Tom Ricketts has made it very clear that GM Jim Hendry is in charge of the managerial search that will ultimately lead to the hiring of a new Cubs Manager for the 2011 MLB schedule. Now I know that this is typically the General Manager’s job, but in the current situation, I question whether it is the right move. You may think this is a dumb question, but my real concerns lie with Hendry as Cubs GM and not Lou Pinella or Mike Quade as manager. As a new owner, this is the perfect chance for Tom Ricketts to look at everyone’s performance in the organization, and that should include Hendry. Based on Rickett’s comments though, it is clear that Ricketts has confidence in Hendry’s abilities (despite putting together a 57-win team with the highest payroll in the National League and 3rd highest payroll in all of baseball). I am worried that Ricketts has simply assumed that Hendry is a capable GM and that there doesn’t need to be a change in that role. I respectfully beg to differ. Especially from a financial guy like Ricketts, it boggles my mind why he thinks that mortgaging the future of the team for the next 2-4 years with bad long-term deals constitutes a good job.
For a very long time, I have made the case that the team that Hendry has put together is not capable of being a playoff contender. I have written numerous posts on why Hendry has not lived up to the high expectations of the Cubs General Manager. Over the last 3-4 years, Hendry has been responsible for way to many bad deals for me to trust his judgment anymore. It all started with the Alfonso Soriano deal back at the beginning of 2007. Inking a “31-year old” to an 8-year deal at roughly $18 million per year over the life of the deal should have been a sign that Hendry was getting desperate. Sure Soriano was the best free agent out there at the time and sure Hendry wanted to blow Soriano and his agents away with a “huge offer you can’t refuse”, but this was a bit much. Hendry followed that up with a $48 million deal for a 30-year Japanese outfielder who had never played in the major leagues and then a $30 million deal for Milton Bradley because the Cubs were too “right-handed” in 2008. The team won an NL-best 97 games in 2008 – do you think they would have won more games if they had a left-handed hitting right fielder instead of Mark DeRosa? Following the 2009 season, with new ownership in place, Hendry’s hands were tied. I’ll give him credit for finally moving Milton Bradley although it took a while. Carlos Silva even turned in a solid season, but then again, when his value was highest around the All-Star Break, Hendry failed to move Silva to a team that needed starting pitching. Even if it meant eating some one the $10 million to him in 2011, Hendry should have made that move. He didn’t and Silva had a bad 2nd half and has since been on the disabled list with a heart issue. During the off-season, Hendry also put a lot of energy into signing Matt Capps as a veteran right-handed reliever in the bullpen. But when the Nationals told Capps that he would be their closer, he jumped at the chance and left Hendry grasping at straws. Because of that gaffe (keeping his eggs all in one basket and hoping), Hendry’s Cubs team started the season with 4 rookies in the bullpen. And with typical injury issues and typical rookie inconsistencies, this was a recipe for disaster. Hendry always seems to be several steps behind these days, and when you’re trying desperately not to lose 90 games this season, you can’t even afford to be 1 step behind.
So while my concerns clearly don’t seem to be concerns of Tom Ricketts, I really hope he decides to take a closer look at Hendry’s job performance this off-season. And I really hope that Ricketts plays a large role in the hiring of the new Cubs manager. And while the new skipper won’t (can’t with the current roster assembled by Hendry) lead the Cubs to a World Series title in 2011, the new skipper will get to lay the groundwork for what kind of team he expects to lead for the next 5-10 years. So it is a big decision.
Today, Randy Wells will take on R.A. Dickey and the Mets at Wrigley Field. Wells is just 6-12 on the season with a 4.50 ERA. He did pitch 6 great innings against the Reds in Cincinnati last Saturday for his 1st win since July 23rd, so he is looking to build off of that good outing and finish strong in 2010.