Dear Tom Ricketts,
You are a douche bag. Now, it isn’t personal. You may or may not be a guy I would like to share a beer. It isn’t what you have done. You have bought the Chicago Cubs. You ownership group controls a team I love dearly. It is what you haven’t done. That is winning a World Series for the long suffering fans of the North Side. Is it fair to demand a World Series trophy despite this is the first year of your ownership? In any other business such a turnaround would be considered absurd. Unfortunately, we are taking about a sports team. You will be a douche bag just like all of Chicago sports ownership save the Blackhawks franchise (Five years ago I would have laughed out loud after reading that statement) until you bring the trophy to Wrigleyville.
I realize you are a fan yourself having met your wife in the bleachers. However, as it stands many of us look at you like you are a hipster, someone who goes to Wrigley Field because it is the place to be. Let’s face it there are hundreds of thousands of fans who sit along the ivy strewn walls not knowing who the starting pitcher is or who is in the starting lineup. Unfortunately, as it stands I have to count you among those lost and delirious. There were a number of issues this offseason; a more knowledgeable owner could have stepped in asked for those to be handled. You didn’t. Instead you have taken up the task to beautify Wrigley Field. You have brought in a pseudo-vegan dietician for the players. You have imported freetrade wheat grass just in case the players who wanted colon cleansing enemas would be reassured that the purchase helped indigenous people of wherever. All of these things are fine and well, but how will it bring a winner to Chicago? That is why I think you are douche. It’s just part of the baggage of owning a team with long suffering fans. Maybe you will turn around the team. Maybe you will bring a championship to this city. Unfortunately, as it stands as an owner Rocky Wirtz has made you his bitch. Here is too hoping that you get things done and that fans don’t hope for your demise like they did for Dollar Bill Wirtz. Give them a title or they may just wish for that to happen.
I know I said we are still in the Wild Card chase. It is mathematically still possible, but let's face it this team sucks. Now, if the Cubs are going to fix things they have to understand why. I know you are just like me and that you are tired of sounding like MC Pee Pants/Sir Loin/ Little Brittle from Aqua Teen Hunger Force when you try to explain to Sox/Cards fans why the Cubs have a chance to win the World Series year in and year out.
First let accept one thing: This team is mediocre. Even when healthy, this team is mediocre. Even with Soto performing at an adequate level and Aramis healthy the entire season, the Cubs would not have gone to the World Series. Does Lou Pinella deserve some of the blame? Sure, he does to certain extent, but here are some reasons why it was a mess he couldn't dig his way out.
Injuries: We had a ton of them. Some of them were self inflicted by laziness and stupdity, Zambrano and Dempster. Some of them were freakish, Aramis Ramirez's dislocated shoulder and Soto's injury to his belly-fat. Some of them were common place, Ted Lilly. Some of them should have caused players to miss more time, Lee and Soriano. Soriano especially should have missed some more time. It was clear by the number of balls that landed just in front of him that there was something very wrong. Too say that injuries didn't play a key part in the Cubs demise was foolish. However, there is more to this story.
This team was a chimera of failure. If it wasn't for Derrek Lee's Renaissance, we should be in an even deeper hole. Going into the season the majority of us didn't think D-Lee was going to be on pace to 30 HR and 100 RBIs. Many of us would like to believe this team wasn't designed to fail, but the evidence does point otherwise. We all like to point to the loss of Mark DeRosa, but we also lost the power production of Jim Edmonds. While he swatted at everything in above the numbers, but he did nail a number of key home runs. His fielding was not like it used to be, but it was a enough to mask Soriano's adventures in the outfield. I am not going into the mistake that was known as Milton Bradley. Not point in screaming that Liberace was gay. If you looked at the lineup at the beginning of the season, the Cubs had four run producers. Two were very good. One was extremely streaky. One of the other run producers was a catcher who came in a fatty ding dong. Another saw declining production, D-Lee.The other A-Ram a legit run producer. Given the situation the Cubs needed someone who had a history of being able to drive in runs. Forget the fact that we needed a lefty who could do that. The mantra this offseason was snag a lefty was some power.Last season there were 33 left handed hitters who hit at least 20 home runs. The Cubs let go of one. Of the top ten lefty home run hitters, only Adam Dunn was available and wasn't outed as a juicer. (Also, only Chase Utley was the only lefty with a good batting average.) Another is 37 years old and is having a career year for the Phillies. Obviously, Raul Ibanez has found better living through chemistry, legally or illegally. Another oldie, Bobby Abreu, a player I wanted, was available. While he provides meh power, he has shown he can drive in runs. Still, Abreu and Ibanez were well past the wrong side of the 30. Hence, the reason why the Cubs signed "Board Game." Once again let's not go there. For the lineup to be more left-handed, Mike "mini-Morandini" Fontenot started at second. Based on how he hit the previous two seasons, no one expected him to be this bad. Hell, I thought he was good for batting around .275 and driving in 75 runs. Boy was a I wrong. I guess there is a reason why he wasn't a starter.
