Most teams in major league baseball would love to have two established productive power hitters, such as Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee. When Lee went down with an injury, an already questionably built Cubs team went down in flames in 2006. A healthy Lee, by himself, practically assured the 2007 club of being improved offensively. Then Jim “Spendry” Hendry shocked the Cubs Faithful by adding one of the top offensive weapons in the game, in his prime, in Alfonso Soriano. Suddenly the Cubs had three offensive stars in their lineup, and it was easy to dream up pre-season predictions of the Cubs scoring runs at a record pace. Who needs good pitching with these three guys in the lineup, right? You know better….
Matt Murton was christened by many Cubs fans as the next Mark Grace. While it can be fairly argued that Murton hasn’t been given the consistent at-bats needed to improve his game, or his defense in the field, the Big Murt simply hasn’t taken advantage of the opportunities he has had so far this year. Maybe Jack Nicholson was referring to Murton when he said, “What if this is as good as it gets?”
Todd Hundley Part Deux
Jacque Jones is killing me slowly with his lack of production. He is also killing the outfield grass at Wrigley by continually pelting it with his throws to home plate. The Cubs Faithful is forced to speculate that Jones is still being trotted out there to raise his trade value, but that argument holds no merit. Baseball GM’s know what Jones can and can’t do, and they don’t need to see another at-bat by Jones to form an opinion on him. My feeling is that Hendry doesn’t like to admit his mistakes until a player has performed at such a horrible level that no sane person could possible defend his taking up a roster spot. Good teams put the best possible players on the field, as much as possible. No matter who manages the Cubs, this philosophy is never followed. Year after year, I have watched the Todd Hundleys, Todd Hollandsworths, and Todd Walkers of the world receiving inexplicably large doses of playing time, despite the obvious offensive or defensive flaws in their game. We tend to dump the lousy player (like Corey Patterson) or the lousy manager (like Dusty Baker) only after the season is over, as if we are more concerned with saving them embarrassment of receiving a mid-season kick to the curb, than we are with improving our team and winning a championship. For the betterment of our beloved Cubs team, and for world peace, the environment, and less traffic, the entire planet cries out for the removal of Jones from this Cubs team. Hopefully Hendry will do the right thing soon.
Scrappers and Just Plain Crap
I know Fontenot has done a nice job so far, but this guy isn’t the answer to our middle-infielder offensive black hole. Ramirez could not possibly heal quick enough in my opinion, because that will mean one less day of reading lineup cards then end with some combination of: Barrett, Hill, Jones, Izturis, Fontenot, Blanco, Pagan, and DeRosa. Sweet Jesus….that is a lousy bottom of the order! Don’t forget that a pitcher still has to follow that mess as well! We need an upgrade at 2B or SS, and hopefully that is fulfilled with a big trade by Hendry. However, as much as the Cubs claim their pending sale doesn’t restrict them from making financial decisions, it is fairly apparent from the stalled Zambrano talks, and the fact that they bypassed an expensive catching prospect in the recent draft for a more signable high school kid, that the Cubs have cut up Jim Spendry’s Visa card. Our catcher position is in shambles, thanks to a mentally deteriorating Michael Barrett. He could still pick up his game offensively, as he hit well last year, but I wonder if he has gotten into too big a funk, confidence-wise, due to his lousy batting and the seemingly constant complaints by his pitching staff of his incompetency in calling a game behind the plate. I like Theriot, but he won’t be nearly as productive sandwiched between Koyie Hill and Mike Fontenot as he was between Soriano and Lee. Felix Pie is doing a good job, and he does benefit from being before Lee, so I would definitely leave him there….each and every game….so no spot starts by Pagan!!! If Juan Pierre can play every game every single year, then so can Pie and our other starters. Quit resting people and get some consistency in the lineup already!
The Three-Man Band….
Forgive my rambling up to this point, but I am simply trying to show that as great as Soriano, Ramirez, and Lee can be, they are useless if other guys can’t get on base consistently. This is why I think Murton or Floyd need to get all the at-bats ASAP, as they get on base, unlike Jones. We need to keep giving Theriot everyday at-bats, and see if he is an everyday player or not. DeRosa gets to start; only because Izturis can’t hit….but he is really a good backup, and Hendry should have known better when he penciled DeRosa is as a starter for no good reason. I pray a deal for a catcher somehow falls into Hendry’s lap, but that is really unrealistic, so my other hope is that Barrett remembers how to hit really, really soon.
If Barrett can get his average up to .285-.290, I think he will at least make up for his defensive lapses. The pitching staff looks like the real deal, and Marshall and Hill should give the Cubs great hope into the future, as lefties can pitch a long, long time in this league (just ask former Cub, Jamie Moyer!) So if the starters can stay consistent, and the bullpen continues to improve, I think the only concern is if, and when, our offense truly starts to jell. We need a healthy Ramirez, of course, but if Pie and Theriot can just stay above .270, and we keep Jones off the field, and Lou puts out the same lineup over and over, then I really like our chances to win this division. After all, the Brew Crew was all hype (told you so!) Until next time, CCO Readers, let’s hope Lilly makes it past the first inning in his next start, that Barrett gets a 3-hit game, and let’s go Cubs!