Goatriders of the Apocalypse

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Who plays 1B in 2011?

The trade of Derrek Lee to Atlanta has thrown 1B into a state of flux. Charitably speaking, the Cubs now have three first basemen on the roster: Xavier Nady, Micah Hoffpauir, and Tyler Colvin. The Cubs will want a full time first baseman entering the 2011 season. I'll present some of the options before the Cubs, along with pros and cons for each option.

Tyler Colvin:

Tyler has the power to succeed as a major league regular, if not the plate discipline. His .356 season wOBA has been 19% better than league average. However, his on base percentage is a subpar .314, and he's rocking 4 strikeouts for every free pass. He's had a successful rookie season, but I want to see more.

Pros:

  • He's already on the roster and makes the league minimum. Putting Colvin at 1B allows the Cubs to use their resources elsewhere. For instance, a 9 year contract extension for Castro....
  • He hits for enough power to not be a liability at the position. Tyler leads all major league rookies with 19 HR in only 333 plate appearances. Averaged out over 550 plate appearances, that's 31ish HR. If Colvin is a 30 homer hitter, bat him sixth in the lineup and forget about his mediocre plate discipline.
  • If Colvin plays 1B, Fukudome won't be the world's most expensive sub. We all know Kosuke's faults, and I won't reiterate them here. Instead, lets focus on what he does well: He reaches base. This season he's gotten on base at a .374 clip. That's second on the team behind only Soto and his outstanding .403 OBP. In limited PA's, Kosuke has still been worth 1.4 WAR on the season. Yes it's nowhere near what he's being paid, but his contract is a sunk cost. Better to get him off the bench and in the lineup, where he can contribute. Plus, it'll allow the Cubs to audition him for a trade.

Cons:

  • Can he play 1B at the major league level? No one knows because he hasn't played there with any regularity in over five years. I'm inclined to believe he can do it, as he plays an average corner outfield. However, the uncertainty might scare the Cubs brass into looking elsewhere.
  • If the power isn't for real, he'll be a black hole of suck. That's the largest issue with Colvin. 353 career PA is a small sample size, and we know he has holes in his swing that pitchers can exploit. If Colvin can't improve his plate discipline or reproduce his power output, he'll be one of the worst 1B in the majors.

Alfonso Soriano:

Most Cubs fans seem to think that Soriano's eventual move to 1B is fait accompli. If that's true, wouldn't it make sense to move him now, when there is an opening at the position?

Pros:

  • Playing 1B might keep Sori healthier. Alfonso can still hit, even if he can't run, and keeping him healthy and on the field will be the key for the remainder of his career. A shift to 1B means less running, which should help preserve his legs for launching the bat at the baseball.
  • It makes sense to move him before his defense collapses. As he gets older, Soriano will cover less ground in LF, which means more fly balls will fall in and more runs will be scored against the Cubs. Soriano will be here for another 4 seasons, so it seems reasonable to make the move now, before he becomes an epic liability in the outfield.
  • As noted above, there is an opening at the position, so the time seems ripe to let Alfonso start getting comfortable there.
  • Putting Soriano at 1B allows both Colvin and Fukudome to start in the outfield.

Cons:

  • This may come as a shock to you, dear reader, but Soriano is still pretty good in the outfield. This season, his play has been worth 12.3 runs saved over 150 innings, versus the average outfielder. In layman's terms, he is still contributing with the glove, no matter how ugly he looks doing it. Last year he was below average in the outfield, but he was hurt and I'm prepared to give him a pass for it. In 2008, he was worth an impressive 25.5 runs saved above average over 150 innings. The guy is nowhere near the statue that his reputation would have you believe, and moving him from LF next season might actually weaken the outfield defense.

Aramis Ramirez:

Aramis is likely to exercise his $14.6 million player option in the offseason, and return to the Cubs. I'll be happy to see him stay, as the guy is still capable of being a great player. This season was atrocious, but he was playing hurt for much of it and has been victimized by bad luck on balls in play. I fully expect a bounce back 2011 from Rami.

Pros:

  • Ramirez's health is an issue as much as Soriano's is. Moving across the diamond to an easier defensive position might help keep him on the field and productive at the plate.
  • Unlike Soriano, Ramirez is pretty bad in the field. He hasn't posted a league average or better UZR/150 since 2007, and that was 3 years and multiple injuries ago. Moving Ramirez to 1B might improve the Cubs defensively.

