End of Year Roundtable: Outside Influences Edition
Submitted by Rob G. on Tue, 10/04/2005 - 6:54am
Today, we have five writers from the Cubs world answering the same questions that the TCR writers answered yesterday. The participants: Joe Aiello, View From the Bleachers Will Carroll, Baseball Prospectus and The Juice Chuck Gitles, Ivy Chat TCR alumnus Derek Smart, Cub Town Al Yellon, Bleed Cubbie Blue FYI, some of the commenters sent their answers in before the Ryan Dempster extension. Enjoy! ---------- Letís start off with the biggest positive in an otherwise disappointing season: Does Derrek Lee deserve the MVP? Will he get it? WILL CARROLL: Deserve? Yes. Get it? No. It would be another Andre Dawson scenario. I think Pujols wins it, just as a make up and the fact that he's just as good. DEREK SMART: Deserving? Yes. Receiving? No. CHUCK GITLES: Deserve? Perhaps. He had as good of an all around season as anyone. Perhaps thatís the problem. He wasnít far and away better than the other MVP candidates to make up for the Cubsí poor record. Because of that, thereís no way he wins the MVP award. AL YELLON: Depends on what you mean by "MVP." Most Valuable? Well, without Derrek the Cubs would likely have finished in the Pacific Coast League. But did his monster season accomplish anything for the team? No, it didn't -- they stay home for the postseason, with or without him. It can be compared, in a way, to Andre Dawson's MVP year of 1987. The difference is, that year there really wasn't anyone offensively comparable to Dawson on a playoff team. This year there are two: Albert Pujols and Andruw Jones, and the Cardinals won going away, largely with their pitching this year. My vote goes to Jones. JOE AIELLO: I donít feel like Derrek Lee deserves the MVP. He was an exciting part of the 2005 MLB season, but itís awful hard to merit the MVP when your team finishes as poorly as the Cubs did. If there were not teams who made the playoffs that had MVP candidates I would say yes, but because of the year that guys like Andrew Jones and Albert Pujols had, I think you have to give it to him. I think Lee finishes 3rd behind Jones and Pujols. If you had a disposable time machine that could only travel back as far as October 4th, 2004 and was good for only one trip, plus the superhero power to change peopleís minds and actions - what one move, moment, play or decision from this past season would you alter? JOE: I would go back and change the Nomar Garciaparra signing. I think that he was a great idea, but just did not merit the money or the amount we had riding on him. A close second would be the lack of Matt Murton playing time. DEREK: The decision to start Nomar on April 20th. CHUCK: There are so many. I donít think any one decision hurt the Cubs. But, if there was ONE move I would have made (obvious drumroll please), it would have been to trade Korey Patterson. To go into this season counting on this man to provide any kind of offense given his history was ludicrous. AL: I know I'm going to get an argument from many here, but I think the Sosa Circus hamstrung the entire ballclub. In recent days I have heard that Jim Hendry did, in fact, have a deal in place to trade Sosa to the Mets for Cliff Floyd. Many Cub fans were against that deal due to Floyd's injury history and his reputation for being a butcher in left field. But Floyd stayed healthy all year, hit 34 HR and drove in 98 runs, and by all accounts played a decent enough outfield. Had the Cubs made this deal, they could have signed Jeromy Burnitz to play RF anyway, and perhaps the added offense would have kept them in a few more games. If not, Floyd would have been very tradeable at the July deadline. One more thing about this deal. Apparently this deal had been agreed to by Hendry and Omar Minaya, but then was scotched by upper Mets management. Hendry was so pissed he won't even speak to Minaya now. Can't say I blame him. WILL: I'd trade Sammy Sosa sooner. As we can see now, the holdup on that deal cost Hendry any flexibility in the off-season. At what point did you give up on the Cubs this year? WILL: "Batting leadoff for the Cubs, Neifi Perez!" CHUCK: May 4th. The night Roberto Novoa walked Damian Miller with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to give the Brewers their 6th consecutive win. DEREK: Youíd think that, writing a blog and all, that I could come up with a moment when I knew it was over. I mean, thereís a record out there, right? Still, even in looking back on it all I have no idea of an exact date, and even though the words I wrote may not fully support it, I think I gave up the ghost after the second eight-game losing streak left the team 6 games under. AL: I didn't give up at the time, but in retrospect the key turning point that turned the Cubs from contenders to pretenders was the August 3 game in which Michael Barrett blew the