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.
As we move closer to opening day for the 2011 baseball season, fans across baseball are starting their discussions as far as who should make the team, and who should not. So far, if you have been following my blogs the past few weeks, you will have seen who I feel will make the club, and who should be starting where amongst them. I have yet to take a look at the pitching staff, as there are still several spots open for competition, and there are a few candidates that could make either the rotation or the bullpen. So I am holding off on those topics of conversation for likely another week.
However, I must clarify my positioning on these players. While I blog about them being players who I feel will make the team, as they are obvious choices, that is not saying that I want them to make the team. Much like with every fan with every other team across baseball, there are players who are likely to make the Chicago Cubs who fans, for the most part, want to see sent packing. In case you are unsure who they are, the three musketeers are Carlos Silva, Jeff Samardzija and Koyie Hill.
There is not a day that goes by that I do not hear someone mention that one of these three should be cut, as they will be doing more harm than good for the team. They do not care how much money they would need to be given, nor what the aftermath would be following their departure, they just want them gone faster than the time I would need to actually write this blog.
With Hill, he is making around $850,000 and would be the easiest person who could be cut, with the least amount of financial damage. He would also be the player who would be the most easily replaced on the roster, because we have a good young catcher in Wellington Castillo would be able to easily do just as much as Hill on any given day. Being the back up catcher, you never want to see him in the game more than what is necessary, so if there was any sort of dip in production from the backup catchers role, that would be almost too small to see unless you study the statistical lines day by day and break down the WAR numbers to the millionth percentile. Basically, there would be no drop off if this move was made. Unfortunately, because he was tendered a contract, the Cubs management team obviously feels he adds value to the team.
Samardzija is an absolute eye sore to the roster, and has been ever since he was first brought up to the majors. He has never shown the promise that scouts saw in him when he was drafted, and continues to give the fans of the Cubs stomach pains every time his name is brought up. Unfortunately, he is out of options and can not be sent back to the minor leagues, so the team would have to try to sneak him through waivers if they chose not to carry him this yera. That should not be a problem because what team would take him and that contract? If he clears waivers they can send him back to the minors, or chose to walk away. In either of those cases he would still be paid which is the same as just deciding to outright cut him and eat the $3.5 Million that he is still owed. Sadly, they are apparently deciding to keep him on the roster and throw him into the bullpen where he can hopefully do the least amount of damage. Personally, I would only use him in mop up duty when the Cubs have a big lead or a unthinking deficit that is not likely to be overcome. Cubs could easily replace him, because he has not done much to warrant his stay on the Cubs roster. Surely the team could find a pitcher that can do the same job, only better in the minor league system.
As far as Silva goes, the best thing I can say about him, is that at least he is not Milton Bradley, though he is hated in the clubhouse almost as much, if not more, that Bradley ever was. The standing ovation they were reported to give Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry when he announced that Bradley was gone, will easily be repeated if the same news is given about Silva. When he was brought here in a trade last off season, fans were just thrilled to get rid of Bradley and did not care what, if anything, they got out of Silva. Fortunately for the Cubs, they got a hot start out of the oversized pitcher, and he started 8-0. With the Cubs seemingly looking like a nose diving team, I was leading the charge of the thought that he should immediately be traded while he was actually looking like a competent pitcher again. Obviously that did not happen, and he is still around tormenting those fans who thought that he should not have been traded. Much like with Samardzija, he would be a tough pill to swallow as he is still owed about $8.5 Million (which includes the $2 Million buy out). Finding a replacement for him should not be difficult either as he is a pretty pathetic pitcher. Thomas Diamond, or another young gun could easily slide into his spot and do things more efficiently as well.
If you add up all the money that these less than wanted players are to make in 2011, you have a grand total of close to $13 Million. Writing that high dollar amount on a check would be painful no matter how much money you have. Now the thought process would be, that you are going to have to pay them the money anyway, so why not just pay them to go away and replace them with someone of more talent. One flaw, is because you would be paying them, as well as the players who would be taking their place. Granted, their replacements would all be minor leaguers who make the league minimum so there would not be too much more to spend.
Sadly, I do not think that these players will be cut between now and opening day, so we will sadly have to live with them for the duration of the season. However, there is good news. All three of them will likely be gone come the end of the season, and that will be $13 Million coming off the books; granted that would be seven months later than what would have been appreciated. The only one of them who even has a glimmer of hope to remain with the team next year is Hill. But that would be very unlikely as the Cubs do have Castillo who is banging on the door waiting for his opportunity to stick with a big league team.