Cons:

  • Moving Ramirez shakes up the rest of roster, and probably necessitates a free agent signing. Legend has it that Blake DeWitt is an excellent 3B, but his bat would be pretty pathetic at the hot corner, and I don't see the Cubs going in that direction. There aren't many quality 3B free agents this coming offseason. The class is headed by Adrian Beltre, who I covet, but he'd be expensive and is already 32 years old. Long term, big money contracts to older veterans is the kind of shoddy roster construction that I've accused Cruller Jim of on dozens of occasions around here. I haven't had a sudden change of heart, and dropping millions on a free agent when this team is 4 or 5 players away from contention seems foolish.

Adam Dunn:

I expected the Cubs to sign the big donkey after the 2008 season. Instead, they opted for Milton Bradley. That didn't work, and the popular speculation is that the Cubs won't pass on Dunn twice.

Pros:

  • Dunn seems like a panacea for this roster. He's a left handed slugger who has hit historically well at Wrigley Field (although that might be an indictment of our pitching staffs of yore.) He's always featured old man skills like walking and hitting for power, so he may age more gracefully than players who depend on speed or athleticism. His full time position change to 1B has even made him an average defender. Dunn used to remind me of a buffalo on ice skates in the outfield. He was that comically terrible. This year, as a full time 1B, he has been worth 2 full wins more than last season, with almost 6 weeks left to play. The difference is in his defense, which has been about average at 1B.

Cons:

  • Money and length of contract. MLBTradeRumors speculates that it will take a 4 year offer to get Dunn to sign a contract. That's a lot of years for a guy who is already 31, and should be entering the downside of his career. 4 years/$50 million seems likely to me, and it wouldn't surprise me if that was low. Anybody else think Dunn will fail to produce to the level of that contract?
  • Signing Dunn will cost the Cubs their second round draft pick. Washington intends to offer Dunn arbitration. Dunn projects to be a type "A" free agent, so if the Cubs subsequently signed him as a free agent, they would forfeit a draft pick. Because of their dogshit play this season, the team is projected to have the #6 overall draft pick, which would be protected, and the Cubs would instead lose their second rounder. Although with Pauper Tom in the owners box, the Cubs will probably squander their draft picks on bad but cheap amateurs. Scratch this one.

Some other free agent?

The corner infield cupboard is bare in the Iowa and Tennessee, so the Cubs will have to grab a different free agent if they don't go any of the routes suggested above. This is not an ideal situation.

Lets hear your preferences. How should the Cubs fill their 1B vacancy next season?

All statistics, as always, from fangraphs.com.

Week 20 awards: Cubs find new ways to lose games ... and a manager

A 1-0 loss to former Cubs' prospect Jon Garland. A blown save courtesy of three walks by Carlos Marmol. A rare implosion by Sean Marshall. A 16-5 loss to the Braves that mirrored their Opening Day defeat. 

Nope, no form of losing is off-limits for the Cubs these days. Thank God for the God-awful Pirates, for that giant piece of baseball feces out in Steel City is the only thing keeping the Cubs from crashing to the bottom of the NL Central. It's becoming as difficult to keep track of the revolving door of a roster as it is the mounting loss total--a 100-loss season remains unlikely but within the realm of possibility.

And the Cubs managed to lose their skipper as well. Lou Piniella's mother is ailing, but he is only able to skip town to care for her because his team's season has been dead for months. Surprisingly, Mike Quade will take over beginning tonight against Washington. I can't fathom that he would have any chance of keeping the post into 2011, but hopefully some new blood can at least inject some life into this flailing franchise.

Ryno of the Week: Though it's sad to say, Aramis Ramirez's .244 batting average marks his high point for the season. He also now leads the team in home runs with 20 after an 11-for-28 week with two home runs and seven RBI. He had at least two RBI in each game of the series against the Braves.

Honorable mention: Kosuke Fukudome

Goat of the Week: When hard-throwing Andrew Cashner was called up in late May, I surmised that he probably wasn't ready to be a successful major league pitcher. Unfortunately, it looks like I was right. In four appearances this week, Cashner allowed six earned runs in just 3.1 innings. He ERA sits at 6.69. He's got decent stuff and certainly I hope he can contribute in 2011, but he's a little too raw to get the job done in the 7th or 8th inning at the age of 23.

