Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Random thoughts on trades, transactions, and other changes

One of the biggest misconceptions in baseball is that it takes a while for a team to gel.  For example when Dusty Baker came to Chicago he was inheriting the beginnings of a solid core of players, but because there were a number of new guys and young players he felt he'd need time to succeed.  On the contrary, the talent level was so high in those early days that Dusty actually looked like a good manager for about a year and a half.

It's sort of the same with Lou's situation.  He inherited a last-place team with a pile of new, high-priced players.  The first couple of months of the 2007 season were just about as ugly as the last couple of years of Dusty's ... er, reign ... but the players came together, they gelled, and the sheer level of talent eventually overcame the bad habits that they brought with them into the season.

The Cubs actually have a pretty good core of players right now, many of whom have been a part of the team for a while.  Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Marmol, Soto, Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Fukudome, and Bradley represent a solid group of mostly young - or in their prime - guys who have either been with the team for a while or should remain with the team for a while.  Consequently, the Cubs have won the division for two consecutive years, which hasn't happened since they began mass-producing cars back when your great grand-pappy was wearing short-pants.

Yet, in spite of the success, maybe because we're bored, anxious, and waiting, some fans keep tossing out trade and free agency ideas which are sometimes interesting and other times ludicrous.  It's kind of a Yankee-fan mentality thing which isn't necessarily actually good.

What I mean is this: things aren't broken right now.  There is very little to fix.  We sort of talked about this back in October, too.  Sure, the Cubs got knocked out of the playoffs, and while the worst was happening before our very eyes some extremist fans wanted to take a "slash and burn" approach.  After all, clearly these guys couldn't handle the pressures of playoff baseball in Chicago.  They had to go.  None of them should come back.

(This was ignoring the fact that we'd just seen the team enjoy a 97-win season, the most wins since 1945.)

Here's the thing we're forgetting: the playoffs are a crapshoot.  Colin might disagree, but the best team does not win.  The hottest one does.  At points in the 2008 season the Cubs couldn't lose if they tried and at other times they couldn't win if they'd bribed the umpires.  That's just the way it goes.  The trick is to get there constantly because the more often you do something the more likely you are to get good results.  (Point of fact: between 1945 and 2008, the Cubs reached the World Series just once.  Sounds about impossible until you consider that between 1945 and 1984, they reached the playoffs not at all.  It's hard to win when you never get there.)

I will submit then one simple argument: every team - even the one that wins the Series - has to look to upgrade every year.  It's good to have a solid core of players but the trick is to continue to add to that core.  No team should wait until they have to subtract because a guy is no longer effective.  The Cubs entered the off season with a few pressing needs: 1) Get rid of the deadweight Marquis.  2) Balance the lineup to include more lefties.  3) Bring in a middle-of-the-lineup hitter who can step in and replace Derrek Lee in the 3-hole or Aramis Ramirez at cleanup.  4) Improve the bullpen.

It cannot be contested that they did #1, which likely means they are stronger in the rotation by default.  They also now have 2 additional lefties in the everyday lineup, meaning that they succeeded with #2.  Although Piniella isn't likely to shake things up the way he should, the Cubs have clear and superior alternatives for last year's lineup (which, by the way, was still outstanding).  The only thing they haven't really addressed was #4, although how much worse they are is extremely subjective and very debatable.

Oh, and the Cubs just might bring in a guy who we could essentially call The Fourth Ace.  This team is loaded.  Huge changes are not necessary.  They don't need a new second baseman - they already have one, a guy who worked hard to earn his chance. 

So, let's let them be.  Let's be excited that they're so potentially good.  At least that's what I will be doing for the next few months.

Let them be.....

So, let's let them be. Let's be excited that they're so potentially good. At least that's what I will be doing for the next few months.

Kurt-I agree completely. However, just letting them be for the next few months will probably not make this great website triple last year's hits. I love this site for both the intelligent and the crazy speculations. Without the crazy talk, I wouldn't come to the site 5-6 times a day. So while it isn't actually all that productive, it is still interesting if just to laugh at. In any event, I hope we continue to get both types of conversation on your site. Matt

Hey, we're alllll about the

Hey, we're alllll about the crazy talk, but we don't have to write a "blow 'em up!" post to do that.

Besides, when it comes to the new owner and what he's going to be doing with the Cubs, we've got crazy talk all day long so stay tuned!

So just let it be can mean

So just let it be can mean two different things according to you? Either go to spring training with what the team has or trade away 6 players to get 1 - I see how those are virtually the same thing.

I wouldn't call trading 6

I wouldn't call trading 6 players - none of whom appear likely to make a huge contribution to the 2009 roster - a "huge change" by any means, and I also wouldn't say the Cubs need to get Peavy to win more games in the NL than any other team this year.

More to the point, I really don't see it happening until June or July.

From everything I have read

From everything I have read the team has around 5-10 million left in the budget for player salaries in 2009, which would bring the payroll to around a total of $140M. The team could theoretically squeeze Peavy onto the roster and keep the payroll at that level for 2009, but pay raises to numerous players will make Hendry's job much more difficult in 2010 if the budget remains the same. I still can't believe the cubs are offering enough to the Padres to get Peavy in the first place, but if they are I would surely take him off their hands in a second. With a roster as deep as what the cubs boast they can afford to trade 6-7 guys to get Peavy and those left over will still be more than enough to fill the remaining roles.

The reason the Cubs have had

The reason the Cubs have had budget constraints this off season is because of the pending sale of the team. The sale won't be completed at the earliest until April which is part of the reason I think the Peavy trade will happen after opening day - if at all.

I'm not expecting Ricketts to open up the wallet to the tune of a 200 million payroll in 2010, but even before the sale the Cubs had seen a gradual increase of salary and that should continue after the sale is completed ... hopefully at an accelerated pace.

What are we on the books for

What are we on the books for in 2010? Anyone know?

Beautiful. So true about the

Beautiful. So true about the playoffs. Just get there, and see what happens. Never in baseball has a team won its division four times in a row and NOT been to the World Series.

As for the bullpen, I would say that I hope the ridiculous number of young arms we now have turn into at least one or two quality relievers.

If we do get Peavy, and assume Marshall, Olson, and even Hart and Guzman go, we start '09 with:

Peavy, Z, Demp, Lilly, Harden (omfg)
Marmol, Gregg, Gaudin, Cotts, Vizcaino, Wuertz, Stevens/Samardzija/Wells/Atkins

yayyyyyy!!!!11

you are correct

Thank You Kurt,

You have put into words what I have been thinking and trying to say. From 1946 to 1999 we made 3 play off appearances. The Cub's have been able to match that number in the last 8 years alone. From 1991 to 2006 the Yankees have made 12 consective play off appearances going to 6 world series and the Braves have made 14 consective play off appearances going to 5 world series. To add to the debate as which team we should be modeled after how about the Braves? Pitching anchored by 3 strong starters (Glavine, Smoltz and Avery or Maddux). We have 4 with Z, Dempster, Lilly and Harden. 4 to 5 solid position players, we have A. Ram, D. Lee, Fonz, Soto and Bradley. The balance of the roster filled with with good role players. Role players aquired via the farm system, trades and inexpensive free agents. Not that they did not go after big dollar players as needed, but not always their first option.

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