Friday, December 08, 2006

"a spending spree for the ages"

that lead line is lifted from paul sullivan's bit today in the trib, where he avers:

The good news is that general manager Jim Hendry has been on a spending spree for the ages, and has proved over the years he won't let his own players get away if he really wants them back. The recent revelation that Hendry can sign free agents while hooked up to an EKG machine made him the Kirk Gibson of general managers.

The bad news is Zambrano's market value may have risen over the last couple of weeks like the price of oil, and the law of supply and demand suggests he may be worth much, much more in next year's market.

Hendry has allotted more than $270 million this off-season, and at the going rate he may have to add another $100 million to keep Zambrano a Cub.

it's a strange way to characterize the kind of free agent activity the cubs have certainly been capable of for many years and yet consistently refused to engage in. finally seeing one of the financial powerhouses of baseball make up for more than a decade of directing profits into the pockets of the shareholder instead of reinvesting it into the product on the field is a change, to be sure, but hardly one fit for lionization in any pages except those published by the team's owner itself.

coming out of the winter meetings which saw the cubs add ted lilly and daryle ward while moving freddie bynum, the consensus of opinion seems clear. as was pointed out in the comments of this page, from espn to sports illustrated to cbs sportsline to mlb itself, the air is thick with praise for heroic jim hendry and the cubs -- even the doltish masses have by plurality proclaimed the cubs to be the most improved of the lot.

new manager lou piniella has even outlined his fearsome lineup.

"[Alfonso] Soriano's going to lead off," Piniella said. "I mean this guy here has got just a special combination of speed and power. And he's comfortable in that spot, and we're going to leave him there.

"Derrek Lee is just a really, really fine professional hitter, and he is going to hit in the three hole," Piniella said. "And then we got the kid, [Aramis] Ramirez, that we signed. I was astounded when I read he only struck out 60 some times last year. For a power hitter, I mean that is a great ratio. He's going to hit fourth.

"We've got Jacque Jones in the fifth hole," he said. "We've got [Michael] Barrett, [Mark] DeRosa, and I haven't figured out really what we are going to do in the second and eighth holes. [Cesar] Izturis will be in one of them. It depends on what we do."

Piniella said Matt Murton will get plenty of playing time, and added he liked having Ryan Theriot, Henry Blanco and Angel Pagan on the bench.

heady days, dear reader, heady days.

but -- as you might suspect, if you read here often -- it all rings a bit hollow to this writer. hendry has spent the club's money commensurate with its revenues, and that is welcome -- but what has it profited the team?

once hendry resigned aramis ramirez, the cubs were all but guaranteed to be better than in 2006 even if they did nothing more -- the return of derrek lee, the probable permanent demotion of ronny cedeno and the merciful death of kerry wood's star-crossed contract were going to see to that. but how much better was and is a very questionable issue. the club had lost 96 games without lee, true, but it also got peak offensive years from jacque jones and michael barrett, not to mention an unexpected nova of production from ryan theriot in the second half.

to that mix has now been added alfonso soriano, mark derosa, lilly and ward, with jones interjecting a request to be traded.

where does that leave the team? presuming that jones' request is somehow honored, at least one starting pitcher and a rightfielder from a complete club -- a strange place to be after a quarter of a billion dollars committed.

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