Maybe the logic that these players are bad will strike the Cubs, and they will surprise me. Perhaps they will give the fan base what they are desperately craving and satisfy their taste for blood. Considering the talent level of these three is severely lacking, that could only help the prospects for the 2011 season.
As Spring Training continues, so does my look at the team we can expect to see leaving Mesa, Arizona. Having covered the players who will be tagged as the every day starters, as well as the biggest threat coming off the bench, Tyler Colvin, the time has come to look at the remainder of the bench. If a team is going to be successful, they need to have a deep bench, and have some sort of depth. Today, we will see if that is the case for the Chicago Cubs, or if they will have a problem in the upcoming season.
For the Cubs, they will have a five man bench, which most likely will consist of Colvin, Jeff Baker (who will be in a platoon with Blake DeWitt), Koyie Hill, and there is currently a battle for the last two spots. One battle is for the remaining outfield spot between Reed Johnson and Fernando Perez. The last infield spot is between Augie Ojeda and Darwin Barney. Both Johnson and Ojeda were big fan favorites when they were with the team in their first stints, and have regained their fandom with their return on minor league contracts. Personally, my choice for the last two spots would be Perez and Barney, because they are both young players and have a lot more upside to offer for the season. However, because of their experience, Johnson and Ojeda might have an edge in taking the final two spots.
Sadly, outside of Colvin, the Cubs have absolutely no depth to work with this season; at least not with the current batch of players they have contending for a spot. None of them are anything special, nor would they give you much hope if they need to play an extended period of games.
Having already covered Baker in my blog on second base, and with Colvin already being singled out in my last blog, I will not touch on them, because I would be repeating myself. So I move on to the other players who will fill out the bench.
There is only other player who is guaranteed to have a job this year, though I would much rather see Wellington Castillo, but that is not my choice. With Hill, you have a dependable defensive catcher who can call a good game, sadly for him that is where the praises come to an end. He adds almost nothing offensively, and is a massive drop off from Geovany Soto. I do not mind him getting the occasional start, but if we have to see him too much behind the dish, the Cubs will be in for a very long season, and likely one that does not offer a chance at a playoff birth, let alone a division title. We can only hope that Soto stays healthy all year, and Cubs Manager Mike Quade does not feel the need to play Hill nearly as often as former manager Lou Piniella thought he should play.
In the outfield, you have Johnson and Perez competing for the final spot. Johnson is getting the support of the fan base, as well as one current member of the Cubs Marlon Byrd. He has the experience, and fans have a pretty good idea of what they can expect to get out of him on a daily basis, even though he is an injury risk and is getting up their in age. With Perez, he is a player who is of the mold of what Sam Fuld was. He brings with him a good glove, and a fair amount of speed. If you feel as many of us do, that this is a rebuilding year, then Perez should get the gig so he can learn on the job and be better prepared for the years to come. If you think that the Cubs are going to be a contender, then the reverse is true and Johnson should get the gig.
The last position battle is between Ojeda and Barney, they will be the main backup for Aramis Ramirez and Starlin Castro. While Ojeda is the seasoned veteran he does not add much offensive, though he does have a pretty decent glove which can aid in the defense. Barney, much like Perez, is a young player trying to learn on the job. I believe that he is an all around better player than Ojeda, and should ultimately get the job over him. I can not see anything that Ojeda does better than Barney. However, if Quade would rather have another veteran presence on the team, then there is no question that Ojeda should get the job.
As you can see, I am highly unimpressed with anyone on our bench, outside of Colvin. Our every day players are strong enough to get the job done, and we can live with a player from the bench giving them the occasional day off, but that is all we can afford. If there is any sort of significant injury to any one of our everyday players, our team will very likely be sunk. There is just not enough talent on the bench to carry a team if they are called upon too often. With the history of injury some of our players have had, most obvious with Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano, we could very well be in for a very long, and disappointing season. All because our bench is filled with far too many deficiencies.
With the 2009 Chicago Cubs season all but over, the attention of the fans, and hopefully General Manager Jim Hendry, will be how to fix the mess that they currently find themselves in. As a whole, I honestly do not believe that much needs to be done; only a little bit of tinkering. Sure Hendry needs to pull off a miracle trade in order to get rid of Milton Bradley, but other then that, I believe that our team does not need too much work. With most of our team already in place, and with the key pieces already locked in, all that remains is to find one or two key elements which will bring us back to the championship form the Cubs found themselves in the previous two years.
