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Wednesday, May 10, 2006 

The State of the Chicago Scrubs


Things are getting a little heated on the North Side of Chicago these days, and I'm not talking about Vito Spatafore visiting the Man Hole. Before beating the Giants 8-1 last night, the Cubs had dropped 8 games in a row and are now in fifth place in the NL Central, 6.5 back from the Cincinnati Reds. Wrigleyville is getting a bit restless, and rightfully so.

Their offense has been pathetic, scoring just 52 runs in 19 games since Derrek Lee's injury, a measly 2.73 per game. Their team ERA is a mediocre 4.52 and control issues are plaguing their pitchers. Led by Carlos Zambrano's 33, Cubs pitchers have given up 142 walks in 289 innings. After some quick research on MLB.com, I found that number to be the second highest in the league, trailing only the Florida Marlins, who probably would be more at home in the International League rather than the NL.

There is plenty of blame to go around on the North Side, but after attending games at Wriggles and speaking with friends who bleed Cubby blue I've found that most of their spite is being directed at manager Dusty Baker. The most popular criticism is that he's too much of a player's manager and doesn't get after his players to perform better. The truth is that Dusty Baker is a very good manager, but his team has been HAMMERED by injuries. My only question about Dusty is how he keeps from swallowing his toothpick in the dugout. He has an array of tricks and moves with that toothpick that seem borderline dangerous. Anyway, he should be re-signed to a 2 year deal regardless of how the Cubs finish the season.

Everyone knows that his 3 best players are on the DL in Lee, Mark Prior, and Kerry Wood. Free agent signee Wade Miller is also rehabbing, so the Cubs could have 3 fresh, although questionably sound, arms become available over the next 2 months. Obviously, the Cubs desperately need Lee back in the middle of the lineup, but he will be lucky to be back by July. So, with their most valuable player out until after mid-season, where do the Cubs go from here?

There are almost 130 games remaining on the schedule, but if the team stands pat then the return of their injured stars will be too little, too late. Wood and Prior can not be counted on to make it through even a half season and I have a bad feeling that Lee will be out until August. Aramis Ramirez is their only threat to eclipse 30 homers and Maddux isn't as good as his 5-0 start. In order to win their division, the Cubs would need to pass defending NL Champion Houston Astros, the Great Pujols, the up-and-coming Brew Crew, and the upstart Reds. This would be tough enough to do with their 3 best players in the lineup for a full year.

If the Cubs still hope to contend this season, they need to make a major move. Roger Clemens, the most obvious star player available, won't happen. He's expensive, won't be pitching until June at the earliest, and the 'Stros would never let him go elsewhere in the division. Barry Zito's name continues to surface in trade rumors, but the Mets are the front runners for him. Billy Beane is in no rush to trade Zito and will probably wait it out until Rich Harden returns or the Mets offer up Lastings Milledge. Names that have been connected to the Cubs of late include Kevin Millar, Mike Sweeney, and Doug Mientkiewicz. None of these guys figures to make much of a difference. If there were any way to convince Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin to trade within the division, Carlos Lee (contract year) might be a good fit. A trade of Matt Murton and Rich Hill might work and Lee would look great in the middle of the lineup. Unfortunately, Melvin is not inclined to deal with the Cubs and "El Caballo" won't be saving the Cubs offense this year.

Since the prospects of adding an impact player don't look good, perhaps the Cubs should go the opposite route and deal a player or two from the group of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Todd Walker, or Juan Pierre. The Cubs would target major league ready talent and perhaps would find their second baseman of the future or a premier young starter. This idea probably doesn't appeal to GM Jim Hendry, but if his team is 10 games below .500 in June or July, it will be his best option.

Of course, Hendry could have saved himself from this mess by investing more money in player salary this offseason. The Cubs actually lowered their payroll this offseason, even after adding more bleacher seats to Wrigley Field. The Tribune Company makes tens of millions of dollars in profit on the franchise every year and their payroll should be in the top 5 in MLB. There is no excuse for this, and Cubs fans have every right to be upset. While a lot of this mess has been caused by injury, an extra $10 million would have gone a long way towards strengthening the team. Perhaps the team could have signed or traded for a better outfielder than Pierre or Jacque Jones (Torii Hunter or Johnny Damon?) and the offense wouldn't be so lost without Derrek Lee. Instead, the Cubs might once again be waiting 'til next year.

