Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Roster Talk

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Who I would keep

Welcome, one and all, to today's edition of Roster Talk! 

Today, we're gonna look at the bright side of things, once again, because whenever I look at things from the other side of the coin, some of you get upset, your feelings get hurt, and you start demanding that I hang myself.  Ah, kids...you know I would always go with the overdose, or perhaps the double Smokey Joe in the sealed bathroom method, like my favorite singer used.  I just LOVE the smell of a charcoal fire!

Anyway, let's go over the 2009 Cubs roster, and discuss who I would keep for 2010...don't worry, people, it's not a long list, and you can finish it in no time and get RIGHT back to work...you don't even have to print it and take it to the can with you. 

Without further eloquence, here's the "keepers" on Jim Hendry's fantasy team:

Derrek Lee - even in this, his best year in the past five, he doesn't have the offensive output of the top NL first basemen.  He's no Pujols, Howard, Gonzalez, Fielder.  He's there with Todd Helton, Fat Elvis Berkman, some of the other 35 year olds.  His so-called fielding excellence is overrated, too.  None of the experts list him in the top three.  But 2009 is not his fault. 

Ryan Theriot - he's a decent second baseman, has good bat control, and like his predecessors at second before him, Todd Walker and Mark DeRosa, never met a microphone or camera he didn't like.  See what I'm doing here?

Aramis Ramirez - the best player we have.  His dislocated shoulder turned out to be the turning point of the year.  The player we can least afford to lose. 

Jake Fox - as long as he realizes his role on the team, backup corner outfielder and corner infielder, he adds value to our team.  Once he starts crying about playing time, and someday, he will, they can trade him.  Until then, he's a keeper.

Kosuke Fukudome - history will show that he was not as advertised, in terms of offensive impact.  Yes, he gets on base, and yes, he is the only Cub mentioned by the baseball experts as an above average fielder for his position.  He knows how to play the game.  He just isn't good enough to dominate major league pitching.  But if we had an actual offense, what he gives us in CF would be plenty.

Geo Soto - you know just how pissed off I am at him this year.  I am willing to give him another chance this off season to work out hard and come back in 2010 in top shape.  I am only willing to do this because catching talent is at an all-time low.  If the Molina brothers were born 30 years earlier than they were, they'd be pumping gas in Bayamon for a living.  Today, they are beloved figures.  So we have to give this guy slack, whether he deserves it or not.

Ted Lilly - the best pitcher we have.  He's suffered some physical ailments for the first time in three years, and he came back as strong as any other Cub coming off of the DL this year.  They need to extend his contract.

Ryan Dempster - nobody will take him and his contract right now.  Plus I am also willing to cut him some slack, due to his personal issues with his newborn daughter.  Hopefully she thrives, and daddy can go back to running up and down mountains in the off-season.  Because he ain't the same guy who won for us last year.

Carlos Zambrano - I honestly thought we had a chance to do a three way with San Diego and the Sox, where Z ended up with fellow countryman Ozzie Guillen and we ended up with Jake Peavy.  Otherwise, I'm sure nobody is going to touch his $18 million + salary.  And, I guess he has as much chance of having a big year as anyone else.

Randy Wells - he's got heart, if not a whole lot else.  That counts, don't it?

Sean Marshall - hey, we need the dues.  Actually, a great guy to have, as long as you don't rely on him too much.

Angel Guzman - I guess that's why we've been rehabbing this guy the past six years.  Still gives up too many taters.  Of course, so does Lilly.  Which is not quite the bad habit of...

Carlos Marmol - ...giving up too many walks.  While I don't, like, have a personal dossier on this guy, going by the first-person stories I HAVE heard + some of the photos that have surfaced on the internet + some of the comments made by the beat writers and game announcers, this guy has some personal problems right now, and a LOT of growing up to do.  If he does, he could be great.

John Grabow - looks like a decent pickup.  Plus he's lefthanded, and I heard he tips well.

OK, then, that's 14.  Fifteen if you count Alfonso Soriano, who is arguably the most untradeable guy in the league.  With Barry Zito winning every now and again, Soriano may have the worst contract in the majors. 

So, Hendry, or whoever.  You only have ten holes to fill for next year.  You need a leadoff hitter, closer, shortstop, and for the third straight year, right fielder.  I believe Milton Bradley is tradeable, in fact a MUST trade, certainly we will have to eat either salary or not get value back for him, but he has shown he has no business being here.  Send him someplace where nobody shows up for games, nobody reads papers or listens to sports radio, and he'll thrive again.  Maybe Texas will take him back?

You might get someone to give us a bag of peanuts for Kevin GreggRich Harden is a free agent this year?  Perfect, if that's true. Maybe we'll get a sandwich pick we can waste.  If Reed Johnson doesn't mind making fifth outfielder money again next year, maybe you give him one more look. 

That's it.  Everyone else, yes including the Great Jeff Baker, feel free to get that insurance certification or whatever it is that you will need to earn money the rest of your life. 

So, Cubs fans.  That's this winter's episode of "Who I would keep", with your congenial host, me.  Until next time, football is just around the corner, and you know what that means?  Yep, betting!  And, Cheerleaders!  Whoo!

naturally, your input is always encouraged, either via comment or by user blog page.  It's time!  Sharpen up the axe, and start Hackin!!

