For Cubs and Jim Hendry, the past meets the pleasant
BY JOE COWLEY email@example.com February 19, 2012 9:14PM
FILE - This May 12, 2011, file photo shows Chicago Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, center, talking with reporters before a baseball game between the Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, in Chicago. The Cubs have fired Hendry after another disappointing season. The Cubs announced the move Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, before a game with the rival St. Louis Cardinals. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Updated: March 21, 2012 8:15AM
Not one finger pointed, not one swipe taken, seemingly not an ounce of animosity.
It’s obvious this is not a South Side story.
And Jim Hendry was never one to muddy up the laundry much, even when he had every right to. He’s an old-school baseball guy who preaches and practices the idea of keeping flamethrowers away from bridges.
That can’t be easy, considering that what Hendry did in his time as Cubs general manager has been eclipsed by Theo Epstein’s presence in just a matter of months. Forgotten, as all of Cubbie Nation awaits Epstein turning water into wine.
Quick reminder: Hendry goes down as the only GM in Cubs history to oversee three postseason runs, and he’s the first to oversee consecutive postseason berths since the 1930s.
When the history of the franchise is a goat and a 103-year drought since the last championship trophy, what Hendry did in his tenure should be regarded better.
‘‘When you have a couple of bad years in the end, it changes people’s minds — I get that,’’ he said in a phone interview on Sunday. ‘‘Look, Theo has done great things in this game at such a young age, and he will be great in Chicago. I did some good things, worked for a lot of good people and had a lot of good people work for me. Obviously, I didn’t get the championship we all wanted, but I’m not dwelling on all of that.
‘‘Over time, the guys I worked for, the guys we had in uniform, I’m comfortable with my reputation.’’
Respect on both sides
It’s a reputation that hasn’t had one stone thrown at it.
That’s the thing about Hendry. He would have been second-guessing the work he did for 17 years with the Cubs if members of the organization had come out and criticized him after his firing in August. There hasn’t been a peep.
As a matter of fact, before Hendry took a job in New York as a special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, he was still visiting friends and co-workers at Wrigley and also was talking with Epstein.
‘‘I’m not one to look back with animosity, however people or fans want to view my time there,’’ Hendry said. ‘‘I’m still very close to people there, and I always had a good relationship with Theo. I mean, 17 years with one organization — I’m fortunate to have had that. There are better men than me that have lost their jobs in this game.’’
It didn’t take Hendry long to find a new one. He was courted by numerous organizations, but the Yankees gig was too perfect to pass up. Call it the job that had the most variety. That included a bit more family time than the Cubs GM seat allowed.
Not the Cubs’ culture anymore
There’s the elephant in the room of going from an organization that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908 to one whose employees bite their nails over title droughts that last longer than a few years.
‘‘I mean, it’s the Yankees,’’ Hendry said. ‘‘Obviously they don’t need me to have been successful all these years, but Brian was very good as far as how he felt I could help them. This is the most storied franchise in sports. To be wanted is just nice. And I know it would seem obvious, but I really haven’t compared this organization to the one where I’ve been all those years. It just hasn’t come up.’’
Neither has the idea of having “GM” on his parking spot again.
‘‘It’s not something I’m worrying about,’’ Hendry said. ‘‘I’m just excited to do some things I did before I was a GM.’’
Look, the final chapters of the Hendry story as Cubs GM were ugly, no doubt. But they would have been ugly no matter who the GM was. It was a no-win job, from the Tribune Co. signing big-name players to ridiculous contracts on Hendry’s watch to the Ricketts family taking over and bumping into walls as they grew into big-boy owners. Add Crane Kenney buzzing around the offices in his clown car, and Hendry’s days were numbered after the Cubs fizzled in the 2008 postseason.
In Theo the North Side trusts.
But remember, Epstein has some shoes to fill — larger ones than people are choosing to remember.