Go, Cubs. Just . . . Go.

Another Cubs loss, another step toward reality. The elimination numbers (WC and NL Central) are still in double digits, so mathematical hope lives on. But you can feel 2009 slipping away, a fragment of what it once was.

Maybe it’s time for you to slip away into the “reflection” stage of grief. It’s okay to feel alone, to walk that finely stitched seam between loneliness and solitude. It might be sweet joy to linger after a win with 40,000 friends singing or just tolerating “Go, Cubs, Go,” as you all bask in the glee of your collective fortune. But after a loss that only serves to confirm the imminent dread crashing all around you . . . that’s not the kind of misery you want company for.

I always think it helps to step outside. Enclosures are just containers for the pain. Step into the open air and let out the 2009 version of your hurt. Breathe in the air too new to know suffering or too ancient to care. It doesn’t matter. You’re unbound by walls or losses or underperforming millionaires. You are free.

I also find it helpful to hold a baseball in your hands. Resist the urge to throw it through a window. Just let its tactile spherical elegance take you back to the moment when you and baseball first fell in love. Don’t worry about what went wrong. Just remember the joy of the best baseball moments and the people you shared them with. Remind yourself that baseball, particularly Cubs baseball, isn’t about winning.

Oh that it was, but who are we kidding?

Sandberg the Solution to Cubs’ (heck, all of baseball’s) Problems

Ryne Sandberg needs to be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs. I don’t care about, nor do I take seriously, the rumors that Lou is going to leave his post or get run out of town. This might be Lou’s last year. It might not. This isn’t about Lou. There is simply no better baseball man than Ryne Sandberg. He has the potential to transform the culture, not only of the Chicago Cubs, but of the game of baseball in general.

Sandberg’s Hall of Fame speech is easily one of the top 5 speeches of my lifetime (right up there with Bono’s speech honoring Frank Sinatra at the Grammy’s). I recommend reading it and bookmarking it for any time you need to resurrect your hope in the Cubs, baseball, and all of humanity. There are so many perfectly poignant points in his speech, but I want to draw attention to this one in particular, because it gives you a glimpse of how things would change from day one with Ryno at the helm:

When we went home every winter, they warned us not lift heavy weights because they didn’t want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be baseball players, not only home run hitters. I played high school football at 185 pounds and played big league baseball at 182. I’d get up to maybe 188 in the off season because every summer I’d lose eight to ten pounds. In my day, if a guy came to spring training 20 pounds heavier than what he left, he was considered out of shape and was probably in trouble. He’d be under a microscope and the first time he couldn’t beat out a base hit or missed a fly ball, he was probably shipped out. These guys sitting up here did not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third, it’s disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all played growing up. Respect.

I want that man coaching my Cubs. All of baseball needs that man in the game, in the big leagues. Would that kind of approach sell tickets? Ask the New York Yankees how professionalism as a brand is working for them. I’m telling you, the Cubs need Ryne Sandberg not because Lou is doing a bad job but because Ryno represents the most exciting qualities a team could ever want in a manager.Ryno embodies everything good about the Chicago Cubs and renounces all that is bad about the franchise.

And just imagine being a baseball fan in a city with Ryno managing the North Siders and Ozzie managing the South. How perfectly iconic would that be? Ryno with his straight-laced intensity, Ozzie with his no-holds-barred passion . . . the thought is giving me shivers.

As a player, Ryno was the quietest. As a manager, Ryno is nothing but. He was just ejected in Game 1 of the Southern League Championships (and in three years of minor league managing, Ryno’s teams are always in the championships . . . go figure). Ryno knew what his role was as a player, and that was to do his job, show respect, lead by example, keep his mouth shut, and kick ass. As a manager, he knows his role: he leads by example, respects the game, speaks with passion, and kicks ass.

Where do I sign to bring him back to Wrigley?

Cubs Have Bases Loaded with Off Season On Deck

The Cubs do this all the time in games, and now they’re toying us on a doom-defying playoff level. You know those games where the Cubs urge you to change the channel early? They give the opposition a 9-run lead, swing at the first pitch every at-bat and look categorically awful in every aspect of the game . . . for 8 innings.

Then the 9th inning rolls around, and the first two guys make outs (think “Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same“) and whatever totally unrealistic comeback hopes you may have entertained you then send packing on their dreary way.

