The 24-hour Rule
There might be one or two of you waiting to hear what I have to say about the debacle we all just witnessed. Maybe not. I know after we pissed away 2003 I got 37 e-mails begging me to write. This year, not a single solitary one. I got several old-fashioned phone calls from friends who were concerned for my well-being. All these phone calls were from, of course, non-Cubs fans who don't really understand. If we do someday, in fact, Win It All, make the well-being call. If the Cubs do in fact someday win a World Series, I just may very well determine that it won't get no better than this, and decide to jump head first off of a CTA bus into a crowd of drunks. But this, we've been here before. I can deal with it.
So all sorts of phone calls, but nothing anymore wanting to know what the Sloth thinks. The Internet is a fickle beast. I'm beginning to think you don't care. Or maybe I just suck at writing. That may be, because I had no idea how to start to summarize what we all just saw. Then I came out here this morning and saw a thoughtful piece by Colin and another thoughtful piece by Kurt. Hmm. Well, based on the premise (the totally correct premise) that shit is broken, one post talks about our chances for next year, the other examines what options we have to actually FIX the gatdam thing. I am going to invoke the 24-hour rule on the post that is just making me ITCH, and comment on the other right here.
What to do with our bodies? If I don't say anything about someone (ie. Bob Howry) then I essentially concur with Mr. Wyers.
Henry Blanco - while Colin logically notes that Hank is quite well paid for a backup catcher, the notion that someone named Wellington Castillo is ready for the show is quite a reach, since this system has developed exactly one catcher since Randy Hundley.
Jim Edmonds - has decided that he is NOT washed up, and will try to get as much money as possible.
Reed Johnson - he is one of Hendry's "guys", someone he spent years looking at, and you can count on him being here next year, at maybe triple his $1.25MM salary.
Ryan Dempster - this past year completely tastes like a "salary drive". I am very happy that he was able to work as hard as he did this past off-season, and was very pleased in this year's performance, Wednesday excepted, of course. A couple of troubling facts were proven this year, in fact. One is that he HAS the talent, but has spent most of his career relying on that talent. He has never worked this hard before, there is no way that he will ever work that hard again. Maybe with maturity, he will work harder in his 30's than he did in his 20's. It's just human nature, but once he gets paid (and he WILL get paid) this winter, do you see him running up mountains anymore? The other thing that was proven beyond a doubt this week is: he is no Ace, and he will demand and will receive Ace money this winter.
We should NOT pay Ace money for Ryan Dempster. If we are willing to shell out Ace money, then we should go after CC Sabbath and let Dempster go.
Jason Marquis - if Marquis were to go on the market again this year, would he still get $7MM a year? I believe he would, which is why (Nightmare Fuel Alert - look away) I would keep him this year.
Mark DeRosa - yep, as we speak, DeRosa's trade value has peaked. He will never be worth more than right now. The only problem is, who would we trade him for? We don't have enough prospects to package him with to get a True Ace Pitcher (and Kurt is right - we're NEVER getting Roy Halladay), and the other gaping hole we have - right fielder? Are there any for sale? Keep in mind, the Wrigley Field Right Fielder must not only be able to hit, he must be an Outstanding fielder with an Above Average arm.
Kosuke Fukudome - of course, Dome was supposed to be that guy. Now, I knew he would start off hot, and then the league would adjust to him. BUT, then, he was supposed to adjust to the league. He did NOT. It's a chess game, he's in Check, and its his move. If he doesn't figure it out over the winter, and comes back hitting .230 next year, then he is officially a Bust. And yes, I was the main guy beating the drums for him this past winter.
So what do we do there? We owe him $36MM for the next three years, he's as good as untradeable. Maybe we eat our Sunk Cost, and platoon him with Johnson in center. That is assuming we can find a Real Right Fielder. There are lots of Hitters out there this winter. But our right fielder has to be able to play the wall, play the sun, and the guys Colin wondered about: Manny, Dunn, and Ibanez, none of them qualify. They're all Left Fielders, and unfortunately we're dealing with our other Sunk Cost, the $18MM x 6 we still owe Soriano, in left. He can't play right - he throws well enough, but he can't even play LEFT field.
So, obviously it would not make sense to throw any more big dollars at outfielders. Hendry's Job #1, in my mind, (again) is to find a young RF to obtain and grow into the position. Nice try with Fukudome, Jim. Either find out what's wrong with him, or go back to the drawing board.
The one thing that Colin didn't mention, that I am compelled to do at this time is bring up the one year remaining on:
Derrek Lee - he's a Gold Glove first baseman. So was Mark Grace, and how did that turn out for us? At this point in time, Lee < Grace. Both hit into a lot of double plays which, in the third hole, just kill us day after day, but Grace at least would get a hit late in games once in a while. How many did Lee get this year, one? He's a lovely human being, who saves us plenty of errors every year, who is getting paid a lot of money, and is taking up a power hitting position in a power hitting slot in the lineup. The third slot is where your best hitter should be. He was our best hitter, three years ago. This year, Ramirez > Soto > DeRosa > freakin' Soriano > Lee.
Now, this is where it gets provocative:
Not as a fielder, but as a hitter, if you told me you were going to give Derrek Lee and Micah Hofpauir 600 ABs in the three hole in 2009, which one would be more productive? It ain't necessarily Lee. And, Micah makes 10 million less next year.
I am not advocating that we throw away Derrek Lee. I am saying he should NOT bat third anymore. I suppose if we assume that New Ownership has Unlimited Resources, then overpaying Lee doesn't have any bearing on its pursuit of a right fielder and an Ace starting pitcher. But there is no such thing as unlimited resources, and if we had $30MM to spend, and you gave me the choice of:
- Choice A: Lee at first, Dempster as the Free Agent Starter dujour, and whatever we scrape off the floor in RF, or
- Choice B: Hofpauir at first, Sabathia as the Free Agent Starter dujour, and say an Andre Ethier or Josh Hamilton in RF?
Let's just leave it at this: I know it isn't for lack of trying, but I am very dissatisfied with the role Derrek Lee is asked to fill for the Cubs. He isn't up to it.
I have said all along that we needed a dominant team to get over the hump. "Well, we had the Best Record this year! How much more dominant do you want?" A LOT more, actually. Let's just say this: the last week of the year, after we clinched. We shuffled our lineup, yet ran our best starters out there every day but the last. The teams we played had the weight of the world on them, all the pressure was on them. All we had to do is play ball. We finished 4-4.
If we truly were dominant? 7-1, probably. I knew the last week that we weren't ready to go in and win 11 postseason games. I'll elaborate soon, but The Team That Eventually Wins It All is going to have to do better than 97 regular season wins. And its manager is going to have to do a better job, too.
Yup, for the first time in two years, I am thoroughly upset at Uncle Lou. He sat like a bump on a log this week. He's too old, and his team was NOT ready to play.
UPDATE: Paul Sullivan has his top ten list. Whatever you think of his writing or his opinion, this guy has spent the past few years living with these guys day after day. When he says that Dempster is worth bringing back because of his attitude, it at least requires consideration.