First of all, what a great baseball man. I had the chance to spend almost two years with Jim and loved everything about him. There aren’t many guys like him in the game who are completely honest with their players, they love their players, they love their team. What impressed me the most is not him bringing three division titles here — ’03, ’07 and ’08 — or almost getting to the World Series, or everything he’s accomplished in this game, being here for 17 years. I have even more respect for him because of how he handled this situation. Knowing he was going to be out, handling the trades, doing what’s best for this organization, signing all the guys he signed from the Draft, working as hard as he did. He signed our first rounder 15 minutes before the deadline. He worked hard for the Cubs knowing he’s not going to be the GM — that’s something that is so impressive to me.
There are probably a lot of fans happy that he’s gone and are mad at Jim and mad at the Cubs but at the same time, it’s not his fault. You have to look at the moves he made over the years. You have to look at the hard decisions he had to make, like trading Sammy Sosa, and the good decisions he made, giving guys money who really deserved it, making trades to bring guys over here like Aramis Ramirez — you can’t forget about that. Working with no money like he did this year and going to get Matt Garza and Carlos Pena and bringing back Kerry Wood. He signed Mark DeRosa, and traded him because they wanted a left-handed bat, and brought in Milton Bradley. He thought he was the guy and it didn’t work out. At the time, it was the right move and everyone agreed it was. He put all that together.
He’s a good baseball man. Regardless of what anybody says about him, he did his job the right way. He worked harder than any GM I’ve ever known and I’ve been around a few. It’s a credit to him how he came into the game, 17 years with the Cubs, and how he ended up with this organization. I think Tom Ricketts and his family have a lot of respect for him. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when he takes over another organization and we’ll see what he does over there.
Everyone’s heard the names. Juan Gonzalez. Pudge Rodriguez. Rafael Palmeiro. Alex Rodriguez. Michael Young. Then you turn the page to Gary Matthews Jr., Mark DeRosa, Marlon Byrd, Nelson Cruz. One thing all those guys has in common is they’ve worked with Rudy and they have positive things to say.
With Gary Matthews and Nelson Cruz, we’re all big league players but we struggled in the big leagues. Opening Day, we were sitting at home. Gary Matthews went through that with me. Nelson Cruz went through that same thing, getting designated. Sticking with Rudy’s program, him believing in us, us believing in him, working hard every single day, getting in a routine, we got better. Hands down, he’s the best hitting coach in baseball and everybody knows that.
I also had to talk to Rudy and remind him that in 2007 when I came to Texas, the Rangers were a team nobody talked about. The energy wasn’t there. It was a team that just hit. It took a couple years to change the culture. You saw how they won in 2009 and you see how they are now in 2010 — full of energy. Everybody over there is doing their jobs.
I told Rudy coming over here, implementing your system, it doesn’t happen right away. That’s what the fans and everybody watching the Cubs has to understand. It doesn’t happen right away. Me working with him, it’s my fourth year. I know how to work with him and he knows how to work with me. He’s still learning everybody’s swing and he’s still trying to figure out how to work with different players and personalities. It doesn’t sound good to say it but 2011 is going to be a better year as far as this whole Cubs organization knowing his system. We are going to get better as we go through this year.