The case against Hendry
Before I get into this post, I want to preference myself* by saying that I get heat over this topic all the time, which has never stopped me from maintaining the same opinion. Regardless, I'm not trying to be a dick or closed-minded about it.
(*inside joke. I know it's "preface.")
The only loyalty which exists in baseball lives within the fans. We are loyal to our teams, often to a fault. Once we've chosen the organization, we follow them be they triumphant or terrible. We have favorite players, we imagine a comradery between those players that probably doesn't exist, we buy their jerseys, wear their hats, chant their names, and live and die with their wins and losses. We also make the terrible assumption that the guys within the organization share the same feelings of loyalty that we have.
The truth of the matter is twofold: 1) the athletes play for money, not out of loyalty and 2) the executives manage the team like it's a business, also not out of loyalty. However I'll digress for a second to acknowledge that rare player and executive who is as loyal to the fans and city as the fans and city are to them. We had one of those guys on the Cubs - he just signed a 2 year deal with Cleveland because the executive made a business decision.
As a fan, I feel a lot of loyalty to the guys who've been on the team for a while. My current favorites are probably Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano. I appreciate them as Cubs. But as a rational human being, if Derrek's production dropped off the face of the earth, or if Carlos saw his arm explode and returned in 14 months with diminished talent, I'd drop them from the team as quickly as possible.
Baseball is about winning, but not because of the bragging rights that winning permits. Baseball is about winning because teams that win the most make a hell of a lot of money. It's probably no coincidence that the winningest team in baseball history makes the most money. In those terms, the Cubs are very much so in the black right now - they've been a "winning" team for two straight years, although they've failed to reverse the so-called curse.
But the thing is, baseball is very much so a What Have You Done For Me Lately sport. Examples:
- Hank Aaron. Dude's hit 755 homeruns. He's won championship rings. He's currently not signed with a baseball team. Nobody is springing to sign him. I only mention this ridiculous example because when we start to talk about baseball, we eventually roll out the cliches. "He knows how to win," we'll say, ignoring how that saying really says nothing. "He's a certified cleanup hitter. He's got 600+ career homeruns and the Cubs should sign him," we'll claim, ignoring that he's 40 years old, hit 20 homeruns last year, and is on a steep decline.
- Sparky Anderson. One of the winningest managers in baseball history, with numerous championships to his name. Teams aren't exactly blowing up his phone to get him to manage their team, though. Maybe it's because he's old, or because his final years in Detroit were mediocre at best. ...actually, is Sparky even still alive?
So, right now, based on the What Have You Done For Me Lately approach, I can't be too angry with Jim Hendry. After all, the Cubs went out and won back-to-back NL Central titles. For the past two off seasons, there wasn't a free agent Hendry didn't acquire if he set his sights on the guy. He made smart pickups this past year of Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds. He made a huge trade for Rich Harden that was one of the best Cub pick-ups in recent memory.
In other words, as of mid October 2008, Jim Hendry had done a lot for me.
Since then, he failed to re-sign Kerry Wood, an immensely talented closer. He either didn't have the players or the stones to trade for Jake Peavy. He hasn't upgraded at a single offensive position this off season.
Compound that with this - since he took over for the farm system, he has been instrumental in the most backwards, idiotic development strategy of hitters that I have ever seen. As of the 2008 season, only one homegrown hitter drafted or developed under the Hendry regime has been an All Star, and he's been at it for something like a decade. I challenge you to find me one other team that has developed only one All Star offensive player in 10 years - and if you look at the Cubs organization as a whole, probably the last home-grown All Star talent was Mark Grace/Raffy Palmeiro from the Dallas Green era!
Seriously, that is screwed up. When I think of that, I feel ANGER. To me, that is an epic failure without excuse.
Therefore, at the moment, I am supportive of Jim Hendry overall. I just worry that he's lost his mojo again. I worry further that he won't get the Cubs a good outfielder, which they need, and that he won't find a way to upgrade the middle infield, which they could benefit from. And if the Cubs enter March with some Jabrone in RF, Jason Marquis still in the rotation, and no other major upgrades to speak of, then the answer to the What Have You Done For Me Lately question would be ... not a whole heck of a lot.
Thankfully, there's still time. Until then, I'll hold my tongue, it's only fair.