Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Mike Fontenot

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Cubs by position - Second Base

The Cubs' strategy at the second base position seems to be to hope that one of their many Grade B- prospects takes the bull by the horn. For the time being, the Cubs are employing a group of mediocre but at times mildly useful trio at the positon.

Major League Level: Ryan Theriot (age 30) : Since Theriot's Home Run explosion last year, he has turned into a terrible hitter. Coming into today's game, he had a .277/.314/.308 triple slash number. His ISO, never particularly good, has completely tanked. He used to be a shortstop where a team could live with that type of productiion if a player were awesome with the glove but Theriot is now a poor fielding second baseman. He's 16 for 20 in SB attempts so at least he has that.

The thing with Theriot is that he is being paid 2.6 Million. It's not much and in a typical year, it wouldn't be a big deal but he's far from earning his paycheck this year and I see no real use to the team next year. I think the Cubs will try to move Theriot at the trade deadline or they will DFA him in the off season. It would surprise me if Theriot were still around in 2011. Sorry Ryan, you were a Riot, but your time as a Cub appears to be coming to an end.

Major League Level: Mike Fontenot (age 30): Fontenot is the prototype perfect left handed hitting half of a platoon at second base. Fontenot is under control of the Cubs for two more seasons and I see no good reason why the Cubs shouldn't maintain that control. Now he's not a great player or a great hitter. He's hitting .294/.341/.412 this year. He's become more of a contact hitter. He occasionally drives the ball and the rumours of his impending power decline have been somewhat exaggerated. That stated, if some other team wants to give us a prospect for him at the trade deadline this year, I say the Cubs need to move him.

Major League Level: Jeff Baker (age 29): Baker is the near perfect bench player and the best player the Cubs could have with Fontenot on the team. He is a good hitter vs LHP's and is a really fantastic glove man. He's under team control for either 2 or 3 more years and would become mildly superfluous if Fontenot is dealt. He shouldn't be a starter ever even for a bad team. Once again, like Fontenot, Baker has his uses. A true Fontenot/Baker platoon at second base with Baker also spelling Ramirez at third from time to time would be a very productive platoon.

AAA level: Bobby Scales (age 32): Nothing special potential bench player playing in Iowa. Everyone remembers him from 2009 on the Cubs. If the Cubs decided to give Scales the job that Baker is now doing, I seriously doubt we'd notice a particularly large drop off. He's the guy who will be starting at second in August and September in all likelyhood if the Cubs trade all 3 players above. Not likely but possible.

AAA level: Matt Camp (age 26): Left handed hitter. 13th round draft pick. Numbers in the minors suggest a poor man's Theriot. Yeah, not good. I give him credit for making it to AAA. He's not a candidate to take the second base job.

AA level: Tony Thomas (age 23): Basically a grade C or grade C+ prospect sitting in Double A and the leading candidate to be someone you never heard of making an impact on the 2011 Cubs. He's got OK power, decent speed. He seems pretty good with the glove. He's repeating Double A and he does have some contact problems and will struggle to keep his batting average over, say, .240 in the big leagues. He walks a decent amount but probably not enough at this time to be better than the Fontenot/Baker combo we have in the big leagues now. I think he should spend all of 2011 in triple A but it's possible that he could impress and make the big league squad.

High A level: Ryan Flaherty (age 23): This is where we get into the potential future at this position for the Cubs. Flaherty was challenged by the Cubs at the start of this season and sent to Double A but he failed miserably and ended up in High A after hitting the cover off the ball in Peoria in 2009. Back in the Florida State League, Flaherty has hit well again. He's a real big guy (6'3", 220) and I worry if he will stay at second base but he has a chance to really move in 2011. He has genuine power but he also has some contact issues. He probably will never be a star but he could hold his own, easily as a solid regular for years. At the rate he's going, he might not enjoy his rookie year until he's 25 or 26 but he should be fine in the majors once he gets there. I am rooting for him to be playing in Iowa and pushing Tony Thomas off of second by this time next year.

