Yes, yes, I know it’s been a while since I posted, and I apologize. To tell the truth, the Cubs haven’t provided much inspiration (at least to say anything good) lately, so I’ve been holding my tongue (and boy is it dry). So first, I will react to the Neifi trade. Well, it was nice that we traded him and don’t have to pay his salary and even got a decent prospect, but I’m more bothered by the fact that there are still 3 guys on the team who are WORSE(Bynum, Cedeno and Izturis) than Neifi!
mp3 andru donalds all out of love
That out of the way, I will now provide you with the real reason I jumped into action and posted today: Dusty Baker said something stupid. Yes, not usually news, but it got me so aggravated that I needed to get it off my chest. Actually, before the main event, here’s something to get me warmed up:
“I’ve always said since I started managing that I’d like to have a team full of young guys and young players who you can teach to play the game the right way,” Baker said.
All I’ll say is that if somebody can go back through various newspaper archives and find any quote from the beginning, middle or end of Dusty’s managerial career in which he expressed the idea that he wanted to teach and manage young players, e-mail it to me, and I will send you one of my cats as a prize.
On to the main event, asked about the club’s need to improve it’s NL low .318 on-base percentage, Dusty said this:
On-base percentage is great if you can score runs and do something with that on-base percentage,” Baker said. “Clogging up the bases isn’t that great to me. The problem we have to address more than anything is the home run problem.”
While Baker is right about the team’s power outage, he has once again brought up the insane idea that there is something wrong with walks, that they “clog” the bases. I do not understand this concept. Not at all. Here’s the way I see it. If a slow guy(say Aramis Ramirez) gets on base via a walk he is clogging the bases, because if a fast guy(say Juan Pierre) comes up after him and hits a ball that could be triple, Juan will only get a double, because Aramis will be too slow to score. But isn’t it still better to have men on 2nd and 3rd than just a man on 3rd? What am I missing here? Please, if you think you can adequately explain to me what is wrong with clogging the bases with walks, e-mail me said explanation along with your name and home address, so that I can tell your local mental health professionals where to find you.
Okay enough of Dusty. Hopefully he’s not going to be around next year anyway. September is approaching, and with the season over since July, what do you hope to see from the Cubs in the final month? Do you want to see a big winning streak? Maybe you want the team to be overtaken by the Pirates so they get the top draft pick? Here’s what I’d like to see in September:
1. Felix Pie: I know he’s probably not ready for the show yet, but remember, in September, a lot of teams are playing AAA players, and there are no great teams in the NL anyway, so I’d like to see what Pie can do in the bigs. Frankly, I’m curious to see the kid play, and after sitting through this crapfest, it’d be nice to see somebody with some promise on the field.
2. Ryan Theriot: I think I’ve made it known that I don’t particularly care for Ronny Cedeno. He seems like a nice kid who plays hard, but he lacks in two areas: hitting and fielding. The Cubs said earlier that they planned on playing Cedeno and Izturis at SS and 2nd next year, perhaps in some twisted quest to field the worst hitting middle infield since the deadball era. No, I want to see Ryan Theriot at 2nd, for the rest of the year. He shows patience at the plate, and actually has a track record of hitting in the minors and also seems to be able to catch the ball. And if he can stick in the majors, that’s one less spot to fill for 2007.
3. Carlos Zambrano rested: He’s one of my favorite pitchers, but the guy is being ridden too hard during a season that means nothing. I’m not saying bench Zambrano (who’d want to tell him that?), but maybe he doesn’t need to throw 120 pitches every outing. The once promising Cubs staff now lies in a twisted wreckage of broken arms and shoulders, and while we all want to believe that Carlos is some sort of freak of nature, the truth is that if you put enough weight on anything, it eventually breaks.
Those are the top 3 things I’d like to see in September of 2006. What are yours?
Good news from today’s Chicago Tribune! Now that there’s no pressure at all, the Cubs are playing better!
Meanwhile, over at Cubs.com, Carrie Muskat says that Dusty Baker thinks the Cubs are still in this thing.
