With the 2011 Chicago Cubs season officially over now, the time has come to move on and look forward. Unfortunately, you can not move forward until you look back to see how you got to where you are. That is what I am going to do today, and then we can put this whole mess behind us and prepare ourselves for what has to be a brighter future.
There are many villains that played a role in the demise of the 2011 season, but Cub fans like to focus all their energy and hatred on two people. Both former General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Mike Quade have been in the crosshairs of the fans since day one, in fact Hendry has been in their sites since the 2008 collapse. That is where the blame should lie, with the former General Manager and not so much the Manager. He can only work with what he is given, and there is not one manager who could have made this incompetent team into a team who was ready to go toe to toe with the best teams in baseball.
You heard me right, I do not care who the manager was this year, no one would have been able to win with this crap fest. Not Quade, not Charlie Manual, not even the great Ryne Sandberg. This was a hot steaming pile of garbage that Hendry gave Quade to compete with. Could a more qualified manager have gotten a couple more wins? Sure, a competent manager is worth a handfull of wins every year, but for the most part the players are the ones who win the games; not the manager. Besides, do you really care if you are a slightly better version of suck? Cubs still would have finished under the .500 mark.
Do not mistake what I am saying, Quade is not a great manager, in fact he may not even be a very good manager, but that is not the point. Managers do not play the game, they only set the lineup that they feel gives them the best chance to win based on the players they are given. Fans got pissed at Quade because he did not play the kids over the players who were over paid and underperforming, that is understandable as long as the players the fans want to play actually perform when given the chance. If the kids do not show anything when they get their opportunities then what would make the manager want to play them? His job is to win games, and if you have a guy hitting near .100 for the majority of the season (Tyler Colvin) getting consistent playing time is not going to be easy, even if you are competing with a completely inept defensive player hitting around .250 (Alfonso Soriano). While both are statistically in baseball hell, you want to go with the guy who has a track record of carrying a team when they are hot.
That is where this season died, not with having an inexperienced Major League manager at the helm, but having under performing players taking the field. Yes, Quade made some very inexcusable baseball decisions, as he was learning on the job. Yes, he left pitchers in too long at times, he took them out too early at others, and he started Koyie Hill far too many times, but the reason the season failed was not the main reason why this team failed as miserably as they did. The main reason they failed, would fall squarely on the shoulders of the players.
Say what you will about the great season by soon to be free agent Aramis Ramirez, his absence in April and May had more to do with the Cubs failures than having Quade in the dugout. Fans will chime in about his stat line and say how valuable he is to this franchise, but how valuable is he really? Yes, he put up impressive stats this year. They are even more impressive when you take note of them being produced in four months, but his absence in April and May led to a lot of losses which helped to dig the Cubs into a hole they just could not climb out of.
There will always be some fans that say something like “I don’t care when he puts up the stats, he is a super star”. That is the problem with the standard back of the baseball card thinking. The end of the year stats look great, but when they are produced is much more important than how much. The games in April and May are worth just as much as the games in August and September, some would say they are more valuable early on, because as the old saying goes, “You can not win a pennant in April, but you can lose one”.
The same goes for Carlos Pena, who also had an impressive stat line at the end of the year. But where was he in April? He, along with Ramirez, fell asleep in the starting gate and did not get started until the season was put on life support. That, too, had much more to do with the failure of the 2011 season than Quade sitting in the dugout.
Add in all the injuries the Cubs faced throughout the season, and you have a formula for failure and not success. I do not care who you are, losing two starting pitchers in the first week of the season is a great way to put yourself behind the eight ball before the season begins. Even if they were the number four and five starters, the drop off in talent level will hurt you. Maybe not if you only need them for a game or two, but if you need replacements for three or four months? That is no way to field a contender. Whether or not you think that the pitchers actually have the talent to compete in the majors is up to you, but there is a big difference between your four and five starters and your sixth and seventh starters.
Sure, the St. Louis Cardinals lost their ace pitcher Adam Wainwright for the whole season and won the wild card, but they still had another pitchers on their team who could qualify as an ace of just about any pitching staff. Everyone moves up a peg, and your long reliever becomes your fifth starter. With the Cubs though, they had to bring up a few pitchers to fill those voids. How is that the managers fault? Is he able to prevent injuries? Again, that falls on Hendry for not providing enough depth.
On top of everything else, there was the whole situation surrounding Carlos Zambrano. While his blowup took place long after realistic contending had long since past, that was still a big part of the season. I will not write much about this as I covered the incident in a blog when everything took place, but when a player walks out on your team, that is a good way to take out whatever chemistry there was with the team.
Overall, the team this year was a complete three ring circus. There was the dimwitted ring bearer, the first time lion tamer who gets his head bitten off because he is learning on the job in front of a live crowd, and you had a car full of clowns who tried to keep you entertained. Is Quade the reason this team fell apart and died a slow painful death? No, he is not why the team lost, but he should not escape blame. That falls on everyone from the General Manager on down to the 25th man.
