Only 182 Days Until Opening Day

With the off-season upon us, we thought we'd take a few days to look back at the '05 season and forward to 2006. Today, the four TCR writers take a stab at it, and our feelings range from pessimistic to, uh, really pessimistic. Someone want to talk John in off that ledge? Tune in tomorrow for Q&A with other Cubs writers, and on Wednesday for the opinions of some of the TCR community. ---------- Letís start off with the biggest positive in an otherwise disappointing season: Does Derrek Lee deserve the MVP? Will he get it? JOHN: Simply put, Derrek Lee has been the most valuable player in the National League in 2005 - he's contributed more wins to the Cubs than any other player has contributed to any other team. He's managed that by combining that with his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense at first base with the best offensive stats in the league. If you measure hitting traditionally, note that Lee led the NL in hits, batting average, extra base hits and slugging percentage, he made a valiant run at the Triple Crown that didn't peter out until August, and he even stole 15 bases. If you like to keep up with times, Lee ranked first in OPS by a country mile, and fourth in OBP. And if you're more sabermetrically inclined, it's hard to argue with the fact that Lee wiped the board in every acronym from EqA to VORP to MLV and what not. So, will Lee win it? I fear not - I suspect the writers will find a way to perpetuate the greatest injustice since, erm, last year. Their flimsy case will be based upon the fact that the Cubs as a team aren't heading to the postseason and upon Lee's "measly" 107 RBI. I find it difficult to pin the inadequacies of the rest of the roster, not to mention those of the man in charge of it and the man that put it together, upon the giant shoulders of the one that actually did his job, and a whole lot more besides. RUZ: He certainly deserves it, but I don't think he'll win it. He ended the season with the highest VORP in the major leagues, joining Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols as the only players with a VORP over 100. Pujols ended up pretty close, though, and since the Cardinals made the playoffs and the Cubs didn't, I expect Pujols to take home the award. TRANS: Lee is ahead of Pujols in most of the important stats and plays a better defensive 1B; so itís either Lee or Jones. Lee wins. Heís almost 170 points ahead of Jones in OPS. 75 points on the batting average. Far more doubles and runs. Lee also wins on all the b.s. ìintangible" stuff as well, since Jones has to shake his previous reputation as a malcontent. ROB: The vote will likely end up being Pujols, Jones, then Lee. If it was my vote Iíd go Lee, Pujols Cabrera, then maybe, just maybe Jones. Jones does have the advantage over the two by playing a mean centerfield every day, but the bulk of his votes are going to come because Marcus Giles(.366 OBP) and Rafael Furcal (.347 OBP) and Chipper Jones (.412 OBP) hit in front of him, meaning all 50+ of those homers had a really good shot of being with men on. Really a shame how bad this season was for the Cubs, as I never was really able to enjoy Derrekís season for the ages. 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? TRANS: I wouldnít have finished that 7th burrito. Oh, do you mean Cub-specific? Thatís tough, because there isnít one single decision that doomed us. The mistakes were smaller, more diffuse, but just as effective in the ultimate goal of disappointing Cub fans. Patterson? Hawkins? Hollandsworth? Garciaparra? Wood? Each of them had a warning light blinking over their head, but each individual move was defensible at that moment in time. I guess I would whisper into Hendryís ear, ìstop collecting so many warning lights!î RUZ: I'd resist the impulse to go Jeff Gilooly on Neifi Perez's shins in Spring Training, and I'd pop back to the morning of April 20th and convince Nomar that, should he hit into a double play ball, there would be no reason for him to try to run it out, and that he should just take the two outs and head back to the dugout with his groin intact. ROB: April 19th, 2005. By whatever means possible Iíd have kept Nomar Garciaparra out of the lineup on April 20th. He was really the one guy we couldnít afford to get injured for a length period as replacement shortstops are a tough find, not to mention his injury was the start of the ìnot againî portion of our year. JOHN: If I could go back to last October, I'd enroll as a Boston Red Sox fan. Winning a World Series seems like a lot of fun. The Cubs should try it one day. The trouble is though that the Cubs from the top to the bottom do seem somewhat allergic to the idea: I don't think it's going too far out on a limb to talk about there being almost a fundamental disposition to failure within the organization as a result of overexposure to it over the years. If I could change anything using this hypothetical time machine with superhero powers, I think it'd be to fix that. That or I'd unravel the Sosa mess, which I think still shamefully reflects on the Cubs just as much as it does Sosa. At what point did you give up on the Cubs this year? JOHN: The beginning of the end was Nomar's injury on April 20th. It was only just before the All-Star Break though, when an eight-game losing streak signaled the abandonment of a 40-36 position of relative strength that I think it became obvious the game was up. That series in Atlanta, memorable for tropical weather and lineups featuring Macias and Neifi at the top, when Lee still had a shot at the Triple Crown too, that was truly depressing. The Cubs never really recovered. Neither did my optimism. RUZ: Right around the All-Star Break, as the Cubs were finishing up an eight-game losing streak and I was getting ready to move cross-country. The way they were playing made it really easy for me to stop paying quite as much attention. ROB: I was quite ready to give up when the Cubs lost that home series at the trading deadline to the Arizona DíBacks. I mean everything tells me that if you canít beat a lightweight like that at home, you have no business in the playoffs. The trade for Lawton brought a bit more of that false hope that lasted for a whole ënother week, until we got swept in New York. TRANS: Happily, the Cubs started to fold around the same time that the academic year started, mid-August. It was very convienient of them. Thanks! 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? ROB: I donít think any coaches are going anywhere. Baker wonít last the season if theyíre middling around .500 come June (injuries or not). Hendry, in order to save his own hide, will have to be proactive if thatís the case and firing Dusty will look like heís on top of that situation. Sadly though, Grady Little will most likely be the interim manager. I donít agree with much of what Dusty says or does, or his demeanor, but winning solves everything. It doesnít have to be my way if the Cubs are on top. Of course it hasnít been lately and any trust I had in Dusty is long gone. If the Cubs donít make the playoffs, heís certainly gone. TRANS: Dusty should be on the hot seat. Whether he is or not depends on whether Hendry thinks that his own future is secure. If he feels insecure, and Baker gets off to a slow start, Bakerís gone. If he feels secure, he sticks with Baker, as Hendry has given absolutely no indication that heís dissatisfied in any way with Baker. That said, we should pay a kingís ransom to bring in Ron Washington from Oakland as a fielding coach, and groom him to replace Baker. I fear that weíll wind up with Lou Pinella, though, if Baker goes. JOHN: Good Lord, Dusty Baker. I'd rather just pretend he didn't exist. He'll be back next year, though -- I don't see any other possible scenario right now, and his fate thereafter is tied to what happens next year. It's as simple as that. I suspect the coaching staff, Larry Rothschild included, will be given another spin, but I can't say that with quite the same degree of surety. RUZ: I don't think he'll get an extension this off-season. And I have to think he's in danger of losing his job in '06 -- he's in the last year of his contract, so it'll be a lot easier for Cubs brass to fire him mid-season if they want to. In order for Dusty to keep his job through the end of the year, the Cubs need to have a really good April. Of course, I was predicting he'd be fired this season, so what do I know? What about Jim Hendry -- should McPhail and the Trib re-up him or is his fate tied with Dustyís? ROB: Hendry is a solid GM and more importantly to McPhail and Co., the seats are still filled and he stays within the payroll budget. It would have to be a disastrous season for them to even consider it. This will really be the first year that the entire team will be his doing as theyíre finally out from under the Sosa contract. I hope Hendry is around for awhile, we just need to hire an Assistant Middle Infielder GM, who vetoes Hendry anytime he has the bright idea to sign the Neifis or Maciases of the world. RUZ: They shouldn't re-up him, but he shouldn't be tied to Dusty. I'd like to see Hendry stay after the '06 season and have the opportunity to work with a manager who has the same priorities he does. JOHN: Jim Hendry has certainly tied himself and with him his fate to Dusty Baker. The two have had a couple of minor public disagreements, which suggests that they perhaps don't always see eye to eye in private. But, they're not as different as we'd like to think, and the direction the Cubs are heading has for the most part been agreed between them. Obviously that does not reflect particularly well on Hendry, because I think it's becoming increasingly obvious to everyone else that Dusty is not the man to lead this team where it wants to (and must) go. But if Hendry can see that too, then I can only think of two explanations, and neither's particularly good: either Hendry is compromising the entire team for the sake of not abandoning his original decision, and so his job has become trying to put together a roster that's not necessary the most likely to win, but rather the most likely to win with Dusty Baker as manager, or else Hendry is under the finger of people above him that are restricting his ability to make executive decisions. It just goes to show that we simply have too limited an understanding of what's really going on to make worthwhile pronunciations as to how things will pan out long-term for Hendry, McPhail, Dusty, or anyone else. TRANS: The last that I read, McPhail wanted them both back. Hendryís been in the organization longer and has done more for it than Baker, so I donít imagine that his fate is tied to Bakerís. If Iím McPhail, I keep Hendry as GM on the strengths of his trading history and his ability to recruit and utilize good scouts. Thereís also the factor of institutional continuity, where the Cubs historically have been just woeful. There hasnít been a long-term vision for this organization in decades, because of the high rate of turnover in the Manager and GM slots. Hendryís the first Cubs GM since Dallas Green to deserve the opportunity to see where his long-term vision takes the organization. What I do, however, is bring in someone from outside the organization to audit our minor league instruction techniques, and someone else to audit the conditioning techniques of our Major League pitching staff. Give them access to whatever they need, and give them the authority to make real changes. Our current approach has failed, and some of that blame has to stick to Hendry. What are the top three that went wrong for the Cubs this year, foreseeable or not? RUZ: 1. Nomar's injury took the Cubs out of playoff contention. In April! 