As a Chicago baseball fan, you can probably guess where I stand on this. It's been nearly nine years with Jim Hendry at the helm of baseball operations for the Cubs, and in the time the team has won three division crowns but failed to get past the NLCS. And when you consider the kinds of resources this organization has at its disposal, the kind of performance we've seen on the field simply shouldn't be acceptable. There have simply been way too many seasons that feel like this one- hopeless by July, boring by September.
So when I read this note today from Jon Heyman, " GM Jim Hendry's fate seems not to have been decided," my immediate reaction was, "This decision can't be that hard, right?"
Now, to be fair, Jim Hendry isn't the worst GM. He'll make some pretty brilliant moves (Hee-Seop Choi for Derrek Lee, anyone? Or Bobby Hill and Jose Hernandez for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton?), but he's also signed so many intolerable contracts under his watch that it's hard to simply believe that the owners have pushed every single one of those deals. From Carlos Zambrano to Alfonso Soriano to even guys like John Grabow, the Cubs have handed out money like a team that believes that every piece could be the last piece to the puzzle.
Unfortunately, when you're true talent as a team lies around 75 wins, it's not particularly easy to find outside hires that'll bump you into the mid-80's. And that's where Hendry has failed: in building a developmental powerhouse that takes advantage of the marketability and sheer revenue streams of the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs should be something roughly like the Red Sox of the NL, with all of the cache, money, and quality management- but realistically, at this point, money is really the only common factor between how the Cubs and Red Sox are ran.
The Cubs' new owner, Tom Ricketts, doesn't have a reputation for making rash decisions quickly, so he's likely taking his time to evaluate the current core of the club's management. But given how the team has played over the past three years, and the ridiculous contracts they can essentially blame for that play, it's not really easy for Cubs fans to see the points in favor of the incumbents currently in place. Hendry has some good guys on board- scouting director Tim Wilken is regarded as one of the best in the business, for example- but his body of work as a whole has been undoubtedly underwhelming thus far in Chicago.
The Cubbies need to go in a new direction, making amateur player acquisition and the development of those players top priorities. I'm just not really convinced that Jim Hendry is the guy that's capable of taking the Cubs there. They should be major players not only in Asia, where they do a great job, but also in Latin America and the draft as well. The Cubs are beginning to free up some flexibility as many of their brutal long-term contracts end, and we're already hearing talk about how they're gearing up to add some new big-money players over the next couple years. Part of me is really hoping that Hendry won't be the guy to run their big spending spree once again.