The rites of spring are upon us once again, marked by the blossoming of flowers, warmer temperatures, April showers and of course, the TCR roundtable preview. The powers that be here have gathered around one very round and large table extending from the West Coast of the Great States of America to the land of kings, queens and something known as ìspotted dickî; all in an effort to bring you into the new season. Our pal Transmission has gotten himself wrapped up in a defense of his disseration so unfortunately he will not be able to play along. We wish him luck as we do the 2006 Cubbies.
Rate the Cubs off-season acquisitions and maneuvers? Did Jim Hendry sufficiently address the teamís needs or was he left in the cold holding a bag of donuts? MmmmmÖdonuts!!!
When Americans talk about donuts, or doughnuts as itís correctly spelt, are we talking ones with jam in the middle, or ones with holes in the middle? I mean theyíre both good, but I think weíre all better off if our favourite things come without a big bit missing. Take the Cubs, for instance. Just how much better off they would be without about half a lineup missing? Letís just say, with a little more strawberry jam, they might not be in the position theyíre in now where, if theyíre to have any real playoff aspirations at all, theyíre once again entirely dependent upon the ridiculously high upside pitching getting healthy and staying healthy. And once again the news on that front has not been good. Iíd love to act all surprised on that one, but Iíve won the grand total of zero Academy Awards in my lifetime. The bottom line is, when you consider just what can be done with a hundred million dollar payroll and the lure of the big city, Hendryís off-season for the second year running has to go down as a big disappointment. Again, some backwards and a lack of foresight and creativity have been the main culprits.
He addressed their needs, I just don't think he did a very good job. I'm probably in the minority in liking the Jones signing more than the Pierre trade -- the Cubs gave up an awful lot to get a guy who does one thing well. Jones, meanwhile, will be an albatross by 2008, but this year I expect him to contribute. The bullpen additions certainly will improve the staff, but the cost of the Howry and Eyre deals is just ridiculous.
He certainly addressed what he felt the teamís needs were, Iím just not sure he addressed them properly nor sufficiently. Juan Pierre
was absolutely an essential pickup after missing out on Rafael Furcal
, but it was a steep price to pay. Heís certainly going to perform better then Corey Patterson
did, but will he perform up to his 2003 and 2004 levels? I have serious doubts. He signed some decent relievers but itís a dangerous strategy signing middle relievers to big contracts, one that Hendry has already been burned on a few times. Hendry claimed to have an eye for defense this off-season, but once again Iím not sure if he did much to improve upon that aspect of our game. And he did nothing to improve on one of our biggest problem's; woeful team OBP. Heíll have to hope that Hairston/Walker, Murton, Pierre and Jones play at the apex of their potential while Lee and Ramirez continue to play at theirs. To give it a grade, C-.
BULLPEN: Signing Dempster, Eyre, and Howry for three years is one year too long for each, but I will worry about that in 2008. I guess giving each of them three years is what Hendry felt he had to do to
get then to sign (or re-sign) with the Cubs. Kerry Wood
is the Cubs
bullpen ace-in-the-hole, though. I would have no problem with Woody
moving into the closer role mid-season if Dempster struggles. With a
healthy(?) Kerry Wood as the closer, the Cubs bullpen would be the
best in baseball, and it's already very good.
BENCH: I like bench guys who are good pinch-hitters, so I would have
preferred the Cubs sign Mark Sweeney
, Wes Helms
, and/or Robert Fick
over John Mabry
RIGHT-FIELD: I am not a Jacque Jones
fan. I would have preferred the
Cubs go hard after Brian Giles
instead. There weren't a lot of
LEAD-OFF HITTER: Rafael Furcal would have been one-stop shopping (SS
and lead-off hitter in one player). I guess Pierre is an OK fall-back
lead-off hitter, and I like Ronny Cedeno as a SS, but I would have
MUCH prefered Furcal.