Dishonorable mention: Koyie Hill

To read more from this blogger visit Wait 'til this Year

Week 19 awards: Helping the Reds' cause again

I know, it's sad that this is now the lens through which I view the Cubs season, but what can I say--they're in fifth place in the division and reached a nadir of 20 games below .500 in the middle of this past week before taking the final two games from the Cardinals. There are still other reasons to watch: to witness the development of youngsters like Castro and Colvin; to see if Zambrano can get his act together in the final two months; and to continue to monitor the carousel of rookie relievers who are essentially auditioning for spots in the bullpen next season, among others. But when it comes to the actual wins and losses, it doesn't get much better than beating the Cardinals, and the Cubs have now taken two series from the redbirds in the last three weeks.

The aforementioned bullpen nearly ruined what should have been a comfortable victory yesterday, but Marmol eventually nudged the door shut against a ragtag lineup consisting of several Cardinals back-ups. Though the game was a blowout early on, the Cubs ultimately needed pretty much all of their nine runs to hold off their rivals.

The Cubs swung the bats well throughout the week, scoring 37 runs while going 3-4 against two potential playoff teams with three of the losses being of the one-run variety, giving them 29 of those frustrating defeats on the season. Twenty-nine! Even more frustrating, the Cubs held a lead in all four of their losses.

Ryno of the Week: It was an abbreviated week for Derrek Lee as he was tending to his ill grandfather for a few days, but he returned with a vengeance by launching four home runs over the weekend. His four dingers match the highest total he's had in any month so far this season. Overall this week he was 5-for-10 with three runs and 4 RBI.

Honorable mentions: Starlin Castro, Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster

Goat of the Week: When you fantasize about finally getting your shot in the major leagues, you definitely don't think your career will start the way Thomas Diamond's has. The 27-year-old lasted just four innings against St. Louis on Friday which was one inning more than he pitched against the Reds in his previous start, and he struck out just three guys in his last two starts after chalking up 10 Ks in his major league debut. His struggles cost him his spot in the rotation, as his next scheduled start will go to Casey Coleman; Diamond will move to the bullpen.

Dishonorable mentions: Alfonso Soriano, Randy Wells

Week 18 awards: If you're going to lose, lose to the Reds. That's what I always say.

And, clearly, the Cubs are going to lose. A lot. They already have lost a lot, and they're going to keep losing a lot. But I really don't mind it as much when it helps the Reds keep pace with those dastardly Cardinals. Unfortunately, the Cubs' 1-5 week means they're not even keeping pace with the Astros. Or the Nationals. They do have the same record as the Royals, though. You can't pull away from us, Royals! NEVER!

Yeah, it's sad. It's a sad, sad season, and the main thing that's made fans want to grab a Kleenex (or a fork to simply gouge the eyes right out) has been the bullpen. 28th in the league with a 4.91 relief ERA. That ain't right. But at least Zambrano's coming back tonight, and he can definitely go, what, five innings? So that's good.

Ryno of the Week: Despite going hitless Friday and Sunday, Starlin Castro went 9-for-25 this week with three doubles, a triple, four runs and an RBI. His OBP since July 1 is over .400. He did make some poor defensive plays and needs to work on his focus in the field, in my opinion, but the range is there and he obviously has an arm--he just needs to harness it.

Honorable mentions: Blake DeWitt, Ryan Dempster

Goat of the Week: After hitting .250 in June and .253 in July, Tyler Colvin is just 2-for-22 in August (2-for-18 this week). He can smash a mistake fastball, but right now he can't hit much else.

Dishonorable mentions: Brian Schlitter, Casey Coleman, Randy Wells

To read more from Brandon's blog, visit Wait 'til this Year

Week 17 awards: Back to the future

For the first time since 2006, the Cubs are focused on the future rather than the present. Though we've known it for months, Saturday's trade made it official: this year is over, and Cubs fans must once again wait 'til next year.

I'm just happy it's next week after a 1-5 week that pushed the Cubs' record to a season-low 13 games under .500. They lost two of three to the Astros for the fourth time this season and then gave up 31 runs in three games while getting swept by the Rockies (though 12 of those runs came in run inning--I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse).

In addition to truly losing Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot, the Cubs may have lost Carlos Silva for awhile after he left yesterday's game with an abnormal heart rate. Hopefully he'll be all right even though his team has been anything but all right here in 2010.

