quade has had disciplinary trouble with Zambrano and the team is a dysfunctional mess as evidenced by the firing of Hendry. He can’t be blamed for the majority of this season and it’s hard to imagine Sandberg having done much better.

***

Records.

The Cubs records and results went as follows under Hendry’s reign:

2003: 88-74, 1st place; lost in NLCS to Florida Marlins 4 games to 3.

2004: 89-73, 3rd place.

2005: 79-83, 4th place.

2006: 66-96, 6th place.

2007: 85-77, 1st place; lost in NLDS to Arizona Diamondbacks 3 games to 0.

2008: 97-64, 1st place; lost in NLDS to Los Angeles Dodgers 3 games to 0.

2009: 83-78, 2nd place.

2010: 75-87, 5th place.

2011: 54-70; 5th place.

***

The final analysis.

I found it absurd how Hendry was vilified for a large number of things that weren’t his fault; that people were reacting to his dismissal as if the Cubs had won that ever-elusive pennant and/or World Series.

Perhaps firings are all they have to celebrate.

Like most GMs, Hendry made some great moves; he made some nothing moves; and he made some terrible moves. While the Cubs were right in deciding to find a new direction for the franchise with a different GM, Hendry is a respectable and competent baseball man who in no way deserved the treatment he received from the public and media upon losing his job.

The Cubs came close to winning with Hendry in charge.

Considering it’s the Cubs, it’s all one can reasonably ask.

The new GM will get a brief honeymoon, but odds are he’s going to eventually end up in the same position as Jim Hendry was in. Will he come as close? By 2016, we’ll know the answer.

Or we won’t.

It is the Cubs after all.

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Logic And Carlos Zambrano

All Star Game, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, MLB Trade Deadline, Players, Playoffs, Prospects, Umpires

No, the two things aren’t connected directly.

Nor can they be.

While I understand the attempts to find a landing spot for Carlos Zambrano so: A) the Cubs can get rid of him and his contract; and B) they’d get something back rather than simply paying him to leave, logic says that it’s pointless to give up anything short of clearing multiple millions in exchange for Zambrano—something that’s not going to happen.

Both Jayson Stark and Tim Dierkes put forth scenarios toward this end.

On paper, the suggestions like Carlos Lee, Barry Zito, A.J. Burnett, Adam Dunn, all make some form of sense, but if I was the trading team, I’d look at Zambrano and say, “why am I giving up anything for this guy when the Cubs are simply gonna release him and I can try him for nothing if I think he can help?”

I was of the opinion that Zambrano might be straightened out with a solid pitching coach and strong-handed manager for a more stable, successful organization than the Cubs. But I no longer feel that way. Regardless of his talent, Zambrano is a person who’s destined to be “what might have been” because he cannot control himself.

This has happened under a variety of managers—Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella, Mike Quade; with Cubs teams that have been contenders and cellar-dwellers; in disputes with umpires, teammates, coaches and opponents.

He’s a habitual offender.

The Cubs know this. The biggest obstacle in finding a taker for him is that everyone else knows it too, making a trade highly, highly unlikely no matter who’d be coming back.

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The Dugout’s Not Alright For Fightin’

Media, Players, Spring Training, Uncategorized

It’s spring training and the Cubs are in mid-season, dysfunctional form as Carlos Silva, irritated with the shoddy defense that sabotaged his start—perceived as a slightly important one because he’s fighting for a rotation spot—got into a dugout scuffle with third baseman Aramis Ramirez.

Comparisons were immediately made to the Carlos ZambranoDerrek Lee near fight last June. It was that incident that appeared to be the true beginning of the end for Lou Piniella‘s managerial tenure; the one thing that made him say, “that’s it, I can’t deal with this anymore”.

It’s a bit of a stretch to equate one with the other.

Zambrano is an emotional volcano; he and the Cubs were in the midst of a disastrous season and it was known that big changes were on the horizon; frustration had mounted to a point where such a confrontation was inevitable.

The Silva-Ramirez dust up stemmed from a generally mild-mannered pitcher who needs his defense to help him as much as possible not getting said assistance and losing his composure due to pressure of fighting—literally—for his role in the rotation.

Manager Mike Quade was impressive in his interim stint last season especially in tamping down the lackadaisical play and silliness that had grown prevalent in Piniella’s waning days.

This was nothing to get upset over in terms of it actually happening. It’s better that players are passionate and caring enough that they get so immersed in a game—in spring training!—that they react so powerfully to fight about it in public.

The public part is where my issue would be.

Teammates get into scuffles probably 50 times over the course of a season and my rules (if such a thing can be governed) regarding this would be: A) don’t do it where there are cameras present; B) make sure it’s over a baseball-related issue; and C) get all the bad blood out and shake hands afterward.

Fighting in the dugout creates this.

People are talking about it; asking questions; making allegations and snide comments about the Cubs being the same mess they’ve been in past years. It’s March 3rd; it’s a little early to utter broad-based, definitive determinations for any club.

If the fight is about baseball, then fine; if it’s over a girl or salary or immature boys being immature boys, then I have a problem with that and it can’t happen anywhere.

As long as there’s an understanding and mutual respect after the fact, then this isn’t a bad thing. It’s better to have players getting their feelings out in the open—even if it’s physical—than to have the linger, fester and create factions.

The Cubs would’ve been better off if it had happened out of the public eye, but in the grand scheme it’s no big thing.

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