Cubs delayed firing of GM Jim Hendry for a month
BY TONI GINNETTI Staff Reporter August 19, 2011 10:22AM
Updated: August 19, 2011 5:03PM
A week after the All Star break, with the Cubs’ record having fallen 21 games below .500 (39-60), team owner Tom Ricketts and his family made the final decision to fire general manager Jim Hendry.
But breaking the business decision to someone he felt had been a dedicated GM devoted fully to the team was the harder part.
After an off day July 21, he went to Hendry’s office as a series with the Houston Astros was to start.
``I just thought the right thing to do giving how much I respect [Hendry], was to let him know,’’ Ricketts said.
A sometimes tearful Hendry on Friday related the meeting as he spent his last day with the organization that hired him 17 years before.
``He was very, very honest and a classy guy,’’ Hendry said. ``At that time we decided it was best to stay on [temporarily.] We had a [signing] deadline coming with the draft choices [from June]. I apologize not telling anyone sooner. It was a little tough at the end. Maybe it was the best kept secret in Cub history.’’
Hendry’s family didn’t know until Thursday night when he told family, including his two young children, and some friends. He told his staff, players and the team on Friday morning.
``He got through it,’’ Kerry Wood said of Hendry’s closed door emotional meeting with the team. ``Any of us in a position that long and addressing what he had to, he got through it. I think it was important for him to talk to us.’’
Hendry, 56, was as emotional in his last official capacity, choking back tears at times as he spoke of his love for the organization and regrets for not having achieved the elusive goal of a World Series.
``I don’t leave here with any problems,’’ he said. ``Tom Ricketts is a good man. We just didn’t win enough ball games. That’s the bottom line. This is professional baseball. He did what he had to and treated me great the last two years.
``There are a lot of major decisions that have to be made this off season. If I was the one making them, the person after me would have to be wearing it,’’ he said of the firing with one year worth an estimated $2 million remaining on his contract.
Both Hendry and Ricketts said the decision to keep Hendry in place for a month was in the best interests of the team, Ricketts saying Hendry had a free hand to continue running the team. His relationship with some of the draftees was an important factor, Ricketts said, the team having committed some $20 million this season to the development side.
Hendry was able to make only one July 31 move, sending Kosuke Fukudome to the Cleveland Indians. Both Hendry and Ricketts said there were no other moves that became viable for the team.
``I did feel some of the [bigger] decisions are for the next guy,’’ he said of the off season. ``The next person should be making those decisions.’’
Hendry said his lame duck status didn’t affect his decisions---including last week when he put Carlos Zambrano on the disqualified list.
``He never missed a beat,’’ Ricketts said. ``It’s a credit to his character that we were able to work in that awkward situation.’
Hendry came to the Cubs in 1994 from the Florida Marlins where he had spent three years after eight seasons as the head coach of the Creighton Blue Jays where he won national coach of the year honors in 1991. He rose from player development director to vice president/general manager on July 5, 2002 under then-team president Andy MacPhail. He is the only Cubs general manager to have overseen three post-season trips--in 2003, 2007 and 2008, and the third longest-tenured general manager in team history behind John Holland (1957-75) and James Gallagher (1940-49).
The Cubs went 749-748 in his tenure.