Monday Odds And Ends, We're Going To Need A Bigger Boat Edition
Since there is no baseball today - well, if you're really desperate, WGN will be showing a matchup between Cubs Low-A affiliate Boise Hawks and Padres Low-A Affiliate Eugene Emeralds - it might be a good moment to step back and reflect on the state of the team.
The Cubs are 20 games over .500. Andere Richtigen over at Baseball Think Factory runs down the postwar teams with similar records; it's a small list. Only six Cubs teams have been over .500 in that time frame.
So this is an odd feeling for Cubs fans, being where we’re at right now. On one hand, if we were able to process the idea that this success could be fleeting and transient… well, we probably wouldn’t have been able to stick out as Cubs fans so far. [Or we could be the sort of bitter caricature of a Cubs fan, who can’t figure out what all of the fuss is about, because of course we’re going to blow it all anyway. I don’t understand the point of this line of thinking, but whatever – if you want to be sad and joyless I won’t stop you.] So for the most part, we're just enjoying the ride.
On the other hand, we’re used to being termed the Lovable Losers, and are starting to come to grips with the fact that we may be neither. Lovable teams have Neifi Perez at shortstop – you have to give them credit for even showing up to play under those conditions. Meanwhile, the advance scouting report on the Cubs this season is: “We’re gonna need a bigger boat."
There is nothing lovable about Jaws.
The Cubs, who are serious about acquiring another starting pitcher, may not have enough to get Sabathia, have let the Padres know they're interested in Randy Wolf and Greg Maddux and even let it be known to the Mariners that if they want to discuss Erik Bedard, they want in. In time, if Toronto never gets hitting and keeps sitting near the bottom of the standings, the Jays may deal A.J. Burnett rather than allow him to opt out of his deal in November.
Opinion on Maddux is divided around these parts; I'd love to see the Cubs try to pull off a Maddux-for-Marquis deal, because it would be amazing to see how Kevin Towers works out the logistics of spitting in Jim Hendry's face via telephone.
If the Cubs can get a top-shelf guy - Sabathia, Burnett, maybe Bedard or Harden - that would be great. But if not, then I'm left wondering if a guy like Sean Marshall (who is showing promising signs in AAA) or even Jon Lieber taking Marquis' spot in the rotation wouldn't be a better use of resources. The Cubs don't have a shortage of back-of-the-rotation options.
Speaking of Jason Marquis, Joe Aiello asks:
Jason Marquis is doing well of late, but at this point, does anyone really care? Be honest with yourself. If you’re a Marquis hater, and you know who you are, the truth is that he could have 10 straight starts in which he’s masterful and you’re still going to trust him the same amount. You’re still going to want him off the team as soon as possible. Right? I think that’s the way Cub fans have gotten with him. I went on record and called for his head, only to regret that statement as he’s gone out and been great lately.
Perhaps it’s time for us to bite the bullet and forgive Jason for all the talk we’ve done about wanting him off the team. I understand that he’s notoriously been an above average pitcher in the first half of the season, but as a player ages, he’s got to begin to figure things out, right? Couldn’t this year be that year that he finally figures out how to be successful throughout the entire year? I believe he can.
There's two issues here. The first is believing short-term success over what else we know about a player. Baseball is a game of streaks - just like any other player, Marquis has good streaks and bad streaks. It doesn't mean that he's figured anything out; at the end of the day I'm willing to bet that Jason Marquis is who we thought he was, a pitch-to-contact guy who lacks the necessary ability to keep the ball in the yard. Okay, sure, you ask : "Couldn’t this year be that year that he finally figures out how to be successful throughout the entire year?" And I can't say you're wrong. This could be the year I win the Powerball, too. It's technically feasible. But 9, 11, 20, 31, 15 and the Powerball of 14 is not a retirement plan. And Jason Marquis is not a good investment as a starting pitcher.
As far as trading him... well, when exactly would you propose trading Jason Marquis, when his ERA is above seven? J.C. Bradbury has a great post about trade speculation, and here's the relevant section:
The most popular fan solution to poor performance is to ship the guy out in a trade, especially if the player was once much better. If he’s not good, then you can’t get much for him unless other teams are dumber than the fans suggesting the trade. If you’ve noticed a player has declined, chances are that scouting departments of all teams are also aware. Trades occur when teams agree that they would prefer what the other team has.
The time to demand that Jason Marquis is traded is not when he's doing poorly, but when he's doing well. Nobody's going to trade for an obviously bad player. But if some GM thinks that maybe Jason Marquis has finally figured out how to keep fly balls from ending up on the street, I certainly won't argue with him, so long as that GM isn't Jim Hendry.
For years, the Cubs have had a problem with understanding the idea of selling high on a guy - that's why so often we'd see players piss away their value and end up traded for peanuts. It would be nice to see something different.
UPDATE: Cubs assistant GM Gary Hughes was spotted scouting the A's-Giants crosstown series. No idea what Hughes was looking for - he's based in the area, and could have just been doing usual coverage without there being any particular trade interest.