Earlier this week I’d been asking of Tom Ricketts: Why the silence?
Why not a vote of confidence to keep the media at bay? With rampant
reports of Hendry’s demise all but imminent, all the Cubs owner had to do
was make a statement to the contrary to quell the demands for Hendry’s head. On Wednesday, he finally spoke
up during the team’s state of the franchise address:
“I have 100 percent confidence in Jim,” Ricketts said. “He’s
working very hard to do everything he can to get this season back to
where we want it to be. And I think Mike’s done a great job. You know
Mike has got those guys playing hard. You know they’re not giving up.
You know there’s good spirit in the clubhouse. Yeah, those guys are fine.”
I could almost hear a collective groan from Cub fans who want to see Hendry and/or Quade fired. As for me, I think Ricketts is just buying time for now. How much time I’m not sure, but I’m fairly certain Hendry will be here at least until the end of the season, perhaps longer.
I’m not your typical Hendry basher. I’m not the guy who believes he cannot do a single thing right. To me, that’s the easy way out. Hendry has his strengths and weaknesses. His strengths are his personality, his ability to build relationships, and networking with other GMs. Everybody loves Jim Hendry, from GMs to agents to players. Everybody, that is, except Cubs fans.
His weaknesses have to do with sabermetrics and finding market inefficiencies. He has overspent. He has given out too many years, too many no-trade clauses and too many vesting options that are all too easily reached. He has become a poster child for reckless spending in the MLB — but is that the real Jim Hendry?
I’m not so sure.
I’m not so sure the pending sale of the Cubs had nothing to do with that 3 year spending spree. I’m not so sure signing Alfonso Soriano to be the face of the franchise for 8 years was entirely his own idea.
What I do know is that prior to 2007, we used to criticize Hendry and the Cubs for not going after the big free agents. We used to wonder why a team with so much wealth refused to get into bidding wars for top players. And I also know there was much whooping and celebration when the Cubs signed Soriano and even Kosuke Fukudome. Fans were rejoicing at how the Cubs were finally being aggressive and going for it all.
Now we all have 20/20 hindsight. We all want to pretend we didn’t want to take that shot because 4 years later, we have the luxury of knowing it didn’t work. Well, we can’t take it back. We wanted it as much as Hendry — perhaps, even more so.
The Hendry before 2007 had three homegrown top of the rotation starters in Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano. He had obtained Aramis Ramirez, and later Derrek Lee, using the highly reputable farm system he had built. He made under the radar deals to sign guys like Ryan Dempster, trade the unwanted Todd Hundley for Mark Grudzielanek plus Eric Karros, sign Moises Alou to a very reasonable contract, and obtain Nomar Garciaparra for pennies on the dollar.
The Hendry since 2009 hasn’t spent wildly either. He’s traded for a cost-controlled potential ace in Matt Garza, he’s made smaller signings for solid players like Marlon Byrd, Carlos Pena, and Kerry Wood. He has started putting more faith and resources into rebuilding the farm system under Tim Wilken.
I’m not saying he hasn’t made his share of mistakes. He’s made plenty, both in terms of the draft and in more recent signings such as Milton Bradley and, to a lesser extent, John Grabow. But I think it would be disingenuous for me to sit back and say I wanted him to build like the Oakland A’s back in 2007. We wanted him to build like the Yankees. Fans wanted to spend, ownership wanted to spend — everyone was hungry for instant success. This wasn’t Jim Hendry going rogue on all of us. He did what everyone wanted him to do — and perhaps that was his biggest mistake of all.