Friday, January 30, 2009

Wait, What?

These last couple of days have confused me greatly. I thought I had a handle on what the Cubs were trying to do this offseason, but lately I have to admit I am not at all sure.

A few posts ago we talked about whether the Cubs have gotten better, well there have been more moves since then.

Ronny Cedeno and Rich Hill are now both gone. No big deal there, they were both out of options and unlikely to be big members of this club.

Rich Hill was traded to the O's last night for the infamous PTBNL (player to be named later). Surely we could have gotten a little more for Hill. Sure he struggled mightily last season and in winter ball, but he was outstanding the two seasons before that. Surely some team would have believed that they would be able to solve his problems (Texas Rangers maybe with Nolan there) and could have offered a little more.

Meanwhile Ronny Cedeno was traded to the Mariners (in Seattle where there was a 4.6 earthquake this morning, hope everyone is okay) for Aaron Heilman. Heilman is another pitcher who had a down year last year, but looked strong before that. Heilman last season was plagued by injuries, and I think that he will definitely have a bounce back season this year. If the trade had been Ronny Cedeno and Rich Hill for Aaron Heilman, I think I would still be okay with the way that this offseason is looking, but it wasn't. In fact it wasn't just Ronny Cedeno moved in the trade for Heilman. Garrett Olson was as well.

Olson, you may recall, was acquired recently by the Cubs from Baltimore for Felix Pie. It has been reported that Olson was highly coveted by the San Diego Padres. The Padres, you may have heard, are interested in possibly trading the ace of their staff and 2007 Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. The Cubs were the favorite to acquire said pitcher, as you might have been aware. Therefore, it became logical that once the Cubs acquired Olson he would soon be headed to the west coast. That was expected. What wasn't was that it would be in a trade to Seattle for a guy that projects to be bullpen help and compete for the 5th spot in the rotation.

Wait, what?

We traded a guy that was to be instrumental in the trade for a staff ace for a guy that might or might not become the number 5 guy?

Okay, Jim, I trust you, I do. But I haven't understood these moves.

Seriously, if we aren't getting Peavy, why the hell did we trade DeRosa?

I'm not going to like that trade if it doesn't ultimately result in us getting Jake Peavy.

(Although I am going to be rooting for the Indians a bit this season, seeing as they have Mark DeRosa and the greatness that is Kerry Wood).

There are still two weeks until pitchers and catchers report (oh my God, only two weeks until pitchers and catchers report *squeal*) so there is still time to make this offseason make sense.

You better get on it Hendry.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

From Rags to Ricketts

So, the cubs are on their way to going from rags (as in owned by a newspaper group, The Tribune) to Ricketts (as in owned by Tom Ricketts, and I honestly cannot believe I am the first person to right that, at least that I've seen, come on, from Rags to Ricketts was begging to be used). The question is, is that a good thing?

I'm actually pretty optimistic about the whole deal. It seems Ricketts is a Cubs fan, he actually met his wife in the bleachers. And as much as I was hoping for Mark Cuban (after having seen first hand what he's done with the Mavericks) I realize that Ricketts could come with the same ideals that make Cuban great, i.e. he's a fan.

Of course, being a fan can be negative as well. It might mean you want to take too much control of the sport decisions. This usually only leads to disaster (exhibit A: Dan Snyder owner of the Redskins). But if you put smart people in charge of the sport operations, letting them make the (in this case) baseball decisions and you just pay the money and provide oversight, then it really gets no better.

Mark Cuban was a fan of the Mavs long before he bought them. He came in, trusted the basketball people, and provided an atmosphere that was far more conductive to winning then had previously been in place.

Ricketts might do exactly the same thing for the Cubs.

While I'm not a proponent of buying your championship, it certainly helps to have the ability to go out and acquire that missing piece. Sure, maybe you have 4 great starting pitchers, but there is a certain recent Cy Young award winner out there ostensibly available and who has stated that he would love to play for you. Under the old owners, that kind of money would be unrealistic, even if the baseball people say it would be a game changer type of move. Under the new owner, who is also a fan, the decision is a no-brainer, especially if the baseball people are behind making such a move.

Obviously Tom Ricketts has the opportunity to win over a lot of Cub fans with one move; bring in Jake Peavy. If Peavy joins this staff (as I've stated before on this very site) the Cubs have what is most likely the best starting five in the history of baseball.

It automatically strengthens the bullpen, because there are less games where they are needed to go long (all 5 starters are potential aces), there is less pressure on the offense (all 5 starters are potential aces), and there is less pressure on the defense (because all 5 start... okay, you get my point).

In other words this is the type of move that says, "We are for real, and we want to win". If Ricketts makes this type of move he immediately legitimizes his role as owner for these hungry fans.

Ultimately, I think that Ricketts might be the best choice for owner, even better then Mark Cuban. Because even though I love Cuban and think he would've been amazing, I'm judging that off of what he's done with the Mavs, a team he was a big fan of even before buying the team. That isn't the case with Cuban and the Cubs, but it is the case with Ricketts and the Cubs.

I'm trying to stay level headed about this new ownership, but I'm currently very optimistic. I'm hoping that Ricketts does away with any need for me to be optimistic by telling Hendry to go get that Peavy deal done.

I know that will fully win me over. (For the record, I have already made the trade on MLB2K8)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Offseason Moves. Are We Better?

Kerry Wood... Gone.

Mark DeRosa... Gone.

