Filed:March 23rd, 2009
Micah Hoffpauir (left), with Henry Blanco and Koyie Hill (Cubbie Nation/File)
No, I'm not going to pile on.
I was, actually, perfectly happy to move on from this issue, and over to something more interesting, like Corey Koskie's comeback attempt. Oh, wait.
But in doing some work for a couple of future pieces, I came upon a comment to my post, "Micah Hoffpauir to Make Opening Day Roster? You can't be serious." It went something like:
Hoffpauir has torn up Spring Training the last two years, and as a Cub's fan I can say that I am sick of watching DLee hit into the easy 6-4-3 double play. If more rest enables him to be the player that he was three years ago then I am all for having Hoffpauir being the person to replace him. Lastly, if Hoffpauir is not on the team who do you recommend as the back up first baseman?.
Touché Rodney. First base is a big problem, and one of the biggest challenges that I think Lou Piniella will face this season is keep aging cornermen fresh, especially Ramirez and Lee.
Let me share a thought or two with you, though.
Once you get past the issue of quality starting pitching, about the most important determinant in the success of a ballclub is the quality and depth of a teams' bench.
Now, I know some may talk about table-setters, closers (overrated), and starting lineups as second, but what a versatile, productive bunch of veterans can give you off of a bench is often the difference between October games and managerial firings. They cover your butt in the case of injuries, fatigue, bad hitting slumps, and yeah, guys who start hitting into too many 6-4-3 double plays.
But when you start looking at good benches, you start talking about players who are veteran (not Micah), athletic (nope), comfortable in a bench role (can't say for certain), versatile (sorry), and proven able to hit major-league pitching (not seeing it). You're looking for someone who can not just spell a Derrek Lee, but any number of guys if needed, and ideally for an extended period of time if required.
There are guys in camp who could fit that role better, and also are having good springs. Andres Blanco is a favorite of mine. I know alot of people are high on Luis Rivas. And frankly, the Cubs could do much worse than German as a 25th man—where hasn't that man played? All have experience playing numerous positions, and reasonably well at that.
None of these guys seems like the perfect solution, though, I'll admit.
If I had to look outside the organization, there are some guys that immediately come to mind that might fit the bill as well.
Ryan Rayburn of the Tigers may be available. Joe Inglett of the Blue Jays looks like a trade candidate. And I keep hearing chatter about Maicer Izturis. Fine with me. Let's hope that he'd work out better than his brother.
I like Micah. If I were a AL GM, I'd certainly be making calls about him for my bench. Play some DH. Maybe a touch of first. Stick him in the outfield once in a blue moon. Makes sense to me. But this isn't the AL, so the Cubs might be better served finding someone to fill out the roster that can, you know, actually play in the field a bit.
It's moot at this point, as the Cubs have made a commitment to a spot for Micah. But I do hope that when the roster musical chairs start later this week, the Cubs jump in for an upgrade.