Tom Ricketts: Next Cubs GM needs to establish a ‘winning culture’
BY TONI GINNETTI firstname.lastname@example.org August 19, 2011 1:34PM
Updated: August 19, 2011 9:07PM
The next Cubs general manager must share a commitment to player development as the cornerstone of the team, be in tune with the newer statistical aspects of baseball analysis and be someone ‘‘from a winning culture’’ who can infuse that here.
Those declarations Friday from team chairman Tom Ricketts were not an indictment of Jim Hendry, who was terminated Friday after 17 years with the team in an unusual delayed dismissal. In fact, Ricketts praised Hendry for his dedication and commitment.
‘‘Nothing should diminish Jim’s legacy,’’ he said. ‘‘And we thank him for his great service.’’
But Ricketts decided last month that Hendry’s nine-year run as GM should end, telling him of his decision July 22. Hendry agreed to stay on through this week to complete the signings of the Cubs’ June draft picks and to get through the July 31 trading deadline, the two men said.
Hendry and Ricketts kept the matter a secret, with Hendry only revealing it Thursday night to his family and Friday morning to his scouting staff, the players and manager Mike Quade in a closed clubhouse meeting.
‘‘He was very, very honest and a classy guy,’’ a sometimes tearful Hendry said of Ricketts. ‘‘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.
‘‘I don’t leave here with any problems. Tom Ricketts is a good man. We just didn’t win enough ballgames. 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 offseason. If I was the one making them, the person after me would have to be wearing it.’’
Hendry had one year worth an estimated $2 million left on his contract
Ricketts said the decision to keep Hendry in place for a month was in the best interests of the team, and Hendry’s relationships with some of the draftees were an important factor. The Cubs have committed some $20 million this season to the development program and draft signees.
Hendry was able to make only one move before the trade deadline, sending Kosuke Fukudome to the Cleveland Indians on July 28. Hendry and Ricketts said there were no other viable moves.
‘‘I did feel some of the [bigger] decisions are for the next guy,’’ Hendry said.
The Cubs’ terrible season became the bottom line in the decision to fire Hendry, said Ricketts, whose family took ownership in October 2009.
‘‘First and foremost, we just didn’t win enough games,’’ he said. ‘‘We need to look at those kinds of results.
‘‘Our goal is to win the World Series,’’ he said, adding there is a need now to bring in ‘‘some fresh ideas.’’
While assistant GM Randy Bush will hold the position on an interim basis, Ricketts said Bush will not be considered for the job.
The search begins immediately for Hendry’s successor, with no set deadline. The Cubs’ organizational meetings are held in October, a likely target for filling the job, but free-agent movement happens a week after the conclusion of the World Series. If there are personnel decisions to be made before a GM is in place, Ricketts said he would consult with other baseball-operations people, such as player-development director Oneiri Fleita and scouting director Tim Wilkin.
Ricketts stressed that his family wants the organization to develop a single-minded approach from the minor leagues up to the big-league team and will look for someone with experience. But he didn’t rule out considering a young assistant GM.
‘‘The GM will be responsible for the baseball operations,’’ Ricketts said. ‘‘The results are his, and he owns them. They have to be able to have the freedom to hire the people they feel will give them results,’’ including the field manager, he said.