Jason Marquis... Gone. (thankfully)

Felix Pie... Gone.

Hello Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles, Joey Gathright, Luis Vizcaino, Milton Bradley, and Garrett Olson.

Kevin Gregg is no replacement for Kerry Wood, but Carlos Marmol might be as servicable a closer as K Dub was. Overall the bullpen doesn't look as good, but with the fact that Andrew Cashner is in the minors, I could see him making the impact that Samardizja did last season, so if Samardizja can be what Marmol was last year, then the bullpen isn't severly hurt by the loss of Kerry. Only my feelings are hurt as I loved me some K Dub.

Mark DeRosa is a huge loss. HUGE. He was a great hitter, a great defender, and more then servicable and many positions. That isn't easily replaced.

That being said, I like the fact that Fontenot will be getting more playing time. I think that he's going to be a great player and can replace some of DeRosa's offense.

Miles, on the other hand, won't be able to hit the way DeRo could, but he can replace some of his versatility.

Overall, the DeRo trade hurts the Cubs some. They aren't as good in that area as they previously were.

In the outfield, however, the addition of Milton Bradley will be massive. He's a true 5 tool player when healthy. Unlike Abreu and Dunn (the other options for a left handed hitting outfielder), Bradley is the exact opposite of a defensive liability when he's healthy. All of the talk about Bradley's "behavioral problems" are overblown. He just wants to win and has never down anything on or off the field that isn't to some extent understandable.

His addition to the lineup will more then make up for DeRo's numbers also.

So overall, at this point, the Cubs are slightly better or (at worst) just the same as last season, but certainly not any worse. Let's take a look at the starting pitching.

I don't think that the loss of Marquis is that big. If Sean Marshall or Chad Gaudin is the one who replaces him it will be an upgrade. If it's Garrett Olson, I figure that we're in about the same spot. Zambrano will be better next season, Lilly will be much better then he was last season, and a full season of Rich Harden will be a huge boost. Ryan Dempster probably won't be as good as he was last season. All of this adds up to just as good or (at worst) just a little bit worse.

Therefore, at this point, the Cubs are as good a team as they were last season when they won 97 games, so it hasn't been a horrible offseason.

The thing is, though, it could get much better. The DeRosa trade netted us 3 pitching prospects. The Pie trade netted us 2 pitching prospects, including one that we know San Diego is very interested in. What does this add up to?

A very good chance that the Jake Peavy deal could be alive and well and could happen before Spring Training. If it does, this starting rotation instantly becomes the best starting 5 in baseball history.

Jake Peavy
Carlos Zambrano
Rich Harden
Ted Lilly
Ryan Dempster

Everyone of those guys is a potential number one starter. Everyone of them. If the Cubbies do get Peavy then this offseason will have seen them get better. And when you won 97 games last season, better is a very impressive thing to be.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Why I'm A Cubs Fan

"It's a hard knock life for us"-Annie

So, the last two seasons have seen the Cubs winning the National League Central only to get swept out in the first round of the playoffs.

Let's face it, that's been painful.

As was 2003 and the failure of 2004.

As was the embarrassment of 1989 and the near miss in 1984.

And with the exception of 1998 (when we were also swept out of the first round, but lets face it, we didn't really expect to be there that year) every other year has also been a huge disappointment.

So, why do I (and so many other loyal fans) continue to root for this franchise?

Simple answer, because we can't help it. There's just something about the Cubs that reaches into our souls and makes us believe. Something that connects us to this franchise in a way that is only comparable to the way some people feel about their Alma Mater (Go Frogs, by the way). We Cub fans are more connected to our franchise then the normal fan is connected to their franchise. I truly believe that to be the case.

I have no doubt that there are fans as hard core connected to their teams as the average Cub fan is to the Cubbies, but they are the exception, not the rule. With the average Cub fan, such idiotic connection is the rule.

And I recognize that for the majority of the time that I've been a Cub fan (since I was a wee little boy in Chicago back in the early 80s) it has been idiotic to maintain such a connection.

After all, for a majority of that time, the ownership of the Cubs knew that regardless of if they put any efforts into winning, and then if those efforts resulted in any winning, we the fans weren't going anywhere. We would still believe that NEXT YEAR would be the year. And if that failed there would always be a new NEXT YEAR.

Even recognizing that didn't keep us from returning and somehow hoping against hope.

Lately, of course, there is a slight difference. The Tribune Company is selling the Cubs, and recognizing that they can get more money for a winning franchise, the purse strings have been loosened and the Cubs have made a concerted effort towards winning these last couple of seasons that is literally unheard of in the history of the franchise.

This has resulted in something unprecedented since the last time the Cubs were a dynasty (you know, 100 or so years ago), the Cubs made the playoffs in consecutive years.

The other thing that this concerted effort to win has brought me is an understanding of why it is that I remain, year after heartbreaking year, a Cubs fan. That is the realization that some year at some point, it is going to happen. The Cubs are going to win a World Series again. It will happen some day, the odds are simply to large for it not to. The Arizona Cardinals are in the NFC Championship game for goodness sake; anything is possible. So when the Cubs do win, it is going to feel sweeter and mean more because of the heartbreak and frustration that we have become so used to.

And for that reward, sometime in the (hopefully) not to distant future, I remain faithful and loyal to the franchise that means so much to me.

After all, couldn't THIS YEAR finally be NEXT YEAR?