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Why dish out the props? Because while it can be argued that he didn't improve the bullpen enough in the offseason, he refused to throw good money after bad. Even when it was very tempting and would have garnered him some support from fans pining for a "closer". No GM is perfect. But Hendry is savvy and knows how to put together a winning roster. Whether the manager uses the players he acquires is a different story. (See Hairston Jr., Jerry) So here are the players Cubs fans were dying to acquire:

Troy Percival. Percival is back on the DL. He'll be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum (if you got 'em). Surgery does not seem necessary but he'll be out another month. That would make it 2 missed this year. Are there any fans still wishing that the Cubs had signed him over the winter? He's given up 7 HRs in 25 IP with an ERA of 5.76. He hasn't pitched more than 59 innings since 1998. There was only a brief pause from the time the Tigers called Percival and offered him the 2 yr.-$12 mil. deal until he accepted. Sources say he said, "Hold one moment please.", covered the mouthpiece and convulsed in laughter.

Armando Benitez. Armando lasted all of 9.1 innings this year. He tore a hammy in late April. On his way to cover first base. The concerns about his weight and conditioning were well founded. In those 9.1 innings he was getting hammered and struck out only 4 while walking 4. He signed a 3 yr.-$21 mil. contract with the Giants, his 6th team. Enjoy, San Francisco.

Dan Kolb. Kolb emerged as the new darling of closers last year in Milwaukee. But red flags galore were solidly in place. Rotator cuff surgery in '97. A poor career total of 110-83/K-BB entering this season. Last year he did save 40+ games, but he K'd only 21 and walked 15. His success also came in a low pressure environment. Playing for the Brewers is one thing. Closing for the Braves--closing for Smoltz, Hampton, Hudson & Co.-- is quite another. He failed early and often. Bobby Cox does not mollycoddle. He yanked him from his role. He's come around of late and Cox is reinserting him into close games. But that doesn't mean that Hendry should have given up 2 solid prospects to get him. Thankfully he didn't. Beware large men who cannot strike out batters.

Those were the top names discussed over the winter. I think Jose Mesa was in there too. I will not write about why it is good he is not here. It's Jose Mesa. So props to Hendry, right?


Anonymous said...

While I agree with what you wrote about avoiding the top off-season choices for all the right reasons, just avoiding mistakes alone may not be worthy of props.

Wouldn't the truly savvy GM avoid mistakes AND make shrewd and succesful deals? Unearth a quality reliever somewhere? Make a seemingly minor deal to fleece a talented contributor from a team that doesn't know what it has?

As you know, I agree that Hendry gave Dusty more to work with than it seems, given his mishandling--in the case of the bullpen, the sudden change-of-course in March to put Dempster in the rotation (if we were to assume this was Dusty alone, and not Hendry's choice), instead of as the closer where they had slotted him all off-season (after rightly passing on the guys you mentioned), and where of course, once returned, he has flourished; and moving Dempster to the rotation put Hawkins in great position to fail, which he did, and whether you believe his suckiness and eventual exit would have happened even if he had been in his more comfortable setup role, he did cost them games when he was closing, and these failures certainly didn't help his chances for success with the Cub.

So back to the original question--sure Hendry was savvy enough to avoid the flawed and over-priced closers this winter, and even to believe that Dempster could do the job--

But he has to take some blame also for allowing or contributing to the decision to go back on the plan of Dempster in the pen, and for leaving the area thin enough that when Hawkins did implode and Fox's elbow exploded, there was nothing but erratic kids there to turn to.

(And just in general, the whole Hendry-Baker Who Deserves Most Blame is one of those fascinating chicken-and-egg type sports management debates. The answer is probably in the yoke. (I don't what that means but it sounded good.))


The Zoner said...

I said at the top that it certainly can be argued he did not do enough to solidify it. But if had gone out and signed one of these 3, then people would be doubly-railing on him. He didn't do enough AND he signed the wrong guy(s).

My question is, and if we are both going to play GM Pundit, who would you have liked for him to get--that could have been acquired.

Also, this is not a one year thing. I think we both said--even at the time--that Remlinger was a poor signing. But that was also the market at the time. But someone like R. Rincon was available. He was younger, cheaper and maybe better over the course of 3 years.

Also turned out lame: Alfonseca, Guthrie, JCruz, Veres, Hawk, Pratt, Duncan, Fassero, TGordon, FBeltran, Jimmy Anderson, and Wellemeyer (sorta).

"Which came first--the chicken or the egg? I ate the chicken and then I ate his leg."- Beastie Boys

Earl in Arctic said...

Let's keep Cubs GM's and their failings in historical perspective. Remember that Hall of Fame type closers such as Lee Smith and Dennis Eckersley were traded away.
The Cubs did not spend money and pick quality middle relief pitchers and with often fragile starters like Wood and Prior, it helps to have lots of middle relief.

The Cubs always seem to go into the regular season with a shortage of pitching and speed.
But we die-hard fans love them no matter what, and will contine to do so.
"Wait till 2006!!!!)