Then a couple guys get on. Then a double. A walk. Two hit batsmen and a dropped popup. Suddenly the bases are juiced and the tying run is on deck. You swore you wouldn’t do it, but you’re now beckoning hope to come back and sit next to you on the couch. You let the thought of a miracle creep into your head and tickle your occipital lobe.

Invariably, someone Santo’s described as having “the power to tie it up, no doubt” flies out lazily to left, leaving you feeling like a grade-A sucker. Your head might actually assume the form of a sucker a la Woody Woodpecker.

Welcome to the 2009 Chicago Cubs. They’re trying to mess with us using the same illusion on a grander scale. Instead of making their lovely assistant disappear, they’re telling us the Statue of Liberty will vanish. Instead of staging their comeback down 7 in the 9th, they’re doing it down 5 1/2 on September 16. Well, I’ve seen this trick before, and I’m not falling for it.

Unless . . . well, unless they can sweep the Brewers and the Giants. Then . . . well, maybe then there’d be a chance. Aargh, Curses!

Someday, We WILL Go All the Way

You remember. Last year at about this time the collective emotions of Cubmania were being swept away heavenward by the Pearl-Jammiest Cubs song ever. Eddie Vedder, the consummate celebrity Cubs fan, was commissioned by Ernie Banks (Mr. Cub himself) to write a song about the Cubs. He did, and he released it in what felt like the climactic throes of a 100-year “will they or won’t they” love affair with the World Series.

Last September, that song (whether it’s called “All the Way,” “Someday We’ll Go All the Way,” or “We’ll Go All the Way,” I can’t be exactly sure) evoked the best of feelings in me. The Cubs had the division wrapped up. The National League looked really bad and the Cubs looked really good. Maybe even 100-win good. I couldn’t listen to that song without imagining the celebration of the Cubbie Championship Centennial.

Every time, the scene in my mind is the same. I run out my front door and start screaming. I run all around the neighborhood. I complete the Forrest Gump cross-continental circuit in about 30 minutes, shouting “Yeah!!!!!” for everyone in America to hear. I wind up on a mountain top where a shaft of light shines down on me, kneeling, arms extended toward the manifest glory . . . crying and covered in beer.

When that song was playing, that image overtook my brain. It was exquisite bliss. I didn’t even feel like an idiot entertaining the thought of the Cubs winning it all. It felt almost real.

But, as you also remember quite well, that dream was shattered in the three ugliest baseball games ever played.

If your experience has been at all like mine, it’s been hard to hear that song ever since. Not too many Cubs fans I know have that song on repeat since October 2008. Nobody was writing bonus stanzas about Milton Bradley and the Aarons Heilman and Miles during Spring Training. The pain was too fresh. The cut was too deep.

But I want to encourage you to give that song a fresh listen. When we wanted to feel hopeful last year, Eddie’s ode to Cubdom was up to the task. Let me tell you, it can be equally mournful as the funeral dirge to this year’s hopes. It has actually helped me grieve a little better and breathe a little easier.

Take a listen. Let the tears flow. The healing can’t begin until the grieving is complete. There you go.

All the Way
Eddie Vedder

Don’t let anyone say that it’s just a game
For I’ve seen other teams and it’s never the same
When you’re born in Chicago you’re blessed and you’re healed
The first time you walk into Wrigley Field
Our heroes wear pinstripes
Heroes in blue
Give us the chance to feel like heroes too
Forever we’ll win and if we should lose
We know someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way

We are one with the Cubs
With the Cubs we’re in love
Yeah, hold our head high as the underdogs
We are not fair-weather but foul-weather fans
We’re like brothers in arms in the streets and the stands
There’s magic in the ivy and the old scoreboard
The same one I stared at as a kid keeping score
In a world full of greed, I could never want more
Than someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
Someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way
Someday we’ll go all the way

And here’s to the men and the legends we’ve known
Teaching us faith and giving us hope
United we stand and united we’ll fall
Down to our knees the day we win it all

Ernie Banks said “Oh, let’s play two”
Or did he mean 200 years
In the same ball park
Our diamond, our jewel
The home of our joy and our tears
Keeping traditions and wishes made new
A place where our grandfathers, fathers they grew
A spiritual feeling if I ever knew
And if you ain’t been I am sorry for you
And when the day comes with that last winning run
And I’m crying and covered in beer
I’ll look to the sky and know I was right
To think someday we’ll go all the way
Yeah
Someday we’ll go all the way . . .

