When will it be time to start cleaning up the mess?
Question: if this season is toast, what good does it do to maintain the status quo and allow Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella their jobs?
Elaboration: This season isn't toast -- not quite yet. I know that Rob made the bold claim that teams don't do 180's, despite the fact that the '09 Rockies, '03 Marlins, and -- most pertinent -- the '07 Cubs would disagree with him. So this entire article is more rhetorical than anything else.
But when do we raise the white flag, surrender on the season, and look to 2011 to rebuild?
Personally, I'd vote for June 1. If the Cubs are battling it out with the Astros for the bottom of the division by June 1st, then it's over. Or if they are 10 games out of a playoff spot, or 10 games under .500, it's over. At that point, I no longer see the need to defend Lou Piniella or Jim Hendry.
GROTA contributor Sayers40 has voiced the opinion that no good would come from replacing Hendry or Lou, because it's a) not what a top team/organization would do and b) no good would come from it. While I really enjoy reading Sayers' take on things, I've got to disagree with him here for a few reasons.
First -- top organizations do not flinch when disposing of broken parts. If the Yankees were done for by the end of May, you can bet you'd see Joe Girardi on the breadline. If the Red Sox looked like they'd been assembled by an incompetent oaf, with income-heavy, useless players eating up the team's payroll, you can bet that Theo Epstein would be getting a job elsewhere. And they wouldn't wait until October to do it -- good organizations never sleep, not even when they suck at winning.
Second -- if the Cubs do indeed fall out of contention, as they appear to be doing in rapid order, do you really want Jim Hendry around to rebuild them? This team will not be able to get better if he's steering the ship, because he has clearly demonstrated the inclination to crash us into Soriano-shaped rocks.
Hendry has already demonstrated a failure to build the farm system -- and, sorry Starlin Castro lovers, but he has just a bit more plate discipline than Corey Patterson, and while he doesn't swing at balls the way C-Pat did, I'll believe in his success when I see it -- he has demonstrated an inability to build a team without spending gobs of money on players with limited shelf-lives, and he has not done anything to convince me that he knows how to fix things.
Therefore, the Cubs need to consider making a few moves. If, on June 1st, they are out of it, they need to consider axing Hendry, appointing a temporary successor at GM, and possibly even removing Lou Piniella unless they are comfortable with keeping him as a lame-duck manager. Then they need to consider expelling the valuable parts of their bloated team -- Ryan Dempster, who will never be more valuable than he is right now, Ted Lilly, who is unlikely to return anyway, Aramis Ramirez, who is on the wrong side of 30, anybody and everybody who has value should be up for trade.
But, sadly, no matter who takes over, no matter what magic they can work, the Cubs are likely stuck with Soriano, Fukudome, Silva, and Zambrano (although I bull-headedly refuse to consider Carlos Zambrano to be a problem). These contract albatrosses will continue to weigh the team down for parts of the next decade.
Hopefully, then, the next Cubs GM will somehow figure out a way to build around them. Since that's a pretty tall order, the Cubs definitely can not afford to hesitate on their search to find that guy, whoever he is. But one thing is clear -- that guy is not Jim Hendry, and the sooner Hendry is removed from his decision-making responsibilities, the better.