Fixing it with cash

While we wait for AJ's recap ...

As we noted yesterday, Jim Hendry has a history of failing to draft and develop players, causing him to throw ridiculous piles of money at free agents to fix his team's gaping, glaring holes. While it would be nice to think that the Cubs will be able to trade away Milton "Problem Child" Bradley, or Alfonso Soriano for that matter, realistically we're stuck with the outfield the Cubs have for at least one more year -- or at least a portion of it. So if the Cubs are going to improve anywhere, it will likely be in the middle infield (2B, SS), perhaps at the back end of the starting rotation, and in the bullpen.

Obviously, any moves the Cubs make are contingent on the so-called completion of the team's sale to the Ricketts family. But if the team should happen to have money to spend, the following players might be right up their alley:

(with a tip of the hat to MLB Trade Rumors)
2B Brian Roberts -- this guy is right in Jim's wheelhouse. He's on the wrong side of 30 (will be 32 next year), he's been coveted by Hendry for several seasons, and he will likely command a ridiculous sum on the free agent market. He's also presently one of the better hitting second basemen in baseball, a walks and steals machine, who would give the Cubs their first legitimate leadoff hitter since Kenny Lofton in '03.
Editors note: Turns out that this is a somewhat old list and Google is not my friend.  Roberts is unavailable.  MLB Trade Rumors has a much more up-to-date list available and I will write a revised version of this column on the weekend.

SS Miguel Tejada -- another long-time Hendry coveted. Tejada is far removed from his growth-induced offensive dominance, as he's only hit 23 homeruns in his last 2 seasons in homer-happy Houston. At this point, at the age of 36 next year, Tejada probably isn't worth the excessive money he'll command over Theriot, who is a clueless base-runner and hapless shortstop but a bargain for his present pay.

SP - there are a handful of interesting arms out there. Long-time reliever Justin Duchscherer of Oakland fame is having a very good year as a starter, posting a 2.54 ERA (and more impressively, allowing 107 hits and 34 walks in 141.2 innings of work so far). John Lackey is a long-time decent starter for the Angels, but after starting only 24 games last year he is on pace to start even fewer this season. Other less-inticing options include Erik Bedard, who's been injury prone in Seattle, and Brett Myers, who's probably going to command a Marquis-like contract for no good reason.

RP - there are no game-breaking closers available, although a handful of options deserve consideration. Rafael Soriano, the 29-year-old Braves closer, has 17 saves and, more impressively, 74 SO in 54.0 innings of work along with a 2.50 ERA. Otherwise, Houston closer Jose Valverde may also be available. He led the NL in saves in '07 and '08, has a career 11.1 SO/9 ratio, and a career ERA of 3.22.

I'm sure there are other worth-while options out there, as I'm sure a few trades will be made (or at least I hope so). But realistically the team we have is the team we are stuck with -- too many of these players have large contracts with no-trade clauses. Still, there are ways to improve, a handful of new players mixed with a return to even average production from our team's stars would be a strong improvement over what we've seen in '09.

Open Topic - The Year of Questions?

Remember last October, when a 97-win Cubs team was swept out of the playoffs by Los Angeles? People wanted to blow up the team. They wanted to deal Derrek Lee, start Micah Hoffpauir at first, unload all the failures and under-performers, and -- the level-headed blog this is -- we suggested an exercise of caution. George Steinbrenner may disagree to some extent, but the actions and reactions of a strong organization is not to trade away the key components to a 97-win baseball team just because of an early playoff exit.

And despite all that has gone on, I stand by that. Nobody -- no, not even the Cubbie Downers -- could have predicted such bad seasons from so many key players. Nobody could have guessed at the sheer amount of man-power lost to bizarre injuries. This season has hit us like a knock-out punch launched from the shadows -- no way did we see it coming.

So, here's the dilemma: we do not know if this year was a trend or an aberration for Alfonso Soriano. We do not know if Ryan Dempster is really as bad as his numbers convey -- and I maintain that he's been the worst-luck pitcher on the team by far. We don't know if Bradley will bounce back next year. We don't know if Ramirez will be healthy in '10, or if Lee will continue to perform or drop off a cliff, or if Geovany Soto is just the new Rick Wilkins, or if the Cubs have a closer somewhere in that mess of a bullpen.

We know that many players under-performed in 2009. We don't know if they will under-perform in 2010. So -- do the Cubs need to blow up this roster? Can Jim Hendry (or his inevitable replacement) unload these heavy, ridiculous contracts? Or is it possible that Soriano and his ilk will bounce back with a vengeance in 2010? And all I ask is an exercise in realism when you voice your opinion -- last year we had people who seemed to seriously believe that a Derrek Lee "clearly on the decline" would be capable of netting San Diego's Adrian Gonzalez, which is about as realistic as the plastic lightsabre I have hanging from my wall in my bedroom.

One other thing -- if you choose to go with the seldom-used "reader blogs" option, rather than merely responding in the comments (and you probably should as your responses will likely be long), I will happily link back to them in this article so that they are clearly visible to everybody.

So have at it. It's Wednesday morning -- what else could you do right now, work?