The first, and in my eyes the most important, piece to the championship puzzle that Hendry must bring into the fold, is a true leadoff hitter. The Cubs need an explosive bat at the top of the order that will be able to put the team in the best position possible to score early and often. They need a player who not only has the ability to hit and get on base at a high level, but also has the ability to steal second or third when they get on base. Presently, the Cubs have two options for leading off, neither of which fits all three areas of need.
With Kosuke Fukudome, they have a player who is able to fill the need for a great on base percentage. The downfall for having Fukudome lead off is because he has not proven that he can hit at a high level. His batting average, while slightly improved over last year, still sits at a mediocre .256. Even if he were able to show that he can hit closer to .300, he lacks the true potential to be a stolen base threat. Fukudome, while he can be a decent number two hitter, should not be looked upon to be the leadoff hitter for the Cubs next year. His qualifications do not meet the standard of what the ball club needs.
As far as Ryan Theriot, much like with Fukudome, he does not fit the ideal description of a leadoff hitter either. While he is able to hit at a respectable level and get on base close to a .350 average, he does not have the true speed to make him a stolen base threat either. While he does lead the team with 21 steals, only being caught seven times, he does not run enough to put the fear into the opposing team’s pitchers or catchers. His ideal position in the batting order would be either second or eighth in my eyes. While you want to take advantage of his ability to get on base for your sluggers, we saw in 2008 what his presence at the bottom of the order could do for our offense. With Fukudome batting second in a line up I would write out, Theriot would be a nice fit in the eight hole.
The Cubs could also look at using some of their minor leaguers to fill the void at leadoff. This option is very intriguing, as he has shown to be a great defensive player, making several amazing plays in the outfield. While his batting average is still a bit lower then you would like to see your leadoff hitter have, his on base percentage is amazing, hovering around .380. The one draw back, is he apparently does not have enough speed to be the stolen base threat the team requires. However, we do not know fully what he can do, as he has only been allowed to steal base three times, of which he was caught once. I would not be opposed to his leading off, if they were unable to find a suitable replacement.
If none of these three option fit Manager Lou Piniella’s desire, that leaves us with a need to be found outside the organization, and a limited availability for positions to play. The Cubs need to find a leadoff hitter who can play one of three or four possible positions. Fukudome can play either Right or Center field, and while Theriot has mostly been used at Short Stop, he is also capable of playing second base. While there are many options that will be available for the Cubs to sign once the free agency period starts in November, most of them are already in the 30s, and will all come with a hefty price tag. The list is long, and I will not list them at the moment, but rest assured, I do have my favorites already picked out, and I will let you know that sooner rather than later.
In today’s Chicago Sun Times, Piniella mentioned that the Cubs top priority should be to add another power bat to the middle of the order. As I mentioned, I believe that finding a true leadoff hitter should be on the top of the Cubs wish list. However, do we really need another power hitter on the team? With Alfonso Soriano being moved permanently out of the leadoff role, he would be a nice addition to the heart of the order. That is, of course, if he is able to give the team the power numbers he gave them during his time here. If he is able to do so, then the need for another power hitter becomes lower on the wish list.
Another reason the team may not need another power bat added to the lineup is Geovany Soto. While he has raised red flags with his performance this year, I for one am not willing to give up on him. He has shown exactly what he is capable of when he fully prepared for the season. He has admitted that he slacked off in the off season, and did not prepare himself the way that he should have. I am willing to write off 2009 as a rookie mistake, even though he is no longer a rookie. Lesson learned, and he has earned the chance to redeem himself with the level of play he displayed at the end of 2007 and all of 2008. All he needs to do is revert to doing whatever he did in those two years, and I believe that he will be back to everything the team expected of him. If both Soriano and Soto return to form, then there is no need whatsoever to go out and spend a lot of money on another power bat for the middle of the order. If they both fail to accomplish what the team needs from them, there are two options that could fill the bill, though I would advise against them.
In the outfield, you can play either Micah Hoffpauir or Jake Fox in Right Field. If I had to choose between the two of them, I would choose Fox over Hoffpauir, because Fox has more upside. With that being the case, I would severely advise against either one of them playing in the outfield, especially with Soriano playing in the opposite corner. The team can not, and should not, depend on an outfield which would have less than average defenders in both Left and Right Fields. While I would greatly welcome both of them to the bench, I do not want to see either as the everyday Right Fielder. Fukudome would collapse with all the ground he would have to cover in Center Field.
