This is perhaps the first time since GROTA was founded that we don't have a presence at the Cubs Convention. It's mostly that I just couldn't buy tickets, and I'm pretty sure that we'll be there in force in 2010.
In the past, we'd ask Lou Piniella/Jim Hendry some questions, usually because it was the first, best way to get our names out there to the thousand+ people in the room, along with the thousands of others who would listen on the radio later on. If I was there today, these are the kinds of balls that I'd bust.
1. With Milton Bradley getting slotted into the middle of the order, it opens up a whole array of questions that we could be debating right now - but I would ask Lou this one question above all others: Derrek Lee is a great hitter, but he's no longer the premier hitter who dominated pitchers in 2005. If he's not your BEST hitter, why would you keep him batting third when an Aramis Ramirez would fit there so much better?
2. For Jim Hendry - I think that as fans of baseball, it's hard for any of us to really understand how complex your job is except to say that I've heard rumors that you sleep with a cell phone taped to your head just in case somebody wants to blow in a trade call at 3AM. But as great as you've been with trades and free agency, the Cubs have only developed one All Star hitter since the days of Grace and Palmeiro. How are you going to improve upon your track record in drafting and developing hitters?
3. For Hendry again - without naming names, are you concerned that the new owner will be less like the Boston Henry's and more like the Baltimore Angelos's?
4. Lou - what would you prefer your players to if you had a choice - godly talent, or a positive attitude?
5. Jim - in my experience, certain members of the organization adopt an anti-blogger stance when it comes to dealing with people like me. Wouldn't it be possible to allow very limited, very controlled access to the team and players for, say, half a dozen bloggers a year?
I'd probably go with #1 or #2, but these are the questions I'd ask. But before you get to crappy - or excited - about any of them, I'll give you the canned answer.
"Well (insert name), that's a great question. I think we've (drafted/developed/acquired) a number of very talented players, such as (Theriot/Pie/Lee/Bradley), and we'll continue to (draft/develop/acquire) more who will have (positive attitudes AND talent/good use of). I'm not concerned about (Lee/my draft status/any potential owner) and I'm looking forward to how we do in 2009."
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.
I don't want to get too deep into the details, but a loyal Goat Reader sent me an EMail earlier today (or perhaps late last night) suggesting that people should solicit the Cub Fan Nation for small donations. With that donated money, we can hand it over to the Cubs which would allow them to purchase another free agent this off season.
I don't mean to be the guy who tells you that neither Santa - nor Ned - is real or anything, but it's not gonna happen. Put it to you this way... there was a guy out there who was trying to get the Cub Fan Nation to donate money toward the purchase of the Cubs from the Tribune under the condition that anybody who bid money would co-own the team, and he couldn't get many donations.
We're not going to get a million Cub fans to donate $10, or $5, or $1. We won't even be able to get a thousand of us to do anything like that. Besides, the Cubs really, really don't need it.
We're talking about a billion dollar organization that falls within the Top Five - and perhaps even the Top Three - in money making capabilities, behind only the Yankees and perhaps the Red Sox. The Cubs make money. And if they really think they don't have the cash to drop an extra 10 million on Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets, or whomever else they wanted, then all they'd have to do is raise ticket prices again for even more money, and they would easily be able to generate the money we're talking about over the span of a season.
So if you really want the Cubs to spend that kind of cash on the free agent of your desires, rather than solicit us directly for money try a different approach - start an online petition to the Cubs and tell them that you want - nay, you demand - that they raise ticket prices by an average of $5 a seat and that they spend their 15 million dollars in '09 alone in bringing in another top free agent. After all, the Cubs will always sell out Wrigley Field, no matter how nutty the prices get.
Today's debate over the the possible value of pricey shortstop Michael Young when compared with inexpensive Ryan Theriot touches on a very interesting point.
Basically the argument can be summarized as this: while drastically more expensive, Michael Young would be a moderate upgrade over Ryan Theriot as he is a better offensive producer and defensive shortstop. Additionally, the Cubs are one of the top money-making teams in baseball, and yet they fall toward the middle of the pack in terms of team payroll. Therefore, since they are richer than Oprah, the Cubs should be able to throw piles of cash at players like Young and Peavy without it affecting their ability to upgrade later on.
We can debate the actual value of Young, but I think that the Steinbrennerian approach of Money Burn doesn't really work. Very rarely does the team that spends money the most haphazardly actually win anything, and while I support upgrading at shortstop if at all possible, I'd rather see the Cubs hedge their bets and wait for a better player to be made available via either trade or free agency, especially since the Cubs already have what might be the best offense in the National League. So, Theriot can stay.
But that's really not the point of this article anyway. The point is this - the Chicago Cubs are one of the best franchises in all of baseball. One of the very best. The problem is that not many people realize it yet, and so our expectations remain moderate even as our hopes fly wild.
But here's the thing. In terms of a national following, only the Yankees have as many fans. In terms of money made, as Rob pointed out, the Cubs are one of the top draws in all of baseball. In terms of legacy teams, there are only a handful of organizations that we should expect to be competitive every single year, and believe it or not the Cubs are one of them, too. The others would be the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, and maybe the Angels. All these teams - including the Cubs - should win more than they lose, reach the playoffs more often than they don't, and avoid long streaks of 90-loss seasons.
The Cubs should be one of the best organizations in all of sports. That they've gone for so long being meh-diocre, that they have crushed us with one crappy season after the next, that we've come to accept it should practically be a white collar crime.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise to us that the Cubs are a consistently competitive team. It should never shock us that they sign the best free agent, or land an epic trade. It shouldn't phase us when they overpay for a player who makes them minusculey better, so long as it actually does make them better.