High A level: D.J. LaMahieu (age 21): On the bright side, he is very young at just 21 for a former college guy. He is also tall and has "projectable" power. On the negative side, it's hard to imagine a 6'4" second baseman and he just barely hit his first HR as a pro. I'm not calling him a bust as he's 2 years younger than Flaherty and Thomas so he could still make it as a major leaguer but I'm scratching my head right now.

Low A level: Logan Watkins (age 20): Watkins has a decent left handed bat and is just 20 but he was a late round draft pick and hasn't hit well in Peoria this year. I do think he has probably earned a couple more year look in the low minors to make sure but so far I think Watkins is just the left handed version of LaMahieu. At this point, I would be surprised if either of them ever knocked on the door of Wrigley Field.

Short Season: Pierre LePage (age 21): It's early and he's 21 and playing in the Pioneer League but what a great name. I don't know much else about him. He's hitting over .330 in his inagural year as a Cub farmhand.

Conclusion: I think the Cubs might be smart not to get too excited about their middle infield prospects. Flaherty is good and I like him but he stumbled this year. LaMahieu has shown very little power thus far. The Cubs can get by for a year with the Fontenot/Baker platoon or even giving Thomas a shot but eventually someone else is going to have to step up. I think the Cubs should be on a look out for a player at this position at the trading deadline this year or they might have to dip into their free agent budget for a second baseman in the future. That would not be good.

Of course, hoping Hak-Ju Lee plays well enough that they can decide where to play Lee and Castro in a couple of years would be the best possible result. Second base is an interesting situation. We'll see how it plays out.

Cajuns are easy. (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Rangers 2)

...Targets, that is.

The Cubs could only score one run in yesterday's game, so the loss is on the offense. But Font and Riot both managed to make terrible throws on the same play in the bottom of the fourth inning, putting Ian Kinsler on third with no outs in front of the Rangers' heavy hitters. So let's gripe about how Fontenot shouldn't be playing third base, and Theriot is a dummy.

FONTENOT SHOULD NOT BE PLAYING THIRD! THERIOT IS A DUMMY!

In all honesty, Font has done a respectable job backing up Ramirez at third, and Theriot has done a stand-up job at second so far this season. It's more unfortunate than it is legitimately concerning.

OK, I really just wanted to title this post, "Cajuns are easy." You caught me.

So about the offense, then. The Cubs had a few chances to score some runs yesterday, and some of our most reliable hitters thus far this year were unable to capitalize:

- In the first, Soriano and Byrd both struck out swinging with runners on first and second. I should mention here that I actually liked Lou's call for the sacrifice bunt (assuming he called for it, and Theriot wasn't just improvising), putting a man in scoring position for our middle of the order dudes. Early leads are good to have.

- First and third with no out in the second, only to have Geo Soto GIDP. A run did come home, but there were other outcomes -- notably, a base hit -- that could have turned a small lead into a potentially serious rally.

- Top eight, men on second and third with two out. Font struck out looking.

OK, so three legitimate chances to score. It's hard to really hoot and holler about a game like this; the breaks just didn't go the Cubs' way, and so we lost.

Nice to see Ted Lilly pitch well, though. Three walks is kind of a lot for him, but no home runs allowed, and a handful of strikeouts to boot are redeeming factors. Two earned runs in 6.2 innings pitched in Texas -- yeah, I'll take that every time out.

And Z pitched 1.1 innings. Hey, if Lou had pulled Lilly after five and put Z in then, we might have had ourselves the first attempt at pairing starters.

But oh well Cubs lose that sucks wah wah.

Reader Blog: Trade Winds

Jim Hendry has been the Cubs GM since mid 2002, so we’ve got a lot of trades to look at. I’m going to highlight one or two from each season that strike me as particularly important or illuminating.

2002: Cubs trade Todd Hundley&Chad Hermansen for Mark Grudzeilanek&Eric Karros.

