TCR Reader Response Roundtable!
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Without further ado........
1. Dusty, Dusty, Dusty, is there any reasonable scenario that you can see him staying? And if he does go, sum up his tenure in 2 sentences or less. (Again, question asked and answers submitted in advance of the firing)
Vorare No, I can't imagine Dusty staying. Even if Hendry wanted to resign him--perhaps to make Ramirez, Pierre, and Zambrano happy--I still don't think Dusty wants to be in Chicago any more. His comments to the media regarding the racist email pretty well demonstrated that; you don't intimate that your team's fanbase is full of racist hatemongers if you plan on sticking with that team. I think pretty much everyone, including Dusty, knows that he's done in Chicago.
As for his time here? I can sum it up in two words: Neifi Perez. Perez was emblematic of most of Dusty's problems.
Bleeding Blue Can I see him staying, yes. I still can't figure out a logical reason why he wasn't removed long ago. The best guess I can come up with is that Hendry has too much respect for Dusty to fire him mid-season, and he wants to allow Dusty the chance to leave in what will appear to be a mutual decision on good terms. Sadly, that same respect could also get him an extension offer.
If Dusty is removed, his term will be best described as Extreme Underperformance. The Cubs have never lived up to their potential under Dusty's Regime, and have always found an excuse for why it's not their fault.
Mike C No. Complete and utter disaster. No manager in the history of this franchise was given more and produced less than Dusty Baker.
2. Assuming Dusty joins the unemployment line, what do you want out of the next Cubs manger in terms of personality and qualities. Is there an individual you have in mind?
Vorare I think the manager at the major league level is overrated, so my requirements are simple. I want a guy who will keep the players focused and relatively happy, and I want a guy who will, in terms of filling out the lineup card, put the team in the best possible position to win on a daily basis. Beyond that, I don't think in-game strategy decisions have a significant impact on the team's record at the end of the season unless those decisions are, as we've seen at times over the last four years, mind-bogglingly stupid.
I don't have any specific individuals in mind for the job, but I'd definitely prefer that it be someone with a low profile--a current coach, minor league manager, or a major league manager with minimal experience. I hear good things about Ron Washington and I respect Joe Girardi's professionalism, so I'd be happy either either of them.
Bleeding Blue More than anything else, I want a manager who will hold the players accountable. He doesn't have to be a hard-ass, and he should have the respect of his players, but he also needs to hold the player accountable, especially in regards to fundamentals. He doesn't have to be a master tactician, but someone with a better sense of strategy will be a welcome change.
Freddi Gonzalez is the name I find most interesting, although I will admit that I don't know enough about him to say he's the guy. Girardi is interesting, although based on what I've read I'm not sure that he's the right guy for the job.
Mike C I want a manager who has some discipline in his background. I think the last 2-3 Cubs managers have tried to be everyone's best friend, and let the players do what they want when they want. Girardi is a nice example of a manager who is willing to work with players and gain their respect without being their best friend.
3. At what point did you give up your playoff aspirations for the 2006 Cubs?
(continued below the fold)
Vorare May 14th, after the Cubs had lost 12 of their first 14 games in May. I still had a glimmer of hope after Lee's injury that the Cubs would be able to tread water until he was healthy again; their performance in early May erased any hope I had.
Bleeding Blue I never had that high of hopes, but I figured in a very weak division and league, they should have been in the picture. What hope I had was destroyed when the team simply quit in early May.
Mike C After the May disaster.
4. There were far too many things that went wrong with the club to address
in this space, was there anything that went right?
Vorare Definitely. I think Marshall and Mateo showed that they have the talent and the guts to be productive major league pitchers, although maybe not in '07 and maybe not with the Cubs. Guzman gave us a few flashes of potential, but would benefit from another season (or most of a season) at AAA. Hill seems to have figured out how to pitch at the major league level. The bullpen, aside from Dempster and Novoa, seemed solid. Murton's ability to adjust and his performance in the second half are very promising. And finally, I think Theriot showed us he's a solid bench option and may just be capable of taking the starting job at second next year, depending on how things shake out this offseason.
Bleeding Blue Rich Hill finally got his act together and looks to be a strong 3-4 starter next year. Murton had his early season struggles, but adjusted and turned things around when Dusty actually put him in the lineup. Theroit and Pagan look like they will be good contributors too, as part of a hopefully improved bench in 2007.
