Tuesday, July 18, 2006

the general management situation

this page has been encouraged to see criticism for the 2006 debacle extend beyond field manager dusty baker, who -- inept as he is -- cannot be considered the sole source of horror in this disaster. we here have made special mention of the putrescence of both jim hendry and andy macfail since the inception of this page, and are glad to have the company. talk has even turned on occasion to who might replace hendry as assistant architect of the club should the the reaper's sickle find him too.

this writer thinks that there are a lot of people who could remake the club into a winner over the next several years, but some key caveats here are specific to the situation. first, if such a rebirth is to be likely, tribco must quit redirecting profits to the shareholders to make up for the mismanagement of the major assets of the company and instead reinvest them in player payroll; and the commodore macfail, whose ruddy fingerprints are all over this disaster as the end product of his useless reign, must be sidelined from baseball operations along with other potential interferences from further up the corporate food chain.

however -- to be pragmatic -- these are the cubs and they are owned by tribco at least for the time being. as anyone who has ever worked for a corporation knows, 'no interference' from on high is not an option. indeed, it is less likely that a meteor strike would wipe the city off the map before next season than that the invasive narcissism of tribco middle managers suddenly mitigate.

so whoever comes in has to be bureaucratic infighter enough to effectively sideline macfail and the corporate superstructure -- and yet procure the resources needed to win through them -- which brings us back to the first condition. in the current fiscal environment of tribco, payroll contraction is the likely direction, not expansion. on-field payroll (excluding the sammy sosa contract fiasco) declined from 2004 to 2005, total payroll outlays declined from 2005 to 2006, and with tribco's financial troubles intensifying -- to the point where layoffs are being announced -- it is very hard to anticipate payroll expansion of any kind, much less of the kind that would exceed the general rate of payroll inflation in baseball.

if the idea in the mind of the current general manager is that he will be given the kind of resources in 2007 that it would take to make this club a winner from what it is now, good old cruller jim is in for a massive surprise. he genuinely seems to think he's going to be given what it would take -- and his dreamy stupidity in this direction in part explains his insane idea of holding his cards instead of folding right now before the 31st in an effort to go much younger and start the sincere rebuilding this club obviously needs.

the other part of the explanation, of course, is that hendry was inked to a two-year extension through 2008 before the start of the year. he has to win soon or not at all.

but it seems very much to this page that hendry is exactly the kind of buffoon that doesn't see it coming and therefore can't prepare -- he likely spends far more time looking at the bottom of a tumbler or a donut box than at the details of the financial condition of tribco. and because of that ignorance, he cannot see that -- regardless of what he thinks he's been assured by the corporate offices -- a goodly portion of the salary coming off the books for the cubs after this year is unlikely to be redeployed.

this speaks directly -- and unfortunately -- to the likelihood of seeing hendry replaced, an honor that he has surely earned by having such a considerable hand in destroying any hope of a competitive cubs team from 2003 to today, a path of mayhem of which the refusal to acknowledge disaster is only the latest stop. this page is coming around to the opinion that hendry's extension is a product of tribco's problems and offered with the knowledge that tighter times are coming. they have effectively signed him to lose -- to survive the payroll decline and bear the brunt of the public ire in 2007 and 2008 long after dusty baker has already been sacrificed. fitzsimons and his gang likely have long understood that the cubs are going to be scaled back by several millions and are therefore very unlikely to do much but lose in coming seasons. with hendry's extension, they have a patsy on board to manage the disaster, and can cut him loose in 2008 -- by which time, they might hope, the crisis will have passed.

is it possible for hendry to be sent off before then? of course -- this page knows not what the future holds. but it should be heavily considered that the cubs and tribco understood in advance of hendry's extension that the team would be frustrating for the next few years.

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