The dismissal of Jim Hendry as General Manager came as a shock to few, and has been greeted with collective jubilation from Cub’s Nation. For Cubs fans, Jim had become the latest in a long line of scapegoats, the in the moment embodiment of over a century of frustration. Curses aren’t as easy to attack, to collectively rally against; scapegoats need faces-just ask Steve Bartman.
Now don’t get me wrong, during his tenure Jim hastily made some questionable moves, signed off on some contracts which fail the test of retrospective 20/20 vision. But let us remember:
- Big Jim was scouting director when the Cub’s drafted eventual Rookie of the Year, and arguable modern day face of the organization, Kerry Wood.
- When Hendry hired Dusty Baker, Mr. Toothpick was coming off a World Series trip, and was already a 3 time N.L Manager of the Year.
- In the 2003 Season, Hendry acquired Aramis Ramirez (I think that worked out well) and Kenny Lofton for the stretch run. The Cubs of course came 5 outs from the World Series.
- Speaking of 5 outs from the World Series, did Jim Hendry botch a Little League grounder at shortstop?
- If I were to judge fan reaction by jersey sales, I’d say those who bleed blue were pretty excited when Hendry acquired Nomar Garciaparra in 2004. That year the Cubs also acquired Derek Lee and resigned Greg Maddux.
- 2004 also was the year that Jim Hendry…oh wait no, the players, blew a 1.5 game wild-card lead during the final week of the season.
- In 2005, Kerry Wood, Nomar and Mark Prior, all fell victim to injuries, and no, Jim Hendry did not run them over with his car.
- In 2006, Hendry signed Alfonso Soriano to an 8 year $136 million deal. At the time, Soriano was coming off a .277 46 HR, 95 RBI, 41 SB season with the Nationals. The Cubs meanwhile were coming off a 66 win season. Did Hendry overpay in terms of years and money? Most certainly, but circumstance demanded action, and many of team were vying for Soriano’s services, including the Cubs South Side neighbors. Oh that year Hendry also signed some young kid named Starlin Castro.
- In 2007, the Cubs make a 19-game improvement over the previous season, and win the Central Division. In the NLDS, Hendry…I mean Cub’s players, forget how to hit, (i.e. Aramis goes 0-12), and the Cubs are swept by the D-Backs .
- In 2008, en route to their second straight division title, (the first time in a century that they had made the post season in consecutive years) the Cubs won 97 games. In the NLDS, Hendry…I mean Cubs players, inexplicably score 6 runs in 3 games, and are swept by the Dodgers.
- I also don’t think Jim Hendry told Aramis Ramirez to take a whole season off in 2010, or urged Carlos Zambrano to do his best impression of someone suffering from Paraphilic infantilism . I will concede however that in 2010, he did implore Derek Lee to bat 40 points lower, and hit about half as many home runs as he did the previous year. Oh wait, no he didn’t.
You may be asking, "Why haven't you mentioned Milton Bradley, or the lack of young talent developed during Hendry’s tenure?". Well my friend, that’s because both of those things are in conflict with my thesis, and therefore will be omitted from further discussion.
Seriously-my point is this: Hendry had unfairly become the latest in a long line of Cub “villains”, the human symbol for the Cubs love affair with failure. In fair and careful retrospect however, we realize Hendry looked to come between the Cubs and failure, and although his methodology can be seen as questionable, it was relatively speaking, successful-almost to an unprecedented /historic degree.
As in any relationship, there’s a thin line between love and hate. A few things go differently, and Jim Hendry may have gone down as the most beloved GM in Cubs history-as the man who delivered that elusive World Series Title.
But, as thousands of Cubs players had done before, Hendry’s players ultimately failed, and as a result, although he never swung a bat, never threw a pitch, Jim shouldered the blame and ultimately took the fall.
Let the hunt for the next scapegoat begin.
Be Good Friends,