Jim Hendry Explains His Spending Proclivities with the Cubs and Other Bullets

hendry and zambranoReason number one I’m glad the Super Bowl is over? Writers can stop declaring that Colin Kaepernick was almost a Cub like they were the first person in the world to look at his draft history. Mooney wrote it first. Respect.

Reason number two I’m glad the Super Bowl is over? Pitchers and catchers report in less than a week.

  • There were a couple profiles on former Cubs GM Jim Hendry recently. The first, from Ken Rosenthal, is a modestly interesting look at his early days scouting in the Marlins’ system. The second, an article from Gordon Wittenmyer, includes a relatively candid admission from Hendry that confirms much of what we believed about the final years of the Tribune Company’s ownership: “We had some huge contracts and we tried to win in a hurry when Tribune was going to sell the club, and when you don’t finish it off with a ring, it’s easy to say, ‘Well, you neglected this or that.’ If it would have worked, it would have been great. But that’s not the way we ran things for years …. In a perfect world, especially when you have good finances behind it, you can take a long time and steadily keep building it and pick and choose your ways to go about it in free agency. That’s the ideal way to do it, and it looks like that’s the way Tom and Theo are going about it.” In other words, the spending binges of the 2006/2007/2008 era were driven by a top-down policy from the TribCo in an effort to prop up the value of the Cubs before a sale. We’ve all long suspected this, but it’s surprising to hear Hendry confirm it. Making money available to be spent by your GM is one thing (a very good thing), but mandating that large sums be spent (on backloaded deals) isn’t always a good thing.
  • Here’s the thing, and I hate saying it because I really do believe Hendry is probably a very nice guy and a very smart baseball man: if Hendry doesn’t want the blame of having buried the Cubs beneath the weight of some awful contracts in the late-2000s, he also doesn’t get the credit for those 2007 and 2008 playoff teams. Because, without the big money deals to Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Derrek Lee, Jason Marquis and others, the Cubs probably don’t make the playoffs in 2007 and 2008. Either you took the shot in 2007/2008 and missed, while accepting the pain that comes with taking that shot; or you were forced to do things that you didn’t think were in the best long-term interests of the organization, and they almost worked. We can’t have it both ways when we remember the Hendry era.
  • Baseball America offers a very early Draft preview, discussing the generalities of what’s to come. Remember: there’s an entire season of amateur ball to be played before the Draft in June. So very, very much can change.
  • Bill Simmons wrote a long piece about PEDs, and about the things we think but do not say. In short, Simmons says it’s ok for us to be suspicious of virtually every professional athlete, and to discuss that suspicion openly without fear that we’re going to be ripped apart for doing it without any hard evidence. Agree? Disagree? If Alfonso Soriano has another great year in 2013, are you going to be OK with people openly discussing whether he’s clean simply because he had a good year at 37?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

59 responses to “Jim Hendry Explains His Spending Proclivities with the Cubs and Other Bullets”

  1. BT

    That’s the thing Brett, Hendry never does get credit for those teams. Basically people say he “bought” those division titles. Which isn’t entirely fair. You can be given a ton of money to spend. The GM’s job is to spend it on the right people. A huge checkbook makes things easier, but it doesn’t make the GM job push button. And it also doesn’t account for the trades he was able to make, which is the one thing Hendry generally DOES get credit for.

    1. hansman1982

      Get into an argument about how bad it was before Theo came to town and the “Hendry got us 3 playoff appearances” argument will come up quick.

  2. Paul Popovich rules!

    How many times have you heard some “journalist” say something like ” I know of some players (or politicians) that are cheating on their wives, drunk all the time, (etc.) but I won’t name any names.” Thus they put every member of the group being discussed under suspecion, warranted or not. Same goes to rumors of PEDS; come on, news people, do your job and investigate. If you don’t have, or aren’t willing to put your money where your mouth is, shut up.

    1. cjdubbya

      Not sure I’d call Bill Simmons a journalist so much as a columnist. I get your point, but I don’t know that Simmons’ primary role is to investigate so much as to entertain with his writing.

      1. BluBlud

        Yeah, he a columnists, and from a broad perspective, I don’t I don’t think he really needs to investigate. But is anyone is addressing specifics, their needs to be something. We know about you Sammy’s, Barry’s, Mark’s and Roger’s. But we can’t assume everybody is using because of them, but we can wonder.

  3. BluBlud

    I don’t blame Hendry as much as others. I think he was put in a tough situation and did the most with it that he could. His contracts weren’t all that bad when they were signed. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    However, I completely agree, either take the credit and the blame or take neither.

