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Hendry wasn't the Cubs' biggest problem
Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts made a token effort to revitalize his hapless franchise. He fired general manager Jim Hendry.
Is that all there is?
Hendry had his baggage. He understands. With 17 years in the organization, the last nine as the general manager, Hendry never did get the Cubs to the promised land of the World Series.
There, however, is little reason to think his successor will have any more success because whoever the new guy is, he is going to have to deal with the old problem that hangs over the Cubs, the meddlesome president Crane Kenney.
If Ricketts truly wanted to provide a new life for the Cubs he should have removed the organizational suffocation at the top, and the perfect man to put in charge, Pat Gillick, just weeks ago inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, is available. Ricketts, however, never even talked to Gillick to gauge any interest Gillick might have of assuming the presidency of the Cubs.
Gillick, after all, is known for building winners in Toronto, Baltimore, Seattle and Philadelphia, and he does it with a "we are in this together" mentality, and shows his ability to adjust to situations by his reluctance to clean house when he takes on a new job. Gillick would rather remodel the franchise than rebuild.
And as a man who thrives on challenges, the idea of succeeding where so many have failed — in taking the Cubs to a world championship for the first time since they won back to back titles in 1907-08.
You've got to love Ricketts saying Kenney is absolved of all blame for what transpires on the field because Kenney is confined to business matters. Yeah, business matters like overruling Hendry on more than one occasion because Kenney felt outside pressure to reel in high-priced veterans.
Veterans like Alfonso Soriano, who Hendry had declared would not get more than a five-year guarantee only to have Kenney's business sense overrule him and provide an eight-year sentence to the organization with its obligation to Soriano.
The new general manager with the Cubs can be expected to quickly name Ryne Sandberg to replace Mike Quade as manager. That will earn support from Cubs diehards, even if it is more window dressing than anything else.
Hendry’s commitment to Quade, which prompted Sandberg to leave the Cubs and become the Triple-A manager for Philadelphia, was a point of irritation in the Windy City.
A key to the rejuvenation of Atlanta right-hander Jair Jurrjens? Give a tip of the cap to teammate Jonny Venters. The two were playing catch in the outfield when Venters asked Jurrjens how he held his two-seam fastball. Venters suggested a different grip. Jurrjens gave it a try, and the rest . . .
Well, Jurrjens, who battled injuries and was 7-6 with a 4.64 ERA in 20 starts last year, is 12-5 with a 2.84 ERA in his first 21 starts this season, which also included an All-Star appearance for the 25-year-old.
Soon as Triple-A Colorado Springs first baseman Mike Jacobs was suspended for 50 games for testing positive for using human growth hormones under the minor-league drug-testing policy, Jacobs was released by the Colorado Rockies.
It will be interesting to see how this impacts the current negotiations for a Basic Agreement. The NFL included HGH testing in its recently agreed-to deal. Baseball has been proud of what it felt was the toughest drug-testing in program pro sports. Will it now add the HGH tests?
What can’t be overlooked is that it was the players who pressured the leaders of the Major League Baseball Players Association to initially accept drug testing. The players were tired of being smeared en masse for the transgressions of a few and wanted to clean up their image.
Florida manager Jack McKeon smiles at the mention of the apparent return of Dontrelle Willis to big-league form.
"He never had problems with (Florida)," said McKeon, who managed Willis in his first three big-league seasons.
Willis was 68-54 with a 3.78 ERA in five years with Florida, averaging 3.03 walks per nine innings. Traded to Detroit, along with Miguel Cabrera, after the 2007 season for a six-player package that included outfielder Cameron Maybin and pitcher Andrew Miller, Willis was 2-8 with 92 walks in 101 innings in 24 games, 22 starts, with the Tigers.
"He had a big windup and we just let him pitch," said McKeon. "People would say you can’t pitch like that, but he did. He went to Detroit and they wanted to smooth him out."
Bottom line, it always helps to let a player fail before feeling like adjustments have to be made.
Brings back memories of power-hitting Ruben Sierra being traded from Texas to Oakland, and then fading after the A’s decided that Sierra needed to eliminate the high step from his hitting approach, failing to accept the fact that the leg kick was a key timing device.
YOUNG AT HEART
Doug Jones, with Oakland at the time, was 42 years, 79 days old on Sept. 11, 1999. Dennis Eckersley, also with the A’s, was 40 years, 233 days old on May 24, 1995, and Todd Jones, with Detroit, was 39 years, 145 days old when he earned No. 300 on Sept. 16, 2007.
Youngest to claim 300 saves? Robb Nen was 32 years, 251 days when he reached the milestone with the Giants on Aug. 6, 2002.
TRUE TO HIS WORD
Michael Young became so upset at the efforts of the Texas Rangers to trade him — and then checking into signing Manny Ramirez or Jim Thome to take his at-bats even after he was told he wouldn’t be traded — that Young finally asked to be traded, and when it didn’t happen he showed up at spring training and made his not-so-fond-feelings toward the Texas front office well known.
He also assured anyone who would listen that his dislike for the executives would have nothing to do with his play on the field.
Young is definitely a man of his word. He’s easily the MVP for the AL West-leading Texas Rangers, and definitely a candidate for the AL MVP award.
He is on his way to a second season of 100 RBI with fewer than 15 home runs. Only two other AL players have done that the last two decades — John Olerud with Seattle in 2000 and Paul Molitor with Minnesota in 1996.
Before Washington general manager Mike Rizzo breaks his arm patting himself on the back for the great job he feels he and his staff did in a free-spending effort in the summer draft, there are two words he needs to remember: Jayson Werth.
Baseball can humble in a hurry. And it was at the winter meetings that Rizzo and agent Scott Boras hailed the signing of Werth as the addition of the veteran who would create a winning atmosphere in Washington.
Same Jayson Werth who has never had 100 RBI in a season. Same Jayson Werth who was the other guy in a Philadelphia lineup in which Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard terrorized opposing pitchers before they ever faced Werth. Same Werth who at the age of 32 went into the weekend hitting .227 with 14 home runs and 45 RBI in the first year of his seven-year, $126 million contract.