Time to close book on Hendry regime

The subject of Jim Hendry always seems to find a way into Cubs news.

The question is why?

We all know Jim was a friend to some of the media that covered him and still cover the Cubs.

Full disclosure: I considered Jim a friend and he was always great to me personally. He was a very fun guy, candid, affable, and really seemed to enjoy what he did.

Now we can sit here all day and discuss the former GM’s ups and downs. Gordon Witenmyer’s column goes on to defend the Hendry regime, like others in town have done before. My question is why now? I doubt Hendry needs the defense or any help getting another GM job.

I’d like to put the subject to rest. We all know Hendry was a good baseball man that just came up short.

‘‘I still look at myself harshly,’’ Jim Hendry says. ‘‘I think the day I got the job, if you’d have told me six or seven years into it that we’d have won three divisions but hadn’t got to the Series, I would have thought I could have done better. I expected to be the GM when the Cubs got to the World Series . . .

Hendry made some huge mistakes and some have set the organization back to this day. However, he did have some help with some of those mistakes, although we are all tired of hearing about that fact now too.

The former Cubs GM was on fire with almost every move he made in the early part of his tenure.

From the Dusty Baker hire, to the raiding of small market teams, to the Nomar Garciaparra deal, Hendry was refreshingly aggressive. He put together a team in 2004 that had World Series written all over it. In my opinion it was the by far the best Cubs team top to bottom he put together.

The mistakes are too easy to list as well. My biggest issue with Hendry’s regime was the lack of an organizational plan for player development.

Then there was the Milton Bradley fiasco and Mike Quade.

I’ve told the story before about how Hendry wanted to acquire Bradley at the trading deadline during the ’08 season. That would have been the right move at the time. If Bradley would have proven a fit they could have re-signed him for another year or two at best.

We could go on and on, but we already have. Until Theo Epstein and his crew win a World Series we may have to hear some comparisons for a while.

I just wish we had the choice not to.

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Tags: Jim Hendry


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    Well put Tom! It needed to be said.

  • I think it was always fashionable to rip on Hendry but he did some good things here. Especially early on. He tried to build the farm and, while it didn't work out, he did have some highly rated farm systems. He traded for players in their peak/prime years like Ramirez and Lee. Got bargains like Dempster in free agency.

    The problems came after they started to have success and then suddenly they got away from what got them there. Obviously he made some huge mistakes and undid a lot of what he did early on.

    That may be the test for the Theo regime as well. Yes he's doing the right things now but will success get them off track. Before you say no...we can't ignore all the big money FA signings in his last couple of years with Boston. A lot of that may have been because of an impatient ownership, but Hendry had some of those issues here as well.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I have to give Hendry credit for being aggressive. He did pull of some trades that previous Cubs GM's wouldn't have dared.

    Similar to Kenny Williams in many ways. I was never a fan of Williams, but I have to admit that he was always trying to make his team better.

    Hendry had his swings and misses, and a ton of the misses were in the end of his time here, which is a bit sad because that's the lasting impress we mostly have of him. But we have to give him credit for being the first guy to really try hard to change the "lovable losers" attitude around the team. Without Jim Hendry I doubt that we have Theo as the GM. I think Hendry started a transformation of the franchise, which increased the value of the team, made it more appealing as an investment, which lured the new owners, etc. I don't think Hendry set out to do those things, just try and build a winner. For that and his aggressiveness on that endevour, I will always have a happy place for him.

  • Hendry did some things quite well,... and if things had fallen a just a bit differently in 2004, or over the next couple of seasons, we might very well have seen a WS appearance by our Cubs.

    Some moves remain head-scratchers to me,.... Especilly the trading of DeRosa, and the signing of Milton Bradley, and the over-estimate made on Kosuke Fukudome. I've never thought that signing Soriano for that long-term a contract was a good idea eiher,...

    But,... the deeds are done, and we have moved forward.

