Good news, Cubs fans: Jim Hendrys talkin World Series!
OK, OK. So that was cruel.
And also a lie.
Though (and heres the real good news) not by much.
Here, after all, is what Hendry, the Cubs general manager, really said Thursday night upon alighting in town for the Fort Wayne Sports Corp. banquet: The 2009 Cubs could make you forget all about the 2008 Cubs.
Theres a deeper bullpen. The rotations still solid. Theres more left-handed hitting and more switch hitting and more speed.
It wasnt like there were a whole lot of moves, Hendry says. But when you look at the whole body of work, I do think we have a better team than the club that won 97 games.
Hear that, Cubs fans? Better than a 97-game winner.
One more reason to box up another doused October, flush it down the memory hole and set your face toward yet another hopeful spring.
Two division titles followed by two flameouts in the playoffs, and now were starting a second century without a World Series for the most fruitless organization in sports. And yet, listen, people: Jim Hendry might have the perfect temperament to preside over all this.
He saw 97 wins and then nothing last year. Saw 85 wins and nothing the year before that. Saw Alex Gonzalez kicking the season away in the Bartman game in 2003 and the glory of Sammy and then the fall and the sullen pall settling over Wrigley Field every blessed summer when it becomes clear this will not, as it turns out, be the Year.
Want to know how Hendry deals with that?
Well, a couple of weeks ago, he was walking the streets of Rome with a cell phone pressed to his ear, cutting a deal for Seattle pitcher Aaron Heilman.
Which suggests he has the perfect temperament for these Cubs, for whom hes worked in one capacity or another since 1995. You say, good god, they lost again? All that means to Hendry is another chance to make things right – a year-round proposition these days, it seems.
The games changed a lot, Hendry says. The rosters get turned over a lot more than they used to. Even if youve got a good club, theres always financial situations, free agency coming and arbitration.
So, yeah, its not like it used to be. And this year, for a lot of reasons, I guess, it seemed like our work got done later. I have to admit when we left Vegas at the winter meetings, we were a little worried.
And then they werent. They locked up Ryan Dempster and dealt Mark DeRosa and Jason Marquis, and got switch-hitter Aaron Miles for the infield and Milton Bradley for the outfield and Heilman. Mike Fontenot and his .305 average are still around. Kerry Wood signed with Cleveland, meaning Carlos Marmols the new closer. This could work.
This better work, after the déjÀ ka-blew of last October.
It was really tough this year, said Hendry, a baseball lifer who still wears a blue stone on his left hand from the Creighton team he coached to the College World Series in 1991. Obviously, we felt all year long that we had as good a team as there was in the National League and thought wed be playing for the pennant. And to end the way it did was terribly disappointing.
It left kind of a bad taste that I dont think were gonna get out of our mouths until we get the whole thing done.
Hear that, Cubs fans?
Not if. Until.
Now go forth and believe again.