You'll be seeing a few guest pieces over the next week or so as most of the TCR staff is cruising around the world from all the money we make from Paypal donations and you guys clicking on the ads. You guys do click on the ads, right? Hope you enjoy and we'll be back at full strength in a few weeks to bring you up to date coverage of everyone of Neifi's at-bats in September.
Many of you may know me already, but the guys here at The Cub Reporter have asked me to write something. If you don't know me, then let me introduce my self. I am Chris Yarbrough formally from the state of Alabama. I now reside in "The Natural State," which is Arkansas for you guys who are keeping score. I am a sports writer in El Dorado, Ark., which is right above the Louisiana border. I mainly cover high school sports, but I do get to cover the occasional Louisiana Tech football game. This was supposed to run on Monday, but a short staff and a
hurricane caused me to forget as I got out of work around 1 a.m. Also you can check out my site, The Yarbage Cub Review
. We try to keep things going over there. Now onto our show:
What a difference a week can make. It has been known for sometime that the Chicago Cubs were heading downhill with no brakes. Just when you thought the Cubs were about to crash there was a big winning streak to keep some of the Cub faithful thinking about 2005. Well, take it from me that hope is gone. I just got my HD Tivo installed on Thursday and what do you know, but the first Cubs game I get in HD is the Dodger game.
With 2005 firmly out of reach it is time to turn our focus on the Cubs of 2006. Is it just me or is 2008 looming way too close? I always have thought we needed to win the before the 100 year anniversary. I was talking to Scott Lange of the Northside Lounge
and we agreed that the Cubs are on a very dangerous footing of rebuild mode. There are some Grand Canyon type holes to fill before next season before we can even think about competing for anything. I will take a look at the Cubs by position just to see who will be or could be coming to Wrigley next season. This is part wishful thinking and part logic, but I have a feeling the Cubs will retool for one more run at the playoffs. The Cubs will have some money after clearing Sammy Sosa, Mike Remlinger and LaTroy Hawkins this past year. With any team it always starts at with the starting rotation. If there is one thing that will not change much it should be the starting
1. Mark Prior ñ Prior is third on the team in starts with 21. He did have trouble the first of the year, but since coming back after being hit in the elbow he has been just fine. He is 9-5 with a 3.68 ERA. He has 147 K's in 132 innings of work. All we can hope is he is healthy for a full year in 2006. That will be a major factor in competing.
2. Carlos Zambrano ñ The media loved to talk after 2003 that Kerry Wood and Prior were 1A and 1B. Well, screw the media and I am member of it. Big Z. is our ace plain and simple. He pitches more innings that the other two and has a lower ERA. This season he is 11-5 with 3.04 ERA. He is going to cost the Cubs some big bucks and like I said dangerous ground. If the Cubs choose to rebuild there will be teams lined up around the league to take him.
3. Greg Maddux ñ No Maddux is not the pitcher he was even two years ago, but performances like last Saturday make you believe he has one more year left in the tank. He gives up too many home runs now, but unlike the rest of our starters, he makes his starts. With a 10-11 record and 4.43 ERA it is hard to imagine that he will not pick up his player option.
4. Kerry Wood ñ Time is closing in on Wood as he goes into another season with doubts. He will have the shoulder worked on soon and then we can see if he can live up to all the hype. I really think Wood has more value as a starter and the Cubs will at least give him one more shot. With Prior, Zambrano and Wood healthy the Cubs always have a shot at contending. The problem is Wood and Prior can't stay off the DL.
5. Jerome Williams ñ Williams has shown a little promise and then he goes and dogs it up like last night. I think the Cubs will focus on other areas and allow Williams to earn the job.
Other SP chances ñ If one or more fail the Cubs will probably look within the organization again. Rich Hill, Sergio Mitre and a host of others could all find their way into the rotation. The Cubs could always bring Glendon Rusch back also.
If there is one situation that the Cubs must fix it is the bullpen. There are questions and youth everywhere. First lets look at who is coming back in order of good to bad:
1. Michael Wuertz (RHP) ñ In 2004 I was lucky enough to be at spring training as I was covering the Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA tournament. I remember seeing Wuertz pitch and thinking he was not half bad after his two innings of work. He was been nothing more of up and down since. This year right-handers are batting .221, but lefthanders are hitting a robust .310. To be a quality middle reliever he has to start getting LHB out. Still I think he will be back in 2006.
