Hendry's legacy with Cubs a mixed bag
Jim Hendry most likely will be remembered by Cubs fans as a guy who spent boatloads of money but couldn't buy a world championship.
Hendry's firing as general manager became official Friday, when team owner Tom Ricketts announced it to the media after informing Hendry on July 22.
Hendry, 56, was more an old-school type who liked the back-and-forth action with other GMs on trades.
And it was in the trade market, rather than in free agency, where Hendry enjoyed most of his success. After he took over in July 2002, Hendry traded for such players as Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton, who helped the Cubs win the National League Central in 2003. The Cubs fell short of the World Series, falling in seven games to the Florida Marlins in the NL championship series.
He traded for first baseman Derrek Lee, who became a Cubs mainstay from 2004 until being traded himself last season. Hendry's coup de grace may have come on July 31, 2004, when he engineered a four-team deal that brought shortstop Nomar Garciaparra to the Cubs from the Boston Red Sox.
There were clunkers, too, such as sending good young pitchers to the Florida Marlins for center fielder Juan Pierre before the 2006 season. Pierre was one-and-done with the Cubs. The trade last winter of several prospects for pitcher Matt Garza was controversial, but Garza has pitched well for the Cubs.
After the disastrous 2006 season, the Tribune Co., aware it was about to sell the team, gave Hendry piles of money, and he spent it. The result was back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008, but the Cubs failed to win a playoff game, and they haven't returned to the playoffs since.
The biggest deal went to Alfonso Soriano, who got eight years and $136 million in November 2006. The Cubs will try to trade Soriano after this year.
Pitcher Jason Marquis got three years and $21 million, and infielder Mark DeRosa got three years and $13 million. During the 2007 season, Hendry gave pitcher Carlos Zambrano a five-year, $91.5 million extension. Zambrano currently is on the disqualified list for bad behavior. After the 2007 season, Hendry signed Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to a four-year, $48 million deal. Hendry unloaded the moderately productive Fukudome to Cleveland last month.
Many of Hendry's free-agent deals contained no-trade clauses, which made it more difficult to move players.
"I've done nothing but be really consumed by the Cubs for a long time, sometimes to a fault, probably," Hendry said. "Probably my enthusiasm a few years back and my aggression to try to knock that door down probably led to a couple of decisions I shouldn't have made that ended up being not good for the organization, and certainly didn't turn into more wins."
Hendry also leaves a legacy of loyalty, both among players and front-office personnel.
Pitcher Kerry Wood, a longtime favorite of Cubs fans, came back to the team last winter for one year and $1.5 million after being away for two seasons. Wood and Hendry got the deal done essentially in one night, when Wood came to Chicago last December for former Cubs legend Ron Santo's funeral.
"It's a sad day, obviously," for me," said Wood, who came up through the minor leagues when Hendry was the scouting and farm director. "Going on 17 years, me and Jim having a relationship. Again, just a said day."
Wood termed Hendry not a "prototypical" general manager, which he meant in a good way. Part of what made Hendry different was that he often visited the clubhouse and talked with players. Wood said Hendry's farewell address to the team in the clubhouse was emotional, but he "got through it."
"I don't think you can ask for a better guy to be around and be able to talk to," Wood said. "It's important for players. Knowing his door was open all the time or you could call any time, you get that feeling from him. I'm not sure you get that from too many other guys."
Another pitcher, Ryan Dempster, was signed by Hendry in January 2004 coming off elbow surgery. Dempster has been the Cubs' closer and a starting pitcher since then.
"He always had the best in mind for the Cubs," Dempster said. "He signed me when I was broke and trying to get fixed. He took a flyer on me. I was happy I was able to go out there and do good by him."