Filed: October 10th, 2008
Sigh. I'm over it.
And yes, I pretty much needed the entire week away to detox myself of the debacle that was the 2008 NLDS. It doesn't help though being in Philly for the week, where the fans are positively giddy. Even quite a few out-of-towners at my hotel are sporting Phillies gear. Given that with them up in the NLCS 2-0 after the 8-5 win tonight, the Dodgers are likely to be headed home soon, so you can see why my spirits have improved enough to blog. Call me a touch jaded, but I can really do without the MSM -- that especially means you ESPN -- beating us with Manny back to Boston stories for 10 days during the World Series. Yes, I think Boston will get there.
I will say the week has been interesting though. I said to a fan during Game 2 last week that after leaving in Kosuke Fukudome to face Cory Wade -- he struck out -- that this was the moment that Chicago would begin to turn on Lou. It didn't take long. Local media types have been calling out Lou like a dog. For some reason, Dave Kaplan seems to almost have a fetish over the topic, saying on numerous occasions that Lou can't control a clubhouse.
Let me tell you what I think about that. The last times that the Cubs won back-to-back anything was 100 years ago. Since then, they've been wildly inconsistent, not acheiving long-term success, and moving in a reactive mode; generally when the team became so poor that it affected tickets sales and TV audiences. Lou Piniella took a team that was on the verge of losing 100 games the year before, and took them to a division title the very next year. And to a team on the verge of winning 100 inside of two. He's got his senior moments, no question. And personally you know my feelings about some of the moves made during the playoffs. However, whatever problems that the Cubs have are not on Lou. He doesn't catch, he doesn't throw, and he doesn't field. And most of these players are not his guys. He's making the most of the talent he's given and what assets the organization has. And like every manager or coach in pro sports today, has to suffer divas and prima donnas to get the best out of some guys. Ease up. There's a couple in every clubhouse.
It takes time to build not just a winner, but a champion. Ask the Red Sox, who hammered away with good teams against the Yankees for years. Or the Yankees themselves, who searched most of the 90's before finding the right note. The Phillie have been on the verge for years, and look primed to make finally their splash this year. With most of their talent locked up, and Crane Kenney acknowledging not only a commitment to winning next season, but approval for a payroll increase, the Cubs looked primed to make another run. And someone is going to have to cite more than an over-emotional and flaky since birth Carlos Zambrano, and a diva Alfonso Soriano in the clubhouse to convince me that Lou isn't the guy anymore to lead them.
That said, I will share a few do and don't that I hope happen this off-season. The team is close. And a couple of tweaks could make the difference.
Do resign Reed Johnson and Henry Blanco. I know that a 3 million dollar option seems like a bit of a luxury for a backup catcher. Renegotiate if you can, and if not, pick it up anyway. You're a large market team. That's Latin for luxury.
Do resign Bob Howry -- assuming he'll accept an incentive-laden deal. My first reaction after an abysmal 2008 campaign for Howry --5.35 ERA, with 1.45 WHIP -- is to run away screaming when his agent calls. But Bob on a one year, under 1.5 million deal sounds intriguing. If he doesn't work out, you've got this year's Chad Fox. If he does, you've got an affordably priced effective middle reliever, with closing experience. It's not as if they have a rock-solid middle inning solution at the moment.
Do say goodbye to Michael Wuertz and Neal Cotts. Can't. Be. Counted. On. Ever.
Don't keep Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood if cost too much. I love them both. But anything more than 2 year with an option for Woods, or 40 million for Dempster is just nuts. Ryan Dempster was effective this season only because of his level of preparation and conditioning; his words. 40 million bucks has a funny way of making guys stop answering the phone when their personal trainers call. Thank them for their service, offer them arbitration, take the picks, and move on.
Don't get sucked into Raul Ibanez. I'm a HUGE Raul fan, if only for the cool-ass name. But he's a soon-to-be 37 year old, who has always been choppy defensively in left. The notion of moving him to right is mind boggling.
Do find another lefty bat. Orlando Hudson, Bobby Abreu, Brian Roberts, Rafeal Furcal, Jeremy Hermida, Nick Swisher, and Luke Scott are all viable targets. Face it, you've been exposed. Playoff teams will extend their late-inning guy an extra inning, and wear your righty lineup out, as you got no LH punch to break it up, or a lefty off the bench potent enough to make opposing managers get situational. It's straight from a top-tier starter to great late-inning relievers. If you're lucky, you can get three lefties in your everyday lineup. Worst case, you can get a big lefty bat for the bench. And yes, that means goodbye Daryle Ward.
Do drop Derrek Lee in the lineup. It's just time.
Jerremy Affedlt or Damaso Marte. Pick one.
Do trade Felix Pie. Felix is out of options, and the Cubs are out of excuses. I love what I saw of him in September, looking more comfortable around the ballpark, and selective at the plate. However, Kosuke is a problem. Ideally, you'd move DeRosa to right, Kosuke to center field, and go get Brian Roberts. Or you'd get a new RF, and suffer the same dilemma. Any deal that was made with Kosuke to play right was lost when he couldn't hit his weight. If/when he hits next year, you've got a nice platoon. If he doesn't, he's your fourth outfielder. If he really hits, you can move DeRosa to a more natural super-sub role. It works. Point being, are you really prepared to have two lefties on the roster with hitting issues?
Food for thought. Till next time.