Mike C Murton's development. The emergence of Theriot and Hill.
5. Can the Cubs compete next year without signing Aramis Ramirez?
Vorare I doubt it. Although it would free up another chunk of payroll, there aren't any comparable third basemen available on the free agent market this offseason, and whatever tradebait we have probably needs to be used to upgrade the rotation, the outfield, or the middle infield. I just don't think that there's any way of replacing his production for 2007 while also fixing the team's other problems.
Bleeding Blue Yes, but it would take a lot. Signing Soriano to play CF, Zito or Schmidt as a #2 starter, and a additional #3 veteran innings eater, and at least a league-average replacement for 3rd base (think Nomar would come back?) would be vital for this team to compete.
Mike C I doubt they can compete with Ramirez.
6. The Cubs seem to have more questions marks than the Riddler's costume; prioritize the Cubs off-season moves in a handy clip and save card for
1. Replace Dusty quickly.
2. Renegotiate with Ramirez.
3. Add a solid bat via trade or free agency to fill CF, SS, or 2B.
4. Add a top of the rotation starter.
5. Fill in the remaining holes in the lineup and rotation with decent reliable players.
6. Sign Zambrano to a long term deal.
1 - Sign a new manager
2 - Sign another top of the line starter, either Zito or Schmidt
3 - Resign/Extend ARam
4 - Add another bat, either in CF (Soriano, AJones?) or at 2nd (Lugo, Giles?)
5 - Add a veteran starter to eat innings with an average ERA. (Maddux would be damn near perfect, but I think he stays in LA)
6 - Keep Wood, if you can get him to sign an extreme short term, incentive-based contract.
1. Starting pitcher
2. Offensive upgrade via
trade or free agent
3. A new manager
4. A Closer. A real one not named Ryan
7. You have $13-15 million burning a hole in your budget next year and one
roster spot available. Give us the 3 free agents you target with that money.
Vorare Matsuzaka (setting aside the posting fee), Schmidt, Soriano.
Bleeding Blue Zito, Schmidt, Soriano
Mike C Daisuke Matsuzaka (It's going to require a posting fee of 15-20 million, but should be had for around 8-10 million a year)
Alfonso Soriano - He can butcher 2nd base on my team if he can keep hitting 40 bombs from the leadoff spot.
8. What are 3 things the Cubs should avoid doing this off-season at all
VorareYou mean aside from reacquiring Neifi Perez? The Cubs must avoid:
1. Letting Ramirez go.
2. Bumping Murton for anyone but a young "sure thing" talent.
3. Signing Zito.
1 - Extend Dusty Baker
2 - Count on Prior to be anything other than a #5 who splits time with Marshall/Guzman/Mateo/etc.
3 - Reaquire Neifi Perez
Don't sign any lousy middle infielders.
Don't sign anyone to play LF and kick Murton to the curb.
And did I mention don't sign any lousy middle infielders?
9. Lightning Round: Give us your thoughts on these players and how important they should be in next year's team?
a. Juan Pierre
Vorare Unless he's willing to take a two or three year deal for less than $8 million per year, he shouldn't be on the team.
Bleeding Blue I don't mind him at the top of the lineup, but it's also the easiest place to upgrade the offense. Avoid a multi-year deal and offer arbitration. If he takes it, fine. If not, try to find a CF who can slug.
Mike C I think Pierre can be fairly important to next year's team,
but only if the price is right.
b. Aramis Ramirez
VorareIt's vital that he be brought back. It's a safe bet that we'll have at least two weak bats on the team, maybe three, depending on how the Pierre situation shakes out, so his production is absolutely necessary. Without him, I'd rather just see the team go into a rebuilding mode.
Bleeding Blue He, along with Lee and Z, are the cornerstones to the team. I fully expect him to return to the Cubs next year.
Mike C Critical. Without him the only proven hitter we have is Derrek Lee coming off of a wrist injury. That is a recipe for disaster.
c. Kerry Wood
Vorare He should be in the pen. Between our already strong bullpen and his (likely) minimal contract demands, he should be a low-risk high-reward signing. I say go for it, and if he's successful we can demote Dempster and use Eyre or Howry as trade bait.
Bleeding Blue I really do apprieciate that he's said that he wants to "make up" for the past few years. If he'll put his money where his mouth is, and take a very low cost/low risk deal, I would have no problem seeing him in the Cubs bullpen.
