by Kent Sterling
Jim Hendry can’t open his mouth without showing his uselessness as a shepherd of this foundering franchise. With the highest payroll in the National League and highest average ticket price, Hendry spoke of the future of manager Lou Piniella.
“He’s done so many good things – not only for us, but in the game – that I felt like there was no way I’m going to let him go. It’s the right thing to do. Lou deserves to be treated with respect. He’s earned it.”
If Hendry owned a hardware store and he had a 67-year-old stock boy who had worked for him since 1964, that would be one thing. Loyalty is great when applied appropriately, but when it comes at the expense of the success of a franchise people pay good money to watch play, that’s mismanagement.
The Cubs have been horseshit all season. $146-million should buy more than 39 wins after 89 games. The players have shown little that resembles passion – at least not on the field. Carlos Zambrano went nuts in the dugout, but insanity doesn’t count as passion. Marlon Byrd and the pitching staff have brought their best most days, but other than that, the lack of execution has been shameful.
Routine plays have gone unmade, and the result has been an incredible Major League leading 58 unearned runs. In the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons, the Cubs totaled 40 and 47 unearned runs. Teams leading NL divisions have the following totals of unearned runs – Atlanta 26, San Diego 15, and Cincinnati 15. The average in the league is 33, so the Cubs are allowing more than 1/4 of an extra unearned run per game.
When a team is 11-20 in one-run games, that unnecessary run more than the average every four games over the course of a season makes a huge difference. That’s the difference between poor execution and average execution. Get to where the Reds and Padres operate, and pennants are available. The reward for 58 unearned runs after 88 games (that prorates to a mammoth 106 for the season, and would be almost 20 more than any total back to the woefully inept 1975 Cubs who totaled 106) is fourth place.
Joe Morgan is blathering on ESPN about the Cubs problems being only offensive. Morgan, as usual, misses the point as to what’s wrong with this team. It’s not really a specific defensive problem either. It’s execution and focus. The Cubs are constantly not making the play that matters. I can’t find statistics for baserunners being tagged out at the plate, but I can’t recall a Cubs team being thrown out trying to score this often all the way back to 1968. Ever Wendell “Wave ’em in” Kim didn’t send people around third to their demise like Mike Quade in 2010.
Managers, regardless of the business, are responsible for the day-to-day focus of his staff. Piniella is clearly not being heard by his team. If Hendry avoids making a change because Lou deserves better, what about the fans? What do they deserve, as they click through the turnstyles paying an average of $52.56 for a ticket (very close to double the average of $26.79). According to the “Fan Cost Index”, a family of four can expect to spend $329.74 to attend a game, park, and get some grub at Wrigley.
If a general manager makes decisions based on anything but his team winning and losing, he should be fired immediately. Hendry patted himself on the back for understanding that Piniella deserves better than to be fired when it is so blatantly obvious that he should be.
It’s one thing to guess at who’s responsible. It’s another when the GM waves his hands over his head and screams, “PICK ME!”
As I’m watching the Cubs play the Dodgers, Xavier Nady fielded a sacrifice bunt late because he waited to see if it would go foul, and Vicente Padilla reached safely. How is that possible? Is this a high school team coached by a well-meaning mom? An eight-year old knows that you take the out. Now, with pitching coach Larry Rothschild trying to get someone up in the Cubs bullpen as Carlos Silva struggles, no one answers the phone in the Cubs bullpen. The 2010 Cubs is little more than a traveling carnival run by men who command little attention or respect.
It’s gotten worse as Silva doesn’t break to first on a ground ball to Nady with the bases loaded. Nady is forced to try to beat Loney to the bag, and the ump blows the call. It would never have been close had Silva done what kids learn before they turn 10. This team is not focusing, and it costs them in almost every game. Piniella can’t run over to first to cover, but he can create a culture where people do what they are supposed to.
The only respect being shown Piniella is from Hendry, and he is the one guy from whom it shouldn’t come. The Rickett’s Family broom needs to sweep this management mess clean.