2. Neifi Perez got almost 600 PAs. 3. Corey Patterson continued to exist. TRANS: 1. Hawkins, pre-trade. 2. Patterson. 3. Nomar's groin. ROB: 1. Injuries (Nomar, Wood, Prior, then everything else). 2. Korey's fall. 3. Bullpen disaster. JOHN: 1. Injury. Garciaparra, Walker, Ramirez, Prior, Wood, and Fox all spent significant time on the DL. That, combined with the unforeseeable Corey Patterson implosion and the more foreseeable failure of the Jason Dubois experiment meant that the Cubs took quite a hit this year. 2. That hit was compounded by the failure of Jim Hendry to prepare and sort of contingency plans. When Wood and Prior went down, we were left with a rotation featuring Maddux, Rusch, Mitre and Koronka. When Nomar limped away, we had to endure far too much Neifi. When Aramis sat, it was Macias that got the call at first. When Dubois and Corey went belly up, we had to suffer through Hairston and Hollandsworth. 3. Finally, this was the year that Dusty Baker went wrong. This was Dusty's "make or break" year, and he broke the Cubs. The players must bear a significant chunk of the responsibility, and Hendry must be chastised for some of his decisions. That said, I cannot for the life of me think of any ways in which Dusty Baker actually helped this team this year, yet I can think of a lot of ways, small when looked at individually but far more serious when considered collectively, that I think hindered the team. Quite frankly, I don't think I can stand many more ridiculous decisions, and I know I can't stand any more ridiculous sound bites. Maybe Dusty's great behind the scenes, I don't know, but I doubt it. His players don't play like it. How about three that went right, besides Lee's breakout? RUZ: 1. Ryan Dempster made the ninth inning unadventurous. 2. Matt Murton gave us hope that he might not be the next Scot Thompson. 3. Carlos Zambrano continued his development and appears poised to join the elite next year. TRANS: 1. Len and Bob. 2. Ryno. 3. Dempster. ROB: The emergence of Murton, okay, thatís one. Umm, Wow, hmm, let me think of 2 more, Dempster coming up as a potential relief ace, that was good, letís see a third, no Cub fan was mortally wounded by a fly ball or flying concrete. JOHN: 1. Ryan Dempster. Putting Dempster in the rotation was one of the first of Dusty's ridiculous decisions, But Dusty, in fairness, swallowed his pride and changed his mind (something I wish Jim Hendry was more capable of) and shifted Dempster to the bullpen, where Hendry had wanted him all along. And Dempster had a terrific year. You simply can't argue with 33 saves in 35 opportunities. And it's worth remembering that Dempster blew the first one he got, and the other, against the Cardinals, only came about because an umpire blew a call on Hector Luna's "steal" of second. And the Cubs won both of those games anyway. 2. The bullpen, at least in the way that it was handled. The Cubs showed a new and somewhat encouraging willingness to eat contracts when they dispatched Borowski and Remlinger, pitchers with their best days long behind them. They then turned to the future, and though the results were sometimes painful, they broke in three very promising arms: Wuertz, Novoa and Ohman. With Williamson around (he's streets ahead of where Dempster was at the same stage last year), and Dempster of course, and maybe Jermaine Van Buren too, the Cubs' bullpen holds a lot of promise. Gah, that's just two things. Well, more than three million went to Wrigley again this year. That's just two and a half? Erm, we got healthy years out of Neifi Perez and Jose Macias? Still just two and a half? Oh I give up. The Cubs drove into a tree this year, and the car's a write off. Ah, but the heated seats still work! Big deal, I say. Let's put 2005 out of our minds. 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? TRANS: Lee, Z and P all deserve extensions, yes. Priority no. 1 for the money: target a starting outfielder. Throw as much money in a three-year deal to Matsui or Damon as we possibly can, or take on Mannyís contract. Be slightly less aggressive on Brian Giles. Priority no. 2: sign Furcal, move Cedeno to 2B and resign Walker for a year. Priority no. 3: trade Barrett and sign Ramon Hernandez. There is no ìsavingî money. If we donít spend it this year, donít expect the Tribune to roll it over for the 2007 season. If we canít spend it on desirable free agents, then throw the money into anything from fielding coaches (Ron Washington!) to reduced ticket prices. ROB: Resources may be limited but there are players that can fill the holes on the ballclub. Unfortunately it may mean a bidding war for their services and thatís just not something Hendry likes to get involved in and rightfully so. Shortstop, corner outfield, centerfield, and the bullpen need to be addressed this off-season and whether itís free agency or via trade, Hendry needs to pull the trigger on some deals that heís been hesitant of the past. (Big money contracts and trading away top-tier prospects). I wouldnít mind seeing extensions for Lee and Zambrano as well. JOHN: Is it just me, or does every year feature the weakest free agent market in years? The question to ask, even if it's a strange one to ask of a team that hasn't won in 97 years, is this: when should the Cubs win? It seems to me as though not even Jim Hendry has made his mind up. On the one hand he's been so reluctant to deal away prospects that it's obvious he has more than one eye on the future. On the other, the Cubs have committed to a lot of contracts of significant size that are focused entirely on the here and now of things. It seems as though Hendry's answer is "let's win every year." That would be great, but until Hendry proves that he himself is capable of orchestrating that, or until he moves on, it seems to me he's actually saying "let's win next year." I don't want to see the Cubs make stupid short-term decisions in pursuit of an improbable goal, but the current Cub philosophy is very frustrating. I certainly don't see the point in not using the money and saving up for 2007. Zambrano, Prior and Wood aren't going to be around forever. Lee won't stay this good for long, Ramirez and Barrett, bring back Walker and Nomar, the Cubs have a win-now opportunity if they seize it by the horns. RUZ: Spend, but spend wisely. It's a shame that in the off-sesaon that the Cubs really do need to rebuild a few key positions, there isn't much out there. Stay away from aging outfielders (I'm looking at you, Brian Giles) who will command inflated prices (hello, Mr. Damon). This is a weak market, and I hope Hendry doesn't spend money just because he feels like it's what he has to do. What are 3 things the Cubs MUST DO this off-season? RUZ: I really think there's only one thing they MUST do: figure out the outfield before Spring Training. Whether it's moving Nomar there, and/or bringing back Burnitz, and/or putting Murton at the top of the depth chart, they have to do it, and stick with it. Once that is in place they can figure out what else needs to be done, but I think any other moves can wait until later in the off-season. Let other teams overpay for what's out there, and then come in late and look for bargains. TRANS: 1. Let Murton play one of the corners. 2. Decide whether Cedeno is ready or if we need a stop-gap shortstop. 3. Get more power from the outfield. ROB: 1. I donít know who it should be, but they need to find a stud outfielderer whoís got pop and a good approach to the plate, all while playing some stellar defense. Brian Giles could fit that role, but Iím guessing more likely that it comes in a trade. 2. Sign Furcal or trade for some other similar player that can get on-base at a decent enough clip that would make him a reasonable lead-off man, plays good defense at an important defensive position, and has a bit of speed that heís not afraid to use. 3. Find a lights out bullpen arm either by trade or free agency. B.J. Ryan/Ryan Dempster end of the bullpen would be a dream come true, albeit an expensive and highly unlikely one. JOHN: 1. Fix center field. 2. Fix right field. 3. Fix the bench. Finding another top starting pitcher also has to be a high priority. You can't have enough pitching, so says the old maxim and so do I. What are 3 things the Cubs MUST NOT DO this off-season? RUZ: 1. Sign any outfielder over 33. 2. Bring back Corey Patterson. 3. Get fooled into thinking that Derrek Lee has set a new level of performance. They need to realize that he will regress next year, and plan their offense accordingly. TRANS:: 1. Give Corey the starting CF job. 2. Re-sign Nomar. 3. Give major league contracts to over-30, under 5' 8" utility infielders. ROB: 1. Re-sign Neifi Perez 2. Go after Johnny Damon. 3. Sign some shoddy veteran corner outfielder to compete with Murton. JOHN: 1. Re-sign Jose Macias. 2. Let Nomar and Walker leave for defensive reasons. 