We underestimated the team from the south: The Cubs were supposed to run away with this division!!!! No other team had a chance against the mighty baby bears from the north. Well, one thing was completely wrong with that notion. The Cardinals biggest problem last season was blown saves. They were among the league leaders. If they did away with that weakness, they would be division contenders. Low and behold Ryan Franklin has a career year. The starting pitching needed to be better. A miracle happened Chris Carpenter came back from the dead. Joel Piniero returned to Seattle form. Despite losing Troy Glaus, the Cards found a replacement in former Cubs messiah Mark DeRosa. The coup de grace was when the Cards literally bet the farm on the trade for Matt Holliday. Now, they appear to be the best team in the NL.
Now going into next season, we have to realize that having power lefties is not the end all be all. A right handed hitter that is good at hitting right hand pitching should be fine. Soriano isn't done yet, he needs to rest his knee. The Cubs and their fans need to remember our biggest rival is the Cards, not the Sox. We are like the Red Sox and they are like the Yankees. The Cards are in our division they have the second most World Series titles in the Majors. They are biggest threat going forward. We need power. They have a left fielder who is a free agent with a money grubbing agent. I say the Cubs should go in the bidding for Holliday. Even if the Cubs don't get him, hopefully, the Cubs could make it so the Cards have to pay an arm and a leg for him if the Yanks or Red Sox don't snag him. The Cards need him to show to Pujols that the Cards are trying to create a winner. Unfortunately, things may be problematic for the Cubs. The Cards have only $50 mill on the books to grab free agents while the Cubs have about $120 mill on the books. Hopefully, ownership is as interested as the rest of Cubdom in being the best in the Central. If not, then the Cards may dominate the beginning of the next decade like they did this current one.
Rob: big huge ups for you, faustus. And for those of you who crawled in my ass last month when I suggested that other fanbases had equated Cub Fandom to Homosexuality (to the disrespect and detriment of both concepts)...enjoy!!
A poster yesterday mentioned how Cubs fans are unclassy morons. Let me introduce you to Cardinal Nation.
Political Commentator George Will once mused, "Cubs fans are 90% scar tissue."
The reason being that we are in fact the toughest among baseball fans. We are among the most loyal. We need to remember the mess that we call this season is considered a disappointment because our expectations have been raised over the past few years. Higher expectation are a very good thing. It means management can't put out a terrible team year in and year out. We will win a World Series. Maybe not next year or in five years, but we will eventually.
As we all know Aaron Miles is one flop among a handful of off-season screw-ups from this past Cubs winter. However, there might be a good reason for his rapid descent into oblivion. When Miles initially joined the Cubs, he made a rather cryptic remark. He said, "I am ready to play baseball the right way." It is a very odd thing to say. After all, what was he doing in St. Louis? He just came off a season where he hit .317. He did a decent job fielding for the Cardinals at 2nd and shortstop. Currently, to say he is floundering is a vast understatement. Yet, now he is playing baseball the right way. I think you all know where I am going with this. To claim that someone with such poor power numbers was using performance enhancement drugs seems ridiculous. Still, given the overall drop in performance, it makes one wonder what happened to him. If he did in fact use PEDs, why would he make a remark? Maybe, he wanted to put an end to all of that nonsense? Maybe, he was making a snarky comment about the PED culture at his former team, the St. Louis Cardinals. Who knows? All, I know is that this is not the same player as last season.
Let's face it Cub's fans this season has been a disappointment thus far. There is a good chance the Cubs may need more than Aramis to get out of this funk. After last season, I thought the Cubs needed to add some pieces to prove they truly deserved the title of World Series contender.
