Marching Slowly to Nowhere

Tell me a story, Jim Hendry. Make it a good story, too, filled with surprising trades and great scouting discoveries. I would like a happy ending as well….something along the lines of 90+ wins next year. Do you know a story like that??

I just remembered that Hendry isn’t listening to me….nor has he been all season, because I can’t make sense of his moves, or rather the lack of moves. If the Reds glady gave away Austin Kearns and Felipe Lopez (both arguably upgrades over Cedeno and Murton) for a few middle relievers, why is it that Hendry winds up with a couple of A ball pitchers with mediocre stats for Scott Williamson? We held onto Williamson, and paid him, for almost 2 full seasons….for that? Not much of a payoff on that gamble. Can’t wait to see how the Wade Miller thing works out, by the way.

If you believe that Hendry has a master plan and it will unfold in the next two weeks, then I hate to burst your bubble, but….you know better.

Selling Hope instead of Old Style….

Hendry is sort of like a beer vendor….he picks his locations wisely, and he offers a winning, and popular, sales pitch. The beer vendor thrives in the heat of Summer, offering cold Old Style nirvana to a very willing sun-drenched audience. How often, though, do we pick out Old Style 12-packs, in a cold grocery store, when we aren’t thirsty? Jim Hendry visits us every February, and sells us Hope. Hendry’s Hope is often described as lightning in a bottle, when it comes to his off-season free agent pickups, who inevitably are coming off a down season, and whose contracts are less expensive. As much of a yearly ritual as Christmas, we are assured, every off-season, that our scouts have noticed something that the rest of the league missed. Sometimes the Hope is advertised as the Next Big Thing, in the form of unproven rookies, with seemingly endless ceilings. Either way, after a season of despair, and a Winter full of waiting, the Cubs fan is all too eager to down a big glass of Hendry’s Hope.

None of us are really all that ready for Hendry’s message right now, though. We are bitter, frustrated, and fully consumed with examining the wreckage of the 2006 season. As sure as women like to gossip about lousy relationships, the Cubs fan is anxious to play the Blame Game….as if pointing out the cause of the failure will somehow make it less painful to stomach. So Hendry has been quiet. Eerily quiet. Perhaps because he knows there are several months still before his next Hope Convention. Perhaps he is holding back on improving the team at this time, because of monetary constraints….after all, the Cubs already have a large chunk of change invested in various players for 2007. Don’t kid yourself, either….Hendry and the Tribsters won’t go out and acquire Zito, Soriano, or Carlos Lee when the season is over. There is no history to suggest that the Cubs brass is willing to shell out that kind of dough to a healthy free agent that is coming off a good year. Nope….Hendry will do what he has done the last two years: add a few role players, and maybe one B-level free agent whose numbers are declining, and/or take a flyer on a pitcher coming off an injury (Mark Mulder may fit this description).

Meet the new Coach….same as the old Coach!

What do you think of the big coaching change the Cubs made during the All-Star break? What’s that? Oh….yeah….nothing changed….I must have blocked it out for fear of losing my mind. Even if there is a coaching change, there won’t be any noticeable improvements with our beloved Cubs team unless at least five areas of concern are addressed: developing young players, cutting down on injuries, playing better fundamental defense, utilizing smart baserunning decisions, and improving on-base-percentage.

I would feel good about a Bobby Cox type of manager coming in and addressing these different deficiencies. Maybe a fiery guy like Larry Bowa could get the gang to focus more on the field and less on the announcers and the media. But if Hendry does dump the current fine manager of the Chicago Cubs, and his replacement is just another “players’ manager” then I am afraid that nothing will really change.

Injuries: Bad Luck or the result of Incompetence?

Some injuries are flukes, and some make you scratch your head and wonder if the Cubs try to save a few bucks on their doctor and trainer bills.

Flukes: Derrek Lee’s wrist. The line drive off Prior’s elbow last year.

Head-Scratchers: Prior’s oblique, Marshall’s oblique, Eyre’s hamstring, Pagan’s leg strain, Prior’s shoulder, Wood’s entire body.

One weird injury at a time is an accident. Two is, maybe, a bad coincidence. Three should be a complete reevaluation of how your players prepare to play the game of baseball….from basic stretching, weight-lifting techniques, off-season workouts, etc….

I could stand to lose about 20 pounds, and have fallen into horrible basketball shape these days. My vertical leap is too poor to rebound, I am too slow to guard anyone with two legs, I am too short to be a forward or center, and when I actually make a shot, I swear you can hear “Glory Days” playing in the background….basically I am your typical thirty-something-married-with-kids-white-guy. However, I would sooner design my own workout regimen, then take free advice from the Cubs trainers and/or doctors on how to get in better shape. I am completely serious about this. If any of you CCO Readers have any confidence left in the Cubs training staff (or Hendry’s ability to hire competent people for the training staff) please enlighten me as to why, because I believe you would be either the most forgiving person on the planet, or the most naive.

What’s the plan, dude?

Has Hendry spoken to his manager and reassured him that his job is safe, and that they need to stop “playing to win” with mediocre veterans, and start developing their talent for 2007? Or does the Cubs manager still think he has to win at all costs, and that is why Neifi Perez continues to play seemingly everyday? If our GM and our manager are on the same page, that is a good thing. I just don’t have a clue what that page is, and I can’t understand why the Cubs fans are not being brought into the loop here.

If I was Hendry, I would realize the level of frustration that my fan base is going through, and because the fans keep my team, and myself, in business, I would feel obligated to report to them, and let them know what is going on. Kind of like a CEO reports to stockholders, for example.

If Hendry and the Cubs manager are not on the same page….Hendry should let the Cub fans know.

If Hendry and the Cubs manager are on the same page….then tell us what your plan is!
Are you:
Showcasing Nevin, Neifi, and Walker for trades? Is that why they are playing so much?
Why is Pagan playing in place of Murton….are we done developing Murton?
What is up with Cedeno….is he the SS of the future, Mr. Hendry?
What are the rotation plans the rest of the year….what about Prior and Lee….are you going to rest them more and let them heal up completely for 2007?

Seriously….just tell us what is going on! We need to know this information as badly as someone with acid indigestion needs a bottle of Tums. Help us heal this pain, Jim Hendry. Help us heal by giving us your vision of the plan for the future. I don’t know about the rest of you CCO Readers, but I need something to believe in.

Until next time, pray we start to unload our dead weight, hope for some explanation of the future, watch big Z win his 8th in a row….and let’s go Cubs!

Quote of the Day

"Build up your weaknesses until they become your strong points." – Knute Rockne