I’m surprised at the Jim Hendry firing today. I thought it would have happened sooner.
The issues confronting the Cubs stem from not only the current state of the club, but the position that they were in a few years back under ownership of the Tribune Co.
The mess the Cubs are in now are borne out of actions that Hendry and Tribune did prior. In a lust to break a 100 year (and counting) World Series futility streak, Tribune pulled out the stops to try and get to the promised land before they sold the organization off to the Ricketts family. Hendry led that charge as before Tribune publically made it known they were putting the Loveable Losers up for sale, questionable contracts were doled out and that continued right up to the end when today, Hendry was fired a year before his contract was set to expire
The road to completely hamstringing the club for Tom Ricketts gets its start with the Alfonso Soriano signing. The 8-year, $136 million deal was not only eye-popping in its total dollar amount and length, it was part of Hendry’s overall philosophy of back-loading contracts that made things like trying to off-load contracts at the trade deadline nearly impossible. Soriano’s deal started off reasonable at $7 million in 2007, but ramped up quickly to $13 million for 2008, $16 million for 2009, and from there until his contract expires in 2014, Soriano has been pulling in $18 million annually.
But, that was the tip of the iceberg.
There was Carlos Zambrano (2008-12 at $91.5 million) that has a structure of $15 million in ’08, $17.5 million in 09, $17.875 million in ’10-’11, $18 million. His vesting option year of 2013 isn’t likely to be reached, but it’s a classic Hendry contract.
And you can go on. Aramis Armirez (5/$75 million) and Ryan Demster (4/$52 million), and still owing $11.5 to Carlos Silva for this season plus a $2 million buyout for 2012.
Add it all up and the Cubs ranked 6th in total Opening Day payroll this season ($125,047,329), 3rd in 2010 ($148,809,000), and 3rd in 2009 ($134,809,000).
But, the bottom line is the winning and losing, and it’s the “losing” that the Cubs have been doing a lot of.
The pains of the player payroll can be (somewhat) ignored when there is winning tied to it – a matter of effectiveness even if you are inefficient. The Cubs have been horrendous, posting a 45-70 (.435) record up to today’s firing, a final season record of 75-87 (.463), after going 83-78 (.516) in 2009. Jim, you were heading in the wrong direction, spending too much in the process, and creating horrible contracts along the way that couldn’t be moved.
For the Ricketts family, enough was enough. Time to rebuild, and in that, you rebuild with a new mindset at the General Manager position. Like I said, it’s surprising it took this long to fire Hendry.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, and is a contributor to Forbes SportsMoney blog.. He is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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