Monday, July 23, 2007

To Cruller Jim: I apologie (well sort of)

Too often on the interweb it's easy to take shots at a guy when he is down and not give credit when it is due. This crappy/unpopular page has spent the last 2-1/2 seasons ripping Cub General Manager Jim Hendry to shreds. We have ripped Hendry for his support of Dusty Baker, for not being quick on the trigger, for his lack of quality trades, for not having the guts to blow the whole thing up, for a poor minor league system and on most occasions for his perceived lack of a simple plan. I think at one point I may have blamed the guy for all of the troubles in the middle east. So with fair play in mind, and the team now in the midst of both a divisional race and wild card race it is time to give some kudos to Cruller Jim and his cellphone.

To be perfectly clear, Jim Hendry did not inherit the mess that was the 2005 or 2006 version of this club. He created the mess. Over the past few seasons I have asked for Hendry to be held accountable for the team and the organization. Several times I have called for his firing. Thanks to a poorly timed contract extension in April 2006 and the impending sale of the club, Jim Hendry survived last October when his partners in crime Andy MacPhail and Dusty Baker were sent packing. Cubs interim-President John McDonough put Hendry on notice when he took the reigns with this statement:

"My goal is singular. The purpose of what I've been asked to do is for the Cubs to win the World Series. Not win the wild card or win the division or win the pennant. It's time to win, it's time to win the World Series. It's time to reward these tens of millions of fans who have waited for a long time."

McDonough stated this as he took control of a 96 loss ballclub. Well old Jimmy boy could have easily done like other Cub General Managers. He could have milked the shot clock on his major league general manager position before heading to Scottsdale to be a Special Assistant to the Cubs next GM (ala Sinkerball Pitcher Ed Lynch). Hendry decided to try and go for the legendary one-year turnaround. The plan called for hiring an experienced winning manager and signing free agents to heavily backloaded contracts. We can argue about what this will all mean in the future, and my opinion is pretty grim. But in the meantime new manager Lou Piniella and Hendry's acquisitions have brought an excitement back to this franchise not seen on the Northside of Chicago since 2004.

Many of us have tried not to acknowledge any of Hendry's good moves. To be perfectly clear, I have ripped Hendry at almost every opportunity the past few seasons and most of this one. I still feel that many times it was deserved. But with a new manager in place, the Cubs have mixed and matched all season long. Bringing up kids from the minors and putting them into positions to contribute. Many credit Piniella, but to be fair you have to hand it to Hendry. He has shuttled players between the farm and the bigs looking for the right mix for his new skipper. If the Cubs pull off postseason--with a lame duck ownership group, coming off a 96 loss season, and a remade team--Hendry has to considered for Andrew "Rube" Foster Award handed out to Executive of the Year in the NL.

Now as we approach the trade deadline all Cub fans wonder if JH will have an ace up his sleeve that will help the Cubs overtake Milwaukee and play deep into the month of October. To be fair to Hendry, at this point much of that decision making may take place in the Tribune Tower and not at Clark and Addison. Still with the Cubs playing so well over the past month and the team in contention, Jim Hendry deserves credit for his moves that resulted in the extreme team makeover from the 2006 version of the Cubs to your 2007 Chicago Cubs.

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