Greetings! You know, the All Star break is right around the corner, and the trade deadline is coming up faster than most people realize. I thought now would be a good time for me to write you a letter asking for a small favor.
I’m sure most Cubs fans have written letters like this asking you to do something like, for instance, land Jake Peavy in a monster trade deal, or go after Mark DeRosa and/or Kerry Wood again. But I’m going to ask for something else entirely: I’d like to ask you to resign.
That’s right: Resign. Not re-sign, but resign, as in leave. I’m sure your job is awesome, and you don’t want to give it up—especially in this economy—but seeing as how you’ve essentially dismantled not only a winning major league ball club, but also its farm system, I think it’s time for you to go.
If the ownership situation weren’t in a state of complete chaos right now, maybe somebody would have already fired you, but unfortunately, speculation on my part of such issues will have to be saved for another time.
How can a general manager take a 97-win team and reduce it to a team that’s likely to finish at .500 or less? Well, if anybody is curious, you, Mr. Hendry, have managed to answer that question for them.
I know that you were probably frustrated that the Cubs were swept out of the first round of the playoffs last year—everybody was—but I can’t say I believe you handled it in an appropriate manner. I could sit here and spout volumes about the ills that plagued the Cubs in the 2008 postseason, but that’s not the issue here: The issue isn’t why you reacted, but how.
It didn’t seem like it at the time, but in retrospect, you clearly panicked. Some might say they don’t blame you for this. After all, last year was the 100th year, and that made the perennially disappointing end of the Cubs’ season even more bitter and difficult to endure.
However, I don’t feel that such factors ultimately made your decisions justifiable. Rather than playing it conservative and, for instance, simply solidifying the Cubs bench players, you—once again—went after big acquisitions.
All I read about was how you were interested in pursuing Jake Peavy, and nothing came of it. It was, of course, very reminiscent of all the Brian Roberts talk after the end of the 2007 season.
Here’s the thing though, Jim: It’s fine if you want to get on the telephone and talk to Padres GM Kevin Towers about possibly setting up a trade deal—I would expect a GM to do this.
However, you clearly went wrong on two accounts: 1) You knew that the Cubs ownership situation was very uncertain, and thus an increase in the budget to cover Mr. Peavy’s salary would be unlikely. In spite of this, though, 2) you postured yourself in order to make the trade for Peavy. You traded Felix Pie for Garrett Olson, in whom the Padres were reported to be interested.
Then, however, everything suddenly (but not unexpectedly, I might add) fell through with the Jake Peavy deal, and you ended up trading Ronny Cedeño and Garret Olson for Aaron Heilman. In other words, you traded three (somewhat) promising young players—Cedeño, Olson, and Pie—for an aging middle reliever whose effectiveness on the mound—both as a starter and a reliever—could be considered dubious, at best. Whoops.
You also illustrated your penchant for big deals and signings by going after Milton Bradley. Sure, he led the AL in OPS last year—this is very impressive. However, you apparently didn’t stop to consider the fact that he’s often injured, and is well-known to be clubhouse poison.
Remember when Lou Piniella hinted during the offseason that he wanted you to go after Raúl Ibáñez, so as to make the lineup more left handed? I sure do. You inexplicably took Milton Bradley, instead. Of these two lefty-hitting outfielders, one is (as of June 29) batting .312 with 59 RBIs, and another is batting .232 with 16 RBIs.
Some might say that you’re not to blame for this—Ibáñez is getting older and Bradley arguably had a better year than Ibáñez did in 2008—but let’s face it: you disregarded Lou Piniella’s suggestion to take a proven player, and went with an unproven hothead with little respect for the game (remember when Bradley was quoted as saying “Right field is easy”? I do.). Whoops again.
Oh also, in case you forgot: you got rid of Jason Marquis, who, incidentally, has never been on a Major League Baseball team that has not made the playoffs. Yes, yes, I’ll admit that this is likely a coincidence, but with the bullpen situation now completely in flux, it might have been a smart move to hold on to a fairly solid pitcher who could shore up the rotation or act as a long man in the bullpen.
Marquis, incidentally, is currently having a very good year (9-5 as of June 29th) with the now-hot Colorado Rockies. Perhaps you’ll recall that we got Luís Vizcaíno for Jason Marquis. Vizcaíno ended up being designated for assignment and ultimately picked up by the Indians.
In short, you traded Jason Marquis for nobody. And let’s not forget, Jim, that the Cubs offered to pay an additional $875,000 of Marquis’ yearly salary as well. That, plus Vizcaíno’s salary equals $4.5 million that the Cubs are now spending on nothing. That’s a very big whoops.
Speaking of pitching, how about that Kevin Gregg? Has that deal panned out the way you expected? Because, as I recall, nearly everybody thought this was a bad move on your part. You gave up one of our better prospects (José Ceda) for the “closer” who led the NL in blown saves in 2008, and you effectively ousted Kerry Wood in doing so.
I have to admit that your move to get rid of Kerry Wood kind of made sense to me at the time. After all, he’s oft-injured, and he was asking for a bigger contract than you could afford, apparently (see above paragraph).
On the other hand, Mr. Hendry, you apparently disregarded the other stuff: Kerry Wood was well-known to be a “good clubhouse guy." Plus, he was the longest-tenured member of the team.
There’s certainly something to be said for that, although apparently you don’t value such things. Part of me kind of hopes that Cubs ownership treats you the same way when your contract is up for re-negotiation/renewal in 2012. Hopefully you’ll be gone before then, though.
We could talk about Mark DeRosa, too, I suppose, even though this was arguably your biggest misstep this offseason so I’m sure plenty of people have let you hear it about it. Just like Wood, DeRosa was a good clubhouse guy, and a good competitor. He had a career year offensively in 2008, and provided priceless defensive versatility.
With Aramis Ramírez now on the DL, an inconsistent offense, and a very uncertain infield situation, there’s no doubt whatsoever that you gave up an extremely valuable player in DeRosa—and now he’s on the Cardinals. I’ve been trying not to think about it. Whoops, yet again.
Finally, Jim, an extremely important measure of a general manager’s performance is the strength of his organization’s farm system. Apparently, though, you view young prospect players as little more than trade fodder for big name deals.
This is evidenced by the fact that Baseball America lists the Cubs as having only two of the top 100 baseball prospects. The White Sox, incidentally, have 4 of the top 100.
Furthermore, the overall strength of the Cubs’ farm system is generally not considered very good (The Hardball Times, for instance, has the Cubs’ system ranked at 26th out of 30). This does not bode well for the future. Not only are your mistakes hurting us now, but they will hurt us for years to come. That’s maybe the biggest whoops of all.
Mr. Hendry, were you trying to make the Cubs suck, or did you really do this incompetent of a job? In either case, I think everybody would be a little better off if you would just resign so that the Cubs organization can move on. Would I be able to do your job? Certainly not.
Lately though, I can't help but feel that there's somebody out there who could do it better than you.
A Cubs Fan