Hundley is my least favorite Cub of all time. He was shitty.  He was overpaid. And he was a mean son of a bitch. The Cubs handed him a 4 year, $23.5 million contract before the 2001 season. In his two years as a Cub, Hundley totaled 579 plate appearances and posted an OPS below 700. For those who prefer batting average, Todd hit .187 and .211 in 2001 and ’02. He’s most famous in Chicago for flipping off the home fans while rounding the bases after a home run. He was like Fukudome without the production, pleasant demeanor or sobriety.

Somehow, Jimbo convinced the Dodgers to take this sad sack off our hands, and send us something useful in return. Both Grudzeilanek and Karros contributed to the division winning squad in 2003. Grudz became our starting 2B, and he could inside out the ball to the opposite field as well as any hitter I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget watching Karros videotaping the playoffs from the Cubs dugout during the NLCS. It really felt like he was one of us. He wasn’t a bad platoon first baseman either.

Oh, and Hundley was pumped full of steroids for much of his career. So there’s that.

2003: Cubs trade Jose Hernandez, Matt Bruback&a PTBNL for Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton&Cash.

Cubs trade Ray Sadler for Randall Simon.

2003 was Hendry’s finest season. The Cubs would not have won their division that season were it not for Ramirez, Lofton and Simon. Lofton and Simon are long gone, while Aramis remains as the greatest Cubs 3B since Ron Santo. And Hendry gave up practically nothing to get them. Thanks, Pittsburgh!

2004: Cubs trade Hee Seop Choi for Derrek Lee.

Cubs trade Brendan Harris, Alex Gonzalez&Francis Beltran for Nomar Garciappara & Matt Murton.

The Choi for Lee deal rivals the Aramis Ramirez trade for the best of Hendry’s career. Clearly, Jim was on his game in the early nineties. Choi never realized his potential, and is probably best remembered for being carted off the field after an in game collision with Kerry Wood.  Derrek’s achievements speak for themselves. He is my favorite Cub, and I will be sad to see him go if this is truly his last season here.

As much as the Nomar trade did not work out, I believe now as I believed then that is was the right move to make. The Cubs SHOULD have won their division that season and were trying to add the missing piece for a postseason run. Obviously things didn’t work out. Mercker bitched, LaTroy imploded, Sammy stepped out, and the Cubs massively underachieved and missed the postseason altogether. The following April, Nomar suffered the most excruciating injury imaginable, and that was that. He was on the DL until August, and by that time the only interesting question left was whether DLee would win the 2005 NL MVP. The Cubs finished 21 games behind the Ratbirds, who won 100 times that year.

2005: Cubs trade Sammy Sosa & Cash for Jerry Hairston Jr., Mike Fontenot and David Crouthers.

Cubs trade Ricky Nolaso, Sergio Mitre & Renyel Pinto for Juan Pierre.

2005 was the first year that Hendry really pissed me off.  These two trades, which neatly wrap around a lost season, signal a real change in Jim’s ability to maximize value on the trade market. Let’s tackle the Sosa deal first. Sosa was a diva who didn’t mesh well with his teammates. He was getting older and was obviously on the decline. He still hit 35 HR in 2004. He should have brought more in return than he did. I believe he would have, if not for the systematic way the Cubs undermined any leverage they might have had in trading him. As you all undoubtedly remember, Sammy left the ballpark 15 minutes into the final game of the 2004 season. This became public, and it shortly became obvious that Sosa would never be welcomed back into the Cubs clubhouse. When 29 teams know you have to trade a guy, 29 teams will not give you good value in return. Fontenot was the only piece worth mentioning here, and he’s a platoon 2B who was nearly DFA’d by the club this past offseason.

