The Chicago Cubs are 3-0 since sending Milton Bradley to his bedroom without desert. Too bad the streak comes too little, too late as the season enters its final stretch of games.
Manager Lou Piniella and GM Jim Hendry are on the firing line because of the roles they've played in the downfall of a team that won 97 games last season. But it's unlikely both will be filing unemployment papers anytime soon. However, it might be time for one of these two to hit the road.
Which one should it be?
THE CASE AGAINST PINIELLA
Pinning the blame on Jim Hendry will be the easy part of this blog. It will be lengthy too. So we'll save that for later. Now, let's focus on Piniella.
First, Cubs fans should thank their lucky stars for Sweet Uncle Lou, who for a while was the anti-Dusty Baker. For the first time in the history of that clubhouse, there was a sense that something was going right. There was a sense of responsibility, accountability and urgency for a franchise that lacked those two things for the better part of a decade.
All of that has seemed to disappear in 2009. Milton Bradley went crazy. Alfonso Soriano failed to run out ground balls. And Kevin Gregg lasted much longer than he would have had the real Lou Piniella been managing this ball club.
The fiery manager that kicked hats and threw bases we once knew sounds resigned to a fate. Rather than saying "F*** no I'm not leaving 'til we win a f****** ring," when asked whether or not he was going to manage next year, Piniella responded with a "Golly gee, guys, I'll just fulfill my contract." Sounds like a guy who wants out to me.
Reporters and fans have called him out for the lack of fire. I'll call him out for the following.
- Keeping Kevin Gregg in the closer's role. Things looked fine in the month of July, but his career splits suggested the second half was a disaster. It's too bad Lou didn't take the suggestion until after Gregg and his ERA which hovers around 6.75 helped blow the Cubs' chance at a playoff spot.
- The Alfonso Soriano leadoff experiment. It took him too long to make and stick with the decision. That is all.
- Batting Mike Fontenot against lefty pitchers. In 2008, Lil' Babe Ruth hit .305 and posted a .909 OPS where he posted an average above .300 against lefties. That was out of line with his career splits where he hits .236 against lefties. Fonty could have been serviceable in 2009 had he not had to face LHPs ... or RHPs for that matter.
- Not playing Jake Fox. Beyond the whole Jake Fox doesn't get enough ABs argument should be a sub-head. Fox posted a .953 OPS in the three months he was receiving significant playing time before dipping to .246 in August and .240 in September. Piniella, known for riding the hot hand, has no excuse for not sticking Fox at third as soon as Aramis Ramirez hit the DL and riding out that hot hand instead of fooling around with Andres Blanco, Bobby Scales, Fontenot and Aaron Miles.
Sit back, relax and strap it on. Allow me to take you on a journey through time. It would be easy to stand on top of a building and scream "Fire Jim Hendry!" at the top of your lungs after this debacle. The Chicago Sun-Times has proven how easy that is by doing so with a photo gallery.
No photo gallery from me though. Just prose.
The Milton Bradley debacle is just the tip of the iceberg. If you thought trading Crazy Uncle Milton was going to be hard, it might be damn near impossible after this fiasco. And it's not just the fiasco itself, it's Hendry's handling of it. Going public with the suspension pandered to us, the fans, but did the organization much harm. The announcement of the suspension caused Bradley's stock to plummet so far, Enron thinks it's a good one to bounce back. It would have been easy for the Cubs to keep it in-house and tell the world, "Hey, we're trying to give Tyler Colvin a shot" while telling each other "F*** Milton, he's not playing."
The sad thing is that this is not the first time this has happened. The Cubs tore down Sammy Sosa once his act wore thin, so much so all they got in return was Mike Fontenot. Hendry certainly could have gotten a lot more for a guy who hit 35 home runs and drove in 80 RBIs had he not Plax'd himself during the process.
Trades of players such as Kyle Farnsworth, Corey Patterson and Felix Pie all came too late. Hendry sold low on all three when he could have sold high on each and every one of them. Same can be said about non-prospects such as Jock-strap Jones, Will Ohman and Michael Barrett.
The only trades Hendry has working in his favor are the trades for Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and to an extent, Rich Harden. In those trades, Hendry victimized small-market teams who could not afford to pay the price of admission to see those players, let alone their salaries. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the dumping Todd Hundley as a Hendry success story, but it ends there.
Hendry was the mastermind behind letting Josh Hamilton get away for chump change. He acquired Juan Pierre for a young, affordable right handed starter named Ricky Nolasco and the lefty reliever we desperately need in Reynel Pinto. Finally, there was that whole Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis deal that came after Maddux said he wanted tos tick around.
Signing Alfonso Soriano was a good idea. Signing him for an 8-year deal was a bad idea. It was the fifth richest deal in baseball at the time, putting him among the likes of Alex Rodriguez (10 years, $252 million), Derek Jeter (10 years, $189 million) and Manny Ramirez (8 years, $160 million). After hitting 62 homers in his first two-injury riddled years in Chicago, Soriano spit the bit as the injury bug molested him to the point where he needed surgery on his knee -- cutting short what projected to be a 27 home run season. Clearly, Soriano is no A-Rod or Manny.
With a new ownership group coming in, the time to clean house is now. If Hendry and Piniella have to take the fall, so be it. But I'll let you be the judge.
Two guys. One bullet. Who gets it?