In a move that was no surprise to most Chicago Cubs fans, the Cubs and general manager Jim Hendry parted ways on Friday. Hendry's initial track record—the only general manager to take to the Cubs to three playoff appearances—does not seem all that bad, but during his tenure, Hendry overspent on many players that never lived up to their contracts.
I look at the departure of Hendry in two different ways. I can appreciate his effort, at times, to make the organization better. He was able to pry away guys like Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee for virtually nothing, but he also gave an aging Alfonso Soriano a $136 million contract. In Hendry's defense, someone else was going to give Soriano that money, and it is hard to know whether or not he could live up to that contract.
Soriano's first two years in Chicago made it appear as though that contract was worth the money, but ever since, his play has declined. I supported the decision to sign him then, and I still think it was the right move. The Cubs at that time had not been to the playoffs since 2003 and needed something to get them over that hump. Soriano provide some pop at the top of the lineup, which in turn allowed the Cubs to win two straight central division titles, but ultimately their 136 million dollar man never showed up.
On the other sign of the coin, Hendry's biggest blunder was the signing of Milton Bradley. In no way did Bradley seem like a good fit with the Cubs, or any team in general. He was a problem from day one, never contributed on the field, and was suspended at the end of the season.
Hendry was able to trade Bradley during that offseason for Carlos Silva, who at first seemed to be a nice return, but during a spat with the manager and Hendry this Spring Training, Silva too was sent packing.
When I look back at Hendry's tenure with the Cubs, I will remember the three playoff teams he put in place and the great deals he made. However, like all other Cubs general managers in the past 100-plus years, he just couldn't get it done. There's always next year...