CHICAGO — General manager Jim Hendry and the Chicago Cubs agreed Monday to a four-year contract extension through the 2012 season, a deal that would expire well after new owners are expected to take over the club.
The move came following the Cubs' best regular season in more than six decades. They won their second straight NL Central title and had the league's best record before getting swept out of the playoffs for the second straight year.
And bringing back Hendry was an easy choice, despite the pending sale.
"The timing, let's face it, it's an odd situation. The team is for sale and has been for sale for sometime," Cubs chairman Crane Kenney said.
"As I keep getting reminded, the team was put up for sale on Opening Day 2007. For two full seasons we've had the for-sale sign on our lawn."
But Kenney said new Tribune owner Sam Zell signed off on Hendry's new deal.
"The business doesn't stop because we're for sale," Kenney said.
"Like our midseason move bringing in Rich Harden, or signing Carlos (Zambrano) last year, we try to make good long-term decisions for our organization. We use that guiding principle in whatever we're doing. We assume the new owner will appreciate those things and not have a difficulty with them," Kenney said.
"We think it's a really good long term decision to keep the baseball side of our organization together. It was an easy discussion. I did walk Sam through it a few days ago and he saw it the same way. We think this is one of the strengths of our organization and not that different than an attractive option for a player. From Sam's perspective this was an easy one to make."
Chicago led the division or shared the lead from May 11 on, clinched the NL Central on Sept. 20 and went 97-64 _ the most wins for this franchise since the 1945 team finished 98-56 _ only to get knocked out by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL division series.
Last season, the Cubs were eliminated by Arizona. Still, Hendry is the only GM in Cubs history to lead the team during consecutive postseason appearances.
"As I've said since I've arrived here, and since I was fortunate enough to get this job six years ago, I have no desire to be anywhere else," Hendry said.
"There's no other place I'd rather be. So in that regard there is a lot of emotion involved. Now we've got to do whatever we can to kick that last door in and win that championship. That's our goal. We won't rest until it's accomplished.
The Cubs last World Series winner came in 1908, so it's going to 101 years starting next season.
Hendry said two of his top priorities would be re-signing free agent pitchers Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood. Dempster went into the rotation and won 17 games and Wood became a top closer last season.
Since the club went 66-96 in 2006, Hendry has signed free agents Alfonso Soriano, Ted Lilly, Mark DeRosa and Kosuke Fukudome while making key in-season acquisitions last season such as Reed Johnson (in March), Jim Edmonds (May) and Rich Harden (July). He also hired manager Lou Piniella and agreed to long-term contracts with third baseman Aramis Ramirez and Zambrano.
The Cubs are 537-513 since Hendry was promoted to general manager on July 5, 2002, and have had winning records in four of his six full seasons while making three playoff appearances.
Hendry said he had talked with Fukudome, who made the All-Star team and then slumped greatly in the second half, losing playing time at the end of the season because of his hitting woes.
Hendry said Fukudome will have to earn his job back.
"He's not lacking bat speed, he's not aging or out of shape. We did talk about the learning process, and he'll be on a program in the offseason and do some things he feels that could make him better," Hendry said. "He knows he has to earn everyday status and get his job back."