It’s been almost 2 months since my last post. I would like to say it was mainly due to laziness. I don’t plan on taking any more breaks either. But I will start back by trying to figure out why the Cubs brass did what they did last off-season.
I just don’t understand what the Cubs were thinking last off-season.
They had a team that had just won 97 games in the regular season. I
know there was pressure to “tweak” the roster so they could perform
better in the post-season, but the moves they made have backfired.
, , Henry Blanco and are all gone.
That may not seem like much, but it’s had a huge impact and I am going
to attempt to explain why.
Jason Marquis may not put up dazzling numbers, but he gets the job done
every fifth day. What I mean by that is he is one of those guys who
pitches and gives his team a chance to win almost every time out. As of
today, he is 14-8 with a 3.47 ERA for the Colorado Rockies, who look
like they have a good chance to win the wild card. Considering the Cubs
injuries to their starting rotation this season they sure could have
used him. And it doesn’t hurt that the team he’s played for has made the
playoffs every season during his major league career. But trading him
away for was a mistake, especially considering the Cubs
don’t even have Vizcaino anymore.
The Cubs also decided to trade away super-utility man, Mark DeRosa.
Not only was DeRosa capable of playing almost any position, but he did
it without complaining or letting it affect his hitting. With the
injury to Aramis Ramirez this year, the Cubs really could have used
DeRosa at third base. Or, DeRosa could be the starting second baseman
and Fox could play third when Aramis is out. Or, DeRosa could play
leftfield or rightfield when needed. He’s got a good bat and plays
solid defense wherever the you put him. To make matters worse, he’s now
on the Cardinals. I wish DeRosa the best, but I would love to have him
back in a Cubs uniform.
The loss of Henry Blanco may not seem like much to most fans. But to
me, it was a huge loss. The Cubs let him get away via free agency last
off-season. Here’s a guy that was a mentor to . Soto went
on to win the Rookie of the Year award and I would like to think that
Blanco was a factor in that. Plus, he hit well when he did get to play
Finally, the Cubs let go of Kerry Wood allowing him to sign with the
Cleveland Indians. That made me mad. I understood that baseball is a
business, but Wood had been with the Cubs since 1998. As the Cubs first
round pick in the ’95 draft, Wood quickly became one of my favorite
Cubs. While his career has been plagued with injuries, there is not
doubt that he possessed the talent to be a good starter early in his
career and a solid closer now. So, the Cubs let him go and then go and
trade minor league Jose Ceda for Kevin Gregg. As much as I want Gregg
to succeed he hasn’t been consistent as the Cubs closer. So, the way I
see it, the Cubs gave up Kerry Wood and Jose Ceda (and his 98mph
fastball) for Gregg. Another move that hasn’t worked too well.
Equally important is the chemistry the team had last year. The loss of
these four guys wasn’t just a loss on the field but in the dugout,
bullpen and clubhouse. There is no doubt that this year’s team does not
have the chemistry of the ’08 Cubs. I believe that loss combined with
injuries to Soto, Ramirez, , Ted Lilly, Reed Johnson and
is the reason why the Cubs are struggling to stay above
It will be interesting to see what moves the Cubs make the remainder of
this season and this upcoming off-season. Will the Ricketts family give
Jim Hendry a blank check book? stick around for
another year or will Ryne Sandberg be the new Cub manager? Will the
Cubs even finish this season over .500? We’ll just have to wait and
In order for the Cubs to win the Central Division this year they must figure out their bullpen. I know it’s only the first week of the season and I am not over-reacting. The fact is that Kevin Gregg won the closers job in spring training and Carlos Marmol did not win the job for multiple reasons. Playing in the WBC, being outpitched by Gregg and his ability to be an elite setup man are some of the factors that have Marmol in the role he is currently in. He’s a strikeout pitcher that is capable of coming into a game with runners on base and stranding them there without letting the opposing team even hit the ball.
When I say the Cubs need to figure out their bullpen this is what I mean. The roles are yet to be defined. Will Guzman, Heilman or Vizcaino become the 6th or 7th inning man? It’s obvious that Neal Cotts is our lefty out of the pen and rule 5 pick, David Patton, will pitch in less stressful situations. I like the possibility of Guzman setting things up for Marmol. Then Marmol setting things up for Gregg. Guzman, if healthy, could be a huge surprise this year and I am betting on him having a very productive season. I think Heilman and Vizcaino, both veterans, could be used in to give Guzman or Marmol a day off every now and then. I also think they would be valuable middle relievers in close ball games. This week it seems like Heilman was the first choice out of the pen. I think Lou will give Guzman and Vizcaino a chance to prove themselves too. Once we get are bullpen set and the guys get comfortable in their roles the Cubs should have plenty of success late in the game.
Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals looked great this week. That’s good news for the Cards and bad news for the rest of the NL.
The Cardinals need to find a closer soon.
Mike Fontenot looks great at 2B for the Cubs.
Aaron Harang, Reds, looks like he’s lost some weight compared to last year.
Matt Cain, Giants, looked awesome in his first game this year. He’s a sleeper Cy Young candidate for me.
Ever since the 2003 collapse in the playoffs against the Florida Marlins, I have been waiting for the Cubs to return to the post season and win. 2007 and 2008 were great regular seasons followed by utter disappointment by getting swept out of the playoffs each season. This year is different for me. I am not as confident as I was last year. I look at this current team and still see some holes that need to be filled. However, I strongly believe that any issues the Cubs have this year will be taken care of once the sale of the team is finalized. I am putting a lot of faith into Tom Ricketts, Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella and the players and other coaches. Here’s my quick preview of what I think this year’s team has entering spring training.
The starters should look something like this to start the season:
Here’s the bench:
Aaron Miles-2B, SS, 3B
Jake Fox has a chance to make the team as a versatile player capable of playing 1B, 3B, C, LF and RF.
Koyie Hill has a chance to make the team as a backup Catcher.
Here’s a quick look at our pitchers:
Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Rich Harden and Ted Lilly.
Guys that could start or come out of the bullpen.
Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija, Chad Gaudin, Angel Guzman and Aaron Heilman
Guys out of the pen.
Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, Luis Vizcaino, Neal Cotts, and Kevin Hart.
I am sure things will look a little different when the season starts, but I imagine the team will come out of spring training with a roster consisting of most of the players listed above. A few will start the season at Iowa and hopefully get called up when needed.
Things look bright for 2009. But we can always improve. Go Cubs Go!