2. Roberto Novoa (RHP) ñ Novoa has been pretty solid this year. He has shown some wildness in him, but his nasty stuff and a 3.38 ERA have me at least optimistic on him for next year.
3. Will Ohman (LHP) ñ There is no way Ohman will not be back next season, baring injury. Since the All-Star break he is holding batters to a .149 BAA. On the year he has a 2.41 ERA and more importantly he gets left handers out.
After those three it is up in the air for the Cubs. So let's look at a couple of options:
1. Ryan Dempster ñ Dempster has been solid since moving into the closer's role. He was been wild and he can give a man a new hair color, but overall he has done the job. He has 19 saves and a 3.82 ERA.
2. Scott Williamson ñ Williamson has not been good since coming back, but he is only 10 months off his last surgery. My guess the Cubs pick up the option and if he does not perform then a DFA.
3. Somebody from AAA. This could be a Todd Wellemeyer, Jermaine Van Buren, Cliff Bartosh or somebody else.
There are many questions marks out there. But adding a proven closer like Billy Wagner would allow Dempster to move to a set up role and make the pen stronger. Again Glendon Rusch could be an option.
Next we move to the wonderful world of the infield. There are a few openings and a few places that the team is just fine in.
1. Derrek Lee (1B) ñ Not much to say here. Lee is a monster and if we had anybody that could get on base he would have led us to the playoffs. He will probably slip a little bit, but .300 and 40 HR is just fine with me.
2. Aramis Ramirez (3B) ñ Take two of these and we will see you in 2006. Ramirez is having another great year for the Cubs. His legs have bothered him this year and it may hurt us down the line, but for now he is a beast in the lineup. The steal of the decade on that trade.
3. Michael Barrett (C) ñ Barrett is hitting .285 and he has a .349 OBP. I will take that from the catcher any day. He could work with Henry Blanco a little, but overall he is a quality in a thin market.
After those three players the problems start to arise. So let's break it down base-by-base:
1. 2B ñ I am in favor of bringing Todd Walker back. He has hit .301, but he could draw a few more walks in the two-hole. His defense is not great, but I like what he brings to the plate. If the Cubs trade Walker by Thursday it will interesting to see whom the Cubs bring up. The Cubs could go with Mike Fontenot. I only hope to god the Cubs don't think to resign Neifi Perez to play 2B fulltime if they bring in another shortstop. My guess is that Jerry Hairston will be given the full time role and the Cubs let Walker walk out the door.
2. SS ñ Of all of the spots in the infield it will be the shortstop talk that will dominate. I have two prayers. Please don't bring back Nomar Garciaparra. He is done being a full time player. His body is betraying him and that is sad. Also don't bring back Perez to start. There will be talk about Furcal, but I think that might be too much for the Cubs. My hope is Ronny Cedeno gets the nod.
That brings us to the outfield and the biggest mess of all. I know earlier I said it was the bullpen, but then I started looking at the OF. Todd Hollandsworth is gone, so Dusty Baker can't play him. We traded Matt Lawton, Jody Gerut and Jason Dubois this year. Jeromy Burnitz is having an average year and he will be a year older. Please don't get me started on how bad Corey Patterson is. That leaves the Cubs with three holes to fill. Matt Murton will probably be the starter in left field the rest of the way, unless Dusty keeps playing Jerry Hairston. That still does not help next year. This next month
will prove if Murton can continue to hit at the big league level. If he does then we have a left fielder. That still leaves two more spots open. If I had to venture a guess Corey Patterson will get one more shot unless somebody crazy offers too much for him in the off season. The Cubs need a lead-off hitter worse than anything and Johnny Damon would fill that role, but I think he might end up back in Boston. They need a power bat in the outfield. They could acquire one through trading or sign somebody. It will be interesting either way. I really can't guess, but if you are holding a gun to my head, there is one bat I would love to see in Wrigley: my dream Opening Day OF looks like Murton, Patterson and Brian Giles.
With so many options in the field still open it is too early to think about the bench. That being said, Blanco will back. God help us, but so will Jose Macias. Other than that it is wide open. There are so many questions and so few answers when it comes to the Cubs. All we can hope for is Jim Hendry puts only good players in Baker's hands.