Why Can't Jim Hendry Cut His Losses?

Tab BamfordSenior Writer IAugust 22, 2009

I'm not going to post this article as "breaking news" in hopes that realistic fans of the Chicago Cubs realize that their favorite team isn't going to the playoffs this year.

Sorry folks, they're just not good.

And because of their poor performance, there are lots of questions wandering around the heads of Chicago right now. With Friday's announcement that the sale of the organization has been essentially finalized, now there can hopefully be answers coming in the near future.

But there are some questions I would like answered before November. Indeed, I would like one of them answered before next week.

Why can't Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry cut his losses on some of the wasted contracts on the roster and begin preparing for 2010?

It's certainly not news that the economy isn't very good, and it's had a tangible impact on the financial health of professional sports. All over baseball, teams are dealing with realistic expectations and making tough decisions to keep their team competitive.

Except in Chicago, where Hendry has a career highlighted by his refusal to admit when he's dead wrong.

Look at Toronto, which overpaid Alex Rios. Their general manager admitted his mistake, placed Rios on waivers, and accepted a five-figure cash settlement from the Chicago White Sox for a very talented outfield.

Livan Hernandez was making $1 million this year, and didn't perform to the level he has historically. His contract was bought out, and he is now a free agent.

John Smoltz, who was making $5.5 million in Boston, couldn't get through a fourth inning. So the Red Sox bought him out and released him, cutting their losses.

Vicente Padilla was making $12 million in Texas, but he's a head case who was putting his batters at risk by drilling a couple guys every time he took the hill. Even though he has great stuff, the Rangers bought him out and let him walk away. The Rangers also had to cover a $1.75 million buyout for 2010 when they dropped Padilla.

These are very real examples of general managers all over baseball accepting defeat with certain individuals and cutting their losses. In doing so, these general managers are improving the immediate and long term futures of their teams by opening up financial flexibility and roster spots, all with the only costs being the buyout and the self esteem of the GM.

And yet here we are in Chicago, with the same roster wandering around the field every day.

Less than two hours north, in Milwaukee, Bill Hall couldn't hit all year. His batting average is .206 with only six home runs this season. The Brewers, with an eye on their future, placed Hall on waivers and subsequently traded him to Seattle.

What makes me mad is that Aaron Miles would have to get white-hot at the plate to raise his average to .206 this year; his on-base percentage is only .219 at this point! And yet he's still on the Cubs roster, for now and for 2010, making more than $2 million to do absolutely nothing.

Why can't Hendy just open his eyes to what's going on everywhere around him in baseball and release a loser like MIles?

Furthermore, while a guy like Smoltz is getting a new gig in St. Louis despite his struggles in the American League, here are the Cubs still paying Aaron Heilman to waste a roster spot. Do you realize that, in all of Major League Baseball, only Brad Lidge has blown more saves than Heilman? Why is he still getting paid?

Heilman's actually tied for second in the Blown Saves category with a number of pitchers, one of whom is Kevin Gregg. If he isn't going to be the closer, and his contract runs out after this year, why not give a kid like Jeff Stevens another shot? Why waste a roster spot when a player that could impact the team's future could be used in Gregg's place?

My point is this: Hendry is on trial in the court of public opinion right now. Every single move he made following one of the better regular seasons in the long history of the Cubs organization has backfired, and a team that won consecutive division titles is now going to finish out of the playoffs completely just a year later.

With new ownership taking the reigns, Hendry needs to do one of two things: either polish up his resume and start making calls, or start building a case to keep him around for another year.

If he looks anyone in the eye, or himself in the mirror, and honestly thinks that bringing back this roster intact for 2010 is going to get anything done he's a laughing stock and should be unemployed.

But, if he can admit that he made a series of awful mistakes last winter and begins cutting those losses and opening up some flexibility for the team moving forward, there's a chance this team could indeed make a few key changes and get back in the mix with the National League elite.

It's up to Hendry, but I think you know where I stand on the issue. Cut your losses, Jim. The fans are already thinking about 2010, perhaps its time you did the same.


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