When I woke up this morning, I had my opinion of Jim Hendry. I thought he was a man who loved three things: Krispy Kreme donuts, doing shots of Jack Daniel’s out of Larry Rothschild’s navel, and second basemen. After speaking to the man, I am firmly convinced that only one or maybe two of those things are true.
HJE‘s own Section 242 was good enough to invite me to a luncheon at which Jim Hendry was the keynote speaker. As you know, I had no intention of letting Hendry get away without me asking him at least one “tough” question.
As I walked into the luncheon, I was relieved to see that my table was far enough away from Hendry’s so that I was in no danger of getting hit with flying spittle or bits of food. Confident I was safe, I stowed my poncho and umbrella under my seat and sat down.
After lunch was served, Hendry was introduced. He took the podium and proceeded to give a bit of the “company line.” He said that it was a good first year for Lou, but they are gearing up to go further in the playoffs this year. He thinks the team has improved so far this offseason, but that he wants to make “two significant moves” before Spring Training. Let’s make it Bedard and Roberts, Jim (I call him “Jim” now). He also mentioned that he appreciates that none of his comments he’s made in this luncheon have ever made it to the press in the past. Unless I’m getting paid for this, I don’t think HJE counts, so here we go.
Jim opened the floor to questions and did a fantastic job answering them in a pretty forthright manner. I’m certain these answers aren’t in order, and I apologize for the “stream of thought” feel to this post, but I’m trying to put everything I can think of into post form as soon as I can.
Jim took us around the NL Central and said what he thought of the other teams’ moves. He didn’t seem impressed. He even entirely forgot to mention the Cardinals until someone reminded him. Upon being reminded, he all but said that they’re going to suck after losing Jim Edmonds, Scott Rolen, and Walt Jocketty. I’m not sure, but it’s possible that Jim is in love with Jocketty. He had nothing but good things to say about him. He even pointed out that if he had brought as much success to the Cubs as Jocketty has brought to the Cardinals, he would have a statue built for him outside of Wrigley. I don’t know if there’s that much copper in the city, Jim.
The most memorable answer was to a question which apparently came from Chris Crocker. Some whiny bitch asked about Mark Prior. I can’t confirm or disconfirm whether or not the question-asker actually cried, but he was pretty choked up as he asked Hendry why he did not re-sign Prior. As you know, I was one of the people disappointed that Hendry didn’t take a(nother) risk with Prior.
Jim responded with a bitter note in his voice. He made Prior an incredibly fair offer. I say again. He made Prior an INCREDIBLY fair offer. Jim offered him a $1.5M contract for 2008 with the possibility of $5M in incentives. After “paying him $7M to sit in a tub for two years” (Jim’s words; not mine), Jim wanted Prior to give the team an option year for 2009, because the medical staff said that pitchers VERY rarely come back and pitch effectively the year after the type of surgery Prior had. I think Jim said the base salary for that year would be around $3.5M with incentives of up to $7M. In Jim’s words, Prior didn’t think he should have to take a pay cut, nor did he thank Jim or the Cubs for the years and the money they poured into him. As Jim pointed out, Prior eventually DID take a pay cut, as he had to sign for only $1M with the Padres with no option year. I’m converted. Prior is the prima donna bitch that you’ve all been saying he is. I was wrong, and I should have known better than to root for anyone who attended USC. Jim said if Prior still wanted to be a Cub, he’d be a Cub. So, fuck him.
Jim said that there was one thing he thinks hurt Prior more than anything. He said after the collision with Marcus Giles, they took Prior for all kinds of MRIs and sent him to the best doctors in the world. However, where Prior’s injury was was undetectable to any MRI. He didn’t mention what a colossal fucking idiot Dusty Baker was for sending Prior to the mound the inning after the injury.
Then, Jim talked about Kerry Wood, saying he wished that Prior was more like Wood. I thought Jim was going to cry. He basically confirmed what we all know: Wood is a fucking badass. Jim said that Kerry came to him and said, “Pay me what is fair.” Jim said if he had a team of guys like Wood, he’d be thrilled. He also pointed out that Wood’s badassery might work to his disadvantage. In Jim’s estimation, Wood has pitched in agonizing pain at least thirty times in his career. Your Kerry Wood love is justified.
At this point, Section 242 and the guys at the table had determined that it was about time for us to ask a question. Before I had a chance to ask your first question about why the organization hates Sean Marshall so much, Jim essentially answered it. He said they like Marshall, and at one point, said “Marshall isn’t going anywhere.” I thought about the number two question about why there’s so damn many second basemen on the roster, and determined that there was no way of asking it without looking like a feeble-minded idiot. So I went to Plan B. I was able to get Jim’s attention, so I asked the following question: “Why haven’t the Cubs been able to develop a decent hitting prospect since Mark Grace?” As the young lady with the microphone began to pull away, I was struck with inspiration, and quickly added, “Also, after the trade for Steve Trachsel and the signing of Jon Lieber, have you put in a call yet to Kevin Tapani?”
