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and another thing about how stupid this organization is

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Last night prior to his minor league rehab start Carlos Zambrano took batting practice in Peoria. He hit multiple home runs, swinging as hard as he could…even though he is trying to rehab pulled muscles (and even though the team asked him not to).

The idiocy seems to never end. They should fine Carlos $25,000 for this. They will probably do nothing.

and by the way in Peoria they use a designated hitter.

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Trade

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

Undoubtedly someone will type up something more about this soon. But the Cubs have completed a trade with the Pirates that brings left handed reliever John Grabow and pitcher (now in AAA) Tom Gorzelanny. The Cubs send Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and minor league infielder Josh Harrison.

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today acquired left-handed pitchers John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from the Pittsburgh Pirates for right-handed pitchers Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio and Single-A Daytona infielder Josh Harrison.

Grabow will be added to the Cubs 25-man roster prior to tomorrow’s game at Florida. Gorzelanny, a native of Evergreen Park, Ill., will join Chicago’s Triple-A Iowa roster.

The 30-year-old Grabow is 3-0 with a 3.42 ERA (18 ER/47.1 IP) in 45 relief appearances for the Pirates this season. He has posted a 2.22 ERA (7 ER/28.1 IP) and a .184 batting average against (18-for-98) in his last 25 appearances during the last two-plus months starting May 24. He has not allowed a run in 22 of the 25 outings, including 11 consecutive scoreless outings from June 24-July 22, covering 12.0 innings pitched.

Grabow has been especially tough in “close and late” situations this season, limiting opponents to a .212 batting average (22-for-104) in those spots. Overall he is limiting foes to a .246 batting average against, including a .234 mark by righthanders (29-for-124) and a .275 mark (14-for-51) by lefthanders.

In 2008, Grabow turned in the best season of his seven-year big league career when he went 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA (24 ER/76.0 IP) in 74 relief appearances with the Pirates. He limited opponents to a .215 batting average (60-for-279), including a .239 mark by lefties and a .207 mark by righties. Overall in seven seasons with Pittsburgh, the six-foot-two, 205-pounder is 20-15 with six saves and a 4.09 ERA (165 ER/363.1 IP) in 390 career relief outings. A native of Arcadia, Calif., Grabow was originally selected by Pittsburgh in the third round of the 1997 Draft.

A 14-game winner for the Pirates in 2007, the 27-year-old Gorzelanny has split the 2009 season between Pittsburgh and its Triple-A Indianapolis club. With Indianapolis, Gorzelanny has gone 4-3 with a 2.48 ERA (24 ER/87.0 IP) in 15 starts. He has a 0.96 ERA (4 ER/37.1 IP) in his last six Triple-A starts beginning June 27 and is 3-2 with a 1.21 ERA (7 ER/52.0 IP) in his last nine starts. Overall with Indianapolis, Gorzelanny has limited opponents to a .228 batting average, including a .195 mark by left-handed hitters.

Gorzelanny enjoyed his first full major league season in 2007 when he went 14-10 with a 3.88 ERA (87 ER/201.2 IP) in 32 starts with the Pirates. He has split the 2008 and 2009 seasons between Triple-A and the majors. He is 3-1 with a 5.19 ERA (5 ER/8.2 IP) in nine relief appearances for the Pirates this season during his big league stint from May 17-June 9.

The six-foot-two, 202-pound Gorzelanny made his major league debut with the Pirates in 2005 and was named Pittsburgh’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2006 after going 6-5 with a 2.35 ERA with Indianapolis. Overall in 76 major league appearances (65 starts) with the Pirates, Gorzelanny is 25-26 with a 4.79 ERA (204 ER/383.1 IP).

Hart, 26, has split the 2009 campaign between Chicago and Triple-A Iowa. He is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA (29 ER/66.1 IP) in eight appearances (four starts) with the Cubs this season, earning the win this afternoon against the Houston Astros.

Ascanio, 24, has also split the 2009 season between the Cubs and Triple-A. He is 0-1 with a 3.52 ERA (6 ER/15.1 IP) in 14 relief appearances for Chicago this season.

Harrison, 22, is batting .286 (20-for-70) with one home run and nine RBI in 18 games with Daytona this season. He began the year with Single-A Peoria, where he batted .337 (102-for-303) with four homers and 33 RBI in 79 games.