Yesterday, after Aramis Ramirez declared that he would be filing for free agency, I wrote up a blog which voiced my opinion that the Chicago Cubs should now begin the rebuilding process. Some fans agreed with the thought process, while others completely disagreed. This is probably the most confusing situation for most Cubs fans to be in, as a majority of them are completely contradicting themselves when saying they do not want to sit through a rebuilding phase.
For starters, there is a portion of Cub fans who have strong feelings against the Cubs, a big market team, going through a rebuilding phase. They do not believe that a team in a major market should ever have to rebuild, and be able to spend the money needed in order to contend. This is very true to a point, that would be what is expected from a team in one of the three biggest markets in the country. The problem comes into play, is that several fans of the Cubs want the team to bench, trade or cut several of the current veterans on the team to play various kids.
You will not go a single day without hearing at least one fan begging Cubs management to trade Alfonso Soriano or to just outright cut him. They beg and plead for the Cubs to give more playing time to both Tony Campana and Tyler Colvin. This situation will not take place unless Soriano is off the team, or at very least regulated to bench duty.
Fans also want to see Bryan LaHair get more playing time, if they want to see Campana and Colvin more the only likely position for him to play would be at first base. You could put LaHair in one of the corner spots, and either Covin or Campana in center, but I feel that would be counter productive. No one wants to see Colvin playing center field again, last time he was out there was a disaster. You could put Campana in center, but if you want him to make the team next year, you have to think about who you would rather have playing center field, him or Brett Jackson. No offense to the scrappy Campana, but I would rather have Jackson roaming centerfield and let Campy learn to play the corner. That means Byrd would remain in center leaving LaHair the odd man out, unless he plays first base. With LaHair at first base, that would result in the benching of Carlos Pena. He can not play third base so he would also be out of a job.
Then we have the problem of third base. Several fans want Ramirez back, while others do not want to waste the money on him since he rarely shows up in April and only occasionally comes to play in May. This leads up to who replaces him? There are no good free agent third baseman out there this off season or next, so that would lead to another kid playing third.
You see the problem yet? To me, a vast majority of fans can not make up their minds as far as what they want. They want to see the Cubs play the kids, but they also do not want the Cubs to go into a full rebuild mode. So I propose a question to all the fans out their who take the time to read my blogs.
Do you want the Cubs to ditch the veterans and play the kids to see what they have, or do you want the Cubs to go out and buy players to help them contend? You can not really have things both ways. Sure, you can do a mix of kids and veterans, but you would then have to decide which kids you want to see. Fans will have to chose between the overflowing population of young outfielders and which kids they really want to see.
Which kids do you want to see playing, and which are you willing to write off? From all of the calls for playing time I have seen on my Facebook page (http://www.Facebook.com/worldseriesdreaming) fans want to see a team filled with kids, but they do not want a rebuilding phase.
Confused yet? So am I.
Around 2:30 this afternoon, news broke that Aramis Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, informed the Chicago Cubs that his client will opt out of the final year of his deal, which also happens to be a team option, and file for free agency. However, Ramirez’s agent would not rule out the possibility that he would re-sign with the Cubs in the off season, but only if the team was not in full rebuild mode. In other words, unless the Cubs make a huge splash in free agency, likely by signing either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, his tenure with the Cubs is likely over, even though he has claimed in the past that he wanted to retire a Chicago Cub.
Since joining the Cubs midway through 2003, Ramirez has put on a show for the Wrigley Faithful and has cemented a place for himself in Cubs history. In his nearly eight years with the ball club he has become the second greatest third baseman in Cubs history, right behind the late great Ron Santo. He was also the first long term third baseman the Cubs have had since Santo was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the end of his career. With his apparent departure, you have to wonder when the Cubs will once again be able to fill the vacant hot corner. Last night, 30 years past before they found a solid fixture, hopefully this time the fans do not have to wait so long for a permanent replacement.
With the third base free agent class being very weak, Ramirez becomes the best player available at that position, and should draw a lot of attention from several teams who need someone at third. The bidding war for the aging veteran will likely surpass whatever amount the Cubs would be willing to spend to bring him back, unless he gives the team he says he wants to return to a “home town discount”. With this being the final long term deal of his career, I am not so sure that he will be willing to give a significant discount to the Cubs in order to finish his career with them.
Now that you have a pretty good idea that Ramirez’s Cubs career is over, in my own opinion, the time has come to do what is best for both the player and the team. Sit A-Ram down for the remainder of the season and play a young player over at the hot corner.
How does that benefit Ramirez? The answer to that is quite easy. He has an injured qaud, so in the interest of his health, he should be sat the remainder of the year. Let the injury heal so he can fully heal before any physical that he would need to take before signing a new contract. I doubt Ramirez would have much problem with that scenario as he gets paid whether he plays or not. Why risk making an injury worse if you are about to reach free agency? I believe he will be happy to sit out the remaining six games while the Cubs begin the rebuilding process.
The question then turns to which kid do you throw at third base for the remainder of the year? You could turn to the kid who is playing there today, DJ LeMahieu. Let him test his ability and skill while the Cubs get a good look to see if he can play every day at the major league level. Sure, this is September baseball and no teams have advanced scouts so you need to take anything these call ups do with a grain of salt, but you would get an idea of what he can do.
