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updated: 1/15/2011 8:46 PM

Ricketts impressed by Hendry's accomplishments

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  • Chairman Tom Ricketts addresses the fans during the first day of the Cubs convention Friday at the Hilton in Chicago.

       Chairman Tom Ricketts addresses the fans during the first day of the Cubs convention Friday at the Hilton in Chicago.
    Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

 
 

Both supporters and detractors of Cubs general manager Jim Hendry should know this: Hendry's support from owner Tom Ricketts appears to be growing, not shrinking.

Ricketts addressed Hendry's situation Saturday during a session with fans at the Cubs convention.

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Hendry later talked in another session, admitting that not all of his free-agent moves have been "bull's eyes."

The four Ricketts siblings met a polite crowd in a ballroom at the Chicago Hilton, and chairman Tom Ricketts admitted he was as disappointed as they were in last year's fifth-place finish.

Things didn't get anywhere near to being heated until one fan asked why Hendry still had a job in the light of two straight non-playoff seasons and no playoff wins since 2003.

"We came here a year ago, and I think it would be incredibly unfair and wrong for an organization to judge people without enough information and make big changes," said Tom Ricketts. "Over the past year, I've grown in confidence in Jim. I think he has a great team of people he's put together. The playoff losses, that's a coin flip. I'm going to judge him by how many players we consistently bring up to the major leagues.

"I think Jim's doing a good job. I think we're starting to see some of the fruits of his labors."

Much of the criticism of Hendry has been the expensive contracts given to players such as Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. However, another member of the Ricketts family pointed to a farm system that allowed Hendry to trade prospects recently for pitcher Matt Garza.

"I think it's really easy to point to a couple of high-dollar contracts," said Todd Ricketts. "But when you dig down a little bit to the organization that Jim's built with (scouting director) Tim Wilken and (farm director) Oneri Fleita and (Latin American scout) Jose Serra, we don't have Matt Garza if we don't have prospects to trade."

Hendry's contract runs through 2012, but popular speculation has been that Hendry's job could be in jeopardy if the Cubs don't win this year. However, in addition to his GM duties, Hendry also took part last week in owners meetings in Arizona.

Soriano's eight-year, $136 million contract has four years to run, and Fukudome is on the books for one more year of his four-year, $48 million deal.

"In fairness to Sori, when we got him, he really was the marquee free agent," Hendry said. "I think everyone in this room was probably thrilled to have him. Unfortunately, he did get hurt with a severe quad injury that affected his ability to steal bases. A lot of times, when people think he's not giving full effort, he really is trying to stay healthy and hit enough home runs to be productive.

"I think we all feel Sori's still got some solid years left in him. Will he ever be the guy that can steal 45 bags again? Absolutely not. I think he's very capable still of hitting 30 home runs in a year. He is a quality guy in the clubhouse, very well-respected guy, a total team guy."

Under Hendry, outfielder Milton Bradley got a three-year, $30 million contract before the 2009 season but was traded last winter after being a problem on the team. The Cubs also have spent millions on free-agent relievers, many of whom have not been effective.

"Honestly, you don't hit all bull's eyes in the free-agent world," Hendry said. "We've made a few mistakes like everyone else, and sometimes you have to eat some contracts. At the time we went into the high-spending mode, I think everybody knew what was going on. The club was going to be sold.

'We threw a lot of dollars into the club in '07 and '08 and won back-to-back division titles but couldn't get it done in the playoffs."

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