After 17 years with the Cubs organization, the last nine as GM, Jim Hendry was dismissed today and replaced on an interim basis by assistant GM Randy Bush. Hendry was the third longest-tenured GM in the National League. Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts said he would go outside the organization to hire a full-time GM.
Hendry made a lot of news with big-money signings as well as overseeing three trips to the post-season (2003, 2007, 2008). The 2003 club jumped up to a 3-1 advantage over the Florida Marlins in the NLCS only to see them lose game five, give up a late game-six lead (the Bartman game) and ultimately lose the series to eventual World Series champion Florida.
After the 2002 season, Hendry brought manager Dusty Baker over from San Francisco where he had just led the Giants to a World Series berth that ended in a loss to the Angels. Baker was at the helm of the 2003 Cubs and it can be argued that it was that year that the club transitioned from “loveable losers” to expected contenders.
Hendry signed OF Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year deal before the 2007 season and also added LHP Ted Lilly while 3B Aramis Ramirez was extended. Manager Lou Piniella was hired and the 96-loss 2006 season looked to be firmly in the rear-view mirror.
The 2007 and 2008 seasons ended with the Cubs getting swept in the NLDS both times. In 2008, Carlos Zambrano was signed to a five-year deal and the club went on to post the best record in baseball, only to be routed by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Since the 2008 post-season it has been downhill for the Cubs and some of Hendry’s deals came back to haunt him badly. Troubled OF Milton Bradley got three years/$30M in 2009. But there has been some bad luck involved as well.
The 2003 club had 22-year old Mark Prior as well as Kerry Wood , who was having his last workhorse year as a starter. Both had their careers marred by injury and fellow 2003 starter Carlos Zambrano ended up having trouble controlling his emotions on and off the mound. Big Z’s troubles continue to this day.
Hendry also acquired OF Josh Hamilton briefly in 2007 but quickly dealt him to Cincinnati for cash considerations. Hamilton broke a lot of hearts along the way but finally emerged as the player many expected him to be to win the AL MVP last year.
Hendry revealed today that Ricketts had notified him on July 22nd that a change was going to be made but that Hendry would be kept on to get through the non-waiver trade deadline and the August 15th signing deadline for the first-year player draft.