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Welcome to MLB Hell

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

There is a phenomenon that I hear discussed often on Chicago sports radio often referring to the Bulls. It has to do with the term “NBA Hell.” The term refers to a team that is good enough to make the playoffs in one of the lower seeds but not good enough to win it all. Because they make the playoffs they are also not bad enough to score one of the high picks in the draft and pick a real game changer to build your franchise around. The Bulls “lucked out” last year by landing the first pick and picking Derrick Rose who is hopefully a franchise turn around type guy. However, without that stroke of luck a team can be mired in this territory for years. This is not a fun place to be.

After watching the series’ against the Nationals and Phillies this week I fear that the Cubs are in Major League Baseball Hell. They are good enough to beat bad teams and bad pitching but will struggle against good teams and good pitching. Sometimes they will win series against good teams. Other times they will not. They will be able to play a little above five hundred and hang around in a weak division, but it would seem that they will be no match for the better teams if they make the playoffs.

I know that the stats guys say that it is all up for grabs in the playoffs, and this might be statistically true. However, there is one thing that I feel almost always demonstrates itself in the playoffs. You want to have a shut down ace to pitch games one, four, and seven in a series. You want to have the guy that both teams would pick to start game one for them if they had the choice. This guy might lose a close game and the series might shift on that, but you can be sure that this guy will keep you in the game and give you a chance to win. Is there anyone on the Cubs that you would feel this way about? We know that Big Z is a stud and also nuclear. He seems to have one or two bad innings every game, and if these go real bad you have lost the game. He has that talent that makes you  feel like you want him on your side going to war, but a psyche that makes you know that you don’t really know how that will end up. Dempster has been down this year, and who knows what you will get with him. Harden goes seven at the most, but has days where he (in his words) is throwing batting practice. Wells is unproven. Lilly is the ballsiest, guy on the staff. But he has never been seen as a dominant pitcher. Thinking about all of the teams you could see in the playoffs, there probably is not one whose game 1 starter you would not rather have than whoever ours might be (and many game 2 starters that I would prefer over our game 1).

We all know about the holes that we are currently seeing in this team. We hope they will change. But even if they do what makes us think the playoffs will be different than previous years? Will Soriano be able to hit quality starting pitching (Will most of the players for that matter)? They might be good enough to squeak into the playoffs- but then what?

My fear is that this will be the case for many years to come. Of course, over those years, our core guys will be declining as they age. A team that is not scoring runs now will probably score less runs as their run producers get older. This team was built to win now (two years ago) and leave a boatload of bad contracts and aging players and millions of dollars in salary to a new ownership…along with a championship to bask in the glow of. Unfortunately, there is no new owner and continued delays in finding one…and no championship. But the contracts, and dollars, and no trade clauses are piling up.

You can see the terror of the Cubs situation playing out every day. Milton Bradley was overpaid by Jim Hendry (who outbid himself) and has now just seen his third year option become real because he went less than 75 games on the disabled list this year. Which seems like an odd conract clause (but who am I to evaluate that) and seems odder when you consider that there were times this year when he should have been DL’ed but wasn’t. Alfonso Soriano has five years remaining on his contract which will pay him $18 million annually. He also has a full no trade. Which means that barring some team wanting to take that contract off your hands, Soriano will be playing left field for you for five more years- or be the highest paid bench player in the game. Ryan Dempster (he of the one good post-injury year of starting pitching) will make on average $13 million for the next three seasons. Kosuke (slap hitter extraordinaire) is signed through 2011, will average $13 million over that time and also has full no trade protection. Ramirez, Lee, Lilly, and Samardzija also have no trade clauses. And by the way Aaron Miles will make almost $3 million next year.

The scary thing is that this team is your team for a while, especially if there is no money to add in coming years since so much is already eaten up. Consider that for 2010 the team already has $114 million commited to 8 players: Zambrano, Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, Dempster, Bradley, Fukudome, and Lilly. Which means that if the team keeps their current payroll (At a time when most teams are dropping payroll right now…which would seem to be a desire of new ownership) you will have about $20 million dollars to spend on the other 17 players on your roster. To make things worse: Marmol, Soto, Theriot, Marshall, Fontenot, Guzman, Hoffpauir, Wells, and Jake Fox all make around $500,000 on deals that expire this year. Now, I am not sure how MLB contracts and years work but eventually these guys will need to get paid. You have very liitle to pay them.

