Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011
By Patrick Mooney
In an industry increasingly run by Ivy League graduates, Jim Hendry is old-school, a general manager whod rather work the phones than crunch numbers on a spreadsheet.
Ideally Hendry would make deals in a world without blogs or Twitter or websites dedicated to firing people. But in an age where everyones suddenly an expert, Hendrys boss is taking the long view.
How does Hendry still have a job? Thats what one fan asked Tom Ricketts on Saturday at the Hilton Chicago, and the answer may have been the most revealing moment this weekend at the Cubs Convention.
In the roughly 15 months the Ricketts family has controlled the team, theyve attended the organizational meetings, visited all the minor-league affiliates and spoke with scouts and coaches to get a better idea of how this business runs.
Whatever you think of Hendry, know that he has the full support of ownership.
It would be incredibly unfair to walk into the organization and judge people without enough information and make big changes when we dont really know what the story is, Ricketts said. Over the past year Ive grown in confidence with Jim. He has a good team of people that hes put together. I think thats the real judge of how well he does.
Ricketts will be grading Hendry on how many players the farm system consistently produces, and how well he spends the major-league payroll. This is a culture where board member Todd Ricketts will casually mention Jose Serra, the scout who signed Starlin Castro out of the Dominican Republic for 50,000.
Ricketts believes in a future built around Castro, Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin. He credits two Hendry allies scouting director Tim Wilken and vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita for those finds and money in the budget has been shifted to their departments.
Ricketts sees that Hendry has surrounded himself with what he would call high-end guys, like Greg Maddux. Family obligations have so far prevented Maddux from taking on a full-time role in the front office, but he has already become a trusted advisor to Hendry.
Whatever you think of ownership, they do not give in easily to popular sentiment. Ricketts again backed Hendry on the manager question.
Ryne Sandberg is a highly valued, treasured member of the Cubs family and the fact is that hes always welcome here and always will be, Ricketts said. He is one of us. When Jim decided and we supported (putting) Mike Quade in as manager I think it was Rynes decision that he would have a better chance of becoming a major-league manager if he went to work in a different organization. He certainly wasnt asked to leave or nudged in any way. It was a decision he made on his own.
That Hendry is heading into his 17th season in the Cubs organization is a testament to his networking and political skills.
Ricketts wants more quantitative voices in the front office, and has made hires to that end. He also expects baseball operations to become smarter in how it drafts contracts.
At the winter meetings, Hendry negotiated against Scott Boras and convinced Carlos Pena to sign a one-year, 10 million contract that will be paid out in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Hendry gets along well with baseballs most powerful agent, and those types of connections paid off in reaching an agreement with Kerry Wood. Theyve known each other since Wood was a teenager.
(Theres a) trust factor, Hendry said. He knows that hes always got it straight from the front office here.
Hendry declined to comment when a fan mentioned Albert Pujols as a possibility for 2012 once Penas pillow contract expires. But on the same day the Cardinals made it known that Pujols wont discuss an extension once spring training starts, Ricketts sounded like he knew who he wanted to be calling agents, scouts and players.
Its still a relationship business, Hendry said. At the end of the day, when its time to make deals, a lot of it is relationships and how you build them and who trusts you and who you can trust.
PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.