Then there’s Juan Pierre. Hendry’s worst trade as the Cubs’GM. Full disclosure. I despised him then and I still do. Maybe it’s because, along with Josh Beckett and Pudge Rodriguez, I still associate him with the 2003 Marlins. Maybe it’s because he posted a crappy OBP with zero power. Or his limp dick outfield arm. Or maybe it’s because we lost 96 games and I needed a scapegoat. Here’s why this trade still pisses me off to this day: Ricky Nolasco is awesome. He’s exactly the kind of player the Cubs need to keep if they are going to be successful. And Jimbo traded him for one subpar year of a crappy player on a terrible team. GAHHHHHHHHHH.

2006: Cubs trade Greg Maddux for Cesar Izturis.

This one is more emotional than anything else. Hendry traded Maddux to the Dodgers to give him a shot at winning a championship. Respect.

2007: Cubs trade Rocky Cherry and Scott Moore for Steve Trachsel.

WTF? Cherry and Moore were no great shakes, but I can’t begin to fathom what Hendry was hoping to accomplish here. Trachsel was old and finished. Trachsel made a few starts, didn’t pitch well, and was left off the postseason roster.

2008: Cubs trade Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Eric Patterson & Josh Donaldson for Rich Harden & Chad Gaudin.

Cubs trade Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg.

Like the Nomar trade, the Harden deal was a well meaning, but ultimately failed attempt to improve the team for a deep postseason run. I saw Harden’s first Wrigley Field start in person. He was DOMINANT. If memory serves, he went 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 10 K. I was convinced he was the missing piece.  Two years later, the Cubs have no rings, and Harden struggles to get out of the third inning with fewer than 100 pitches thrown. At least it doesn’t look like those prospects amount to much.

Kevin Gregg was a disaster and I'm glad he's gone.

2009: Cubs trade Mark DeRosa for Jeff Stevens, John Gaub and Christopher Archer.

And the Trixies wept.

2010: Cubs trade Milton Bradley for Carlos Silva & cash.

Cubs trade Aaron Miles, Jake Fox & cash for Jeff Gray, Ronny Morla and Matt Spencer.

Two things are obvious to me about these most recent trades: First, it is far too early to say anything definitive about these deals.  Second, they were all about Hendry fixing his free agency mistakes from the previous offseason. That’s never a good thing for a GM. I was furious with Hendry for suspending Bradley for the last 15 games of the 2009 season, as it robbed him of any leverage he might have had in trade talks. I was furious all over again when the Cubs traded for Silva, who has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball for the last several years. Now I’m just sort of numb. I know Silva isn’t an ace, and his sub – 1.00 ERA is the product of small sample size. I’d be thrilled if he finished the year with an ERA under 4.50, and right now that looks like a possibility. As for Gray, at least he got AAron Miles out of here. Meh.

Conclusions:
Hendry made a number of brilliant trades early in his GM career. Since 2004, he’s been significantly less productive in the trade market. It’s not clear whether other teams simply got smarter, Jim lost his touch, or something else altogether, but Hendry hasn’t had an obvious win since the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Chicago. Hendry’s trades aren’t getting it done anymore. He should be fired.

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Reader Blog: Fontenot

It's early yet but Mike Fontenot seems to be doing fine at the plate. His batting average in the early going is .333. This is much closer to his 2008 batting average (.305) than his 2009 batting average (.236). That being said, there is reason for concern. You see, coming into the season, Fontenot's return to form was somewhat foretold by his still solid peripheral stats in 2009.

So far in 2010, his secondary skills have been much worse than they were in 2008 or 2009:

BB%:
2008: 12.0
2009: 8.4
2010: 6.9

ISO(Isolated Power):
2008: .210
2009: .141
2010: .037

BABIP
2008: .353
2009: .276
2010: .360

Fontenot's production thus far this season is almost totally a Batting average on balls in play myth. He needs to increase his walk rate and power or else his overall production is going to tank once he goes through his inevetable unlucky streak.

2010 Player Preview: Mike Fontenot

Fontenot
Mike Fontenot was unlucky last year. His batting average on balls in play was .276, down 75 points from his 2008 campaign and about 35 points below his career average. That means many of the ground balls and bloopers that fell through and/or in for singles in 2008 turned into outs in 2009, just by virtue of a couple of inches. Baseball is a cruel game.

