Big League Stew - MLB

The Carlos Zambrano to the bullpen news dropped late in the day on Wednesday, so I made a note to slice and dice the Chicago Cubs after eating dinner.

But Roto Arcade's Andy Behrens beat me to that cutlery — he excellently called the switch "weapons-grade stupid" — and so I decided I'd be the guy who stewed overnight and came back with something even more belligerent in the morning.

But upon waking up and firing up the chainsaw, I found that Behrens only waited eight hours before deciding the turkey that is the Cubs needed more of his carving and came up with his second awesome takedown on baseball's topic of the day.

"To me, this decision proves only that the Chicago Cubs are institutionally broken. It's a baffling, panicky reaction to 15 games worth of data."

Honestly, I couldn't have written them any better. Go read both of Andy's posts right now if you still see some shred of optimism in the decision to take an $18 million starting pitcher and put him in a position where he'd be pitching 80 innings of your season instead of 200 or more.

Amazement over simple mathematical stupidity aside, the one thing I kept thinking about last night is that Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella have now put new owner Tom Ricketts in the first position where we'll be able to tell what he exactly wants to do with this franchise.

Is he the nice rich guy who just likes owning the team and ballpark he used to live across Sheffield Avenue from? The type of owner who is content to let others run his expensive sandbox so long as he can throw high fives in the bleachers and shake hands at the turnstiles?

Or is he the type of owner who's going to hold others accountable for their mistakes when they inefficiently spend his money and kneecap his team's long-term chances of winning?

Seeing as how Ricketts has come into Wrigleyville looking to maximize every revenue stream possible and create new ones, I'd like to believe that he has some interest in making sure his family's vanity toy doesn't burn cash like a yacht or a stable full of bad racehorses.

And if he's that type of guy, he's going to have to take a long hard look at Hendry, who's outminayaing Omar Minaya — yes, I just made that verb up — when it comes to sunk-cost contracts.

To recap: The Cubs will $90 million over the next five years to a DH they have no DH spot for (Alfonso Soriano(notes)), $57 million over the next three to a guy they just sent to the bullpen (Zambrano) and $16 million to an overpaid pitcher they had to take on after the Milton Bradley(notes) debacle (Carlos Silva(notes)).

Throw in another $42 million over three years to a pitcher who had a career year in 2008 (Ryan Dempster(notes)) and $31 million over two to a third baseman who looks as lost at the plate as anyone (Aramis Ramirez(notes)) and the Cubs might have a lock on being the league's ugliest big-market Frankenstein over the next few years.

What concerns me is that when Ricketts made his media rounds on opening day, he talked about how pleasantly surprised he was over how well-run the front office looked. Perhaps that observation just came after watching Starlin Castro(notes) and Tyler Colvin(notes) in spring training, but I'm hoping that Ricketts won't come to Hendry's defense by saying he was under too much pressure to win after a 96-loss season in 2006 (which led to the Soriano contract) or that outgoing ownership (Tribune Co./Sam Zell) emphasized winning in the short term (2007-08) in hopes of raising the sale price.

No, this is more about recent moves like risking $30 million on Bradley and then believing that local boy Jeff Samardzija(notes) was a major-league quality relief pitcher, which then led to a situation where his manager was forced to move a $19 million man to the bullpen.

So many of Ricketts' dollars are being wasted at this point that he has no choice but to buckle down and throw a few more down in a place where they'll actually be put to good use. That would be the front office, scouting department and farm system, which needs to start producing a lot of cheap talent if the Cubs want to rise out of this muck.    

Ricketts, of course, would have to decide if Hendry — whose contract runs through 2012 — is the man to pilot the ship in a new direction. 

But given the GM's mismanagement on this recent Zambrano situation, I think it'd end up being a lot more expensive for Ricketts to keep Hendry around until the end of his term.

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