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Did the Cubs' Jim Hendry Deserve to be Fired?

It’s about time.

All indications are that Hendry is one of the great guys in baseball. Honest. Hard-working. Compassionate.

But realistically, signing Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez to those contracts? And Carlos Silva?

Hendry’s tumultuous tenure with the Cubs comes to an end. He began his career with the Cubs in 1995 in Player Development, and had been the GM since midseason in 2002. Since that time the Cubs have been division winners, in last place, division winners again and had back-to-back fifth-place finishes in a six-team division.

Supporters will point to the fact that Hendry is the only GM in team history to take the Cubs to the postseason three times. I guess it’s flattering to say that the Cubs were a game over .500 during his tenure.

Detractors will ask, “What have you done for me lately.” Over the last three seasons (including 2011), the Cubs have had either the highest or second-highest payroll in the National League. Coming off back-to-back division titles in 2007-08, the Cubs finished second then plummeted in 2010, winning just 75 games. This season, the club is on pace to lose more than 90.

Does the good outweigh the bad?

His two best moves: Hiring Dusty Baker away from NL Champion San Francisco just days after the Giants lost the 2002 World Series. And firing Baker and hiring Lou Piniella in 2007.
The result after the Baker hiring was that a 95-loss team in 2002 turned into a division champion and winners of a postseason series for the first time since 1908. Not bad.

The Piniella hiring also yielded immediate positive results. A 96-loss last-place team became a back-to-back division winner.

Meanwhile, on the player front, Hendry’s moves weren’t too productive.

He managed to deal an unhappy Sammy Sosa and unload Milton Bradley, but in return for Bradley he received a bigger financial problem in Silva. He traded Bill Mueller a year before he would win a batting title in the American League. None of the players he received in trades, save Lee and Ramirez, would make significant contributions to the Cubs.

But ultimately it was his signings that led to his demise.

Alfonso Soriano, 8 years, $136M through 2014
Aramis Ramirez, 5 years, $75M
Milton Bradley, 3 years, $30M
Carlos Zambrano, 5 years, $91.5M, through 2012

And Chicago actually had the rights to Josh Hamilton for a brief time. It was the Cubs that selected him from the Rays in the Rule 5 draft before immediately selling his rights to the more astute Cincinnati Reds.

Ouch. Two years later, the Cubs purchased Jim Brower and David Patton from the Reds. So, I guess they’re kinda even.

So, was the firing necessary? Yes. And now we’ll see if the next Chicago GM can do something others haven’t been able to do in more than 100 years.