Edmonds and Johnson Pay Dividend For Cubs

Brian LivingstonContributor ISeptember 30, 2008

During Major League Baseball’s July 31 trade deadline Cubs General Manager, Jim Hendry, stood pat while the rest of the league was wheeling and dealing. Several big names were moved before the deadline including the likes of Mark Teixeira to the Angels, Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox and the biggest name of all to be moved during the deadline was Boston’s Manny Ramirez being traded in a three team deal between the Boston Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates and Los Angeles Dodgers.

It was a rarity for Hendry, who is known for making big deals in the past to improve the club’s chances at making the playoffs. His most well-known trades have included raiding the Pittsburgh Pirates for Kenny Lofton, Randall Simon and Aramis Ramirez in 2003, which ultimately helped the Cubs in the their push for the postseason. And although the Cubs missed the playoffs in 2004, Hendry went out and got Nomar Garciaparra from the Red Sox. 

To Hendry’s credit, he made most of his deals and put together a well-rounded team long before the 31 of July. During Spring Training the Toronto Blue Jays released outfielder Reed Johnson. Hendry and the Cubs were looking for a bench player to backup Felix Pie in case he would struggle as he has done in years past. Needless to say picking up Johnson has been huge for the Cubs. Johnson had a .303 batting average, a .358 on base percentage and  slugged .420 for the year. 

Johnson has come up huge for the Cubs numerous times this season including what has been called the “catch of the season” in a game against the Washington Nationals on May 25.  What makes the Johnson signing even more significant was that when informed the Cubs had picked him up, Johnson immediately got to the Cubs spring training camp on his own dollar.  Hendry never stops finding out ways to improve the ball club. This rang true on May 14 when the Cubs signed long-time Cubs nemesis Jim Edmonds.

After being released five days earlier by the San Diego Padres, the Cubs stepped in and signed Edmonds to platoon with Reed Johnson in center field. While with the Padres, Edmonds only batted .178 with a pair of doubles and a home run; the numbers were not to the Padres liking and lucky for the Cubs, Edmonds was released. During the year, Edmonds has hit 19 home runs, has a .256 average and is slugging .568. After being released Edmonds told his agent specifically not to talk to any other team before talking to the Cubs.

To Edmonds’ credit he has been a Cub killer ever since he put on a Cardinal uniform in 2000. Most Cubs fans were skeptical when Hendry picked him up from San Diego. To those fans that still have a tough time accepting Edmonds consider this; take a look at the man and not what uniform he previously wore. Edmonds wants to win just as much as anyone in the Cubs clubhouse. Edmonds has slowly been winning the fans over more and more each day that he plays. One sign of this is that after his second home run against the Cardinals he received a curtain call from the Wrigley faithful on August 8. Can anyone honestly say they’d live to see the day that happened?  The Brewers made it clear they wanted to be apart of the 2008 playoffs after acquiring C.C. Sabathia from the Cleveland Indians.

Not to be out done, Jim Hendry went out West and got Oakland’s right-handed pitchers Rich Harden and Chad Guadin. Rich Harden, when healthy, can carry a team deep into the playoffs. Harden does come with a snag however he has several disabled list stints in his short career. Harden has been dominant in his starts since joining the Cubs including taking a no hitter deep into the seventh inning against Arizona on July 21. Harden was 5-2 with a 1.77 era with five 10 strikeout performances. Unlike the Sabathia deal, the deal for Harden included a relief pitcher in Chad Guadin. A team can never have too much help from the bullpen and the Cubs are pretty deep with quality arms like Marmol, Guadin, Samarzijada and Wood.

As Cubs fans have seen in the past, Jim Hendry will make the moves he believes are necessary in order for this club to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a long over do World Series Championship. Whether it’s before or after the deadline, Hendry will do what he needs to do to improve this club. The combo of Johnson and Edmonds in center field has paid off big time. Give credit to Hendry for making the deals when he had to because the Cubs might not be in the situation they are in now without Johnson and Edmonds.  As well as acquiring Harden from the A’s.

The Cubs wrapped up the Central Division on September 20 against the Cardinals. Ironically enough Jim Edmonds caught the final out against his former club. If the Cubs keep play the way they have all season, it should make for an interesting October on the North-side of Chicago. The Cubs clinched up home field advantage throughout the N.L. playoffs against the Mets last Monday behind a solid performance from Jason Marquis.With that in mind the road to the World Series from the National League side goes through the Cubs.