You can see how dire it is in the Cubs current approach to the trade deadline. They have deep needs and they can do nothing about it. The pop they would have coming from the farm system is blocked by high paid talent that you cannot give up on. While teams like the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Phillies are talking about big names like Halladay, and Holliday the Cubs might not be in the position to even add a guy like Freddie Sanchez who the Pirates will be looking to trade and could make a huge difference to the Cubs lineup.

On paper the team was built to win by now. Probably with 2010 being the last real chance at winning as constructed. It seemed that the team would be sold by now and bad contracts would be the worry of the next ownership. These things are blowing up in their face. Which has tanked faster the ecomony or the talent on this team? The ownership situation is still unresolved. The team has not won and looks weaker than the teams that got bounced from the playoffs without a win the previous two years. Jim Hendry miscalculated on almost every move last off season. And there is no championship for a fan base that finds losing unacceptable now and seems readier to jump ship than ever. Welcome to Hell…MLB style. It seems the old saying is true. After throwing a lot of money around for a couple years, the Cubs have found out that the devil is in the details.

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Just Wondering

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

What do the stats say about Alfonso Soriano as a fielder? I am pretty sure what I think they should say.

During today’s game, when Alfonso misjudged another fly ball allowing it to drop, Bob Brenley said something like “It’s humorous that we keep talking about the problems with Fox and Hoffpauir’s defense when we see this on a daily basis.” He must be reading this board.

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Dear Timmy

Thursday, June 11th, 2009

Timmy,
Sleep easy my boy. It is all bad luck. Close your eyes and whisper to yourself “It’s all about BABIP.”  Lay in bed and count Albert Pujols-es, or Adam Dunns or even Raul Ibanez-es and fall asleep…but don’t ask yourself why those guys don’t have this bad luck for a third of the season. Don’t think about how the new guy that you brought in to make all of the bad things go away gets owies simply by running to first base. And even though you know deep down that the guy is a meanie who doesn’t play nice and gets the grown ups mad at him…just pretend that he drives an ice cream truck and makes everyone like him. I know you really don’t expect him to hit a million billion home runs every day, but maybe do something good every once in a while. It can make you sad. So just pretend like it isn’t there.

Don’t worry Timmy everything will be ok. We live in Cubville. It is a fantasy world where everything is happy, and smily, and sunny, and fun. Even though we are really in a scary forest where things never turn out good, we just smile and pretend that everything is fine. There are gumdrops and ice cream cones all over.

What’s that, Timmy? Our best hitter has a really bad owie and we don’t know when or how good he will be when he comes back? Don’t worry we have all of these little superheroes that can take his place named Miles, and Fontenot, and Theriot. They even have cool nicknames like “Little Babe Ruth” and “The Riot.” I know they’re not that good, but this is Cubville. We love guys like that. They are like little princes who walk up to the dragon and stomp on his toes. Just make sure you turn your head away when they get eaten by the dragon.This is Cubville we must stay happy.

We even have all of these guys with grey  beards that have not been good enough to come to Cubville when they were younger…when most good guys come to their teams. These guys are named Scales, and Hoffpauir, and even a guy named Fox (Yeah, like the animal…isn’t that funny). These guys are so good with their swords. They swing them and people run away afraid. Just don’t ask them to do anything else. As long as you can swing your sword real hard you can be a king in Cubville.

Who is the jolly guy behind home plate? Did you know that guy won rookie of the year last year? Last year he was so good. Last year he hit a lot. Last year he was a pretty good catcher. Last year he was in the all star game…..oh don’t ask that Timmy. Don’t worry about what is happening this year. We live in Cubville. “This year” we close our eyes and try to be happy. Sometimes we think about last year but last year always makes us sad…always. So we usually like to think about next year around these parts. There is always hope that next year Cubville will be a happy place.

I know you keep having that bad nightmare. The one where our streaky lead off hitter makes everyone happy and falls apart at the end of the story. The one where it looks like you will finally get the “ring” you have longed for forever. Then just when you reach out for it…”my precious”…it is taken away by someone else. Close your eyes and cross your fingers and make a lot of wishes. That can’t happen every year can it?…Can it? Things can’t be as they seem can they? Our first baseman is not declining due to age. He is a Cub, his legend will live forever. Cubs do not grow old. I know most of the guys in that field are pretty mediocre. But just pretend like the guys who were always good are just playing bad for a little while. And pretend like the guys who are not very good will be really good by magic. I know it seems weird to say that the struggling guys will bounce back because that is what the magic numbers say (we call these stats), while at the same time saying that the mediocre guys will not fall back to their mediocre “stats”. Those struggling guys are called scrappy or cute and in Cubville cute and loveable and scrappy matters more than everything else.