Ryno of the Week: While Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin combined to go 13-for-41 with a home run, eight runs scored and three RBI, I'm going with the sentimental choice: Ted Lilly. Knowing he was likely making his final start as a Cub, Lilly threw 5.2 scoreless innings in Houston but suffered yet again from a lack of run support in a 6-1 loss.

As a Cub for the last 3 1/2 seasons, Lilly made Jim Hendry's decision to sign him four years ago look like a very good one (in an offseason with many bad signings; see: Zito, Barry and Suppan, Jeff), winning 44 games in his first three years in Chicago. He has been one of the best and most consistent Cubs since 2007, and I wholeheartedly wish him well in L.A.

Goat of the Week: I have zero choice but to go with the entire bullpen. Holy crap. Cubs relievers were forced to throw 22 innings last week, and boy was that unfortunate. They allowed 31 runs in those innings, which works out to a ... carry the three ... add the six ... 12.68 ERA! When even Sean Marshall can't get anybody out, you know it's going to be a bad week for the bullpen.

In Defense of Derrek Lee

The last couple days have been pretty exciting around GROTA.  There’s been plenty of healthy debate on Derrek Lee which has been fun to read and many people have brought up some good and valid points.  However, there have been a few bold and assertive statements that have left me scratching my head.  I’d like to go through some of these criticisms of Lee and offer a rebuttal to some of these interesting assertions.


<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /> And here we go… 


 “Do you see Derrek Lee holding someone accountable for their actions on or off the field?  Do you really see him get into Theriot's face for getting picked off base for the umpteenth time, or jumping down Baker's neck for not laying down a crucial bunt, or anything like that?”


· You’re right, I haven’t seen Derrek Lee get in anyone’s face…and to be honest, I’m not really sure I want to.  I don’t think it’s a good thing to get in someone’s face in front of television cameras and probably causes more issues than it cures.  I’d much rather something like that be handled in-house, like a professional…which even Rob admits that Derrek Lee is.  Now, does Derrek Lee have a chat with Theriot, Baker and the gang after these screw-ups?  I have no idea.  Like I’ve said before, there are 24 hours in a day, and I watch the Cubs for three of them.  I am not privy to any of the conversations that take place between Cubs players in the 21 remaining hours, and neither are any of us.  It seems that a lot of the Cubs players think of Derrek Lee as a leader, so it remains pretty plausible that there is some factor that we are not aware of.  Of course, this goes both ways, and Derrek Lee could be the biggest idiot ever who is completely incapable of leading a team…but I don’t think that is the case.  In either scenario, whether he pulls his teammates aside or not, it’s outrageously unfair to say that Derrek Lee isn’t a leader because we can’t see him during the games causing a scene and throwing a tantrum.  Derrek Lee has been described on all accounts as being a professional; it would be very fitting that his leadership style would match that characteristic; in-house, behind closed doors, and not through the media.


 


“Nah, just like McStiff, Lee wants to come in, put in his time, and go home.  He could care less about competing, about winning.”


· …okay??  First of all, I find it interesting that Rob would say Lee should be idolized for his “decency and professionalism” and then say he would just put in his time and go home.  It seems to be something a professional would not do, yet I digress…


· Again, I will say that NONE of us have any idea what the baseball habits of Derrek Lee are.  I have no idea when he shows up to the ballpark, I have no idea what time he leaves, I have no idea how much film he studies, I have no idea how many scouting reports he reads, I have no idea how many cuts he takes in the cage, I have no idea how many ground balls he takes…sensing the pattern?  He may do none of this; he may do all of it.  Until we know for sure, statements like “Lee wants to come in, put in his time, and go home” make me very uncomfortable, and I think it is very unfair to say that.  That being said, in his Chicago Cubs career, Lee has posted a slash line of .298/.371/.522 for an OPS of .893…with those numbers, I could honestly care less if you’re the last one to show up and the first one to leave.


