This week’s questions: Should Hendry have been fired, and the case for Jim Thome?


Did Jim Thome’s 600th home run put him in the Hall of Fame?

No. He was already in.

I’ve argued into many a late night against several first-ballot Hall of Famers — Nolan Ryan, Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, to name a few — but eventually, even the most cynical among us must accept the obvious. They’re all in the Hall and should be, and so should Thome.

Baseballreference.com presented the pro and con Thome for the Hall arguments last year and the case against was weaker than an Adam Dunn at-bat (more on that later). His defense wasn’t very good, he never won a title (translation: Jose Mesa wasn’t very good) and as a vote-getter, he was slightly worse than Tim Pawlenty.

The latter might be true, but that’s more an indictment of the voters than Thome. In his 21-year career, Thome finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting just four times and never better than fourth (somehow, he was also an All-Star only four times).

Take 2002, Thome’s final season in Cleveland. He hit .304 with 52 homers and 122 walks, slugged a league-best .677 and on-based .445. His 1.122 OPS led the American League, and was second in MLB to Barry Bonds’ 1.381. Thome’s MVP finish? Seventh, behind four players with sub-.900 OPS, including Garrett Anderson (.871) and Torii Hunter (.859). And it wasn’t close. Thome got only 69 votes — 63 behind the sixth-place Hunter. (If you believe in WAR, Thome’s 8.1 was second in the AL to Alex Rodriguez’s 8.2).

Unfortunately, that was Thome’s career.

  • In 1996, Thome batted .311, hit 38 homers, slugged .612, had a 1.062 OPS and finished 15th in the voting. He outperformed teammate Albert Belle (his OPS was 1.033), who was second.
  • In 1998, Thome’s .997 OPS was the same as MVP Juan Gonzalez. Thome was 21st.
  • In 1999, Thome hit 33 homers, slugged .540 and had a .967 OPS. He didn’t get a single MVP vote; John Jaha, B.J. Surhoff and Matt Stairs did.
  • In 2006 Thome was one of five players in the AL whose OPS topped 1.000. He finished 12th.

You can hold Thome’s poor MVP results against him if you want, but it sounds like someone is in need of performance-enhancing drugs. And it’s not Thome. Fortunately for voters — and they have improved in the years since — information is not a banned supplement.

How bad has Adam Dunn been?

Bad enough to make ex-Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi look prescient. Ricciardi said to a talk-show caller in 2008 he wouldn’t trade for Dunn because: “Do you know the guy does not really like baseball?

If Ricciardi thought Dunn didn’t like baseball when Dunn was hitting 40 home runs a year, imagine how jaded he must think Dunn feels in a year he’s hit 11. Dunn is batting .168. He’s 3-for-80 vs. lefties — all singles — which equals a .244 OPS, or 545 points below his career OPS vs. lefties. His OPS overall is .596, which isn’t much more than his slugging percentage in some years.

The White Sox signed Dunn for four years for $56 million. It’s safe to say that no one has received so little in return for so much money since Rudy Giuliani last ran for president.

Should the Cubs have fired GM Jim Hendry on Friday?

No. They should have done it years ago.

Give Hendry credit for three division titles, a winning record in his nine-year tenure, dealing Hee-Soop Choi for Derrek Lee and a bag of knickknacks for Aramis Ramirez, and signing Ryan Dempster (re-signing him might be another matter).

But despite all the resources the Cubs possess — money, prestige, visibility, motivation — the Cubs came no closer to the World Series under Hendry than the five outs they were away in 2003. You can blame Steve Bartman for 2003 if you want (although Alex Gonzalez might be more appropriate), but Hendry gets it for the eight seasons that followed.

1. Hendry’s Cubs demonstrated neither the ability to appreciate the value of a buck, nor to evaluate talent. It’s easy to pick on the $91 million Hendry gave Carlos Zambrano or the $136 million dropped on Alfonso Soriano. If you want to criticize excess, those two are as convenient a target as Paris Hilton.

But if you want to understand Hendry’s failings, look at the 2006 Cubs. The 2005 Cubs were appropriately mediocre: 79 wins, 83 losses, 703 runs scored, 714 allowed, fourth place in the NL Central. For 2006, the Cubs went out and spent money on two areas where teams should almost always be thrifty: middle relief (Scott Eyre and Bob Howry) and Juan Pierre. Meanwhile, the Cubs sent shortstop Ronny Cedeno to the plate 572 times, and predictably, were 13 games worse, finishing 66-96.

2. Here’s the sum total of everyday players Hendry’s team has drafted, nurtured and played at the major-league level in the last 8 years: Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney (Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot were 2001 draft picks). That’s two middle infielders who think the strike zone extends as long as the Cubs’ drought.

The Hendry Cubs specialized in failed prospects, namely corner infielders or outfielders who had as much discipline at the plate as Charlie Sheen. Josh Vitters, the most recent incantation, is at AA and has a .319 on-base percentage; his career total is .318 (he’d fit right in — the parent Cubs are at .316).

The Cubs have run their organization for the last decade as if Bill James or Moneyball never existed. They’re last in baseball in walks this year, with 297. Castro has 21 in 525 at-bats, Barney 16 in 406.

All the patience, it seems, is owned not by Cubs players, but Cubs fans.

Surprised that Logan Morrison was farmed out by the Marlins?

More like shocked. Morrison wasn’t demoted because his average had dipped to .249 or because of the renown his Twitter account has gained.

Reportedly, he was farmed because he skipped a get-together with Marlins fans.

The Marlins have fans? Who knew?

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2 Responses to This week’s questions: Should Hendry have been fired, and the case for Jim Thome?

  1. Morton Kotler says:

    No question in my mind. Thome does belong in the Hall of Fame.

    I question some one like Richie Ashburn (a favorite of mine). But Richie was a single hitter and had a weak arm. As I recall he made one great throw against the Dodgers in the last game in 1950.

    How do you feel about Pete Rose?

    • Mort:

      Rose should be in. And on his plaque it should say he bet on baseball and was banned for life. The fans can handle it.

      And don’t be ragging on Richie’s arm. If you don’t think he should be in as a player, acknowledge he should be in as a broadcaster

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