Another option would be to allow Starlin Castro to spread his wings and fly over at the hot corner. He may not be a bad option, especially since he does have a strong arm and good range. Add in to his ever growing power, he could grow into an excellent option over there. Then the problem would be who plays short stop, or who plays second base if Darwin Barney shifts over as well. Time will tell how the Cubs will handle the third base position going forward, but you can be sure things will be interesting.
There is some good news that comes with the departure of Ramirez, even for those fans who do wish he would return. The Cubs will be saving the $16 Million that he would have made next year, which can be spent elsewhere, perhaps on the pitching staff or a certain first baseman who shall be left unnamed. That is not the only good news however. From the sound of some of the reports, because Ramirez was the one who opted out of the 2012 deal and not the team, the Cubs may in fact be off the hook for the $2 Million buyout to the contract. So that is another $2 Million that the Cubs can use to rebuild a ball club that seemed to have fallen apart. Heck, they might even be more willing to ship off Alfonso Soriano knowing that they suddenly have this extra money that they can throw into a deal to help a team pay his contract. However, that “saved money” might actually be put towards the Carlos Zambrano going away package.
Ramirez declaring for free agency, six games before the season actually ends, should open the flood gates that should have been opened for the trade deadline back in July. That means letting Carlos Pena walk, trading Marlon Byrd and trying desperately to send Alfonso Soriano packing. Without Ramirez, there is little reason to sign Pujols, Fielder or even bringing Pena back.
Let the rebuilding process begin. The only question is will Cub fans be willing to sit through a few years of what could be sub .500 baseball while the kids grow and learn on the job?
The trade deadline in Major League Baseball has come and gone, and the Chicago Cubs were not as active as many fans would have liked. The only trade the organization made, was to pass Kosuke Fukudome on to the Cleveland Indians while eating all but $775,000 of his remaining deal and receiving two below average prospects in return. The reasoning why there were no other moves is rather maddening. General Manager Jim Hendry fully believes that the Cubs are close to being able to contend next year, and wanted to hang on to the pieces he felt would be the key elements to guiding the Cubs to the Promise Land in 2012.
That is why, according to published reports, the Cubs do not want to trade Carlos Pena, Marlon Byrd or Aramis Ramirez. We also can not forget that Hendry does not want to trade Jeff Baker either. Apparently Hendry and company believe that those four players will be key elements in guiding this team back to the playoffs and making a World Series Run. Don’t ask me how Hendry feels this team can compete next year with pretty much the same pieces, when they are currently chasing the Houston Astros for the worst record in baseball. The only changes would be swapping out Tyler Colvin or Fukudome and maybe replacing Fielder or Pujols for Pena. Is that enough to compete next year? Perhaps, but there is a lot that needs to go right for the Cubs in order for them to compete with such little change in the roster.
With so few changes, the Cubs can compete for a playoff spot. You heard me right, they can compete for a playoff spot, if everything goes right for them. That means that Aramis Ramirez needs to contribute earlier than June like he did this year. They will need Alfonso Soriano to contribute in more than just April, and Pena (assuming he is here) to also start producing earlier in the season instead of waiting until May. That is only the start of what needs to go right for the Cubs, and we haven’t even started in on the problems on the pitching staff.
For all those reasons, the Cubs should have been in full fledged fire sale mode waving the white flag up and down the streets, and yelling come and get it as if they were serving dinner. Everyone and anyone should have been on the table for any and all interested parties, except for maybe Starlin Castro. Perhaps everyone was on the table, and they were not getting any offers for any of the players they waned to move.
From various reports, we have heard that the Anaheim Angels really wanted Ramirez, but he does not want to leave the ball club. Another player who was requested in a trade was Kerry Wood, whom the Phillies made an enticing offer for, so much so that Hendry went to Wood to seek his approval. However, much like with the Ramirez trade talks, Wood chose to void the trade because he wanted to stay with the Cubs. There are two players who other teams wanted that decided they would rather bask in the glow of being a Cub than going to a contender.
Nothing against either player deciding to do so, as they are both well within their rights. Ramirez, as has been discussed, used his 5-10 rights to block any trade, and Wood used his no trade clause, which he was given after giving a very generous discount, to make his decision. Would have been nice to get some good young prospects, but the decisions have been made.
Then we have the two players who the Cubs were practically begging people to take away practically for free. The Cubs offered to pay a huge chunk of the contracts owed to both Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, and still got no takers. One such team to turn down the Cubs, was the New York Yankees who print money. If they do not want him for free, that should speak volumes.
If there were other offers made for some of the remaining players, who Hendry did not want to keep, the reports of the interest in them never surfaced. If you are hopeful to compete for a division crown, much less a World Series title, having a team filled with players no one wants is not a good way to start that success run.
Sure, the Cubs could make a few moves in the off season, but unless there are some other trades made in the August Waiver period, or in the off season, this team will not compete next year. The Cubs have some serious needs that must be addressed if they have any realistic dreams of competing next year. Just replacing Fukudome with Colvin and possibly even replacing Pena with either Pujols or Fielder will not be nearly enough.