This kind of confuses me. I mean, if the Cubs actually win enough games to get close to a playoff spot, won’t the pressure be back on? Is there anyway they can play the rest of their games at an undisclosed location (perhaps somewhere in the Yukon Territory) where no one can see them? That should keep the boys loose.
Of course, this being Cubs.com, Dusty gets a chance to blow a little smoke at us.
“Basically, we have the same team, but we have some guys who have gotten hot and are performing,” Baker said. “We’ve got some kids who are getting better through experience. Half the guys here hadn’t had a Major League start yet. Time brings about change, hopefully a positive change. It brings a learning curve. That’s our job to teach them. A lot of these guys have had to learn on the job.
“I know what I can do,” he said. “I just manage the best I can.”
So, I guess the good news is, Dusty, the man who previously claimed that young guys should get all their learnin’ in the minor leagues has become a great teacher. He’s taught hitters to hit, and the pitchers to hit. Dusty is the reason for the Cubs current winning streak. It has nothing to do with the fact that even the worst teams usually have at least one hot streak during the season. Anyway, this all seems to be setting us up for the inevitable, Dusty Baker extension talk. Personally, I think that Baker will be offered, and will accept a one year deal to manage the Cubs for 2007, and redeem the last two seasons. If he isn’t able to do that, then both he, and Jim Hendry will be shown the door.
What do you all think?
Maybe I just lack vision. Did I miss something? Does Jim Hendry have some sort of plan for 2007? It sure didn’t seem like based on the Cubs deadline trades. Gone are Todd Walker and Greg Maddux. Still with us is, uh, everybody else. The Walker deal was pretty much a way to get Todd out of town as soon as possible. Jose Ceda is still in rookie ball, and unless something drastic takes place, Jim Hendry will likely be gone before Ceda ever sees the big leagues. More puzzling to me is the trade of Maddux for Cesar Izturis. Not that I mind Maddux being traded, but why would the Cubs want a guy who pretty much does the same thing as Neifi, but for more money? Other than the first half of 2005, Izturis has never been much of a hitter, and his career on-base percentage of .295 is putrid. Naturally, Dusty Baker says that he sees Izutris as a natural fit in the no. 2 spot in the batting order. I’m not sure if Dusty meant that, or if he was just pushing the needle a little deeper. It also tells us that the Cubs can’t be too satisfied with Ronny Cedeno since they jumped at the chance to acquire a player who plays the same position as him, but for a lot more money.
I do have one other theory. Jim Hendry is hoarding light-hitting middle infielders for a reason. You see, he’s anticipating that most of the league’s sluggers and power pitchers will be getting suspended for using steroids and HGH once the proper tests are developed. At that time, he’ll be able to field a team of Tony Womack, Cesar Izturis, Ronny Cedeno, Neifi Perez and Augie Ojeda and easily win the pennant. That’s so crazy, it just might work.
I will admit upfront to not being the biggest Phil Rogers fan. But I usually read his columns, because he’s the Tribune’s baseball writer, and I often get the feeling that his column is used by the TribCo as a trial balloon for various moves the Cubs might make. For instance, in my mind, it isn’t out of the question that Andy McPhail called Phil up the other day and asked him to write about what a good idea it would be to extend Dusty Baker’s contract.. While I’m sure in reality Phil thought of this by himself, a Cubs mandate might explain Phil’s feeble reasons for supporting an extension for Dusty. For one thing Phil says:
Baker offers you one thing you’re not going to get anywhere else stability. The greatest failing of the Cubs in the Tribune Co. era is the tendency to make knee-jerk decisions, never sticking to a course. Jim Riggleman is the only Cubs manager since Leo Durocher to last even five years. Why not give Baker six and see what happens?
