A number of fans have given up on the season and have taken up a new sport - Hendry jousting. They smell blood in the water, given the disappointment of this winning-but-not-winning-enough season. Not content to wait and see how the season plays out, they want the hollow victory of a Hendry firing and they want it yesterday.
I do not think Jim Hendry is without blame (Jim Hendry, after all, admits this himself). I think he made decisions this year which have hurt our chances at a playoff berth and not just on issues the result couldn't be foreseen. But there's a difference between thinking someone made mistakes and thinking someone should be fired. Jim Hendry is one of the better GMs in baseball. He's not the best, but he is far from the worst. The odds are high that the next GM of the Cubs will not be as good as Jim Hendry. Let me show you why I think this.
Jim Hendry has been running the Cubs since the 2003 season. From 2003-2008, the Cubs have one of the better records in baseball if you count by two factors - playoff berths and 85+ win seasons. If we ended the season today (projecting that teams would win and lose at their current rates for the rest of the season) we can look at the 30 baseball organizations from 2003-2009 like this:
.929 Red Sox – playoffs 6/7; over 85 wins 7/7
.929 Yankees – playoffs 6/7; over 85 wins 7/7
.786 Angels – playoffs 5/7; over 85 wins 6/7
.714 Phillies – playoffs 3/7; over 85 wins 7/7
.643 Cardinals – playoffs 4/7; over 85 wins 5/7
.571 Dodgers – playoffs 4/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.500 Twins – playoffs 3/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.500 Braves – playoffs 3/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.500 Cubs – playoffs 3/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.429 White Sox – playoffs 2/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.429 A’s – playoffs 2/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.429 Astros – playoffs 2/7; over 85 wins 4/7
.357 Padres – playoffs 2/7; over 85 wins 3/7
.357 Tigers – playoffs 2/7; over 85 wins 3/7
.286 Rockies – playoffs 2/7; over 85 wins 2/7
.286 Mets – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 3/7
.286 Giants – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 3/7
.214 Marlins – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 2/7
.214 Indians – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 2/7
.214 Rays – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 2/7
.214 Blue Jays – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 3/7
.143 D’backs – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 1/7
.143 Brewers – playoffs 1/7; over 85 wins 1/7
.143 Mariners – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 2/7
.143 Rangers – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 2/7
.000 Nationals – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 0/7
.000 Pirates – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 0/7
.000 Royals – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 0/7
.000 Reds – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 0/7
.000 O’s – playoffs 0/7; over 85 wins 0/7
We see that there are three teams that have been run spectacularly over this time period: the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels. There are also three teams that have been run very well, the Phillies, the Cardinals, and the Dodgers. The next tier of teams includes the Cubs and it includes teams that are often considered models - the Braves and Twins. The Cubs have clearly been in the top third of baseball teams since Jim Hendry took over.
Another thing to consider here is how exceptionally rare a run of 3 playoff berths in a row are. There are the exceptions - the Braves streak of 11 and the Yankees streak of 13. Other than them, only six teams have managed to make the playoffs in streaks of 3 or more years since 2003. The Angels and Phillies may join that club this year, but then the season's not over yet and they may not.
Let me interrupt here suggesting that one of the reasons it is so difficult to be at the top of baseball for more than two years in a row are the injuries which can cause such a drop in production. The Cubs have gone from the second best offense to the 22nd best offense from 2008-2009. Injuries seem to be playing a big role in this.
But anyway, back to the real question - what GM could we get who would be better than Jim Hendry? Bill Stoneman, John Schuerholz, Brian Cashman, and Theo Epstein would be improvements. They’re not available. It's debatable, I suppose, but Walt Jocketty and Terry Ryan would probably be better GMs. Either way, they’re not available.
Having said that, every one one of those guys have their own deals of shame, deals that are on a level with the contract to Soriano (which everyone wasnts to belittle, while ignoring how it has helped the Cubs get to the post-season). Stoneman has Sarge Jr. Jocketty has the disastrous Mark Mulder trade. Epstein has the ongoing SS debacle since trading Nomar. Cashman has Pavano and Kei Igawa.
Of course, these GMs have been more good than bad, and since they're not available to the Cubs, some people want to raid their front offices and get minds who have learned under them. OK, but that’s been tried and hasn’t worked out so well. JP Riccardi and Paul DePodesta came out of Oakland and have been disappointments. Josh Byrnes came out of Boston and hasn’t fared so well. Dayton Moore was the Assistant GM in Atlanta and has been, arguably, one of the worst GMs in baseball over the past few years. In particular, the player development side has been a problem for Byrnes, Riccardi, and Moore something that many people point to as a weakness in Jim Hendy (a charge which tends to ignore the development of pitchers and focus on the development of all-star level hitters).
So, let's set aside the exaggerations and the strawmen and get to the real issue. If you think Jim Hendry has to go, who will be better than him that we can get?