(Hendry – the glory days.)
The Jim Hendry GM autopsy in Wrigleyville will have to be a lot more detailed than this, but basically, the W-L record of his tenure says a lot. Yes, when the Tribune Co. got behind him to spend and get some ambitious management on the field, he signed talent, put the team in the play-offs in consecutive seasons, and brought some truly exciting seasons to the North Side. Me, I think he added just as much as he subtracted during his stay.
The problem came in handling that talent once he signed them. Think of the names that left the Cubs on bad terms during his tenure: Dusty Baker, Sammy Sosa, Greg Maddux, Steve Stone, Milton Bradley, Lou Piniella (who soured on the team before his mom’s passing), and now Carlos Zambrano. The headlines to all those marquee exits are well known, but think of the cost in the clubhouse as toxicity built up over time. That cost the Cubs a lot. You can also add disappointments like Kosuke Fukodome and Alfonso Soriano. While Hendry is not to blame for their weak numbers, you do have to ask a) why they proved impossible to motivate, and b) how many times in his tenure he tied himself to giant deals with hard-to-trade headcases who hamstrung the Cubs?
The Cubs aren’t be the only team in baseball with divas and egomaniacs on their payroll. It’s Hendry’s inability to keep such people focused on baseball that’s remarkable. Chicago has a low grade sporting press at best, and Hendry never seemed to step up to the Paul Sullivans in the press box who baited his players. I personally don’t believe much of what I read from today’s press conference regarding the timing or the reasons for Hendry’s firing. I don’t know what I believe yet. My first thought one hearing the news was that it was fallout from the Zambrano situation, Hendry’s latest soap opera. That’s is, an emotionally erratic player, a situation allowed to explode in public (yet again, in Z’s case), a big $$$ deal making Z hard to move, and a Cubs winter meeting where they settle for dimes on the dollar to dump him – it’s classic Hendry. At least he got to leave at the top of his particular game.