Goatriders of the Apocalypse

What If We're Okay?

There has been a ton of hand-wringing on this site and others recently. From my ESP with my friend Kyle, I know he's not exactly happy, and he's my moral compass on all things Cubs. But here I demur.

What if we're okay? I mean, we have holes. That's true. Things are by no means perfect. Specifically, Marmol is most likely our new Rod Beck. Of course, that could be okay. Despite giving me an average of 2.3 heart attacks per outing, Mr. Beck actually was pretty decent that one year that he was raising the salaries of cardiologists everywhere. The next, well, we traded him, right? Heh.

Our lineup isn't perfect. We still lack a true leadoff hitter, as we have since I can remember (I don't think Kenny Lofton counts). Our best left-handed hitter is comparable to Randy Moss in terms of the WTF? factor. And of course Fonzie. If he hops one more time, I'm going to cut him off at the knees. I can't take Marmol and Fonzie for an entire season testing my testicular fortitude.

Theriot is still...Cajun? I don't know. I alternate between hating him and being somewhat okay with him. As long as he's league minimum, he's not going to be castrated Colin-style by me.

So, we have a questionablely complete 1B, a 2B who's never played a full season as a major league starter (last year does not count), a SS who is Cajun, a LF who should probably undergo psychiatric counseling, a CF who...doesn't yet exist, a RF who has never been a reliable fielder much less a reliable human being physically or emotionally, a 5th starter who...also doesn't exist, a setup man who I wasn't even sure was capable of that role, and a closer who has never regularly closed.

That makes me uneasy.

But not really. We had essentially the EXACT same thing last year. With the exception of RF (Fukudome was certainly a good fielder and human being, but lacked the consistent offense of Bradley) and 2B (but DeRo had never played like that before, and Aaron Miles has played a lot of ball). This is the mindset I had going in to last year. YES, I thought we were very good. But we aren't so bad now that this is worth losing it over.

In my oh so humble opinion, Mike Fontenot may have been one of the most impressive players down the stretch, where he always seemed to come up big in big situations. Milton, on the other hand, caused almost no commotion in Arlington, where the biggest story all year was about how much of a clubhouse cancer he was...as he was in no way a clubhouse cancer there. He may very well cause problems, and I am no one to judge his emotional stability, but he is also not Terrell Owens. The man at least has shown the desire to rise above his statistics.

I may be dead wrong. All of those concerns may turn out to be valid. But my point is that this is not that different than the way we entered last year. This year we have Satan/Zell to deal with as well. If we stay anywhere near .500 as we approach July and Death/Zell has finally sold the team, I DO have faith in Hendry to fix which ever of these problems has reared it's ugly (and unfixable without trading..) head.

Obviously, I would like upgrades at 5 starter, 2B, SS and CF. Jake Peavy would cause me to spend my last cent in jerseys. But...it's not that bad. I look at us and still see the best team in the NL Central. If Moose ever gets his act together, he is exactly the type of pitcher you want to throw in Game 2 to get your team on a roll (huge IF). Dempster is unlikely to drop to his low as he ended his last starting gig. He was playing on a broken Marlins team (thank you Jeffrey Loria) and had a toxic environment. I don't think MB is the type of problem Owens or Avery or even Bonds was towards a team.

I think we're okay. Not perfect, but this team should win a lot of games.

Cubs We Can Believe In.

Theriot

I fail to see your need to upgrade at shortstop. Theriot may not be on of the games "elite" shortstops but thank god we have him. He was projected as a marginal major leaguer coming up through the organization and he has turned into one of the most consistent shortstops in the NL. He falls into the second tier behind Reyes, Ramirez and Rollins.

I feel people greatly undervalue the type of production he has brought us. No he doesn't hit homeruns, but he is a great contact hitter. He was in the top 10 in the entire NL in Average, OBP, Hits, and AB per K last season. That is nothing to scoff at, especially from a guy making his salary.