3. Sign Dusty to a ten-year extension. Letís talk specific players. Should Baker and Hendry give the keys to left field to Matt Murton or do they look for other options? TRANS: Barring a blockbuster trade for a slugging corner OFer, who on the market would bring better value? Murton has to play. Everything in his minor-league performance and his major league audition indicates heíll keep hitting. (Though I just noticed his line-drive percentage is lower than Corey Patterson's!) I love his hustle, his plate discipline, heís got acceptable speed. Keep him! ROB: Unless Murton is part of a trade that nets us one of the best corner outfielders in the game (and Iím talking the Mannys and Adam Dunns of the baseball world), he should be given every opportunity to lose the job next year. And by every opportunity, Iím talking as much leash as was afforded Korey this year. RUZ: Murton should be given the chance to start. JOHN: The Cubs have a good shot at getting at decent production at a miniscule price. As long as they make sure they've got the contingency plan that they didn't have for Dubois, it has to be Murton. He's not going to hit .321/.386/.521 as he did this year, but if he can even be league average, the fact he's costing not a cent more than $316k allows the Cubs to invest in premium production elsewhere. Hendry deserves enormous credit for orchestrating what was basically a Brendan Harris-for-Matt Murton swap as part of the Garciaparra deal. Harris this year hit a meager .270/.329/.417 in 127 games at Triple-A. 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) TRANS: I donít think Iíve given Dempster enough credit this year. Heís really done a good job. If he stays near this performance level for three years, heís a steal. If he tanks, this is an amount of money that does not cripple the team. Nice work, Hendry. ROB: I would still love for the Cubs to go after Wagner or Ryan and have a lethal one-two, righty-lefty punch out of the bullpen. Considering how bad our starting staff is at going deep into games, a lights out bullpen seems to be a necessity. JOHN: Despite his superb performance this year, I'm not too optimistic he'll repeat it next year, or the two years after that. Dempster still walks too many batters, and it's unlikely he's found a secret way of preventing runners on base from scoring that will ensure continued success. In general, if you put runners on, they'll eventually start coming around to score. Giving him over $5M a year is okay -- the Cubs can afford to spend a little extra to avoid market forces and to maintain a little roster stability. Giving him three years strikes me as risky. Let's just say I hope this is a deal that the Cubs don't live to regret. RUZ: Hendry didn't over-pay, so that means if the Proven Closer dust falls off him in the off-season, they should be able to go after another option without being handcuffed by the contract. 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? TRANS: I wouldnít give him more than $2M guaranteed for one year. But even then, we would have to pencil him in for starter, scaring away potential free agents that are good enough to start. Thus, when Nomar goes down, weíre stuck with Jose Macias again. So no, I wouldnít try to resign him at all. ROB: I would love nothing more to keep Nomar around, but I just donít see a spot for him. His bat isnít all that special to offset whatever defensive liability heíd likely be in the outfield. A move to second base is what would interest me the most, but I havenít heard anything yet about Nomar being interested. If we donít sign Furcal, Nomar is still my #2 choice, but I would then jettison Todd Walker for a better defensive option and hope we find that elusive prototypical lead-off man to fill centerfield. RUZ: If Nomar is willing to move to left field, and he shows he can do it without hurting or embarassing himself, I'd love to see the Cubs bring him back for another year. JOHN: I'll take Nomar Garciaparra as Cub shortstop any day. It seems Nomar likes the idea too, so much so he'd be willing to sign cheap. I'm not seeing the problem. The guy is still one of the best offensive shortstops in the game, and his defense is tolerable. Go for it. What's the worst that can happen? Just make sure you have one of those all-important contingency plans. Neifi Perez: uber-backup, starter, or agent's phone calls immediately transferred to voice mail? RUZ: If the Cubs could extract some sort of promise out of Dusty not to use him as a starter, he'd be a great guy to have around. Unfortunately, Dusty:Neifi::me:candy -- if it's available, it gets eaten. So you gotta take away Dusty's candy. TRANS: If we decide Cedeno is ready to start, then Neifi canít be anywhere near the ballclub, because Baker will use him to sabotage Cedeno. If Cedeno needs a year in AAA, then Neifi can backup whomever we bring in for the year. Hell, he could start if we managed to grab enough offense elsewhere. (MannyÖ.) JOHN: Use Neifi Perez correctly, as a late-inning defensive replacement only, and you actually have a useful player. Let him pick up a bat, and you don't. Bring him back on the condition that his glove is glued to his hand in such a way that picking up and swinging a bat becomes impossible. It's really not that complicated. A bit cruel, but not complicated: you could probably even get Corey Patterson to do the gluing. ROB: Heís certainly doesnít make for too poor a back-up, but heís too dangerous in Dustyís hands. Dusty seems to believe heís #2 in the team MVP race this year and heíd find way too many ways to get him in the lineup. Iíd just prefer he find a starting job somewhere else and we be rid of him. Can Corey Patterson's brain and/or bat be salvaged? ROB: I'd be quite shocked if Corey ended up in spring training with the team next year. He seems to be suffering from some sort of Rick Ankiel-like mind freeze every time he steps up to the plate. Package him in some uber-deal and be rid of the headache I say. JOHN: I don't know. I really don't know. I refer you to what I wrote a month ago:
It's all very well criticising Corey for such lamentable performance, and he deserves it since he's so oblivious to what's best for him, but the Cubs apparently don't know any better, and that's the greater crime.
For the record, Corey has hit just .167/.215/.283 since. I'm not sure what good that's done him, and how the Cubs could possibly have been any worse off had they simply said, "enough's enough, Corey, you need to get away from here, clear your head, get a fresh perspective on things. Oh, and while you're at it, learn how to friggin' hit again, please." TRANS: Not by any coach currently employed by the Cubs. RUZ: No. Kerry Wood: bullpen or rotation? ROB: Iíd only be willing to move Wood to the bullpen if the Cubs redefined the closer role. Not really redefine I suppose but more like going back to the heydays of the relief ace whoíd come in as early as the 7th to shut other teams down. I have a good feeling that his shoulder surgery though will get him through next season without a trip to the injured list. JOHN: Rotation. I'm still a big Kerry Wood fan, though he's no longer a subject I can motivate myself to write about - he just depresses me. RUZ: They'll pay him $11M next year, and no one is going to take a chance on trading for him. You have to put him in the rotation and see if you can salvage one more good season out of him. TRANS: Rotation, itís our only hope of getting any decent return on that contract. Jeromy Burnitz: pick up his $7 mil option or buy him out for $500K? TRANS: Buy him out. ROB: A .760 OPS? Nobody's defense in right field is worth enough to offset that. After we buy him out and no one is willing to sign him in the offseason, heíd make a good bench guy though. JOHN: Buyout, move on and try and forget it ever happened. I don't care how good his defense is, .258/.323/.436 is not good enough for a right fielder earning seven figures. RUZ: In any other year, I'd say buy him out in a heartbeat, but given what the market looks like, I don't see much out there that's better. Still, I think it would be better to say goodbye and take your chances elsewhere. Todd Walker: good facial hair, gimpy leg, Cubs beat writers' best friend. Pick up his option or look elsewhere? ROB: Iím not opposed to an upgrade here, especially with the glove as youíll have a hard time finding one with the bat. But Walker comes at a cheap price and itís slim picking out there at second. Iíd re-sign him, use Cedeno as a defensive replacement/occasional platoon partner and use the money saved to fix our other glaring holes. RUZ: I doubt he wants his option picked up, but I think that's a moot point because I don't think there's any way they'll bring him back, unfortunately. I expect Ronny Cedeno and/or Neifi Perez at second next year, depending on whether or not the Cubs end up with Furcal. TRANS: Pick it up, if he'll let us. JOHN: Why on earth is this even up for discussion? You hold a $2.5M option on one of the best offensive second basemen in all of baseball. His defense is below average, but it doesn't negate his bat by any means. The Cubs are certifiably stupid if they even think for one second about letting Walker go without even picking up his option. Trading him is another matter, since there's such a dearth of quality at second base that he could actually yield a decent haul, but it's still not something that particularly appeals to me. Which lilí Cubs would you like to see get a shot at a roster spot in spring training? TRANS: I really enjoyed the two innings that I got to see Van Buren pitch. Iím sure if Murton works really hard, doesnít take anything for granted and has a hot spring, he will have a chance to make the club. RUZ: Murton, Adam Greenberg, Rich Hill, and maybe Ricky Nolasco. ROB: Brandon Sing, Felix Pie, Angel Guzman, Ricky Nolasco, and Jermaine Van Buren. JOHN: Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, Mike Fontenot, Jermaine Van Buren and most definitely not Felix Pie. Is 2006 the Year of the Cub? ROB: Of course it is. How could I be a Cubs fan if I didnít believe that? The team has a solid foundation and plenty of room in their payroll to make this a top flight team for years. RUZ: Too early to tell. I don't see the Cardinals winning 100 games again next year, and Houston doesn't strike me as a team with much left in the tank, so the Cubs might be able to compete for the division. The wildcard is always a possibility, depending on the moves the team makes in the off-season. In general, though, I still think that the Cubs are hamstrung by their manager and until they get out from under the belief that known-quantity, mediocre veterans are better than possibly-good youngsters, any success the Cubs had is going to be ephemeral rather than long-lasting. JOHN: Probably not. Because we're the Cubs. TRANS: Of course it is. But we still wonít win the World Series.


