The sports equivalent of the kiss of death was delivered to Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry this week. New owner Tom Ricketts wanted him to know where he stood in time for the mid-summer classic, of course. The Cubs have one All-Star, Hendry's centerpiece of last offseason, Marlon Byrd. Outside he and Carlos Silva (whom everyone who'd seen el hipopótamo pitch the past two seasons assumed to be dead weight), no one else on the $145 million roster deserved consideration.
How does that happen?
Somehow, Hendry has assembled a team built around the long ball, but can't hit home runs. With these mismatched parts, the Cubs have managed a dreadful 3-9 record against the perennial worst team in the National League, the Pittsburgh Pirates. In fact, the Pirates actually are the worst team in the National League right now. The Cubs at 39 wins and 50 losses are looking at the NL Central-leading Cincinnati Reds, who are leading the division and look to be a contender for the first time in a decade, running 9.5 games ahead. But even if the Cubs had managed to beat the Bucs two-thirds of the time like the rest of the league, the 3.5 game gap might still seem unsurpassable with an offense that wishes it were as robust as an argument that Barack Obama should be made King.
Aramis Ramirez hit .317 with 43 strikeouts in an 82-game, injury-shortened 2009. He has 53 strikeouts with a .207 average in 62 games played in 2010.
|New Cubs Owner Tom Ricketts (center-left) and his sibling partners enjoyed their new toy. But that was before the season began.|
Hendry has good reason for that mess in his pants, even considering his positives. He's begun to resuscitate a minor-league system that had nearly flat-lined when management gave away Old Trusty's heart pills, desperate for a championship run after the Bartman incident in 2003. But today we have Tyler Colvin, Andrew Cashner and, certainly foremost in the minds of most, Starlin Castro, who appear to be the real deal and look forward to being solid contributors.
|Marlon Byrd - File Under: Great Signing|
|Milton Bradley - File Under: Terrible Signing|
Such contrast has been a hallmark of the Hendry era.
But then there's Soriano. Alfonso is still producing like a respectable major leaguer (if you discount his defense... deeply), but is not worth anything near his contract. Hendry can thank Carlos Silva for bailing him out of the Milton Bradley fiasco (lest we forget how hopeless that situation looked at the end of last season). All things are now normal on planet Zambrano after his meltdown and decommissioning. The crazy bastard isn't performing near the level to make him worth the headache of having him in the clubhouse, let alone take home an ace's salary. We continue on to Fukudome (who many fans love, but just can't put together a complete season), Jason Marquis, John Grabow (only a two-year deal), Scott Eyre, et al.
Carlos Zambrano in his natural state.