Roster Moves into October

The Cubs have lately been playing extremely well as of late and find themselves in an unusual (for 2009 at least) predicament. With several key players soon to return from trips to the DL, Lou and Jim will have to decide who to demote and what the roster will look like going into September, when it can expand to 40.

We'll do this two ways -- the way I'd do it, and the way they probably will, the difference being that I'd keep the Cubs with an 11-man pitching staff rather than their unecessary 12-man staff.

First, the pitchers:

SP - Zambrano, Dempster, Harden, Wells, Gorzelanny
LR - Heilman
MR - Grabow, Guzman
SU - Marmol, Marshall
CL - Gregg

To me, this is pretty well a no-brainer. Samardzija has not pitched well enough to justify his position with the team and, despite misconceptions, he is nowhere near running out of options. Player options are one-a-year deals, not one-a-promotion/demotion. The Cubs have already exercised Samardzija's option for 2009, which means that within the confines of the rules they can promote and demote him as often as they want, amassing a respectable number of frequent flier miles while doing so. With Geovany Soto's return this weekend, I would almost gleefully demote Samardzija to make room for him. That guy's gotta go.

This would leave 14 spots for the hitters. The questions are -- do the Cubs keep Hoffpauir on the team considering that he's a .233 hitter whose only real skill is the ability to mash? How do they handle their mess-of-a-middle infield?

If Johnson was healthy, I would suggest either sending Hoffpauir back to Iowa, or -- if he's out of options, which I believe he may be -- cutting him free completely. Hoff was a great story last year but stories don't win championships, and I can do nothing but mock, gloat, and strut when recalling how more than a few fans wanted to dump Derrek Lee for Hoffpauir before the start of this season. So I say to you with definitive authority: nyaaaaa! But... with Johnson injured, the Cubs need Hoff and his "ability" to patrol the outfield.

Ahem, after that I'd then cut the tenaciously craptacular Aaron Miles. Enough is enough and he's batting under .200 this season. It was a dumb idea when Hendry signed him and keeping him around is even more ridiculous. The guy could play every position including pitcher and he'd still suck. If only his "versatility" included the ability to hit the damned ball. Lastly, I would return shawties Bobby Scales and Sam Fuld to the 25-man roster. That would give the Cubs an offense which looks like this:

C - Soto, Hill
1B Lee
2B Fontenot, Baker
SS Theriot, Scales
3B Ramirez, Fox
LF Soriano, Hoffpauir
CF Fukudome, Fuld
RF Bradley

By the end of the month, Theodore Roosevelt Lilly is expected to make his return, as is Andres Blanco. If possible, I'd probably wait until September to activate them, thereby preventing the demotion of any players. But if I had to juggle the roster, I'd probably send Scales down for Blanco and, at least temporarily, Fuld down for Lilly (both of whom I'd recall immediately on Sept. 1).

With Lilly back and hopefully healthy, I'd place in the bullpen whichever pitcher -- Gorzelanny or Harden -- has the worst August, with special considerations going to how pitching in relief might land Harden on the DL.

With Blanco back on the roster, I would also consider very strongly either starting him at second or moving Theriot over there, not because it makes the offense better but because it improves the team's defense. It's funny that we remember the drubbing the Dodgers delt the Cubs last October, but we've all seemed to forget that the worst moment happened in an inning in which Lee, DeRosa, and Theriot all made defensive errors resulting in an assload of runs and nausea. Maybe a juggled defensive setup would be, y'know, helpful.

On September 1st I'd recall whichever players remain from my "sweeping" changes initiative -- I'd promote Stevens, Samardzija, and maybe a few other young pitchers just for depth.

But since the Cubs are insistent on having a 12 man pitching staff, they're likely to keep Samardzija (or perhaps Stevens) up the entire time while being a man down in the infield. And since they also are probably going to insist on keeping the damnable Aaron Miles, then that means that they'll either wind up releasing Jeff Baker -- who also sucks -- or demoting Jake Fox, which would be a horrendously stoopid move.

Next Question - Can the Cubs Win the Series With This Roster?

I love writers arrogant enough to ask -- and answer -- their own questions. If you've been reading the comments thread of a few articles the last few days, you'll have seen a running -- but extremely civil, if not boring -- debate between myself and a Cub fan/Goat Reader about What This All Means. Dan has pointed out that the Cubs have done their worst damage against really crappy teams and that their record against winning teams is about as pretty as a naked Betty White. I get the feeling -- I could be wrong -- that Dan thinks my disagreement with him stems from a strong belief that the Cubs are favored to win the World Series.

Well, I haven't said that. I don't think I've said "the Cubs will win the World Series" since March, and that would probably have been when I predicted a 110 win season like the smart-ass I am.

But to pompously answer my own question, yes, the Cubs can win the Series with this roster. It's kind of shocking, but any team that makes the playoffs on any given year can win the World Series... even the Cubs. But I won't play favorites with them in that scenario. I've come to believe that the playoffs are a total crapshoot. Talent does not always win out, sometimes teams as bad as the '06 Cardinals will win a Series, and rarely does the baseball team with the most regular season wins -- or the biggest payroll -- get the job done. I said to Dan that I thought the Cubs, should they reach the playoffs, would have a 25% chance of reaching the World Series and a 12.5% chance of winning it. Anybody who tells you more than that is talking out of their ass, because -- seriously -- the playoffs are a crapshoot.

