In sports, the window closes.
Any team that decides to make a move for the championship will select a few key stars to lead their team for the foreseeable future. In Detroit, the Pistons had a solid starting five of Rip, Sheed, Chauncey, Ben and Prince for years. In Indianapolis, the Colts offense spent many years revolving around Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne and Eddgerin James.
The problem with the concept of the "core" is that, eventually, they get old. Just a couple years after winning it all, the Boston Celtics will have this problem, with KG, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce all aging quickly (and three good knees between them). The Phoenix Suns' core of Steve Nash, Amare Stoudamire, and Shawn Marion has already been dissolved, even without having won a championship.
In Chicago, the Cubs have their core. They've invested tens of millions of dollars in three position players that simply can't be moved. For the foreseeable future, third base belongs to Aramis Ramirez; Derrek Lee owns 1B; and Soriano gets left field. That's how it is.
The Cubs' offensive core has had their days. They tasted the postseason in 2007 and 2008. Unfortunately, those days were short. But more importantly, they happened--this team had its chance.
As our core ages, as Aramis' shoulder acts up, as Derrek's neck spasms continue to flare, as Soriano's quick hands start slowing down, we're beginning to notice a major flaw with the group. Fans are convinced, along with the team's manager, that this group needs a lefty power bat to win.
Unfortunately, there's no place to put that bat. We've decided on our core, and there really isn't a lot of wiggle room one way or the other.
Jim Hendry tried to fill the lefty power gap by signing players like Fukudome and Bradley. In doing so, I think Hendry was wise not to ignore one crucial element of the game--defense. The guys we've got are not oafs. Bradley's brain hasn't quite caught up to his legs yet, but the guy can still move around.
As an example, look at the top five lefty outfielders in slugging this season: Raul Ibanez, Brad Hawpe, Adam Dunn, Jason Bay, and Jonny Damon. Those guys will all most assuredly see a rapid decline in their defensive skills over the next one to three years, assuming of course that it hasn't happened already.
Basically what I'm saying is--if you're convinced that the Cubs need a left-handed power bat to win it all (and I'm almost convinced of the fact at this point), then you're going to have to wait until 2011, when Lee vacates his spot at first base, for a championship team on the North Side of Chicago.
Until then, perhaps you should advocate having the Cubs act as sellers in the trade market, to prepare them for their next run. At this point, I think that's the side I'm on.
Update: The moves have been announced.
Fuld and Hart have been sent to AAA, and Patton is on the DL with a groin strain.
As for the line-up, here's tonight's:
At some point today, the Cubs will announce their recall of Aramis Ramirez, Reed Johnson, and Angel Guzman to the major league club's active roster. They'll also announce the corresponding roster moves they've made to make room for these three bona fide major league players.
In my opinion, roster and line-up speculation is what makes sports blogging fun. Not only do you get to play GM, but you also get nearly instant feedback from other passionate fans with interesting ideas of their own.
With that, let's try to get some opinions in the comments on what folks are thinking would be ideal for the club at this point. There are two questions to answer:
1) Who should be sent down?
2) How should Lou line the hitters up now that Aramis is back?
Kurt: Welcome to another round of the Goat Riders of the Debateacolypse. Joining me today is Goat Writer Kyle, who in his spare time is best known getting drunk and falling off cinder blocks. How he got that reputation is beyond me, but he is a graduate student at the University of Illinois, and I hear that members of his university once drank beer from a cadaver skull.
Today's topic is one that is near and dear to my enlarged heart. As I have been criticizing Cub fandom as of late, mostly because we treat a pennant race the way a teenage boy would treat his quest to end his virginity,* I thought I'd take a consilatory step toward making things better with Cub Fan Nation. That's right, we're going to talk about fandom today, and more directly, a certain type of fan behavior: Cubs fans who paint their bodies and parade around at games.
(*We are prone to flail about helplessly in a sheer panic, mostly because we've never been there before and we just don't now what to do)
Image to be replaced upon finding a more suitable example
Fine, so some fans are so crazy for their team that they choose to demonstrate their passion and insanity by stripping half naked and going to games painted Cubbie red, white, and blue. What's so bad about that? We're fans, dammit! We spend thousands of dollars and thousands of hours every single year being fans. If we can't express ourselves by modestly slabbing on a 10 pound tube of body paint with our team's logo prominently rubbed into our chest, then what's the point of being a fan?
