The past. We’re told we can’t live there, but sometimes there’s no harm in paying a visit – especially when the present is making us want to throw ourselves in front of a speeding bus. I don’t need to tell you, Cubs fans, that we’ve suffered through about a half a season of a grotesquely under-performing team and have little basis to believe the remaining 80-some games are going to bring much besides the usual, pleasantly numbing win every three to five days. So let’s cast aside this season for the time being and catch up with five former Cubs who are on the move in one way or another.
1. Dusty Baker. OK, OK…we’re probably all well-aware of what Dusty is up to these days. He’s managing the (as of this writing) division-leading Cincinnati Reds. And I just have one thing to say to the Reds: “Uncle! Uncle!” Going in to the season, I said that I wasn’t going to fear Cincy until they gave me a reason to. For many previous seasons, the Reds would appear on Opening Day with some decent hitters and decent pitchers – and, most recently, with some intriguing young talent – but they always underperformed and disappeared. Not this year. Their young players are starting to come into their own (particularly Joey Votto and Jay Bruce) and they don’t appear to be backing down to the “class of the NL Central” St. Louis Cardinals. Congratulations, Reds. I don’t know how long it will last, but you’ve gained my respect.
Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, seven years ago, we trustied in Dusty and, according to this Sun-Times article, we should trust him again – uh, as soon as he retires. Quoth Gordo:
Baker said he knows what he would do to change the culture and fortunes on the North Side — things he suggests he wasn’t allowed to do — but he’s not revealing the formula.
Dusty went on to say, “”Ask me when I get through managing.” Great. So we’ve got that to look forward to. Maybe after Lou and Dusty retire they can replace Len and Bob in the TV booth. They’d be like those two old guys in the balcony on the Muppet Show.
2. Michael Barrett. Otherwise known as He Who Punches As Well As Gets Punched, this former Cubs catcher has, almost inexplicably, landed a minor league deal with the New York Mets. I guess this is what happens when you’re relying on aged veterans such as Rod Barajas and Henry Blanco (speaking of former Cubs…love ya, Hank White!) as your backstops. But still, Barrett’s primary skill was hitting – a skill he seemed to lose completely after leaving the Cubs clubhouse.
To be honest, what intrigues me most about this signing is, if Jim Hendry can sweet talk Mets GM Omar Minaya into taking Carlos Zambrano off of our hands, Big Z and Barrett could potentially wind up back in the dugout together. Now wouldn’t that be poetic justice…or irony…or something. It would be damn funny, that’s for sure. (Shameless self-promotion: You can read more of my thoughts on Z and Barrett reuniting here.)
3. Rich Hill.There was a brief moment in Spring Training this year when it looked like maybe – just maybe – former Cubs LHP Rich Hill might win a rotation spot with the St. Louis Cardinals and wind up facing the North Siders. Oh, the drama. The suspense. The…BALL FOUR! Didn’t happen. Hill never made it out of the Cards farm system and, apparently, they released him. (Hadn’t heard about it. ) Well, now the Red Sox have picked him up, and he’ll be walking guys in scenic Pawtucket. Geez, I sound so bitter. I actually really liked Rich and, for a while, tried to stick up for him. But if ya can’t hit the strike zone regularly, well…
4. Eric Patterson. What is up, Boston? Suddenly developed a fetish for former Cubs prospects? I ask because infielder/outfielder Eric Patterson was also picked up by the (currently) second place Bosox. The versatile speedster was let go by the Oakland A’s a week or so ago and seems to have landed on his feet, going 1 for 3 in his Red Sox debut last night. Boston certainly has been hit hard with injuries this year. Oh, and if the name “Patterson” brings back memories of another former Cubs prospect, move on to No. 5 below.
5. Felix Pie. Wait, I thought you said this item would have something to do with a Patterson. Well, it does. Indirectly. Because of Luke Scott’s freakish, home-run-trot induced injury yesterday, former Cub Felix Pie is being rushed back from a severe back injury he suffered earlier this season.
Meanwhile, another former Cub – and one to whom Felix Pie is often compared – Corey Patterson is expected to give up his starting position and take a seat on the bench. To Corey’s credit, he seems to be taking the news rather well. Honestly, from my perspective, it’s a freakin’ miracle that the elder Patterson is still getting major league playing time - not to mention in the frackin’ lead-off spot.
On the other hand, I haven’t yet given up completely on Pie. He performed better than expected in the tough AL East last season and, before getting hurt, he was off to a hellacious start this year: Hitting .400/.455/.650 (1.105 OPS, .477 wOBA!!!) in 22 plate appearances. Obviously, he’s not going to do that all season, but I hope he can stay healthy next year, because I’m still curious to see how he’ll do with 400-500 plate appearances.