All that said, I do believe that the Cubs are a much better team than what we saw in April, May, or June. I suspect that they will put up better numbers against good teams in August and September than what we saw earlier in the year. I also believe that they remain one of the deepest teams in the league, even if they were poorly assembled from the parts they started with -- particularly they are strong in the rotation. All of these things lead me to believe that the Cubs are going to be extremely difficult to overtake in the NL Central, and I now think they are very likely playoff bound. But that's as far as I'll go.

By Any Means Necessary: A Manifesto on Fixing the 2009 Chicago Cubs

Yesterday I posted an open thread in which I solicited opinions on how to fix this facked up Cubs roster.  Loyal Goat Reader Matt suggested we head over to Bleed Cubbie Blue, where Al Yellon has posted a guide to "realistic" options that could fix the current roster.  I said there -- and I will repeat here -- that anybody who self-titles their solutions "realistic" is at least somewhat deluded, and elaborated on my general disdain for the ban-happy Al Yellon.

Then I promptly shout-banned one of our most ardent readers for his consistent flaming of this blog.  Oh, hypocrisy, thy name is Kurt.  But said reader still has the ability to post comments in our articles, so he shouldn't feel too slighted and is welcome to flame us his own name or handle, rather than mine or somebody else's.  But I digress.

So.  A brief summary of what Al suggested over on his blog:

1. Cut Aaron Miles.
Why this is a relevant move baffles me.  On a team short of multi-positional backup players, Yellon wants to cut a guy who is about as responsible for the team's failings as you or I are.  Miles has been terrible, no doubt there, but cutting him outright makes less sense than using him in a more limited, back-up role.  Miles should be the guy who comes in to play defense when you pinch hit Micah Hoffpauir for Mike Fontenot in close-and-late games.  Until the Cubs can find another player as defensively versatile as Miles, or until they have at least a modestly balanced roster, Miles cannot be cut.

2. Trade Rich Harden.
The strength of the Cubs has been their rotation.  So, apparently they should break it up.  Al's realistic -- and only -- trade suggestion is Harden to the Angels for Brandon Wood, a 24-year-old prospect who can play third base.  Wood is Anaheim's 1st round pick from the '03 draft and he has ridiculous power potential.  And since the Angels are apparently a hack organization, I'm sure they'll jump on trading a young prospect with tremendous power for an older pitcher with a long history of being hurt.  Because if the Angels need anything right now, it's another pitcher they can't count on.

3. Trade Heilman + Prospects for DeRosa.
But it's ok.  Because if that doesn't work out, then Al thinks the Cubs can deal one of their failed relievers plus unnamed prospects to the Indians for Mark DeRosa.  Again -- why the Indians would deal DeRosa back to the Cubs for any kind of trade involving Aaron Heilman is baffling, but apparently it's also "realistic."

4. Move Fukudome to second in the lineup.
This is fairly common sense, but has anybody noticed that Fukudome is batting .122 in June?  How exactly is moving a .122-in-June hitter to the 2nd spot of the lineup going to help?  Fontenot, on the other hand, is doing very well so far in June.

5. Leave Bradley alone (for now).
So the Cubs should take their new free agent, who apparently is constantly battling naggling injuries, and rather than force him to take time off to heal they should just leave him alone and let him start and struggle until his hurt leg magically heals on its own?  Just checking.

6. Turn Guzman into the set-up man.
Actually I'd consider just making him the closer at this point. 

7. Use Hoffpauir to spell Soriano more.
Why just Hoffpauir?  Why not anybody on the team who can play left field?

With all due respect to Al Yellon, none of his moves would make a damned bit of difference.  He apparently -- no offense -- wants to stupidly weaken the rotation and to trade for a couple of regular players while -- no offense -- ignorantly not moving any of the current regulars on the team ... while modestly and pointlessly -- no offense -- juggling the lineup a little.  And at least two of his "realistic" suggestions would only occur -- no offense -- under the conditions that the other teams' GMs were drunk off their asses when they agreed to the proposed trades.  No offense.

No, the Cubs need to take dramatic action.  They need to shake the team up, to make smart, sensible moves, and they need to act soon.  Here, therefore, are my solutions to the cluster-frack of a Cubs team that we are tortured by watching every single day:

1. Fire Lou Piniella
"He's better than Dusty" is not a justification in keeping a guy around.  At this point Lou needs to eat the gun of responsibility, fall on his own sword, acknowledge that he's past his prime, and let go.  I'm sorry, but I'm just over it.  Lou is not putting out the best possible lineup.  He is not balancing the team with players who can play the roles the Cubs are presently missing.  And he's not using the tools he's given appropriately.

And rather than watch this team continue its slide into mediocrity, I think a firing of the best Cub manager of my lifetime -- which says nothing except how bad they've been -- might shake them up the same way that Clint Hurdle's departure from Colorado has helped propel the Rockies into an 11 game winning streak.  Axe Lou - coming to a t-shirt near you.  I'll have more on this very controversal subject in the coming days.

