Coming into the 2003 season, the biggest hole in the Cubs organization was always third base. Each year we had to live through the conversations about all the players trying to play the hot corner since Ron Santo. Then Aramis Ramirez came along in an absolute steal of a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Suddenly the hole was filled as Ramirez would hit effectively and play adequate enough defense to cool the talk of Santo. To be honest, I got a little spoiled and took that position for granted. There’s no question Ramirez had his faults, whether it be the lazy baserunning or the defensive shortcomings at times, or even the injuries to the shoulder late in his time with the Cubs. All those factored in, he was much better than anything we’ve had for a long long time. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the list of starting third base for this team since Santo. It’s not a pretty picture.
This past off-season, the new regime decided to let Ramirez walk in favor of a lottery ticket named Ian Stewart. The thinking was that Stewart could be a stop gap at worst until either Josh Vitters showed he deserved the shot or Theo and Jed could find an adequate building block to put over there. Best case scenario would be that Stewart would once again find the hitting stroke he seemed to have misplaced in Colorado and couple that with above average defense and turn into a bargain. Needless to say, Stewart has continued to suffer from the wrist issues that have plagued him throughout his career and now we’re left with Luis Valbuena.
For some reason, each and every time I ask for a Josh Vitters call up, I’m immediately shouted down with the reply of “defense”. At some point, you have to look at the fact that Valbuena simply can’t hit the baseball. Coming into Sunday’s game against the Cardinals, he was hitting just over .200. When the day was done, that number was under the Mendoza line. A quick look on Baseball Reference shows that he is good for a +7 runs when it comes to fielding, while his hitting is good for -7 runs. His hitting cancels anything he might do with the glove out.
I have a hard time believing that Vitters is that bad defensively at third base that he can’t make up for it with his hitting, but at this point, I’m resound to the fact that the earliest we’re going to see him is September. Theo and Jed have a history of wanting guys to see a full season of AAA ball and Vitters is not there yet. That’s fine, I get it, but at this point haven’t we seen that Valbuena is not the answer?