If you assume Font gets back to his career batting average on balls in play next season, which is a reasonable assumption given his speed and decent power, you don't even have to assume he does a whole lot better in any other category for him to get back to about a league average hitter.

He's also shown a plus glove at second base in his career. And now Lou's even thinking he could back up short.

Call me crazy, but I think Fontenot will be a solid low-in-the-order hitter this year against righties. He'll get his 10-12 home runs in 400 or so at-bats (he had 9 in 377 last year), and play good defense in the meantime.

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2009 Recap: Mike Fontenot

FonteYES
A year ago, I was one of the few who argued that replacing Mark DeRosa with Mike Fontenot at second base would be A-OK, that he'd be able to keep up the good work of his 500 or so major league-level at-bats, play decent defense, and generally avoid suckage.

We all know that's not how it turned out.

Given the results of the 2009, many fans probably wish the Cubs had waived Fontenot instead of Casey McGehee, the former Cub third baseman "prospect" who got some playing time in September 2008. But given what was known at the time, I don't hate team management for making the move they did.

(At the same time, given Hendry's experience/supposed baseball aptitude, it's kind of his job to make the right moves.)

Of course, a lot of McGehee's value was difficult to anticipate at the time of his waiving -- nobody assumed A-Ram would choose to separate his shoulder and miss a bazillion games.

But Fontenot's ability to fill in at third was actually decent. Fangraphs' Ultimate Zone Rating suggests Mike defended like a league average 3B in his time at third.

The problem, of course, was his hitting -- specifically against lefties (.212/.246/.308). What happened to the .909 OPS of 2008?

Why did Font's numbers suffer last year? You don't have to believe me, but I'd argue a good portion of it had to do with luck.

If you're into the stat side of the game at all, you've heard of BABIP, which stands for batting average on balls in play. The metric tries to keep track of how many bloops and bleeders went the hitter's way in a given year. It can function as a sort of "luck" metric for hitters, since it tends to be constant for all baseball players.

To demonstrate, look at the league average in BABIP for the past three years, compared to Fontenot's BABIP. I'll drop his OPS in, too.

2007: League - .306, Mike - .330, Mike's OPS - .738
2008: League - .303, Mike - .355 (!), Mike's OPS - .909
2009: League - .302, Mike - .281 (...), Mike's OPS - .677

One other thing I'd look at: Font's ratio of at-bats against lefties to those against righties over the past three years. From '07 to '09: 1-to-3, 1-to-10, 1-to-6.

Take that for what it's worth I guess -- and, according to me, expect a bounce back next year if Font gets any significant playing time. If it were me, I'd probably give a 2B platoon of Fontenot and Baker another shot to start the 2010 season. We'll see what happens.

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A late season post about middle infielders

What?  We have no tags for Jeff Baker&Andres Blanco?  We need to rectify that, because they are here for the long haul.


A very popular topic of conversation amongst Cub bloggers is the Mark DeRosa trade.  Over the months of this abortion of a season, two camps have sprung up - the "Mark DeRosa is not God" camp espoused by Desipio Andy, and, um, everyone else who tends to track the entire spiralsuck of 2009 on the New Years Eve trade.  Naturally, I tend to think the truth falls somewhere in the middle.


Mark DeRosa can be counted on to hit close to 20 homers, drive in close to 70 runs, hit around .260 and get on base 34% of the time.  He is not a great fielder, but not a liability, either.  His two main talents in life are that he is friendly, and that he leaves his ego in check well enough to allow himself to go play a corner outfield spot, third base, second base or first base.


The latter talent is vitally important to Lou Piniella, who if he had his way would expect every member of his 25-main to be able to play more than one position.  Except Z, he would pull his lazy fat core muscles playing in the field.  Lou loves DeRosa.  Which begs the question: where is all the Lou love for Jeff Baker?  Baker is essentially DeRosa, only younger, covers a tad more ground, hits for a better average (albeit less power), and can and will play all the positions Mark does?  Of course, I don't recall seeing Baker in a cute YouTube skit, or in the paper much commenting on the cartoon-watching proclivities of a Bobby Scales, or something cutesy like that.


