Derrek Lee on Baseball 365 – ESPN 1000 – 01/28/06
Derrek Lee was on at the end of Baseball 365 with Bruce Levine on Saturday, January 28th. Lee and Levine spoke about a number of Cub related subjects, mainly his desire to win, Juan Pierre, the pressures of being a Cub and playing at Wrigley Field.
Derrek Lee is quickly becoming the face of the Cubs. The injuries and inconsistent play from Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have demoted them from that status. With the departure of Nomar and Sammy, combined with the turnover on the Northside another successful season could push Derrek Lee into the forefront of the Cubs Organization. To me, Derrek Lee represents what is good about the game: a hard worker, a team player and what seems to be an all around good guy. Here is some of what he had to say….
The interview started out with Levine asking about the outlook he has for the upcoming season and Derrek was very quick to point out that he has a fire to win and his teammates know how bad he wants to win. Winning is what it is all about and he is willing to trade his personal numbers or accolades for a championship. Lee said that team chemistry is important, but overrated. Teammates must trust one another and believe that if you cannot do the job, someone else will. He believes that the 2005 team had the talent but it did not perform. Lee credits a lack of concentration as the problem, not the lack of desire or effort to win that plagued the 2005 team. The interview quickly turned to the additions the Cubs have made this off-season.
Lee stated he is happy with what the Cubs have done to strengthen the bullpen. But no sooner than he mentioned that, he switched the conversation to Juan Pierre. This part of the interview reminded me of the one that he and Pierre did on the first night of the Cubs Convention. Derrek Lee has a tremendous amount of respect for Pierre that is obvious. He has seen Pierre’s work ethic first hand and while there are many doubters as to how effective Pierre will be, Lee’s enthusiasm over the trade for Pierre is very contagious. Lee continues to speak the praises of Pierre. He thinks Pierre will help the Cubs’ clubhouse and bring an intensity level that the Cubs have not had. Derrek mentioned the signing of Wade Miller and really liked the move.
Lee mentioned that the players talk to each other during the off-season about who the club has added and who is still available. He thinks Jim Hendry has done a good job this off-season with addressing the Cubs needs. The conversation then turned to Lee’s contract.
Derrek said he wants to stay in Chicago, but there have not been serious discussions about a long-term contract. He said he likes playing in Chicago for what he called the “new Cubs’ fan”. The days of the Cubs’ fans being content with going to Wrigley just so see a ballgame are long gone. He said he likes the pressure the Cubs’ fans put on him and the team to win. Derrek went on to say it is a tougher environment to play in than it used to be and the fans have a right to voice their displeasure. Derrek has made it a personal challenge to be on the team that finally wins it all. He loves the tradition in Chicago and wants to bring the town and the fans a winner.
Lee takes a lot of pride in his defense I think we would all agree. He has saved so many errors of the past two seasons. Levine asked him about his defense and said he had the best glove at first base in his opinion since Keith Hernandez. Lee’s response was defense is a big part of the game that has gotten lost. He said that defense does not make the highlight reel, unless it is a diving play of some sort. Offense is what makes the highlight reel and that is what people want to see. He mentioned how bad the infield at Wrigley can be and said the ground crew does the best job it can. The infield is very inconsistent but it is a beautiful place to play. He mentioned a conversation he had with Corey Patterson and said “if you can be successful at Wrigley, you can be successful anywhere”.
They ended the interview with Derrek’s outlook for the upcoming season and his response was “the team must play to the talent level for the entire 162 games, because for the past two season we have not.”
Without a doubt if Lee can have anywhere near the season he had a year ago and get a supporting cast, the Cubs could be battling for a playoff spot come September….wouldn’t that be nice.