So Long, Sammy
It's a sad time when a once-great slugger overstays his welcome. From 1998 to 2002, Sammy was probably the most popular Cub in the last 30 years, but then a few years of poor play changed most peoples minds about him. Let's face it, the guy is a selfish bastard who refused to change his swing regardless of the situation.
Pending a physical, the Cubs will have dealt Sammy to the Baltimore Orioles for Jerry Hairston Jr. and a few prospects. They're also paying perhaps as much as half of Sammy's salary, and maybe even more. Hairston is 28 and is an Illinois native who plays the outfield and second base, and can provide the spark at leadoff that the team has been sorely lacking, assuming his 530 games as a major leaguer doesn't constitute him being considered an unproven ballplayer in the eyes of Dusty Baker. For all we know, Dusty is going to try to go with Todd Walker regardless, but Hairston can cover right field.
The big rumor today is that the Cubs will parlay the prospects they get from Baltimore and send them (along with perhaps Jason DuBois) to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for closer Danys Baez and slugger Audrey Huff. Baez is 27 and making only a few million this coming season. Last year he saved 30, blew 3, while maintaining an ERA of 3.57. Huff is 28, and last season he batted .297 with 29 homers and 104 RBI. He can play the corner outfield and infield positions. If the Cubs can swing this trade, they will be set for the 2005 season and I will again believe they have more than a fair chance at winning a pennant.
I've been pretty critical of Jim Hendry this winter, but I've also always believed that Hendry is great at his job. And while I'd certainly be critical of Jim next winter if he waited until January or February to improve the team, I do recognize that he's the best Cubs GM we've ever had. I'm glad Sammy is gone, I hope we get Huff and Baez from Tampa, and after all that is absolutely official, I'll be ready to believe this team will win the 2005 pennant.