2. Promotions, Demotions, and Releases
The following Cubs need a chance to prove their worth in the big leagues:

Jake Fox - batting .409 in Iowa with 17 homeruns and 53 RBI in 45 games.  He can poorly play catcher, first, third, left, and right field.  But who cares?  Lil' Mikey Fontenot has hardly been a defensive savant over at third base and it can be argued that forcing him to play a new position has had a negative impact on his hitting.  Let Fox Play. 

Bobby Scales - he's had some success in the bigs, and some failings.  But he's versatile and, if he could have prolonged success, it would set the stage for a justifiable release of Aaron Miles.

J.R. Mathes - This lefty can at the very least try out for the role of lefty relief specialist.  Maybe he'll bomb.  Maybe he'll find success.  The point is the Cubs need somebody else who throws lefty and he should get a shot.

Kevin Hart - So far he's thrown 46.1 innings in Iowa, he has a 3.30 ERA, and he's struck out 50.  He's not been a hot hand in Chicago but maybe with a new manager who doesn't dispose of relief pitchers like so many used tampons Hart can find better luck if he returns.

As a consequence of these four in-house players making the team, the following players need to be ousted:

Dave Patton -- is Patton's potential so great that it's worth lampooning the team's chances in 2009?  I think not.  Let him go back to his original team, he's not helping out the Cubs.

Aaron Heilman -- Yellon is right in that he's not helping the Cubs.  The difference is this overall sense of reality that Al seems to have been lacking the day he wrote his "realistic" take on how to fix the team.  Heilman is not going to net DeRosa or anybody else.  The Cubs would be lucky to find somebody who'd eat his contract.  Therefore I am advocating the release of Aaron Heilman.

Andres Blanco -- Why he's on the roster at all is a mystery to me.  I'd return him to Iowa where he can hit better than .212.

But what about Hart?  Promote him if/when Ascanio fails.

3. Trades and Acquisitions
So far the moves I've suggested will have presented the roster with a stronger overall balance, but they lack the punch necessary to spring forward.  And since Ramirez remains out -- and will probably not be what we hoped he'd be once he gets back -- I'm going to advocate the following trades:

Aubrey Huff to the Cubs for prospects - Huff is another defensively mediocre player versatile enough to play first, third, and the outfield.  He won't be heroic with the glove but until Ramirez returns he can fill in over there while providing a bit of a better bat than Fontenot.  This trade may not be possible unless the Cubs can a) take on salary and/or b) lose Heilman and his ilk to other teams via waiver claims, rather than through being forced to eat their contracts.

4. Shifts and re-alignments
At this point the Cubs would have made a few moves but they will still need to shake things up a bit.  I would do the following:

Move Angel Guzman to closer - He's been the most effective pitcher on a team rife with blown games.  Guzman has earned the chance to be a huge contributor rather than a middle innings eater.

Change the lineup in the following ways

vs. LHP
SS Theriot - .400 OBP vs. LHP
CF Johnson - .419 OBP vs. LHP, .905 OPS
RF Bradley - .288 AVG vs. LHP, .819 OPS
LF Soriano - sucks vs. LHP, but there aren't a ton of options at this point
C Soto - .433 SLG vs. LHP, .828 OPS
1B Lee - .770 OPS vs. LHP
2B Miles - .273 AVG, .713 OPS vs. LHP
3B Fox - It's a mystery but he can rake

vs. RHP
2B Fontenot - .352 OBP vs. RHP
SS Theriot - .330 OBP, .746 OPS vs. RHP
3B Huff - .850 OPS v. RHP
LF Soriano - .484 SLG v. RHP
1B Lee - .804 OPS v. RHP
CF Fukudome - .813 OPS v. RHP
RF Bradley - .682 OPS v. RHP
C Soto - .606 OPS v. RHP

The Roster at this Point
C - Soto, Hill
1B Lee, Hoffpauir
2B Fontenot, Miles, Scales!
3B Huff, Scales, Fox!
SS Theriot, Miles
LF Soriano, Fox, Hoffpauir
CF Fukudome, Johnson
RF Bradley, Huff, Hoffpauir

SP Zambrano, Dempster, Lilly, Harden, Wells
LR Mathes, Marshall
MR Ascanio, Marshall, Mathes
SU Marmol, Gregg
CL Guzman

What changes
As a consequence of these moves, the Cubs would have a new manager, a stronger lineup, greater depth, and fewer weak-spots in the bullpen.  But as much as this modest shake-up would impact the team, perhaps the biggest move they need to make is this:

Sell the team!
It's just so ... so ... Cub for this team sale to be so bungled.  Shouldn't they be owned by somebody else by now?  How long is this mess going to take?  Perhaps the Tribune should seek a bail-out and America can own the team!  Either way, I am more anxious than ever for a new-look Cubs run by a fresh owner.  I have to confess at this point that I sincerely hope it's not Ricketts, I'd suffer through another year of bids and rumors, but this idiotic, slow process is harpooning the team's ability to function. 

Because let's be honest.  The Cubs as they are built will not win a World Series.  Rob is right.  The side-shows have taken the spotlight, center stage is a disaster, and the elephants are loose somewhere on the grounds.  This simply will not do, and yet it's all we know.  And that, my friends, is why we are boned for 2009.  Again.