Jim looked me dead in the face and said, “Your sarcasm is admirable.” That’s one for the HJE testimonials page. Bless his overworked heart, he answered both questions. He pointed out that the Cubs have had good success drafting guys who are currently in the Major Leagues, but was as mystified as to why they had very little success with position players and had far more success with pitchers. He did suggest that he still thinks Felix Pie will be good, and he is confident in Ryan Theriot and Geovany Soto.
He then pointed out how he loved the Lieber signing (I actually like it, too; anything to keep Dempster out of the rotation). He seemingly suggested that Trachsel single-handedly won the Cubs the division, as he won two late-season games, and the Cubs won the division by two games. (Huh? Wouldn’t that only be a one-game swing in the standings?) Jim later explained it by suggesting that Sam Fuld’s two game-winning catches ALSO won the Cubs the division. I guess that’s your two game lead over the Brewers right there. That’s right. Sam Fuld and Steve Trachsel single-handedly won the division for the Cubs last year. Thanks? Jim also said that he loves Tapani, and he’d call him if he thought he could still pitch.
Back to the non-awesome questions.
Jim pointed out that Michael Barrett was a bit of an idiot, particularly for challenging Carlos Zambrano to a fight. Jim said that following Zambrano into the tunnel was a terrible idea for Barrett, as he got his ass kicked. In Jim’s words, Barrett would have had a good chance of staying on as catcher, but he “short-circuited” somewhere down the line. Possibly when he ruptured his testicle. I’m just saying, Jim.
Someone asked Jim his opinions on the proposed new ownership groups. Jim said that he’d just as soon speculate on the new Pope as the new ownership. He did mention, though, that he hopes the new owner doesn’t want his son to be the GM.
After the Q & A ended, Jim stuck around to answer more questions and to tug compulsively on his waddle. Knowing that this was more important than work, I stuck around. It was good of him to hang out. There were two or three guys absolutely monopolizing his time with idiotic questions about steroids. Jim said what one would expect him to say. “Let’s move forward and forget about it.” He did mention, though, that he doesn’t blame the kids for doing steroids. He said he’d do it if he were in the same situation. So, I went ahead and slipped some steroids into his drink. One other interesting thing comment he had on steroids was that he could name at least 100 guys who he knew had taken steroids whom you would never suspect based on their body type.
At one point, some little old lady asked to be the team chaplain. Jim laughed in her face. Take THAT, God! Immediately after, I should have asked if I could be the team “guy who pays strippers to keep their herpes-ridden mouths shut if they know what’s good for them.” The Cubs need a chaplain like they need eight more second basemen. After the wanna-be chaplain left, Jim was a tad looser with the language. The guy likes the word “fuck.”
The chaplain also asked about Adam “Moonlight” Greenberg. Stupid lady of the cloth seemed to think the kid might have been a regular Major League player if he hadn’t been drilled in the head with the first pitch he ever saw. Jim said he’s not an MLB player, and that the only reason he brought him up was to make a statement to the organization. That statement apparently was: Corey Patterson and Jason Dubois suck balls.
I was able to ask Jim a couple more questions, as well as listen to answers to other questions. I’ll start with the answers to other questions (after Section 242 was unable to convince Jim to reveal what his Opening Day lineup would be).
Someone asked a question based on a Phil Rogers article. Jim said the guy’s first mistake was reading a Phil Rogers article. Awesome. Any man points he earned with that comment, though, were immediately revoked when he suggested that Bwuce Levine was the most reliable and easy-going reporter with whom he deals. Where’s the Bruce Miles love, Jim?
Jim commented on the fact that alcoholics CANNOT play for the Cubs. Section 242 leaned over and said, “That’s why Todd Hundley is no longer a Cub.” I responded, “Or Farnsworth.” Soon after that comment, someone asked specifically about Farnsworth. Jim confirmed that, yes, Farnsworth was a drunken idiot. He said when he was originally drafted, Farnsworth was a relatively innocent young goofball from Georgia (though his father was a bit of a freak; the type who brings his own speed gun to the Daytona 500). After he made the Major Leagues, in Jim’s words, Farnsworth discovered “pussy and beer.” Jim also suggested that Farnsworth may have had “pharmaceutical help.” Hmm.
Someone asked if Will Ohman’s mouth got him run out of town. Jim said that Ohman’s stupid comments said didn’t really bother him, but Ohman was a “knucklehead.” According to Jim, Ohman is the type of guy who thinks he knows everything because he went to Pepperdine. Jim repeatedly used the word “knucklehead” in describing Ohman. Each time he did, I giggled and flapped my hands in hysterics.
Jim then spoke about Ronny Cedeno. Jim said that he was very talented, but he was one of those guys who just wanted to get to The Show, and is a bit of a follower (aka, a fucking dumbass). Nothing was said about his turtle neck.
Some fanboy idiot asked about Ryan Theriot. If Theriot had been standing there, Jim would have made love to him on the spot. Jim kept saying that Theriot is a “fucking great kid,” doing clinics, playing wherever and whenever they need him to, and not bitching when Jim signed Mark DeRosa. He didn’t mention one thing that Theriot DOESN’T do “fucking great”: hit and stuff.
