So. Anything happen in Cubs World today?
The firing of GM Jim Hendry completely overshadowed one of the better games of the year, a 5-4 Cubs win over the Cardinals in 10 innings. I'll get to some comments about Hendry and his possible successors (it's clear that it won't be Randy Bush, as Tom Ricketts said the next GM will be from outside the organization) after the jump.
First, a few comments about a very entertaining afternoon at Wrigley Field, in front of 42,343 (who also enjoyed some jets from the Chicago Air & Water Show buzzing the park). That was noted as the largest crowd since Opening Day 1978, and there's a story there, too. That was the last Opening Day that bleacher tickets were sold on the day of the game. 3,000 people were in line at 8 a.m. that day and they started scaling the walls, so the park was opened at that time. 45,777 paid that day. By the next year, the Chicago Fire Department came in and limited the number of tickets the Cubs could sell for any game -- you can still see the limits posted inside Wrigley, near the main entrance. Starting in 1979, Opening Day bleachers were sold in advance, and all bleachers were by 1985.
As far as the game was concerned, Randy Wells threw a credible seven innings, making just two mistake pitches, which were crushed for home runs by Yadier Molina (that one looked like it needed a bit of wind help) and David Freese, who has become a Cub-killer when healthy (5-for-16 vs. the Cubs this year, but with a double, three HR and seven RBI).
The Cubs came back from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits; Darwin Barney hit his second HR of the year and then tripled past a diving Lance Berkman in right field; he scored on another triple to make it 4-3 and the Cubs tied it in the eighth.
A bit of bad baserunning by Tony Campana -- who was totally deked by Ryan Theriot on a ball that wasn't even in the infield, after Theriot made an error allowing Campana to reach -- took the Cubs out of a possible game-winning opportunity in the ninth, but Carlos Marmol and Sean Marshall were both outstanding today and in the 10th, Marlon Byrd had his first sacrifice bunt as a Cub. In fact, that was his first sac bunt since 2008, after Geovany Soto singled. Tyler Colvin looked bad on the first two pitches of his at-bat off Octavio Dotel, but then lined a single up the middle to win it.
An eventful day at the ballpark -- always nice to beat the Cardinals -- and even bigger events happened before the game started. Follow me past the jump for more on the firing of Jim Hendry.
Many things have been revealed about the dismissal of Jim Hendry as GM of the Cubs, including the fact that he was told on July 22, but was asked to stay on through the trading deadline and signings of draft picks. Why, then, announce this now instead of at the end of the season? I suppose it's because this way, Tom Ricketts -- who will have the new GM report directly to him -- can get the process under way of talking to candidates. The organizational meetings usually take place in mid to late October, so you'd want to have someone in place by then, and announcing this at season's end wouldn't give very much time to hire someone.
The fact that the new GM will come from outside the organization will mean a major change in the way Cubs baseball operations are run. Hendry wasn't just GM for the last nine years -- he had various roles in minor league operations and scouting since 1995. That's 16 years' worth of influence on the Cubs, a very long time in today's baseball world, and the third longest tenure as GM in Cubs history (Jim Gallagher, 1940-49, and John Holland, 1957-75, served longer in the role). It will be very different -- and that, as I wrote just yesterday, is a good thing. Hendry did do a lot of good things for the Cubs, just not enough of them, and sometimes in any business, it is time to make a change and go in a different direction. This is one of those times.
I wish Jim Hendry well. He seems like a real good guy -- someone you'd love to share baseball small talk with, and he has handled this dismissal in a classy way. As most of you know, I defended him for quite a long time. But over the last couple of months, just as Tom Ricketts did, I came to the conclusion that it was time.
Ricketts also said he would highly recommend to whoever his new hire is, that he retain Oneri Fleita as minor league director and Tim Wilken as scouting director. I concur with that. The system has begun to produce good major league players and more are in the pipeline. Many people here have praised this year's draft, both for who Wilken chose and the willingness of the organization to spend money to sign them (as well as spending quite a bit on international signings). This is a good thing, and Wilken in particular has an excellent track record in drafting and helping to build good teams in both Toronto and Tampa Bay. It would be a great thing if a new philosophy could be built from the top with an experienced GM hired, but at the same time, not rip apart a good base that is being built from below.
I did hear a couple of rumors today about possible candidates for the job -- both of whom have been mentioned here before: Brian Cashman of the Yankees and Andrew Friedman of the Rays. Both have had success in their current jobs. The question I'd have about Cashman: how much of his success is due to his work, and how much of it because he's had a virtually unlimited bankroll? Friedman is one of the "young guns" school of GM's; he's 34 years old (35 in November) and has done an excellent job over the last six years in Tampa, bringing the Rays to the World Series in 2008 and keeping them in contention despite having very little money to work with. I'd be happy with either of those men being hired.
Though nothing specific was said about it today, I presume that the dismissal of Hendry also means that Mike Quade will be let go as manager at the end of the season; any new GM would want to bring in his own manager. Or perhaps Ryne Sandberg can be enticed to return, now that Hendry is gone -- it does seem that there was some personal animosity between the two. I'm not saying that Sandberg is the be-all and end-all solution to the manager's spot with the Cubs; his hiring would, at the very least, give a big PR boost to a team that could sorely use it. Could he fail? Sure. But he might also turn into the next Mike Scioscia. It's worth thinking about, anyway.
Interestingly enough, Hendry ended his Cubs tenure with a winning record as GM: 749-748. Of his eight full seasons (2003-10), five of them ended with winning records, three of them in the postseason. That's good -- but obviously, not good enough. And today, oddly enough, was the 162nd game managed by Quade (37 last year, 125 this year). Record: 79-83, which could have been 81-81 if not for those two disastrous blown games in Houston this week.
Onward. And hopefully, upward to the World Series title we have all been waiting for, for far too long.