On the fate of Derrek Lee
I just finished conversing with a friend of mine who shall remain anonymous, because the last time I mentioned his name in this blog he threw a fit. For easy reference, we'll just call him Sheffieldave. Sheff was telling me that the Cubs top priority this off season should be trading Derrek Lee. It turns out that Lee is "the 4th best at his position in the division" (in his own words, "it is a problem having the 4th best player at a position in the division") and "the worst #3 hitter in baseball this year." Apparently, "if Lee is still in this lineup next year we are not going to be a legit contender."
I tried to explain to Sheffy the following points:
- Derrek Lee has a no-trade clause. Unless the Cubs organization sets his car on fire and assaults his family, why would he agree to be dealt from a first place team in a city he appears to like? Not to mention how his large contract and diminished returns would probably serve as an obstacle, as there are better first base options out there.
- Lee is an under-performing #3 hitter, but he is perhaps ideal to bat #6 in the Cubs lineup. He should be moved there and Aramis should be the Cubs #3 guy next season.
- Without even having to check, I am confident that the Rays, the Red Sox, the Phillies and even the Dodgers have some guy in their lineups who's the "4th best at his position in the division." Sorry, Sheffy, they can't all be All Stars or Future Hall of Famers.
- Oh, and did I mention that Derrek Lee has a no-trade clause?
Sheffy makes some reasonable points. Although he had a better NLDS than any other Cub possibly short of DeRosa, Derrek Lee is not an ideal #3 hitter anymore. He just doesn't have the pop for the job. However, the Cubs were such a complete team in 2008, they were so especially talented from #6-#8 in the order, that having an under-performing #3 hitter didn't really hurt them at all. The problem is that in a short series, your #3 hitter should be the best bat on your team, like Manny Ramirez on the Dodgers. That guy instilled fear in the hearts of Cub fans any time he was in the on-deck circle, and that was a huge advantage for L.A.
However, to say that the Cubs can't win with Lee on the team is just ludicrous. Think about the ridiculous mindset you have to possess to say something like that. The implication is that, no matter who else the Cubs have on the squad, this one guy is so terrible that he'll apparently cost the team a chance to compete. Apparently, we should be angrier at the '98-2002 Cubs for not winning World Championships, because they failed to do it with the best #3 hitter on the planet in Sammy Sosa. Except the problem was that Sosa didn't have a supporting cast. Lee does, and that's why the Cubs won so many games this past season. More to the point, the Cubs could have Neifi Perez batting third and they'd still have gotten into the playoffs this past year. The rest of the team was just that good.
None of this mattered to Sheffy, who was involved in a different conversation than me, in spite of what I said. I agreed with him immediately that Lee was an under-performer in the three-hole, and used the same Manny example I presented a little earlier in this article. However, he insisted on spending his time trying to convince me that I was wrong in my defense of Lee.
...uh...right. Then, to add injury to insult, Sheffy reminded me about how wrong I was when I told him before the start of the '07 season that Rich Hill would be better than Adam Wainwright - which was the case - and when I called him a closet Cardinals fan because he was convinced that the Deadbirds would dominate the Cubs and beat them in the standings. Actually, I have to admit it was ballsy of him. It takes guts to so blatantly rewrite history by saying "oh yeah? You think I'm wrong? Well what about that other time you thought I was wrong! You're eating your words now, huh?"
Cub fans. Sometimes we're just scary.