    As for Sori, I don’t think he using, but I honestly just never thought about it. It does make you wonder though. I hope not.

    1. itzscott

      Hendry was the good soldier/corporate yes-man who followed orders from above that he maybe in retrospect felt weren’t in the team’s best interest and was rewarded with a contract extension of his own by his Tribune handlers …. which many forget. The contracts he handed out were absurd and tied the Cubs hands for years…. which he had to have known going in.

      He basically sold Ricketts and the rest of us out for personal gain.

      I have no sympathies for what happened to him.

  4. Norm

    I couldn’t care less about PED talk any more. People will pick and choose what drugs they deem worse than others, without any evidence to back it up. HGH bad, even though It’s OK for Kirk Gibson to inject cortisone (a steroid!) so he can get out there and hit that home in the WS. Nobody cares about the greenies that Hank Aaron and Willie Mays and Bob Gibson all took, but when a guy people don’t like takes something? CRUCIFY HIM!

  5. RoughRider

    I liked Hendry and have defended him. However, I was always a little critical of the Cubs farm system since Dallas Green left. They weren’t producing enough. The “bluechip prospects” the Cubs supposidly had, hardly ever lived up to expectations and I suspected it was the quality of the minor league coaching staffs and their ability to teach not just the draft picks. I feel a little betrayed when I hear that they drafted on a very limited draft budget picking players they knew they could sign cheaply and not neccesarily the best player available. It now appears that they drafted poorly and trained with no real plan on how to do it. I now have mixed emotions on Hendry.

    My respect for Dallas Green has greatly increased. He left over “phillisophical differences”. I take that to mean that the Tribune was cheap when it came to development and Green wouldn’t have any of it. Mcfailure and Hendry both followed the company line and the team suffered in many ways because of it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the division titles and the winning seasons.

    1. cheryl

      The year that Hendry left the draft was extremely good with Baez and V to name a few. They had money thanks to the new owners and Hendry did fairly well. Can that be weighed against the times when the cubs were on the cheap? But even with less money there should have been an improvement in the minors.

    2. MichCubFan

      This is what i think of with hendry. this lack of organization throughout the organization. There was almost an arrogance that they didn’t need to use some of the modern resources that almost every other team used because they were too smart for that. hendry was a scout, damn it.

      They were terrible at developing players. Even though we didn’t spend a ton on the draft…presumably by rule of the tribune co., we did have a lot of good prospects that petered out, if not crashed, because they were lacking some of the skills that they should have been taught…plate discipline, defense, throwing strikes, etc… or they were mis-managed… jeff samardzija being a good example.

      We all enjoyed the 2007/08 teams, but if they would have done even a decent job at running the farm system, we could have been better in 07/08 for less money and we could have been better in 09 to the present. He put the organization in a hole… even though he was responsible for the 2011 draft… which he should get credit for. But it is a small positive when you look at the over health of the organization he handed over.

  6. Jeff R

    Hendry’s teams got to the playoffs 3 times. That’s more than exactly 50% of the times the cubs made the playoffs

    1. Cubbie Blues

      I’m sure you mean other than: 1876, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1885, 1886, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1910, 1918, 1929, 1932, 1935, 1938, 1945, 1984, 1989, 1998, ? Other then that? Yes.

  7. terencemann

    I don’t think Hendry could have become the Cubs GM (and landed a job with the Yankees the season after being fired) if he wasn’t a guy people in the business valued and liked to work with. I also don’t question the Soriano signing because he was the best free agent available at the time he was signed.

    What I do question are the questionable decisions that the team got lucky with, like trading Bradley for Silva and acquiring Garza during an off-season when he should have been trying to show ownership he could build for the future for a lot of prospects who might end up being more valuable in the long run. He also gave out no-trade clauses like AOL used to give out free cds. He also signed some very questionable extensions, like Zambrano and Marmol. If he had money to spend, there were wiser ways it could have been used.

    I think it’s clear, in hindsight, that Hendry didn’t fit the profile of the GM Thom Ricketts wanted to lead the team into the future. Hendry made some good decisions and had some success but I don’t think anyone sees him as a first tier GM during his years in that position for the Cubs. I think Ricketts an Epstein/Cashman/Bean/Friedman-like mind and I don’t think that’s who Hendry is.

    If I had the chance to meet Hendry, I would certainly thank him for the good memories he gave us over the last decade and tell him I’m sorry the was the victim of horrible luck. He probably understands the plight of a Cubs fans as well or better than any of us.

