While it took a very long time, I’ve finally come around to the idea that moving on from Jim Hendry as General Manager is probably the right move for the Chicago Cubs. Coming up with 26 reasons to fire Hendry will do that to you.

But how likely is it that the Cubs will really move on? It depends on who you ask.

Phil Rogers is inclined to believe Hendry’s – and team president Crane Kenney’s – days are numbered with the Cubs.

In baseball, you usually can see the end coming, whether it’s for a player, manager or executive. It was a relief for almost everyone, not a surprise, when Lou Piniella opted to resign last August. His team was in freefall, having lost 20 of 24, and a feeling of defeat had taken hold on the franchise.

That feeling has returned over the last couple of weeks. Recurring mistakes, a run of injuries and a lack of timely hitting have buried first-year manager Mike Quade under a 24-36 record, and both the schedule and the public outcry for change are unrelenting.

Something has to give, and probably soon, even if the calls for an organizational clean sweep have yet to penetrate the clubhouse doors….

A mess at this time a year ago, the Diamondbacks fired Josh Byrnes on July 1 and would hire Kevin Towers as his full-time successor in September. That process triggered the unexpected turnaround that has the Diamondbacks in contention, and is a reasonable model for Ricketts to follow….

But Hendry is hardly the only question Ricketts has to answer. There’s also the issue of what to do with Kenney, who more than Hendry has overseen the Cubs’ rapid descent.

The tipping point came on Nov. 20, 2007, when John McDonough left to take over the Blackhawks. Kenney’s duties were expanded and the organization has regressed steadily since then, with the sale of the team from Tribune Co. to Ricketts blurring the lines of accountability.

Whether or not you agree that the Cubs should send Jim Hendry packing, I suspect that most agree that keeping Kenney in place as president – a business-minded president – makes little sense when the Cubs could instead bring in a baseball czar type, which has worked so well for other organizations.

Ken Rosenthal suggests that he would agree with Rogers, believing that Hendry isn’t long for the Cubs.

About a month ago, I argued that the team should retain general manager Jim Hendry, who is in the last year of his contract. I can’t see it happening now.

Not with the team splintering apart and the farm system failing to provide adequate replacements. Not with attendance at Wrigley Field dropping from 39,610 in 2009 to 37,814 in ’10 to 34,818 in 31 dates this season.

Hendry has accomplished a lot, guiding the Cubs to three postseason appearances in his first six years and five winning seasons out of eight. The next GM will thank him for developing players such as shortstop Starlin Castro, second baseman Darwin Barney and Double-A center fielder Brett Jackson. But the big contracts — even if Hendry awarded them at the behest of the team’s previous owner, the Tribune Co. — will be the GM’s undoing.

A little more apologism in there than I’d prefer, but the message is clear: Hendry won’t survive the upcoming rebuild. (Note: Although Rosenthal suggests Hendry’s deal is up after this year, Cot’s has Hendry under contract through 2012, which sounds right to me.)

On the other hand, Bruce Levine said in a recent chat that firing Hendry now is unlikely, and would be the kind of “panic move” that rarely works out. He also makes the good point that, while a new GM coming in might understand what moves the big league team wants to make in the near term, he probably wouldn’t have a great sense of the organization as a whole, which could impact those moves.

Ultimately, the answer the question lies somewhere in Tom Ricketts’ head. I still don’t have a great sense for how baseball-management-savvy he is. Hendry is such a profoundly nice guy, and is so genuinely liked around the league, I could easily see Ricketts swayed into giving Hendry another year or two.

If Ricketts does decide it’s time to move on, who might replace Hendry? Tough to say, as there are a bevvy of up-and-coming front office types whom you’d like to believe the Cubs could buy with their relatively unlimited resources (and who wouldn’t like to be the architect of the team that *finally* wins it for the Cubs?). Some names bandied about by Rogers and Levine include former Reds’ and Nationals’ GM Jim Bowden, current Dodgers’ GM Ned Colleti, and Rays’ genius Andrew Friedman.


