It's been difficult for me to watch the Cubbies this offseason. Not that I thought the 2007 and '08 N.L. Central champs needed much re-tooling, but the moves they have (and haven't) made just don't feel like good ones to me.
Letting Kerry Wood go even though he wanted to stay, just because we didn't want to offer him more than a year? Wood just had a very good year in his first as a closer, and the Cubbies couldn't tack on an extra year for him.
Trading some young talent for the immortal Kevin Gregg to replace one of the most beloved and skilled Cubbies in recent memory? Hey, anytime you can send away an All-Star closer and trade a young guy with a mid-90s fastball and good breaking stuff for a 30-year-old reliever with a career era of 4.00, you have to make that deal.
Failing to trade for Jake Peavy, a Cy Young-winner in his prime, who wanted to come to Chicago, after getting the fanbase all riled up? Yes, the price for Peavy was high, but was it too high to have the best rotation in recent baseball history? Peavy should've been in Cubbie blue.
Heading toward Christmas without that left-handed, power-hitting outfielder Jim Hendry insists is the team's No. 1 priority (and possibly what kept them from getting Peavy)? Although those Mark Teahen rumors (career .268, 47 Hrs...Career!) were certainly thrilling...
None of this impresses me. Which is why I'm way more excited than I ought to be that Hendry signed Joey Gathright to a one-year, $800,000 deal. This is the best news of the offseason! And I'm no longer being sarcastic or facetious!
Joey Gathright brings things to the table that I believe the Cubs can use.
First, he's fast as a gazelle being chased by a cheetah in a fighter jet. That's a fact—it's science. Speed is the sort of thing that can be the difference in the postseason. In fact, it's played a part in beating the Cubs in each of their past three ugly postseason defeats (Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo in '03, Eric Byrnes, Chris Young, and Justin Upton in '07, Pierre again with Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp this past October).
Gathright's speed off the bench could end up being big should the Cubbies make the playoffs again. Isn't it easy to imagine him and his career 75 percent success rate swiping a bag in a big moment, a la Dave Roberts for Boston in 2004? It's not good for my mental health as a Cubs fan that I'm already excited for this.
Gathright also brings great versatility as an outfielder who can play all three positions, something that's proved useful for the Cubs as Alfonso Soriano has a definite penchant for injuries, Kosuke Fukudome is a question mark, who's probably being pencilled in as a centerfielder, and Lou Piniella seems to have a strange aversion to playing Reed Johnson, despite his sturdy production.
If nothing else, Gathright will at least give Piniella a reason not to play the eternally disappointing Felix Pie. If nothing else, he will provide some speed and versatility, the sort of thing that gets a team through a long season and can spark something in the playoffs.
If nothing else, we can at least be treated to seeing clips of Gathright jumping over cars, over and over again.
The 2009 Chicago Cubs...I'm pumped.