(Hendry, moments before he had Ben Schwartz ejected by security)
Looks like Paul Sullivan can say “I told you so”. Cubs GM Jim Hendry and manager Dusty Baker fielded questions at the club’s fan convention yesterday, and the only surprise is that neither were asked when they stopped beating their wives.
The first awkward occasion occurred when one particularly long-winded blogger groused that White Sox GM Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen were “smoking cigars with their feet up and laughing at us, laughing at you guys, laughing at the North Side.”
The fan then accused Hendry of failing to address the team’s off-season needs, of overestimating Jacque Jones’ talent and having a payroll of only $75 million. Hendry’s equally long-winded response was that he beefed up the bullpen, has faith in Jones, acquired leadoff man Juan Pierre and has a $90 million payroll that could balloon to $100 million.
Hendry also acknowledged he flatly refused to overpay for free-agent shortstop Rafael Furcal, who wound up signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers for $13 million per year. Hendry told fans the Cubs’ offer of $47.5 million over five years was not only higher than he wanted to go but well above the average annual salary ($8 million) of Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins, the National League’s highest-paid leadoff man in ’05.
“[Furcal] got $13 [million] a year, which in the industry was almost absurd,” Hendry said.
Baker’s awkward moment came minutes later, when a perturbed fan drew applause for criticizing the manager’s game strategy.
“I swear to God, I don’t understand why you’ve never heard of a squeeze bunt in your life,” the fan said. “A manager has a chance to have a direct impact on 10-15 games a season, and I don’t think we won one of them last year.
“Cubs fans make a commitment to you guys every year. It’s time you guys make a commitment to us.”
“Thank you,” Baker replied.