Besides, Kyle, I ask you this: have you considered that on days in early April, maybe that extra layer of paint helps keep our bodies warmed up a little? More to the point, have you considered that on those days, maybe we're just shirtless and cold to the point where our arms have turned blue? Who can be opposed to that?
Kyle: There is a clear hierarchical structure to the annoying Cubs fan habitat. It goes as such (and no you cannot disagree with me on the order…because if you do then I will chant “USA! USA!” in your face until you stop):
1. Girls (and some guys...but mostly girls) who won't get off their cell phones
2. Shirtless, painted fans
3. Idiots who wear "Horry Kow" shirts
4. People who taunt umpires and call each of them "Blue"
5. People who like the Cubs only because they love Wrigley
You see that Kurt? You and you shirtless friends are just barely better than the cell phone gangs that raid Wrigley on a daily basis. Not only do I not want your nipples and/or chest hair anywhere near my bodily openings, I don't want you to think that having paint on your body means that you have the right to stand up all game and yell like a moron.
Having a painted body doesn't make you anymore of a fan than they guy sitting quietly filling out his scorecard. I know you love the Cubs and I know you want them to win, but have a little respect for the people around you. It’s called decency and hygiene.
Buying a ticket gives the fan a right to the seat they purchased and the entertainment provided by the game, but it doesn’t allow you to make an ass out of yourself and thus disturb the others around you.
Besides it looks stupid anyways. By the end of the day, most of the paint is covered in so much beer and/or sweat that your body looks like a Salvador Dali painting.
Not to mention someone always gets stuck being the “!” and then you look like an outcast who your friends never planned on bringing to the game anyway.
Go back to college football if you want to take off your shirt. Maybe afterwards you can go to the Delta house and hit up the beer bong.
Kurt: You assume I have chest hair! For that reason, you fail!
Hey, when I buy a ticket to a seat at Wrigley Field, I buy that space for a day. As long as I'm not rubbing my blue-and-red painted manboobs in your face while screaming beligerently, I shouldn't be a distraction to you. More to the point, the action's on the green, my friend. Consider the first rule of going to a baseball game:
1. Load up on beer before the 7th, because they'll cut you off
No, sorry, I meant this first rule:
1. Always keep your eye on the ball
If you're watching the action, you don't need to worry about whether or not I'm dying of hypothermia, right up until the point where I go into convulsions and have a seizure on your lap. Besides, I'm not out there for you, sir. I'm there for the team. I'm done up like a blue Cubbie bear (with painted-on-whiskers and all) in order to attract the attention of the players. They are the ones who I want to see me. Them, and maybe the odd chick who will be impressed by both my bravery and my physique. (She would have to be very drunk.)
I think that people who have issues with body paint are short-sighted, and suffer from questions about their own sexuality and, even more important, their fandomality.
Kyle: It’s hard to pay attention to the action on the field when you’re stomach is flailing around like some sort of Cubbie-blue amoeba every time Carlos Zambrano throws a strike. How am I, or any person for that matter, supposed to concentrate under those conditions. Maybe I should come your place of work half naked with a big “K” painted on my chest and yell, “Yeah Kurt! You do whatever it is you do!” Woo! I need beer! Beer me!” Do you or your coworkers think they can handle that? Do you think they could concentrate on the real reason they are working with a rambling drunk idiot in their face?
Let’s not forget about the players either. You might distract an opposing team member, but if Aramis is at the dish trying to get a clutch hit, the last thing I want him to see is your man boobs flapping around. You might take your shirt off to support the team, but I support them by leaving it on.
As for your ticket-seat theory, sure you have the rights to your “space”, but that doesn’t give you permission to attack the airspace above everyone else’s heads. You see, your seat is like your home. You can do whatever you want there and I won’t judge you, but the second you impose your insane glue-sniffing habits…which some call “fandomality”…upon everyone else then you open yourself up for a world or ridicule, trash being thrown at you and eventual deportation to Guantanamo Bay.
Kurt: Here's the thing - what you seem to have issue with is whether or not fans act responsibly. I can go to the game, my body coated in paint, and act with gentle encouragement whenever a Cub steps to the plate or the mound. Oh no, sir, my time to shine is in the moments when the Cubs need me, like when Carlos Lee is standing at the on-deck circle. It is then, between pitches, that I stand up and gyrate suggestively while loudly yelling "hey Carlos, whaddya think about this!!" And then, at that moment, as Carlos Lee stares at me with his mouth agape, that's when the foul ball would collide with his hand and break a small bone, incapacitating him for the remainder of the season.