Now go to sleep Timmy. Everything will be better in the morning. Soon the sun will shine and the ivy will grow and the girls will be wearing bikini’s. That’s all that mattters. And one day you will be old enough to drink so much magic potion in Cubville that you will not even care that things are so scary here.
Sleep well my boy. And don’t worry about that monster under your bed. He has been there for 101 years.

Love,
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Rob's Manifesto

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I’m (Joe) posting this for Rob because I thought it was worth reading. It was important stuff that not just commenting folks should read.

People, this is a place of opinion. Write your opinion. Disagree with somebody else’s. We’re not trying to bring peace to the middle east here. We’re talking about a game and a team that has failed for 101 years. We are a people of misery. How can we take this so seriously? Yeah, I get ticked at gray boxes being pulled out of multiple paragraphs and dissected as if it is really important that Ryan Theriot’s numbers are declining or rising from April to May. I don’t care what some arbitrary, confusing statistic says about Alfonso Soriano’s fielding. I think I don’t want him chasing fly balls in close games. No statistic will make me feel different. But I do know that my opinion is based on hunch and feeling and that stats might tell a different story. Yet, even if they do tell a different story, I can still feel the way I do about Soriano…who really cares? Let’s disagree.

Stats can be manipulated. This came up in my conversation back and forth with Dave a few days ago. Some of Theriot’s numbers went down in the last month. Other numbers went up. Most of his numbers declined in the second half of the month. What story do I want to tell? I can probably find a statistic to prove it. I think Theriot is mediocre. Throw a bunch of stats at me. That is the fun of discussion. I still will think he is mediocre. Did you want Sammy Sosa up with the game on the line? I didn’t- even though stats might say my thoughts were unfounded. It was what I felt. The thing is I know it is a feeling. It could be proven wrong. This is a game. If it is proven wrong and I still believe it…what difference does it make? We should talk about this stuff as if it were a game. Another guy likes Theriot. Do I have a hard time understanding it? Yes. Does the sun rise in the morning in spite of people’s love for Theriot- I am pretty sure it will.

After the loss in the playoffs last year I said that I wouldn’t have so much of my life effected by the outcome of a game, played by a team of talented people who don’t really care about me or the city they play in. I love the Cubs. I still want them to win. I pay attention to, listen to, or watch ever game. Yet I am actually enjoying it.

I don’t like gray boxes or banana talk. However, one thing I think is sillier is people quitting discussion in frustration. If you want to talk then do so. People will disagree…even when statistics tell them that they are foolish for doing so. We are fans who watch a game. Maybe we should take some of this less seriously.

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10 years is a large sample size

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

It has been the debate that is driving the discussion on the site over the past couple days. What should we make of this Milton Bradley guy and his .0something batting average? I realize that some might get frustrated with the over the top discussion of this topic and all of the permutations surrounding Milton. However, this is the issue of the day for the Cubs and we are bloggers and our world rotates around issues of the day.

Admittedly, it is unfair to make crystal clear statements about how effective Bradley will be at this point in the season. He is adjusting to a new team, new league, and new city. He missed time in spring training and has missed time in the season. We all knew he is sometimes too achy and would miss some time so it comes as no surprise that he has. Certainly this has impacted his development and comfort at the plate. It would seem that his numbers are going to come around, because they almost always do. (Although he seems to be striking out at a higher percentage which is a disturbing trend for a high on base percentage guy.) Thequestion surrounding this, and the one that Lou faces, is how patient should you be especially with the hot hitting Micah Hoffpauir waiting behind Bradley? As I said in response to a post earlier this week, Hoffpauir’s success brings the struggles of Milton Bradley more to the forefront (Which brings a smile to D-Lee’s face because he was facing the mythical shadow of Hoffpauir before Bradley did.)

It has appeared to me over the past week that while Bradley is struggling- due much to being injured and unable to get in a hitting groove- he is doing himself no favors in the things he can control. Here is a major issue. While everyone is OK with the B.A. who gets the job done, people don’t have much time for the B.A. with the .048 average. Bradley is new here and he is not doing much to win fans or more importantly earn their patience. If the fans continue to grow frustrated with Milton Bradley and voice their frustration it seems obvious that this will lead to a blow up and a bad situation. Cub fans are fickle, and honeslty many don’t know what they’re talking about. Soriano still gets major cheers even though he is a MAJOR reason why the Cubs got swept from the playoffs the last two years. You can name player after player who Cubs fans loved almost unconditionally even though they had major flaws as players.