Without Theriot who would be our starting SS today. Ceasar Izturis? Cedeno? We could have gone out and spent tens of millions signing Furcal or trading for Young, but what does that add to our team? 15 HR a year? I'll remind you that Young had only 11 more HR, a BA 20 pts worse, a OBP 40 pts worse and 12 fewer SB last season. And Furcal spent most of the season on the DL.

I believe that Theriot is an exceptional value.

I totally agree about

I totally agree about Theriot. My point is not bashing him at all, and I agree he is an exceptional value. That said, it's not unreasonable to wish for a more bang-bang SS through Free Agency or trade. And to be even more honest, he would be my dead last upgrade request, as the tiny salary comment I made was supposed to convey. I am not a Theriot basher, and I do like him. It's kind of a grass-is-greener type of desire.

One problem with only being okay

Usually when a team has concerns some are real and others are imagined. The cubs are solid going into 2009, but there is this feeling that everyone is waiting for one big move to happen yet still. I would agree the team is in good position, with the additions that they've made, but there has been a great deal of change concerning the other teams all around the game. The two New York teams weren't even a factor in the 2008 Playoffs, and both have come out spending dollars and each are moving into a new stadium to kick off 2009. But more importantly both teams have improved their product on the field, and so have many other teams; such as the Rays, Red Sox, Phillies, and Braves while players such as Manny still linger on the free agent list.

The one thing that seriously concerns me is seeing the team acquire unnecessary players when there are other larger needs that are being ignored. I will give 2 examples from recent player signings: Joey Gathright and So Taguchi. The cubs are saddled with low-level producing outfielders already, but the team can't possibly pass up on the opportunity to sign Taguchi and Gathright? I look into the cub's outfield and I see so many guys that they're running into each other and I think I'm seeing double - no wait that's just Pie and Gathright standing next to each other. At a time when dollars are "supposedly" tight around the organization, I don't see much logic in wasting valuable money on two guys to shag fly balls in BP. Close to $2M was spent bringing in these 2 clowns, when the cub's bullpen could certainly use a lefty that can get outs vs tough LH batters. Or a picking up a proven set-up man to slot in front of a rookie closer probably wouldn't be a bad idea either.

Team Needs

I share your concern about the seemingly senseless spending of money on Gathright and Taguchi. They would do just as well with Pie as Gathright, and Hendry's hands wouldn't be tied so that he'd be forced to sell very low on Pie or risk losing him for nothing to a claim. Unless Hendry is certain that Pie is valued enough by another team in a prospective trade for a dynamic player like Peavy or Brian Roberts, why Gathright? It seems to me that the current focus should be on adding a lefty to the pen who dominates LH hitters. Dennys Reyes fits that description perfectly. Signing Reyes now would give Lou the option of moving Marshall to the the rotation or using him as a swingman if Hendry is able to rekindle a trade for Peavy. If that happens, they could always go with three lefties in the pen or trade Cotts. Not making a move for a lefty reliever will effectively tie Lou's hands and force him to hand the 5th starter job to Samardzija, Hart, Guzman, or Gaudin. I also fail to understand letting Wood get away and having to deal a top pitching prospect in Ceda to replace him with Kevin Gregg. Wood was clearly wanting to remain a Cub and there is no way it would have taken anything close to $10M/yr for two years to keep him. Gregg will end up making somewhere in the $4-5M range, so it saved the team probably $3M or so to exchange Wood for Gregg and put Marmol in the pressure packed position of trying to be the closer for a Cubs team that is trying to win a WS for the first time in over a century. For a baseball player, that's probably as much pressure as anyone will ever be up against. It takes Marmol out of the 7th and 8th inning role in which he excelled, and again, cost the Cubs a top young pitching prospect to boot.

Marmol

When was he giving everybody heart attacks outside of those few weeks where he just quit throwing during the middle of the summer? The guy put up a sub-one WHIP over the course of almost 90 innings even with those absolutely terrible weeks. I'm going to miss Piniella using him during the seventh and eighth, but I'm hopeful we'll see two-inning saves from time to time now. I feel safer with him than anyone else in the bullpen.

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