I will take Kurt's points, and see you a thousand

They fired the hitting coach. 

This isn't even "deck chairs off of the Titanic", this is more like "ice cubes out of a cocktail glass off of the Titanic".  What exactly DOES a hitting coach do in the majors, anyway?  But before you send the Perry family any condolence cards, keep in mind that this is June 15th and we have a three-way tie for the team lead in RBIs.  Derrek Lee, Mike Fontenot and Alfonso Soriano (....and this really should be foreboding since the best of them is hitting .250...) all at 27.  On June 15th.

This is where the biggest question you have to ask is: is it a blessing or a curse that we are only 2 1/2 games out? 

I think the starting pitchers deserve the benefit of the doubt, and have earned the right for Jim Hendry to be a BUYER this July, and try to get us somebody that can hit.  On the other hand, every other aspect of the game - hitting, running, relieveing and fielding - along with coaching, has been suspect at best, and utter rubbish at worst.

I think anybody acting entirely in a vacuum would realize that this team, as constructed is not going to win a pennant in 2009 - hence, it makes sense to fix everything that is broken.  This would most likely begin with the suddenly old and befuddled guy who wears Number 41 and stands around in the dugout looking like he is suffering the throes of advanced constipation.  However, this is absolutely NOT going to happen, and it isn't because management is deluded enough to believe that the Cubs have a shot this year. 

It is because Hendry has already hired Dusty Baker, allowed him to finish his contract, yet did not retain him.  Then he hired Lou Piniella.  In the baseball biz, most GMs are given 2 field managers to prove their capacity to do their OWN job.  Most GMs are not given the luxury of hiring a third manager, without a championship under their own belt.  If a third manager is necessary, most owners will insist a new GM be the one to do the hiring.

Of course, we are unique (naturally).  Our owner doesn't WANT to own us, and has been trying to sell us since the day he bought us.  Of course, he wants ridiculous profits, and obviously does not have the gumption to fully check out the new buyer of his team.  (Hey, I can offer 900 mill for the Cubs - think Zell would have sold them to me?)  This clusterflop might go on for years, and Zell doesn't care enough to go through a search for a new GM.  Hell, he cares so little about us, he probably doesn't even know about the "2 hires" rule in baseball, and he'd let Hendry bring in a new guy without asking a single question outside of "what's he gonna cost me?" 

However, Hendry is not always as dumb as you might think, and he won't want to try to slip a fast one past Zell.  So he'll stick with old Uncle Lou as long as he is willing to squeeze himself into his uniform and stand in front of the mikes and issue the same tired excuses he's been tossing at us since Game 1 of last year's NLDS. 

I honestly believe if Hendry wanted to trade for a guy, regardless of his salary picture, that Zell could care less.  So if that Offensive Savior was out there, Hendry could go get him, even if we had to eat Fukudome's $25MM, or Bradley's $25MM, or even Soriano's $91MM.  But who, exactly, would that be?  Like the Easter Bunny and Saddam's WMDs, the Offensive Savior does not exist.  

Besides, even if one Offensive Savior came, that doesn't mean the other 7 guys in the lineup would start hitting, so what we really need is the Manager Savior, who will motivate and compel Soriano to hit like he did with Washington, for Fukudome to hit like he did in Japan, for Bradley to hit like he did with Texas, for Lee to hit like he did in 2005, for Fontenot to hit like he was a real starter, and for Soto to hit like he did when he was skinny.

So, yes, I fully expect to hear any day now that Lou Piniella is going to "retire", so he can go back home to Tampa and wait for a Steinbrenner to call him, and for Hendry to announce the hiring of our new "Managerial Savior"...

....Santa Claus. 

Dear Lord...let SOMEONE buy the Cubs soon.  Until then, we're no better than we've ever been...still hostages of mismanagement.

Open "Fix the F*cking Roster Already" Thread - Mid June Edition

Note: In case it wasn't obvious, the asterisk in the headline replaces an "a." 

If this team continues the downward swirl, then they will be perhaps the greatest squealchers of potential we have seen in our lifetimes.  Perhaps they were never meant to be a 110 game winner, but this team as built should have trounced the mediocre NL Central.  They should have charged past their playoff opponents.  They should have been a team to remember.

Sadly, they have instead been a team we'd all like to forget.  With the 2009 Cubs it's been one reckless outburst after another, one blown lead, one missed opportunity, and many losses that should have been wins.  So what next?  Is it over Johnny in June?  With the team at .500, 2.5 games out of first, in a division nobody appears keen on winning? 

Hell no.  It's not over.  But with another month of this crappy play we'll all wish it was.  Sooner or later one of the NL Central teams -- and maybe even a couple of them -- are going to start winning an awful lot of games.  If the Cubs still want to be in a position where a short winning streak gets them into the playoffs, then they will need to turn into a regular winner.  But it will be no easy task that the firing of a hitting coach can accomplish.

Therefore I will open it up to you guys.  What do you think needs to be done to fix this mess?  Who gets cut at a great expense to the team?  Who does Jim Hendry pursue at all costs?  The lineup -- what should it look like when the Cubs play the Sox tomorrow?  Where does Kevin Gregg belong?  How about Dave Patton?