It's all about acting responsibly, and freedom. Sweet, precious, American freedom. What are you, a Communist? A Red? If you're a Red and are over the age of 30, then Dusty Baker may have a place for your grit and inclination to play baseball the right way, but I'll take a pass on your brand of insanity. Oh no, thanks anyway mister.
Besides, Kyle. If you're opposed to body paint, then that means you're opposed to this:
Game, set, and match. But thanks for playing.
Kyle: If someone actually "wore" that to a Cubs game, then it would be 40,000 fans and a bunch of players watching one person. I hardly call that baseball...but me likey.
And even though the above photo is one example of the beauties of body paint, for every super model you show me painted naked with a Cubs logo, I'll show you five fat polish guys with their last name ending with "ski" that have a big red "C" slobbered all over themselves. If you're going to open up the door for one beauty, then you are going to open it up for hundreds of beats.
Regardless, Kurt, you have never worn body paint to a game and probably never will. Your lack of experience in this field makes you unqualified to speak on behalf of shirtless, painted people everywhere. As far as I'm concerned, you're really just one of us.
I call for your resignation and an end to your anti-shirt, pro-paint agenda...or we can just agree that only smoking hotties should wear body paint and leave it at that.
Kurt: Shh! I'm arguing a contradictory point, here! You're not supposed to point out reality to people!
Although, just for spite, I may have to slap on some paint and go to a Jay's game sometime soon. Granted, my fiancee will leave me and I will live a life of shame, but it's all I'd deserve for putting people through the humiliation of watching me wear body paint to a sporting event.
Ahem. And, with that, we conclude another Debateacolypse. In my defense, I crunched some math and I have a phenomenal amount of caffeine flowing through my body right now. In Kyle's defense, he makes a lot of good points. But we'll let you be the final judge. Body paint: for hot models only, or for fat polish guys, too?
Greetings, Cub fans. Welcome to a surprise round of the Debateacolypse. I will be joined by Kyle today, as we will discuss a hot topic in Chicago right now - ballpark cleavage. Is there too much or too little?
No, wait, actually we're going to discuss a relevant topic for once - lineups. As Kyle so aptly pointed out in a private EMail in which he also disclosed his hatred of clowns and his distaste for m-words (that's little people in politically-correct talk), while commenting on his personal belief that Scarlett Johansson is the opposite of hot ... actually, I got lost there. Basically, now that I'm done slandering him, Kyle said that with Soriano returning, somebody's going to lose at bats. So, let us begin the debate:
Kurt: If I'm picking a guy to punt from the lineup, then obviously there are a limited number of choices. Fukudome, Edmonds, Ramirez, Lee, and DeRosa are pretty well guaranteed to start. Theriot, Fontenot, and Reed Johnson, not so much.
However, while he's been playing very well as of late, I think Fontenot in particular will lose the most at bats in the return of the Fonz. I sincerely doubt that he'd be able to keep up the pace anyway, and a bat as strong as his is best suited perhaps to be our first pinch hit option late in games.
Therefore, my vote goes to Fontenot, even over Ryan Theriot. Reed Johnson and his ridiculous Fu will probably remain part-time in the outfield with Jim Edmonds.
Kyle: While I will concede that Mike Fontenot will most likely be the at-bat casualty upon The Return of the Fonz, I'm going to take the Lou Piniella-approach today and stay with the hot bat while benching the cold one...therefore sparing Mike Fontenot from grabbing some pine and allowing me to kick dirt on Kurt's shoes and yell in his face when he disagrees with me.
I think we can all agree the Fontenot has been hot as of late. Lil' Mikey just gets up there and swings his tiny bat around like a child trying to smash a piñata into pieces...except instead of tasty candy he gets doubles and the occasionally homerun. No one knows how long Fontenot's hot streak is going to last, but we know the piñata will eventually be empty and he will return to being an average bat. Until then, the Cubs need to capitalize on his production because who knows how long it will be there.
So who takes the fall instead?
Well it's not one guy, but rather two: Fukudome and DeRosa. Kurt mentioned both these players as being "guaranteed to start", but no one in this lineup has been colder than Fukudome over the last few weeks. He struggles tremendously against lefties (this is where DeRosa comes into play as a platoon guy) and he seems to have lost his trademark patience at the plate. Something is clearly wrong and he should take the next few weeks to work with the hitting coach and get it all figured out.