Yesterday was a very busy day in the world of the Chicago Cubs. Before they lost the final game to the Milwaukee Brewers, they traded right fielder Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians, along with roughly $4 Million and in return they got a pair of under achieving minor league prospects. Not a great return on our investment, but in the long run, what did you really expect? The Cubs save close to a million on what is owed, something they can stash away for a rainy day and look towards the future as they play Tyler Colvin everyday to see just how good or bad, he really is. This is something fans have been clamoring for all season, and now they get their wish. However, the trade of Fukudome does not mean that the Cubs are done dealing players, and that means my trade series continues today with another potential trade candidate, third baseman Aramis Ramirez!
For the past few weeks, Ramirez has practically gone from one end of the spectrum to the other as far as being traded is concerned. A few weeks ago, the though of trading him began and ended with him simply saying that he would not approve a trade at all. He wanted to stay here in Chicago and play for the Cubs for the remainder of his career. The main reason, according to what he said, was that he wanted to stay in Chicago for his family. Completely understandable, he earned his right to veto any trade by earning his no trade rights with the 5/10 clause (five years with your current team, and 10 years in the majors). Last week, his agent came out, speaking for Ramirez, and said that the slugging third baseman might consider approving a trade in August once his family returned to the Dominican Republic for the children’s school year. Then we have the reports from yesterday where A-Ram admitted following the loss to the Brewers, that he would consider waiving his no trade rights, even before August. Then late last night the agent for Ramirez said that he was misquoted and still was intent on not waiving his no trade rights. So he has gone full circle in the past week or two. That means anything and everything can happen.
Never before have I seen more of a split in the fan base, than I have these past few weeks with Ramirez. Half the fan base wants to trade him and get some good prospects back for him, while the other half not only wants him to stick around, but want him to be re-signed. Whichever side you are on, I can honestly say that I do not think that you could be wrong. Both sides have a legitimate argument, and both situations make sense.
For those wanting to keep him, you will not find a better third baseman available in the off season than Ramirez. You will not be able to upgrade whatsoever if you chose to trade away the best third baseman we have had since the mid 1970s when the legendary Ron Santo manned the hot corner. Then there is also the argument that the cupboard is practically bare in terms of third base prospects. The talk about Josh Vitters has seem to run dry, and there really is not another potential replacement for Ramirez in the farm system outside of the possibility of Marquez Smith, but his future may very well be as a second baseman. So why not keep Rammy for another year or two, maybe three.
That is where those who wish him to be traded come in. Everything depends on how close the Cubs are to competing for the World Series. If they are within a year or two of competing seriously, then by all means keep Ramirez. However, if not, you will not have a better opportunity to trade him than you have right now. He is hitting the cover off the ball and could bring you a big load of prospects who could be the very cornerstone to any rebuilding project you have in mind. He could easily bring you a young pitcher who is bursting at the seems with talent, or a couple of position players who along with Starlin Castro could finally make all Cub fan’s dreams come true.
If Ramirez is traded, one likely destination could very well be the Anaheim Angels, who have pretty much been the main team perusing him. However, knowing that Ramirez has not been too keen to accept a trade, they may not have made an actual offer, which is why the Cubs have not approached him as of yet. However, with his comments yesterday that could all very well change. With the trade deadline only two days away, the Cubs better act fast if they want to trade him to the highest bidder, assuming he actually approves the trade. After the deadline passes though, he may not be moved. The chances of the team who wants him actually claiming him become slim, and the chance of a deal all hinge on the waiver process.
However, if the Cubs do decide to keep him past the trade deadline, and are unable to move him in August, everything depends on what the Cubs decide to do with his option year. One would think that if they do not try to trade him, that they would want him to comeback for at least another year, or they might turn down the option and see if the are able to renegotiate a new deal or let him walk away.
One way or the other, Ramirez will play a part in the Cubs future.
After nearly two months I am back with yet another blog. What can I say, I have been a complete lazy bum as of late, and I have not given the attention to my blog for the Chicago Cubs that I should be. I will not make excuses for my lack of blogs, but come on, watching this complete suckfest game after game, would you want to spend even more time on them? Okay, so that was an excuse, and that will be the last one that I give, at least for myself. No more looking back, the time has come to look forward. Not only for myself, but for the Cubs organization as a whole. If you are ready, we can once again continue our path into the World Series Dreaming view of the Cubs.
If you can remember back far enough, about a month and a half ago, I wrote a blog about waiting until the year after next. In that blog I wrote how I felt was the best case scenario for the Cubs chances to be a competitive team again, and when fans can start to see a shimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. In case you do not want to look back or remember that far back, allow me to summarize for you. In my mindset, whether I am right or wrong, I see very little chance of the Cubs being competitive again until the year 2013 when all of these current long termed contracts, save for Alfonso Soriano, will be completely off the books and our beloved Cubs can start anew, hopefully not signing mega-length contracts again like we did for our vilified aging left fielder.
