Goatriders of the Apocalypse

what have you done for me lately?

Baseball is very much a "what have you done for me lately" kind of sport. How else could you explain the firing of a World Series champion manager, or the trading of a once-loved future Hall of Famer?

Hell, look at the Red Sox. There's no other team that exemplifies "what have you done for me lately" better than them. (Ok, maybe the Yankees.) The Red Sox have a long history of firing successful managers and letting go of their superstars. They didn't bother to resign Carlton Fisk, Roger Clemens, Mo Vaughn, and many others.

With that said, it should be no surprise that we Cubs fans are very much of that mentality. We were prepared to give Jim Hendry a life-time's supply of free drinks after he acquired Aramis Ramirez. We were ready to fellate him after he traded for Nomar last year. We were ready to give him our first born children after he unloaded Sosa and Farnsworth.

Then, very quickly, Jim Hendry fell out of favor. We suddenly realized that he never really got us a leadoff guy. Rather than upgrade the newly depleted outfield, he brought in Jeromy Burnitz and we were told that Todd Hollandsworth was our starting left fielder. Rather than acquire a desperately needed closer (or upgrade the bullpen in any way), we were told that it could be Borowski's again, or Hawkins if that doesn't work, or Dempster's. But none are really viable choices. And let's not forget that Dusty Baker was hired by Hendry. And we hate Dusty Baker these days.

It feels like Hendry went from "Saint Jim" to "Fire Jim" almost overnight. But there are some things we need to realize. First, it takes two to make a trade. No GM can magically snap his fingers and find himself with a closer and leadoff man for next to nothing. The Cubs may have a very loaded minor league system, but not many teams are looking to rebuild in February, or for that matter, June. No team is looking to trade their pricey-but-talented superstars by the end of May.

So, we can unleash the fury on Saint Jim, but we have to realize it isn't really his fault. At least, not all of it. Because whether we like it or not, he's handcuffed by his bosses at the Tribune. He's only allowed to spend so much money. He's not allowed to go and just sign any available player. And teams were clearly playing hard-to-get this winter with Sosa and Farnsworth. In a way, it really is a miracle that he unloaded them at all.

So, let's take it easy on Hendry. He's doing what he can. He did make a hell of a trade with Hawkins. Hopefully more will come. I really don't think it's his fault that we haven't gotten more in trades or free agency. Although I admit, I share the "what have you done for me lately" mentality, and if nothing more has happened by July, I'll probably be pissed. And if no one is signed this off season, I will be calling for Jim's head.

But until then, let's chill. It's not over yet.

Jason R.

What I've always said re:closer is, who did everyone want, anyway?

Boilerfan

Thanks for the article I strongly agree.I think that Jim Hendry is 80% of a perfect GM. He makes great deadline trades, runs a solid farm system, and doesn't overspend on mid-level free agents. As I see it I only have two problems with the man.
1)The bench, as an upper tier payroll we should have a better bench than we get year in an year out. I think this may have to do with Dusty and "his guys" but the blame has to fall on the GM.
2) Jim Hendry's refusal to get top level free agents. Remember Tejada was on the market when we only had Gonzalez at short. Same with Beltran, Drew, and Guerrero.

foledog

I'll give you 3 out of 4, but I'd rather see Dubois and Burnitz running around the outfied for less than what its costing the Dodgers to have J.D. Drew provide about the same production at a far larger cost.

Jim Nelson

Hendry's taken a lot of heat lately. Some of it has been deserved (e.g., the bench), but a lot of it really hasn't. People need to remember that Hendry is an employee of the team. He doesn't own it. The suits in the Tower give him a budget, and that's what he has to spend. It might seem like a lot of money, but a good chunk of it is going to pay Sammy Sosa to put up crappy numbers in Baltimore, and a lot of it is going to players who were already here, some of whom (e.g., Zambrano) were due raises. So Hendry really didn't have that much money to throw around during the off-season. He had to roll the dice a little and take a few risks. I think that individually, most of these risks were reasonable, but there were a lot of them, and he's had some bad luck, so the collective effect has made some of his moves look worse than they did at the time.

Take for example, Matt Clement. Matt's a fine pitcher, and there was no reason to believe that he wouldn't be a fine pitcher again this year (which in fact, he is), but he was being paid $6 million dollars a year, and it would have taken at least that much to re-sign him. We had a bunch of talented and much cheaper arms in our organization, so Hendry gambled and let Matt go, hoping that Glendon Rusch would make a good fifth starter and that someone like Angel Guzman could step in if there was an injury.

I'm sure that if Hendry had known that Nomar would go down with a (possibly) season-ending injury in April, Neifi! would be a 300 hitter, and Prior, Wood, and Guzman would all go down again with injuries, he might have taken Nomar's salary and spent it on Clement. Unfortunately, he didn't know any of that. Maybe he should have anticipated that there'd be some injuries, especially given the players' histories, but all of them? At once? When we didn't actually know how things would turn out, letting Clement go was at least defensible.

And if you're going to knock him for risks that didn't work out, give him credit for the ones that did. Percival and Benitez are both on the DL, and Kolb has an ERA of 5.66. Meanwhile, Ryan Dempster seems to be working out pretty well as closer (knock wood). Jeromy Burnitz looks like a slight upgrade over Sam-Me Sosa, and he's stayed off the DL, and he's not a self-centered prick.

Hendry has his flaws, but frankly, he's pretty good. He has a real knack for pulling off big trades that help the team, and he seems to have finally figured out that using your young, talented, cheap pitchers is a better way to build a bullpen than throwing money at guys like Mike Remlinger. (I think the issues with the pen have more to do with overuse and misuse than with the pitchers themselves, but that's another argument.) We could do a lot worse than Hendry.

James

Jim... but someone's to blame for the Cubs' problems. Why wasn't Rusch used as a starter and Dempster as a reliever from the start? Was that Dusty's idea or Hendry's? If Hendry paid that much money for Rusch on a two-year deal to bring him back as a swing man, he paid too much. Signing Chad Fox turned into a genius move for Hendry... until he let Dusty shred his arm. As much as have to realize that Dusty is the manager on the field, it doesn't mean he gets total autonomy. That's an area where we have to hold the Cubs Front Office accountable, Hendry included.

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