IF the Cubs decide to keep Hendry, this is how they can make the best of it...

IF the Cubs decide to keep Hendry, this is how they can make the best of it...

Now that I've had a day to think about this, I've decided to put a little perspective on the news that Jim Hendry is likely staying on as Cubs GM.  The goal here is to try and be as balanced as possible in this situation -- to come up with realistic solutions instead of just belly aching about the guy in charge.   The easiest thing in the world would be for me to bash Hendry.  It's been done before many times by many different people.   If you want to find that kind of article you won't have to search very far to find one.  It's a little harder to think of a way to make the present situation work toward the Cubs advantage going forward.

The truth is that we are going to have to live with Jim Hendry for at least part of another season.  That means one more offseason and, more than likely, at least one more trading deadline with the embattled Cubs GM.   With that being the case, here is what the Cubs should do...

1.  First off, utilize Hendry's strengths better.   Do not try to turn him into something he isn't.  He's a tools guy, not a numbers guy.  When he has tried to venture into advanced statistics, it has ended in mediocrity (Carlos Pena), misjudgment of value (Kosuke Fukudome), or downright disaster (Milton Bradley).  Let Hendry be Hendry.  He's an old school scout and one of the best at networking in baseball.  He has connections all over the league and is well-liked by both players and his peers.  That by itself isn't enough, however, so read on to #2...

2. Hire a better support staff around Hendry.  We know Hendry has his weaknesses.  And they just so happen to be the kind of weaknesses that the new wave of economic/statistic oriented analysts tend to focus on most:  money and advanced statistics.   Nowhere does Hendry get more criticism than places like Fangraphs and similar sites, and with good reason.  Hendry is as inefficient in these areas as any GM in baseball.

  • The first move would be to fire Crane Kenney and put a baseball man over Hendry.  This is imperative.  The Cubs need someone to set the tone for the organization the way Andy McPhail did early in Hendry's career.  I wasn't crazy about GROTA's suggestion that Kim Ng step in as next GM, but as team president I think I like it a bit more.   But the best case scenario is an experienced baseball exec who would command instant respect from a veteran front office.  Whoever gets hired at this position has to be better with money than Hendry is and be able to curb his compulsion to overpay for players he likes.
  •  The next step is to promote Ari Kaplan to Assistant GM.  He was named one of SI's top 10 GM candidates last month.  He is a numbers guru, perhaps the best there is in the game.  He has his own set of weaknesses, however.  He doesn't network well.  He has trouble communicating with scouts...those just happen to mesh perfectly with Hendry's strengths.  Meanwhile, Kaplan would have Hendry's ear on all trade matters -- and unlike his current staff, Kaplan can give Hendry an alternative, statistics-based evaluation.  Those two fit together like two pieces in a puzzle

3. Help Jim Hendry find his youth.  The Cubs are better off if he can find the inner, young, promising GM that Hendry once was.  We need him to be the guy who signed Ryan Dempster off the scrap heap for peanuts; the guy who traded questionable prospects for Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Nomar Garciaparra; and the guy who helped build one of the most respected farm systems in the game in the early 2000s.  Yes, many of those guys didn't pan out, but the reputation was there and he was able to parlay that into young, established major league players.  Hendry seemed to try this formula again last offseason when he acquired Matt Garza.  He probably paid more than he had to, but it wouldn't surprise me if he ended up with the better end of the deal when all is said and done.  And it may be a good idea to trade with someone other than the Rays or Rangers, both of whom tend to demand way too much in return.

There isn't much we can do now about Hendry being our GM next season, but it doesn't mean the Cubs can't make some changes and start moving toward a more modern approach to baseball -- even with Hendry at the helm.  If he can't succeed in these circumstances, however, then Ricketts will have to reconsider his stance on Hendry.

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  • Here's an idea, boycott the Cubs until Hendry is gone. I've had it with the horrible mismanagement of this club. All this organization cares about is making money. They could care less if they lost 120 games so long as they keep filling seats. This team has no future. The farm system is crap and the team is hamstrung by terrible contracts. Until that giant windbag who stated Jeff Baker was "untouchable" at the trade deadline is gone, I'm through attending any more games and I encourage everyone to do the same.

  • In reply to ironsij0287:

    You may just get your wish if the Cubs don't change the look of the team and they start losing in April and May.

    As for Baker, I tend to think not trading him was more about not getting anything in return. Baker doesn't hurt you salary-wise and you aren't going to get much back for him, and he's a guy who has value off the bench in that he can hit and play multiple positions. Why trade him just to trade him unless you get something of real value in return? My impression was that other teams just wanted the Cubs to give the guy away.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I understand, but when they give the impression that some of these guys are key parts to a winning season in 2012, it becomes incredibly frustrating.

