Monday, May 08, 2006

Bringing Up The Rear

The Cubs offense is in a slump. Wait, do you think that is too big of an understatement? Maybe it is. After all, the Cubs have lost eight of their last nine games and have scored a grand total of only nine runs in those nine games. So far this season, the Cubs are 14th (out of 16 teams) in the NL in batting average and on-base percentage, 15th in slugging percentage, walks, and home runs, and 16th in hits, runs scored, and RBI. Maybe it would be more accurate to call the Cubs offense anemic...or pathetic.. or miserable...or really, really bad.

Losing Derrek Lee didn't help matters any, but the loss of Lee is not the problem. The problem is that GM Jim Hendry spent $100 million dollars assembling an $80 million team. Sound too harsh? Let's take a hard look at the facts.

The Cubs are struggling mightily and someone is to blame. Is it the players? Yeah, they deserve part of the blame. Juan Pierre is hitting barely .200, Jacque Jones has been completely inept, particularly against left handed pitching, and Aramis Ramirez is hitting so poorly that Cubs fans now look fondly back on the Kevin Orie era. If history is any indication, Ramirez should turn things around. But relying on history doesn't bode so well for Pierre and Jones.

Pierre was signed by the Cubs after coming off of one of his worst years as a pro in 2005 and so far this year his offense has continued to slide. Jones had his best offensive year in 2003 with the Twins, but has been going progressively down hill since then. So while the Cubs players have to take some of the blame, Hendry's two key off-season moves are not paying off too well. And considering their history, Hendry should not be totally surprised.

Manager Dusty Baker has made some rather odd moves this year - in particular, some double switches that defy explanation - but he is rather limited in what he can do considering the limited talent pool he has to draw from. So, I would say that Dusty has to take some of the blame for the Cubs poor showing this year. But the majority of the blame rests with the man who put the team together, Jim Hendry.

If Hendry shouldn't have been surprised about what he got when he picked up Pierre and Jones, he should have expected what he is getting (or isn't getting) from Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Look at the injury history for these two guys. Are you surprised that they are both injured yet again? If you're not, then Jim Hendry certainly shouldn't be surprised.

I understand that I'm jumping on the anti-Jim Hendry bandwagon here. In fact, I'm a little late to the game. But someone has to take responsibility for what is happening to the Cubs right now and the finger has to be pointed at Hendry. And I think you can guess which finger I'm using.

I've written in the past about how the Cubs are not a $100 million team, even though that is what the players are being paid. Just looking at the talent on the field, the Cubs are not worth $100 million. They need two more bats (even with Lee in the lineup) and they could certainly use one or two more starting pitchers. If you look around at the talent on other teams and what their payroll is, the Cubs (or should I say, Hendry) should have been able to assemble a much better team for the money they are spending.

Of course, that's all water under the bridge now. The question is, what should Hendry do to remedy the situation? I'll answer that next time.


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