The Cubs do not have a starting centerfielder on their roster. Last time I checked, that was a fairly important position. In fact, in my opinion, beside shortstop and catcher, CF ranks as the most important defensive position on a team. Has GM Jim Hendry simply forgotten the CF position exists? You know better….
Wives and husbands often duel over weekend chores: putting the Christmas lights away, cleaning out the garage, buying diapers in ungodly and massive quantities from Costco, etc…. The wife simply can’t fathom why the husband, fresh off a week of work, doesn’t want to spend all his free time doing tasks and checking off lists. All the husband wants to do is relax, and enjoy that new big screen TV. Perhaps it is this natural male tendency that is surfacing in Jim Hendry? Maybe he just doesn’t feel like getting a CF right now, and that he will get to it next week? Hey….the guy has had heart-trouble, and a very busy off-season thus far! He probably just wants to veg out for a bit, watch some of the NFL playoffs, eat some fried pork rinds, and have a couple of Old Styles. Who can blame a guy for that? I guess we should all just stop acting like a bunch of nags, and assume ol’ Trader Jim Spendry has a plan. I have to tell you, though, this plan looks fairly shaky. If Jacque Jones does wind up playing CF, then we might as well just create a new rule in baseball: whenever there is a man on 2B, and a single is hit to Jacque Jones, the opposing team is awarded an automatic run, so as to avoid the constant groans of Cubs fans watching Jones 12-bounce the throw to home plate.
Make your pitch….
Looks like all the pitching trades and free agent pitching acquisitions have already been made for the Cubs. All in all, I am very satisfied with the starting rotation, and the bullpen. As with any team, there are a few question marks: who will be the fifth starter, and will Dempster be a reliable closer? I believe that either Wade Miller or Mark Prior should be healthy enough to start. If they are both healthy, I am not really sure what Lou Piniella will do with the extra 6th starter. This is a great problem to have, so I do not consider it a negative in the least. As far as Dempster goes….I expect he will be decent, but that Piniella won’t be afraid to let Kerry Wood close a few games here and there, and eventually Wood will be the closer by the end of the year. The Cubs cannot afford to stick with Dempster if he is mediocre. The Cubs don’t owe Dempster anything, but they do owe their fans a championship, so Sweet Lou had better put the best man out there at all times!
It might be….it could be….it is!
If you find that games are more exciting when home runs are hit at a fast clip, then you should like the 2007 Cubs, provided they are a relatively healthy bunch. Here is how I see it breaking down:
- Derrek Lee, 40
- Aramis Ramirez, 40
- Alfonso Soriano, 40
- Matt Murton, 20
- Jacque Jones, 20
- Michael Barrett, 16
That is more than one HR a game, on average….should be fun to watch! It should be noted that the White Sox had a formidable HR-hitting lineup, in the years prior to winning a championship: Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, and Carlos Lee were all big mashers for the Sox, but when the Sox got rid of all of them but Konerko, they happened to win the World Series. That doesn’t mean hitting HRs is bad. Rather, it means you have to have a balance, and I would rather not see career highs in HRs from our big Three of Lee, Ramirez, and Soriano. Instead, I want high averages, and that will lead to higher OBP, longer rallies, more at-bats and more runs scored, ultimately. Power is a great asset for any team, but it can’t win all by itself. While Soriano and Jones strike out quite a bit, I feel fairly confident that Lee, Ramirez, Murton, and Barrett will all hit for power without striking out an excessive amount. That balance should benefit the Cubs greatly.
Final Thoughts….bring on Spring Training!
The 2007 Cubs have, on paper, one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. We have dependable lefties, in Eyre, Ohman, and Cotts. We have a lot of hard-throwing righties, in Howry, Dempster, Wuertz, and Wood. While the signings of Lilly and Marquis may not have lit the world on fire, keep in mind that if Cubs starters give up 3-4 runs over 6 innings, there is a good likelihood that the bullpen can hold that lead, more often than not. With the offensive firepower we have in a healthy Lee and the addition of Soriano, combined with Piniella’s focus on raising OBP, the Cubs WILL score more runs. I think it is very reasonable to expect that the Cubs will win a lot of games with average pitchers that eat innings and hand the games over to the bullpen with 5 runs or less given up.
Sorry that I don’t have any exciting new rumors for you CCO Readers. While we all applaud Hendry for moving so quickly this off-season, it also makes the wait for Spring Training seem that much longer! Before we all know it, we will be watching, with great interest, to see if Lilly and Marquis are worth it, if Prior and Miller are healthy, if DeRosa is capable of being a starter for us, and, of course, to see who is playing CF. Until next time, CCO Readers, I see a healthy dose of Pie in your future, so hope that the rookie is ready, that Trader Jim can get something for Jacque Jones, and let’s go Cubs!