I'll open it up to you and post my thoughts on this topic within the next 24 hours.  But I think we'll all agree that this team is totally facked if they don't do something beyond the firing of Gerald Perry, and soon. 

Just a brief word prior to the Gamecast

I note we don't have tags for either Joey Gathright or Bobby Scales, but I want to make this key point on this, the day Mr. Scales gets his first major league start:

Regardless of how well Bobby does over the next few days, a roster move will have to be made on Friday, when Jim Hendry plans to promote a AAA pitcher to take Z's spot in the rotation. 

Gathright has to be the move.  We need one more backup infielder - whether Scales is the man or not is yet to be determined - and we do not need another quick, light-hitting outfielder when we have both Fukkake and White Slice on the roster.  We can live with only four listed outfielders, considering that we can run Micah Hoffpauir out to a corner OF spot in an emergency.  But the lack of available infielders has already bit us once, and will continue to do so throughout, especially considering that the aforementioned Hoffpauir is not, strictly speaking, an infielder.  He's a DH wearing a National League uniform; and as such, the luxury of a glorified pinch runner has been removed from our capabilities.

Going for five in a row against Lil' Timmy.  Luck!!

Fixing the roster in easy steps

Let's see if I've got this straight.  At this moment, the Cubs have on their 25 roster 12 pitchers and 13 fielders.

Of those 12 pitchers, 7 are relievers.  Of those 7 relievers, 1 is a Rule V pick and 1 is a LHP.

Of those 13 fielders, there are 2 catchers, 2 1B (one of whom can theoretically play RF and LF), 2 2B (one who plays third, one who plays shortstop), 1 SS, 1 3B, 2 LF (one who plays CF), 2 CF (one who can play all other outfield positions) and 1 RF.

At the moment, the following players are hurt: Derrek Lee (stiff neck), Aramis Ramirez (sore leg), Milton Bradley (sore groin), Carlos Marmol (sore leg), Geovany Soto (sore shoulder in my opinion).

That means the Cubs effectively have 2 catchers (Soto, Three Finger), 1 first baseman (Hoffpauir), 1 second baseman (Miles), 1 shortstop (Theriot), 1 third baseman (Fontenot), 2 left fielders (Soriano, Gathright), 1 center fielder (Johnson), and 1 right fielder (Fukudome). 

This.  Is. Not.  GOOD. 

But worse than this current situation of gum and twine is the fact that even if everybody is healthy they're still dangerously thin due to Lou's insistance of keeping 7 relievers and a backup first baseman.  We've seen already just how easy it is for the Cubs to come undone by a few troublesome injuries.  Therefore I am going to propose the following simple moves that the Cubs can take to rectify their current situation. 

Round One: Disabled List Roll Call

  • Place the following players on the DL: Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol.  Let's be honest.  Bradley's a waste right now.  Geo Soto has something wrong.  Maybe a trip to the DL will help him straighten out his problems.  And Marmol might be ok and not needing a trip to the DL, but better safe than sorry with your best arm out of the pen.
  • I'd replace my DL'd Cubs with the following 3 players:

    IF Bobby Scales - One of my favorite players from Spring Training, Scales has started out hot in Iowa batting .328 in 67 at bats.  He'd be the eventual equivilent replacement of Joey Gathright once Bradley came back.

    IF/OF/C Jake Fox - Fox plays first, third, and left field (and has caught in the past).  Fox has already hit 11 homeruns in Iowa and was doing well in Spring Training before he got cut. 

    LHP Jason Waddell - the Cubs aren't exactly brimming with lefty talent this year, but Neal Cotts needs help.  (Actually he needs to be cut but it ain't gonna happen just yet).  I think the Cubs should promote Waddell - who has an ERA of 3.12 in 9 relief appearances - and, should Waddell be capable of handling major league hitting, cut Cotts and replace him with another lefty down the line.

Round 2: Roster Moves
So long as my three Cubs remained on the DL, I'd probably hold off on making too many roster cuts.  However, once Bradley, Soto, and Marmol were set to return, I would cut the following players:

  • Cut Joey Gathright.  Whatever he brings to the table can't possibly be better than that of any number of minor league outfielders in the Cubs system.  Maybe Lou chose to keep him around on the assumption that Milton Bradley would eventually get hurt, but Gathright is not receiving the play time - nor putting up the numbers - to justify a roster spot on a major league club.
  • Cut David Patton.  Sorry, I know, we love his unlikely story and the fact that he says Yogi Berraesque things.  But the Cubs bullpen is too weak to justify his continued prescence.  In fact, I reallllly don't understand this need for 7 relief pitchers.  Let's just cut Patton and go with 6.
  • Cut Angel Guzman.  See above.  It's time for Jim Hendry to let go; Guzman's ability does not justify his place on the roster, especially if Samardzija has been promoted to pitch in relief for the Cubs.

This would basically ensure a better balance on the Cubs.  They'd no longer have 7 relievers, but the 6 in place would theoretically be a lot better at their jobs -- and as I previously mentioned, once Waddell proves himself as a lefty in the majors I'd cut Cotts and find somebody else to replace him.   