In current news, the Cubs have finally put together a winning streak. We have been teased with such a thing several times this year with winning two in a row, but never have we been able to celebrate such an accomplishment. Sure, we have swept series, two in fact, of the one game and two game caliber, but never have we been able to put together the elusive winning streak. No longer can we saw that, as yesterday some fans celebrated like the Cubs had just won the World Series! To be honest, I smiled a bit as well, and who can blame any of the Cub fans for feeling at least a little overjoyed with finally accomplishing the seemingly impossible feat.
But in an honest moment, I must confess that I felt a little disappointed when all was said and done as well. While I love my Cubs, and I enjoy each and every single win that we are able to rack up, all that win did for us yesterday was to keep us from acquiring the number one pick in next years Amateur Draft. Do not misunderstand what I am saying, I am not hoping for losses. But in a lost year, and who can call this season anything but that, the Cubs need to look towards the future and to start the rebuilding process which will be able to being in the year 2013. That includes building the farm system, which is built primarily on the draft. At the moment, yesterday’s win moved the Cubs into the third spot in the draft. Still a good pick, assuming there is enough amazing talent to last, but usually in every draft there is only one sure fire stud that you can say without a doubt will be a future star. With the Cubs currently holding the third pick, unless the Houston Astros and Baltimore Oriels suffer major brain cramps, they will have very little chance of drafting that player.
Add that into the report from Bruce Miles, who was on the weekly “Hit and Run” show yesterday morning on 670 The Score, which said that Cub fans should not expect any major moves before the deadline, and yesterday was a gloomy day despite the win which brought such happiness to Cubs Nation. In my opinion, not trading as many of these players is a massive mistake. Move as many of these older veterans as you can, and save as much money as possible. I fully understand that some players will be more difficult to move based on the size of their contracts, Soriano for example, but even if the Cubs must eat $40 Million of his remaining $60 Million owed between now and the end of 2014 (roughly $6 Million left for this year and $18 Million each of the next three years) you are still saving $20 Million which can be used on players to fill out the roster.
While every fan has their own personal favorites, only one player should even be considered untouchable, and that is Starlin Castro; although some fans have made a solid argument why even he should be considered a trade candidate if the right deal came about.
That being said, there are at least five players whom the Cubs should move if the opportunity should arise, and clear some salary off of the books. This shouldn’t be too hard for you to figure out which five, but I will let you know anyway.
The Cubs should look into moving all three starting outfielders, yes that includes fan favorite Marlon Byrd, and both corner infielders. I know that in the past Aramis Ramirez has stated that he will not accept a trade because he loves the city of Chicago and the fans of the Cubs, but recently his agent has come out and acknowledged that he may in fact consider a trade in August once his family leaves for the Dominican Republic for the children to return to school.
Fans may object to trading the players who are producing when they should be looking into getting rid of those players who are not. What they need to realize that teams chasing a pennant will want those very players who are producing and not a player who is not putting up the desired numbers.
There are several other players whom I know Cub fans would not mind seeing traded, but those are the top five in my opinion whom should be moved for one reason or another. I will get into why I feel each one of those five should be traded over the next five days. Yep that is a promise that you will get a fresh blog every day this week as I try to get back in the habit of updating my blog on a regular basis.
For now, there are only six days left until the non-waiver trade deadline. Stay tuned, there may be a trade made by our Cubs at any moment, or we may just see out beloved boys in blue stand pat and hold out hope that the team catches fire!
With Tom Ricketts now entering the second full year as owner of the Chicago Cubs, the fans are ready to start passing judgment. As a matter of fact, they started passing judgment on Ricketts during and after his very first year as the owner of the team. How fair or unfair this is, boils down to each and every person and their own personal opinions. However, allow me to go on the record here and now and tell you just how unfair the fans are being for calling him out already in response to the Cubs and their failure to be a competent team in 2010, and having less than stellar expectations for 2011.
In the mind of some fans, they expected immediate results and a complete turn around as soon as Ricketts officially became the owner of the team. They wanted him to immediately fire Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry, start releasing various players and to spend millions of dollars to bring some top players to the club and turn them into a contender. They expected him to turn the Cubs into the New York Yankees of the National League. Unfortunately, that was not a realistic demand. To be honest, that is still not a realistic demand for the fans to make of him.
Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry screwed over the financial books for the Cubs for a few years with his mad spending in 2007 and 2008. He left them with a king sized payroll which tied the financial hands of the Cubs and whoever would have would up owning them for a few years until the contracts all expired. While fans all blame Hendry for signing all these players to the contracts that were handed out like candy, there is one thing you need to keep in mind. For one, the Tribune Company, which was owned by Sam Zell at the time, told Hendry to spend like there was no tomorrow in order to pump up the team’s value in order to sell at a higher price. If he had not done so, he would have been fired and someone else would have done what Zell wanted. Blame Hendry all you want, but when your boss tells you to do something, you follow orders if you want to keep your job.