-NJV

the red sox and the chi (black) sox prove there are no thing as curses in baseball.

babe ruth > bartman and a god damn goat

the cubs are always sorry and unlike boston are the epitome of "there's always next year"

in "let's play two!" -ernie banks
cubbie fan

P.S. noobsports really needs to give a shout out to Pardon The Interruption. Kornheiser and Wilbon are the ultimate journalists/fans/everyman

Nobody wants to hear crying about injuries you big pussy. It's mostly Hendry's fault, but Baker couldn't manage his way out of a paper bag. Nobody in their right mind would depend on Prior or Wood (Not to mention they are WAY overrated - flashes of brillance do not a great pitcher make). Explanations like yours are the reason people think Cubs fans are hapless losers. It was "wait 'till next year" before the season started. But keep showing up to Wrigley, and make the Tribune Corp. a nice profit you stupid fucks.

I moved to Chicago 9 months ago. I'm from Wisconsin. I was a Brewer's fan when Molitor was getting hits and Yount rocked the stache. Not so much. So, since I was taking up residency in this town, I decided to pick a team. I need to swear allegiance. I live in Lakeview...fifteen minutes from Wrigley. I've got sense...I like sports...and man, oh man, am I glad I'm a Sox fan.

Honestly...the Cubs just suck. And they continue to suck in interesting and different ways. And their fans? Lordy, no one is more annoying than a 26-year-old investment banker with Cubs hat on. Honestly...the yuppies in my neighborhood with their fair weather fandom...y'all can suck it.

"Lordy, no one is more annoying than a 26-year-old investment banker with Cubs hat on."

Amen, brother.

Can we retire the term "Cubbies" and all of its derivatives forever? A team that sucks is bad enough, but a team that sucks AND has a cutesy nickname should not be allowed to play a professional sport.

Did you just write that Cubs fans are fair-weather, yet you became a Sox fan 9 months ago after moving from Cheeseland? Who's the fair-weather fan here, dickhead?

For the record, I am NOT a Cubs fan and never have been. I'll be wearing an Old English D on my cap 'til the day I die, noobs.

Re: Anonymous 2:50 pm

You grew up in Wisconsin and a Brewers fan, and just because you moved to Chicago (which is only about 90 minutes from Milwaukee) you turned your back on the Brewers? At least you chose the Sox.

The Cubs problem is Jim Hendry and injuries. Dusty's a decent manager, and just about all managers are mediocre anyway. They won't get any better until they get a GM with some sense on what good talent really is. Pierre and Jones in the outfield? Please.

Sure, the Cubs have had injuries. But do you think that Hendry would have been shocked had you told him, in January, that Prior and Wood would start the season on the DL? Don't think so. Thats one of the things he should've been prepared for.

Either way, it's clear that, bar a huge trade, the Cubs aren't going anywhere this year. Just not their year. If they had managed to play some decent ball after Lee went down, maybe Hendry would make a move. But this team isn't one move away from being a contender; they need a whole slew of injection for anything to make a difference.

The state of the Cubs is tied to the fate of Prior, Zambrano, and Wood. It has been for the last 4 years. Now let me know this... Even with all the crap, all the injuries, and all the bad PR, would you want to be the one that let Prior or Wood get away? You just cant, and thats why Jim Hendrys hands are tied with these players, and I would have handled it no differently. HOWEVER, he could have gotten Arroyo or another pitcher in the meantime, and there is ABSOLUTLY NO EXCUSE for this team not spending 115 million in payroll (100 mil last year payroll+ New bleachers, Higher ticket prices, and the sale of the Washington Nationals) and the lack of offense is why this team sucks in the immediate. This SHOULD be an easy fix, but then again nothing is easy with this team.

BTW Nate- Doug Melvin does not trade intra-division.

I think the window of "letting go" has passed on Wood. Prior should be delt for a package deal to help the Cubs now. I know there was big talk in the pre-season about a trade for a certain someone in Baltimore.

The Orioles wanted Zambrano, not Prior, according to my league sources. AND PITCHING WINS IN THE PLAYOFFS, just getting there is not the point. Add Zito, and trade for a veteran bat.

Mitch,
Getting there is the point. The Cubs never get there. Start small and work your way up.

Hey,I think this is a main point you have discussed here..Very essential issue..Thanks for sharing your reviews with us!!

There's no doubt, the guy is completely right.
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