Cubs GM Jim Hendry spent the offseason obsessing over a power-hitting left-handed bat like I spent the offseason obsessing over finding a Valentine's Day date. And apparently, both of us came up empty.
In fact, Hendry's "left-handed bat" is batting better as a righty than from the side of the plate he was paid quite handsomely to perform from. Milton Bradley is hitting .333 with a .400 on-base percentage and a .370 baBIP from the right side, but five of his six homers have come from the left side. However, Bradley is only hitting .201 with a .245 baBIP and a .689 OPS from the left side. If it is any consolation to Cubs fans, Bradley is hitting .303 with a .429 OBP, .486 slugging percentage and .915 OPS. Away from the Friendly Confines, the batting average dips to .177 and the OPS to .573.
Maybe his problem isn't as righty-lefty it is home-road. OK, maybe it is. But maybe Bradley wouldn't be a problem if manager Lou Piniella had his way.
When Piniella was first hired as Cubs manager, stories flooded the Web about he and Hendry basically walking hand-in-hand at the Winter Meetings acting like a head coach and his top assistant recruiting the best stars in the land. Piniella is credited for targeting Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly that offseason.
During the regular season, he orchestrated the mass exodus of Cub failures such as Cesar Izturis and Michael Barrett while inserting Ryan Theriot into the everyday line-up, Carlos Marmol to the back of the bullpen and basically forcing Hendry's hand into trading Barrett and eventually landing Jason Kendall.
One year after that, Piniella is credited for helping reeling in Kosuke Fukudome to fill the right field hole that was previously filled by the platoon trio of Matt Murton, Cliff Floyd and Jacque Jones.
And all that happened in the last two years were back-to-back division titles, something that had not been seen in forever-and-a-day. Since I only pay my cable bill from April through September, I'm not sure what happened once October rolled around.
In any case, Piniella got his man and the Cubs got their wins. This season Hendry got his man and Piniella still wants his.
"The only thing I talked about last season was a need for a left-hand bat in a predominantly right-handed lineup who could hit the ball for power and drive in some runs. Look at our production last year, and it was mainly from the right side. We didn't bring [Jim] Edmonds back and he hit quite a few home runs.
"We needed a left-hand bat, that's it. That was what I mentioned, that we could use a nice productive left-hand bat in the middle of our right-hand hitting."
Hendry spent a lot of this offseason trying to swing a deal for Jake Peavy, and failed. Meanwhile, Piniella held a firm stance saying his rotation was fine. It was evident the two most important management figures were no longer on the same page. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that Hendry got so sidetracked with his pursuit of Peavy, that Bradley seemed like a great acquisition despite his tempermantal and injury-riddled past.
I guess this wouldn't be an issue if Bradley lived up to last year's totals. Heck, I'm sure Cubs fans would be pleased if he was meeting his career averages. But it really wouldn't be an issue if Raul Ibanez wasn't taking advantage of the Philly band-box and smacking homers en route to becoming a Cheese Steak swallowers' diety. Or if Bobby Abreu wasn't getting on base at a .402 clip for L.A.'s "other" team. Or if the guy with a career 1.088 OPS at Wrigley Field wasn't wasting 24 homers at Nationals Park.
Maybe one Piniella's term as manager is up, he will put on the GM hat. No one should know how to better put together a team than a two-time Manager of the Year who has done it in each league. Then, the Cubs could "re-assign" Hendry into a consultants role. Or to a beer vendor.