Growing to respect Hendry's approach
Jim Hendry and I didn't see things eye to eye when it came to the speed of my advancement in the Chicago Cubs' minor league system.
In a defining period during my career while Hendry was the Cubs' head of player development, I went to winter ball in Puerto Rico. I came back to the U.S. with winter league MVP trophy in hand, new confidence and new expectations from the Cubs.
Before this point, I had only shown flashes of what the Cubs expected when they drafted me 12th overall in the 1991 draft. At one point, then-Cubs GM Ed Lynch met me in the office after sending me back to Triple-A toward the end of spring training. He said to me: "Nice job in Puerto Rico. Now do it again during a championship season here."
In response to their challenge, I was carving up Triple-A like someone on a mission. But whenever the big call-up came from the big club, I was not the one the club was calling. At one point, my agent called Hendry to ask why I wasn't chosen over another outfielder. Jim called me directly at the hotel in Nashville and, after listening to my gripes, he said to me, "This isn't graduation."
He went on to say, "You don't just put in your time, reach a certain age and just go to the next level. You have to play yourself there."
So I put up and shut up even though I didn't like what he had to say. This led to a solid Triple-A first half. Up until that point, I heard evaluation rumblings that I "had a lot of excuses" for why I wasn't getting an opportunity, but this was the first period in my career when I removed all of the pretexts by putting up the numbers, so when the opportunity didn't come right away, I could finally say "now YOU have all of the excuses."
Eventually the call came, but I was barely a platoon player against lefties in my first big league stint, so I was sent back to Triple-A. This led to my second run in the offseason in Puerto Rico. By the end of that winter season, my numbers weren't quite the same as from the year before, a point Hendry made to my manager, Tom Gamboa.
My response was that they asked me to walk more so I went down there and sported the same OBP as I did the MVP year before, even though my batting average was more than 30 points lower. I still led the league in hits.
Then, in the playoffs, Hendry paid a visit to Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, to see me play in person. In one game, I was in left field and an opponent hit a mammoth home run over my head in left. I took a courtesy jog as it sailed over the wall.
Later, I was told that they thought I went after that home run in a lackadaisical manner. So I asked: "Is that what it has come down to here? I am one of the few American prospects they have that is now playing his third winter ball in a row. It put me on the map, I got better in areas they wanted me to do so and all they can question is how I ran after a home run that almost broke someone's windshield?"
After an undeniable spring training, I was finally set to make the team right out of camp. The season ended with me hitting .300 even though I was back to platooning in September. That Christmas, I was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, and I harbored joy and bitterness at the same time.
The bitterness didn't have a direct target given that there were a few options. It could have been my Triple-A manager, it could have been Lynch, the GM, it could have been Hendry. It could have even been me. Either way, I was not at total peace with a trade that could have made me an instant starter.
When my new team, the Phillies, played against the Cubs, it was fun to show them what they were missing (I got my 200th hit of the season in 1999 on a home run against the Cubs, for example). On one occasion, before the game, I walked right by Hendry in the halls of Veterans Stadium on the way to the batting cages. Hendry then turned around and yelled: "Hey! So you can't say hi to anyone?"
I realized at this moment that my frustration with aspects of my minor league run with the Cubs was now spilling into my unwillingness to even greet people. I knew that wasn't a good thing, especially when the Cubs did me the best favor of all -- traded me to where I could actually play every day.
At 27, I had to learn that, and after that day in the hall, Hendry and I spoke more and more whenever we crossed paths. Then in 2003, as GM of the Cubs, he traded for me at the end of July to help the Cubs get to the postseason. It wasn't the best place for me to secure my future as a starter, but it was a great place to finally get a chance to see the playoffs.
I then talked to him on the field one day as he saw my "unmarried" status and said, "Well, I didn't think I would get married with this life either, but it can happen." I appreciated his openness.
Fast-forward to 2010, and I ran into him at the airport before the Cubs had settled on hiring Mike Quade as manager. He asked for my contact information to see if I would be willing to give input on the next manager for the search committee team.
It was at that point when I really understood what Hendry was about. As I matured and as he rose in the game, I realized that he was crystal clear in relaying what he thought about you. I saw someone take on players who were usually considered "untouchables" and discipline them.
When he didn't like Alfonso Soriano's effort in the field, he let Soriano know and helped put him on the bench. When he didn't like Milton Bradley's comments about the organization, he took action. When he didn't support Carlos Zambrano's explosive antics, he put him on disqualified list. In the end, he doesn't care what or where you are coming from; he lets you know and has strict rules about it. Your contract doesn't exempt you from anything.
That is an approach players appreciate. There isn't a separate rule book for the big money guy and the 25th man. Sure he had to weigh the financial implications, but that didn't stop him from expressing his disapproval and desire to find a way to send a message despite your market value.
I have heard about the signings that didn't work for Hendry. But then you look at them and you see an aggressive approach with some risk, something that gave the Cubs some spunk. We forget about some good moves such as bringing in Mark DeRosa. We forget that he got Bradley out of Chicago and Carlos Silva pitched well for a while.
We forget that a lot of teams believed Kosuke Fukudome would do more, even though he actually could have easily fit in on a team if the power numbers were there from the other players. Hendry signed Marlon Byrd, he called up young prospects exactly at the right time with Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney, and he stuck with Jeff Samardzija after repeated efforts. He traded for Derrek Lee, brought in Greg Maddux, found Sean Marshall in the rough and put together a 2003 team for the postseason that was like the Giants of last year -- pieces that fit together like a puzzle. Oh, and the 2008 Cubs were a heckuva team.
Let's also remember that he sacrificed a lot personally to build the Cubs from a team that didn't spend to a team that we are now saying "overspent." And now the next GM gets to enjoy money that is getting freed up because of the moves Hendry made. After all, Hendry couldn't put a uniform on to change what happens after the ink dries.
When the ink from his departure finally dries, Hendry will get another job as a general manager, if that is what he wants to do. In the meantime, we all could learn that in life and in baseball, very few things are like "graduation" unless you put in the work and the time to make that degree mean something.
His time expired in Chicago and the organization clearly believed it had no other change to make. But don't be surprised if the Cubs graduate with honors one day from Hendry's foundation.
Doug Glanville, who earned a degree in systems engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, played nine major league seasons with the Cubs, Phillies and Rangers. He serves on the board of Athletes Against Drugs and on the board of the MLBPAA (MLB Players Alumni Association). His book, "The Game from Where I Stand," was released in May 2010. Click here to buy it in paperback on Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter: @dougglanville