Watched Baseball Tonight last night... The choice quote about the Cubs was "This team needs to be blown up in the offseason and rebuilt. They have a lot of pieces that don't fit well together." We need to get rid of a lot of this team. The whole outfield except Murton, keeping only Lee and Ramirez in the infield, and sadly, Barrett probably has to walk. The bullpen should be revamped, keeping 2-3 of the guys (including Dumpster), and we'll need a new bench. Maybe hang on to Walker if we can convince him of his utility status, but otherwise, we're rebuilding....again... All we have is a once solid starting rotation that now looks pretty weak. Congrats to D-Train though on the Cy-Young. We put our eggs in the wrong basket, huh?

Listen to Rob. Beware of Damon.

Why the need for Damon, anyway? What's wrong with Lofton as a stop-gap till Pie is ready? He's not perfect, but he's cheap. It's also the most-likely scenario, other than Hairston. I also like the KKKorey/Walker for Marcus Giles idea. Do that and make a run for the other Giles. Signing Nomar for an incentive-laden deal to play the outfield is not a terrible idea, if Giles looks too expensive. Let's keep some cash on hand for July, when we'll know more about Wood and some of the other variables.

Trammell fired....interviewing Leyland.

I said this earlier, too. Lofton is the kind of energy guy the cubs could use, and he'd be a perfect seat warmer for Pie. You keep Hairston around just in case, and you take what you save by signing Lofton to help sign Furcal. Then you offer up some of those prospects we're supposed to have a plethora of to get a stud to replace Burnitz. Hell, I like Murton a lot, but like the guys say in their discussion, if he can help net a stud, then you can deal him. Great discussion fellas. I enjoyed it.

"Manager Dusty Baker likely will be offered a two-year contract extension by next spring to remain with the Cubs after 2006." I hope Paul Sullivan is joking....

Seriously, Rob, besides wishful thinking what makes you think the Cubs are an organization that wouldn't offer Dusty Baker an extension?

I must respectfully disagree with Brent about is #1 thing that went right this year for the cubs. Len and Bob were mediocre-horrible, at best. When compared to Stone and Chip I can't see how anyone could enjoy listening to them. First, THEY DON'T EVEN SOUND LIKE BASEBALL FANS! There wasn't any real play by play, and frankly they just bored the pants off me. I walk around half naked now because of them. I also, however, need to apologize to someone I debated with on this site and this topic last year. I argued that the Giants announcers, Krukow and Kuiper, were terrible rubes. After listening to Len and Bob, I have a new respect for the SF broadcast team. They are insightful, smart, and most important, FUN TO LISTEN TO! I only wish WGN would try a similar formula.

i'll take len/bob anyday over stone/chip... bob started out slow..very very slow..almost silent at times while len carried him...reminded me of the chip/carter years (where oddly chip actually improved his craft because of it) bob came around comfortable, started cracking jokes and didnt rely on arz. diamondbacks stories. ive always been a len fan, very satisfied he's around and hope he sticks for years...he does his homework, he cares, and unlike chip he actually gets his facts straight. i miss chip/steve's dark humor, but len/bob tend to at least get their facts down more often than not... len/bob tend to actually call the game more than chip/stone who were pretty big fans of just going off on harry-like tangents while the game was going on in front of them. bob's not the best in keeping on task, but he's not joe carter painful...

Who is this 'BRENT' guy and does he actually follow the Cubs? Bleh.

"Probably not. Because weíre the Cubs." ugh. has this self-pitying, dan shaughnessy nonsense infected cubs fans now?

just wishful thinking.... Plus it's career suicide for Hendry. If an extension did happen and the Cubs perform exactly the same next year, he just cost his bosses some serious cash. Even if he really thinks Baker is the guy, no reason not to wait till next season. See how they start, if they're kicking butt come Sept, give him his extension.

for all the holes in this lineup already i still say barrett isn't a fit for the cubs. right now, pitching isn't the strength this team thinks it is. trade him to a team that needs hitting and sign hernandez or even rod barajas. or make a package for juan pierre and paul loduca out of florida.

Baker extension Dusty prefers blame-ducking to lame-ducking. A pouty prima donna like him is not going to be a happy camper if they don't extend him before spring training. If they don't, read those tea leaves as Hendry serving up a steaming cuppa accountability to everybody's favorite skipper. discussion That was a very enjoyable write-up. I'm puzzled by the Nomar-to-second, Cedeno-to-second suggestions. The organization has a ready-made middle infield combo coming off solid AAA seasons in Cedeno-Fontenot. You could install them as starters and Dusty-proof the backups by picking up Walker and Nomar for less than 7 mil for the four of them, which also gives you backups at third and first. What do you think?

You could install them as starters and Dusty-proof the backups by picking up Walker and Nomar for less than 7 mil for the four of them This is the most ridiculous thing I have read here in a while. Why would we start Cedeno/Fontenot over Nomar/Walker? That would be just plain foolish. Yes, the rookies would be significantly better defensively, but they would be much more significantly worse offensively. And why would Nomar sign on a team to be a backup? Do you realize how good of a hitter Nomar is? I guarantee that Nomar will be starting somewhere next season, and it would be foolish to not have Walker starting. I like Cedeno, and he will be a solid mlb player. But there is no way you start him over Nomar. And Fontenot will solid utility/bench player, but nothing more. Walker is signficantly better.

Starting pitching was not really addressed by the panel. With Rusch probably gone and Maddux declining, you only have the three hombres (Zambrano, Wood and Prior) and maybe Williams. Who do you add to the mix - Mitre, Hall? I don't think you will find much in free agency or by trade. The season ended with the 8 game losing streak around the All Star break, where the Cubs went from wildcard contenders to pretenders. After that, the Wood injury, combined with the slowdown from Lee and ARam's sensitive groin, spelled doom for the Cubs. I hope Dusty's pinch-hitting for Neifi in the last Cub's inning of the year was a sign that maybe the honeymoon is over and Neifi will be back on the bench or with another team. Patterson has to be the biggest disappointment of the year. It just goes to show you how much baseball is played between the ears.

I hate to sound like a broken record but why no mention of Rusch. Is everyone assuming he is going to walk ? Do you want him too ? Hendry should be whispering sweet nothings in his ear and maybe a club option with small buyout for 2007 if that will keep him. Keeping Rusch means not having to even think about over bidding for the pathetic crop of startig pitchers available because you KNOW we need AT least 6 starters, Jessica

Starting pitching and bullpen help, bigtime. But after that... We must keep Nomar. And let him play 2B. I'm not sure, barring a major trade acquisition, that we would do much better than Nomar at 2B. And now we also know he can play 3B in a pinch. Walker is limited defensively, even at the position he already plays. He's a perfect DH/2B fit for some AL team (the Rangers, perhaps?). Would you be happy if we put enough pitching prospects and Walker to get Soriano for LF if we knew we could and if we knew Nomar would be back to play 2B?

Put me down in the Lofton over Damon camp. Damon walks about once every 12 ABs. His value as a leadoff man is based entirely on his BA. (also successful an insane 18 in 19 steal attempts) For the dough, I don't think the BA's going to be high enough over the life of the inflated contract he'll be seeking. I don't think Pie should see Wrigley Field until 2007 at the earliest. In AA he had too many Ks, not enough walks, and couldn't steal bases. Not exactly someone that needs to be rushed to the bigs. I would have to listen to any trade for anyone except Z. I love Lee but he will never be worth more and is unlikely to ever have another year like '05. I don't think Hendry will trade Lee, ARam, Z or Prior. Obviously not Dempster either. But only a fool running a sub-.500 team wouldn't be willing to listen to every call. If someone offers something nuts for anyone but Z, I'd do it. Of course, that's not gonna happen. The Pirates are about out of people you'd want to steal.

"I hope Dusty's pinch-hitting for Neifi in the last Cub's inning of the year was a sign that maybe the honeymoon is over and Neifi will be back on the bench or with another team"-MARCV I thought I heard on WGN that Neifi had a hurt/sore left wrist. I thought I heard len/bob say that right after Neifi's third at-bat.

Would you be happy if we put enough pitching prospects and Walker to get Soriano for LF if we knew we could and if we knew Nomar would be back to play 2B? No...Soriano is incredibly overrated, and his only value is as a 2b (even though he terrible defensively). His production would be quite weak in a corner outfield spot, and his OBP is terrible.

Well, Matsui would be my fist choice (unless we really believe the Cubs would outbid the Mets for a Manny Ramirez), but I don't think he's ever leaving NY. The power numbers (36 HR 104 RBI) are good for a corner OF who will not have to think about 2B. Too many K's, but steals some bases (30). Think Burnitz hitting, Patterson Running, and gary Matthews, Sr. fielding and you get Soriano. But, yes, preferences are for Ramirez or Matsui, IMO. Of course, they're never coming.

I like Kenny Lofton too, but that would be too many Social Security checks stuffing the Cubs' mailbox each month.

Rusch said he'd only want to come back as a starter which Hendry retorted with "we'll consider him for a starter". Good chance he's walking.

The infield as we thought we would have it this year will be very much above league average with Lee, Walker, Nomar, ARam, barrett/blanco...Hopefully Neifi will sign as a backup and Cedeno the other, either at AAA or on the big league pine...the outfield is where we need the bats...since Nomar will either be A)cheap because of the incentive laden deal if he gets hurt or B)Much more expensive if he meets goals we would love him to meet and Todd Walker will cost 2.5M...spend the money on Burnett/Milwood and focus on improving the outfield, even if it costs the whole AAA team...

Ok...not the WHOLE AAA team...

Walker is the guy you can trade to the AL and hopefully get some mileage off of. Be nice to keep both, but why not keep the cheaper guy and get trade value from the less-stellar defensive guy? Of course, no one in the Cubs org is saying anything about Nomar at 2B, but does anyone doubt that he could play there?

Pop quiz: Of Todd Walker and Nomar Garciaparra, who's hit better over the past two years? The answer may surprise you.

Jessica, I can't believe what I am hearing.. Keeping Rusch would be a mistake. There are at least 10-15 Free Agent pitchers who would be MUCH better than Rusch. I wholeheartedly agree with you that we do need to sign another pitcher so that we don't have to count on Wood, but not Rusch. Here's just the start of the list: Burnett Vazquez Morris Weaver Millwood Washburn Byrd Loaiza J. Johnson I personally would like to see Millwood or Byrd.

Well, Nomar hasn't played all that much so I don't know how he could have out hit anyone respectable...

I think Ron Galt is saying Nomar hit .297 over 04-05 and Walker hit .290. Nomar had 18 HRs and 71 RBI compared to Walker's 27 and 90, but that's also in 96 less games. Over a full year, I think his OBP would also be better.

Sorry, I mean over two years his OBP would be better. Of course, I realize the key stat may be the "96 less games," but I still like the guy at 2B, I hope he comes as cheap (w/o incentives) as Walker this year and you can still trade Walker for other pieces.

And, for trade bait, there's fun stuff in the new issue of Baseball America: The Cubs have 16 players who ranked among the various minor leagues' "Top 20 Prospects" lists. That puts them 5th in the majors (behind the Angels with 20, Braves with 19, Twins with 18 and Dodgers with 17). The highest ranked players are Mark Pawelek (#1 in Ariz. League), Donald Veal (#2 in NWL), Harvey (#7 in MWL), and Pie (#8 in SL). If he gets dealt this winter, Veal could be the next Dontrelle Willis, another lefty, who was dealt following an impressive showing in the NWL in 2001.

I'm talking complete rate stats over 2004-2005. Nomar (in 587 AB+BB) 298/341*/466 Walker: (842) 290/353*/471 *these don't include sacrificies, HBPs, etc. The sample for Nomar encompasses some major injuries, of course, but it's still pretty large as these things go--almost a full season. I'm not a fan of this decline-Walker's-option idea, but I really don't get the proposals regarding shifting Nomar to 2B. The offensive difference isn't likely to be that large, and it might even be in favor of Walker. Is Nomar's defense likely to be much better than Walker's? Moreover, should a team with a staff that year-in and year-out allows some of the lowest amounts of ground balls (5th from last over 2002-2004) jettison a good offensive 2B over his defense? I like Cedeno when the alternative is Neifi: I don't like Cedeno when the alternative is a guy who's very quietly been one of the top offensive 2Bs in the game recently for a fraction of what the others in his tier cost.

It wasn't about declining Walker's option, so much as it is trying to see what could be gotten by offering Walker. Maybe, I'm confused--if the Cubs pick up his option are they precluded from trading him? Nomar is not so much of an upgrade at 2B offensively, but I do think he would be defensively, for no other reason than I just think so. The more important Nomar feature is that we can sign him and that, conversely, we don't have to ante up more for Walker, making him very nice trade bait, especially in the AL. BTW, I left out Giles as another I might like ahead of Soriano for the OF. But if Soriano was a NL OF in 2005 he would have more SB than all but three NL OFs and more HRs than two. That's decent production for a corner.

But if Soriano was a NL OF in 2005 he would have more SB than all but three NL OFs and more HRs than two. Sure...but he would have a terrible OBP, and he would strike out as much as Korey. Have you seen his home/road splits? They are terrible. His numbers at home are great, but as soon as he leaves Texas, his numbers go way down. Overrated. I wouldn't touch him. The sample for Nomar encompasses some major injuries, But that is exactly the point. Those numbers are the worst that Nomar will put up. When healthy, he is still one of the best hitters in the game. Look at his numbers since coming back from the DL: .318/.347/.531. In a full healthy season it is reasonable that Nomar would put up at least those numbers - if not better. His career numbers are: .320/.367/.544. If, and it is a big if, Nomar can stay healthy, I expect him to hit right at his career numbers. Second prediction of the off-season (first being that Prior will out perform Z next year): Nomar will have a line around .315/.360/.530 next year, with around 25 homeruns. And he will play 140+ games.

I hope at these upcoming organizational meetings, they (Baker, Hendry and McPhail) decide to start heading in a better direction. We need players that can run, play defense, do the fundamental things that score runs (good baserunning, moving runners over, bunting, getting runners in from 3B with less than 2 outs, etc.). Not the bad defense, unhealthy, non fundamental players currently clogging up the roster. Last year we obviously did not have many, if any, of those good kind of players. Good Luck Mr. hendry in finding them. Your job should be dependent on finding them and getting them to play for teh Cubs next year.

filling RF is gonna be a tricky thing...very thin field out there...cleveland dangled their surplused RP out there for months to try to get their RF of the future and the best they could do was get a reclaimation project in mr. dubois. the fact mr. giles is about to go to the postseason with a team and city he loves more than is healthy should make it even harder for the cubs and others looking to fill a hole in RF.

Ron Galt: I'm behind you on Walker. There's another factor in Todd's favor that hasn't been emphasized in this thread: he hits left-handed, which is no small thing in a heavily right-handed Cub batting order (especially if you jettison Burnitz and K-Pat).

Mr. Big: I'm with you when you take Soriano's stats and compare them to what you would want from an OBP perspective, but I was just responding to the comment that he would not be a productive corner. On the whole, he would be as productive a corner as most with the potential to hit for higher average and 30+ SB. Like I said, Giles, Ramirez, Matsui etc would be a whole lot better. But we can't get those guys in a trade (I think). I'm definitely with you on Nomar. But the greater flexibility for the Cubs is if he's at 2B which still gives you a shot at Furcal (if that's the way you want to go), or Cedeno (if you intend to spen big $$$ in the OF and the rotation.

Mr. Big: I'm definitely with you on Nomar. But the greater flexibility for the Cubs is if he's at 2B which still gives you a shot at Furcal (if that's the way you want to go), or Cedeno (if you intend to spen big $$$ in the OF and the rotation.

Lee, Nomar, Cedeno, Hairston, hit better against righties than lefties and Ramirez batted .284 against RHP. Barrett and Murton (yikes) both hit under .255 against RHP. Walker hit 40 points lower against RHP. I agree for the need for LH bats. But I don't think Walker alone saves the day, especially if he (cross your fingers) brings help in a trade.

I think there are several pitchers better than Rusch out there, only they will cost around 7-8 million a year for 3 to 4 years. This is not in the budget if we also need some outfielders ,some BP help and hopefully Furcal. Also last I heard when I was in Chicago about 10 days ago Rusch said he did not care if he was a starter, he wanted to win so where did that Hendry quote come from Rob G? I really don't think Rusch gets enough credit here. I think it makes sense to offer him a 2007 team option for say 4 million with a $500,000 buyout. This is in effect an extra half million to stay in 2006 and an incentive to stay longer if he is good enough Jessica

Cubs are allowed to trade Walker if they pick up the extention, but Walker has made it clear that he would not like it. He said he hopes Hendry would either pick it up and play him as starter, or else decline it so he can enter free agency. Sounds like he would consider getting traded to be almost unethical, and a slap in the face after giving Hendry a hometown-like price.
What about swingman Rusch's desire to be a starter next season? Rusch, who held the Astros to two runs in seven solid innings, said he will factor his anticipated role next year into deciding whether to exercise his option to return to the Cubs or become a free agent.
"I'll tell Glendon that he would be considered to be in the rotation,'' Hendry said.
Don't look for the Cubs to guarantee Rusch a starting spot. He will have to take his chances with the rest or seek employment elsewhere.
I read at least one other spot about Rusch's desire to be a starter next year, I think it was, not sure if it was a direct quote or a inference made by a beat writer. Here's next year's LHP starters: Mark Redman (mutual option for 4.5 mil) Kenny Rogers Shawn Estes Jarrod Washburn Jamie Moyer Tom Glavine (Mutual option, certain to be declined) Ted Lilly Seems like Rusch could make more than $2 mil in the open market next year and get a starting gig on top.

OK, I can see Walker's side, but there's got to be a middle ground, perhaps a place he would be willing to play (if the Cubs wanted to deal with them as well). A narrow opening, but an opening nonetheless... Without that middle ground, the best offer out there is what the Cubs should pursue (unless, there was a handshake deal to not trade him). He is vulnerable, but also valuable. You can't let him go and have him end up on the Cardinals or some other such team for nothing But it is still possible he could find a place to land to his liking. He almost signed with Texas...

I love Walker, but this is a business. He signed a deal and there's nothing crappy about signing him and then trading him if they so desire. Why should the Cubs lose out on getting anything for him? Sorry dude, life goes on. Chances are you'll get traded to a contender, so don't worry about it.

