Onward and Upward

The trade deadline has passed, Maddux has said goodbye and it is 100 degrees in Chicago, sounds like it is time to talk about next year. Monday’s acquisition of Cesar Izturis was somewhat of a coup by Jim Hendry. It is one thing to land prospects, but to land an All-Star shortstop was one heck of a deal. We have chided Jim Hendry this entire season, but he deserves a nice hand for that move. Hopefully this will be just the beginning of an onslaught of transactions to improve the entire ball club.

For the past two months everyone has thrown around their ideas for 2007, but now that the deadline has passed and the smoke has cleared, I wanted to discuss my ideas and hopes for the 2007 edition of your Chicago Cubs.

(For the sake of brevity, I am going on the assumption that Aramis Ramirez will stay in Chicago, therefore, not leaving third base up for debate.)

Derrek Lee, Aramis, Barrett, Izturis, Cedeno, Murton and Jones will all be returning for the ’07 season.

Step 1 – Sign Juan Pierre. Sure, he has had a down season, but at the very least, that will make him a little cheaper than he would have been. Also, I do not believe that there is a better option available. The Cubs gave away Ricky Nolasco for JP; they need to keep him around. When JP scores the Cubs are 12 or 13 games above .500.

Step 2 – Sign Marcus Giles, I love RC Cola just as much as the next fan, but Giles is a gritty, grind it out type of old school ball player that can really help this team. Though Giles is only batting .255 this season, his OBP almost 100 points higher at .350, which shows you that he knows how to get on base. He would be perfect in the number 2 hole and has only made 6 errors all season.

Step 3 – Find a pitcher. Anyone? Anyone? We all want Barry Zito; odds are he will end up with one of the two teams in New York. While we are on the lefties, I need to address Mark Mulder. Mulder is a Chicago kid and a great pitcher, however, he has had bad rotator cuff problems this year, and that is always a warning sign. Unfortunately, pitchers with arm problems are right up the Cubs’ alley, so you can bank on Mark coming home. Don’t get me wrong, this would be helpful for the Cubs, but you cannot count on him. Jim Hendry went on record to stay that the Cubs will not be “hoping” players will be healthy next season, which was a huge breath of fresh air for me. Outside of that, I believe Tim Hudson is a free agent, and though he has struggled in Atlanta, a change of scenery may be nice.

Step 4 – The outfield. It appears that JJ is going to be in right again next year, and I am fine with that. Not one person can say he has disappointed this year. He will end up with close to 25 homeruns, knock in around 85 guys and bat .290. He has also made some spectacular plays and if he could learn how to harness his arm strength, it may pay off some day.

I absolutely love Matt Murton and want him to stick around, but I understand the counter argument. Murton showed great promise last summer and has really turned it on as of late. Anyone will tell you it is nice to play everyday. If Murton does not work out, I really like what I see in Angel Pagan and next spring can be the time when one of them steps up and shows who wants it more.

I am not a Carlos Lee fan (I think Shaun had my head for dinner the other night after he bit it off when I said I did not want C. Lee), and I want a pitcher instead. We all know that Jim Hendry will not be able to sign the most expensive position player and get a great pitcher as well. Lee is a defensively liability, and when Bridgeport traded him away they won a World Series.

Felix Pie is batting .267 with 9 homeruns and 46 RBI’s. He is only 21 years old and he is not ready for the ‘show’ quite yet. I do not want another Corey Patterson, let him mature, those numbers prove he needs more time. Jason Dubois hit for around a .300 average with 30 homeruns the year before he came up and we saw what happened with that. Also, if we sign Pierre, Pie can play right field, it will be perfect timing with JJ’s contract.

So, with all of that said, this is what my lineup looks like next year.

Pierre – CF
Giles – 2B
D. Lee – 1B
Ramirez – 3B
Jones – RF
Barrett – C
Pagan – LF
Izturis – SS

On the mound you have:
Zambrano
Prior
Mulder
Marshall/Marmol/Guzman/Hill
Maddux (I want to see if anyone is paying attention, his third time’s a charm!)

In the pen you have:
Wuertz
Ohman
Novoa
Howry
Eyre
Dempster

On the bench you have:
Murton
Cedeno
Theriot
G. Soto
Bynum
Veteran Pinch Hitter (role filled by Mabry this season)

Finally, if Kerry Wood comes back, great, if not, it is a shame. Kerry Wood is one of the greatest people to play sports in Chicago. On off days, he goes to hospitals to hang out with the kids for fun. He does not have to do this, he just likes helping people. One day last year he went to four different hospitals throughout the day. Most guys are playing golf or boating (and there is nothing wrong with that) but Kerry Wood is an exceptional human being. I root for him like crazy and I hope he can come back healthy. If not, I wish him the best.

Step 5 – The Staff

If you heard Jim Hendry last night during the Cubs telecast, it appeared as if he was getting everyone ready for another year of Dusty. He was making a great deal of excuses for the coach and taking most, if not all, of the blame. To be honest, I do not really care if Dusty sticks around; I just think we need a new staff. The hitting coaches told Murton he was too patient, WHAT! Pierre fell apart for two months and it is my opinion that he stopped listening to him. We need to overhaul the hitting and pitching coaches and just start from scratch.

If all of these changes occur, the Cubs will be in a much better position to win next year. They will have very solid defense up the middle, power at the corner infielders, a great leadoff hitter, power in at least one corner outfield, a formidable rotation, a solid bullpen and hopefully a lot of luck.

April is a long way away, but there is no reason to stop talking Cubs baseball.

Thanks for reading, feel free to post or drop me a line at brian@chicagocubsonline.com and until next time….

Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!!

Quote of the Day

"Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none." - William Shakespeare
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