Matt.  MATT!  The ballís behind you!

In the ongoing HJE Roundtable (aka, “our drawn out answer to HBO’s drawn-out John Adams series”), we asked our panelists about the fate of Matt Murton.

The responses were all similar in appraising Matt. Solid hitter, nice approach, and undervalued by the club. Everyone also shared the sentiment that Murton’s days as a Cubs were numbered. Most figured that Murton would either be traded, or start the season on the bench until then.

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn from Paul Sullivan that Murton appears to be headed to Des Moines to start the season.

It seems strange that a player who led the Cubs in hitting (.297) and On Base Percentage (.365) as a twenty-four year old in his first full season in the big leagues in 2006 would find himself, less than two two years later, opening the season at AAA.

Sure, the Cubs are much improved over that 2006 team, and Murton’s penchant for playing the outfield like he’s tethered to the earth while running the bases with all of the instincts of a blind man in traffic subtracts a bit from his offensive contributions. Still, it seems strange that he finds himself in this position. The arrival of Alfonso Soriano last year and Kusoke Fukudome this year has rendered Murton irrelevant on this team, so the questions begs–how the hell has Jim Hendry not been able to strike a good deal for Murton by now? How is it that their only choice is to indirectly lessen Murton’s value by assigning him to the minors?

One could point to the only publicly acknowledged suitor in trade talks–the painfully deliberate Andy MacPhail–and blame Hendry for putting all his eggs in one basket. As we all know from watching MacFail’s chronic constipation when it came to making any dynamic deals in his twelve pregnant years here, the man seems to relish filibustering. Hendry, who operated underneath MacFail’s milquetoast sobriety for several years, should have known this more than anyone. So why did he insist on only trying to make a deal with this pud? Should it come as a surprise that Dandy Andy would prefer to take the path of least resistance and go with Luke Scott–who is three years older than Murton and much worse at playing baseball–in left field?

While this whole affair makes me appreciate the fact that McSweatervest is no longer cursing the Cubs to a life Ward Cleaver-like prudential management, it does frustrate me that Jim Hendry didn’t work harder to get something for Murton before having to relegate him to the minors. Forget about not getting Brian Roberts for a minute–the time to have dealt Matt Murton to anybody would have been immediately after signing Fukudome.

Shame on Jim Hendry for letting Andy MacPhail drag him into the slog of inaction. He should have known better.