Their most tradable player was Mark DeRosa. There was a huge belief that he peaked and it was very unlikely that he would not match last year's output. I agreed with that belief. A player who never hit more than 13 home runs in the season and before the age of 30 didn't hit double digit home runs in his career was probably would not to have season that matched '08. In hindsight, the reason why they traded DeRosa made some sense. The Cubbies also dumped Jason Marquis (somehow one of the leaders in wins.) Chicago was trying to gain the pieces to trade for Peavy. Given Zambrano's emotional and recent physical issues, it was understood that Hendry felt the Cubs needed a true ace.
Another incredibly more important issue Hendry had to answer was the Cubs need for another bat. His belief that the Cubs lineup was too right handed bought in Aaron Miles and the infamous Milton Bradley. Here is where things go really interested. In addition to these acquisitions, the Cubs let go of Jim Edmonds, Daryle Ward, and Hank White. Jim Edmonds was crucial for the Cubs last season. He had two clutch home runs against his former team; the hated St. Louis Cardinals. He also brought a number of exciting catches with him. However, he was at the end of the road, and there was no way the Cubs were going to resign him. Daryle Ward had a number clutch hits, but Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox more than replaced him. Henry Blanco on the other hand was the only man in history who could pull of a feathered mullet and tattoos. He was Big Z’s countryman. He gave guidance to Carlos. Unfortunately, he would have asked more money than the Cubs were willing to give him.
Essentially, Milton Bradley or “board game was brought into replace DeRosa’s bat in the lineup. Ideally, Fontenot would have replaced Edmonds production. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Fontenot instead of living up to the nickname of “Little Babe Ruth” has turned into “Mini Mickey Morandini” (or Mini Morandini for short). Kosuke Fukudome was expected to be much better than last year. So far, his fall has come sooner than last season. Based on last season, Milton Bradley was a great acquisition. He put up great numbers in Texas. He lead the AL in on base percentage and OPS. He even lead the majors in OPS+ which takes ballpark into consideration. One problem with Bradley was that he played more than 120 games in season only twice in nine seasons. Everyone knew about Milton being a head case. This season has only given further proof of his jackassery. In Zambrano’s own words, Milton is the living embodiment of a “screw.” Worst of all, this season he really stinks. To put things in perspective, Scott Podsednik was taken off the trash heap and he has a higher batting average, more RBIs, and only two less home runs. This is while playing fewer games than “Board Game”. I realize this is beating a dead horse, but if he played better we would probably forgive his idiocy.
Now, it is unfair to blame all of the Cubs problems on Milton and Hendry, but they have to take a huge chunk of the blame. The assumption was that the combo Bradley and Fontenot would make up 40 home runs and 136 RBIs. Fukudome was asked to bat 40 points higher than last season and produce more runs. Neither of these has happened. In my opinion only Fukudome’s hitting was the only thing that could be expected. One can say that the loss of Aramis was huge. Yes, his injury was huge loss, but it did not cause Soto bat around .220, it didn’t cause Fontenot to resemble former Cub Mickey Morandini. Soriano is a hacker that rarely thinks about pitches, so how would Aramis’ presence made any difference in his performance?
At the beginning of the season, I felt the Cubs would win 88 games and win the division. Hendry really didn’t improve the team. In fact, the team has taken a step back talent wise.
Sure, Edmonds was old and on a downslide, but it would have made more sense to find someone who could play in right field who could replace his power numbers. Everyone and their dog knew there was no way the Cubs could do anything but continue to play Fukudome. They had no choice but to platoon him with Reed Johnson.
Last season, there were a number of wins by the Cubs where they had problems against the starter but were able to light up the other teams relievers. That is what we saw against the Indians. This season starters have gone further against the Cubs. This team needed another bat, not a replacement for DeRosa. If Bradley was supposed to be a left-handed replacement for DeRosa, then he was a clearly more expensive one. If they wanted another leftie in the lineup, they could have started Fontenot and still moved DeRosa to right field. That would have been a cheaper alternative for the same result. You don’t have to overburden your lineup with lefties if they are mediocre or bad. The Phillies’ lineup is an anomaly. There is no point trying to emulate the Philadelphia lineup. The Cubs were a good team. Still, I wanted to see the Cubs sign either Ibanez or Abreu(I was leaning towards Abreu). If Hendry had more patience, he would have be able to snag either for a decent cost, but here we are overpaying for crap the next few years.