Actually, if you want to dig a little deeper, Hendry is not completely to blame for the Alfonso Soriano deal either. Current Chicago Legend, John McDonough was the man who pulled the trigger and actually finished working on that deal for Soriano. Being the new president of the Cubs, he wanted to make a big splash with the team. That is exactly what he did when he signed the over paid slugger.
Regardless of who is to blame for the money problems the Cubs are in, I fully believe that the fans criticism of Ricketts is coming in far too early. He is not a miracle worker and can not make immediate changes over night, or even in a year or two. His first year asking for massive changes was just completely unreasonable. The man just spent $900 Million on the Cubs, and in my mind over paid for the team, and fans wanted more. They were hoping he would clean house of the overpaid and over rated talent that was festering on the roster and bring in bigger and better super stars. That was not a reasonable request when you sit down and think rationally about things.
On the other hand, he has also made a questionable moves which does paint him in a bad light. Trading for Matt Garza goes completely against his “build from within” philosophy. With that trade, our farm system turned from one that has a number of young and promising up and coming talent, to one that is very bare. The Cubs still have a few good prospects, but they lost their best ones in the over paying for Garza, who according to all the advanced statistical analysis is almost the same pitcher as Randy Wells. This trade is not a good way to go about building from within if that was your mindset. At the moment, he seems far more interested in promoting the product instead of trying to win ball games. Which means, if that is the case, the Cub fans are in for a world of hurt for a long period of time. If this continues, the Cubs will be returning to what life was like under the Pre-Zell Tribune company.
In my honest opinion, you can not really start to judge the job that Ricketts is doing until at least the start of the 2012 season. The reason I say that season, is because the financial handcuffs get loosened quite a bit on Ricketts. Over $40 Million will be coming off the books and he will have some money to work with. Granted, he will still have a few more years of Carlos Zambrano and Soriano to deal with, but there will be plenty of money that he will be able to play with. Right now, he has very little money and roster space to play around with. He has not been able to do much of anything other than figure out how to upgrade Wrigley Field and keep the place from falling apart.
If Ricketts is serious about turning this franchise around, he needs to go about business better; and the sooner the better. Year one I can write off and clear him of blame for the disastrous outcome of the season. He said that he wanted to sit back and let the baseball people underneath him take care of the baseball business. I can even accept that he kept Hendry around, as he knows the team and what they need better than anyone else does at the moment. While that was not a very popular move in the minds of the fans, I can at least understand the decision.
With the second year underway, and prospects still not looking too bright, I can still clear him of almost all blame and criticism as he is still buried under the mess that he was left by Zell and his demands to beef up the payroll. He was left with a big bill to pay and he is still suffering from the contractual obligations that were given to him.
However, next year, the excuses for him will come to and end as he will be losing around $57 Million coming off the payroll when the season comes to an end. The following players will most likely be gone: Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Carlos Silva, Carlos Pena, John Grabow, Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood, Jeff Baker and Koyie Hill. With all these players leaving, the Cubs will have plenty of space for some of their young and up and coming prospects to finally show what they can do. What this also means, is that the Cubs will have plenty of money to play around with, to add the players to fill the voids that the farm system can not fill.
In my books, Ricketts get a complete pass for 2010. He also gets a pass for 2011, though that comes with a suspicious eye. His third season, 2012, is when all the possible excuses come to an end. That is when he will finally be able to take charge and be able to make some serious roster moves.
The Ricketts Era may have stumbled out of the starting gate, but the race is not over.
Today, because you are finished with my look at the individual positions and who should be starting for the Chicago Cubs, I will give you my thoughts on what I feel would be the perfect line up to run out everyday. Thankfully this is made much easier because Cubs Manager Mike Quade and I are in full agreement on who should be playing everyday. The one thing we do not agree on, is how they should be lined up. So far in Spring Training, based on the line up that has been run out most often, Quade is looking at running out this line up.
Pitcher of the day,
While I agree with three of the nine spots in the line up, I feel that the others should be shuffled around for reasons that I am about to explain. In my mind, the line up should look like this.
Kosuke Fukudome: This one Quade has right. With his precise at the plate, there is no one better to hit lead off. What he lacks in batting average, which tends to be his main down fall with the fans, he makes up for in drawing walks. That is the main objective for any lead off hitter. Get on base for the big boppers behind you.
Geovany Soto: Cuttently, Quade has him batting seventh in the lineup. In my honest opinion, this is a big mistake. He is the teams best on base percentage guy and should be at the top of the line up batting second. Much like with Fukudome should be batting lead off, getting on base is the most important thing for your first and second hitters. The reason Soto should be hitting second, is because he does just that. Because he has a keen eye at the plate, and has a fair amount of power, pitchers will need to pitch to him very carefully if he is hitting second. They do not want to walk him, and give you best run producers a chance to drive him in, so they will have to throw him pitches to hit. Doing so could cost them dearly.
Aramis Ramirez: The Cubs need a power hitter in the three hole, and that just is not Marlon Byrd. These two men should be flipped in the order. History has shown that if there are men on base for Ramirez, that chances are he is going to drive them in. He is the Cubs best run producer, and has been for the past few years, and needs to bat in the first inning. With Fukudome and Soto hitting in front of him, he will typically always have someone on base for him to drive in.