rundown play and Jimmy Rollins scored the winning run in Philadelphia. The Cubs had been somewhat hot up to that time; that was the beginning of a seven-game losing streak which pretty much took them out of any sort of real contention. JOE: I can pinpoint the abandonment of the team to a specific series. When Dave and I attended the Cubs/Mets series in NY and they failed to hit the ball during the entire series on the way to a terrible losing streak, I officially gave up on the year. All signs point to Dusty Baker returning for the final year of his contract in 2006. But what lies ahead? Is an extension on the way this off-season? Is he in any danger of losing his job in 2006? Should he be? Any other coaching changes on the horizon? DEREK: I donít think weíll see an extension without a big 2006, and I think a fall-on-their-faces start, especially if the Cubs have done a lot of revamping and spending of money in the offseason could result in Baker getting canned, and at that point it would be richly deserved. As far as other changes, the only likely firing would be Larry Rothschild, but my guess would be that heíll be the odd beneficiary of the teamís injury woes, given another chance due to difficult circumstances. JOE: Dusty Baker is one that baffles me. He has such a great reputation around baseball but Iím not sure why. My only consolation is that there is a lot that goes on behind closed doors that the common fan does not see. He didnít get the good rep for nothing so there is something we must NOT be seeing, because the things we ARE seeing make me want to vomit. Dusty seems to be a Hendry guy so I think he will be OFFERED an extension but will turn it down. CHUCK: Dusty Baker should be in danger. The new opening in LA and the curious announcement of when and the terms of the extension of Dustyís contract (not until February and for 2 years) makes it clear what someone has to offer to get Dusty out. He might just take the lifeline. We can only hope. WILL: The extension is all but done. I think he'll be back, the Cubs will continue to be mediocre, and he'll be fired sometime in 2007. Hendry has to force the issue on guys like Pie, Murton, and some of the young pitchers. I think Rothschild will be the sacrificial lamb, with Rick Kranitz from Iowa coming up. I just hope Andy MacPhail lets the new coach borrow his copy of "Saving The Pitcher." AL: Media reports now have Jim Hendry getting an extension "sometime in February," and Hendry probably giving Baker an extension after that. This goes against other reports that said that both would be given extensions after the season ends. I still think that could happen. The same reports say that the coaching staff is going to be re-hired en masse. I'm not in favor of this -- the batting coaches the last two years, Gene Clines and Gary Matthews, have done a terrible job, and I'd like to see the Cubs re-hire Jeff Pentland. The Brewers just let Rich Donnelley go -- I'm not sure why. He's a very highly-regarded third-base coach. Perhaps the Cubs could hire him to coach 3B, and move Chris Speier in to be bench coach. The Cubs have absolutely the worst bench coach in baseball in Dick Pole. The bench coach ought to be a former manager or manager-in-waiting, not a failed pitching coach. All that said, this year was, in my estimation, not Baker's fault, it was largely Hendry's. What about Jim Hendry -- should McPhail and the Trib re-up him or is his fate tied with Dustyís? DEREK: In general, I like what Jim Hendry has done. Some might say he hasnít been aggressive enough, and others might wish for a more SABR-friendly GM, but I think heís a smart guy who has a pretty solid understanding of market values, and actually seems willing to learn from some of his mistakes. I say extend him. WILL: Hendry and his staff, especially Oneri Fleita, should be re-signed. It's hard to fault his results, even if they are not up to our standards. If it weren't for 2003, our expectations would be back in the toilet. JOE: Jim Hendry has the ability to make things happen. As a general manager, all you can do is put the best possible team on paper together. You cannot control the everyday play of those players. Before you criticize Hendry, itís important to look at the great things he has brought here: Ramirez, Dempster, Lee, Murton, Nomar, Barrett, Maddux. That is enough for me to have confidence in his abilities as a GM. AL: One of the things that's hurt the Cubs most is starting over every three or four years with a totally new regime and way of doing things. Yes, Jim Hendry had a poor year, and I think he'd admit that. But he had a couple of good ones before that, and I think he's earned the chance to make it right this off-season. Absolutely. Re-up him. Remember this: after the Giants won 103 games and missed the playoffs by a game in Baker's first year in 1993, they suffered through three putridly bad seasons, but stuck with him. They were rewarded with multiple playoff appearances starting in 1997, winning seasons every year, and an NL pennant in 2002. CHUCK: Dusty Baker has done nothing to warrant an extension. If he is re-upped, itís a purely face saving move for Hendry and MacPhail (ìWe made the right move in hiring him! Firing him only shows we screwed up!