Yeah! Stability! That seems like a good reason for keeping a manager. I mean, a stable organization is a winning one, right? Well, it turns out that stability argument is one of those that sounds right, but it doesn’t really hold up against things like facts. Let’s look at the managers of the World Series Champions for each of the last 10 years, and the number of years they had been with their team when they won:
2005: Ozzie Guillen, 2nd year
2004: Terry Francona, 1st year
2003: Jack McKeon, hired midseason
2002: Mike Scoscia, 3rd year
2001: Bob Brenly, 1st year
1998-2000: Joe Torre, 3rd through 5th years
1997: Jim Leyland, 1st year
1996: Joe Torre, 1st year
So much for stability. Joe Torre is the only manager in the last 10 years to have been with a team for more than 3 years and won the World Series, and that was while managing a baseball dynasty. We can also use this list to address Phil’s other reason for keeping Dusty:
Try as I might to come up with a better alternative to Baker, I’ve failed. You could grow with a Joe Girardi, but the Florida Marlins aren’t letting him go without Carlos Zambrano or Mark Prior as compensation. Lou Piniella would buy you good press and might catch some lightning in a bottle, but he’s not a long-haul guy. An unsung choice like Razor Shines, the White Sox’s Triple-A manager, could work wonders or be eaten alive.
He can’t think of anyone better than Dusty to manage the Cubs? Really? All the other good managers are taken? Or is it possible that there’s somebody out there who deserves another chance, or maybe their first shot? Looking at our list of managers, only Jim Leyland was hailed as an important hire at the time. Torre was coming off a sub-par stretch with the Cardinals, Mike Scoscia was considered solid, but he’d never managed in the big leagues before taking over the Angels. Brenly was yanked out of the broadcast booth and given the helm, McKeon was considered an over-the-hill baseball lifer, who was going to be a placeholder until 2004. Terry Francona was welcomed by Boston simply because he wasn’t Grady Little, and Sox fans widely believed that Ozzie Guillen had been forced on GM Kenny Williams by Jerry Reinsdorf as a way to keep costs down. So a manager can come from just about anywhere, and if the Cubs can’t sift through the minor league ranks, major league coaches and ex-mangers looking to get back in the game, then maybe they’re in the wrong business.
We’re not done with Phil Rogers yet though, because next he turns his pen to the next order of business: rebuilding the team for 2007. First the budget:
Hendry should have $30 million to reshape his roster for 2007.
Fine, so what should we do with that money? First, left field:
The likely free agents include Carlos Lee, Alfonso Soriano and Cliff Floyd, a left-handed hitter who would offer balance and come cheaper than Lee or Soriano.
Probably a good idea, the Cubs should definitely pass up two younger, healthier (more expensive) players and sign Floyd, a guy on the wrong side of 30 with a history of injury problems. Hendry can spend he money he saves on a front line starter, right?
Get Prior healthy. Invest most of the remaining flexibility in a top-of-the-line starter maybe not Barry Zito, but someone very solid, and then sign one or two bargain arms to round out a rotation that includes Carlos Zambrano and Sean Marshall.
Yeah, I guess it’s not such a bad idea to keep depending on bargain bin pitchers, I mean we got a good year out of Glendon Rusch back in 2004, and that Wade Miller signing sure paid dividends. Plus, we’ll need to replace Todd Walker. We’ll need an impact guy too, since Ronny Cedeno’s offense is so bad.
Mark Loretta tops the free-agent wish list, followed by Adam Kennedy and Ronnie Belliard
Signing Loretta at this point seems like a gamble, since he’ll be 35 next year. Belliard is a good hitter, but still doesn’t have a high enough OBP and Kennedy isn’t good enough. Oh, and none of these guys can hit leadoff, which we’ll need with Felix Pie in CF next year, right?
Offer Juan Pierre a low, one-year deal to stay and re-establish his maximum value as a free agent. If Pierre leaves, find a one-year Plan B. Felix Pie is going to be a force but might not be ready until next July.
I’m sensing a theme here. And it’s the same old song from the Tribune. Stay the course with the manager. Ignore all the impact(expensive) free agents, sign some middle of the road veterans, hope that Mark Prior is healthy and bingo! Instant contender!
Just like the last two years.
Update from Mastrick: I don’t know what Phil’s been smokin’ but I want some. I’ll betcha I know what Harry Caray would have said if he’d read this article!