· I also take issue with saying that Derrek Lee couldn’t care less about competing or winning….why?  Because he rejected trades to the Angels and Rangers?  First of all, the Angels are about as far out of first place as the Cubs, so let’s cut out that non-sense.  So does rejecting a trade to the first-place Texas Rangers mean that Lee does not care about winning?  Maybe…but you’ve got to jump over A LOT of reasoning to arrive at that conclusion.  Possible reasons for not accepting a deal to Texas include but are not limited to:  Lee is 34 years old with a family, perhaps he enjoys Chicago and doesn’t want to relocate them.  Maybe he wants to be a Chicago Cub and wants to stay and help win a championship (that CAN’T be the case though…it displays too many leadership qualities…).  Maybe he’s not exactly thrilled to be headed to Texas in July….doesn’t mean he’s not interested in winning or competing.  To jump immediately to that conclusion would be an irrational decision.


 


“I have thought that DP Lee has done nothing but go thru the motions. EXACTLY like Crime Dog did. He shows no heart and no hustle day in and day out. Can he field his position? Sure he can and in his sleep too. When was the last time he busted his ass down to first base? I can't think of ONE! He jumped on BigZ because Big Z gives a damn about winning and called his non hustling non caring butt on the carpet! GOOD for BigZ! It's too bad that more of the Cubs don't have the same "wanna win" attitude! I think Brenly got it exactly right..... This has been one dead ass team most of the year!”


· From watching Lee play, I have never been under the impression that he has been going through the motions.  It seems to me that he has always put forth a solid effort, but that may just be my bias.  As for the “heart and hustle” argument, and as I’ve previously posted, Lee was the recipient of the League’s “Heart and Hustle” Award voted on the MLB Alumni Association, last season, which is one of the seasons in which you questions his effort.


For the record, Lee also went for .306/.394/.579 for an OPS of .973 that season…which I don’t think you accomplish while “going through the motions”


· I hate to be “that guy”, but to be honest when was the last time you saw anyone bust his ass down the line these days??  The only guy I watch regularly who does this is Marlon Byrd.  So if we’re going to levy that criticism, let’s be sure to spread it out proportionately among Aramis Ramirez (who has taken some nice jaunts down the first base line himself) Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Theriot, etc…


 


 


· The only response I have to your Big Z reference is this; do you really want another Carlos Zambrano on this team?  Do you honestly think that would be a GOOD thing??  On that note, for some reason even though Zambrano has a much bigger contract than Lee, and has come NOWHERE CLOSE to living up to it the way Lee has, I almost feel that Lee takes more criticism.  Not to say that Zambrano doesn’t take his fair share, but to me it doesn’t seem proportionate.  The absolute LAST thing this team needs is another guy throwing tantrums like Zambrano.  That’s not a “wanna win” attitude, that’s being an infant.


 


· Bob Brenly is 100% right, this has been one dead ass team all year.  Why is this all Derrek Lee’s fault?  Sure he has to shoulder some of the blame because he’s not having a good season, but this is a team effort.  Again, we have to distribute blame proportionately.


 


“Once again Rob nails it. Please someone tell me one instance this year DP Lee wins a game. A walk-off ? Every must have RBI situation seems to end in a nothing.  Rally killer  RBI monster when we are up 5-1. Show me when you hit it.  Now you won't leave like a fungus”


· And let the beating of the dead horse commence…Derrek Lee has not had a walk-off, game-winning hit this year.  Neither has Marlon Byrd, Alfonso Soriano, Tyler Colvin, Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto, Jeff Baker, or Mike Fontenot.  The Cubs have had three walk off hits this year; two by Ramirez and one by Fukudome.  Again, if you’re going to go after Lee for this let’s go after everyone else.


· I’ll be the first to agree with you that Derrek Lee is not having a good year, but I have to be honest, I’m incredibly sick of the notion that Derrek Lee is not a “clutch hitter” (even though I’m not a big fan of clutch statistics to begin with, but that’s a whole other thing…).  Let’s take a look at what Derrek Lee has done in “clutch situations” in his seven-year Cubs career.


o   In “late and close” situations:  .312/.402/.547 .949 OPS


o   In tie games: .291/.383/.497 .880 OPS


o   Within one run: .292/.382/.504 886 OPS


o   Runners in Scoring Position: .309/.412/.536 .948 OPS


Those are some pretty impressive numbers.  So yes, while Derrek Lee is not having a great year in those categories, let’s not forget that he has shown himself to be a very impressive hitter in big situations for the Cubs.  Any notion that is made to Derrek Lee “not getting the big hit” is completely false, and a total joke.  Why are we calling this guy a fungus again??


 


There is NO accountability on the Cubs - nobody is calling out anybody. Otherwise, why would the same mistakes be made game after game after game?