For the second straight season, the Cubs have been swept out of the playoffs. Once again I was reminded by Cardinals fans how the Cubs once again choked in the playoffs. This doesn't surprise me because the city of St. Louis is more dependent on the failures of the Cubs than the success of their own teams, but that is another story for another day.
I admit it I am one of the fans Kurt refers to as being negative. I simply consider myself as realistic, but at times stark realism is negativism. After losing game 1, I felt the Cubs had a slim or no chance of coming back to win the series. It had nothing to do with curses, goats, or manbear pig. Zambrano's inconsistency in the last month of season was the reason. Which Zambrano would the Cubs get? Would we get the Zambrano that pitched a no hitter, or would we get the pitcher who was lit up 16 runs in the other three games. Yet, in game two he pitched a very good game. If the infield didn't play like they were T-Rex's with short stubby arms, he would have come out smelling like roses.
Outside of Zambrano, the majority of the Cubs players had a terrible series. This has prompted fans to scream out to dismantle this team. Given their frustration, we can understand why they feel this way. However, we should remember one thing. This team was designed to "reach" the postseason. Soriano was a great regular season player. His hot streaks helped turn this club around on a number of occasions, but lets not get ahead of ourselves. He is not a great playoff performer. This season he was batting .252 against right handed pitching. Translation, that is a .252 average against good and bad right handed pitching. Did Soriano choke in these playoffs? No, he simply did what he normally does. It just happened to be against quality pitching. Aramis Ramirez disappeared as well. Historically, he hadn't hit very well against the Dodgers pitching, but outside of that something else should be noted. Many pundits and fans lauded his success in later innings. This may have him appear as clutch hitter, but this also a product of facing mediocre to bad relievers. He was about a .260 hitter in the first six innings of game this season. That was both against good and bad pitching. A large chunk of his power production came from the last third of a game. Now, to our friend Double play Lee. Fifteen of Derrek Lee's home runs have come with the bases empty. His batting average is the lowest since 2004. Is that what the Cubs need in a number 3 hitter.
With all this being said, let us remember one thing this team was built to reach the playoffs. The Cubs have to beat down the Pirates of the world to reach the post season. When the Cubs reach the postseason, they still need players who can perform. This doesn't mean dismantling the entire team. It means replacing some of the parts that are not working. I think Zambrano's performance the last two postseasons is cause for optimism. In both games he came up big, it is too bad his teammates didn't return the favor. The question is which teammates should be replaced. I think Derrek Lee should be safe. Even with the gaff in game 2, his glove has been crucial to the Cubs success. I think even though that Hoffpauir has been impressive he hasn't shown a solid enough fielding ability to overtake Lee. In fact, he should be used as trade bait. I will return to that in a second. Derrek Lee also batted .308 on the season with runners in scoring position. I really believe Derrek Lee should remain on this team, but he should not be a number 3 hitter. Sure, he hit only one measily home run in that situation, but he also had 63 RBIs. Aramis Ramirez as I have stated before has been less than mediocre in the early part of the game, and he has been bad against good pitching. After considering these facts, who would you consider his replacement? The two good third basemen who are available on the free agent market are Chipper Jones and Hank Blaylock. Chipper Jones is getting old has some issues with injuries. Blaylock hasn't been very good since 2005 having to deal with injuries of his own. Hank hasn't played over 100 games since 2006. Another great stat is the fact that the only third basemen that have done better than Ramirez this past season are Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, and Chipper Jones. Given the fact that A-Rod grounds into a lot of double plays and is anything but clutch leaves David Wright as the only real player that would be an improvement on Ramirez, it is safe to say A-Ram is staying put. Clearly, I think Aramis should keep his job. Now, we come to short stop. Ryan Theriot is solid but clearly not spectacular. He has a decent bat, but lacks a strong arm. If you look at who is available, there are clearly slim pickings. Orlando Cabrera, Edgar Rentaria, Rafael Furcal, and Cesar Izturis are free agents for 2009. I may as well cross a line through Izturis; we all know how that experiment went. The Cubs tried to sign Furcal before the 2006. Given his injuries, he may be a cheaper acquisition. If the Dodgers continue their postseason success, he will be resigned. Cabrera wouldn't be bad addition except his overall numbers(sans power)are not better than Theriot. Theriot's arm hasn't caused the Cubs a great deal of trouble either. At second base, we have the two headed monster, of Fontenot and DeRosa. DeRosa is coming off a great regular season, and outside of a miscue in the second game of the playoffs has been one of the only bright spots in the playoffs for the Cubs. He shouldn't go anywhere. Soto will stay at catcher. Given his penchant for hard work in the offseason, he will be better next year even if his power numbers could possibly dip. He can develop more patience at the plate and he could be better than Brian McCann of the Braves. Now, here is the area where the real offensive mess is: the outfield.
