Allow me a moment to give praise to Mr. Jim Hendry.

Here is his legacy:
-He was the head of drafting while the Cubs drafted Wood, Prior, and Zambrano.
-He was the brain behind the Hundley trade.
-He netted Lofton and Aramis Ramirez, the third baseman of the future who’s already had a great present, for a guy who put up a roughly .710 OPS and some other turds.
-He threw some bones –like Macias, Ramon Martinez, and Henry Blanco-to his manager without sacrificing the majority of at-bats. These are players whose statistics, offensive and defensive, may not justify their inclusion on the major league roster, but make Dusty Baker, who is a habitual winner, VERY happy without sabotaging the starting eight. He’s keeping the manager happy at a cost of 450 at-bats a year.
-He’s keeping alive the possibility of trading Sammy Sosa long beyond the time when Sosa’s value justifies any other team picking him up. Look, the fact of the matter is that Sammy produced some runs for the Cubs. But his value to the Cubs — a .330 OBP and .500 SLG for 18 million — is more than what he could fetch in a trade. He’d help the club the most in the #6 hole, but there are enough statistical studies to say that the position a guy bats in the lineup over the 162 game season is not relevant enough to demoralize 12.5 percent of the team’s offense that Sosa batting 3rd for 2005 and being motivated is much better than pouty Sosa batting 6th. Take the hit and let Walker, Garciaparra, and cheap Dopirak/Kelton talent in LF offset the overpriced albatross in RF.
The fact is that we have above average hitters at C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B and average hitters in RF and CF, and average-to-below-average hitters in LF. We have way, way, way, way above average starting pitching and adequate relievers. One more free agent signing, either in LF or closer — and we’re the realistic favorites in the NL Central. Without them, we’re favorites for the wild card. Either way, the credit must be given to Jim Hendry.
So if we end up with Sosa, we’re looking at this kind of lineup:

2B Walker
SS Garciaparra
1B Lee
RF Sosa (he’s only 4th because he’s a jerk and Dusty’ll probably “respect” that)
3B Ramirez
CF Patterson
C Barrett
LF Dopirak/Hollandsworth/Kelton/any other turd who steps in
P pitcher slot

That lineup, plus the rotation of:
Prior
Wood
Zambrano (the real ace)
Maddux
Mitre/Rusch

and the bullpen of
??? (closer)
Hawkins
Remlinger
Wellemeyer
Ohman
The Professor and
Mary Ann

make for a team that will be able to battle for the division crown. I like the idea of throwing money at Robb Nen to see if he can still close. I can’t think of a guy, outside of a games-played JD-Drew-incentive contract, that would put the playoffs in the bank; at this point all we can do is hope.
All I know is that, since Jimbo played the Nomar, Walker, and Clement situations JUST RIGHT, I’m more hopeful coming into this year than any other year. And 3 weeks ago I was more upset and pessimistic than a Washington Nationals fan.
Go Cubs! In Hendry we trust!

Oh yeah, one more thing. NO team, apart from a certain New York pinstripeed team with a 168 million dollar per year local TV contract is capable of swallowing a silly Sosa-esque contract than the Cubs. So if the Cubs WANTED to sign Magglio Ordonez to a 2 year, 19.5 million dollar deal to push them over the top, they could do it. But I’ll put good money on the fact that they won’t.

Which means, once again, that we’ll be watching a team that needs a few breaks to get deep into the playoffs rather than watching a team that ought to be the FAVORITE for the NL championship. Assuming that all goes well with Barrett, Nomar’s health, and the rest of the loose ends, that’s exactly how close the Cubs are.

By the way, the Nomar signing instantly puts us at #1 in the wives’ pool. Some might say that Jennie Finch gives the D’backs the edge, but I’ll take Mia’s scowl any day of the week over Finch’s overly-made-up face. Plus, Jennie never wore a “Daigle” uniform in a game…

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