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    to read some of the blog posts in chicago you'd think Jim Hendry ranked somewhere between Steve Bartman and John Wayne Gacy in popularity. As has been noted above, he made some excellent moves - think of the value he got for Todd Hundley, or even what he got for Bradley at a time when he was slightly more toxic than ptomaine.
    Hendry's one big mistake - yes, bigger than Soriano's contract - was trading for Matt Garza. After the 2010 season it was obvious that the Cubs were not one starting pitcher away from contending; it was insanity to give up the players Hendry did for one pitcher, given the state of the team he had around him. That was a time to strip down, trade away useful players (at least as far as their NTC's would allow) and restock for another shot in '12 or '13. People talk about the bare farm system, which is absolutely true, but the '09 and '10 offseasons were the time to fix that. This is the one thing I will not forgive Hendry for.

  • I agree with you on the Garza deal, terrible move by a desperate man trying to hold on to his job. I think he tried hard, but was in over his head.

  • While I feel like some of the blame can be placed on Hendry (I was one of the few Cub fans who cringed at the Alfonso Soriano signing saying 8 years is a long time.), I have always believed that it starts from the top and filters down. My handle on CBS sports is "Sell the Cubs" which I created years ago when the Cubs were still owned by the Tribune Co. As much as I never cared for George Steinbrenner, there is a reason the Yankees have won so many World Series. They had an owner who's #1 goal was to win and we lacked that with the Tribune Co as owners. As a business, their #1 goal was to make money. This is where I have a very tough time blaming Hendry. Clearly he is a respected baseball guy. But none of us truly know how his hands were tied. What we do know is the Tribune Co put a respectable amount of salary in the MLB team to keep the uneducated Cub fan happy and the team competitive. We also know they did not spend nearly what was needed in the draft or on player developement. This began to change when the Ricketts family purchased the Cubs (2011 draft clearly showed that) and only continued as Theo and Jed were hired. It's easy to blame Hendry, but let's not forget who writes the checks.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Agreed 100%. It always starts at the top with ownership. As I've said many times, the only curse the Cubs have had for 100+ years is the curse of bad ownership. I hope Ricketts ends that run.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I once had a theory that if every Cub fan would boycott buying the Chicago Tribune, that might get the ownership to put a priority on winning a World Series.

  • In reply to Ibleedcubbieblue:

    Might have worked! Should have boycott Wrigley's gum too!

  • I agree it was a bad trade at the time. But until we see what we get for him in a trade, or sign him long term you really don't know. So far none of the prospects traded have produced at the major league level. Yes Archer and the SS still have a shot, but until those things play out we will not know. What if they get Olt and another pitching prospect for Garza?

  • Tom -
    This was a nice, somewhat heartfelt look back at the Hendry era. His trades are what he will always be known for, some great and some not so great. I'll always remember him fondly for stealing Ramirez & Lofton for Bobby Hill.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    Thanks. I loved Jim for quite a while and his big undoing was trying to be splashy when he was told to get good fast.

  • There are no guarantees with Olt,he's a year older than Vitters and played at a level below Vitters. Neither guy is a sure thing. I guess that's why Theo gets the big bucks as he has to determine who's a better shot at 3B.

  • There is no doubt in my mind. I would rather have Epstein and McLeod than Hendry.

    Not even close.

    But it is always good to keep perspective.

    Hendry signed Soriano to a terrible deal. Epstein signed Crawford to an equally terrible deal.

    Hendry signed Fukudome to a much overpaid deal. Epstein paid more than 50 million just to TALK to Daisuke Matsuzaka, and then paid him another 50 million.

    Hendry was given an extremely tight budget for the draft and amateur signings. Epstein paid 1st round money to 3, 4 or even 5 draftees every year, which was the most important tool he used when building the Red Sox, and one that no longer exists.

    The single area in which Epstein actually stands out ahead of Hendry is the area of player development. Hendry and those under him had no plan for development, and had no plan for overall effectiveness. With Epstein, I doubt that Corey Patterson would have come to the big league club with no idea (or training) as to whether he would be expected to be a power hitting #3 pull hitter or a high OBA slap hitting leadoff hitter.