Given Soriano's regular season production and contract it would be hard to dump. The only real replacement would be to sign Manny Ramirez and to deal Soriano with the promise of paying a chunk of the salary. With Manny, you have to ask yourself which Manny will show up. He has been gangbusters recently because he knows he can get an A-Rod type deal if he does well. The question is what about year two or three of whatever deal he gets? Would he find a hidden room in the ivy to sneak between innings? When the Cubs signed Soriano I was ecstatic, I couldn't remember the last time the Cubs signed someone of his caliber. The previous season (during 2006) I was screaming that the Cubs should make trade with the Pirates for Jason Bay. I couldn't believe the Cubs snagged someone who I thought was better. In hindsight, I wish the Cubs could have traded for Bay. He is a good fielder, and decent hitter. I think Soriano has been great, my only problem (okay I guess outside of swinging at everything) is the fact he can not hit anywhere but in the lead off spot. He would be better served hitting behind a decent batter. I feel it is detrimental to the Cubs having hit behind a pitcher. Despite the fact that the Cubs pitchers have hit decently this season, they are still fairly close to a guaranteed out. Meaning that there will be a guaranteed out when Soriano comes to the plate on the second or third passes through the lineup. There was a reason why Pinella batted Theriot 8th in game one of the Dodgers series. Theriot gets a hit, Dempster sacrifices him over and Soriano gets a hit that sends Theriot home. It is too bad for the Cubs it didn’t work out.
Center field is a major question mark. There were rumors that Jim Edmonds would retire after this season. He came back strong after signing with the Cubs. I would love to see what he could the entire season. If he returns, will there be anything left in the tank? If he retires, the Cubs are left with Reed Johnson, unfortunately it seems like Johnson is best suited for facing left handed pitchers. He had a nice year for the Cubs, and it would be great to keep in that role again. There isn't a quality center fielder in the coming free agent class. I really wanted the Cubs to sign Aaron Rowand before this season. Unfortunately, management is still enamoured with Felix Pie and his inability to hit anything outside of a fastball.
Right field is a mess because Fukudome so far has been a flop. Maybe flop is a bit harsh, but the Cubs are paying him $48 million over four years to bat under .260. He is a great fielder if nothing else. It is too bad the Cubs will probably continue starting him next year. I am not 100% sure what they expected from him. Scouts predicted he would bat .290 have 15 home runs and maybe drive in 75-90 RBIs. Boy did he fall short of that. I really hope that Jim Hendry didn't expect him to be a 20+ home run guy. He had decent power in Japan, however their parks are smaller. Consider that Ichiro had a couple of seasons where he hit over 20 home runs and you get the general idea(also Ichiro is nearly legendary here). Vladimir Guerrero is a free agent(with player option), but given the size of Fukudome's contract there is no way there will be another right fielder. Of course, if Fukudome is fed up with the United States and goes back to Japan that is another story.
Barring any trades of monumental proportions there is really no way this team could be dissolved and rebuilt to be an instant World Series contender. There is one move the Cubs should do. I am simply not sold of Rich Harden's health. Toronto's Roy Halladay wants out of town, the Cubs have an extra first baseman burning a hole in Hendry's pocket. Lyle Overbay has not been spectacular at first for the Jays. Hoffpauir could be converted to a right fielder(maybe with the Cubs?.) I saw package a deal for Halladay including Hoffpauir. Halladay has two more years on his current deal. In the long run $15 million a year will be cheaper than shelling out a lot of cash on long term deal for Sabathia.
Conservative commentator George Will once mused, "Cubs fans are 90% scar tissue." That speaks to how resilient Cubs fans are in the face of continued failure. With this level of loyality, as fans we can only hope this team can finally bring us winner. For the time being, we need to accept that this is built for getting to the playoffs. Hopefully, one more piece will be the keystone for a championship run. Till then we will have to revert to the old mantra, "There is always next year."