Cubs Say Goodbye To Jim Hendry

"We didn't win enough games."

General managers, like managers, are hired to be fired. Jim Hendry knew that as well as anyone. He swung for the fences and you can argue that many of the moves that precipitated his downfall were borne of his urgency to bring a World Series to Wrigley Field. He wanted it that bad and believed the Cub faithful deserved it.

I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Jim and what has been repeated over and over today is true. You always knew where you stood with him and he was proud of how he did business. In one of my interviews with him, he explained it this way:

"I try to feel like if a trade is good for both teams, that’s what you want. You want it to work out both ways, because it makes the next trade a lot easier to make. That why I believe in open disclosure on injuries and things like that. I’ve made a couple trades with Billy Beane and we’ve gotten to the point where we can make them in twenty minutes some days. For example, I didn’t want Sean Gallagher to leave and I wanted him to pitch well for the A’s when we got Rich Harden. There has to be that kind of mutual respect. If you’re always trying to beat the heck out of the other guy in a trade, you won’t be making too many trades with him.

Over time, you build relationships the way you want to off the field. You try to be truthful. You be blunt. I’ve found I’ve probably spend more time with players than other GMs. That was a good thing, because I had a lot of them coming up through the system, or drafted them, or traded for them, so I have my hands in almost all of them in some way. At the same time, even when they’re here and playing well, you have to remind yourself your decisions have to be based on what’s good for the Cubs first and the player second. I try to do always do that, especially when I see something coming that might be an exit for that player, whether it’s the budget, payroll, trade possibilities, I try to be up front with them and tell that day may come. I think over time, I’m certainly not the smartest GM who ever lived, but I’ll be proudest that the players always got it straight and honest from me on a daily basis. I don’t treat them better or worse based on how they played yesterday. I think if you’re fair and honest with people, even if they don’t like the decisions you make, they respect your honesty."

Jim was always consistent with his belief and message that the Cubs would get it done. I think not finishing the job hurt him more than being let go. Tearing it all apart and starting from scratch wasn't an option. He has always understood the fickle nature of the game and would always cite the excitement of July 31, 2004 as a prime example that. Remember how exciting it was at Wrigley that day? The Cubs, coming off a heartbreaking miss at the World Series, had added Greg Maddux and were in the thick of a pennant race and traded for Nomar Garciaparra. It didn't work out. Nomar was always hurt and that team imploded down the stretch, but Hendry was determined to add that next piece.

To me, this thought from him sums up his passion. "I think people know my heart is in the right place. I don’t take it lightly. I expect us to be in the World Series in the next couple of years or I think Tom should get somebody else. I don’t take it lightly and that’s enabled me to roll with the punches. I get a lot of credit and get talked about very favorably when we’re doing well. I take a lot of grief when we’re not, I understand that. That never goes into the play of the importance of what I feel we owe our great fans, not only in Chicago but all over the country, and the responsibility that I have of trying to somehow, some way, win this thing one time."

He didn't get it done, but it wasn't for a lack of trying. He'll land another job and for my money would make a great broadcaster. It's easy to bark "it's about time" when a move like this happens, but I'll miss one of the great baseball men in the game.