Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Critiquing Being the GM

Several years ago, a blogger and Red Sox fan named Evan Brunell - also an owner of MVN - penned a massive, 3 part article for GROTA on why Theo Epstein is the best general manager in baseball.  (You can read Part One here.)

A few days ago, he wrote an article on what he'd do if he was the GM of the Cubs.  He then EMailed us to get the word out, asking if we'd mention the article on GROTA.  Now, typically we are reluctant to do that because links are valuable and most of the time, the requests to link are ludicrous.  But that wasn't the case with Evan, and in my constant quest for blogging material, I decided to take it a step further and actually critique his piece.  You can read his article in its entirety here: Being the GM: 2009 Chicago Cubs.  So, without further delay ...

1. Chicago Cubs resign closer Kerry Wood.
Evan writes, "The team should be motivated to bring Wood back as he excelled out of the closer's role and there's no reason to try to fix what ain't broken."

It's hard for me to contest this point.  Wood is the modern day Cub, and good closers are hard to come by.  While there has been some debate and speculation of Wood leaving the team at last, you have to figure that Hendry would make more than a token offer to retain Wood, and it also seems sensible that if the Cubs come anywhere near the other offers, Wood would choose to stay in Chicago.  In this case, I agree with Evan.

2. Chicago Cubs sign SP Sidney Ponson.
Evan writes, "In this series, Ryan Dempster signed with the Colorado Rockies, so the Cubs will need to move to bring in competition... Ponson's character certainly comes into question, but there's no overlooking his success in Texas last year. His later failures with the Yankees should serve to make Ponson cheap enough that the club can bring him in to compete for a starting spot."

And here's where we go off the rails.  I think Evan is looking at this from the wrong perspective - these aren't the Can't Afford 'Em Cubs.  Chicago is a major market, the Cubs are an incredibly wealthy and valuable team, and there's just no way they'd replace a 17 game winner with a guy half a decade removed from his last good season who had a handful of good starts for Texas.  I've also got to disagree about Dempster going to Colorado - my gut tells me that if they lose A.J. Burnett, the Blue Jays will focus in on Dempster.  And the Cubs won't stick a white flag in next year's season by signing a turd like Ponson.

3. Chicago Cubs sign reliever Horacio Ramirez.
Evan writes, "Ramirez makes a lot of sense. He's left-handed, plus he has a history of starting and can step into the rotation if the team needs him to."

Despite having a cool first name*, and in spite of his comparative youth (he'll be 29 next season), Ramirez has never posted a Sub-4.00 ERA in a full season in the majors.  He might have some upside, but I think the kind of team that will pursue him will be somebody like the Royals or Pirates - not a first place team like the Cubs.  The Cubs have a number of pitchers who can spot start, and there is actually an abundance of talented lefty relievers available this off season who the Cubs will target over somebody like Ramirez.

(*His first name is cool, but not if it actually belongs to your child.  Even if I wanted to, my fiancee would probably kill me first before giving in and naming our future son "Horacio.")

4. Chicaco Cubs resign C Henry Blanco, 1B Daryle Ward.
Evan writes, "they should come back at lower prices because the two players are great complementary players for the Cubs. Blanco is a great backup while Ward is one of the better pinch-hitters in the game."

I'm with Evan on Blanco, but with Micah Hoffpauir serving as a younger, cheaper, more effective - and less big-butted - version of Ward, it seems unlikely that Daryle will be back in Chicago.

5. Chicago Cubs sign second baseman Ray Durham.
Evan says, "(One option) is signing Durham to be their starting second baseman. Mark DeRosa can shift to right-field and Pie can return to Triple-A. Durham proved that despite his injury troubles, he can still rake. The club should have plenty of depth in DeRosa and Mike Fontenot to weather any injuries from Durham."

Evan is right that the Cubs may seek to improve their middle infield, and if they do they very well might put DeRosa in right field on a more regular basis.  However, what the Cubs were lacking last season cannot be solved by an aging player like Ray Durham.  Yes, they need a leadoff guy - which Durham doesn't have the speed for - but they also need some more reliable offensive production over what they got last year, and they'd essentially be replacing Fukudome's bat with Durham's, while replacing the bat of Jim Edmonds with Fukudome's.  That's not enough of an upgrade, even if Durham has a good 2009. Also, I'm pretty sure Pie is out of options and cannot return to Iowa.

So, Evan is suggesting that the Cubs do the following:

1. Replace Dempster with Ponson. 
2. Return Wood, Ward, and Blanco.
3. Upgrade in the bullpen with Ramirez.
4. Effectively replace the offensive contributions of Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds (.290 AVG, 23 HR, 101 RBI, .374 OBP, .858 OPS from all players in CF last year) with Ray Durham (.289 AVG, 6 HR, 45 RBI, .380 OBP, .812 OPS, will be 37 next year)

I think that if the Cubs made those moves, they would struggle to win 85 games next year.  There are no upgrades to speak of, and they would likely fare worse as a team both on the mound and offensively.

At this point, these are just some of the numerous articles we've written about what the Cubs can do in 2009:

Rob's Big 25 for 2009
You Be the GM!
by me
My Own 2 Cents - also by me
The 2009 Free Agent Preview Pt 1
The 2009 Free Agent Preview Pt 2
The 2009 Trades to be Mades Pt 1
The 2009 Trades to be Mades Pt 2
9 Reasons the Cubs Will Shine in 2009

And that doesn't even count the numerous hot stove articles written by Colin.  Yet, ironically, I will be writing another "Moves to be Made" article probably on Monday.

The point I want to leave Evan with is this: when you wrote your article, I think you should have seen the Cubs the way you might see the Red Sox in terms of their shared desire to scratch and claw their way to improvements every single year, and also in terms of their constantly growing payrolls.  In terms of mega teams who throw good money after bad, the Cubs are fairly new to the party - but they are there nonetheless, and there's no way they - or we the fans - would be satisfied with the moves you've suggested.  They won't grab a Soriano, or toss money at a Fukudome, but they are going to upgrade drastically in at least one position, and for one simple reason - they were good last year, but they weren't good enough.  Jim Hendry does not have idle hands.

For some reason,

the article by Evan makes me think of the underpants gnomes. First step, sign Sidney Ponson to replace Ryan Dempster. Second step,........... Third step make first World Series since 1945.

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