The Chicago Cubs and Jim Hendry have agreed upon a 4-year contract extension that will keep Hendry as the Cubs General Manager through 2012. Hendry was hired in the middle of the 2002 season and has amassed a .511 winning percentage during his tenure as GM. In his 6 full seasons as GM, the Cubs won National League Central Division titles in 2003, 2007 and 2008. The recent success is impressive – after losing 96 games during the 2006 MLB season, the Cubs won 85 games in 2007 and 97 games in 2008. During the 2003 post-season, the Cubs defeated the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS in 5 games, held a 3-1 advantage over the Florida Marlins in the NLCS, and came within 5 outs of advancing to the World Series in Game 6 of the ALCS, before collapsing in Game 7. Despite the regular season success in 2007 and 2008, the Cubs failed to win a post-season game in either season. The Arizona Diamondbacks swept the Cubs out of the playoffs in 3 games in the 2007 NLDS and the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Cubs out of the playoffs in 3 games in the 2008 NLDS.
Hendry is excited to have the job security in this tumultuous economy and he acknowledges that he and his team still has work to do in order to push the Cubs over the top and bring that elusive World Series Championship back to the North Side –
“Emotionally, from the day I arrived here and was fortunate to be given this job, I’ve had no desire to go elsehwere. We have a terrific fan base and following. It’s a great city to live in…. There’s no other place I’d rather be. There is a lot of emotion involved, and certainly, we’ll do whatever we can to kick that door in to win a world championship. That remains our goal, and none of us will rest until that’s accomplished. We had as good a team as there was in the National League, had the best record. We just played bad baseball for three days. We stunk last year against the Diamondbacks [in the NLDS]. We’re going to put our heads together and see ways to improve the club.” [courtesy of Carrie Muskat on www.cubs.com]
It’s clear that Hendry has surrounded himself with talented scouts and player development personnel. And even with the Cubs pending sale, it’s clear that Hendry will have access to the almighty dollars which will be needed to sign free agents Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster (if he so chooses) and other players on the market who would add value to enable a further playoff push in 2009. Although Hendry has made some questionable moves (the 8-year Soriano deal and the 4-year Fukodome deal), he has assembled a good mix of players that gelled together to win back-to-back division titles and advanced to the playoffs in 2 consecutive seasons for the 1st time in 60 years. Hendry acquired Derek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Mark DeRosa in trades, he has helped cultivate home-grown players like Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol, Mike Fontenot and Ronny Cedeno, and at a time when the Cubs wasted too much time waiting for Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to get healthy, Hendry had the sense to scrap those plans and sign reliable and dependable starting pitchers Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis in the pre-2007 off-season. Both Lilly and Marquis have pitched valuable innings, not missing any starts, and have allowed the relievers to mature and grow into a dominating force at times during each season. There is a still a lot of work to be done – center fielder, lead-off man, maybe another starter – but Hendry seems to have the tools in place to take the team to the next level – if not this year, maybe next year?!