  • In reply to ironsij0287:

    Totally agree...the trading deadline inactivity and those statements by Hendry were head scratchers. This year to year thing where all they do is apply band-aids and hope for the best is getting old. The Cubs need to make a real long-term plan. It's getting incredibly frustrating.

  • In reply to ironsij0287:

    +1

    As much as I want them to do all the things you mention here John, knowing the Cubs, what reason do we have to believe that they'll make any of these moves? This current leadership appears to be completely cluless.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I think we'd all like to see the Cubs flat-out replace Hendry at this point. This was more of an idea on how to make the best out of a frustrating situation in the event that the Cubs do keep Hendry.

    A fellow blogger, Tom Loxas of Cubs Insider, just told me he still thinks Hendry is gone despite Ricketts' statement. I hope he's right!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I hope he's still gone too. I'm just so frustrated. So frustrated that I was saying I can't see them making those changes you proposed. So frustrated I can't see any potential silver linings, other than their low level minor league guys.

  • I really think (if true) this is a horrible mistake on Ricketts part in keeping Hendry. How long does one person need to turn around a team? He's been hear at least 7-8 years as GM, isn't that time enough. It's clear to me Ricketts is very naive and unsure of himself in terms of baseball knowledge that he cannot bring himself to fire anyone, he lets Hendry and Kenney talk him into keeping them . They probably keep telling him if they just stick with them a little longer , he will see the improvement and Ricketts being the typical super optimistic bleacher bum that he was as ticket paying fan, WANTS to hear that . On top of that Ricketts seems too nice to fire anyone, let alone a seemingly charming, friendly guy like Hendry. Sorry John, there is no "bright spot" to this news, just further setting the team back more, the longer they keep Hendry.

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    No bright spot, but I'd still like to see the Cubs make the changes I've outlined. If nothing else, if Hendry fails next season, you've got a system in place that would make the transition easier.

    You'll have a baseball guy in charge who can hire the next GM -- and you may even have an in-house candidate if the Cubs properly groom Kaplan to be Hendry's successor. Who better to shore up Kaplan's weaknesses than an out-going, connected guy like Hendry?

    If they do indeed keep Hendry and the Cubs leave the rest of the front office as status quo, then I really have to admit that I don't understand what Rickett's long term plan is.

  • Given what you said, I think the best solution would be to fire Kenney. He's the only one that doesn't seem to have any baseball knowledge. At the very minimum, Hendry does have marketable skill sets. Like him or not, he has brought us 3 division wins.

    As far as the decisions he has made in the past couple of years, I just wonder if it had to do with the Tribune trying to sell the Cubs, and going for "bust" with the signings. Were they the greatest signings? Obviously not, but I'm trying to remember what the options were at that time.

    Hendry's record is mixed, but I completely agree with your assessment of what needs to be done.

  • In reply to pkm613:

    That absolutely has to be first step, in my opinion. I think Kenney and McDonough were every bit as responsible for some of the signing, particularly Soriano. No matter what anyone thinks of Hendry, he's been surrounded by suits who had other interests instead of building the Cubs for the long term. Kenney is the last symbol of the Cubs turn toward a failed, profit-oriented, short-term thinking philosophy. He needs to go.

  • "First off, utilize Hendry's strengths better"

    The only strength Hendry has show is that he signs more psychotics than any other g.m.Think Barrett, Bradley, Silva for Bradley, and of course Z.

    Whoever runs the Yankees wouldn't tolerate that kind of sideshow.

  • In reply to jack:

    To say a baseball man who built a great college program at Creighton, a strong farm system in Florida, and has had more postseason success than any Cub GM in 100 years has no strengths just isn't true. He's obviously some done some things right. Unfortunately, not enough of them, especially lately.

    The Yankees have made quite a few big mistakes over the past couple of decades. The difference is they have bottomless resources to bury them and keep buying.

    This is not to say Hendry deserves to stay or is even a good GM. The piece is simply a balanced perspective on what Hendry brings and doesn't bring to the table. If you want to say that overall the bad outweighs the good, that's one thing. When you say he's done nothing right, then that's just not accurate.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I didn't say he has done nothing right. I said what his sole strength was.

    It might be getting old, but at least each Sox retrospective ends with the 2005 World Series parade. Ozzie may be somewhat nuts, but he has 2 rings (also as Marlins' 3rd base coach). Cubs radio still plays Ron saying "This is the year." No it isn't.

    And, as is also starting to being said on sports talk radio, if Hendry's legacy is players like these (they also mention Sosa, but that seems to be before Hendry's watch) , nobody needs that, unless Cubs fans come out to see busting up the Gatorade dispenser, except that most of this junk is when the Cubs are visitors.

