The Questionable Quartet
The wonderful thing about blogging -- all your words are as immortal as your domain registration and hosting contract. That means that in the years GROTA has been around, we've said plenty of really stupid things that time proved us to be totally wrong about.
For example - I was wrong about Mark DeRosa.
When the Cubs let DeRosa go for some young pitching that very well prove me right in the end about the DeRo deal, I said it was no big thang. After all, the Cubs had a tremendous hitter in Mike Fontenot who could bat lefty and would probably put up numbers equal-to or better-than the '09 DeRosa.
I said DeRo would revert. He'd had a career year in 2008 and, at his age, career years don't get duplicated.
I said that Fontenot was a better defensive second baseman. (Actually, this one still might be true, he hasn't gotten to play there a whole lot.) And with the addition of the versatile backup Aaron Miles, DeRosa's ability to play multiple positions would not be missed.
Hell, it's June 22nd. We're well on our way through the 2009 season. And the evidence to the contrary about my bold opinions is staggering.
Mike Fontenot is not cutting it as a starter. Actually, the amount of doubles and homers he's on pace to hit are fine and dandy. The problem is his .230 AVG. Strike that, the problem is his .121 AVG against lefties. At the very least, Fontenot needs somebody to spell him against south-paws. Even Aaron Miles would be acceptable -- BAM! is batting .259 against lefty pitching, which is better than the next-to-nothing that Lil' Mike is delivering.
Then again, DeRosa is a near-.280 hitter so far this year, on pace to hit 31 homers, drive in 118 RBI, and post an OPS of .819. And he is killing lefties.
On a team starving for offense there is no denying that the Cubs would've been better off with DeRosa on the roster. So, big-time screw-up for Hendry, and admission of being wrong from me. But before you get on my case too much about it, be honest about how fast you gave up on Derrek Lee -- many were sticking forks in him back in October 2008.
Now, lately one of our writers has taken a significant amount of flack -- even from some of our other writers -- for being harsh on the players on this team. He said Lee was toast about a month ago, he's called Soto fat and lacking ambition, he's declared to be embarrassed for ever having advocated Fukudome, and so-on. Well, Rob, I'm callin' you out.
At one point this season, Lee was batting .194 with 3 homeruns and 15 RBI. (That was on May 13th, by the way). In just over a month since then, Lee has been batting .374 with 8 homeruns and 20 RBI. The point being that, in baseball, nobody's done until after they've taken their last at bat.
As for Soto, this has been a strong point of disagreement between Rob and the rest of us. He thinks Geo grew fat on his laurels. I don't know for sure that he gained weight over the winter, but I do know that he started the year with a sore shoulder and a screwed-up swing. At his low point, April 30th, Soto was batting .109 with 0 homers and only 2 RBI. Since then, he's hitting .264 but more importantly with 5 homers and 17 RBI. Geo's not out of the woods but he is definitely, undeniably hitting the ball better.
Fukudome, on the other hand ... eh, it's hard to say. After starting the year with a .338 AVG in April, Kosuke batted .277 in May with only 1 homer and 5 RBI and is batting .180 in June, even after Saturday's 4-hit assault. I'm prepared to give this one to Rob, but not until we see where Fukudome is by mid July.
Oh -- and Milton Bradley. I don't recall that Rob has given Bradley too much flack for his crappy 2009 season, but I just wanted to note to everybody that Don't Wake was batting .097 on April 29th. Since then, he batted .268 with 3 homers and 12 RBI in May and is batting .286 but with only 2 extra base hits in all of June. Still -- he's improving.
The point is that nobody really knows. We can guess, we can trust our gut, we can follow projections and detailed statistics, but until the games are played we're just rolling dice and making bold declarations that we hope nobody will bother to remember.
What I will say is that the difference between a good team and a bad one appears to occur in inches. The Cubs team we've followed through the start of June was indescribably awful. They failed to get big hits, they couldn't win close games, they surrendered late leads, and on a whole they were just painful to watch.
Probably they are still that team, at least a little. But with the Questionable Quartet coming around, we suddenly have a team getting huge hits late in games, often coming from behind to win on their last at bat, with a bullpen that still appears to be shaking off the cobwebs but has been able to hold down small leads. It's the same team, the same personnel, and suddenly they don't look like they're going to lose 90 -- instead they appear as if they just might win that many games.
All I can say then, to Rob and many others, is that this to me is proof that nothing can be assumed or taken for granted. We live in a Cubbie Bubble where we see the worst and assume it doesn't happen to any other team -- or maybe we assume it means more because these are the Cubs, for gawd's sake. But I wrote a while back about the Superlative Season in which if we aren't rewarded with a perfect year of baseball we think the team has no chance at all of winning imperfectly.
On the contrary, I still think the Cubs are playoff bound. I still think it will happen in spite of the managing. I still think this team is immensely talented. And I absolutely believe that in October, this team -- already so beset by adversity -- will be prepared to shrug off at least some of the pressure they will feel to win it all. At this point their talent will almost certainly be bigger than their wins total, and in October talent wins out.
Of that I am certainly not wrong.