While I believe this team can win without Fontenot, I don't know if they can do it without Fukudome down the stretch.
Kurt: As I turn my hat to better lean in and get into your face, I would like to respectfully suggest that yourblinditwasastrikeyouradirtyco-ahem. Sorry. Actually, I think that benching the struggling player is perhaps the least conductive way to get him out of his druthers.
Therefore, while Fontenot has been a huge offensive asset, maybe it would be more sensible to suggest that he's playing above his head - not a pun on his height, oh, who am I kidding, that was a total pun - and will eventually return to Planet Mediocre.
Let Fontenot be Lou's clutch pinch hit choice. Start him every odd week. Leave playing regularly up to the big boys - ooh, I punned him again - particularly when compared with Fukudome, who's been an offensive outcast.
Kyle: Fukudome wouldn’t necessarily be benched so much as he will be platooned with DeRosa, because real game at-bats are too valuable.
However my friends, I believe that Fukudome is dangerously close to being infected with “The Thing”. For those of you that don’t know, “The Thing” is usually a disease that resides in pitchers (like good ole Rich Hill), but dear Kosuke is showing the classic signs of becoming ill.
He’s second-guessing his swings, he’s going out of his comfort zone, and he is clearly showing his disgust and frustrating. All this is leading to what “The Thing” does best: kill confidence.
Now I want to clarify that this isn’t a permanent benching for Fukudome. In fact, with Soriano’s return seemingly imminent, perhaps the platoon idea would only last through the rest of this month because the Cubs play 19 games at home in August…and it is well documented that Fukudome is a different player at home (and by “different” I mean “better”).
Right now he just needs to relax, clear his mind and learn how to hit an off-speed pitch. That would be nice.
The reality of the situation, however, is that if keeping Fontenot in the lineup is a performance-based decision, then the reducing of at-bats for another player should also be performance-based. So the logical choice (outside of benching Fontenot on an anti-short people platform that Kurt is clearly basing his whole argument around) seems to indicate taking some field time away from Fukudome due to his recent performances.
Kurt: Dammit, Kyle! They'll bite you in the knees. The knees!!! Erm...
I just can't see how minimizing at bats solves confidence issues. Now, if you could convince me that Fukudome's problems are fatigue related, I'd take a different approach.
Ultimately, we have to think about Lou Piniella when we argue what will happen. What'll Lou do?
Realistically, Reed Johnson is about to learn first-hand the most intimate details of the Cubs bench. Mark DeRosa is going to reacquaint himself with the pansy-ass lofts of Ryan Theriot. Mike Fontenot is going to find himself left out a little, as well.
However, we have to remember one thing. Alfonso Soriano isn't about to go from 0 to 100 in 2.4 seconds. He's going to play more often than he doesn't, but I'm betting he starts no more than 75% of the time for a while.
In other words, this is probably realistic:
When Alfonso doesn't start in left, DeRosa does, and Fontenot plays second.
When Edmonds doesn't start in center, Fukudome does, DeRosa moves to right, and Fontenot plays second.
When Fukudome takes a day off - about twice a month, it seems, DeRosa plays in right and Fontenot plays second.
When Aramis takes a day off, Fontenot or DeRosa play third.
And, when a tired Mark DeRosa finally rests, Fontenot's there for that, too.
It won't be a daily thing, but when you're Lou's first option off the bench, there's definitely work for you. I would suspect that, depending on how they swing it, Fontenot could find himself with heavy playing time in at least half of the remaining games this year.
Kyle, any final thoughts or conclusions on your end?
It won't be regular, but if Fontenot is the top
Kyle: Personally, I have to believe that Lou is going to try and ride the hot bat, which means I believe he is going to get Fontenot as many at-bats as possible (whether that be as a regular starter, a pinch-hitter or a late-game sub) in the last half of the season.
What you've highlighted above brings attention to perhaps this team's greatest strength:the ability to use everyone on the roster and have those players produce.
The fact that we're arguing about which GOOD player Lou should bench is great. This time last season, I was ready to run onto the field and dropkick Jacque Jones in the head. Now, the Cubs have too many quality players. Awesome x3.
On a day when I've been generally pissed off after witnessing one of the most painful games I've watched this season, I now feel a little bit better about our chances...and midgets.