My take on Mark DeRosa, on this 25th day of September, 2009?  I do not blame the entire fall of the 2009 Cubs on the loss of Mark.  I do think losing him took away one of Lou Piniella's safety blankets, and it would have been better having him around than giving 400 at bats to Mike Fontenot.  If you believe that DeRosa was traded, so that his salary could be leveraged to pay Milton Bradley, then you have every right in the world to be pissed off.  On the other hand, he was traded at the peak of his value (for once in Hendry's tenure), and although a popular meme in the papers these days is for Hendry to right the wrongs of 2009 by re-signing DeRosa this winter, it seems pointless to have a roster with DeRosa AND Baker AND Andres Blanco AND Ryan Theriot AND Mike Fontenot AND Aaron Miles.


Unless, of course, you do the following:

  • install Andres Blanco as the starting shortstop
  • sign DeRosa, and let him and Baker rotate between second base, spelling Ramirez at third, spelling Alfonso Soriano in left, and spelling whomever in right.
  • this leaves very little room for Fontenot.  Get rid of him.
  • But!  But!  What about The Riot?  He's our shortstop!  He's our starter!  He hits .300.  If you don't like his fielding at short, can't he play second?  Won't he be mad if we got rid of Fontenot?

Yeah, probably.  In my humble opinion, I am through with Ryan Theriot at shortstop.  I like his .300 batting average, but I don't like his baserunning and I don't like his lack of playmaking ability.  I forgot what a real shortstop looked like until Blanco came up from the minors.  Compared to him, The Riot looks really bad.  So could Theriot play second?  Sure. 


And here's where it gets complicated.  Who starts then?  Theriot or Baker?  And then, if you re-sign DeRosa, things really get jammed up at second.  Therefore, it makes no sense to me to bring back Marky Mark unless you get rid of Theriot, because then you have three starter-caliber guys wanting to play one position, and occassionally spell guys in a couple other positions.


Besides, if you got rid of Theriot, then who backs up Blanco at short?  We'd be forced to keep Aaron Miles.  Ew.  I just threw up a tad.


So, in my world, I start Blanco at short, with Theriot at second primarily, and against lefties, Theriot plays short, and Baker plays second, spelling Theriot once a week.  Baker also plays third for Ramirez once a week, plays left for Soriano once a week, plays right once a week, and second 2-3 times a week.  Theriot gets about 550 PA, Baker about 500.  Soriano and Ramirez get more rest in 2010.  The defense improves dramatically.  If you sign DeRosa, it would have to be based on the terms I just outlined for Baker.  Then you trade Baker, while HIS value his high.


Aaron Miles is allowed to start selling insurance, and Mike Fontenot can go back to Baton Rouge to run a combination batting cage/bar/laundromat.

Wood & DeRo - Where are they now?

Jim Hendry has deservedly received a lot of flack for his off season moves this year.  He rolled the dice on Bradley -- so far coming up a loser, although time may tell a different story -- he took a risk on Fontenot -- also a loser move -- and he dealt for Kevin Gregg after declaring that Wood had no home in Chicago.

The loss of Wood and Mark DeRosa in particular upset a lot of Cub fans.  How many times have we heard or read this year that "da Cubs would be doin' betta with Da-Rosa!"  How many of us lamented that Kerry Wood -- a certifiable "big game pitcher" -- was to be replaced by Kevin Gregg and his hipster-doofus glasses? 

While the fan in me still misses Wood considerably, at this point Hendry's decisions look less decisively poor and more ambiguously positive than they did back in May. 

Wood presently has 14 saves and 4 blown, while posting an ERA of 4.93 through 34.2 innings of work.  Not exactly elite.  Compare that with Gregg, who has 21 saves to 3 blown with an ERA of 3.42 in 47.1 innings of work.