î). Jim Hendry has gone into the last three seasons lacking a leadoff hitter. Heís gone into the last two seasons without a bullpen. Heís made excuse after excuse that the delay in trading Sosa was a detriment to this yearís roster. Heís yet to make the minor leagues produce. Heís allowed high ceiling prospects to wither on the vine and not trade them for veterans while other teams have done so (nicely done for Derrek Lee ñ what about Mulder, Beltran, Hudson?). Heís only shown solid ability to pull of deadline deals. By all means, re-hire him. The focus needs to move to Andy MacPhail. That he is allowed to stay with the lack of on-field performance means that team profitability is so high as to make the Trib not care about the on-field record. Until the fans start making the Trib care, why should the Trib make any changes? What are the top three things that went wrong for the Cubs this year, foreseeable or not? WILL: 1. Wood's injury. Foreseeable, but still devastating. 2. Dempster in the rotation. How many wins did that mistake cost us? 3. Lack of PT for Murton and Cedeno. Look at the Pirates, for cripes sake. CHUCK: 1. Lack of leadoff hitter - Forseeable 2. Lack of effective closer ñ Forseeable 3. Reliance on the starting pitching (Wood, Prior) to stay healthy ñ Forseeable Honorable mention ñ Bakerís refusal to bat players where they would have maximum effectiveness (I.e. Patterson / Neifi 1-2 while Hairston rode the bench). JOE: 1. Injuries. 2. Corey Pattersonís regression. 3. Left Field not being as profitable as planned. DEREK: Rather than naming three injuries, Iíll say all the big hurts ñ Nomar, Wood, Prior, etc ñ were thing one, followed by the initial backwards usage of Rusch and Dempster (I honestly think we might still have a happy, effective LaTroy Hawkins on the team had Dempster begun the year as closer), and ending with the clubís spectacular inability on most occasions to play anything resembling good, crisp, smart baseball. AL: 1. Nomar's injury. He had a great spring training, got off to a lousy start. OK, this happens to a lot of players. Getting hurt not only put bench players in the lineup, it hurt the bench. 2. LaTroy Hawkins. Had Ryan Dempster been named closer in the off-season, as he was supposed to be, Hawkins might have been able to reclaim his role as setup man. As it turned out, he was so bad as closer that he had to be dealt, and perhaps he may never be the same. 3. Corey Patterson. Yes, he may never become the star or superstar that some thought he would be. But I think even his detractors wouldn't have thought he would be THIS bad. Patterson's offensive season was just that, offensive; there haven't been any players with that many AB (over 450) who have hit that badly since 1968 -- and that was a pitcher-dominated season. How about three that went right, besides Lee's breakout? CHUCK: 1. Ryan Dempster, after being misused by Baker for 6 weeks, emerging as a quality closer. 2. Matt Murton showing that Theo Epstein knows what heís doing. 3. The season only having 162 games JOE: 1. Matt Murton 2. Ryan Dempster 3. Aramis Ramirez DEREK: The emergence of Matt Murton as a legitimate option in left should be a big deal next year and beyond, it was nice to see that the Cubsí faith in Aramis Ramirez was not misplaced (not that I had much doubt), and finally, while the club played poorly most of the year, it was still lovely to take the season series against the Cardinals. WILL: 1. Prior making it almost a full season without injury, aside from the freak comebacker. 2. Amazing season in Jackson, TN. 3. Umm, Len and Bob were pretty solid. AL: 1. Ryan Dempster's emergence as a top closer. 2. Carlos Zambrano's continued excellence, consistency, and taking over as the leader of the pitching staff. 