Welcome to a new weekly feature at Chicago Cubs Online….I hope everyone enjoys….I know I did.
Scrapbooks and Winter Meetings
It was early Fall in 1984, and I was riding home from grade school on my bike, listening to the end of a Cubs game through the Sony Walkman headphones protruding from within my backpack. What was the point of school during times like this? Another Cubs victory meant another picture for sure in the next day’s edition of the Sun-Times to cut out and add to my scrapbook. If I was lucky, it might even be one of those rare color photos, perhaps of Ryno or Dernier sliding into home!
If you are a big Cubs fan like myself, then chances are you have similar moments in time that are forever hardwired into your brain, perhaps reminding you of your youthful idealism, and quite likely reinforcing your subconscious beliefs that this truly is the year the Cubs win it all. Visiting my parents recently, I came across the old scrapbook in a box in the basement, and it brought back a lot of great memories. The realization came to me that no matter all the changes I had gone through in life, and will continue to go through, from schools, to careers, to new houses, and through marriage, one thing has always been constant: I have always been a Cubs fan, for as long as I can remember.
I recently moved to the Phoenix area from the west suburbs of Chicago, but I have not lost my passion for the Cubs, Bulls, Bears, or my beloved Portillos beef sandwiches, chocolate cake shakes and jumbo Vienna beef hot dogs. You may be wondering why I did not mention pizza, but my wife found us an authentic Chicago-style pizza place with owners from the Berwyn area, so our need for Barones and Lou Malnottis has been addressed to a reasonable degree. You don’t even need to ask for extra cheese, as they get it right the first time!
Turning my attention to the present, I am getting slightly concerned that the 2006 Cubs roster will be similar to the collection of spare parts we were subjected to in 2005 (I am sure you remember that Dubois, Hollandsworth, Hairston, Lawton, Glendon Rusch, Jerome Williams, and Neifi Perez either logged heavy playing time, or were our “big” acquisitions of the year). I am reserving my final judgement, of course, as it is only early December, but almost all of the players I wanted the Cubs to acquire have been taken, or are rumored to be taken soon by other teams. Now that it appears the Cubs have lost out on Furcal, I can’t help but wonder if Hendry had too much focus and attention on Furcal alone, costing us other equally talented players in the process. In other comments on this website, I have mentioned my wish that the Cubs had gone after Luis Castillo of the Marlins, allowing Cedeno to stay at SS, and giving the Cubs a great #1 or #2 hitter in the lineup. Castillo was traded for 2 prospects, and it appears that Juan Pierre could be had for prospects as well.
This may or may not be popular with Cubs fans as a whole, but I really don’t care about our farm system, or our prospects. If they are promoted and become good productive players, that is great, but if they aren’t going to, then trade them while they have perceived value in the eyes of other organizations. Don’t think Rich Hill will be one of the top 3 pitchers on your staff in a year or two? Then trade him. How hard is it to acquire a proven, established, and reliable #4 or #5 starter through free agency or trade? It isn’t hard at all. So if that is all you project your prospect to become, then trade him for players that you know, for sure, will fill a role on your club that is useful and needed. In other words, don’t just bet your future on promise and potential, if you don’t have to. The Chicago Cubs, luckily for us fans, are a big-market team. They don’t live and die off of their farm system, like the Pirates and other low-budget teams are forced to. If farm systems are so great, why aren’t the Pirates winning it all every year? Or the Brewers for that matter? The White Sox are a middle-market team, and they won the World Series with some homegrown talent, but also with a majority of players and pitchers that were acquired via trade, at the expense of prospects. Freddy Garcia? Prospects to Seattle. How did Seattle do last year with those prospects? The Sox won the World Series, and they just traded their starting center fielder, who had an excellent year. The Cubs have stood by their CF, good ol’ Corey Patterson, year after year, despite him having mediocre years. Patterson had one good 1/2 season in 2003, but the Cubs didn’t even take off that year until they had Lofton in CF and had picked up Ramirez from the Pirates (for prospects, by the way). There seems to be a bit too much attachment, and love, for the farm system by Jim Hendry. I realize they traded Bobby Hill, Choi, Dontrelle Willis and Juan Cruz in recent years. However, Choi and Hill didn’t light the world on fire during their major league at-bats, and Juan Cruz was given multiple opportunities in the previous years. So I see a pattern, by Hendry, of not letting go of prospects, for the most part, until they are tested in the major leagues. I normally would not have a problem with this, but I see Dusty Baker as a guy that will always give the nod to mediocre veterans, like Hollandsworth, before pushing the real talents, like Murton. So I do not believe the Cubs will be able to develop their prospects at the big league level, at least while Dusty is still the manager. I would like to see us get something for our prospects while they have value, instead of letting them tread water and continue to give mediocre showings at the Major League level, which causes their value to sink. I am thinking of Jason Dubois, Kyle Farnsworth, and Sergio Mitre, and now, of course, Corey Patterson. You can even throw in Todd Wellemeyer, Wuertz, and Leicester as well. If those last three were any good, we wouldn’t have just signed two expensive deals to shore up our bullpen already this off-season. My point is that prospects are trade chips….valuable commodities to be, ideally maximized for the benefit of the team. I am not even a White Sox fan, but I have grimaced over the past few years as Kenny Williams seemed to be giving away their whole farm system. Guess what, you get new draft picks every year, and it didn’t seem to hurt the White Sox too much last year, did it? I would like a total housecleaning of our farm system….either start these guys, and see if they are worth keeping (like Cedeno, Murton, Pie, Guzman, and Hill) or start trading them for the proven “real deals” such as Barry Zito, Juan Pierre, and Bobby Abreu. Adding those three guys sounds like the makings of a pretty good team, huh?
You probably would have to trade Kerry Wood and some prospects for Abreu. You give away Rich Hill and other prospects, and cash, to Oakland for Zito, and finally you give the Marlins the 2B they need in Todd Walker along with cash and prospects. I would do it. I am pretty sure Kenny Williams would do it. Now the only question is: will Jim Hendry have the stomach to do it?
I would like to thank Neil for this opportunity to share my views on the Cubs, and for creating and providing this incredible forum for Cubs fans. This website is, hands-down, the best online site for Cubs information, news, and rumors that I have ever come across. Like many of you, I check the CCO every morning to find out the latest about my Cubbies, and what they may be doing this off-season. Please share with me any comments and thoughts you may have, whether you agree or disagree, and let us all hope that Hendry has a productive time at the Winter meetings!