Muller: Jim Hendry’s Tenure Wasn’t All Bad
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By Shawn Muller-
(CBS) Like many relationships, there comes a time when you just know that now is time for both of you to go your separate ways. You may still love and respect one another, but you just need to see what else is out there, and get a fresh start.
That day for Jim Hendry and the Chicago Cubs came Friday, when Hendry was fired by Cubs ownership after spending the past 10 seasons as the team’s general manager.
To many Cubs fans, the announcement of Hendry’s firing was a blessing and a breakup that was long overdue.
They look at the rich contracts Hendry gave players like Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome, all of whom had under-performed compared to the price tag. They look at the hiring of Mike Quade as the manager of the club this season in favor of Cubs icon Ryne Sandberg. And let’s not forget the Milton Bradley experiment.
But Hendry made some great deals too.
Cubs fans tend to forget that he was the man responsible for bringing Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, Greg Maddux, and Eric Karros to the North Side, all of whom helped get the Cubs back to the playoffs. He hired two high-profile managers—the type of manager Cubs fans had been pining for—in Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella. Hendry did what a lot of fans had been asking the front office to do for a long time: spend money and make us a winner.
And to a certain extent, he accomplished that.
The Cubs won three N.L. Central Division titles while Hendry was in charge (2003, 2007, and 2008). The back-to-back playoff berths were the first time the franchise had accomplished that feat since the 1907 and 1908 seasons. Three division titles in a ten year stretch are better than any other Cubs G.M. had been able to do in over 70 years. That is a successful run for a G.M. of the Cubs. It’s not like Chicago was on the level of the Yankees, Red Sox, or (excuse me while I throw up) the Cardinals.
Fans are a fickle bunch.
They love you when things are going well, and they turn their backs on you as soon as times get tough. I don’t think there has been a G.M. in this city that has had as crazy of a roller coaster ride full of the ups and downs like Jim Hendry had. Three division titles in 10 years is a damn good stretch for any team outside of the Bronx, Boston, and (excuse me while I throw up) St. Louis. That is the truth whether you like it or not.
If anything, Jim Hendry was a victim of his own success.
He had helped change Cubs fans “Loveable Losers” attitude into one of expected winners. Chicago had not been accustomed to winning and once fans got that little taste of success, they realized that it tasted pretty damn good. So they wanted more… and they wanted more… and more, until they reached the point of becoming a glutton of success.
I was never in love with Hendry as the general manager, but I never thought he was horrible either. Yes, he fell short of the ultimate prize (every G.M. before him since 1908 had too), but he did make Chicago somewhat of a player in the National League more often than anyone before him.
I am sure many Cubs fans are already making their wish lists of potential candidates they would like to see get the job.
It is a normal thing to do.
But just remember this: assuming the Cubs hire “the guy” that fans think will break the World Series drought that has now reached epic proportions, sooner or later and title or no title, it will only be a matter of time before the new general manager wears out his welcome too.
That’s just how it goes.