·     I got to see the Cubs clubhouse once when I was on a tour, didn’t get to go in but I got see it and that was pretty neat.  Again, none of us are close enough to the situation to definitively make the statement that “nobody is calling out anybody”.  It may be true, but we have no way of knowing.  Also, the assumption that getting in someone’s face repeatedly will fix a particular problem is not always true…


 


Anyway, if you’ve read this far I’ll offer you both my apologies and congratulations, because it is now mercifully coming to an end.  What I’m saying is this; LET’S BE CAREFUL ABOUT THE CONCLUSIONS WE REACH.  Let’s not make bold and assertive statements about things that we don’t have the slightest idea about.  And God forbid, if we can use actual statistics to support our arguments, please do so.  Just saying that Derrek Lee is not “clutch” is not good enough.  In fact, it’s completely wrong.

Week 16 awards: Cubs go 1-2 on unjustified three-week ESPN run

Does ESPN not have access to the MLB standings? Despite being in fourth place, the Cubs found themselves in prime time the last three Sundays. They actually made ESPN's decision look good the last two weeks, beating Roy Halladay and then engaging in an exciting duel against Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals. Unfortunately they couldn't quite pull it out last night to finish off what would have been their first home sweep since a two-gamer against the Rockies back in May.

The 3-3 week went according to script with the Cubs playing down to a bad team and getting their act together against a good one; they're now 7-17 against the Astros, Pirates and Nationals but are 9-5 against the Cardinals, Phillies and Rockies.

Overall the offense fared well yet again, sparked by the solid play of the two sub-25-year-olds at the top of the order. The team is third in the majors in runs during the month of July (guess who's first, I dare you ... nope, it's the Giants) and second in home runs. If only the young guys in the bullpen were half as good as the Cubs' young hitters.

Ryno of the Week: Starlin Castro has been raking. He hit nearly .500 this week and is batting over .380 this month. He's over .300 for the season, in fact, and piled up stats this week like Nicolas Cage piles up painfully bad movies--six RBI, four runs, four doubles and two stolen bases over the last seven days.

Honorable mentions: Aramis Ramirez (who leads the majors in HR and RBI this month), Geovany Soto, Derrek Lee, Randy Wells

Goat of the Week: Oh, Carlos Silva. I haven't completely turned on you yet, but I'm definitely worried. In Silva's last two starts, his ERA has almost gone up more than his innings pitched (ERA up 0.9, innings pitched = 2.1). He'll get another shot against the Astros tonight after lasting just one inning against them last Monday.

And now, your obligatory list of interesting Aramis Ramirez factoids

I will quickly dispense with the negative thought that can't help but run through my mind when it comes to Aramis Ramirez--that it would have been nice if a few of these home runs and RBI had come before the Grim Reaper took his scythe and hacked the 2010 Cubs season to pieces--and move on to the positive feelings that Cubs fans are feeling after 13 unanswered runs gave them a 14-7 victory over the Astros.

Ramirez is now hitting .404 since ... well, since he started hitting. He's had at least one hit in 10 of the last 13 games and at least two hits in nine of those games. He's also had at least one RBI in eight of those contests and scored at least one run in 10 of them. Actually, you know what--let's get a little crazy; I feel a list coming on:

Last 13 games:

19 hits

Most hits in any month, excluding July: 14

9 home runs

Number of games it took him to hit 9 home runs prior to the last 13: 75

24 RBI

RBI this season prior to last 13 games: 23

18 runs

Runs this season prior to last 13 games: 19

Last two games: 10 RBI

RBI in May and June combined: 10

Season stats extrapolating last 13 games to 162-game season: .404, 112 HR, 300 RBI

You can enjoy the ride he's on right now or be angry with him for mysteriously turning into a Single-A hitter for the first half of the season. I'm doing a little bit of both, myself, but trying to forget that the first three months ever happened. What do you mean Ramirez couldn't hit an 85 mph fastball down Broadway a month ago? I don't know what you're talking about, crazy person. The Cubs have scored over 6.6 runs per game over those last 13, and in this disappointing season, I'm choosing to be thankful for the fact that now, at least, the games are watchable.

