Friday, August 19, 2011

First Hendry made Losers unlovable, then he lost his job

Among other accomplishments, Jim Hendry acquired Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton for next to nothing, convinced Greg Maddux to come back to Cubbieland, discovered Starlin Castro, gambled that Ryan Dempster could overcome a serious injury, turned Mark DeRosa into an everyday ballplayer, found a way to dump Sammy Sosa after El Corko had become toxic and twice hired "the best manager available" in Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella.

Revisionist historians will claim Hendry always has been a terrible GM, but the facts suggest he did lots and lots of good things, too.

In baseball, though, lots and lots ain't enough ... unless at least one of those lots is a pennant.

Given the team's slide to the depths of despair, Hendry probably should have been fired at least a year ago. His career likely was lengthened by the drawn-out ownership pursuit of Tom Ricketts, who understandably wanted to see what he was getting before he started making big changes.

"I got more than my fair chance," Hendry told reporters Friday after the ax fell.

Most owners don't want to spend money even for decent teams. They absolutely hate spending big money for losers, and who can blame them?

Hendry's recent Cubbie clubs have been loaded with big-money busts. The team sucked. And the impossible seemingly happened, as empty seats started outnumbering filled ones at many ballgames at Wrigley Field. The latter is an unpardonable sin.

Told of Hendry's dismissal, White Sox GM Ken Williams said his North Side counterpart "swung for the fences." Williams meant it as a compliment, of course, because he does the same thing.

The problem comes when the swings start producing more whiffs than hits ... and in recent years, Hendry became the Adam Dunn of GMs.

Not only did he commit far too much of ownership's money on bad ballplayers, he also committed far too much of it to miscreants and malcontents as the Cubs became Unlovable Losers.

Only a sucker would pay $60 for a bleacher seat to watch Cra-Z Zambrano pitch.

That Hendry was the only GM in baseball who thought Milton Bradley was a $30 million ballplayer probably says all anybody needs to know about why Hendry is now an ex-GM. It seems like ancient history now, but that 2008-09 offseason deal was the beginning of the end for Hendry.

No GM outworked Jim Hendry, who famously was hospitalized with a heart condition when he signed Ted Lilly before the 2007 season. Hendry's an OK guy, too. He and I mostly got along, and when he did disagree with something I wrote, he pulled me aside and told me privately. I had to respect that.

In the end, however, the Cubs went 749-748 under his watch. That's the very definition of mediocrity, and it cannot be tolerated.

Not even in Cubbieland, where dreams have gone to die for 103 years and counting.

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