Thanks for depressing me Rob ( I know not your fault) Really a shame because as recently as weekend before last , the quote I read said he did not care if he was starter. I can't blame him. He has been yanked around like a yoyo this year when it was very clear he was much better as a starter and much better than Hill, Koronka, Mitre and other junk we were throwing out The Hendry quote certainly sounds like he is packing. I certainly would have no problem telling him a starters role is his to lose. Worst case and very un Cub like scenario would have everyone healthy and push Willams to BP for start of season. REALLY worst case scenario. Wood goes down, Williams gets shelled and we have a rotation with Hill & Mitre struggling to get out of the 4th or we try go FA and overpay for the luke warm stuff out there. I think we will regret it if he leaves Jessica

If Hendry offers Baker a 2 year contract extension I will in all seriousness seek to root for another team. I basically didn't watch the team this year (after followng the team obsessively since 1970). I have never seen a less enjoyable team, manager and broadcast booth. This must be what it feels like to have your hometown turned into a surface level tourist attraction.

From jack McKeon regarding his resignation: 'The last couple of years, I haven't had as much fun as I'd like,'' McKeon said. ''Since I'm the leader, I'll take full responsibility for the poor year we had.'' This, Dusty Baker is what mature adults call accountability. Integrity. Sanity. Class. Leadership.

if mckeon believes he's making it happen he's just an egomaniac in some people's view. i guess he's the guy to champion as giving florida a championship, not the players. given the state of his clubhouse this season and the venom in it, it sure wasnt in his control. dave miley would be proud.

not to distract too much from this weird quest for a fan requested 6th starter to be a 3rd/4th starter for the cubs...seriously, i dont understand it at all though i hear the reasoning discounting 1 of 5 given starters the club already has... but...the RF situation is gonna be extremely tricky and mega-thin. i seriously have no idea where theyre gonna dig one up and it seems it might have to come via trade. the SS situation seems to be in hand...another couple relievers are to be added, probally a leftie and a of which probally capable of spot-starting... im still kinda scared of the bench, though i welcome the return of walker the starter and cedeno burning some time off the bench solidifying his game.

I'm in the "blow them up and start from scratch mindframe"...but I don't necessarily think that philosophy stops with player/personnel...but rather with executives/management/coaches and farm system personnel. The Cubs would do well to give Zambrano and Prior a couple more GREAT starting arms....and let Rusch start as 5th starter....move Wood to bullpen or trade him...I'd also do something with Maddux--he's been a HoFer but probably sticking around one year too long. Outfield--give Murton an everyday job in LF or RF...get 2 more strong bats with great OBP.... Infield....sign Nomar to a realistic contract based on prior years injuries with performance bonuses....With ARAM starting to look more like Nomar and Griffey health wise having a bat like Nomar's around would be nice. I like the Grudz/Walker plattoon of a year ago...maybe get them both signed. I think the bullpen is the most overrated "need for improvement"...the bullpen will be just fine with an offense who can generate a decent lead more often than not and who can score with runners on 2nd and 3rd with no outs.... Finally- I'd hire a sports psychologist to work with all the players....and incorporate a fitness program that would help with injuries. I think they can improve by 7 games...getting them to 85 wins...but without great improvements they are as likely to go backward again....and with this management I wouldn't doubt they could go backward.'re working on a 110+ million payroll there...nomar's choices are beyond just chicago as suitors and a strongarm deal isnt gonna get it obviously hate prior for some reason... trading wood isnt exactly something done in a phonecall. he's not that desirable given how much he makes and what he's going through right now. it could take 6+ million in throwaway money just to shift him...another 6-8 million to sign a replacement leaving you exactly where you were or worse. there's nothing to do with maddux but start him...he's gonna make 9m bucks. grudz is not gonna stick around to play bench 1/2 his time. 2nd base isnt that flush and he had a near-career year. and everyone is gonna have to live with the fact hendry/mcphail/dusty are gonna be around. RF is far from flush...williams is a decent enough 5th starter for most clubs (hell, he's a 3/4 starter for most of mlb) and he's gonna be affordable...

Crunch, for all the reasons you've given (and I don't argue with any of it)...that is why the Cubs gains will be marginal at best....maybe enough to make them .500 but no better. I don't hate Prior...just think Zambrano is more consistant...healthier and they would be well served to give both men a couple more great arms (notice I said a couple MORE GREAT arms...indicating I think both are pretty terrific) and I don't think those great arms consist of Wood or Williams or Maddux.

wood/williams/maddux alone would be 1/2/3 starters on 2/3rd of mlb's clubs hehe... zambrano/prior is gold to put in front of them. SS/RF/CF/bench/couple bullpen slots...the team isnt in that bad of shape...i'd wait until its formed before doom is predicted...

wood/williams/maddux alone would be 1/2/3 starters on 2/3rd of mlb's clubs hehe...zambrano/prior is gold to put in front of them. Well they were the Cubs starters this season and I didn't see any gold from them.

wood/williams/maddux alone would be 1/2/3 starters on 2/3rd of mlb's clubs hehe...zambrano/prior is gold to put in front of them. Seems like this attitude is one of "We'll just trot the same guys out and hope for better results"....insane.

Paul Sullivan has some nasty numbers on the Cubs: They might not have had such an impact if the Cubs had a different manager. On that note, the Dodgers are now looking for a new manager... I nominate Dusty... any seconds?

Superjimmer: "This, Dusty Baker is what mature adults call accountability. Integrity. Sanity. Class. Leadership." And out of a JOB... :)

"If Hendry offers Baker a 2 year contract extension" Well, I want to hear from all the Dusty haters and ask them if Hendry does offer an extension to Baker, how could you possible support him. Baker bashing takes up about 50% of all posts on TCR withte GM basically getting a free ride. But RESIGNING this, in your opion, horrible manager for mor eyears should be the ultimateknock on him and should seal his fate, right? Just curious....

Crunch: " i guess he's the guy to champion as giving florida a championship, not the players. given the state of his clubhouse this season and the venom in it, it sure wasnt in his control. " Good points...

on a side note of managers, and given that im a pretty big jim tracy fan... i cant believe a saber-nut like paul d. could part ways with jim tracy...i wonder what tracy's take on all this is and who cut ties with whom.

Todd Walker is our most valuable commodity in a trade, preferably to the American League. Patterson brings something, but probably only for a near champion who can afford his K's to get his D. Wood is also trade-able, but how many SPs can you go out and get in an offseason? We probably alrerady need two right now, at least one more. You could trade the kids, but don't pull another Dontrelle... Walker's affordability makes him a real attractive commodity. Perhaps, when packaged with Patterson and some young pitching, might fetch the magical corner OF we need (pray) and/or veteran arms for the bullpen and bench help. Is it fair to say that most minor league bats that could come to the rescue are at least 1-3 years away from having an everyday impact? So I think the blow it up option is not gonna happen now. Not with front office jobs on the line... Zambrano, Prior, Wood, Williams/Rusch. Is Maddux really coming back? God help us. If someone knocks our socks off with a #1-2 MLB pitcher in a trade, or if we can pick up a solid #3 in FA, we have to do that. How can we talk about clinging to Todd Walker if were not genuinely certain that 1/2 the rotation can get past the 6th, and the other 1/2 can't get past the DL in May? BTW-if we keep Nomar, is he our number 3, 4 or 5 hitter? Or is he a 6 hitter if get a solid corner OF?

If Baker is offered a contract extension by Hendry than I'm with you Manny....Hendry will be to blame when Baker fails. Then again, I think McFail, Hendry and Baker all need to go...Preferrably in that order. Baker is not the answer....but he is far from the problem. Any manager can win with a championship's getting a championship team that is difficult and that is largely Hendry and McFail's job.

"I have never seen a less enjoyable team, manager and broadcast booth. This must be what it feels like to have your hometown turned into a surface level tourist attraction." Come in off the ledge, Superjimmer. Let me throw some numbers at you. 1974, 1975, 1976 - Whitey Lockman, Jim Marshall, managers. 1980! Preston Gomez, Joey Amalfitano, managers. C #Tim Blackwell 1B *Bill Buckner 2B Mike Tyson 3B #Len Randle SS Ivan DeJesus OF Jerry Martin OF Mike Vail OF *Scot Thompson 1981, 1982, 1983 Joey Amalfitano, Lee Elia, Charlie Fox, managers. "This, Dusty Baker is what mature adults call accountability. Integrity. Sanity. Class. Leadership." I'm no fan of Baker, but this is the first time I've heard those adjectives used to describe McKeon. Easier to take a mea culpa when you're headed out the door. I don't think he was quite as sane and classy last year when they failed to make the playoffs and he was coming back.