Anyway, here's what the lineup would look like once everybody is healthy:

SP - Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Harden, Marshall
Bullpen - LHP Cotts, Waddell, RHP - Samardzija, Heilman, Marmol, CL Gregg

C - Soto, Hill
IF - Lee, Fontenot, Theriot, Ramirez, Hoffpauir, Miles, Scales, Fox
OF - Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, Johnson, Hoffpauir, Fox

The team would be better balanced, they'd have greater depth, and they'd be less inclined to go all topsy-turvy at the first sign of multiple freak injuries.  But maybe it makes too much sense to ever happen?  You decide.

What would a Cubs 7-man rotation look like?

please no more "process of thinking aloud" colums. They are stupid.

coming in July --> The Cubs 7 man Rotation

A friendly note to all readers of this blog
(pan in on Kurt Evans, sitting in a stage built to look like an office.  Behind the hastily constructed faux window is a poorly painted landscape done either in expressionist style, or by a 7 year old.  Kurt is wearing a plaid suit jacket with navy dress pants and red suede pumas on his feet)

Hi there.  My name is Kurt Evans.  You may have seen me in such idiot op-ed pieces like "How to Blog" parts 1 through 5, and "The Spring Training Championship Series."

(stands up, walks around desk and sits down on it)

Today, I'd like to talk to you about my attitude toward readers like you.

(turns left to camera set up at stage right)

Hi, Goat Reader.  You know I love ya.  Without you guys, I'd be shoutin' into an empty room.  I'd be a tree fallin' down in an empty woodland area in the heartland of America.  I'd be nothin', Goat Reader.  Nothin' at all.

(turns right to camera set up at stage left)

But let me tell ya somethin'.  Between bouts of alcoholism and dementia, my daddy was a wise man.  And he told me somethin' once that I never forgot.  He said "never give them what they think they want."  Or maybe that was Stan Lee.  Either way, he was right.

(stands up, walks stage left to face a map of the United States of America that appears to have been made before 1948)

We got a lotta readers out there, all over this country and its ...48 States.  We got readers who sleep with a King James under their pillow and we got readers who enjoy having sword fights with dirty dildos.  We got readers who've lost body parts due to money owed to the mafia and we've got readers whose strongest cuss word is "gosh, heck, and tarnation."  In other words, we're servin' a lot of people with many different loves, hates, and standards of decency.

(rips map off the wall, crumples it, and throws it to the ground)

And they can all cower beneath a shower - nay, a shellfire - of righteous hellfire if they think they can tell me what to write about!   By gawd, I ain't exactly doin' this for the money!  Lemme tell ya, Goat Reader, bloggin' is a time wastin', money suckin' occupation and all those rumors of hot groupies gone wild and week-long coke benders are flat out mostly untrue!

Content ain't easy to create, my friends, but if you come here daily only to discover that we're posting weekly, by gawd you won't be comin' here much longer!

(wags finger disparagingly)

No, we gotta feed the beast!  We gotta sing the song!  We gotta tap the dance!  So sometimes, in those long, cold months where the only story to report on is whether or not Paul Bako's gonna be a Cub again, sometimes we gotta come up with stuff!  So we grab on an idea, a concept, a horrible, depressing, embarrassing viewpoint and sweet Jesus we write about it!

(starts jumping up and down emphatically)

We write the crap out of it!  We turn it into a five part series!   We invite reader discorse on it!  And maybe it's somethin' as stupid as whether or not Mark Grace should be a Hall of Famer, or on creatin' your own blog, or -- Sweet Hallelujah!  -- sometimes we hypothesize over a really bad idea like using 10 starters to pitch through all your games instead of relying on a solid, dependable crew of relief pitchers!  And I'll tell ya somethin', Goat Readers, I'll shoot ya

(points finger at camera)

If you don't appreciate it and start to complain, by gawd we'll just do it again in order to spite ya!  Because nobody is sitting behind you right now with a gun pointed to your head forcing you to read this, unless you happen to be that reader who has already lost body parts to the mafia.  If you're that guy anything can be happening right now!

(returns to desk, sits down behind it)

But please, don't take it personal, Goat Reader.  If my own mother, gawd rest her soul (she's still alive) were to say somethin' like "I don't like all those pictures of boobies you have," even though she woulda accidentally have gone to goatriders dot com and we don't post pictures of boobies here, I'd probably post pictures of boobies just to teach her a lesson!

After all, if we don't usually do the things you don't like, then chances are we won't do them again too soon if you just ignore it when it happens!  (And, on the other hand, if you more-often-than-not hate what we do, then you shouldn't be reading this blog anyway.)  But if you say at random "another (insert thing you hate here)?  I HATE that!  Please stop doing that!"  Then I can promise you a minimum of one grudge post on that very topic within 24 hours.  That's just the way we roll, buddy.

Thanks, Goat Reader, for takin' the time to hear me out.  Oh, and if the Cubs decided to go with a 7-man rotation, I think it'd look like this:

Carlos Zambrano
Ryan Dempster
Ted Lilly
Rich Harden
Sean Marshall
Aaron Heilman
Jeff Samardzija

With a 6 man bullpen of ...

Aaron Miles (he's pitched before)
Neal Cotts
Kevin Gregg
Chad Gaudin
Luis Vizcaino
Carlos Marmol

I bet the'd do AWESOME!

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