While you can never have enough power in the lineup, the money would be better served elsewhere. However, much like with the speedster that the Cubs should be looking for, the team would need to find a player who can hit for power, who also is able to play one of the previously mentioned four positions. Again, there are many options that may be available, but all would come with a hefty price tag, and are all in their early to mid 30s.
With the slight improvements in mind to help the everyday lineup, the focus should then move to the bench and the backups for each of the replacements. The bench portion of our team is a mess, but in a good way. The Cubs have more pieces then they know what to do with. In the outfield, assuming the Cubs sign a free agent, they have the options of re-signing Reed Johnson, Fuld, Fox and Hoffpauir. Some would question why I left out Tyler Colvin, but that is simply because of his lack of experience, and the Cubs lack of space. He would benefit well from having a little more time in the minors, mainly because he could have an everyday job playing in Triple A. If the Cubs were to sign a free agent for the outfield, chances are only one or two of these players would be on the Cubs bench, that is assuming they decide to re-sign Johnson. If the Cubs decide to have one of them be a starting outfielder, they can keep three of the players. While the Cubs said they wanted to resign Johnson, his time with the Cubs would likely come at the expense of Fuld.
If you thought that the outfield situation was a tricky one to work out, take a look at the log jam the Cubs will be facing with the infield backups. In my opinion, the Cubs need to sign a player to play second base. While Jeff Baker has played very well since coming to the team, I am not completely sold on him being the everyday player at second base. We fell into this trap last year with Mike Fontenot, thinking he would be able to produce the entire season the way we saw him perform in limited time in 2008. If we carry two backup outfielders, that limits us to only being able to carry two back up infielders. There are a few people I would love to see make the team as role players, but only one of them will get the nod, mainly because the Cubs are stuck with Aaron Miles for another year. That means that two of the following three men will not make the team, if the Cubs sign a second baseman. The Cubs can keep Baker, Fontenot or Andres Blanco. Personally, I would let Fontenot go, either by a trade or sent back to the minors. That would leave Piniella and Hendry with the tough decision between Baker and Blanco. This, of course, could all be solved if Baker becomes the starting second baseman. While I don’t know if he can be dependable as an everyday second baseman, he has got to do better then Fontenot. That would also allow us to keep Blanco on the team.
The way the starting rotation for the Cubs will likely only carry over four of the five starters from this year. Love him or hate him, Carlos Zambrano will likely return to the team next year, along with Ryan Dempster, Ted Lilly and Randy Wells. While Rich Harden would be a welcome commodity, there are far too many rumors floating around that he will not be brought back. If he is willing to give the Cubs a discount, and not demand a long term deal, he may be brought back, but according to some baseball analysts he will get a contract worth at least $10 million a year. With his injury history, that would not be a quality investment. That would leave the Cubs one starting pitcher shy, but they have a few names who could step into the role as the fifth starter for 2010.
The in house options that the Cubs can consider for the vacant starters job are Sean Marshall, Jeff Samardzija and Tom Gorzelanny. From the way the end of the season is winding down, with Samardzija and Gorzelanny getting a few starts, you would be led to believe that the competition is currently limited to these two men. While Samardzija has looked very shaky in his outings this year, out of the bullpen and with his first start, he looked impressive in his second major league start. Gorzelanny on the other hand has been more then impressive in most of his starts with the Cubs. Whether or not they will be able to fill in and give us what we need will be determined once Spring Training commences. However, if neither of them impress, they can always look to free agency, and there are a few starters out there that could be
The bullpen is another mess that needs to be fixed, however this may be fix may not be all that difficult. We have our closer in Carlos Marmol, but after him everything else is a crapshoot. While Angel Guzman has looked amazing this year, he once again ended the year with an injury. If he could stay healthy, he would be an amazing set up man for the eighth inning. John Grabow is a free agent at the end of the year, but from all things I have heard, the Cubs want to resign him. That leaves four pitchers left to fill in the remaining bullpen spots. The Cubs have a slew of young arms that could fill those roles, like Jeff Stevens and Justin Berg. They could also use Marshall as the second lefty in the bullpen. If those three all make the team, that leaves one spot open for any number of guys. However, like everywhere else, there are plenty of options to sign in free agency.
