Saturday, July 23, 2005

"AND ANOTHER THING"

From a pretty realistic Cardinals fan, the Cubs have alot of talent. They definately are capable of getting into the playoffs as the WC this season, and with the likes of Prior, Zambrano, and Maddux in a short series, could do some damage.

I frequent the Cubs message board because, well to be quite honest with you it is quite entertaining. There is nothing more funny to a Cardinal fan than a p.o.ed Cubs fan, when the Cubs are losing. You hear the same old stuff "fire Hendry", "fire Baker", "trade so and so". The excuses that some come up with are classic as well. However I don't want to bash anyone right now. My purpose is to lift you all up, because to be quite honest with you, I am pulling for the Cubs to win the WC, because I want to see a Cubs/Cardinals NLCS. As I have posted many times I am hoping for it, because it would be awesome to see, in my opinion.

The brunt of the complaints heard on the Cubs board are with Hendry and Baker. From an outsiders perspective let's look at what these two have done. Hendry in the offseason and Baker during the season. First Baker. I am telling you guys this, in my opinion, Dusty Baker has no clue how to manage a baseball team. Decisions that seem so obvious from anyone with really very little ammount of true baseball knowledge, seem to be difficult for this guy to understand. First of all his lineup. How long did it take for him to realize that LaTroy Hawkins was not a closer? When it was plainly clear to any who watched him, that Hawkins was not a closer. Being a closer is a tricky thing. There is a big difference between being the 8th inning guy and the closer. Some mentally have it, some don't, and it was clear that Hawkins did not have it. Whatever "it" is Hawkins did not have it. Yet he kept trotting him out there day after day (granted because there weren't any other options for him) ruining the confidence of what was once one of the best set up men in baseball. Secondly, Corey Patterson. How long did it take Baker to figure out Patterson is not a lead off batter? I will grant Dusty, again there weren't really any other options. But it was clear to anyone Patterson was not a lead off man, yet day after day he was at the top of the lineup. By the time Dusty figured it out and moved him around in the lineup,he had pretty much ruined Corey's confidence as well, and now he is struggling in AAA. Third don't get me started on his handling of the pitching staff. You can't keep running your starters out there game after game throwing 130 pitches and not expect arm problems. Back in the glory days of Fergie Jenkins and Bob Gibson, you could. Nowadays you can't. These pitchers (not just Cub pitchers, but really all of them) have been babied so much throughout their careers. High School, and college coaches so afraid of injuring them would put them on pitch counts, limiting their use of breaking balls and sliders, really babying them. Now they get to the bigs and they are expected to go out there and throw 130 pitches every game, makes little sense to me. Now again I will cut Dusty some slack and looking at the Cubs pen, well if it was a tired Prior, or the likes of a Remlinger or a Wellenmeyer with the game on the line, I'll take Prior.

Thats why I think the real problem is with Hendry. I don't so much think Hendry blew it this off season as I will explain in a minute, I think some of the mistakes came the year before.Now Hendry got alot of credit for his trades down the stretch in '03, and deservedly so, I mean he stole Lofton, Ramirez, and Simon from the Pirates. But since then he ain't done jack.

First let's look at this past off season, and I think Hendry really only blew it getting rid of Alou. I think that was his only real mistake. The Cubs left field situation is a joke, and although Alou is getting paid out the wazoo, he was the best option for the Cubs. As far as some other OF'er's he could have signed, what were his options. Carlos Beltran, 119 million, for what .275, 10 HR, I think he wisely knew that Beltran was gonna milk that hot streak in the NLCS last year for all it was worth. He knew he would be in a bidding war with the likes of the Yankees and Mets. Don't give me the injury excuse because looking at the guys career numbers, he is not really slumping this season, he is pretty much in line for his career. The problem is after the NLCS, and the contract his agent parlayed that into people expect more and he is definately the most over rated player in baseball. Hendry wisely backed away. JD Drew, well JD drew although one of my favorites because of his testimony and faith in Jesus Christ is predictably hurt again and under achieving. All at the bargain basement price of 11 million dollars. Magglio Ordonez, 7o million and has he even played this year. There weren't really any decent options, thats why his mistake was letting go of Alou. I disagreed with dumping Sammy at the time, for the Cubs sake, because of the OF situation I just spoke of, but looking back on it and what Sammy has done this year, and the contract relief it gives the Cubs it was a good move.

What about a closer. Well Percival was available. Hendry wisely realized that Percival was an aging closer, a fastball slider pitcher who's fastball wasn't as fast and his slider not sliding as much. What has Percival done this year? Nothing because he has been hurt. A SS was definately a need for the Cubs, and I think Hendry wisely backed away from Renteria, maybe the second most over rated player in baseball because of the price tag that would come with him, 10 million a year for a .280. He gambled on Nomar at 8 million and lost because of Nomar's injury. It was a gamble given Nomar's injuries of the past few seasons, but a wise gamble in my opinion, I probably would have done the same. When healthy Nomar is far superior than Renteria. He lost that doesn't make it a bad move. He chose Walker over Grudzielanek at second, call it a wash both are pretty much equal.

I have no problem with Hendry's moves this past off season. A few moves in the past though, are different. First of all, not resigning Kenny Lofton after the '03 season. Lead off man, outfielder, seems like a huge need for the Cubs right now. Secondly, Ivan Rodriguez, name me a better catcher to groom a young talented pitching staff, and not a bod bat in the line up either. Was a free agent after '03 and to my knowledge the Cubs never made a play for him. Thirdly, letting go of Julian Tavarez. Filled in well with the Cards as the closer when "Interestinghausen" went down. Good in middle relief, why did the Cubs get rid of him. I'm not sure if this was Hendry or MacFail that blew it on that one.

Where do the Cubs stand now as the trade deadline approaches. Well I think they have the talent to get it done, but realistically looking at the WC the Cubs are 5.5 out. However the hard part is there are 4 teams ahead of them, including a surging Astros team. Realistically it ain't looking too good. Would a desperate trade at the deadline really make much of a difference? Would any player available really help improve those chances? I think not. Especailly when you consider trading out of desperation, just trying to increase an unrealistic chance anyway. GM's all over the league are salivating at the "desperate teams" trying to do anything to make the playoffs. Their standards go down as to the player they want in return, and the price they are willing to pat goes up, not a good combination when in the buying market. However I would really suggest being "sellers" as well because as I have said earlier, the Cubs have a lot of talent and in my opinion are pretty close to getting there. There are a few players I think the Cubs should consider trading, Wood if you could find a GM "desperate" for starting pitching infatuated with his "potential" and would give you a decent outfielder. Say the Texas Rangers who have an abundance of good outfielders, I'm sure you could probably get a Kevin Mench for Kerry Wood. Greg Maddux, San Diego would clssify as a "desperate" team especially for starters. Maddux is from San Diego and I'm sure wouldn't mind finishing his career there.

The Cubs are close, so I wouldn't sell the farm. Knowing that as well, and how unrealistic as it is I wouldn't allow myself to be one of the "desperate" teams as well.