Three Pieces: Chicago Cubs

Coming off a year plagued by injuries to key players, and lifted only by the performance of Derrek Lee (and Aramis Rameriz), the Cubs are as rudderless as they were last offseason, and drastic changes are going to be necessary in order to get them back into contention in the NL Central. What do they need to get back to the postseason?

1. Fire Dusty Baker

The man is insane. I admit it, I loved Captain Toothpick in San Fran, but he's got to go. I've commented many times on the inanity of his lineups, and Darin Baker is a lawsuit waiting to happen. In addition to drawing names from a hat (or rolling a pair of dice) to fill out a lineup card, he's got this habit of riding pitchers, especially hard-throwing starters, into the ground. This would be fine, if he had pitchers who had Tommy Johns every season. Unfortunately he does not have a rotation of Frankensteins, but Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano, and oh, right, 39 year-old Greg Maddux, WHO THREW 225 INNINGS! 13th most in the majors. 13TH! Zambrano was 15th on the list.

Furthermore, he has the horrible tendency to 'believe' in certain players. Players like Neifi Perez. Players like Pedro Feliz. Players like Jerome Williams. Noticing a pattern yet? Just send him to replace Torre and then the Yankees on the field will look as crazy as the front office does.

2. Trust in Nomar

Look, we all know that the Cubs, even if they do by some miracle reach the World Series, they'll manage to lose. If they reach the last day of the season, they're going to lose. So why not stick with Nomar. What else could possibly go wrong with his body? There isn't much left. Believe, in the Disney sense of the word.

After rehabing from the most horrific injury I've ever seen (a "ruptured tendon in his left groin", poor bastard), Nomar bounced back from an awful .157/.228/.176 to .318/.347/.531. Rafael Furcal, whom the Cubs are rumored to be courting hit .284/.348/.429 for the year and Nomar, even with his terrible start AND injury ended the season at .283/.320/.452. Worse OBP, but better slugging. Basically a wash between the two. Furcal is five years younger, but Nomar isn't some slugger who is going to break down next year and his .320/.367/.544 (.911 OPS) career line looks much better than Furcal's .284/.348/.409 (.757 OPS). Acquiring Nomar was a good move and the Cubs need to realize that. This guy is the quintessential 'professional hitter.'. This whole 'better fit' nonsense needs to end now as do the Twins trade rumors. Hasn't Nomar gone through enough? And has any other shortstop, even Jeter, saved a life? (A-Rod doesn't count, as he was a third baseman when he saved the Boston youth from stepping into a truck's path.)

On the trade note, the Cubs let Jody Gerut go mid-season in a trade for Lawton. Career line for 33 year-old Lawton: .267/.368/.418; career line for 27 year-old Gerut: .263/.334/.434. I'd take Gerut, personally.

3. Trade Patterson

And replace him with anyone else. Even Bernie Williams. It's gotten that bad. He hit .215 this season. Two Fifteen. He's had one major league season with an average over .270, 2 with an OBP over .285 and 1 season with a SLG over .455. His SB numbers are okay, but they don't justify a lifetime .252/.293/.414 line. The free agent outfield market is not great, but it affords some options. Damon will be damn expensive, Jacque Jones doesn't hit well enough, neither does Preston Wilson. Encarnacion is worth a look, and if the Cubs could afford his poor defense, Rondell White would prove a huge offensive boost. Patterson could be traded too, in a package deal. He's young enough that a team might want to try to develop him.

There's always the chance that Dusty might push to sign Kenny Lofton, another one of his favorite little buddies.

The Bottom Line:

The Cubs aren't going to win the NL Central, I'll bet my student loan payments on that, but if they stay healthy and improve just a bit, this could be a very dangerous team. They just need to overcome incompetent leadership and a curse set into motion by a farm animal. Still, the boys on the northside will, at least, manage to be loveable losers.


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Anonymous said...

I like Nomar, but Furcal is a better fielder at this stage of his career and can be a true leadoff hitter, which is what the Cubs really need. I wish there was a place for Nomar but there isn't.