    1. Cedlandrum

      The Zambrano extension didn’t work out, but there was nothing questionable about it. I don’t think the Marmol deal is horrible either except it being backloaded. If Marmol was getting 6 or 7 million this year on the 20 million dollar contract, would you care. I wouldn’t. Rafel Soriano just got a 2 year 28 million dollar contract. Soriano is probably better, but I’m not sure if he is 8 million a year better. Also Marmol was 26 or 27 when he got the extension.

      1. terencem

        Zambrano’s extension (eventually) made him the highest paid or one of the highest paid right-handed pitcher in baseball without ever having been one of the truly best pitchers in baseball. He was durable and struck guys out but he had questionable control the whole time. I think that’s why I question it. Zambrano has had 2 years in his career of a K/BB ratio over 2 which is the standard for TOR pitchers. He led the league in walks the season he signed the extension and had led the league the previous season. He was already starting to decline when they gave him that deal.

  8. Bwa

    Having the number 2 pick is kinds of a tease. It makes us feel like we can have however we want, but then if somebody breaks out ahead of the pack, we won’t get them.

    1. Cedlandrum

      To be honest I don’t think that will happen this year. I think the top 3 pitchers will be pretty tightly bunched if the Cubs want to go that way.

  9. Jeff R

    Hendry’s teams got to the playoffs 3 times. That’s more than exactly 50% of the times the cubs made the playoffs since the 45 world series. Say what you will, he brought joy to millions of Cub fans starved for a winning ballclub including me.

    1. hansman1982

      Just think, he is responsible for 100% of the Cubs playoff runs since the turn of the 21st century!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. Dustin S

      It’s a little bit apples and oranges though to compare playoff appearances to prior years going back to 45 though, it’s a whole lot easier now to make the playoffs now. For the majority of those years it’s easy to forget that only 4 teams made the playoffs.

      Hendry is a nice guy who I think 100% put his heart and soul into winning. But do trip down memory lane and look at Cubs prospects in his time, and it’s a sad reality check of the failures of the Cubs farm system during his reign. There were so (so) many can’t-miss prospects that just never panned out. I’d list some of them here but it would hurt my head, which is already hurting enough today after the Super Bowl. Note to self, take next Monday after SB off…

      1. Jeff

        So based on your argument, when the cubs win the ws it’ll be watered down bc it’s easier to make the playoffs? I know that’s not what you mean but making the playoffs is still making the playoffs no matter what the rules were/are at the time. Hendrys playoff teams should not contain an asterisk bc of the appreance that it used to be “harder” to make it to the playoff.

  10. notcubbiewubbie

    boring boring boring maybe we should rehash the dempster trade again too!!!! brutal.

  11. terencemann

    On another note, I am sick and effing tired of the Sun-Times and Tribune’s paywalls. I can never get the sign-in to work. It’s not even anything with my login, it’s just there’s always some technical issue or, after signing in, I’m redirected to the home site. Anybody else have the same issues?

  12. Mr. Gonzo

    At first glance, I thought this article’s image was of Zambrano strangling Hendry, Homer Simpson-style. That would be more appropriate imagery of the Hendry era for me personally.

  13. TonyP

    FYI- I keep getting notices of malware and dumped from the site… Something about Netseer…

  14. cub2014

    Looking at the roster I wonder if they are going to keep
    Lake as super utility guy. He can play SS-3B-2B? and OF.
    Past Valbuena they have nothing. Watkins if he isnt starting
    at 2B then he will be in minors as will Vitters. There
    non roster invitees for utility are very week. If not Lake
    they should sign Ryan Theriot he could back up SS or 2B
    and I am sure play 3B, last I heard he was a FA?

    1. justinjabs

      Please no The riot! Gotta be better backup IF around.

      1. cub2014

        oh and why not theriot: career .290 with cubs .270 elsewhere for a
        .281 in majors. could the cubs use a .280 hitter? better hitter than
        barney, and pretty good infielder. Only issue is he hits right handed.

        1. TWC

          Why not Theriot?

          Because he’s a donger.

    2. yield51

      They don’t really need another IF on the 25 man. Barney can give Castro a rest at SS, Valbuena can spell Barney when he is at SS, or sitting, and can also give Stewart a rest. I suspect Valbuena/Navarro will also get some time at 1B this spring. The longer they give Lake at AAA the better IMO. If he mashes that league, maybe he gets a new sense of confidence and turns the corner as a prospect.

      1. cub2014

        so we know: 4 outfielders, 5 infielders, 2 catchers and 12 pitchers = 23
        2 spots come down to: 2 outfielders or 1 utility guy and 1 outfielder.
        campana,sappelt and or lake,watkins,lillibridge or ? pick two!