Bradley is taking missteps that are going to cost him in the long run. While he cannot control being injured and getting off to a bad start at the plate, there are things he can control which he seems not to care about. In last night’s game Bradley received criticism for not running out a ground ball. I am fine with someone with a gimpy groin not busting it out on a ground ball. Protect yourself for later. But because you have not engratiated yourself to the fans, or the team, they will not afford you the same grace that they do for Aramis when he doesn’t run out a ground ball.

Some have said that Bradley has brought an attitude to the team that was lacking before. This has been described as a passion for winning. I find it hard to believe that the team previously lacked a passion for winning. It seems that screaming and bumping umpires shows a care for winning. When this causes you to get suspended and miss games and put your team at a disadvantage this does not demonstrate that a passion for winning is what is most important.

This is another thing Bradley can control but does not. Last week in the Cardinals game he strikes out in a crucial situation with the bases loaded. Strike 3 was a close call. But it was undoubtedly a bad call. So argue it. Get thrown out. You’re not going to play the field anyway. But don’t get aggressive with the umpire and bump him while yelling. Don’t get suspended. You have been down this road before. You could control this, but you don’t care about that.

I am surprised that Bradley has decided to appeal the suspension as opposed to serving it now while he is injured. I suppose that winning doesn’t matter more than getting one game knocked off of the suspension that you will have to serve down the road after an appeal. At that time you will probably not be injured, and hopefully being productive in the everyday lineup. Yet you will need to take a game off and pull yourself from the lineup when you could just as easily do so now when you’re not in the lineup anyway. This is something you could control but you don’t care to.

Following last night’s game I read an article that said that Bradley is boycotting the media. I just heard a report that he has not been available in the clubhouse all week. He has not been seen with the other players and is avoiding all attention. A good way to build up team chemistry. This is something you could control but you don’t care to. Sometime last week I heard reporters on the radio talking about the fact that Bradley has not been loved by his teammates because in the past he has been quick to remove himself from the lineup and wasn’t a good team player. That seems to be on display already.

The article following last night’s loss said that on the night of his first Wrigley Field start Bradley arrived late to avoid talking to the press and ran out early so he wouldn’t be asked questions after the game. This left his teammates to answer questions for and about him. A strong way to build up your team and demonstrate the passion for winning as a team. Let your teammates take the bullets for you. A winning strategy of a guy who gives 110%. This is something you could control but you don’t care to.

Now today WSCR is reporting that Milton Bradley is not in the lineup for this afternoon’s game. Lou has said that he will start Milton next only when Bradley comes to him and says he is ready and feels 100%. This could be sending the message “I don’t really care about trying to start you.” Piniella and Jim Hendry both went on record today saying that Bradley needs to talk more with the media. In other words “Start controlling the things you can control.”Atlantis: The Lost Empire movies Ghost Month film

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An asinine weekend time killer

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

There are many moments and things that typify cubdom in my world. Sometimes they come to mind and I think “That could only happen to the Cubs.” This week I was driving in my car and got a chuckle out of this one. I thought I might kill some weekend time to throw this at you. You might take a moment to add your definitive moments of Cubdom in the comments.

We all remember 2004. It was the year following the Bartman collapse. The Cubs went out and got Greg Maddux back and were picked by most to win the National League Pennant and go to the World Series. The Cubs choked. They began to blame the play-by-play team of Steve Stone and Chip Caray. This year would be the duo’s final year in Chicago.

Players began to rip Caray and Stone for being critical of the team. Kent Mercker called the broadcast booth during a game to complain that the team spoke too highly of Roy Oswalt. Moises Alou wanted Caray and Stone banned from the team’s charter flights. When Todd Walker was asked about the controversy he mentioned that the home town announcing team usually cheers for the home team and does stuff like give them fun nicknames.

For the remainder of the year Walker would be heralded by Caray and Stone as either the “Louisiana Lumberjack” or the “Louisiana Larruper.” As in “Here comes the Louisiana Larruper to the plate.”

I did not know (although I could have guessed by context) so here it is:  “Larrup”- (Noun) “a blow, especially one delivered with a lot of force.”

I miss Stoney.

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Shame on me…

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

Why we need to do something…maybe even big:

The old saying goes “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” though President Bush butchered it when he tried to use it. The gist being that when something catches you off guard twice then you have to look at yourself to blame. The sad end to the Cubs 2008 season has left people scratching their heads and even questioning their allegiances. Two years in a row of a quick and quiet exit. Two years in a row of futility, silent bats, and ineffective pitching. Last year was understandable with the Cubs fighting their way into the playoffs only to travel to Arizona and face Brandon Webb. This year was supposed to be different. The best team in the National League wins home field advantage where they have been ultra dominant only to go away really bad and really fast. It doesn’t make sense. But it is the second time and so you must consider a different road.

I know it is difficult to consider a different road because multiple winning seasons and playoff bound teams in a row is a nice situation. It is certainly much different than we have been accustomed to over our lifetimes. Yet the goal is winning championships and the last two years we haven’t been close. We can analyze everything that happened and why Lou did what he did and why the players didn’t seem to show up and why the Dodgers might have been the better team at that time but this gets us nowhere really. The thing is that we didn’t even contend, we didn’t battle, we barely showed up. The most competitive thing we did the entire month was bust up some plumbing in Dodgers Stadium after losing the series. We did beat ourselves with walks and errors but even without those we probably still lose three straight because we couldn’t hit. The series showed some fatal flaws that must be addressed or we will continue this cycle.

To make things clear I believe that the Cubs will still make the playoffs next year even as constituted. They will make moves but a rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Harden, Marquis, and Marshall probably goes to the playoffs. The defense and bats remain pretty much the same with the addition of Pie in Center. The bullpen would move Carlos Marmol to closer and would be serviceable. I think as constituted the Cubs would still win the Central because I doubt that the Brewers will resign Sabathia and still have no bullpen or defense. The Cardinals and Astros are OK but fading for now. The Reds are a step away. The Pirates are the Pirates. Of course we will not stay as constituted but my point is that they would still win the division. However, the goal is not just to win the division. Which is why we must do something because winning the division and being easily bounced from the first round is not going to cut it.

Why it will be tough:

The Cubs contract numbers are frightening from a business sense and they make you wonder if they will even be able to afford to field a 25 man roster next year. Jim Hendry built the team with back loaded contracts believing the team would win a World Series and that the team would have a new owner to deal with the payroll…wrong and wrong. So the contracts are beginning to blossom into a nightmarish garden of trouble for the future. Look at these numbers:

  • Secret Passage release Carlos Zambrano will make 2.75 million more in 2009
  • Aramis Ramirez will make 1.65 million more
  • Alfonso Soriano will make 3 million more
  • Ted Lilly will make 5 million more
  • Kosuke will make 5.5 million more
  • Jason Marquis will make 3.5 million more
  • Rich Harden will make 2.5 million more

This is an additional 24 million dollars on the payroll for next year. This does not include new contracts for Ryan Dempster and potentially Kerry Wood.

So the Cubs will consider trading some guys but that will not be easy either. The Cubs have given no trade clauses or no trade protection to Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano (Whose contract is ridiculous…I think Jim Hendry also promised him a piece of Lake Michigan), Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, and Kosuke.

This means that any off season plan will be tricky and take the work of a magician. This leaves the Cubs in a really tough place to try to win a World Series.

What should we do?

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If you’re thinking trade you might want to begin by looking at one of the big 3 bats. Soriano and Ramirez did not show up in the playoffs again. While Derrek Lee had very good numbers in the playoffs his numbers on the year were down slightly and he plays in one of the most wealthy offensive positions in baseball. The Cubs need a powerful left handed bat and Lee plays at the most likely position to find that, although there are no guarantees that you can. I think you need to at least kick the tires on trading one of these three. Ideally, it would be Soriano but trading that contract will be almost impossible. It will be hard to trade any of them with the no trade clauses but you start here. Two of the three didn’t perform and the most money will be gained here. They are stars who would demand a sizeable return…if anyone would be interested.

The trouble with Sori

As has been said in the past few days a big deal was made about Alfonso Soriano being a mistake hitter. He pounds the mistakes other pitchers make and hits well against the other team’s third, fourth, and fifth in the rotation. The thing is I saw mistakes that were thrown to him in the Dodger’s series and he didn’t hit those either. He has been on really good teams and not one has won the World Series. His fault? Maybe not. But it can’t be completely unrelated either. When he played with the Yankees, Joe Torre wound up dropping him in the order for the playoffs due to lack of production. This is not a coincidence.

His playoff numbers are poor and maybe abysmal. They are based on a large sample size and are not fluke. 179 playoff at bats, only 7 extra base hits, only 14 runs scored from a guy who was leading off most of the time, 18 rbi, .213 batting average, .263 obp, .299 slugging. Really bad numbers.

It is amazing because no one has taken the team on their back the way Soriano has at times the last two years. But he has proven an inability to perform in the playoffs. You can’t have a lead off hitter who goes one for the playoffs every year. I am finally ready to say that Alfonso Soriano cannot lead off if the Cubs want to go to the World Series. This means that he cannot lead off during the year either. I think ideally the Cubs would love for someone to take Soriano from them. That probably won’t happen. Which means their only other option is to drop him in the order and it has already been reported that this decision had been made.

At the top

One interesting free agent of note is Rafael Furcal whom Jim Hendry wooed a few years back only to be jilted when he went to the Dodgers. He is a lead off or number two hitter who can get on base and can hit from the left side. He plays one of the few positions that can easily be replaced on this team. While I like Ryan Theriot I still wonder if he has the stuff to be more than a nice gritty guy. Adding Furcal would help you at the top of the order and add a consistent bat that can hit from the left side. Furcal had a .459 obp this year. With this addition you could drop Soriano and bring Lee, Fukudome, or DeRosa to number two. OR…

Another spot that you could easily switch up is second base. This brings up the potential of the rumored Brian Roberts deal again. If you were pursuing Roberts in this scenario you would have Theriot, Cedeno, Fontenot, and all of your other pitching and hitting prospects at your disposal to try to get him. While other teams will go after Roberts as well it remains to be seen if the Cubs have the horses to win that race.

This is a realistic scenario. You have to pay for Furcal but you have the money. You have to trade for Roberts but you have the guys to do it. This is not convincing guys to forego their no trade. This is not adding multi million dollar players who are not available or won’t come. This scenario could change everything. Imagine Roberts and/or Furcal at the top of the order in front of Lee, Ramirez, Soto, and Soriano.

Outfield

Assuming that Soriano will be here you have question marks at the other spots. I think a first step is re-signing Reed Johnson. He is a platoon guy who can play all three outfield positions when needed. I would think you would have Pie on the roster again. If you do have Roberts at 2B you can then use DeRosa in right field if Kosuke does not work. If Kosuke is hitting he could be an option in CF- nobody questions his defensive ability. You would have Soriano, Johnson/Pie in CF, DeRosa/Fukudome in RF. This is not saying that DeRosa and Fukudome will platoon.

Offensive Roster

I think a reasonable (and potential World Series winning) roster on offense would be:

  • Geovany Soto
  • Henry Blanco
  • Derrek Lee
  • Micah Hoffpauir
  • Brian Roberts
  • Rafael Furcal
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Reed Johnson
  • Kosuke Fukudome
  • Mark DeRosa
  • Either Felix Pie, Mike Fontenot, or Ronnie Cedeno

We know that DeRosa can play many positions and give you depth in many places so he can rotate out of the outfield as needed.

Pitching staff

You would start with the contracts of Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood. I would attempt to re-sign both guys depending on what they were asking. I think Dempster is more vital than Wood but if you don’t re-sign Wood you will need another quality right handed arm in the bullpen. Jeff Samardzija looked good at times and looked spotty at other times. He is an unproven commodity. Chad Gaudin should be more effective next year as he should be recovered from injury by then. The Cubs need another left hander. Sean Marshall has been a valuable resource because he could spot start but he might be a trade focus and isn’t really a bullpen guy anyway. The Cubs need to get a strong lefty out of the pen.

As of now I have only mentioned one free agent pursuit (aside from a bullpen arm or two). But I think there is another realistic possibility out there. I would like to see the Cubs pursue Ben Sheets. I know he is injury prone, but when he is good he is an ace. You will be able to get him much cheaper than other guys and if he stays healthy he is a stud. The good thing about this is that he would be coming in as a number five. With Harden and Sheets people might say that is like counting on Wood and Prior. It is completely different. Wood and Prior were counted on as one and two. Harden and Sheets would be four and five. Imagine a rotation of Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, and Sheets. What do you do with Marquis? Would it really matter?

I think these thoughts are somewhat possible and would answer a lot of questions. Perhaps in this scenario we would not have to find out what “Fool me thrice” would bring.

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