Posted on: August 19, 2011 11:48 am
Edited on: August 19, 2011 1:37 pm
We joke about the Cubs and the World Series.
Jim Hendry knew it was no joke. He knew that his job was to end the drought, just as it was Dusty Baker's job, and Lou Piniella's job, and Sammy Sosa's job.
At times, he'd even admit that if his Cubs didn't end the drought soon, ownership would have every right to find someone else to do it.
The drought continues, and now the Cubs will find someone else.
Friday's announcement that the Cubs have fired Hendry as general manager should come as no surprise, despite a few suggestions this summer that the Ricketts family liked Hendry. It shouldn't surprise us, and it can't surprise Hendry.
He had nine years to end a 103-year drought, and he couldn't do it.
In his first full season, the Cubs came within a game of getting to the World Series. In 2007, they won the National League Central. In 2008, they won 97 games and entered the playoffs as one of the World Series favorites.
They went through an ownership change that paralyzed the organization, but that's not enough of an excuse. He had plenty of money to spend, and in too many cases, he spent it poorly.
As he said Friday, "I got more than my fair chance."
It's time for someone else to try.
Who will that be?
The Cubs announced that Randy Bush, Hendry's assistant, will fill in as the interim GM. But theyre expected to hire someone else for the full-time job.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said that he will begin the search immediately, and said he wants to find someone who is strong in player development, has an analytical background and comes from a winning culture.
There has been speculation in baseball that Pat Gillick could be headed to Chicago, but Gillick's friends say he wouldn't want to be a general manager again. Gillick apparently would be open to a job as club president, but Ricketts said Friday: "The new general manager will report directly to me."
Other names that are sure to come up are White Sox assistant Rick Hahn, who interviewed last year for the Mets job; Dodgers GM Ned Colletti, who grew up in the Chicago area and got his start in baseball many years ago with the Cubs; Yankees GM Brian Cashman, whose contract runs out at the end of the year (but is considered unlikely to leave); possibly Rays general manager Andrew Friedman, who has been more prominently mentioned in Houston; former Astros GM Gerry Hunsicker, working as an advisor with the Rays (and could also be a possibility in Houston); Rangers assistant Thad Levine; Blue Jays assistant Tony LaCava; and A's assistant David Forst.
Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, a Chicago native, could well have been on the list, except that he just signed a four-year extension to remain in Detroit.
By this winter, there will likely be other GM openings, as well. Andy MacPhail is thought to be on his way out with the Orioles (either by his choice, ownership's or both), and it's expected that incoming Astros owner Jim Crane will replace Ed Wade. It's also possible that there could be a change in Seattle, where Jack Zduriencik's team is having another disappointing season.
Pirates GM Neal Huntington is also in the final year of his contract, and while he is expected to stay, the team's recent slump has caused some people to wonder what will happen.
Posted on: February 17, 2010 5:53 pm
MESA, Ariz. -- First day of spring training, and the first stop had to be the Cubs.
After all, it was on reporting day last year that Lou Piniella revealed that he spent the winter reading motivational books, and that the sting of two straight three-games-and-out playoff failures still lingered in the organization. How would Piniella react now, after a 2009 season in which the Cubs went no-games-and-already-out of the playoffs?
Turns out 83-78 doesn't linger like a flop in October. Turns out Piniella already has a positive spin on 2009 ("We finished second in the division with a lot of things not going right") and that he has a forward-looking message for 2010.
"Let's get back on top," he said. "I like our baseball team."
There does seem to be an optimism around the Cubs, even after a winter where the big move was getting rid of Milton Bradley. Or maybe that's why they're optimistic.
Actually, I think some of it has to do with the new owners, because by all accounts the Ricketts family have made a terrific first impression with Cubs people.
"They're going to be like the O'Malley's," general manager Jim Hendry predicted. "I think they'll own the club for decades. They really care about running a first-class organization."
It seems reasonable to expect that the Cubs could be major players in the July trade market (last year, they could only make revenue-neutral deals), and maybe on next winter's free-agent market as well. It's worth remembering that while the Cubs could only afford minor moves last July, the rival Cardinals were getting Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa.
It's also worth remembering that as late as Aug. 7, the Cubs and Cardinals were tied for first place.
With the new ownership, there's no doubt pressure on the Cubs to make something happen this year. Piniella is in the last year of his contract. Hendry has two more years left after this one, but after spending $845 million to buy the Cubs, it's not like the cost of eating a contract would stop the new owners from making a change if they wanted to do so.
There's no indication so far that they do, and Hendry said the need to impress the new bosses doesn't affect him.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself every year," he said. "I'm going to be the same guy."
So can the Cubs "get back on top"?
Sure, if you assume that Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Geovany Soto and others can bounce back from disappointing/injury-affected seasons. Sure, if Ted Lilly really is back from offseason surgery by May 1 or even by April 15, as Piniella said today he might be.
The point today was more that the Cubs seem to have normal spring optimism, that 2009 doesn't seem to have lingered into 2010 the way 2008 lingered into 2009.
Piniella on reporting day 2008: "I felt like I was run over by a Mack truck, I'll be honest."
Piniella on reporting day 2009: "We're ready to compete again this year."
And now, spring training can begin.
Posted on: August 5, 2008 3:06 pm
Baseball shouldn't take a chance with lightning. Period.
I was at Wrigley Field Monday night. I saw, heard and felt the lightning strike that ended the Cubs-Astros game. It scared me. It scared everyone.
"I understand that players don't want to be out there (at that point)," umpire crew chief Wally Bell said this morning. "I don't want to be out there."
I don't blame Bell for what happened. I'm not sure I blame the Cubs, either, even though I take issue with general manager Jim Hendry's explanation that "No one was hurt, so in this one, they made the right call."
No, it wasn't the right call, because someone easily could have been hurt.
Baseball has no lightning policy. Now would be a fine time to write one. When there's lightning in the area, when there's a tornado sighted 15 miles from the ballpark, stop the game. End the game.
"Think about it," Astros first baseman Lance Berkman said. "People get killed by lightning strikes all the time. It's not likely, but it's a heck of a lot more likely if you're standing outside in a lightning storm."
Berkman heard ex-teammate Craig Biggio talk many times about being on the field when a friend was killed by lightning. Maybe that's why Berkman had the most sensible reaction to what happened Monday.
"You've got to keep some perspective here," he said. "This is a baseball game and these games are important because teams are trying to make the playoffs and everybody understands that. But at the same time don't lose your mind. You got tornado sirens going off and severe weather all over the place. There's no reason for it. There's no reason to put fans at risk. There's no reason to put players at risk. You put umpires in a bad spot because everybody's like, 'Well, it's on them. They got to make the call.' "
Berkman's right. The key is to figure out a way to keep this from happening again -- and more important, to keep something worse from happening.
"Everybody was at risk," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "Everybody."
And it's not a good enough answer to say that no one got hurt.