Marlon Byrd: I know what you are thinking, if Byrd isn’t powerful enough to hit in the three spot, why hit him clean up? I think he should hit clean up for those exact reasons. He is a good line drive hitter and can move guys over and drive them in without the use of a home run. In some instances that is a better weapon than a home run hitter. He gives you a different aspect to think about. If Ramirez is unable to drive the previous guys in, Byrd almost certainly will. Besides, I feel that having power back to back is a waste and kind of is easier on the pitcher who does not need to chance his thought process when the batters change. You typically pitch all power hitters the same way.
Carlos Pena: He should be hitting fifth, exactly where Quade has him. Left handed power in this spot is very nice. A line drive hitter right in front of him could mean that there is typically someone on base for him to try and drive in. While his average has not been very good the past few years, he still has the power numbers to make him a big threat with men on base.
Alfonso Soriano: Once again, Quade gets the decision right to bat him here. While he is no longer the big 40 home run threat that he once was, he is still very capable of hitting at least 20 home runs. He will never have another good year of stealing bases either, which is why he is not batting higher in the line up. Because he still has some decent power, he still has to be considered a threat at the plate.
Blake Dewitt: He is not a strong hitter, and can occasionally draw a walk. I will not tiptoe around this guy at all, he is our weakest hitter. The reason I have him hitting seventh instead of eighth is because you do not want two easy outs back to back. Perhaps with another year of professional baseball under his belt he will be able to surprise us with something. Either way, I am not expecting much out of him. Only good thing I can say about him, is that he is better than Ryan Theriot because he can occasionally draw a walk.
Starlin Castro: The very reason Quade likes him hitting second is why he should be hitting eighth in the order. Someone who can hit at a high average at the bottom of the order is a good way to help turn the line up over and get back to the top of the order. If you have three low average guys at the bottom of the order (no Soto is not a low average hitter, but his power says he should be hitting higher) you will have three easy outs all in a row. That is something pitchers dream of, you are basically handing them an easy inning. Throwing a .300 hitter here helps keep the offense rolling. Add to the mix that he can draw a walk, which is a very important aspect for anyone who is going to hit in the eight hole. Pitchers will tend to pitch around this hitter in order to get to the easiest out in the line up, the pitcher. Yes, the pitcher is the easiest out even if we are talking about Carlos Zambrano. This guy needs to get on base for the pitcher to move over with a sacrifice bunt and to reset the line up.
A line up like this would give the Cubs the best chance to win on a daily basis. Granted, that is assuming everything works the way they should. While we may not have the most talented line up in baseball, I believe that you can still make noise if you put things in the proper order. Perhaps Quade’s line up is better than my purposed one.
After a brief hiatus from taking a look at the various players who will be starting for the Chicago Cubs, we return to examining those who will be taking the field day in and day out. Today, the focus is placed on the third baseman for the Cubs, Aramis Ramirez. Just like he has been in every previous year, he is one of the two biggest cogs in the offensive machine. If this team is to go anywhere this year, Ramirez will be one of the major driving forces leading the way. If he is unable to come back to form, and return to the level we have become used to seeing him perform, then this season will be a lost cause.
Ramirez just has not been the same since injuring his shoulder early in the 2009 campaign in a game against the Milwaukee Brewers. He missed a few months, but when his shoulder was rehabilitated and he was able to get back into the everyday lineup, he eventually returned with a bang. He looked like the Ramirez of old, and even came close to what his career statistics say he should be at, if you were to expand them to a full season. In the mind of the Cubs fans, all was well and he would be fully prepared to deliver a traditional Ramirez year in the 2010 season. As you all know, that just did not happen.
Last year, Ramirez stumbled out of the starting gate, and put up the worst offensive year of his professional career. He was racking up strike outs at a rapid pace, and leaving runners on base and quickly deflating the hopes of the fans. He was quickly becoming thought of as an automatic out every time he stepped into the batters box, that is how bad things got for him. He fell so far in the hearts and minds of some Cubs fans, that he was placed in the same category as fans place Carlos Zambrano, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome; overpaid for a much too long contract. Personally, I am not one of these fans who believe this about any of those players, but who am I to argue and tell someone their opinion is wrong?
Thankfully, for his sake, Ramirez was able to put together a pretty good end of the season. He started showing signs of snapping out of his season long funk, and began looking like the Ramirez of old; granted he did so in garbage time when the Cubs were all but eliminated, but he showed signs of being back in form.
For those of you who believe in the myth of the contract year explosion of stats (I do not believe in this myth, but I wont begrudge those of you who do), this is your time to see just how real that idea is. Technically, Ramirez is in a contract year who needs to convince the Cubs to pick up his $16 Million dollar option for the 2012 season. In order for the Cubs to do this, Ramirez needs to return to his 30 plus home runs with 100 plus RBI. If the Cubs are going to contend this year, those are the stats he must put up. This is a very simple win win scenario for both sides. If Ramirez earns his option year in the Cubs eyes, the chances are very good that the team is in contention. However, the opposite is also true. If he does not live up to expectations and fails to earn his option year, the Cubs are likely out of the running for the division title.
