Congratulations aren't exactly in order, but at sportsillustrated.com, Jim Hendry tops Jon Heyman's list of 10 GM's on the proverbial hot seat. The article doesn't blast Hendry's performance so much as it expresses empathy for the pressure on a GM trying to lift his team out of very deep, dark doldrums.
There's nobody who worked harder than Hendry this winter in lining up talent. Some could claim some of the Cubs contracts seem player-friendly (few around baseball look like bargains, though potentially, I'd count Piniella for $10 million over three years and second baseman Mark DeRosa for $13 million among them). Or they could quibble that Hendry would have been better off locking up ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano earlier, especially before Barry Zito broke the bank in San Francisco to the tune of $126 million; although, with agent Barry Praver in town now, there's great optimism there'll be a new five-year contract in place for Zambrano by around Opening Day.
Putting all that aside, the Cubs should be a lot better, maybe by as many as 20 games from the 66 they won last year. In a division that was won last season with 83 victories (by the eventual world champion Cardinals) and still looks wide open, the Cubs should have by far the best everyday lineup and could easily steal it. Old Cubs hopefuls Kerry Wood and Mark Prior suffered spring setbacks, and Piniella says that they need to "shore it up defensively" and need a good year from their closer, Ryan Dempster. Yet Piniella asserts, "I expect us to have a darned good team. Our fans are going to enjoy this team."Others in the Top 5...or Bottom 5, depending on your point of view:
"We were in last place," Hendry says, "so we have a lot of people to pass." But if they don't pass a few, Hendry knows his time may expire.
2.) Bill Bavasi, Mariners
3.) Bill Stoneman, Angels
4.) Jim Bowden, Nationals
5.) Dave Littlefield, Pirates