Someone asked Jim about specific GMs with whom he has a good relationship. He specifically mentioned John Schuerholz and Billy Beane. He said that he didn’t particularly want to give up Jerry Blevins for Jason Kendall, but he felt that Beane asked for the high end of what he could reasonably get, and there was basically no negotiation. Beane simply asked for Blevins, and Jim said yes.
Jim had a great subtle dig on Kenny Williams when discussing other GMs. Jim was talking about how he considers himself a straight shooter. He said if he knows he is willing to pay a guy $10M per year, he’s not going to initially offer him $6M. He’s going to come in more around $8M. He said he didn’t understand when GMs say stupid shit like “I’m not going to deal with Scott Boras” (a Kenny Williams comment). To paraphrase Jim, “That’s fine, but you’re going to miss out on some good fucking baseball players.”
Someone asked Jim about firing Dusty Baker. Jim said that it sucked for him to fire Dusty, but he knows every day that his first responsibility is to the Cubs, not to himself, and he knew it was best for the organization.
Jim also made the comment that the Cubs “fucked up” LaTroy Hawkins. As Jim pointed out, LaTroy was fine in the 8th inning, but was dogshit in the 9th. Don’t feel too bad about ruining him, Jim. LaTroy is a fucking dipshit.
Jim pointed out how amazed he was by what the Rockies did last year. He said he was at the second game of the Cubs-Rockies series out in Colorado. The Cubs had swept the series in Wrigley and won the first game of the series out there. Colorado GM Dan O’Dowd approached Jim in his box and threw Josh Fogg’s name out there as a pitcher Jim could add for the stretch run, with O’Dowd assuming his own team was out of it. Jim said he was stunned that the Rockies made their run, saying that baseball is a “fucking weird game.”
Jim also mentioned that Jacque Jones pissed him off toward the end of his Cubs tenure by “constantly passing the blame.” Some asshole said, “Well, he was pretty good for the Cubs,” and Jim shrugged and gave a resounding, “Meh.” I got the feeling that Jim was not a huge fan of Jacque. Again, fuck USC.
One story Jim told that was really impressive was the signing of Ted Lilly. Yes, he did take Lilly’s phone call while hooked up to an EKG machine. According to Jim, he knew it was Lilly, because Lilly had some “weird” phone number. After taking Lilly’s call, the paramedics had to transport Jim to a hospital 30 miles away, and Jim was making phone calls in the back of the ambulance to Gary Hughes. According to Jim, he had no idea why he wasn’t more concerned about his health at that point. It just didn’t register that there was a possibility that he could die. The paramedic had to say to him (this is paraphrased), “You know what’s going to happen when we get to this second hospital? You’re not going for a second opinion or a checkup. When we get to the other hospital, they’re taking you immediately to the operating room, and they’re going to do a procedure on your heart. You need to stop with the bullshit business calls and start calling your loved ones.” That’s when it hit home for Jim. Thanks for getting Lilly done, though, Jim.
Jim also spoke about Aramis Ramirez. He said he felt Aramis gets a bad rap for not being a hustler. In Jim’s words, Aramis is just “not that good an athlete,” but was born to hit. He said he’s just plain slow, but he’s busted his ass to improve his defense. Jim said he “runs like Soto.” Awesome.
On a sadder note, Jim commented on Ryan Dempster, saying he wasn’t sure why Dempster gets such a bad rap from the fans. He mentioned that Dempster converted a higher percentage of his saves last year than Mariano Rivera. Jim, if the Yankees offer you Rivera for Dempster straight up, please do it.
Now, to my questions.
Several times, Jim mentioned that he was looking for a right-handed hitter to complement Sam Fuld and Felix Pie in center field (by the way, he expects only ONE of them to break camp), I said, “Jim, I understand the attractiveness of having the lineup alternate between lefties and righties, particularly late in a game. However, our three premier hitters are right-handed, and if any pitchers seem to give the Cubs trouble, they are soft-tossing lefties.” Jim said he was as baffled as we are as to why they can’t hit lefties. He mentioned Zach Duke by name and said he has no real explanation for it.
Finally, I asked him about a particular closed-door meeting last summer about which the idiots on the Score were overreacting in their typical fashion. It occurred about two weeks before Lou kicked dirt all over that umpire, and the idiots on talk radio were suggesting that Lou might quit. For one thing, I started off with, “The guys on sports radio said that Lou had called you into a last-minute meeting, or something.” Hendry corrected me laughingly, saying something like, “First of all, I’M the one who calls the meetings.” He was very good-natured about it. And heeeeere is why you should stop listening to sports radio. The meeting was absolutely nothing. John McDonough was in town with some investors (I think) and they wanted to meet Lou. Jim said it was a mistake going through the clubhouse to meet with Lou, but he and the other big-wigs laughed off the fact that the idiot talk radio guys were making a big deal of it.
As I go to sleep tonight, I have a far different opinion of Jim Hendry. He is an incredibly well-spoken straight shooter (for the most part), and he was more accommodating and good-humored than he needed to be. I would like to buy Jim Hendry a beer some day. There, I said it.
The experience was excellent. Thanks again to Section 242. If there are other questions, fire away in the comments, and I’ll do what I can to answer them.