2011 Spring Training - week 2
I have had several discussions thus far about whether 2010 is more hopeless than 2006, or 2002, or 1999, or several other perceived low-water marks in recent Cubs history. Ivy Chat Chuck, for example, thinks 2006 was worse than now. I do recall the Last Days of Dusty to be damn bleak. But Sam Zell bought the Tribune and handed Hendry a loaded checkbook, and there should have been a World Series, except Hendry bought the wrong players and, in retrospect, the wrong manager for the job.
Of course, in August of 2006, we knew of none of this. Now? I don't practice santeria, I got no crystal ball, but I do know Ricketts is not going to give any loaded checkbooks to anyone this winter, so forget about the fantasy that we are going to find the World's Best GM who will bring in the World's Best Players to get us over the World's Biggest Slump.
Here are some things we do know: all through his tenure, Hendry has drafted pitchers, early and often. Going into this season, some of these draft picks were highly regarded by the national scouts, in fact, several of these guys were regarded as close-to-ready. The first half of this year, our minor league teams did very well, anchored by our decent pitching on every rung of the ladder. Many made all-star teams. Many of these guys (12, in fact) have had a chance to pitch for the Cubs this summer.
And every last one of them sucked.
Hendry's response has been typical and predictable: except for the straight Theriot-for-DeWitt trade, all his moves have been to bring in more pitching. And, well, there have been several discussions here and elsewhere over the years that trying to fix bullpens by spending money on experienced relievers is risky, a 50-50 proposition at best, so there is a certain wisdom to stockpile an army of arms, and even if a small percentage of them work out ok, it will be sufficient. If you have twenty guys in the minors who are callup candidates and only 20% of them work out, well, that's the four guys that aren't named Marmol, Marshall or Grabow that will pitch in Wrigley in 2011.
Do I agree with that philosophy, personally? Not in the least. The Chicago Cubs, for as money as they wring out of us, the fanbase, should never, ever have to consider salary as a limitation. Do I think we should be the highest paying team in the NL? Damn right! Just wish we'd spent that money more wisely...But, I will admit we've spent money on relievers over the years (Grabow, Howry, Remlinger come immediately to mind) without much luck, so I am not going to barbecue Hendry for his scheme.
What I will ask him to consider, though, is to truly do the due diligence and find out why EVERY LAST ONE of the guys we've called up this year have failed. They pitched well in Iowa, Tennessee, and they come up here and forget how to throw strikes. Why is that? Assuming the manager has little to do with how a guy pitches, can we look at the pitching coach and the bullpen coach this winter? Obviously, these guys are either not executing a plan, or they have no plan to begin with.
If the Cubs are going with the young arms option, which is their prerogative, then it is absolutely vital that the Cubs pitching coach be able to communicate with young pitchers, impart a plan of action for them, and adjust the plan accordingly. Larry Rothschild and Lester Strode have failed to do this in 2010. They need to go, and someone smarter needs to replace them.
Fire the damn bullpen catchers, too. Obviously, they ain't catching right, either.