  • Michigan Goat

    Not to be a Hendry apologist (he MUST go), but I never thought how much of the Cubs decline happened after Crane took over as president. Goes to show how important it is to have a strong owner to president to GM to manager dynamic in order to have a quality winning franchise. Time to pull the trigger and get a regime in place that knows baseball, works well together, and has a long term plan and vision.

  • Norman

    It’s not his fault the players aren’t performing. But stop giving out all these backloaded/no trade clause filled contracts!!!!! Kinda glad Sandberg wasn’t put in Q’s postion.

    • hardtop

      i disagree with this. the problem is the players are performing, and to the best of their abilities, and their best is pathetic. and hendry is responsible for the quality of the players on this team. maine, coleman, berg, russell, even smardja: these are the pitchers of the future for the cubs. i may be wrong, but isnt hendry responsible for assembling this pack of clowns, and if not, doesnt he oversee the people who are?

      • willis

        Your point about the pitching is spot on and should be a huge worry. There is little to no depth in this department right now and that is going to be what wins/loses ballgames more often than not. We unfortunately saw what happens when there are injuries to the staff and the talent drop off in the lower levels is so large. And now we are blessed with Lopez and Davis, after suffering through Coleman, Russell, Berg etc.

        Sure he has done some good, but there either needs to be a fresh start altogether (preference) or Ricketts needs to get a President/Director of baseball operations alongside Hendry.

        If he stays, he will in his third rebuilding project and most likely on his fourth manager…which is crazy.

  • Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Hendry has made more good moves than bad in his tenure. What’s killing him right now are the bloated contracts for underperforming players. It’s always a big gamble when you overpay for free agents/potential free agents to win big in the short term. The Cubs missed their window (2007-2009) with these guys and now they’re albatrosses. Having said all that, I think Ricketts lets Hendry ride out his contract and will then start fresh next year.

    • Jeff

      It doesn’t matter how much your “good moves” outnumber the bad moves. It’s the fact that the bad moves cripple the team much more than the good moves have helped. It has also come to a point where the good moves are fewer and further between, and some of his decisions make pretty much no sense whatsoever.

      If he rides out his contract, he’s here for the next two seasons and will be rebuilding the team for the third time. No matter how nice he is, no one ever gets three chances at building a team. What’s even more crazy is that he’s even still being considered as the guy to turn the team around, and all the while he’s working in one of the biggest markets for one of the biggest fan bases in all sports, with virtual immunity to his failures.

    • Ace

      One thing, and I’m going to update the post to reflect – Cot’s has Hendry as signed through next year, which sounds right to me. I think Rosenthal might be wrong that Hendry’s deal is up this year.

  • N

    I understand what you mean, Ace, but I hate that phrase. Everyone’s days are numbered. Judging by the pictures, Jim Hendry is not immortal and will not survive the heat death of the universe. We’re always just arguing how large that number is; I tend to believe it’s a three digit number, but just barely so.

    I don’t want Hendry to stay, but Bowden and Colleti might actually be worse. It’s amazing that Bowden is still considered a reasonable choice by baseball people after his ineptitude with the Nationals. Colleti has been handicapped this year, but he’s really been no better at putting together a winning big market team than Hendry..

    As crazy as it may seem with any sort of historical perspective, the Rays job seems much better than the Cubs job right now.

    • Ace

      Fine, fine. Lazy phrasing. Hendry’s remaining days as GM of the Cubs may be limited to 100 or fewer.

      I’m with you on Bowden. That could be a disaster. People think Colleti is a genius, for whatever reason. I don’t agree with you on the Rays gig – it undoubtedly pays less, is less prestigious, has less upside, and you have a whole lot less money to work with. I’m not sure I even agree with the “right now” caveat.

  • KB

    “Some names bandied about by Rogers and Levine include former Reds’ and Nationals’ GM Jim Bowden, current Dodgers’ GM Ned Colleti, and Rays’ genius Andrew Friedman.”

    ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING? Colleti is Hendry Jr. (didn’t he even used to work for the Cubs?), and Bowden is Hendry’s long-lost brother (got by on charm and likability, used old-school methods, team never did too well).

    Friedman is the exact type of guy we’d want, but isn’t he in cement at Tampa?

    • hardtop

      “Friedman is the exact type of guy we’d want, but isn’t he in cement at Tampa?”
      well, make him an offer he cant refuse. I have a feeling hendry makes more than friedman right now. baseball front office types are just like baseball players… follow the dollars. ace covered most of the other bullet points on why the cubs job would be more desirable than tampa but heres more: if this guy is confident in his abilites to assemble/groom a winner, what finer challenge than bringing one to chicago. if he does bring a winner to chicago, he would be enshrined. he would celebrated and remembered maybe more than any other gm in the history of the game, by cubs fans and baseball fans alike. failure is brutal in chicago sports but success is handsomely rewarded. lastly, living in chicago vs. tampa, no competition (assuming he spends his winters elsewhere like people with wealth and status do 😉

      • http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://pixhost.info/avaxhome/56/d8/000dd856_medium.png&imgrefurl=http://avaxhome.ws/video/shichinin_seven_samurai_kurosawa_xvid_avi_commentary.html&usg=__G5 ed

        “well, make him an offer he cant refuse”, There’s a lot of holes in that desert…………..

  • pfk

    The Diamondbacks canned their GM in mid season last year, hired a new one in September and are now battling the Giants for the division lead. And, they did it with a minimal payroll.

    • Ace

      Who would’ve thought it was possible…

  • Jeff

    Arizona had a heck of a young core of players in place already when they fired Byrnes. The only major in season move they made was trading Haren. Everything else they did was with easily moved contracts. The Cubs situation is completely different and much more dire. There are a lot more, much bigger holes on the Cubs roster, and few new relievers aren’t going to turn this team around like they did for Arizona.

    • pfk

      Sure they are different situations, that isn’t the point. The fact is, they made an in season move because it was obvious that the GM was just not the one to make the smart tweaks – small or large. They made a good choice of someone who had done a turnaround quickly before and, lo and behold, he did it again. Making the right moves is what counts – not the severity of the situation. Sometimes a slight tweak can be more difficult than a major shakeup – witness Hendry’s “slight tweak” to get them over the top by bringing in Bradley. John Schuerholz is one of the greatest GM’s of all time and his strong suite was a great farm system and slight tweaks. During his unprecedented run the Braves never had to go through a major rebuilding, it was always a slight adjustment here or there. Others have tried and failed miserably at the seemingly small things.

  • http://BleacherNation Bric

    I thought it was a little shocking that the Padres fired Towers considering their financial position was worse at the time than the Cubs’ is now and he had little to do with that. I still use him as an example of how and why Hendry could and should get canned at any moment. The Pad turned their team around in one season without him. He goes to the D-Backs and turns their team around in a couple of months.
    These GMs and Owners make it sound like their jobs are harder than brain surgery. They make as much but aren’t held nearly as accountable when something goes wrong on the table. Ricketts- Just fire him and move on. The reason the fans are losing interest isn’t because of what’s happening on the field, it’s because you’re doing nothing about it.

    • Raymond Robert Koenig

      Well put.

  • Cheryl

    If he is fired, it will be on a Friday. That’s the way in other businesses. Hendry has done some good I suspect but it sure isn’t visible now. The cubs are a bad team. How much of that is Hendry’s fault? A lot! At least Ricketts is committed to building up the farm system. It looks like they made some good choices there in this year’s draft. But how the minors can be so cut off from the majors in terms of how Quade uses players called up is questionable.

  • Cheryl

    P.S.: Hendry has tried, but he is just at the point where he should move on and the cubs should move on. You hope for better in terms of trades, in terms of players’ play, but there is a point hwere new vision is needed. I have been through three retrenchments in business. It’s a painful process. This willl not be an easy process with Hendry, Quade and Kennedy. But it needs to be done.