The Center of Discussion

Have you ever studied for a test, every single night, for three weeks straight, and then decided to not show up for the exam? Maybe you dated a girl for a year, went through a lengthy and celebrated engagement, and on the day of the wedding you just went bowling by yourself instead? Perhaps you were assigned the most important account at the company, and after diligently working on your sales presentation for weeks on end, you decided to blow off the big meeting?

All these scenarios are bound to seem unlikely and farfetched to you, the intelligent CCO Reader. After all, it would make very little sense to invest that much time and energy into an endeavor that you considered meaningful, and then simply leave it incomplete, right?

So are you starting to worry that the Cubs just spent a ton of money resigning their own free agents (Wood, Miller, Blanco, and Ramirez) and acquiring new talent at significant costs as well (Soriano, DeRosa, Lily, Cotts, and Marquis) and now Trader Jim Spendry is going to just quit before the job is finished? Well….you know better!

The Definition of Faith

Probably my favorite definition of faith is as follows: “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” I find myself drawn to this definition because it happens to describe, I believe, the mindset of the Cubs Faithful.

Every year we have no logical proof that the Cubs will win the World Series, or that they will even make it to the playoffs. Yet the Faithful find themselves, Winter after Winter, drinking ice-cold Cubbie Kool-Aid, despite the freezing temperatures urging us to do otherwise. You see, we ignore common sense, and we give no credence to the notion that history is doomed to repeat itself, nor do we bother ourselves with foolish thoughts of curses or goats.

If the Cubs Faithful were forced to base their hopes on material evidence alone, optimism would be sorely lacking in our beloved Cubbies. In years past, hope and faith so blinded Cubs fans, that they were able to sincerely believe such things would come to pass as; Todd Hollandsworth performing well for a whole season, Jerome Williams winning 15 games, Larry Bowa getting a hit left-handed, Todd Hundley coming out of his “slump”, and Wade Miller really only being a couple weeks behind Kerry Wood.

So what has changed this off-season? I maintain that while 2003 cruelly crushed the dreams of the Cubs Faithful, it also increased our expectations, and our desires, to see the Cubbies win it all. No longer are we happy to simply follow after our favorite players, watch the development of new rookies, or simply show up at Wrigley just to enjoy the park. Nope….we actually want results now!

Perspective….

Time to give Jim Hendry a break for a bit. Not only does he physically need the rest, but the off-season has reached a point where we now need something more creative than just a big check that reels in a free agent to add to the team roster. Hendry needs to put away the Jim Spendry cap for a little while (at least until Zambrano’s extension!) and replace it with his more familiar, more well-worn, Trader Jim cap.

We need Trader Jim to figure out what the heck is going on with our Centerfield position, and he has until about March 1st to figure it out. I think the new fine manager of the Chicago Cubs, Sweet Lou Piniella, should be allowed to have his complete roster in time for Spring Training, so that he has time to develop some team chemistry, figure out lineups, get his rotation set, etc….

Our rotation is full, although perhaps not truly set. Things can happen in Spring Training to decide the starters for sure, but the bottom line is that I don’t expect we will be getting any more starting pitchers via trade or free agency the rest of this Winter. Our bullpen is also solid, so the pitching department, as a whole, seems to be taken care of. So on to the position players and bench players!

Currently, the Cubs have three corner outfielders, and they appear to be interested in signing a fourth (Cliff Floyd) as well. Jacque Jones is the obvious man out, especially given his trade request. I can’t imagine the Cubs will be able to swap Jones, straight up, for a quality CF, so he will either be bundled with some of our prospects and/or one of our shortstops for a CF, or we may see Jones simply traded for the always mysterious PTBNL. The point is, I am not sure trading JJ will yield us anything worth of note for 2007.

A Good Centerpiece….

When I was planning my wedding a few years back, my wife started talking about centerpieces for the reception tables. I honestly had no clue what she was talking about, but I was fairly sure it involved wasting my time and/or wasting my money. Did I mention these thoughts to my future wife, aloud? You know better….

The Cubs need a good centerpiece now themselves, and whatever they have to do to ensure they get a good one, will not be a waste of time or money. Since there is no guarantee we will get a CF with the expected trade of JJ, and since Sweet Lou has mentioned he wants Soriano as a corner outfielder, you have to wonder what the Cubs are thinking of doing to staff CF this coming year. All indications are that they want to give top prospect Felix Pie more seasoning in AAA, and do not want to rush him into a starting role too soon.

However, Sean Marshall wasn’t on anyone’s radar heading into Spring Training last year, that I can recall, and he wound up being relied on heavily right from the start. So who knows….maybe Piniella will feel comfortable inserting a 5-tool rookie among the offensive talents of Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Michael Barrett, Matt Murton, and Alfonso Soriano. With those five hitters spread throughout the lineup, I am not sure Pie would feel any undue pressure to carry the load for the Cubs.

With Kenny Lofton off the market, there doesn’t appear to be any free agent CF’s worth taking a flyer on, and no offense to all the Angel Pagan fanatics out there, but I think the bench guys should stay on the bench.

Final Thoughts….

I haven’t solved anything, CCO Readers….so I need your help! Tell me who you would ideally prefer to play CF for the Cubs in 2007, and also who you think will actually wind up playing CF for the Cubs in 2007. They could be the same player, but likely not.

Do you think Pie will win the job? Will he even get the chance, or will the Cubs already have signed/traded for a CF before Spring Training? Are you one of the Pagan-ites that believe Angel Pagan deserves the job? Do you like any of the remaining free agents for CF? Finally, if you believe the Cubs will trade for a CF, who will they trade for, and who will they have to give up in the process? (please….no Glendon Rusch for Andruw Jones pipe-dreams, thanks!)

Until next time, CCO Readers, in the absence of any logical proof or material evidence, just simply rely on your faith, believe that Trader Jim has a plan, and let’s go Cubs!

Quote of the Day

"Always make a total effort, even when the odds are against you." - Arnold Palmer
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