Cubs Manager Mike Quade has already announced that Ramirez will be hitting cleanup for the Cubs in 2011, which is a great place for him. With his typical power and run producing skills, there could not be a better place for him, again if he is the Ramirez we have all come to know and love. While the nickname belongs to Jeff Samardzija, I have taken to calling Ramirez “shark”. The reason behind this, is because when he is in form, he smells RBI on the bases like a shark smells blood in the water. He is an RBI chaser, whom most teams would give anything to have in the heart of their order. Thankfully, for the 2011 season, Ramirez is still a member of the Cubs, and will anchor their offense.
For this season, I honestly see Ramirez having a rebound year. Not because he is in a contract year, but because he is a tremendous offensive force. With Marlon Byrd hitting in front of him, and Carlos Pena behind him, Ramirez is surrounded by talent and should have plenty of opportunity to deliver a standout offensive year. I can easily see him returning to the 30-100 campaign that we are used to seeing. That is not my wearing my Cubs colored glasses, that is an honest assessment of what I think he can and will do in the year to come. I think he will do more than enough to earn his 2012 contract with the Cubs,
That can only mean good things for the year to come, don’t you think?
While the general consensus among fans is that the 2011 season is going to be nothing more than a lost cause for the Chicago Cubs, the truth of the matter is that General Manager Jim Hendry might very well have put his team into the perfect position.
I know very well what most fans think about Hendry, and with due cause because of some of his most recent mistakes, such as Milton Bradley as well as the very long contract that was given to Alfonso Soriano. He has also turned many fans against him, by handing out long term contracts with no trade clauses like they are candy. However, you have give the devil his due for some recent moves.
For one, long time fan favorite Kerry Wood is once again a Cub, and he was brought in at a price that is almost unimaginable. While there are many reasons why Wood is back, such as Ron Santo’s passing and his immense love of the team and the city, do not discount his long term relationship with Hendry. While we will never know for sure, I personally do not think there is a chance he signs with the Cubs again if Hendry is not here, at least not for the outstanding discount we were given. A one year, low dollar deal is exactly what the doctor ordered for this team, and Hendry did his job perfectly.
Signing a player of Carlos Pena’s stature to a low dollar, one year deal was a thing of beauty, showing some actual great foresight in a time when that is what is needed. Once again, Hendry filled a need on his ball club with a one year deal at a price that is very reasonable for someone who can hit 30 homeruns and drive in close to 100 RBI every year. Again though, the key in this signing is yet another one year deal.
Many fans have voiced their displeasure about Hendry’s excessive spending the past few years, and have voiced their opinions on the deals he has made for the upcoming season. They would rather, and typically I would be agreeing, that Hendry would save the money and use what funds they do have for a chance in 2012 and beyond. As I said, I would typical agree with this mindset; I would love nothing more than to see our opening day roster filled with the kids from our farm system. The deals given to Pena and Wood will slow down their arrival, but only temporarily as they were only given one year deals.
The way I see things, the Cubs are in a perfect win-win situation for the upcoming season. The moves made can, in fact, help the team compete in the year to come. Pena can hit his normal 30 home runs and drive in his typical 80-100 RBI, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano can have rebound years as well, which would give the cub a very potent offense. This could very well be a pipe dream, but nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. Those three could help breath life into the Cubs and lead them to a divisional championship, and once you get into the playoffs anything can (and usually does) happen.
That is one side of the coin though, only half of the win-win scenario I was taking about. If, as many predict, the Cubs are to fall flat on their faces, they are in perfect position to be the center of attention come the July 31 trade deadline.
Having several players in the final year of their contracts is very attractive to contending teams. If they are in need of a serious bat and a power boost, Ramirez and Pena would look very attractive. Another player who might draw some interest would be Kosuke Fukudome, who would garner some attention from a team which with very little left to be owed to him. Carlos Silva could also get a few looks if he is able to put up a first half similar to his 2010 campaign. Regardless if these players are traded or not, there will be around $40 million coming off the books at the end of the season.
There are several other players who are also on the final year of their current deals, who do not make much who could also be attractive in the right circumstances and the right team.
One player whom could be very attractive at the trade deadline, because of price and talent, is Wood. However, I do not see the Cubs trading him away unless they get his blessing. Coming home to the Cubs at such a discount, as well as his saying he wants to be a Cub for the rest of his life, I would be very surprised to see him traded away mid season. While there is not a no trade clause in his contract, at least there has not been one reported, there may very well be a gentleman’s agreement that he will not be traded. If he was, he could very well consider that as a slap to the face after giving up multi-millions by signing here.
Whether or not the Cubs are able to trade away any or all of these expiring contracts, they are set to be in a prime position to have a massive youth movement come 2012, with more than enough cash to spend on a key free agent or two if there is a need to fill a void.
While the Cubs are building a team to put on the field for the 2011 season, their sights may be more on what is to come in 2012 and all the possibilities which will be a head of them.