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Cubs GM Jim Hendry: The Worst GM in Chicago: Part 1: The Good

Darrell HorwitzSenior Writer IIJune 14, 2009

MILWAUKEE - JUNE 4: General Manager Jim Hendry of the Chicago Cubs talks with reporters before a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park June 4, 2007 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Watching Nick Punto of the Twins bunt for a base hit with two outs to score a run in today’s Cub game exemplifies everything that is wrong with the Cubs and the way Cub GM Jim Hendry has constructed this team.

I’m not really directly comparing him to the other GM’s in Chicago, but with the money he has had to work with, I think he has done a horrible job of putting together a team, and building an organization.

From people that don’t really know baseball, I’m going to get the argument about how can I criticize someone whose teams have made the playoffs three times in the last six years, and consecutively for the first time in 100 years.

When making that argument, you have to take in consideration the competition in your division, what they have to work with, and how well he utilized what he had. You also have to look at what could he have done better, and that’s a really long list.

Since officially taking over the spot mid-2002, I’m going to go Clint Eastwood on him and rate the “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" on the moves he has made.

The bad and the ugly are so long, this is going to be a trilogy. Stay tuned in the near future for the next exciting episode of this continuing serial.

I’m also going to tell you why even some of his best moves were not really all that great. I’m not going to cover every single move he has made; just the ones that I think have the greatest significance.

THE GOOD

After Corey Patterson went down, he traded journeyman Jose Hernandez and touted prospect Bobby Hill for Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton.

Lofton energized the team from the lead-off position and was one of the biggest reasons they made the playoffs in 2003.

Ramirez has been a God-send at the hot corner. He’s the first legitimate third sacker the Cubs have had since Bill Madlock, a player often forgotten when fans talk about past Cub third baseman.

Hernandez was what he was, and Hill, as the norm in the Cub organization, busted out.

On paper and in the field a great trade, but on behalf of the Pirates, it was a salary dump. They knew they wouldn’t be able to afford Ramirez in the future and were trying to salvage whatever they could out of the trade.

If everything were equal monetarily, Hendry would never have pulled off this heist. But he made the trade, so I’ll give him credit for it.

A similar deal involved acquiring Derrek Lee from the Marlins. The Cubs gave up another highly touted prospect in Hee Seop Choi for Lee. The Marlins were also doing their every four years or so salary dump.

Choi also failed like almost all position players the Cubs develop (I use that term loosely).

Lee has solidified first base for the Cubs for the past several years, though his power has dissipated in the past few years since he injured his wrist in a play at first with Rafael Furcal.

You could question if it’s the wrist or maybe something else. You know what I’m talking about. Nothing has ever been said about Lee and you know what, but in today’s game, anything is possible.

Also, he came from Pro Player’s Stadium in Florida that was a ‘Death Valley’ for sluggers, and he still averaged close to 27 homers with the fish. He had two fine seasons with the Cubs after coming over, including a career year in 2005 when he belted forty-six dingers.

But he has dropped off since, and you have to wonder.

It’s still another winner on Jim Hendry’s scorecard.

He also stole Mark Grudzielanek and Eric Karros from the Dodgers for the beleaguered Todd Hundley. They helped lead the Cubs to the playoffs in that 2003 season.

Yet again, this was a trade that was considered let me trade my garbage for your garbage. Grudzielanek and Karros weren’t garbage; just overpaid veterans the Dodgers were trying to dump.

Hundley was overpaid garbage.

Another winner for Hendry.

Last year after the Brewers secured C.C. Sabathia, Hendry countered by getting injury prone Rich Harden for some non-descript players. Harden has pitched very well for the Cubs and this was a nice move by him.

I also liked his trade for Nomar Garciaparra in 2004 at the trade deadline. The trade didn’t work out as planned, but it showed that Hendry was going for it and trying to do whatever he could to win that year.

He also picked up Matt Murton in that deal who I thought had some potential, but that potential was wasted when he ran into the impatient Lou Piniella, who never gave him a chance.

The only player of significance the Cubs gave up was Brendan Harris. He’s been an okay player, but nothing special.

I give Hendry an E for effort on this one.

Signing Ted Lilly as a free-agent while Hendry was in a hospital bed has proven to be a life-saver, no pun intended.

Lilly has arguably been the Cubs best pitcher since coming over.

Signing Mark DeRosa was another great move despite the criticism he received at the time when everybody said you signed who for how much. That included me.

While the versatile DeRosa turned out to be a great signing, I have a feeling we’re going to see his name again in a not so good category.

Ryan Dempster came off arm surgery when Hendry took a chance on him, and while he took a lot of criticism when he was the closer, you can’t argue with what he has done since he signed with the team, including winning 17 games last year. Good move.

Dumping the albatross Sammy Sosa, Hendry was able to secure minor leaguer Mike Fontenot in return who has been a good contributor for the team, though not quite so good this year. When do the Cubs ever get a minor league player in a trade that makes the big league roster and contributes? Fontenot has. That in itself is a miracle.

Being patient and waiting until Dusty Baker was available after the 2002 season was a great move by Hendry. He had led the Giants to the World Series in 2002.

Normally the Cubs settle for managers with training wheels.

Baker took the team to the brink of the World Series in 2003; just one game away. He soon fell out of favor and was informed he was no longer needed after the 2006 season.

It was not all his fault. In fact, most of the blame belongs to Hendry for the team he put on the field the last two years, but this is the good part of the trilogy, so excuse me for losing focus.

He also hired the grizzled veteran Lou Piniella to run the show after Baker. I thought it was a good choice at the time. Piniella led the Cubs to consecutive division titles for the first time in a hundred years.

Unfortunately he went on vacation during the playoffs and looked like he belonged in a nursing home or a homeless shelter with his disheveled look.

I’m not so sure if I’m too fond of him now as he keeps repeating he has no answers for the Cubs June swoon. I like my managers to have a solution. Even if he doesn’t have one, I don’t want to hear that he doesn’t know what to do.

Again I digress, but we’re at the end of Part 1 and heading to The Bad, so this is a perfect segue.

Look for Part 2 coming soon to a computer near you. It could be released Tuesday.

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