Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
This weekend we took a look at the first five of Carrie Muskat’s 10 burning questions about the Cubs team. If you didn’t get to read part I, please do so. We talked about Carlos Marmol’s role as the closer, Carlos Zambrano’s role as the “Ace”, Lou’s fire, Geo’s performance and the acquisition of Marlon Byrd
Today we dive headfirst into the final five questions in an effort to quench that burning fire in the belly of the Muskat.
5. Can a kid get a job?
The question doesn’t really do the best job asking a question so I’ll clarify with a better question. Can a prospect find a role on this team? I think we saw and have seen over the past few seasons with Lou that the answer to that question is yes, provided that the prospect plays well. If you play….you play. For Randy Wells last year, he was given the opportunity to come up and make a major difference in the rotation and never lost his spot. Had he struggled early on, that spot probably wouldn’t have been available to him for as long as it was. This year we’ve got a few names coming in that are knocking at the door, if you will, in Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, Andres Blanco, Jay Jackson, Esmailin Caridad, Mitch Atkins, Jeff Stevens, Justin Berg and Andrew Cashner. Whether or not these guys or others in the system get a chance on a veteran laden team rich in payroll seems to depend on performance and health of the ones ahead of them with health being an easier path to playing time. It’s tough to find a spot in the OF on a consistent basis with three guys in Byrd, Soriano and Fukudome (all three fairly recent investments) manning those spots, so guys like Colvin and Fuld will probably have to luck into playing time in the OF. The IF is where things could be a little different. Ramirez saw his shoulder dislocate for the second time in his career last year and a third time is definitely not out of the question for 2010 (not that I’m wishing). Someone like Blanco could see some time if something like that happens. Likewise with Derrek Lee’s neck issues, a player like Micah Hoffpauir could factor into the mix. Other than those spots, a prospect better be able to pitch out of the pen to be able to earn a spot with any significant time on this roster. Then again, if Randy Wells is any proof, anything can happen in a baseball season.
4. Can they improve in the field?
Considering that the entire starting lineup is back with the only sub being Bryd for Bradley in the field, the defense has to be better, right? Unfortunately, aside from Lee in the field, this is not an above-average or even good team in the field. Apart from Soriano, there really aren’t any complete iron hands type guys in the field, but I also don’t see us producing a gold baseball glove. As long as we don’t beat ourselves in the field, it’s a capable defense that should be good enough.
3. Will Ted Lilly bounce back from surgery?
I have him penciled into my opening day roster, not because I necessarily believe he’ll be there, but rather because I don’t have any idea what we can expect. One thing I am banking on, and hopefully the Cubs are doing the same in their planning, is that Lilly probably won’t be as effective as he was before the surgery. On many occasions over the past few years he has been considered our ace. That may be something we don’t see anymore (I guess unless everyone else wets the bed and he gets it by default). After issues with guys like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in the past as well as the recent issues with Rich Harden, I’m cautiously hoping for the best, but not holding my breath. For this team to be a legit contender, Dempster and Zambrano need to anchor the staff with Wells and Marshall (or whoever wins the spot) being above average middle of the rotation guys. That allows Lilly to ease in without as much pressure.
2. Can Carlos Silva bounce back?
Do I have to answer this one? Seriously, I don’t even want Carlos Silva on my baseball team, let alone having to endure watching him try to “bounce back”. Silva was a throw in to make salaries a little more manageable in the Bradley deal. If we look at him as any more we’re fooling ourselves. If he wows in spring training then put him in the pen. If not, I really feel like it would be better to simply cut bait and place him on waivers in an effort to either have him claimed or approach him about pitching in AAA to earn his spot. I don’t want him to have a spot on this staff simply because of his salary. That’s not how you win championships.
1. Will the new owners make a difference?
Not immediately, or at least not on the field. When you take over a team, it’s important to stand back and actually evaluate what it is you have before rushing in and cleaning house. Couple that with the fact that this team is strapped with big contracts that will need to ease themselves off the book before you truly get an accurate picture of what type of owners this new regime will be. I see them as a collective group that will closely monitor the performance and not simply focus on ticket sales and revenue. If everything we’ve seen and heard about Tom Ricketts is accurate, then his fandom should play a role in how he runs this team. He’ll want to see a championship just like we will, but I don’t see him spending like congress to get there. I see him spending smart, not wild.
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