Manny, Re: your #61. If Hendry re-ups Dusty for 2 more years, it will be the worst move of his tenure as GM. I believe Hendy is far better as a GM than Dusty is as a field manager. Hendry has shown me that he can be flexible, and innovative. Choi for Lee, off the radar. Dempster off the scrap heap. Biggest trading deadline deal 3 years in a row, in both busy markets (2003, 2004) and slow markets. He went big money on relievers, that didn't work, so he changed and went with promotions from within. I have some faith that with (I assume) some money to spend this season, he'll be active and make good choices. We'll see. Dusty, on the other hand, pencilled in out machines in front of D Lee for ages while Derek was having a season I may never see a Cubs player ever have again. Thought Hawkins was a closer despite overwhelming evidence. Do you see reason to think that Dusty will change? Maybe Murton's performance late in the season will give Dusty some thought about playing Cedeno more next year, but I doubt it. We'll see about that, too. As to the Cubs being a mismatched set of parts, I think there is some validity to that. Sam Clyatt (I think) brought up the old idea about being strong defensively up the middle. The most usual set of players up the middle at the end of the season (Barrett, Walker, Neifi, Patterson) was two plus defenders/out makers and two minus defenders who could hit. The worst of all worlds. If the Cubs want to sacrifice defense, then they have to go all out on offense--no room for out machines like Corey and Neifi. A starting eight of Barrett, Lee, Walker, Garciaparra, Ramirez, Murton, Damon, and Giles would have few plus defenders, but would score enough to be able to screw up defensively. The Boston Red Sox model. On the other hand, if the Cubs plan to focus on pitching, then they must be stronger up the middle, which means that Barrett, Walker and Garciaparra are out. The Astros have shown this year what three dominant starters and an ace closer can do, even with a pathetic offense. Blanco, Perez, Cedeno, and Patterson would be solid defensively, and would be a great start on a pathetic offense. Somehow Dusty and his players are mismatched as to how to play solid fundamental, thinking baseball. Manny you mentioned how Hendry needed to acquire smart ballplayers and I certainly agree. But getting the guys who are on the team to play more sound baseball should be a focus, too. I fell for the line back in February about how the Cubs were going to be better fundamentally this year, and we could all see how that turned out. I think it's primarily up to the players to get better, but I also think Dusty needs a better approach to reaching his team. Whoever is responsible, it didn't work this year. I think, to a certain degree, Hendry and Baker are a mismatched set of parts. The worst part of Hendry's game (in my opinion) has been obtaining bench players for Dusty to use. I had the same complaint last year, that Hendry had to realize that there was no 25th player on the Cubs roster, there were a lot of 20th players. Hendry seems much more suited to a manager who runs the same guys out there every day, only Leo Durocher is dead. This year has only confirmed that weakness to me, whoever the lowest OBP guy is on the roster, as long as he's got some speed, Dusty will write him in often, and at the top of the lineup. The only way to stop that happening next year is to have only high OBP guys on the roster, or get a different manager.

BA's Southern League top 10 prospects 1. Delmon Young, of, Montgomery 2. Jeremy Hermida, of, Carolina 3. Jeff Francoeur, of, Mississippi 4. Chris Young, of, Birmingham 5. Chad Billingsley, rhp, Jacksonville 6. Joel Guzman, ss, Jacksonville 7. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Jacksonville 8. Felix Pie, of, West Tenn 9. Brian McCann, c, Mississippi 10. Russell Martin, c, Jacksonville 11. Scott Olsen, lhp, Carolina 12. Matt Murton, of, West Tenn 13. Bobby Jenks, rhp, Birmingham 14. Jonathan Broxton, rhp, Jacksonville 15. Rich Hill, lhp, West Tenn 16. Dustin Nippert, rhp, Tennessee 17. Ricky Nolasco, rhp, West Tenn 18. Renyel Pinto, lhp, West Tenn 19. Chuck James, lhp, Mississippi 20. Elijah Dukes, of, Montgomery

I think there needs to be some reality check here. Largely due to depression over the season I did not post here for about 6 weeks and when I come back there is awful lot of silly stuff. Look it would be great to have an outfield of Matsui, Damon & Giles. with Furcal at SS Nomar at 2nd and I Rod catching ( Lee and Ramirez are allowed to stay apparantly). Rotation would be Z, Burnett, Millwood, Byrd and Williams ( got to save somewhere) Seriously lets deal with the ACTUAL contracts and budget. Maddux, Wood and Prior all have contracts with no trade clauses. Like it or not ( and I like it) they are ALL in the rotation with Z. Williams is fine 5th starter but with potential problems it would still be nice to have another starter other than Hill or Mitre. We should have roughly 35 to 40 million left after current contracts including Dempster are accounted for. With that we need 2 outfielders a shortstop, middle relief , a bench and possibly catcher or a 2nd baseman. You have the possibility of re-signing Nomar and keeping Walker and Rusch as well as trading minor league players. So FILL in those blanks with a total of 40 million tops and stop pretending you can go get a whole new starting rotation and 3 top free agents . BE realistic and set some priorities. Jessica

Manny, I 100% agree with you that if Hendry offers a 2 year extension to Baker that Hendry is a moron of the first order. I liked Hendry for the most part but since the Steve Stone incident, and also considering the way he handled the 2004-05 Sosa offseason I lost a LOT of faith in his judgement. Basically if he signs Dusty again I root against the Cubs until McPhail, Hendry and Baker are all gone. No joke.

by my count...unless some trades happen... RF/RH-relief is the only "must" on the outside obtainable list SS is probally gonna be garcippara OR furcal OR neifi with cedeno fighting the outside shot LH-relief is looking like rich hill (also providing the long relief + emergency starter role) but it could be anyone espeically given how short the RF FA market is and how likely one will have to come via trade and how attractive hill will be to other teams 2nd is a tossup between the probable todd walker, jerry hairston, cedeno, or an outside candidate CF is either hairston, a free agent, or the weirdly outside candidate patterson god only knows what the bench will be...i dont think anyone can predict that... i seriously doubt any SP-FA worth mentioning will be picked up without wood's progress being setback or a trade happening to z/maddux/prior/wood/williams C/1st/3rd/LF(unless murton is moved outta despiration)/SP/CL seem to be the only likely-full slots so far. i wouldnt be suprised to see CF/2nd filled with hairson/walker, personally...espeically since they'll cost about $6m-ish combined. 30-ish to blow...good luck this offseason hendry...try not to age 10 more years in 1 winter.

"the Steve Stone incident" the one where hendry gave him a 3m contract...stone signed it...then decided not to honor it and step down the next day? damn a guy 3m bucks to sit in a booth and do color.

actually..whether he signed or not was up for debate and conflicting reports...but he did leave a 3m deal. go figure.

Crunch. please. Hendry supported a manager (Baker) who was allowing a team with a week left in a pennant race to call the broadcast booth during games. Complete lack of focus on the field of play. inexcusable. Then the announcer in question calls it like it is and says the team made its own bed and should have sealed their playoff spot months earlier and that they have noone to blame but themselves. Broadcasters have every right to their opinions. Hendry and Baker were way out of line even engaging in the debate.

honestly..i could care less about steve stone after he twice left the club with a contract on the table to pursue other endevours. honestly, if he wasnt so hot to own a team or publicly talk about his desire to run a club as a GM, he might be hirable by another GM as an assistant who wouldnt be fearful stone would be after his job...not working with a failed investment group trying to buy the A's (his first leave) or working AM radio and short-work on ESPN (this time around). away from chicago the ESPN crew has really dragged stone through the dirt...maybe its "rookie" hazing or maybe there's something more to it...i dunno. and baker didnt allow anyone to call the booth...i dont believe anyone was asking any permission there. baker's not their daddy. if alou/mercker wanna act like babies that's their fault...they didnt seem to endear themselves to the club for their actions. baker did have something to say for their action and maybe he should have done more to knock them down a peg. whatever it was...if there was a problem that big, you dont give a guy a 3m contract to screw you over again. stone was loved in chicago and was gonna be rewarded handsomely for it...he chose to leave...most people believe so he could be considered for future washington nationals openings.

and yeah..i'd rather have stone over bob brenley, but that option was lost when stone decided to leave. a len/stone combo would be damn smooth.

(Warning off-Topic, But who cares the Cubs are done, stick a fork in them!) For those who were in chat a few weeks backing talking about the ACLU, this just popped into my head from that conversation.... A few years back the ACLU defended a group named NAMBLA. Not going to get into who they are just google it, find out for yourself. Defend the evil, punish the victims. That is what the ACLU does best these days. Classy organization that group is.

"NAMBLA" National Association of Marlon Brando Look Alikes!!!!

Jim Tracy anyone?

Yes, if Hendry gives Dusty an extension then it would be time for him to go. But there's a problem with the premise. Manny, you seem to think that people here give Hendry a free ride, which is most certainly false. Hendry doesn't get as much criticism as Dusty, but he also doesn't go out and actively find ways to hurt the team's chances of winning on a daily basis. Like I and others have said several times, Its easy to point out how Hendry has helped the Cubs, I'm still waiting for anyone to tell me what Dusty has done.