3. The potential of Matt Murton to emerge as a solid regular outfielder for the next several years, if they'll only let him. The free agent market is one of the weakest in years, but the Cubs look to have plenty of cash to spend on it. Should they spend, spend, spend, and if so what should their targets be? Or should they hold on to it until next year or use it to take some garbage contracts off other teams? Should they spend it on extensions for any current players? JOE: When I look at this team and upgrades, I look around the IF. I return Lee and Ramirez as well as Todd Walker. I think you can give Ronnie Cedeno a shot at SS, if you sign Nomar to a strictly incentive laden deal. In the OF, I think Murton has earned his shot in the OF and could play RF if asked. Patterson needs one last shot in CF before we try Pie in í07 and that leaves one corner OF spot to fill. I wouldnít mind seeing someone like Matt Lawton come back for a full year to leadoff for us. He had a lot of pressure as a trade deadline guy and I think that hurt his performance. None of that would eat a lot of money, which would free us up during the year to take on contracts or do some extensions. I just do not see enough on the market to warrant a spending spree. AL: Derrek Lee, Carlos Zambrano and Mark Prior are three players that absolutely must be locked up to long-term deals. Those three, along with Aramis Ramirez, who was locked up last winter, are in my mind the four absolutely untouchable players on the ballclub at this time. So yes, with a lot of cash flow, those are three good places to spend it. Do not assume that the Cubs will only look at free agency for acquisitions. Some of Hendry's best moves have been trades. And don't think that he won't be asking after players who might appear to be unmoveable. Why not see if you could pry Carlos Lee from the Brewers, for example? Apart from Lee, Prior, Ramirez and Zambrano, not a single current Cub should be considered untouchable in the right trade. WILL: Here's my off-season checklist: 1. Resign Todd Walker. 2. Resign Ryan Dempster if it's reasonable and 2 years (or less) 3. Pick up Burnitz's option. 4. Spend everything left on Rafael Furcal. DEREK: The Cubs need to get an extension done with Derrek Lee, if only to quiet any speculation during the season, but beyond that I see no need to lock anyone else up on the current roster. As for the market, it is weak, and the few prime players are pretty easily identifiable, but the Cubs have the distinct advantage of being loaded with cash going into the offseason, and itís one they should take full advantage of. The guys I look at are mostly obvious ones ñ Rafael Fucal, Brian Giles, and Iíd actually like to see them make a run at Jason Schmidt if he becomes available. What are 3 things the Cubs MUST DO this off-season? CHUCK: 1. Find a leadoff hitter. 2. Add a quality veteran to the starting rotation 3. Add a thumper in the outfield. DEREK: They must upgrade in right field, upgrade at shortstop, and acquire another starter. I think thereís more than one option available for each of those spots, and while Iíve got some names Iíd prefer, just getting that done will go a long way toward making next year better. JOE: 1. Fully commit to Matt Murton as an everyday OF. 2. Fully commit to Ryan Dempster as their closer. 3. Bring in bullpen help. AL: 1. Get rid of Corey Patterson. 2. Get rid of Jose Macias. 3. Get two better players to replace those two. What are 3 things the Cubs MUST NOT DO this off-season? DEREK: 1. They must not spend ridiculous cash on veteran, free-agent relievers (an axiom theyíve already partially violated). 2. They must not throw in the towel on Matt Murton. 3. They must not allow Jose Macias to darken their door again. CHUCK: 1. Give Dusty control over the lineup. 2. Count on Felix Pie as a starter in Wrigley in April 3. Re-sign Jeromy Burnitz. JOE: 1. Overpay for A.J. Burnett. 2. Overpay for Kevin Millwood. 3. Hike up ticket prices yet again as a result of the new bleachers. WILL: 1. Resign Nomar for anything more than a token. 2. Call Wood the closer. 3. Not trade Corey Patterson. AL: 1. Don't mess with Derrek Lee. Thank him for his great year and tell him to get some rest! 2. Don't NOT trade Corey Patterson. 3. Don't let Hendry and Baker go. Letís talk specific players. Should Baker and Hendry give the keys to left field to Matt Murton or do they look for other options? CHUCK: I love Matt Murton. I may let him father another child for me (inside joke if youíve seen my site lately). That said, he may have a peak value in acquiring a veteran pitcher. Say you could get a Brandon Webb for him? I might make that trade. WILL: Platoon him. I'd love to see a Pie-Murton-Burnitz outfield, but I don't think that will happen. How about Murton-Burnitz-Hidalgo? Get a cheap upside guy and be ready with Pie come June 1. DEREK: I think Murton can be the guy, so thereís no reason in my mind to try to spend money on someone to take his place when you could use that cash to upgrade in other areas in much greater need. AL: Right now, I'd like to see the Cubs sign Nomar Garciaparra to play LF and try Murton in RF. Matt's not the greatest defensive outfielder, but I think his offense would make up for it. That said, given you'd have two below-average outfielders in Nomar and Murton, that would make it imperative to go out and get an excellent defensive center fielder. There are guys out there. One might be the White Sox' Aaron Rowand, believe it or not -- I have heard the Sox might be looking to deal him, as they have a hot prospect