A move so bold it created the nickname “Jim Spendry”. A sum of money so vast that the Dodgers’ GM surely heralded the signing as “obscene” to his colleagues. A change in fiscal policy so drastic that I had to reread the news of the signing over and over again, to convince myself that it was fact, and not a wistful rumor. The signing of Alfonso Soriano was all these things and more, as the Cubs of 2007 are certain to be a drastic departure from the Spring Training roster of 2006. Gone are Greg Maddux, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Jerome Williams, Glendon Rusch, Juan Pierre, Todd Walker, Jerry Hairston, Neifi Perez, and Ronny Cedeno from the various Dusty lineups and starting rotations. Even if Prior is back in the rotation at some point, it appears we are done counting on him, as we are with Kerry Wood. The contributions of the DL Twins, if any, will be a plus this year, and expectations for them are at all-time lows. If you thought Jim Hendry and the Tribsters would never give up on Prior and Wood, and that they would never sign a premier free agent in his prime….well….now you know better!
It’s a new life for the Cubbies as we know it! I don’t think any of us should make out the Opening Day lineups quite yet, as I have a feeling this roster is still very much in transition. I am not expecting a lot more of these big-name free agent signings, simply because the Cubs normally never sign big-name free agents, so the Soriano move is likely going to have filled their quota for the decade. Maybe I am wrong, and I hope I am, as I would like to see a pitcher the caliber of Jason Schmidt penciled in as a starter, along with another 2nd Tier type of pitcher.
Hey….how about the Cubs pull one of out the Old Hendry Handbook, and sign a pitcher coming off of an injury, such as Mark Mulder? Mulder has been a stud his whole career, and there is no reason to think he won’t resume pitching great if his arm troubles are fully healed. I am not saying give him a rotation spot….just sign him like you did Miller and Dempster, and hopefully you will get a good return on your investment around the All-Star break, even if it is just in a trade.
A Perfect Storm….
Time for a little Cubbie Kool-Aid on this sunny Arizona afternoon. Let’s just allow ourselves to daydream a minute. After all, the Cubs have had almost a century’s worth of bad breaks, right? Aren’t we a bit overdue for things to go our way for a change?! Here are some things to look for in 2007, that might give you an inkling that the gods are finally smiling down on Wrigley Field:
– Prior is healthy, and makes 30 starts, with a record of 14-9.
– Wood is so electric in the pen, that he replaces Dempster after a few shaky outings….Wood goes on to dominant the NL, much as John Smoltz did when he converted to being a closer.
– Wade Miller makes 32 starts, and goes 12-10, with an ERA under 4.00, and his velocity is fully regained from years past.
– Derrek Lee resumes where he left off in 2005, and hits over .300, hits 40+ HRs, along with 120+ RBI’s.
– Aramis Ramirez matches Lee, stat for stat.
– Alfonso Soriano hits 35 HRs and steals 35 bases, and catches every ball in sight….plus he never stops smiling the whole year.
– After stumbling as a starter, Mark DeRosa is replaced with The Riot, Ryan Theriot, who continues to have success at the big-league level, always hustling and bringing energy and a .290 avg to the #2 spot in the batting order.
– Cesar Izturis wins another Gold Glove, blanketing the infield so thoroughly that no one seems to notice that he only hits .265.
– Surrounded by more offensive firepower than ever before, Michael Barrett finds himself focused more and more on defense and in hitting for average, and opposing baserunners are no longer allowed to run amok on the basepaths against the Cubs.
– Matt Murton hits .305, invoking more thoughts of a right-handed Mark Grace, and his 22 homers are a nice increase for a corner outfielder whose defense improves dramatically as well.
– Carlos Zambrano doesn’t just contend for the Cy Young….he runs away with it, compiling a MLB high 22 wins, along with the NL lead for strikeouts. The improved infield defense allows Zambrano to throw fewer pitches, allowing him to last longer into each game.
– Jacque Jones duplicates his 2006 offensive numbers, but gets off to a better start in 2007, and his healed shoulder allows him to successfully hit the cutoff man on 3 consecutive attempts in one June game alone! Instead of having baseballs thrown at his head, Jones is given standing ovations for his defensive exploits, and is besieged by Morganna the Kissing Bandit on 7 separate occasions.
All these things come to pass, along with a division title, and a World Series victory against the White Sox in 4 lopsided games. On a rainy day parade/celebration in downtown Chicago, Steve Bartman is given the ball from the final out in the World Series by MVP and team captain, Derrek Lee. Suddenly the clouds part, the sunshine comes out, and somewhere, somehow, the sound of a goat being kicked in the rear by someone can be heard all across Chicagoland.
It could all happen, right?
I find it harder to write now, as there is so much uncertainty. While it is fun to speculate on who Hendry may sign or acquire next, I am eager to know the final roster, so that I can start truly envisioning how the Cubs will win the Central this coming year. We may also be entering unchartered territory in the history of Chicago sports, as the Tribune may actually wind up selling the Cubs this year or next, and in my lifetime, I have never really been aware of any changes in ownership of any of the Chicago sports teams. I can’t imagine the Cubs could have worse leadership for owners than the Tribsters have been, in terms of producing success in the standings and on the field. So new ownership will likely be an exciting and productive change for all the Cubs Faithful.
I am also hoping for a purge of our farm system that nets the Cubs some up and coming young talent, ala Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Except that I hope the players we acquire are pitchers, which I believe we need the most at this point. I won’t shed a tear for Sean Marshall, Felix Pie, Angel Guzman, Jae Ryu, Bobbie Brownlie, Ronny Cedeno, or any of the other highly-regarded prospects the Cubs have waited and waited on for years. Many of these players have been given a shot at the Big Show, and they did not rise to the occasion, and it is possible that they never will. While we can still get something for them, I implore Jim Spendry to trade in these commodities and get a couple of proven players in return, that can help our Cubs win now! Let the minors be filled with a new generation of young players, whom we may have a need for in 2011. Until then, let the focus be on, and only on, winning championships over the next 3-5 years. A window closed when Prior, Wood, and Zambrano didn’t bring the expected success that was predicted by most of us. A new window has now opened, supported by the mighty swings of Soriano, Ramirez, and Lee. Could this be our year, CCO Readers? Until next time, keep the faith, hope that Jim Spendry has a few bucks left in his wallet, and a few trades up his sleeve, and let’s go Cubs!