|GM Jim Hendry trying to push Cubs to the top|
|Written by Admin|
|Sunday, 24 February 2008 13:58|
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Chicago Cubs' last World Series winner.
``I'm just going by the last five. That's all I've been the GM for,'' Hendry said.
Five years ago the Cubs were right there, five outs from the World Series when they collapsed against the Florida Marlins in Game 6 of the NL championship series and then lost the next night, too.
It's an ever-so-close story that still lingers, but not too much for Hendry.
``It bugs me every now and then and actually I thought we were much better in '04. I thought we were the best team in the league in '04. That's how fragile the world is,'' he said.
``You look back now and we got Kerry Wood and Mark Prior in their prime and Carlos Zambrano coming and we sign Greg Maddux. I say, `Man this thing is not that tough.' It can fall apart on you pretty quick. It's a humbling game.''
After missing out on the NL wild card in 2004 with a final-week slump, the Cubs got back to the playoffs last season, winning the NL Central before being swept in the opening round of the playoffs by Arizona.
Hendry went on a $300 million spending spree last offseason, even wrapping up a deal with lefty Ted Lilly while hooked up to an EKG machine. Later that night, Hendry underwent an angioplasty to open a clogged artery.
Hendry is healthy now - although he's been fighting a bad cold this spring - and is trying to stay with an exercise regimen and shed a few pounds.
In an interview with The Associated Press, he touched on several issues, including the potential sale of the team, the return of former manager Dusty Baker to the same division as the Cubs and how he deals with the second guessing and constant analysis of every move he makes.
Tribune Co. is in the midst of trying to sell the Cubs as part of an $8.2 billion deal to take the company private under the leadership of real estate magnate Sam Zell.
Hendry said the uncertainty has not affected his ability to make deals, such as the $48 million, four-year contract the Cubs gave to Japanese outfielder Kosuke Fukudome this offseason.
``We've moved forward the last couple of years with our payroll,'' Hendry said. ``Nobody has told me we're cutting back in any area. We're going forward in Latin America and Asia. We have a fair budget for the draft and player development this year.''
And Hendry said he's not worried what a change in ownership will mean for him personally.
``You can't control who is going to own the club down the road. I don't know whether Sam Zell is going to keep the club or not. Or who he sells it to. How would I know? I'm not privy to any of that nor should I be,'' he said. ``I just figure it's our job to win enough games where it takes care of itself.''
Baker's contract was not renewed after a last-place finish in 2006. He led the Cubs to their first consecutive winning seasons in more than three decades in 2003 and 2004, but had to withstand a deluge of injuries, especially to top pitchers Wood and Prior.
Now, Baker will be back in Chicago several times as manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
``He belongs managing a club,'' Hendry said, adding that he and Baker had a good relationship. ``It didn't end well but certainly I never put the majority of that as his fault or anything like that. We had a lot of terrible injuries to a great young rotation. ... It just kind of got away from us. I think he'll do well.''
Lou Piniella was brought in to manage the team. It took a while after a slow start, but the Cubs overcame the Milwaukee Brewers and won the division title.
In addition to signing Fukudome to play right field, Hendry brought back Jon Lieber, the Cubs' last 20-game winner in 2001. It's no secret they've been interested in Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, too. Hendry didn't address that issue directly but said the Cubs could still tweak their roster, if it's worth doing.
``I was hoping we would be able to do more after Christmas than we were able to do,'' he said. ``Hopefully, there will be an addition or so made during camp, whether it's significant or not remains to be seen.''
With every move he makes and sometimes with those he doesn't, Hendry is used to being analyzed, criticized and evaluated.
``I try to look at it as, `Who wouldn't want to be the GM of the Chicago Cubs?''' Hendry said. ``It's part of the world now, the scrutiny of the media. At the same time I expect us to be good all the time. If we're not, I usually start with the guy in the mirror first anyway. So it's real simple. If you are good enough to win enough games, you can avoid a whole lot of criticism. If you don't, then you got to expect it.''