OF in Brian Anderson ready to replace him. JOE: Murton has proved that he deserves a shot. The organization tried Dubois and he had showed less at the major league level. Murton played outstanding and is a model for how this team should be built. Give him the shot he earned. Is Ryan Dempster the closer next year or should the Cubs look elsewhere? (Note: this question was asked before the Cubs signed Dempster to a 3Y-$15.5M extension over the weekend) CHUCK: Sure. Why not. But with $50 million in payroll clearing over the next 2 seasons, adding a lefty, a la B.J. Ryan, is required. Itís actually inexcusable not to add B.J. WILL: Dempster and Williamson should pitch until their arms blow up...again. Passing on Craig Hansen or even Luke Hochevar hurts. JOE: Dempster is the man as far as I am concerned. Closers are vital but can also be made at will. Dempster is a perfect example. He had never closed but did a stellar job. Let him keep it. AL: This has already been answered by Dempster's signing, which I applaud. Nomar Garciaparra: try to resign to another incentive-laden deal or say thanks for the memories and the groin jokes? If he comes back, where should he play? AL: As I said above, I'd like to see him signed to play left field. I think his offense showed signs of coming back (though he's likely done stealing bases), and if he stays healthy, he's the kind of exuberant leader the Cubs could use on the field. CHUCK: Back in the corner outfield and as emergency shortstop. He is not a long-term solution in the infield. WILL: Utility player. 1Y/3M plus incentives and a team option. JOE: Nomar should be brought back on an incentive deal only if the organization is ready to commit to Ronnie Cedeno as their everyday SS. If that is the case, then Nomar is a good clubhouse guy that can help any team by playing 5 days a week somewhere. He can play 2b, 3b, SS, and maybe even an OF spot. Thatís enough ABís to allow him to prove himself. DEREK: I love Nomar, but I donít think this team can risk that he might get hurt again, and I donít think thereís anywhere they can afford to absorb him defensively in order to field his bat. It pains me to say it, but I think he needs to be let go. Neifi Perez: uber-backup, starter, or agent's phone calls immediately transferred to voice mail? JOE: Lightning in a bottle. Do NOT bring him back for what heíll want. If heíll take bench money then fine. WILL: He had one hell of a year defensively. He's valuable if he's in that role, so why not give him a million bucks or so. He's replaceable, so don't mistake him for a good all-around player. DEREK: If the Cubs have good, historically healthy starters up the middle ñ guys whose names Dusty will want to write on the lineup card every day ñ then I have no problem with him as a backup, particularly if the man at second is Todd Walker. Otherwise, if the men up the middle are both accomplished defenders, or if one of them is someone Dusty might suddenly turn fickle on, like Ronny Cedeno, then he needs to be ignored until he goes away. CHUCK: Backup, only if Dusty isnít managing. If Dusty stays, then backup only if Rafael Furcal is signed. AL: I like the phrase "uber-backup". That describes very well the role I'd like to see him have on the 2006 Cubs. As such, he's a very useful player. Giving him 572 at-bats in a year isn't what a winning team does. Teams for whom he had that many or more at-bats, in Colorado and Kansas City, sucked. The 2003 Giants, for whom he was "uber-backup", with about 300 AB, were a playoff team. Can Corey Patterson's brain and/or bat be salvaged? CHUCK: Do I have to answer this? DEREK: I suppose if I were feeling particularly ornery Iíd ask how one can salvage things that never existed in the first place, but that would be going over the line. I think heís done as a Cub. The general question of whether he can be a good Major Leaguer again is moot to me, because whether someone else can fix him or not, I donít think he can be effective again in Chicago. AL: Not with the Cubs, they can't. There's too much history, too much baggage. He still does have talent, and there's got to be some other team out there who'll say "we can fix that", and give the Cubs something in return. Frankly, I'd take a bag of used baseballs, but I think the Cubs can get a prospect or two, or package him in a larger deal. WILL: Yes, but not in Chicago. This might be the ultimate challenge trade. Bet Atlanta would love him. JOE: I think he can be salvaged but only with proper coaching. I just donít know that heíll be salvaged as a Cub. Kerry Wood: bullpen or rotation? WILL: Have to give him one more shot before resigning ourselves to the fact that he's never going to be Nolan Ryan. JOE: Rotation if he can stay healthy. If he gets hurt or feels pain even once that causes him to be removed like last year, then heís got to go to the pen. AL: