“My family and I appreciate Jim’s dedication during our time with the Cubs and thank him for his overall 17 years of service to the Cubs organization,” team chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “It is time for a fresh approach in our baseball leadership and our search begins immediately for our next general manager.” -quoted from ESPN.com

Tom Ricketts took a big step toward becoming the owner many Cubs fans hoped he would be today by firing longtime GM Jim Hendry.  The Cubs have promoted Randy Bush as interim GM.  As the story develops throughout the day, please check back here for the latest details and reactions from our writers.

Update 12:05pm

In a press conference this morning, Jim Hendry revealed that he’s known about his dismissal since July 22.  He stayed on for the last several weeks to maintain continuity and oversee the signing of the Cubs’ draft picks.  His inactivity at the trade deadline was intentional–he wanted to allow the next guy to make those decisions.  The wisdom of that is debatable.

Update 1:00pm

Tom Ricketts held a press conference today at Wrigley Field to talk about the firing of Jim Hendry and the state of the Cubs.  In addition to the fact that Tom uses the “Ah-OOO-ga” ringtone for his phone, here’s what we learned.

  • Ricketts kept Hendry on to maintain consistency through the draft pick signings.  He said Hendry develops relationships with the draftees, and he didn’t want to lose any of them because of Hendry’s absence.
  • He said that inactivity at the trade deadline was not merely bitterness or lethargy on Hendry’s part.  The Cubs simply weren’t overwhelmed by any of the offers they had, so Hendry and Ricketts elected to hold onto what the team has currently and let the next guy make his own decisions.  Don’t expect interim GM Randy Bush to make any major moves before the end of the season.
  • Crane Kenney’s job is safe for now.  Ricketts made it clear that Kenney’s job is to run the business side of the team, and that the new GM would answer directly to him.  Don’t know what the chain of command has looked like in the past, but that seems like a non-demotion demotion to me.  If nothing else, it means that Ricketts is taking the reins and the responsibility for the on-the-field product from now on.
  • Regarding the GM search, Ricketts is not considering any in-house candidates.  He’s looking for a baseball veteran who has a history of winning.  He wants an analytical mind, but not just a sabermatrician.
  • He does want to keep Oneri Fleita and Tim Wilken on the staff.  He essentially said he’d go to bat with the new GM to keep those guys in the organization.
  • He also made some comments about educating younger Cubs in the history of the organization.  He mentioned that most of them only knew that the Cubs haven’t won a championship in over 100 years.  To remedy that, the Cubs have put together a book for their players on team history.  Perhaps there’s not much to be taken from all that, but to me it speaks to the culture of the club, and some of the changes that Ricketts wants to see.
  • Ricketts thought sending Zambrano to the Disqualified List was the right move.  It turned out to be Hendry’s last.

Update 2:00pm–My take so far:  Forget the sarcastic commentary on the refurbished bathrooms and the bison dogs.  This is first distinct move Ricketts has made to put his fingerprints on the Cubs since he bought the team.  The comment he made about the chain of command seems particularly loaded–he’s taking full and direct responsibility for the baseball side of things.  Crane Kenney doesn’t factor into the on-the-field product, as the new GM will answer directly to the Ricketts.

I’ve been preaching that Ricketts needed to make this move since I started writing at VFTB, so I’m ecstatic.  Sure, there’s still a lot of looming questions ahead, and this doesn’t automatically make us a playoff team, or even competitive.  But the culture and the roadmap for the organization needed to change.  And today is a big first step.

I’m not sure I fully understand the four-week gap in telling Hendry and telling the world.  But I hope Ricketts has used that time to quietly start his search for a new GM.  It sounds like he has a specific type in mind–he might even have it narrowed down to a few names.  But I think you can assume he doesn’t intend to wait until the end of the season to bring the new guy in–if he is going to wait, then the timing of today’s announcement is even more puzzling.

I will say this for Hendry–I have no doubt he loves the Cubs.  The tears he spoke through in his press conference this morning were real, and they didn’t go unnoticed.  I’ve accused him before of only working hard enough to keep his job, and maybe that was unfair.  Maybe the job was simply over his head?  Whatever the case, I’m not interested in picking over his corpse today.  I doubt this is the end of his MLB career–after all, he is beloved by many in the organization, and praised often throughout baseball.  My guess is he winds up with another team somewhere down the road.

So farewell Jim.  And hello Ricketts-era Cubs baseball.

Reaction from Jedi:

It’s been a long time coming, but the satisfaction today is sweet.  At the very least we’ll have someone new to blame for our troubles.  It’s a point in the Ricketts’ favor that they’ve finally dumped ol’ back-slapping Jim Hendry.  I had essentially given up hope that they would do so before the start of next year, so today is like Christmas in August for me.  He’s not the worst GM we’ve had, but he’d worn out his welcome with me sometime around 2005.

My outlook on the Cubs has totally changed – there IS hope for tomorrow.  Tomorrow brings a new GM, a GM who might not re-sign our corner infielders to multi-year albatross deals, a GM who might get a manager who has a clue what he’s doing, a GM that’s able to properly value talent, a GM who isn’t seen by his colleagues as the moron in the room.  (Don’t get me wrong, this could wind up being the precursor to Larry Himes Part Deux – but I’m not going to assume the worst case, yet.)

Reaction from Norm:

I’m not surprised.  As I wrote in my Devils Advocate article, I think this was the plan all along;  1) let the contracts run their course until they are movable.  2) Losing Hendry probably means losing Tim Wilken, so wait until Wilken can work his magic in the draft and THEN fire Hendry.  3) Hire a guy like Cashman after 2011 because money is available and changes can finally be made.

Ricketts has a LONG term plan since he’s in this for life.  Two years isn’t that long in the grand scheme.  It might seem like an eternity to Cub fans, but it’s only the beginning of the transformation of the franchise.

Reaction from Buddy:

Even though Jim Hendry enjoyed some success in Chicago, it’s obvious that the time had come for the Cubs to move on.  It will be very interesting to see what direction the Cubs take.  Will the next GM be a household name like Brian Cashman?  Will they try to find the next rising front-office star?  Whoever it is, I hope the new head cheese understands the danger of five-plus-year mega-contracts.  Unless you’re signing the next A-Rod in his prime, those contracts are often poison to a franchise.  Even more so for pitchers.

Reaction from Mark:

I’m sad to see the firing, wish it didn’t have to end this way.  But ultimately Hendry had to pay the price – the team did not peform up to expectations and he was given ample supplies of money to get the job done.  Best of luck to Jim in his future endeavors, hopefully the Cubs can land Dave Dumbrowski or Larry Beinfest, perhaps they could persuade one of those guys to come over by combining Crane Kenney’s job with Hendry’s.

Reaction from CubbieDude:

I didn’t think Mr. Ricketts had it in him.  But I’m happy to be proven wrong.  This is only the first step, but it was a necessary first step.

I see the negotiations have already begun: Gillick wants a “higher than GM position,” Ricketts wants a “GM who doesn’t answer to my president, but who answers directly to me!”

Good luck Mr. Ricketts, and welcome back to Cub Nation.  (My apologies to the screenwriters of “Casablanca.”)

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