Here's my off the wall idea of the day: What if the Cubs accepted that 2006 was going to be somewhat of a rebuilding year, and instead of going out and signing some guys that really won't help long term, take some of the payroll and give it up front to some players we want to build on. For example, we take D-Lee or Zambrano, rework their contracts, lock them up for the next 4 years, but instead of giving them progressively larger salaries each year, they get more of the money up front. Instead of a 4-45 deal where they'd get 9 mill the first year, then 11,12,13 over the next 3 years, give them 15 million next year, and 10 million through the rest of the contract. Since the money's all guarenteed anyway, the player should agree to it, and the Cubs would have more money to spend in a better free agent market and when the team is better able to compete. Plus, if for some reason the player "goes Sosa" by the end of the contract, it will be easier to trade them. You could still go out and sign Furcal who would help long term, but you trade Walker for a decent OF prospect, give Cedeno the job at 2nd, and if you can't find another cheap outfielder, then you go with Hairston for one more year as a stopgap in CF. Now this will never happen, one because the Cubs will never admit to rebuilding as they are "rebuilding the bleachers" and raising ticket prices, and two because no GM with 1 year left on his contract is going to "give up" on that last season. But it might be a good option to help the Cubs win a World Series before the yearometer rolls over to the 100 mark.

Bleeding; I've thought about those types of contracts many times. Has that ever happend in MLB before? The Cubs are probably one of the most reactionary organizations around, and if that style of contract ever starts to take hold, I expect the Cubs to be one of the last franchises to take advantage. It's also, of course, an absolutely perfect method for using up the payroll in a year where there aren't many attractive options. I'm beginning to hope the Cubs do go out and sign half of the big names that have been proposed here (especially A.J. Burnett) and that the end result of all this is somebody throwing huge money at Carlos Zambrano which the Cubs won't be able to match because they were committed to signing all kinds of name-brand good-but-not-great players this offseason. I wouldn't lock Lee up now, though. He's never going to duplicate this season: there's no reason to pay him as if he will.

"What if the Cubs accepted that 2006 was going to be somewhat of a rebuilding year" How long until this current window slams shut on us? I am not interested in punting next year before the FA signing season even begins. We have enough core talent, and enough money, that we SHOULD be able to build a competitive team.

X, I would argue that the current window slammed shut at the end of 2004. As I said last year, its a shame the talent we had then was wasted, because its going to take a little time to have that level of talent on the Cubs again. Unfortunatly, at this point, we're more than just a piece or two from having a championship ballclub, and I don't see a way to build a Dusty-proof team in 2006. The thing is that any time you're dealing we salary limits, even if it is 100 million dollars, you need to find places to save money. In 2003 and 2004, we had several people like Zambrano, Prior, and Corey who gave us lots of production at a fraction of what they would have cost on the open market. Front-loading some contracts, along with focusing on getting some prospects like Murton and Cedeno some experience could essentially open up a new window in 2007.

Bleeding Blue: "Hendry doesn't get as much criticism as Dusty..." I do agree with that, my point is that 50% of the complaints on here constantly are about Dusty while most agree the manager had little effect. Then since the manager is the biggest complaint the man who hired him and leaved him in that position barely gets a word against him. It is funny how that works. And if Dusty is such a MAJOR problem that a majority of TCR thinks, how can the man who hired him or conrinues to let him work or maybe gives him an extenstion not even more liable? Hendry has done so much good that the team has made the playoffs once under his 4 year reign and the minor league system which he supposedly fixed is vastly overrated. Yes, he has made a few good trades, but when it comes to making the playoffs he is lacking. He gets one more year in my book and if the Cubs can't make the playoffs, he and Dusty should be let go and the Cubs should REBUILD.

Bleeding Blue: "the Cubs will never admit to rebuilding as they are "rebuilding the bleachers" and raising ticket prices," Do you have a link for the ticket prices going up? How much are they going up? Or is this just an opinion. Thanks!!

90m+ teams are never rebuilding...just not spending money right. this team's not in bad money shape even with maddux/wood eatting 20m of salary. "deals" like d.lee and possibly t.walker even things out a bit along with guys like murton around.

Do you have a link for the ticket prices going up? How much are they going up? Or is this just an opinion. Thanks!! Its an opinion based on the fact that they've raised them every year for the past few years, and there is nothing that would stop them from doing it again. The question here will really be not if they raise prices, but by how much will they go up?

my point is that 50% of the complaints on here constantly are about Dusty while most agree the manager had little effect. huh?

Bleeding Blue: The question here will really be not if they raise prices, but by how much will they go up?" That was mainly what I was getting to. I thought maybe you heard they were raising prices and knew how much. Since I am a season ticket holder I have more interest of ticket prcies than the average fan. But I agree, due to inflation and obvious demand ($3 million+ fans last 2 years), they probally will raise ticket prices.

"He gets one more year in my book and if the Cubs can't make the playoffs, he and Dusty should be let go and the Cubs should REBUILD." Well, lucky for Cubs fans, your book don't mean jack-shit to the Cubs organization. Small book I'd imagine... all pictures and a few misspelled words.

And what about your book, filled with hatrid and personal attacks toward anyone that you don't agree with. i am sure that would go over very well in corprate Ameica and the Chicago Cubs organization. :)

I'm just kidding, Manny. Lighten up, I don't hate you. I just like giving you a hard time.

Anyone know where I can get Arizona Fall League boxscores? PArticularly so I can track Murton's progress. I know the first games were today. Thanks in advance.

Big John Stud: "I'm just kidding, Manny. Lighten up, I don't hate you. I just like giving you a hard time. Well, I don't like it and I am asking you to stop. thanks!

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  • Dolorous Jon Lester 1 hour 54 min ago (view)

    I believe this is the correct take. It's surprising that Len is leaving. He's good, but he had gotten a little too rationalizey over the past few years for me.

    However, it seemed he was heavily invested in the Cubs. His departure feels like there is some Ricketts-ish bullshit going on behind the scenes at Marquee that Len wants no part of. Anyway, I wish him well with the other Chicago team


  • crunch 2 hours 31 min ago (view)


    is everything the ricketts touch just falling to shit in 2021?  ....well, except their heavy investments in taking over the state of Nebraska politically with one of the sons and heavy investment in supportive state legislators...


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 4 hours 1 min ago (view)

    This makes a whole lot of sense. Thanks Phil!

    (And that HR off Hader was unforgettable)


  • Hagsag 6 hours 25 min ago (view)



  • Wrigley Rat 11 hours 53 min ago (view)

    Len Kasper is leaving the Cubs for the White Sox radio booth.


  • Charlie 16 hours 10 min ago (view)

    I would be happy to see the Cubs no longer spend DH time on Victor Caratini. Provided there's a Kyle Schwarber or better alternative, of course.


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 12 min ago (view)

    DJL: I don't think Ildemaro Vargas being out of minor league options is much of a concern to the Cubs because as things stand right now he projects as the team's primary utility infielder in 2021. He can play all four INF positions (1B, 2B, 3B, and SS, plus corner OF, too), and he is switch hitter with some pop, especially from the right side (remember the 9th inning HR he hit off Josh Hader in September?). 


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 56 min ago (view)

    I'm a little surprised Ildemaro Vargas was tendered, given that he's out of options. He has value and isn't expensive as he is pre-arb this year, but still a bit surprised. Have to think he's got an inside track to an Opening Day spot at this point


  • waveland 1 day 9 hours ago (view)

    really appreciate the years and years of your updates


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 11 hours ago (view)

    BRADSBEARD: Strumpf was wearing a cast on his hand in Minor League Camp before everything got shut-down in March so his not being at South Bend might have had something to do with that. I don't know why Rivas wasn't at the ATS. 


  • bradsbeard 1 day 12 hours ago (view)

    Do you have any idea why Rivas and Strumpf weren't at the alternate site in South Bend? I thought Rivas especially showed enough in ST games to be viewed as a legitimate depth option, especially with the DH. 


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 12 hours ago (view)

    Alfonso Rivas reminds me a bit of Rafael Palmeiro when Palmeiro first came up to the big leagues and was a "doubles machine" (before he started hitting home runs).   

    Rivas played D-1 baseball at the University of Arizona, so (just like Nico Hoerner, who also played in the PAC-12) I don't think he needs a lot of additional time at AAA before he's ready for MLB. He's a very advanced hitter, as long as you are OK with lots of doubles & lots of walks but not many HR.   


  • Dolorous Jon Lester 1 day 13 hours ago (view)

    I hadn't thought of that but I really like that option


  • bradsbeard 1 day 14 hours ago (view)

    I really hope Rivas has a chance at the LF job. Would ease some of the sting of Schwarber being cut loose. 


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 14 hours ago (view)

    CRUNCH: I got the impression that Ross had seen enough of Schwarber in LF, so implementing the universal DH may be necessary before Schwarber returns to the Cubs in 2021. I think the Cubs would be fine with Schwarber as their main DH going forward. 

    BTW, I strongly suspect that the universal DH will be included in the next CBA, but whether there will be a DH in the National League in 2021 is still TBA (which is really stupid, since clubs need to know right now for sure one way or the other whether or not there will be a DH in the N. L. in 2021). 


  • Arizona Phil 1 day 14 hours ago (view)

    Besides the guys on the 40, Cubs 2021 NRI relievers with a legit chance to win a bullpen slot in Spring Training include LHRPs Josh Osich and Rex Brothers, and RHRPs Jake Jewell, Trevor Megill, Dakota Mekkes, Michael Rucker, and Joe Wieland (presuming they are not taken in the Rule 5 Draft). 

    Brothers and Wieland are out of minor league options, however, so if added to the 40 they could not ride the "Chicago - Des Moines Shuttle" like the others could.