As many of you know, the yearly winter pilgrimage to Chicago for the Cubs Convention has begun. As in the past, Cubs fans have been given a chance to ask the Cubs brass questions behind the closed doors of Cubdom. But unlike recent years, the questions this year are more pointed and seem to convey a greater sense of urgency. Here’s a sampling of the responses that Cubs President Andy MacPhail and GM Jim Hendry had for the crowds (courtesy of www.cubs.com:)

First Andy MacPhail gave us a rundown on the numbers:

“MacPhail pointed out that the Cubs led the National League in hits in 2005 but ranked 29th out of 30 teams with runners in scoring position. That seems almost impossible…the Cubs’ outfielders ranked 30th in production in the Major Leagues. The leadoff men combined were 29th in on-base percentage. The Cubs’ relievers issued the most walks and the most home runs.”

I thought this was a great statistical analysis of some of some of the problems the 2005 team faced, Mr. President. Do you think that your executive team has taken the appropriate steps to turn these indices around? I’d say yes to the leadoff problem and bullpen but probably no to the other issues…

Jim Hendry also had some interesting comments:

“We had a bad year and I should’ve done a better job myself,” Cubs general manager Jim Hendry told a packed Continental Ballroom crowd during a question-and-answer session with manager Dusty Baker….”I don’t think you can do better than Juan Pierre,” Hendry said. “And Willie Mays wasn’t available for right”….”At a $100 million payroll, you’re more than capable of winning,” he said. “We’ve got to get the job done.”

Okay that was somewhat of an act of contrition Jimmy Boy but it was also smart aleck. First of all, what could you have done better; should you have been a better leader insofar as driving for results? Should you have made more creative moves to better improve the club’s chances? Unfortunately an Ichiro for Corey Patterson trade didn’t seem to make sense to Seattle’s GM but did you ever consider inking Brian Giles to a three year deal? Obviously not, it wasn’t even discussed. Thank goodness this wasn’t a confession Jimbo because the priest would have given you a bunch of novenas and stations of the cross.

More news to come I’m sure…

Updated 1/14/06 23:10:

Paul Sullivan (a writer whom I happen to like) and the Trib have now added their two cents. Some noteworthy comments from their article:

…the fan then accused Hendry of failing to address the team’s off-season needs, of overestimating Jacque Jones’ talent and having a payroll of only $75 million. Hendry’s equally long-winded response was that he beefed up the bullpen, has faith in Jones, acquired leadoff man Juan Pierre and has a $90 million payroll that could balloon to $100 million.

Jimmy Boy, have you been cooking the books? I thought we were already at $100M – whatcha gonna do with the other ten million, build momma a new house?

Not to be left out, it was Dusty’s turn next on the hotseat:

Baker’s awkward moment came minutes later, when a perturbed fan drew applause for criticizing the manager’s game strategy.

“I swear to God, I don’t understand why you’ve never heard of a squeeze bunt in your life,” the fan said. “A manager has a chance to have a direct impact on 10-15 games a season, and I don’t think we won one of them last year.

“Cubs fans make a commitment to you guys every year. It’s time you guys make a commitment to us.”

“Thank you,” Baker replied.

No additional comments are necessary here from me either, Dusty. At least we’ve got one thing in common.

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