DeRosa, meanwhile, is still hitting the crap out of the ball -- he's batting .266 with 18 homeruns so far this year.  Although, since coming to St. Louis, DeRo is hitting a Fontenesque .244.

Speaking of Fontenot, at this point he has me longing for the days of Mickey Morandini.  Font is batting .229 and should never, ever face another left handed pitcher in a game that matters.

As for Milton Bradley, he is doing better but not great.  He's certainly not earning his contract this season.  He was chosen by the Cubs over guys like Bobby Abreu, Adam Dunn, and Raul Ibanez, all of whom are either lacking power, defense, or a legitimate "I'm doing it clean" argument. 

Nevertheless, the Cubs are now leading the NL Central.  They'd undoubtably be better off with a guy like DeRosa on the team, but Gregg at least is looking very good.  And Bradley?  Meh.  Let's talk about him again in a year.

Disappointing Year

Let's face it Cub's fans this season has been a disappointment thus far. There is a good chance the Cubs may need more than Aramis to get out of this funk. After last season, I thought the Cubs needed to add some pieces to prove they truly deserved the title of World Series contender.                                                   


Their most tradable player was Mark DeRosa. There was a huge belief that he peaked and it was very unlikely that he would not match last year's output. I agreed with that belief. A player who never hit more than 13 home runs in the season and before the age of 30 didn't hit double digit home runs in his career was probably would not to have season that matched '08. In hindsight, the reason why they traded DeRosa made some sense. The Cubbies also dumped Jason Marquis (somehow one of the leaders in wins.) Chicago was trying to gain the pieces to trade for Peavy. Given Zambrano's emotional and recent physical issues, it was understood that Hendry felt the Cubs needed a true ace. 


Another incredibly more important issue Hendry had to answer was the Cubs need for another bat.  His belief that the Cubs lineup was too right handed bought in Aaron Miles and the infamous Milton Bradley. Here is where things go really interested. In addition to these acquisitions, the Cubs let go of Jim Edmonds, Daryle Ward, and Hank White. Jim Edmonds was crucial for the Cubs last season. He had two clutch home runs against his former team; the hated St. Louis Cardinals. He also brought a number of exciting catches with him. However, he was at the end of the road, and there was no way the Cubs were going to resign him. Daryle Ward had a number clutch hits, but Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox more than replaced him. Henry Blanco on the other hand was the only man in history who could pull of a feathered mullet and tattoos. He was Big Z’s countryman. He gave guidance to Carlos. Unfortunately, he would have asked more money than the Cubs were willing to give him.



Essentially, Milton Bradley or “board game was brought into replace DeRosa’s bat in the lineup. Ideally, Fontenot would have replaced Edmonds production. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Fontenot instead of living up to the nickname of “Little Babe Ruth” has turned into “Mini Mickey Morandini” (or Mini Morandini for short). Kosuke Fukudome was expected to be much better than last year. So far, his fall has come sooner than last season. Based on last season, Milton Bradley was a great acquisition. He put up great numbers in Texas. He lead the AL in on base percentage and OPS. He even lead the majors in OPS+ which takes ballpark into consideration. One problem with Bradley was that he played more than 120 games in season only twice in nine seasons. Everyone knew about Milton being a head case. This season has only given further proof of his jackassery. In Zambrano’s own words, Milton is the living embodiment of a “screw.” Worst of all, this season he really stinks. To put things in perspective, Scott Podsednik was taken off the trash heap and he has a higher batting average, more RBIs, and only two less home runs. This is while playing fewer games than “Board Game”. I realize this is beating a dead horse, but if he played better we would probably forgive his idiocy.



