Matter Over Mind

It was odd reading about Mark Prior yesterday. As the meaning of his surgery completely sunk in, and the uncertainty of his future as a Cub grew to never-before-seen levels, I felt a bit like I had lost something important to me. As sure as I was that Prior could not be counted on at the beginning of this year, and as sure as Prior’s health has been a circus the last few years, I still firmly believed it would all work itself out eventually, and that Prior would be on the mound in a Cubs uniform, throwing 94-96 mph. I believed this would happen someday….maybe not this year, but soon. Now it appears it may never happen again, or that he may resurface in the future wearing a uniform that is foreign to me. Was he “Mrs Prior” and he simply refused to pitch through pain? Was he too cautious in avoiding surgery over the past few seasons, effectively throwing away precious youthful years of his baseball career? Have the Cubs trainers been clueless, and borderline criminally negligent in their duties with Prior? Do you think you know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? You know better….

New Beginnings….

Jason Marquis, Ted Lilly, and Rich Hill have all been great for the Cubs thus far. While I don’t expect Marquis and Lilly to finish with sub 3.00 ERAs, it is nice to see, from this small body of work, that they can definitely both be productive pitchers for us. Especially when you consider how potent our offense should be over the long haul.

Ryan “The Riot” Theriot started yesterday, and continued his hot-hitting ways. Along with Theriot, Felix Pie has been an infusion of farm talent onto an otherwise established veteran lineup. Could it be that the future is now? I am all for it, as if Theriot starts at either SS or 2B, and struggles mightily, we still have Izturis and DeRosa to turn to….so I hope Lou will start giving Theriot extended looks in the starting lineup. As for Pie….maybe he is the next Corey Patterson, or maybe he is everything Corey was supposed to become….the jury is definitely still out. However, I am all for adding his speed and defense into the lineup, but there is no way the Cubs will keep Matt Murton, Jacque Jones, or Cliff Floyd as a three-headed right-field rotation.

The good news is: you are allowed to trade in MLB! So Jim Spendry can set aside his giant leather wallet, emblazoned with the Tribune logo, and put on his trusty ‘ol Trader Jim hat, and get to work on finding a reliable 5th starter. I would be open to giving Angel Guzman a chance, but this team is built to win, and win now, and I don’t have time or patience for prolonged periods of experimentation. I would like Hendry to package Jones with a pitcher from the farm system in a trade for a quality 4th or 5th starter. Who would want Jones? I don’t know, but I sure hope Hendry figures it out soon!

What I expect….

Things have been lousy so far….there is no denying the Cubs current win-loss record. Despite the bright spots of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez getting off to good starts, and the pitching exploits of Marquis, Lilly, and Hill, there have been some disappointments as well. Let’s take a look at how the Cubs can, and likely will, improve:

Got Bullpen?
Our bullpen was supposed to be the best in the league. Unfortunately, despite the Cubs best intentions, a bullpen is always a crapshoot, each and every year. We brought in Mike Remlinger after he had a great year, and he was only mildly productive for us in his tenure. The same goes for LaTroy Hawkins. So when the Cubs bought the “Best Bullpen Arms” on the market last off-season, in Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry, we seemed set for the next 3-4 years. Uhhh….hmmm. Well, I think they will still be fine, but it goes to show you that bullpen guys are, first and foremost, guys that failed at some level, to be starting pitchers in professional baseball. In fact, they were so lousy, for the most part, as starting pitchers, that they were thrown into the bullpen as a last resort. Guys like John Smoltz are the exception to the rule. So maybe it is unfair to expect Eyre and Howry to always be lights-out. I believe in cycles, and that things tend to even out over the course of an entire baseball year, so perhaps they are getting all their bad outings out of the way now, and saving their best for this Summer and Fall. That is my Glass Half Full view.

Alfonso Soriano
Given his recent injury and the games he missed, it is a bit unfair to label Soriano a disappointment so far, but we definitely haven’t had a chance to see what he can do on a regular basis yet. Someday soon, he will have a 2-homer game, and then a 2-steal game, and we will all become instantly enlightened on why he was just given $136 million this winter. Eventually, we will have Soriano, Lee, and Ramirez all hitting well at the same time, and that is going to be one heck of an explosive offense!

Kerry Wood is still injured
If Wood ever got healthy, and became the dominant closer we all think he could be, wouldn’t that free up Ryan Dempster to be a potential 5th starter? Hmmm….

Final Thoughts….

There are more reasons to be disappointed, to be sure, such as Wood and Prior’s injuries, the lack of fundamentals, the constantly shifting OF, etc…. I would like to hear from you, CCO Readers, and give you a chance to vent, and reflect, on the season to date. What do you like, and what do you dislike. If you were the manager, or the GM for that matter, how would you fix things, or would you do nothing at all? Until next time, let’s put Mark Prior out of our minds, hope for a winning streak to start, and let’s go Cubs!

Quote of the Day

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a man's determination." - Tommy Lasorda
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