  • In reply to jack:

    I think that Hendry's legacy will be a mixed bag when all is said and done. He'll be remembered a lot for his dreadful mistakes, but he'll also be remembered for raising the bar for Cubs fans. Before Hendry, the Cubs were happy to squeak into the playoffs, but since 2003, 2007, and 2008, Cub fans are expecting more -- as they should. Right now people are just focused on recent failures. Eventually, I believe time will offer a more balanced perspective on Hendry's performance as a GM.

    I don't know if you had to suffer through Bob Kennedy, Larry Himes, Ed Lynch and Jim Frey. To me those GMs were far, far worse than Hendry. All that being said, I do believe it is time for a change. The Cubs need a new direction.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not all of them, but I remember Murph's "And Ed Lynch is still on the payroll" spots.

    I've used too many Blago analogies on Cubs boards today,* but this is like saying that George Ryan was not as crooked as his successor. If the gauge for Cubs is "many more were worse," well.... Let me know who was the Cubs' Theo Epstein.
    __________________
    *One came up on the post about the tautology of "Ricketts to keep Hendry barring a change of thinking" on Cubs Insider.

  • In reply to jack:

    Not gauging him that way, just empasizing how much Hendry has raised the bar here in Chicago in my lifetime. It's a different expectation. In other words, Hendry raised the level of expectations, but I don't think he can meet them.

  • Glad I found this site. I like the balanced approach to making the best of Hendry and agree with offsetting his weaknesses with the strengths noted in the article. I also agree with manny of the comments that suggest Ricketts does not have the fortitude to fire Hendry. One possibility is that Ricketts shuffles Kenney to another senior post unrelated with field decisions (say, capital investments) and then appoints a senior level baseball person and allows that person to clean house. That way, Ricketts will not get his tiny little hands dirty (I couldn't resist one dig!).

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    Welcome to the site! I agree about the comments. It's like that in general here. The readers really know their stuff.

    I think that's an excellent idea with regard to Kenney. Ricketts seems to like him. Moving him off of baseball and into another position would be a nice compromise.

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    This whole thread is based on a twitter by Bob Nightengale.

    http://twitter.com/#!/BNightengale/status/102504816760197120

    No where in his tweet does Nightengale bother to say where he got this information. He doesn't even mention an unnamed source. I really think to much is being read into this, and it is entirely possible that a lot of Cubs fans have gotten upset over essentially nothing.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Exactly Mike, and I'm pretty sure I know who his source is, and he works for Jimbo!

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Not necessarily. It's really just about what the Cubs should do if they do, in fact, decide to keep Hendry. Nightengale's tweet may have been the impetus, but some of these things (promoting Kaplan, hiring a real president), can be done with or without Hendry.

  • I have to agree with Michael. There has been absolutely nothing on the mainstream Web sites (ChicagoTribune, ESPNChicago) corroborating that Hendry will be retained in 2012. Now maybe they are all focussed on the Zambrano mess, but I think the Hendry "should he stay or should he go" question is such a hot-button issue that any pronouncements from Ricketts would be "news".

    BTW, John, I am also new to the blog. Thanks for the info, especially on the Cubs' minor league system.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Welcome to the site! We should have a lot of new minor leaguers by the 11 pm CDT signing deadline tonight.

    As for Nightengale's tweet, I agree that it probably means nothing at all. Have heard from a few people now that it's not good info...one of them believes that Hendry is still absolutely gone at the end of the season. I hope they're all correct.

    I have to say the tweet did getting me thinking about what I would do if I were indeed stuck with Hendry. How would I build around him?

  • I am feeling it bit better John, since one else has said the Cubs are keeping Hendry. It appears Nightengale might have jumped the gun a bit, because other people ( e.g. Steve Stone, Dan Bernstein) have said from their sources that Hendry is gone. What might be happening is that Ricketts is really keeping mum and people are "speculating" what he might due based on past comments.

  • In reply to rodeosteve:

    Me too. This tweet didn't end up gathering a lot of steam. Came on in a flash and just disappeared.

    This piece I wrote is turning into more of a "If Emergency Break Glass" kind of plan.

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    Nightengale is speculating. He does this kind of thing a lot, and then he leaves himself enough room, which he did in this tweet, to wiggle out in case his prediction doesn't come true.

    "#MLB Reverse the curse. Jim Hendry will stay on as #Cubs GM, barring Ricketts change of thinking"

    Nightengale will just say Ricketts changed his mind. This guy doesn't have a good reputation. Not only does he pull things out of thin air, but when he has been given information in the past either in confidentiality or with a request to keep it under wraps for a certain period of time, he has not dones so. A lot of baseball insiders won't even talk to him anymore.

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