The objective in baseball is to win. The Cubs can afford to win at any cost. Going out and acquiring a player like Michael Young isn't necessary, but trading for a player of his expense shouldn't surprise us at all.
After all, the Cubs aren't just rich. They're beyond rich. They have F*ck-You Money. Let's not get our undies all bunched up in a wad just because they might - ::gasp!:: - spend too much money on a guy. As long as jabrones like you and I will continue to buy our tickets, fill Wrigley Field to the brim, and walk around in incredibly expensive Cubs swag, then it's acceptable.
There will be two new players inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer - neither were former Cubs. I say congratulations to Jim Rice and Ricky Henderson, two deserving players.
Andre Dawson received 67% of the vote, coming short yet again. Considering the weakness of next year's candidates, there's a decent chance that he'll finally get over the hump and be inducted, but his failure every year is a fine example of how stupid the whole process is. If Dawson gets inducted in 2010, then shouldn't he have been worthy in 2009? And 2008? Will the baseball historians discover a "lost season" in which the new-found numbers pad the Hawk's stats enough to make him a no-brainer?
I guess what I'm saying is that either a player has the numbers or he doesn't. If he eventually gets in, then he should've gotten in during Year One of his eligibility.
Oh, and Mark Grace failed to garner even 5% of the vote, meaning his name will not even be on the list again. I'm sure there are a few boisterous women out there who cried tears of frustration when they saw that he only received a couple dozen votes.
I hope everybody had a good weekend and I'm sure you all missed me.
While I was gone, I didn't miss much. The National League Central stinks, and Rick Morrissey wrote a ridiculous article about Blago and the Cubs that I won't even link because it annoyed me so much.
In other news, I'm pretty sure that they're announcing the new entrants to the Hall of Fame soon, like maybe today. There are a handful of ex Cubs who some will think deserve consideration - Lee Smith, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace.
I think baseball is probably better off not letting people like me have a vote, because I come from the More is Better School. I'd vote Andre Dawson in there on his first ballot, I'd vote Lee Smith into the Hall in a hurry, but not even I would vote for Grace whose only real accomplishment was being consistently good (and healthy) for about a 12 year span while impregnating more slump busters per capita than any baseball player ever before.
Oh, and by the way, yes I would absolutey vote for Mark McGwire.
Note: Details on the Bradley contract ... 7M in 2009, 11M in 2010, and 2011 could become a team option if he fails to perform, courtesy of AJ.
If you have ever been in the position to hire a new employee, then you know what a crapshoot it is. They always show up on time for the interview. They wear their best clothes. They are polite, friendly, and agree with every important thing that you say.
Then you hire them and before you know it they are showing up 40 minutes late to work, dressed in Skynyrd shirts, challenging co-workers to fights in the parking lot, and acting confrontational with you and everything you say. You might think I'm off-base on this, but I think this is exactly the kind of situation you get when looking at a new buyer for a sports franchise. If you don't believe me, ask some Orioles fans.
According to the Tribune, the Cubs are down to the Final Three - and born competor/winner Mark Cuban is not among them. The Tribune posted short resumes of the three guys; they are Tom Ricketts, a Cub fan who has never owned a sports franchise; Marc Utay, a Cub fan who has never owned a sports franchise; and Hersch Klaff, a Chicagoan who has never owned a sports franchise.
It's the "has never owned" thing that concerns me a little. If I had to pick my personal favorite, I'd say Marc Utay if only because he seems to want to brand the Cubs the way the Red Sox/Yankees have been branded, and he brings some credible people with him.
Either way, it's a scary time to be a Cub fan. We can only hope that the next owner will be interested in spending the same kind of money on the Cubs as what's spent on the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, and Yankees. We can only hope that he has a good baseball sense and doesn't meddle too much. We can only hope that he surrounds himself with intelligent baseball people who will improve the organization from the top down.
But we're Cub fans. Some of us are all hoped out.
The Tribune has an article today about Milton Bradley and his new role with the Cubs.
I think that it will be - at the very least - an interesting ride. Milton has struggled when criticized by the media (and it's not like the Chicago media are saints), he's responded to being called racist names by people at the ballpark (and it's not like all bleacher bums are a far stretch from being racist) and, most importantly, he's hit the ever-loving crap out of the ball.
At this point, based on all factors, I'd have put him ahead of Dunn and Abreu, but behind a trade for a young left-handed outfielder like Andre Ethier. I'd also let him cut in front of me in line any time he wanted, I'd speak to him only when I was spoken to, and I'd carry all his stuff.
By the end of the year I think one of two things will have happened. Either Bradley will be Public Enemy #1 in Chicago, or we'll all own his jerseys. Hope for the latter, can't wait to find out.
And like that, the Cubs are done upgrading in the field - although it remains debatable as to whether or not the team actually upgraded (and I'll have a post on that tomorrow, probably).
As HC pointed out in the Reader's Blogs, the Cubs now have an overflowing roster, but in theory they still have a couple of moves to make. First and foremost, Jim Hendry will probably make one more attempt to acquire Jake Peavy. He also just might go after another lefty reliever assuming he doesn't want to burden Cub fans with the presence of Neal Cotts next year.
I have to disagree with Rob, though. Lou Piniella has demonstrated the tenacity to start the best player. He does not play favorites, especially not with newcomers, and Aaron Miles and his versatility makes way more sense on the bench.
As it stands, I like the team's chances in '09 and I'll love them if they acquire Peavy.