Should the Chicago Cubs Sign Jim Hendry to an Extension?

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Should the Chicago Cubs Sign Jim Hendry to an Extension?

Chicago Cubs

The headline question is a bit like asking, “should Mike Quade be named as a coach on the All-Star team?” Which is, of course, so ridiculous that it barely bears noting, much less answering.

Oh. Wait.

So, perhaps the question is worth asking: should Cubs not only retain current General Manager Jim Hendry at the end of the season, but ink him to an extension beyond 2012?

I’m sorry. I can barely ask that with a straight face. And, yet, that is the premiss of Gordon Wittenmyer’s most recent article – which now comes before you for fisking. Unsurprisingly, it’s a very disappointing effort, full of ridiculous assertions, misleading support, and an indefensible conclusion.

Take it away, Mr. Wittenmyer (what follows are selected excerpts, but they preserve the essential flow and argument of the article):

Cubs ownership not only should keep general manager Jim Hendry through the end of his contract next year, but they should consider an extension.

Talk about a Sun-Times exclusive.

The ever-present ‘‘Fire Jim Hendry’’ crowd never has been louder than it has this season as a team with no expectations still has managed to underachieve. Hendry is being blamed for everything from back-loaded contracts and a lack of pitching depth to J-Lo’s breakup and the high price of gas.

A Sun-Times exclusive, indeed. And that’s the idea, folks. Wittenmyer wants you reading this not because it’s a reasonable, well-thought-out analysis. He wants you reading it because it’s so far out there that no one else would suggest it.

Folks blame Jim Hendry for his failings as GM for a variety of good reasons. Back-loaded contracts? Yes. He offered them, they’re hurting the team, so it’s fair game. Lack of pitching depth? Again, Hendry constructed the team, the lack of depth is hurting the team, so it’s fair game. And then Wittenmyer tosses in the (unfunny) nonsequitors about J-Lo and gas prices as a cheap way to undercut legitimate criticisms? As if blaming Hendry for failing at the very things he’s paid to do is the same as blaming him for ridiculous things that are obviously outside of his control? Weak sauce, bro.

But the fact is, this is still the guy who assembled the final pieces of the 2003 team that came within a routine play at short of reaching the World Series, the same guy who rebuilt the team into a back-to-back division champion in 2007 and 2008 and the same guy who rebuilt a scouting and player-development system that finally is starting to produce impact position players for the first time in decades.

You do know that the most recent of those decades has been presided over by Jim Hendry, right? “How can you fire this teacher for failing to graduate any students over the past decade? A couple of his students are just now starting to approach passing test scores!”

And, keep that “rebuilt the 2007 and 2008 division champs” thing in mind. You’ll need it later.

Lost in the fan and media disgust for a team that looks like it might reach 100 losses are the strengths Hendry brings to the job in general, and specifically with the Cubs, looking ahead.

And don’t bet the house that the next GM will be an improvement, especially considering the cast of baseball newbies and wannabes who figure to be making that hire. Considering some baseball insiders believe Josh Byrnes and Ned Colletti would be near the top of the Cubs’ list, head-hunting fans might want to be careful what they wish for.

By now, I think folks are willing to accept just about anyone else. No one is “betting the house” on an improvement. We simply know we’ve seen enough of the current regime. It’s like when the Cubs kept trotting James Russell out there to start. Was it guaranteed that someone like Ramon Ortiz would do better? Of course not. But was it time to try? Absolutely.

Despite Ricketts’ professed respect and admiration for Gillick, this week’s Hall of Fame inductee is similarly employed already with the Philadelphia Phillies, he lives in Seattle, he’s 74, and he has said he has no desire to be deeply involved in day-to-day operations of a team. It doesn’t seem a fit on his end.

And despite an outside source last week suggesting that White Sox assistant GM Rick Hahn would soon be hired by the Cubs in some capacity, high-level Cubs sources shot that one down, too.

First of all, what, because two names that have come up might not be good fits to replace Jim Hendry, the Cubs might as well just keep Hendry? Two names out of literally dozens of known and unknown candidates?

Second of all, no one is credibly suggesting Gillick as a GM candidate. Everyone discussing the Gillick rumor has him pegged as an advisor for the transition to *someone else* as a new GM. We know he’s not a fit as GM, Mr. Wittenmyer. But you really blasted that straw man!

[The] direction [in which the Ricketts family takes the Cubs] should include Hendry, whether fan politics make that a tough sell or not.

The decision isn’t about this year. In fact, everybody involved saw this coming. Maybe not 21-games-under-.500 horrible, but the suits knew these bad contracts would come home to roost and probably lay an egg.

Former owner Tribune Co. spent lavishly on curb appeal leading up to their 2007 for-sale announcement, knowing that the next owner would pay the bills.

There! Did you catch it? Wittenmyer has the temerity to, in one breath, credit Jim Hendry for assembling the back-to-back division winners in 2007 and 2008, and in the next breath use the building of those teams by “the suits” as a defense of Hendry in the subsequent years when the very contracts upon which those championships were built decimated the franchise. Tell me, Mr. Wittenmyer: did Hendry put those contracts together, or did “the suits”? You can’t have it both ways, protest as you might.

Wittenmyer goes on to make a mealymouthed defense of Hendry, without so much as a mention of Hendry’s tenure – one of the longest in baseball with his current team, at over nine years – or of his significant financial resource advantage in the NL Central. To ignore those two key elements of this issue in an exposition about signing Jim Hendry to an extension is the equivalent of malpractice.

With apologies to Mr. Wittenmyer, this article is pure, unadulterated link bait, and nothing more (i.e., writing a contrarian piece in the hopes that others online will disagree and link to you to generate traffic – it’s unseemly, it’s low hanging fruit, and, as this very post indicates, it works). It disappoints me. Even as a lowly basement blogger, it’s something I would never do. And I expect at least the same ethical compass from professionals like Wittenmyer.

I can’t even begin to accept that he actually believes half of the garbage in the piece, let alone the *absurd* conclusion. Could someone make a plausible argument that Hendry should be allowed to finish out his contract in 2012? Sure. I haven’t seen it, but I’ll allow that possibility. But to argue that he should be extended? Now? No. You don’t actually believe that, Mr. Wittenmyer. No one who can speak in complete sentences could believe that.

I suspect Wittenmyer, or someone with whom he works, had an idea for a nice off-day article: defend Jim Hendry. That’ll get ’em riled up.

Checkmate, Mr. Wittenmyer.

Enjoy the bump in traffic that the article will no doubt generate. But I hope you can also stand the commensurate drop in respect.

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Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.