When I awoke from my post-Blogathon slumber on Monday (was it Monday? for a few days, time ceased to be, in any meaningful sense, real), I came across a couple strongly negative analyses/commentaries on the Chicago Cubs’ failure to accomplish anything of value this weekend before the non-waiver trade deadline. So, I started to prepare a writeup on those articles.
But then I found another. Ok, three still isn’t too many to use in a traditional writeup.
But then I found another. And another. And another. Before I knew it, I had nine tabs open. It was time to do a bullet-style roundup. That there was no shortage of negative reactions about which to write is, itself, another strongly negative indicator.
Away we go…
Grantland’s Jonah Keri used my preferred word to describe the Cubs’ deadline: inexplicable. Keri’s opening is perfectly excoriating:
Jon Daniels should have known better. The Texas Rangers GM was hunting for relief help at the deadline, so he reportedly buzzed his Cubs counterpart, Jim Hendry, to see about Carlos Marmol. Marmol was having a good enough season, albeit down from his huge 2010. Maybe Hendry would be amenable to a trade.
Hell, no. Which makes sense, because you can’t just call up a team 15.5 games out of first place and 21 games below .500 (now 16.5 and 22) and ask about their ninth-inning guy. There’s no position more important for a team going nowhere than someone to close out their meaningless games, especially when it costs only the $18 million that Marmol is set to make through the end of 2013.
Keri goes on with similar jabs, using Carlos Pena and Marlon Byrd as the knives. Keri’s is my favorite piece in this collection, and not just because it resonates the most strongly with my own analysis of the Cubs’ inaction (ok, well, mostly not just because…). It strikes a chord.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark calls the Cubs one of his deadline losers, writing:
Between no-trade clauses, contracts that acted like no-trade clauses and low-energy under-performance from so many guys on this roster, the Cubs headed for the auction stand with almost nothing they could sell, other than Kosuke Fukudome. And once Fukudome was gone, that’s exactly what they did get moved:
“Now that,” said one scout, “is a deadline loser if I ever saw one.”
I agree that the Cubs were deadline losers, but Stark’s rationale is kind of self-defeating. The Cubs went into the deadline, he says, with nothing to sell, and, because they indeed sold nothing, they didn’t do a good job. Qué?
AOL’s Greg Couch, after noting that “America’s lovable losers … sat quietly in the corner doing nothing, planning nothing,” has some harsh (but appropriate) words for Cubs’ GM Jim Hendry, who said that, by and large, the players the Cubs kept were guys who “have a chance to be involved next year”:
What? WHAT! It really takes nerve for the GM of a team that’s going to lose 100 games, a team that hasn’t won a World Series in over 100 years, to defend the players he has brought in and talk about bringing them back next year.
Sports Illustrated’s Joe Sheehan compliments Houston Astros GM Ed Wade’s deadline performance by way of an unflattering contrast to Jim Hendry:
Contrast Wade’s approach with that of Cubs GM Jim Hendry – whose team is not as bad as the Astros, but faces a similar dilemma – and you gain respect for a man who has done his best to put the organization’s needs first, even though in doing so carves in stone his legacy as a man who didn’t get the job done.
The implication, of course, is that, by keeping the Cubs together at the deadline, Hendry is putting his own future ahead of the organization’s future. I still strongly believe Hendry is gone at the end of the season, but, point taken.
CBS Sports’ Matt Snyder says the Cubs should have made everyone available:
What should [Hendry] have done? Well, at the very least he should have said every single player – save for maybe Castro – was available and seen what kind of offers came in. Just making guys available doesn’t mean you have to trade them. The roster is not close to being competitive, even in a bad NL Central, and a few free agent signings aren’t going to change anything. He needs to build the farm system from the ground up and then head into free agency with a plan of building around one or two stars – like Fielder – with an emphasis on youth. He also needs to stop backloading deals and crippling the future payroll. Maybe Hendry couldn’t have gotten much back for any of the above players I mentioned, but the team as is won’t be competing for anything for several years. It was a perfect time to begin the rebuiling process. As far as I can tell, the only thing that prevented that was delusion – or that a firesale would have been his fault and he doesn’t want to admit it.
The Cubs have recently taken steps to revitalize the farm system with an eye toward future success and stability, but Sheehan’s right – seriously considering offers for valuable pieces like Matt Garza, Geovany Soto and Sean Marshall could have rapidly accelerated the process.
NBC Chicago’s Sam Fels criticizes the Cubs, among other reasons, because they held tightly onto players who almost certainly won’t be back next year:
Aramis Ramirez shouldn’t be on this team next year. Carlos Pena won’t be when he gets a multi-year offer from anyone else. Marlon Byrd is a stop-gap. Sean Marshall is one of the best set-up men in the game, but you don’t need set-up men when your team hardly wins anyway (the Padres figured this out right quick). Reed Johnson will not be on this team next year. Why are they here now?
The Cubs will tell you they’ll gain their flexibility when these contracts are up next year. But if they’re going away, why not ditch them now, bring in a number of prospects in those deals and hope just one comes up trumps? If the Cubs were alarmed that they’d have to cover salary, has anyone told them the concept of “sunk cost”? You’re paying that money either way, so why not try and get something that will help you down the road when you might be a contender again?
The Pirates kicked the tires on Carlos Pena and Reed Johnson. The Angels have long coveted Aramis Ramirez, who certainly would have waived his no-trade with the right enticements. Everybody wants bullpen help.
Kind of seems like there has to be a reason for holding onto these guys, right? All we can do is invent and play jazz, because it otherwise appears to defy all logic.
The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rogers suggests that, although some of the blame for this weekend’s failure lies with Jim Hendry, it isn’t because Hendry failed to make moves. It’s because Hendry failed to put the Cubs in a position where the moves made more sense:
He’s a general manager with deep roots in scouting and player development. He knows that the most important task for any GM is finding and developing players, and the Cubs haven’t gotten many impact guys to the big leagues in his tenure, especially position players. That’s why the falloff from 2007-08 has been so severe.
Guys like Ramirez, Byrd and Pena should be getting pushed by prospects, which would have made them tradable before Sunday’s deadline.
I know many of you aren’t Rogers fans, but this is a great point. In a separate piece calling the Cubs the deadline’s biggest loser, Rogers suggests another possible reason for refusing to unload this weekend: Hendry wanted to keep the team in respectable shape so that a free agent like Prince Fielder won’t dismiss them out of hand. Interesting, to be sure, but there are at least three flaws: (1) this team is about to lose 100 games – there’s nothing respectable about it; (2) if the goal was to lure Fielder, why is Carlos Pena still here?; and (3) money talks, yo.
Finally, SB Nation’s Al Yellon (you may know him better as the guy who runs Bleed Cubbie Blue) wonders if the impressively poor deadline performance should be the final straw for Hendry:
And one thing about doing a July 31 deadline deal – or several, as the Astros, another team having a miserable season, did – is to send a message to your team and fans that the way the team is currently constituted isn’t working and you need to retool now, rather than wait until August, or the offseason. Hendry’s statement that some of the players not dealt “have a chance to be involved next year” denies this reality; this is an aging core that had a decent run from 2007 through ’09. It’s now two years later.
One of Jim Hendry’s best traits is that he is very loyal to his players, who in turn love playing for him. But that loyalty is also one of his worst qualities; it means that players he likes are sometimes kept far beyond their sell-by date.
If Hendry can’t fix this mess, it’s incumbent on Cubs owner Tom Ricketts to find someone who will.
If I were a betting man, as I like to say, I’m thinking that’s just what Tom Ricketts plans to do.