Is this Jim Hendry's Last Stand with the Cubs?

Hendry shrug.jpg

Does Hendry deserve another chance?

As I've said many times in the past, this is a transitional year for the Cubs.  Many of the Cubs financial mistakes are coming off the books after this season -- up to $60M worth.   The team will have a lot of financial flexibility heading into a strong free agent offseason class that includes first basemen Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.  The question is, who will be the guy in charge of completing the transition?  Will it be Jim Hendry or will it be someone else?

Hendry has taken a lot of heat as the Cubs GM despite 3 playoff teams and it's first postseason series victory since 1908.  Much of it stems from the spending spree that is largely symbolized by the giant contract given to Alfonso Soriano.  Some of this criticism is warranted but to put it all on Hendry is a gross oversimplification.  Here's why...
1) Context

There are a couple of issues to consider here.   First of all, the climate favored the players.  Hendry wasn't the only GM giving out big contracts and no-trade clauses in the mid 2000's.  Other recently successful teams also had their share of blunders.  That doesn't absolve Hendry, but it's safe to say he had plenty of company.  Here's a very small sample:

  • Dodgers: Juan Pierre (5 yrs/44M)
  • Giants: Barry Zito (7 yrs/126M) and Aaron Rowand (5 yrs/60M)
  • Blue Jays: Vernon Wells (7 yrs/126M)
  • Angels: Gary Matthews, Jr. (5 yrs/50M)
  • Red Sox: A series of consecutive SS blunders from 2004-2006 that included Edgar Renteria, Alex Gonzalez, and Julio Lugo.  All told? 9 yrs and $79M for guys who produced no better than your average utility SS.

There's a lot more...but you get the point. 

The second thing to consider is that Hendry wasn't alone in making these decisions.  The Tribune was getting ready to sell the team and were looking to increase the value of the franchise.  After years of working on a budget that saw Hendry and the Cubs land no big name free agents, the philosophy suddenly changed course in 2006.  Hendry was given a blank check with the expectation that he had to land a marquee player to excite fans and instantly make  the Cubs a more attractive team for potential buyers.  That player turned out to be Alfonso Soriano and the Tribune deserves some share of the blame for this short-term thinking.

2) Overlooked Successes

We've mentioned the unprecedented postseason success but we also have to consider that some of the signings and trades Hendry made were quite good.  The Cubs obtained Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez for practically nothing.  They originally signed Ryan Dempster off the scrap heap.  Their farm produced great arms headlined by Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano and they had some shrewd free agent signings like Ted Lilly and Mark DeRosa.  These deals show that Hendry is capable of making solid value deals and that perhaps he deserves a shot at repeating his earlier successes under the new Ricketts ownership that values efficiency over excess.

Is that enough to warrant trust?  Should the Cubs be giving Jimmy Hendry the keys going into what figures to be the Cubs biggest offseason opportunity since 2006?  Despite a lot of the criticism directed at Hendry, I believe the jury is still out.  This is Hendry's 2nd year to try and prove he can duplicate the success he had in 2003 when he had a more limited payroll.  Nobody expects the Cubs to win the division this year, much less a World Series title -- but the team does need to show progress.    The Cubs need to show that they are headed in the right direction again after veering off the path in recent years.  If the Cubs can get production out of their young players and finish strong this season -- and perhaps salvage some value at the trade deadline for a couple of big money players, then it's likely we'll see Jim Hendry get one last chance in what figures to be a short-term extenstion... but if the team begins to spiral downward, Tom Ricketts may have no choice but to put a new GM behind the wheel.

Comments

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  • Hendry is one of the toughest conundrums for the Cubs, I think. I agree with you--he's made some great moves, but also some bad ones. A lot of people have talked about White Sox VP/Asst. GM Rick Hahn, though they may promote him in order to keep him. As a Sox-hater, I wouldn't mind poaching him and then winning it all.

  • In reply to bcwadsworth82:

    It's a real tough call on Hendry. There's a lot of fans who don't like him, but I think he has gotten too much of the blame. I'm not a Hendry apologist though. He's made some huge mistakes as a GM and I don't always agree with their philosophy as far as talent evaluation and player development -- but the Cubs could do a lot worse than Hendry. So if they make a change, it better be for someone worthwhile.

    Rick Hahn would be an interesting choice and if Cubs fans want him bad enough, they'll have to put themselves in the unusual position of having to root for the White Sox. A bad year may get Kenny Williams fired and Hahn promoted.

  • In reply to bcwadsworth82:

    Like your piece too

  • In reply to bcwadsworth82:

    I sure hope it is his last stand

  • In reply to bcwadsworth82:

    I think this IS Hendry's last stand. He was not Rickett's hire, he was kept around because Ricketts needed someone around as he got his feet wet in Baseball circles. Tom Ricketts is known to be a fan of Moneyball and a admirer of Billy Beane and Theo Epstein. Look for one of their proteges to be the next Cubs GM.

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    Any insights as into some possible names out there?

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    I think a name to remember is Ben Cherrington , the asst GM of the Red Sox or maybe David Forst, the asst GM of the A's , but I think the A's are grooming him to succeed Billy Bean. I do think if Hendry's gone , it will someone from the Billy Beane/Theo Epstein family tree.

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