Jim Hendry, Kenny Williams

The best and worst from Cubs GM Jim Hendry

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A look at the highlights and lowlights from Jim Hendry’s nine-year tenure as Cubs GM, which ended with his dismissal on Friday.

Best moves

July 23, 2003: Acquired 3B Aramis Ramirez and OF Kenny Lofton from Pirates for 2B Bobby Hill, INF Jose Hernandez and RHP Matt Burback

I called it “highway robbery” on Rotoworld at the time, and it proved to be that and so much more.   The Pirates gave away Ramirez even though he had just turned 25 and he was hitting a solid .280/.330/.448 for the season.  He’s hit 236 homers for the Cubs since.

Nov. 25, 2003: Acquired 1B Derrek Lee from Marlins for 1B Hee-Seop Choi and RHP Mike Nannini

On the other hand, I slammed this one, believing Choi was just about as good as Lee already.  Lee went on to make two All-Star Games and hit 179 homers in seven seasons with the Cubs.

Jan. 21, 2004: Signed RHP Ryan Dempster to one-year, $500,000 contract with a $2 million option for 2005

The Cubs took a chance on Dempster as he was rehabbing following Tommy John surgery.  He rewarded them with a fine season as a closer in 2005, and while he wasn’t such a good reliever the two years after that, he’s won 53 games as a starter the last four seasons.

Nov. 14, 2006: Signed infielder Mark DeRosa to a three-year, $13 million contract

This is another move I was none too impressed with at the time.  However, DeRosa had two fine seasons as a Cub, hitting .289/.373/.451 with 31 homers, and the team was then able to trade him to Cleveland for three prospects, one of whom, Chris Archer, proved to be the key component in last winter’s deal to land Matt Garza.

Worst moves

I’m listing the moves that were pretty obviously poor at the time, in my opinion.  I didn’t mind the Carlos Zambrano extension, and I’m not going to get on Hendry’s case for the prearranged trade in the Rule 5 draft that had Josh Hamilton passing through Chicago on his way from Tampa Bay to Cincinnati.

Dec. 7, 2005: Acquired OF Juan Pierre from Marlins for RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Sergio Mitre and LHP Renyel Pinto

The Cubs made three significant trades with the Marlins in the first half of the decade.  The Lee deal worked out great, but the Pierre trade was a bust and sending Dontrelle Willis to Florida for Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca could have turned out even worse if Willis didn’t fall apart.  The ugly thing about the Pierre deal is that he was just one year away from free agency, yet the Cubs gave up three live arms for him anyway.  He had a typical Pierre season and then signed with the Dodgers.

Nov. 20, 2006: Signed outfielder Alfonso Soriano to an eight-year, $136 million contract

It was the second biggest deal ever given to an outfielder, behind Manny Ramirez’s contract with Boston, and even five years later, it stands at No. 3 on the list.  Soriano started the eight-year pact out with two fine seasons, but he’s been at best an average regular since and there’s still three more years to go.

Dec. 31, 2008: Signed infielder Aaron Miles to a two-year, $4.9 million contract

I picked this one over the Neifi Perez infatuation.  Miles ended up playing in 74 games for the Cubs and hitting .185/.224/.242 with a remarkable five RBI.

Jan. 9, 2009: Signed outfielder Milton Bradley to a three-year, $30 million contract

Bradley was coming off an exceptional season with the Rangers, but it was one in which he had his usual problems staying healthy even while serving primarily as a DH.  Bradley turned out to be a disaster with the Cubs, hitting .257 and driving in 40 runs in his one year with the team before being dealt for an even worse contract (Seattle’s Carlos Silva).

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In my opinion, it was long past time for Hendry to go.  He had some good instincts when it came to players to pursue on the cheap, but when he was given money to spend, he typically did so unwisely and his drafts were often disappointing.  In fact, not one of his first- or supplemental first-round picks has turned into an asset yet, and for a GM on the job for nine years, that’s pretty damning.

I think Hendry might have been better off as the GM of a small-market team (preferably with better scouting directors).  There would have been no Soriano, Bradley or Kosuke Fukudome.  Forced to limit his expendatures, Hendry might have come up with more Dempsters, DeRosas and Marlon Byrds.  It’s not that his tenure was a total disaster, but the Cubs job probably wasn’t ever the right one for him.

Rob Manfred on robot umps: “In general, I would be a keep-the-human-element-in-the-game guy.”

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 5:  Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred talks with media prior to a game between the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium on April 5, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Ed Zurga/Getty Images
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Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:

Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.

The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?

Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.

The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.

I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.

Report: MLB approves new rule allowing a dugout signal for an intentional walk

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 29:  MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred laughs during a ceremony naming the 2016 winners of the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award and the Trevor Hoffman National League Reliever of the Year Award before Game Four of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians at Wrigley Field on October 29, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images
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ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.

MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.

Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.

Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: