GROTA Round Table
In this entry three of the elusive four riders will be discussing the Cubs and their off season thus far. Contributing are Byron Clarke, Rob Letterly, and Kurt Evans.
Kurt: Alright, first let's talk about Sammy's status with the Cubs. As pretty much everyone knows, Sammy is on the hot seat this winter with both the organization and the fans. Personally I'll be pretty surprised if he goes - he's too old, too pissy, and too expensive. Until this year Sammy had a pretty good reputation as far as the fans go, but the constant bickering behind the curtain about his attitude has to play a part on how other teams see him.
Rob: Personna non gratta. He IS gone, the question is how long will it take Hendry to do it, thus how much worse will the return be, and will it cause us to miss out on Beltran?
Byron: I don't care either way on Sosa. He's overpaid, and whether he's the one taking up the roster spot or not, someone on this roster will be overpaid and underperforming next year. I'd keep Sammy because I think he'll have a good year, but unless there is salary to be saved in a trade, I don't care.
Kurt: Sammy definitely has a lot of pride, and I'm sure he'll play hard next year. But if the fans in Chicago start booing him from the get-go, I suspect he might pout and slump. Moving on, what about the closer? Are we stuck with LaTroy for another year or will Hendry surprise us?
Rob: It is pretty certain that Hendry is counting on a battle between Borowski and Dempster, and since health is an issue with both, we'll probably start the season using both as co-closers.
I can't cite ANY examples of this actually working well in recent history. I have harped and harped on the notion that players, especially relievers, need to "know their role", and do not function well outside of the level of stability that entails.
This will mean that the team will probably wallow for a short period until one man emerges as The Man.
Kurt: I have to agree with you strongly on this one. The one thing stat-heads never take into consideration is that there is a mentality aspect to the game. In theory ANY good reliever can close, but as the botched relief-by-comittee experiment back in 2003 in Boston proved, some guys just can't mentally do the job. So I guess we'll just have to tolerate stat-heads telling us that the closer position is the most overrated in baseball, and watch as teams without a good closer constantly fail to win close games and advance deep into the playoffs.
Rob: Statheads...I swear their greatest pleasure is finding the one stat that seems to go against what is commonly perceived as the truth.
Mitch Williams had horrible stats. But he was a closer. The only stat that matters to me for a closer is Converted Saves Percentage. Walk the park if you must...just get us into the clubhouse on top.
You don't need to throw 110 MPH, you don't need four pitches. In a way, it's easier now. Sutter, Gossage, Big Lee used to have to pitch 2 innings most days. Nowdays, just get three outs. You don't need a whole repetroire.
What was alarming about Borowski in the beginning of 2004, when he was recording saves, yet giving up runs, hits, and walks...was that, in 2003, he wasn't putting as many men on base. His act was different in 2004, because he was hurting.
We'll never know if the injury was in his shoulder or in his mind. I just hope he comes back all the way this year.
Kurt: I never would've thought it was something in his head. Usually a pitcher with that kind of problem loses control, not velocity. Although I seem to remember everyone's favorite brainless Cub Kyle Farnsworth losing velocity at the end of 2002, maybe? No one understood why it was happening then, either.
Rob: But, these days, when something's broke, don't they fix it with surgery? When does anything ever heal by itself anymore?
JoeBlow had no surgery. I hope whatever ails him fixed itself.
Byron: I think the closer's job is Joe Borowski's in the spring. He'll get a few blown saves to work things out in the Spring, and if he fails Dusty will go back to Hawkins. If Borowski is healthy, we might get lucky again, but I'm not too confident. I would like to see the Cubs sign Steve Kline.
Kurt: I didn't realize how much I liked Borowski until he was gone. I think he went fairly unheralded, at least by me. It's quite possible Hendry will sign someone like Steve Kline for the pen, although it looks like the duo-lefties job will be filled by Rusch and Remlinger. Should we expect any big signings before Spring Training starts? And how would you rate Hendry's performance so far?
Byron: I believe Hendry will get Beltran. He already got Nomar, and we'll see a three or four year deal for Ramirez. We also may get Clement back. I don't see the waters churning over this guy, and I think he likes Chicago. The Cubs like him, and although it might bust the budget, I wouldn't mind having Matty back for another year (obviously, I don't know what I'm talking about)... but if it costs us Beltran, I'll me shaving my goatee.
I think Hendry is one of the best GMs in baseball... not the best, that title belongs to Schuerholz (in Atlanta), but second best possibly. Hendry's best characteristic is his patience. He waited to sign Dusty, he waited to sign Greg, he waited on last minute trades for Aramis, and Nomar, and he was patient up to the deadline with Nomar and Walker. Hendry may not build the team by Dec 31, but I would guess by the time February rolls around, he will have done a fantastic job of addressing all the questions... except closer. I believe Hendry thinks that in the absence of a dominant bullpen arm, he'll take what he can get because predicting bullpen performance is nearly impossible.
Rob: To me, it appears that the big push to move Sosa along points to a Boras package deal, with any TWO of the following: Beltran, Ordonez, or Drew. I think he's going for two, and my guess is that he will end up with the latter two.
I have said many times in the past that Hendry elevated himself to legend status by trading the Turd. If he can get rid of Sosa and net ANY kind of return, he would then enter the Pope's canonization process, which as any good Catholic knows is the first step of sainthood. If he can then turn that into Beltran, then they're gonna have to invent a religion based on Hendry worship.
Kurt: This is true. Like pretty much everything else, baseball is very much a what have you done for me lately sport. These days you can get fired just two years after winning a World Series. I like Hendry a lot, but if we're using religious connotations, I guess I'm the doubting Thomas here. Everytime something happens, like the Cardinals getting Mark Mulder, or the Cubs losing out on an All Star free agent, I get nervous that Hendry will turn into Ed Lynch or Larry Himes. But I have to say I believe he'll do something.
Well, that's it for the first collaborated effort of the Goat Riders. I'd like to thank Byron, Rob, Kurt, and especially my significant other for never dragging me to an Affleck flick. And Jesus. Thank you, J.C. You da man.