While the Cubs have needs, they don’t necessarily need to go out and sign anyone. All of their holes can be solved in house. However, over the next few days and weeks, I will break down my thoughts on the possible targets who I think the Cubs should go after for all the open spots that need to be filled before the 2010 season beings. Just to recap, those positions are: Center Field or Right Field, Second Base or Short Stop, Starting Pitchers and Relief Pitchers. All the Cubs need is a little bit of tinkering, and they will be more then fine for he following season.
While the Chicago Cubs gained ground in the Wild Card race over the past week, putting up a record of 3-3 against the New York Mets and the lowly Washington Nationals has got to deliver a fatal blow to the confidence of several fans. You would have thought, that when playing against the Nationals, the Cubs would have been able to sweep them, or at very least win two of the three games. However, that was not the case, as they lost two of three games, putting them behind the eight ball almost immediately out of the gate. They would have to sweep the Mets to get close to being back on par of where they should be at this point in my 40 game breakdown. That, however, was also not the case as they lost the final game of the series, which prevented the Cubs from sweeping the Mets. There is still plenty of time to gain the ground that was lost in the next four games of the home stand, but we would have to win all four of those games. Considering the Cubs are playing the Houston Astros for three, and the Chicago White Sox for one, that task may be easier said then done. However, there are a few things which the Cubs can do which will assist them in winning all four of the following games.
The first thing that needs to be done, to help the Cubs further their chances in winning enough games to make the playoffs, is get Jake Fox into the lineup everyday. For now, he is filling in for Alfonso Soriano in left field. With the way that Soriano has been playing this season, that is an ideal place for him to stay for the remainder of the season. However, we all know that will not be the case, so there has to be another way to keep him in the lineup. We could play him at third base when Aramis Ramirez needs a day off, as well as at first when Derrek Lee needs one as well. Throw him in right field for Milton Bradley once in a while as well, though I would not bench Bradley completely as he is playing very well lately and getting on base at a high percentage. Ideally, he would be able to play his original position well enough where he wouldn’t be a complete disaster. I am talking about playing catcher, where we are not getting much offense from at all this season, despite the recent hot streak from Koyie Hill. However, we can likely count that option out as well, as there are reasons why he was moved out from behind the plate. Watching him behind the plate trying to catch a Carlos Marmol slider gives me the cold sweats. I worry about Geovany Soto or Hill trying to catch the ball when Marmol is on the mound. No one knows where the pitches are going, and having a lesser experienced catcher behind the plate. However, this could be avoided by bringing in Soto or Hill for late inning defense. Though, I am not sure I would be comfortable with Fox behind the plate for an entire game. All I know is that I am glad this is not my decision to make.
Another thing I would do, is play Jeff Baker at second base every day. I have seen enough of Mike Fontenot to last me a lifetime, and Aaron Miles can join Fontenot on the unemployment line for all I care. Last year, everyone thought that Fontenot would be a great second baseman, and that his numbers in limited play would only get better with the more playing time he received. Obviously, everyone that wanted to see more of Fontenot was wrong. We were fooled yet again by a player who had a good half year. This is the same reason why I do not want to see Baker given the job as our second baseman next year, but for the remainder of this season, I will take what I can get. He is our best, last and only option at second base. Keep him playing, and keep Fontenot on the bench. Use him the same way you did last year, meaning very sparingly in moments where he has the highest chance of success.
Finally, after today’s outing by Carlos Zambrano, I would shut him down for a little while. His first two outings since coming off the disabled list have been nothing short of disaster. Throw Tom Gorzelanny back into the starting rotation for the time being. He has done well in his limited starts since coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and in any case, can he do any worse then what Zambrano has done these past two starts? I don’t think the Cubs would be any worse off if they started Gorzelanny instead of Zambrano. The Cubs Ace pitcher, and I use that term very loosely right now, needs some time off to clear his head. He is not doing the Cubs any favors by throwing up clunkers every time he takes the mound.
The Cubs have the pieces to make a run at the Wild Card, but their time is running out. They can not afford to lose to the teams that they should be able to beat handedly. If they continue to lose games to mediocre teams like the Nationals, they will be on the fast track to sitting at home during the off season. These next four games must end with the Cubs winning all four if the Cubs want to hold on to their slight chance to make the playoffs. While a 7-3 home stand gives us the .700 play in the final 40 game plan I laid out, you would have hoped that with the teams the Cubs were playing they would have been at a higher pace. I don’t like the chances of us winning the last four games of the home stand, but you can never be too sure. The Cubs are 5.5 games out of the Wild Card lead, and are still in fifth place.