Before the Dempster signing I'd have said try him at closer. But you're not going to pay Dempster that kind of money without promising him the closer slot, and Wood makes too much money to be a setup man. So let's assume that he can recover from the surgery and start again. If he has a good spring, maybe he can even still be traded. That said, I'd love to see Wood succeed. I've been a big fan of his since even before his 20-K game, when I saw him throw consistent 98-MPH heat in spring training 1998, only to be demoted to Iowa. That year, someone asked then-Angels manager Terry Collins who he thought would win the World Series. He said, "The Cubs." Asked why, he said, "If the Cubs have five pitchers better than Kerry Wood, they OUGHT to win it all." That's the Wood I hope we see again. DEREK: Rotation. And heíll stick, at least for one more year. CHUCK: Iíd use him in the pen. Hendryís gonna have him as a starter. That means at least 1 trip to the DL and 2 rookies to fill in for him. Jeromy Burnitz: pick up his $7 mil option or buy him out for $500K? CHUCK: Hasta la vista. WILL: Pick it up. There's not much out there better at the same price. DEREK: Buyout. The Cubs can do better for that kind of cash. JOE: I hate to say it, but I really like Burnitz and the way he plays. I bring him back. AL: Buy him out, thank him for his service, give him a gold watch or whatever it is you give retiring ballplayers these days, and say goodbye. Todd Walker: good facial hair, gimpy leg, Cubs beat writers' best friend. Pick up his option or look elsewhere? JOE: Iím kind of a homer with Walker, but I really like him and what other options do we have at 2B in the FA market or on the farm? DEREK: I love Toddís bat, but his defense gives me and Greg Maddux night sweats. If the organization is truly committed to giving Cedeno a shot over at second in the event that someone else is signed to play short, then I can let him go ñ particularly if the Cubs decide to let Nomar have one more shot at the 6 hole. Otherwise, if whoever is going to play short is solid enough defensively, and Cedeno isnít going to play the keystone, Iím good with another year of The Shadow. CHUCK: I look elsewhere. Heís just not good enough and he drives in too few runs. AL: I like Walker and only wish he could stay healthy. He's not nearly as bad defensively as everyone says. It's entirely possible that the Cubs will pick up his option and then trade him, which even he admits could happen. I have heard that the Cubs are going to make a run at Rafael Furcal and try Ronny Cedeno at 2B next year, which wouldn't leave room for Walker. But, if they don't get Furcal, they could sign Nomar for LF, Walker for 2B, and try Cedeno at SS. Nice to know there are at least some options out there. WILL: Pick it up. Good facial hair is worth something and the other option is Neifi starting. Which lilí Cubs would you like to see get a shot at a roster spot in spring training? JOE: David Aardsma could help the bullpen. He has closer-like stuff so he can get some experience in pressure situations that arenít quite save situations. Plus, how nice would it be to hear that heís the first person in the alphabetical list of players in MLB history over and over all year? WILL: Murton, Pie, Greenberg, Brownlie, Leicester, Sing, Nolasco, Ryu, Pinto, and Aardsma. DEREK: Murton, Cedeno, Pie. AL: As noted above, Cedeno. I like his bat, glove and attitude, and I think that has not gone unnoticed by the brass, and as also mentioned above, Murton. Apart from that, Jermaine Van Buren has a good shot at making the 2006 bullpen, IF he can control that fastball of his. Nine walks in his six major league innings to date isn't a good sign. CHUCK: Angel Guzman, before heís AARP-eligible. Is 2006 the Year of the Cub? WILL: Not yet. Cards will still be very good, Brewers will be coming up, and it just doesn't look to gel. I'd like to see them see what they have in the first half and see if it's moving towards something. The Cubs could always add or subtract at the deadline in any year. DEREK: Itís just too early to tell. Iíd like to think so, but a lot needs to happen in order make that hope a reality, and with the weight of history on their backs, if I had to lay a bet Iíd have no choice but to say no. CHUCK: No. Dusty managing. Hendry leaving too many holes for too many years. Too many holes (two OFs, SS, 2B) and too many other bad spots (C, relief). Two-year project, minimum. AL: Man, what a question. Cub fans have been asking that for ninety-eight years, ya know? And every year we hope, every year we hope the answer is yes. It's early to say yes or no. It's only two days after season's end, and no moves have yet been made. All we have right now are rumors, and you can't base a prediction on rumors. Ask me again in March. JOE: Ask me in October of í06. I think Iíll have a better idea then.