Reader Blog: Week 15 awards: Cancel that shipment of new bats--these actually seem to be working now

It was a short week in the baseball world (and therefore a long week for fans). The Cubs were one Marmol-implosion away from a four-game sweep to begin the second half, and they've been a lot more fun to watch lately--they've scored 67 runs in their last 11 games. Even Roy Halladay had to bow down to the offensive juggernaut that is the Chicago Cubs. You are no match for our muscles and legendary hitting prowess, Roy.

Marlon Byrd may have had the best week of any Cub given the impact he had in the NL's first All-Star Game win in 14 years. And Joey Votto can freakin' suck it. Since when are the Cubs and Reds arch rivals? And it's the All-Star Game, Joey! I understand that fans have a tough time rooting for players they normally root against, but you really can't set that aside for a night and get into the spirit of things? Your team is in the playoff hunt and may need that home field advantage Byrd just earned you, you jackass. Your goal in the All-Star Game is to win the All-Star Game, and if Byrd helps you do that, you should feel free to congratulate him.

Ryno of the Week: This is hard, in a good way. (That's what she said.) Aramis Ramirez had five hits in the series and five RBI. Trevor Sierra, Brian Brennan and I were debating less than two weeks ago what Ramirez's average will be at season's end. He was in the .170s at the time, and we settled on .212 as the over/under. Eleven games later, he's up to .213.

Geovany Soto hit a home run to each side of the park in the series and had four hits overall. Soriano had a couple dingers and five hits. All four Cub starters posted a quality start.

But I'm going with Starlin Castro. He batted .600 in the series with two doubles, a triple and three runs scored, and also stole home.

Honorable mention: Randy Wells hasn't been the beneficiary of the Cubs' recent offensive improvement--they've scored just 11 runs in his last six starts. His last four have all been quality starts and his ERA has dropped nearly a point since late June.

Goat of the Week: Again, not easy. Even Ryan Theriot had three hits, but he was still just 3-for-17. Plus his overall .311 OBP just angers me.

Dishonorable mention: Carlos Marmol (though in Friday's appearance he was absolutely nasty in striking out Jayson Werth, Ryan Howard and Ben Francisco)

Reader Blog: I say forfeit the 2nd half & take a better draft pick in 2011

So this is what the highest paid team in the National League looks like; a team 11 games under .500 at 39-50, currently in 4th place, a team that if they're lucky might win 75 games.  Jesus Pete, this team is up a creek without a paddle.  With offensive production coming from nowhere and consistency never present, the cubs are at a point where if they were any other team in baseball they would blow this team up and start to rebuild.  But instead welcome to Chicago where Jim Hendry is still strapped into the Captain's seat flying a plane full of explosives into the side of a mountain while both wings are on fire. 

 I hate to say it, but in terms of contracts&players the guy has run the organization into the ground.  The Cubs are simply saddled with horrible contracts and underproductive players earning money they'll never bring back into the organization.  The team has overpaid for nearly every single FA they have signed in Hendry's time, and almost every player was given a no-trade clause to boot.  At the end of the day the team is left with an overpaid overcrowded outfield, two fading stars at the infield corners, and a former ace who's 3 weeks away from being ready to pitch out of the bullpen - super. 

What sucks is any other organization in baseball would have been able to trade DLee or Aramis to get something of value for either of the two before their contract expires.  Another team would trade a player like Ted Lilly to a contender.  One of the 34 second baseman/utility men could possibly be dealt to a contending team that is dealing with injuries.  Even bullpen arms like Howry or Grabow could be moved to get some younger players.  The cubs are simply amazing; they have money falling out of their asses having the 3rd highest payroll in the game, yet the major league team is awful and they have no minor league system to speak of either.  The team has almost become sort of like K-Mart where I'm not even sure how they exist anymore.

Cub fans have all been given the opportunity to watch a ship sink, with this 2010 version of the team.  The team cannot compete or expect to win, the players that should be traded likely won't be for various reasons, and there are no prospects to be excited about calling up to take a look at in the second half.  There is a large hole already shot straight through 2010, thats not too tough to accept, but its looking beyond this year that gets kind of scary.  The team has an owner, so thats set.  However, Jim Hendry should be sent packing and if Lou Pinella calls it a career that leaves 2 big time openings at the top of the pack.  It would be tough to replace Mickey Mouse and Lou Pinella, but it would be interesting to see someone new get a fresh start at building a different cubs roster.  I like the core that whoever comes next has to build with - Castro, Soto, Colvin, Cashner,&Marmol.  Just please don't let it be RyneBerg is all I ask.

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