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.