Now, it is unfair to blame all of the Cubs problems on Milton and Hendry, but they have to take a huge chunk of the blame. The assumption was that the combo Bradley and Fontenot would make up 40 home runs and 136 RBIs. Fukudome was asked to bat 40 points higher than last season and produce more runs. Neither of these has happened. In my opinion only Fukudome’s hitting was the only thing that could be expected. One can say that the loss of Aramis was huge. Yes, his injury was huge loss, but it did not cause Soto bat around .220, it didn’t cause Fontenot to resemble former Cub Mickey Morandini. Soriano is a hacker that rarely thinks about pitches, so how would Aramis’ presence made any difference in his performance?



At the beginning of the season, I felt the Cubs would win 88 games and win the division. Hendry really didn’t improve the team. In fact, the team has taken a step back talent wise.


Sure, Edmonds was old and on a downslide, but it would have made more sense to find someone who could play in right field who could replace his power numbers. Everyone and their dog knew there was no way the Cubs could do anything but continue to play Fukudome. They had no choice but to platoon him with Reed Johnson.



Last season, there were a number of wins by the Cubs where they had problems against the starter but were able to light up the other teams relievers. That is what we saw against the Indians. This season starters have gone further against the Cubs. This team needed another bat, not a replacement for DeRosa. If Bradley was supposed to be a left-handed replacement for DeRosa, then he was a clearly more expensive one. If they wanted another leftie in the lineup, they could have started Fontenot and still moved DeRosa to right field. That would have been a cheaper alternative for the same result. You don’t have to overburden your lineup with lefties if they are mediocre or bad. The Phillies’ lineup is an anomaly. There is no point trying to emulate the Philadelphia lineup. The Cubs were a good team. Still, I wanted to see the Cubs sign either Ibanez or Abreu(I was leaning towards Abreu). If Hendry had more patience, he would have be able to snag either for a decent cost, but here we are overpaying for crap the next few years.

Gamecast: June 10th at Astros

Carlos Zambrano (4-2, 3.72 ERA) vs. Wandy Rodriguez (5-5, 2.97 ERA)

Story Lines

Well, how about that? The Cubs found a way last night to beat a pretty bad pitcher into submission and not have to worry about the bullpen. It was nice for a change to go to bed and not have to worry about the outcome.

In an added benefit, the Cubs gained ground on both the Brewers and Cardinals to pull within 2.5 games.

Tonight the Cubs go against a lefty that has given them trouble. Wandy Rodriguez pitched six innings of 1-run ball way back on April 7 to give the Astros a victory. Wandy was quietly putting together a nice season, but has been roughed up in his last two outings.

The Cubs counter with Carlos Zambrano, who pitched very well coming off this suspension. With 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball, he lowered his ERA by about half a run last time out. Hopefully, he will follow that up with another strong outing against the woeful Astros.

In other news, Bruce Miles says the Cubs will send Jake Fox down to make room for Aaron Miles today. let me tell you, that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. My guess, and Miles agrees, is that Fox will make his way back when the Cubs play in AL parks. He'll probably split time with Micah Hoffpauir, depending on who pitches.

I'm about to run into class, so lets keep this short.

Who's Hot

Mike Fontentot - Mike went 4-for-5 last night with a HR and two runs scored. In the process, he raised his average to .249. We're getting there folks, and we just need Aramis Ramirez to get back, so we can stop playing Aaron Miles and the like.

Kosuke Fukudome - I love it when a plan comes together. I called out Fukudome last night, and he promptly responded with two hits, two RBI, and two walks. Now if that can work with Milton.

Geovanny Soto - I know it was just three singles, but he has to start somewhere.

Ted Lilly - The ace of the staff hands down right now. Randy Wells might have the great ERA, but Lilly's been doing it all year.

Who's Not

Milton Bradley - Milton went 1-for-7 last night. Oh wait....0-for-6, since the bat he broke doesn't county. He lowered his average to average to .208, and doesn't look close to breaking out of the slump.

Conclusions

Cubs win in a close one tonight thanks to a Carlos Zambrano hit. The Cubs have 3 of 5, and are improving. I really think we are on the brink of a big winning streak.

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