I am a Cubs fan. So I must now ignore the fact that Dusty is still here. I find it impossible to root for Dusty Baker anymore, but I am tired of him ruining the fun in my Cubs season. I am rooting for Juan Pierre, and Aramis Ramirez, as their averages continue to climb. I am cheering for Zambrano and Maddux, as I want Z to take his rightful place among baseball’s elite pitchers, and I want Maddux to end his career with grace, class, and a winning record. I want to see Cedeno, Murton, Marshall and Marmol all improve and reach their full potential. Dusty will now be known to me as the Manager I Must Ignore, or “Mimi” for short. If you thought I could never be positive again about this season, well….you know better.
Juan Pierre is already the Pierre from last year. We all know he got off to a bad start, but ever since Derrek Lee returned, he has been on fire. He is a career .305 hitter, and if he just hits his career average the rest of the year, he will finish around .290 with about 55 stolen bases….wow! I loved this trade for Pierre from the beginning, and I hope we sign him to a long-term deal asap. Did you know, that since 2001, no one in the entire Major Leagues has more hits than Juan Pierre, except for Ichiro Suzuki? That is referred to as “production”!
Aramis is Scottie Pippen….?
Let’s face it….Aramis Ramirez is a great hitter, a great slugger, and has really stepped up his defense this year. However, he can’t carry a team. Whether it is because he presses too much, or wilts under the pressure, he definitely is more comfortable being the #2 guy. There is nothing wrong with this, and is not really much of a fault….after all, how many players actually can carry a team in the Major Leagues? I get irritated with his habit of lovingly gazing upon his long singles, just like everyone else, but I would never trade this guy….no way.
Matt Murton gets his second wind….
If Mimi commits to playing and developing Murton, I think he will be just fine. There has been a lot of talk about the Cubs signing Carlos Lee, and while I agree Carlos is an upgrade over Murton, I can’t imagine a scenario where Hendry signs Carlos Lee and Juan Pierre to big contracts, after shelling out $5 million a year for Jacque Jones. Hendry doesn’t like to admit his mistakes (see Rusch, Glendon or Perez, Neifi) so with Jones playing well, there is no way Hendry will get rid of him. We are stuck with Murton, and that is just fine with me. Murton has got to learn to elevate the ball, as I believe it was pointed out on the CCO that Murton is among the league leaders in hitting into doubleplays. When I look at Murton physically, he reminds me of Jeff Bagwell and Moises Alou….because of his compact stance. Murton has a solid lower body and large forearms, so he should have plenty of muscle and strength to hit HRs in the big leagues, but he has not developed that HR stroke yet. Hopefully, if given the chance, he will find that stroke wearing Cubbie Blue.
Marshall and Marmol….
Marshall is growing on me. I swear you would think he is related to Neil, the way Neil gushes on and on about him, but I am finally coming around to Neil’s way of thinking with this kid. I don’t know if he will ever fill out physically, or if he even needs to, but it is possible he will only get stronger in the next few years, which may or may not add more pop to his fastball. Regardless, he seems to have the composure to be a solid MLB pitcher, and I liken his style to that of Jamie Moyer and Mark Buerhle. Neither of these solid lefties has a Randy Johnson fastball, yet they are very successful because they throw strikes and are smart pitchers (not throwers). The fact that Marshall seems eager to learn from Greg Maddux, and by all accounts is a humble guy, bodes well, I believe, for him to continue learning and improving. Marmol’s situation is a bit different. He does have the electric stuff, but doesn’t have the control yet to be effective. Since Marmol was a converted catcher, he is still new to pitching, and hopefully has a ton of upside still, and can really continue to improve his command the rest of the year. Like Murton, Marmol needs to be given the opportunities, and not simply sit on the bench while Rusch pitches in his place. The 2nd half of 2006 could be the perfect setting for developing four young talents (Murton, Cedeno, Marshall, and Marmol) that make a huge impact in 2007.
The old young guys….
Zambrano, Prior, Lee, and Ramirez are all relatively young, but are also established veterans. Prior is the only real question mark of the four, as he really seems to have constant injury issues. Early on we were told these were flukes, such as the collision with Marcus Giles and the Hawpe line drive off his elbow. Taking those “freak” accidents out of the equation, we have to wonder how this big strong athletic man keeps getting injured when he is not even playing. Remember that his shoulder was strained before he ever started a game this Spring, and his strained his oblique muscle taking batting practice. Has Greg Maddux ever strained a muscle? If he has, did he still just pitch anyway? Youth is on Prior’s side, though, and hopefully he is overdue for a long and healthy string of quality starts. There really isn’t much to say about Zambrano, Lee, or Ramirez. None of them need to improve for the Cubs to be successful….they just need to continue playing at their current level, and we need the rest of the team to catch up.
No one to get rid of….so what is the problem?
Do you think the Cubs can find a better CF than Pierre? Hasn’t Jacque Jones been the best RF in the past three years? Do you want to give up on Murton or Cedeno? Is there a better 3B available than Aramis Ramirez? Surely you don’t want to trade Lee, right? Can you upgrade over Walker at 2B….probably, but maybe not. Is there a better defensive catcher than Barrett? Yeah….but can you afford to lose his offense?
How about the pitching? Do you trade Zambrano? Are you ready to give up on Prior? Are Marshall and Marmol worth keeping? You probably shouldn’t resign Maddux, but are you really going to sign a mediocre starter in the offseason, or would you rather see what Angel Guzman or Rich Hill can do?
We have the talent….the problem is Mimi.
Like I said, I am not going to talk about Mimi anymore, but it is interesting to evaluate each individual starting player the Cubs have, and you realize they are all quality players, and yet the Cubs have the 3rd worst record in baseball. Was it a lack of depth? Is Mimi unable to develop young talent? I leave this question with you, CCO Readers….if we leave Mimi out of the equation, how does this team get better? We just won three in a row….maybe we are already well on our way? On a day that Derrek Lee went 0-6 and left 9 runners on base, and Mark Prior and Kerry Wood were still injured, the Cubs played one of their best games of the year….maybe they are finally figuring it out. Enjoy the break, Cubs fans….you need it, the Cubs PR people need it, Prior’s oblique needs it, Lee’s wrist needs it, and we all know that Hendry and Mimi need it. Until next time, keep the faith, and let’s go Cubbies!