        AAA will have: jackson,vitters,lake,watkins,clevenger and sappelt
        or campana. Pitchers: raley,rusin,berken,coleman,dolis.

        The AAA group was a big part of the team end of last year, no
        wonder they were so bad in august and september.

  15. MJ

    I’ve always felt that Jim Hendry got way too much blame for the state the Cubs fell into. He had his faults, but give him credit for moves like trading for Ramirez & Lee which cost the organization the equivalent of two pairs of sanitary socks.

    Every GM/Baseball boss will make mistakes. So far, Ian Stewart and not going harder after Yoenis Cespedes is really, really bugging me about the new regime, but it’s early. The reason the Cubs were set back for decades, is and always was, the Tribune. Whenever it was the RIGHT time The Tower to open the checkbook (like not letting Greg Maddux spend his prime years in Atlanta) it resulted in….Jose Guzman.

    The supernatural force that kept the Cubs from winning was it’s previous owner.

    1. yield51

      Well if the Tribune co. opened up the checkbook and said spend 140 million anyway you like, then Hendry deserves the blame for the state he left the Cubs in. If however they said spend 135 million on the MLB roster, and 5 million on organizational talent, then one can’t really blame Hendry for the weak farm, and poor drafts over the last decade or so.

      Also the Cubs offered Maddux more than the Braves did. I’m sure he would have stayed for a certain amount of $, but what is that figure, and do you really want a player on your team that would rather be someplace else?

      1. frank

        As I remember it, Maddux would’ve come back to the Cubs but was disrespected by Larry Himes, who told him, after acquiring Jose Guzman, that he wasn’t needed.

    2. DocPeterWimsey

      The Cubs went plenty hard after Cespedes. The A’s trumped their offer by 50%. That’s not going harder on the competition: that’s dropping a nuke on the competition!

      As for Hendry, he did do a great job of trading away prospects (almost none of whom amounted to anything) for good veterans. Sure, there were some duds: but the dud moves were actually good percentage moves; as with all such exercises, good odds are just that, and not guarantees.

      Unfortunately, the “almost none of whom amounted to anything” applied to the prospects the Cubs kept. Hendry’s one big flaw is that he clung to the antediluvian “five tools” paradigm long after other organizations had moved on to using larger numbers of more specific tools.

      1. MJ

        On the Maddux thing: Remember who his agent was, Scott Boras. Of course he was trying to drive up the price by having the Cubs & Braves bidding against each other. The Trib/Larry Himes decided the price was wrong. Better to cut off communication, and move on with Jose Guzman. Himes said himself Boras came back and would have accepted the Cubs’ offer, but their budget was already thinned out because they’d inked The Great Guzman.

        On the Cespedes thing: The Cubs reportedly offered the same dollar amount the A’s gave him, but wanted a longer commitment, similar to Soler & (ugh) Gerardo Concepcion. The A’s offered up 4 years. I just feel they should have given him the four. All moves are a risk, but tell me that’s not a bargain right now. If they weren’t comfortable with the number of years, they’d have the ultimate flippable asset.

  16. North Side Irish

    Keith Law released his organizational rankings this morning…Cubs come in at #5. Unfortunately that’s only second best in the NL Central.


    1. North Side Irish

      Sorry…that should have been farm system rankings….

  17. Fastball

    How did Hendry get into the conversation today? Read the post but why do we even give a care what he has to say. He was let go for a reason. He wasn’t very good. With the money he had for a payroll any GM in baseball could have put together a playoff team in those years. In all actualty if he would have left well enough alone he probably could have got another playoff year out of that team. He thought he had to get more left handed so he messed with the lineup and brought in Bradley. He thought he was smart but in reality he wasn’t smart at all. Lou Pinella directed those teams pretty darned well. All things considered Lou probably deserves a lot more credit than he ever got. Now I personally don’t care what the payroll is. If it’s at the top of the market that’s fine with me. I don’t care about Tom Ricketts financial health or what the previous owners financial health was. The Cubs will go on to new owners someday. The only thing I have to say about an owner of any team is this. If you own it than do everything you can within fiscal reason to put a winner on the field every year. If they are bad businessmen then it’s on them. As a fan all I care about is my team winning. If I worried about the owner that would be one too many things in life for me to worry about. It is inevitable that I will root for the Cubs whether they are great or they suck. I thought we had a chance to get to the WS in1984, 2003, 2007, 2008. I don’t think we have any chance of being above .500 in the next two years. Don’t think next year is going to be a magical year or even close to it. 3 years from now I have hope. In the mean time I hope my team knocks off the Cardinals and Reds and I will watch or listen to every game this year one way or another.