Mike C He shouldn't be important at all to next year's team. However, I do think that by the end of the year, provided his health holds up, we will be looking at a dominate closer in the mold of John Smoltz.
d. Matt Murton
Vorare He's our starting left fielder. He has demonstrated patience, power, and most importantly, the ability to adjust to major league pitching. While I don't expect him to put up a full season at his '06 post-All Star level quite yet, I think he won't be too far off that mark and he'll do it for less than $400,000.
Bleeding Blue I'm very impressed with his rookie season. Not only has he shown patience and power, but also the ability to adjust. He should be given the starting LF job in 07.
Mike C His continued development is a key to this franchise. He gives us good production now for the price tag and allows the organization to spend money in more important areas.
e. Rich Hill
Vorare He's earned a spot in the rotation. I still have some concerns about his lack of a decent third pitch, but he's making the most of what he does have, and he seems to have the potential to join Zambrano at the top of the rotation. Besides, he's cheap and durable.
Bleeding Blue I had my doubts about his ability to be a MLB starter, but it certainly appears that his problems were in large part from lack of confidence. Since getting his first win, he's been everything you could want from a young pitcher and has earned his place in the back half of the Cubs' rotation.
Mike C I still think he is Jekyl and Hyde, although I have been impressed with his second half. I say move him while he is hot, before the league figures out his stuff is just average.
f. Felix Pie
Vorare I don't want to see him on the MLB club until September, barring some catastrophic injuries or him absolutely dominating AAA. There's no need to rush him.
Bleeding Blue The fact that he didn't get a call-up indicates to me that the Cubs will probably be making a strong offer to Pierre. I would hope Pie would be the first guy the Cubs would turn to in case of an OF injury in 07, possibly letting him split time with Jones by the end of the year.
Mike C Not important at all to next year's team. He isn't ready.
g. Ryan Theriot
Vorare I'd pencil him in as a backup middle infielder. If we can't find anyone better over the offseason, and if he carries his success from the last month over to spring training, he would be a decent option for 2B.
Bleeding Blue He certainly has impressed in his brief time with the Cubs in '06. Ideally, he'd fill the "Neifi" super-infielder role in '07, but if budget prevents the Cubs from getting a top 2nd baseman, I wouldn't mind him compeating with a veteran 2nd tier guy for the spot.
Mike C Given the rather lack-luster options for 2nd base this off-season, he could contend for the 2nd base job. Whether he is a fluke or not can only be found out if he plays more. He could solve our #2 slot in the batting order.
h. Mark Prior
Vorare I hope he gets his health problems worked out this offseason and shows up to spring training ready to compete, but I'm not going to count on him.
Bleeding Blue His potential is simply so much higher than his current value that it will be almost impossible to move him in a fair trade. We have to hold on to him, but don't rely on him being any more than we would a Sean Marshall or another young player who has shown promise.
Mike C Despite his track record, he is critical to next year's team. If they want to even think about just being .500, the Cubs need a healthy Mark Prior to make at least 30 starts.
10. Can the Cubs be contenders next year without expanding the budget to
$150 million and what will it take to do so?
Vorare Setting aside the doom and gloom from this season, I think there are a lot of reasons to believe the Cubs can be contenders next season. Barrett, Lee, and Ramirez are in the top five offensively for their respective positions. Zambrano is a Cy Young candidate and a horse. Murton and Hill look to be valuable members of the team. Jones is a decent producer, even though he'd be better with a platoon partner. We have a great bullpen that might get even better with Wood. We still have "future Hall of Famer" Prior around, who could be a major factor if he gets healthy for next season. Our minor leagues are stacked with pitching.
If Hendry can add a good bat and a top of the rotation starter, and if the Cubs can shake their incredibly bad luck, I think the team can contend--especially given the weakness of the division and the league as a whole.
Bleeding Blue With the current state of the NL, there's no reason they can't compete. And really, any team with a core of Lee, Ramirez, and Zambrano should be at the . 500 mark every year. However, adding a top tier starter is the bare minimum needed for this team to be a threat, and they are probably 2 starters and an offensive upgrade away from being a team that I'd consider a favorite to make the post-season and compete for a World Championship.
Mike C No, they can't contend without spending massive amounts of money to eliminate all the question marks on the roster. Sure they can win next year, but everything needs to run perfectly, and we all know things very rarely ever go the way this franchise wants.