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updated: 8/18/2011 3:44 PM

Most signs point to Cubs' Hendry returning

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  • Cubs general manager Jim Hendry recently handled many of the key contracts to restock the club's minor league system, one good indicator that Tom Ricketts will keep Hendry in charge through the 2012 season.

      Cubs general manager Jim Hendry recently handled many of the key contracts to restock the club's minor league system, one good indicator that Tom Ricketts will keep Hendry in charge through the 2012 season.
    Associated Press file photo

 
 

Let's put aside for a moment whether we think Cubs general manager Jim Hendry should or should not be back next year.

The question remains whether he will or won't be back, and reading the Ricketts family tea leaves is not the easiest thing to do.

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Chairman Tom Ricketts may or may not say something about Hendry's future in the coming days. There are reports that Hendry is staying and reports that he is not staying.

All that speculation aside, some things are just not adding up from the perspective that Hendry is not staying, and events of this week further drive that point home for me.

Hendry is the man who supervises baseball operations, and his scouting director, Tim Wilken, just reeled in a haul of draft picks worth about $12 million.

On top of that, Hendry helped to negotiate some, if not all, of the bigger deals to get these kids to sign with the Cubs.

Is Ricketts going to turn around now and say, "Thanks for doing that, Jim. Appreciate you restocking the farm system. Now take a hike"?

I have a difficult time believing Ricketts would do that, and if he did, would he be the kind of boss anybody would want to work for?

If you hire a new GM, it's likely he would bring in his own scouting and development people, and those people may or may not like the types of players Wilken scouted and Hendry signed for all that money.

On top of that, farm director Oneri Fleita has been instrumental in helping to upgrade the Cubs' presence in Latin America. Latin American coordinator Jose Serra and scout Jose Estevez, Fleita's guys, helped bring Starlin Castro to the Cubs.

If Hendry goes, it's possible, and perhaps even probable, that Wilken, Fleita and their people follow him out the door.

You might be OK with that, given the Cubs' record lately at the major-league level and the incomplete results in the minor leagues. But that's neither here nor there for purposes of our discussion today.

I could be wrong, but all of the recent actions of this organization (including allowing Hendry to preside over the July 31 trade-deadline activity) point to Ricketts allowing his GM to work through at least 2012, the final year of his contract.

Time to declare, Mr. Ricketts.

Pretty offensive:

One of the knocks against the Cubs organization, from top to bottom, has been the approaches of their hitters at the plate.

Except for 2008, when the Cubs led the league in walks and on-base percentage, there really hasn't been much serious attention paid to the importance of their hitters working counts and drawing walks.

Tim Wilken talked with me this week about drafting "intelligent" hitters who would work counts. As Wilken pointed out, that doesn't always lead to more walks, but it does lead to deeper counts, making pitchers work harder and getting into other teams' bullpens more quickly.

On the recent road trip, we saw some incredible things by the Cubs offense, and many of them were not good.

In Sunday's 6-5 win at Atlanta, Cubs batters struck out 18 times and did not draw a single walk. As research historian Ed Hartig pointed out, there were only seven major-league games from 1919 to 2010 in which a team failed to draw a walk while striking out at least 18 times.

Some of those games were dominating pitching performances by Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Luis Tiant and Kerry Wood (the 20-strikeout game). The Braves used six pitchers Sunday, and none was named Clemens, Tiant, Johnson or Wood.

In Tuesday's 6-5 loss at Houston -- the Carlos Marmol blown-save game -- Cubs hitters were 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position. In Wednesday's 4-3 loss at Houston, they were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.

I'm not sure there are born "clutch" hitters, but there is good situational hitting, and too many Cubs have not been good in important situations this year.

Marlon Byrd is at .194 with runners in scoring position. Carlos Pena is at .183. Geovany Soto is at .227. At the higher end are the "kids." Darwin Barney is batting .312 with runners in scoring position, and Starlin Castro is at .311.

The normally patient Pena popped out on the first pitch with runners on first and third in the ninth inning Wednesday. Byrd ended the game by swinging at the second pitch he saw and grounding out.

I don't know if the Cubs need to be more "clutch," but they could stand to have better approaches at the plate.

• Follow Bruce's Cubs reports via Twitter@BruceMiles2112 and join the conversation on his Chicago's Inside Pitch blog at dailyherald.com.

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