    I would much rather have Epstein, but in a great many areas, the gap isn't nearly as wide as some seem to think.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Good points and we share the same opinion on Hendrys biggest downfall. Patterson is prime example of sloppy development.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Agreed. I actually think Hendry was a good GM for the Cubs. That's not to say that I don't think it wasn't time for him to go and I'm particularly happy that Team Theo is running the ship now, but he got the team extremely close to the Series in 03 and made a number of good trades early on and also some good signings (Lilly in particular and didn't he pick Dempster up off the garbage heap?).

    Others have broken down his deficiencies well so I won't do so here, but I agree with those who think he really helped the Cubs get from the Dark Ages and take a number of steps forward (even if we are digging out of some of his worst moves still). My guess is that when Theo leaves eventually that his predecessor will also have to undo his mistakes (see Cherington, Ben)... that's sort of the nature of the job.

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    In reply to DaveP:

    Actually, I can think of one other big one. He was too nice a guy to drive a hard bargain at the trade deadline and wound up with nothing when he traded guys. Ted Lilly to L.A. being the prime example. If he'd been in charge last year, Dempster would have been a Dodger for yet more Blake DeWitts. It's a pretty key weakness when the new model is acquire quality young talent any way you can.

  • If people want to put the hendry thing to bed and forget then why write an article about it. I doubt hendry gets any other GM job in baseball, maybe his friends in the media are trying to pave the way for that for him?

    Hendry was with the cubs for 19 years, he ran the minor league system for Mcphail. So not only wasnt he any good at developing talent when he ran the cubs minor leagues, he wasn't really ready to be a GM either and the cubs farm system continued to underperform the whole time he was GM and Hendry had all his guys parked there.

    Now most of them are gone, there are still a few around but it has really just been a year so time will tell.

    I can't single out one bad deal hendry made, there were so many. It was two decades of hope hype, and disappointments. I'm sure Hendry was a nice guy, treated some in the media well. But he could also be very vindictive and not above taking a shot at someone that criticized him. I saw that many times, maybe he just had to thin a skin for the job and all the attention and was better behind the scenes like down on the farm or scouting with the yankees.

    Who gets another GM job first, Angelo or Hendry? I doubt either one will.

  • I'll close my book on the Hendry regime when ALL of his acquisitions are no longer in the organization, whether they are Major Leaguers, prospects or suspects.

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    In reply to Raymond:

    My sentiments exactly! Once we clear all of Henrdry's payroll we can move on.

    He was terrible. I don't understand the love. His number of his failures far outweighed Hus successes.
    And his successes weren't nearly as spectacular as his failures.

    Many of his failures hurt the organization for years as well.
    I'm baffled that anyone could defend him... Or his decisions, at least.

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    Nice article about favorite punching bag.

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    A little late to the game here but I think one of the huge additions we made last year was Dave McKay. Can't underestimate the value of a great coach. I really enjoyed your post John- just wanted to add to it.

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    Another thought on Hendry- the regimes and mission kept changing-he often just followed orders from the top

  • Hendry made some solid trades. But that dude was terrible at drafting and developing. Which is the most important aspect of being a GM BY FAR. Glad he is gone. And it took to long in my opinion...

  • How can you close the book when you still have Hendry boys like Vitters, BJax and Soriano still around?

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    You also still have Samardzija and Baez to deal with.

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    In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Don't forget Castro.

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    In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    Add in Szczur, Whitenack, Vogelbach, and Maples.

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    Shark - took forever to develop and really only got better once he got to the show

    Szczur - an absolute font of unrealized talent.

    Castro - rushed to the majors an shown success arguably on pure, raw tools. Doesn't walk. Can't work the count. Occasionally has moments of absentmindedness or immaturity.

    These are just as much indictments of Hendry's failures as a GM as they are examples of his succey.
    Acquisition is nothing without.
    Wasting organizational talent isn't a virtue.

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