Rotten Miracles

Most Cubs fans have given up hope, at least for 2009. And rightly so. We’ve made our peace with this season. We’re in fall mode. We’re ready to watch the Bears and Jay Cutler make us forget all about the misery of . . . oh. No. Still here in the misery. The Bears are still the Bears. Chicago sports are still Chicago sports. Old Yeller’s still dead.

Well, guess what: the ivy’s still green. I guess it serves us right for trying to rush through the grieving process. A wise man once said, “Never rush a miracle. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.”

In the days and weeks to come, I’ll be posting some things to help with the grieving/miraculous hope process. You know, to make it less rotten. For today, I offer you the words of the great Langston Hughes:

Dream Deferred

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up

Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore—

And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?

Or crust and sugar over—

like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags

like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The Nightmare 9 (and a closer to choke on)

On Wednesday, MLB took advantage of 09/09/09 by inviting me (and millions of other people, but whatever) to come up with my dream lineup of 9 Cubs. Tonight, the dream is over. This is my all-nightmare team. The worst possible lineup I can conceive. The team I couldn’t bear to watch (and I have watched some real crap over the years).

For this list, I didn’t go old school. I’m limiting the squad to players I’ve watched play, because as fabulous as the baseball historians are at waxing eloquent about the greats of yesteryear, they don’t quite pack the emotional punch with their yarns about the Aaron Mileses of long ago. I need to remember that punch-to-the-gut feeling I’d get when Todd Hundley would strut to the plate, top two jersey buttons flapping in the arrogant wind. The stats alone don’t tell that story. So here they are. The worst team I can imagine, and the reliever who would blow the few leads he ever could inherit from the Sultans of Suck:

Leading off, playing CF, it’s Corey Patterson, 2005. .215 AVG / 13 HR / 34 RBI / 15 SB
This was the year that the Cubs uber-prospect, lead-off man of the ever-loving future posted an OBP of .254. Regardless of how bad this team might look, the potential in the leadoff spot would forever be through the roof.

Hitting second and playing 2B, everyone’s hero: Aaron Miles, 2009. .180 AVG / 0 HR / 5 RBI / 3 SB
Do I need to write anything here? I’m kind of shocked by the 3 stolen bases. I’m still waiting for the official scorer to change them all to defensive indifference, but hey, I’m glad there’s a stat that likes this guy. He’s got a 1.000 SB average. Yaaaay!

Batting third in RF, Roosevelt Brown, 2002. .211 AVG / 3 HR / 23 RBI / 2 SB
I didn’t dislike Roosevelt Brown, but like Corey Patterson before him, he epitomized the never-blooming prospect mentality of the Cubs organization in the ’90s and beyond.

The cleanup hitter on this sinking ship would be 1B Ron Coomer, 2001. .261 AVG / 8 HR / 53 RBI / 0 SB
This one is hard because the Cubs first basemen during my time as a fan, while not powerhouses, haven’t been too bad. Grace was great. I love Lee. Hee Seop Choi and Julio Zuleta were kind of fun. Leon Durham and Bill Buckner were both good hitters, even if both had their fair share of colossal hope-crushing ground balls in the postseason. Coomer wasn’t even predominantly a first baseman in his one year as a Cub, but whenever he was there, I knew what to expect. Stank.

In the five hole and out in LF, it’s the 1992 version of Luis Salazar. .208 AVG / 5 HR / 25 RBI / 1 SB
Like Coomer, Salazar actually played the most games as a third baseman, but the competition at third for worst I’ve ever seen is heavier than a Hector Villanueva lookalike contest. I award this spot to Luis because I once attended a game in which Salazar watched a line drive sail over his head, turned the wrong way as the ball ricocheted off the wall behind his back, and then threw up his hands to signal for a ground rule ivy-eaten double. He realized that the ball had trickled toward the infield, picked it up, and threw the ball in too late to prevent an inside-the-park home run. Welcome to the team, Luis.

Todd Hundley, C, 2001. .187 AVG / 12 HR / 31 RBI / 0 SB

Todd Hundley had been good with the Mets. He was Cubs family, Randy’s son. We weren’t supposed to boo him. But he was a tool. On his best day, he was as likable as Milton Bradley on his worst, just without the 2nd half surge. I remember going to the game on Todd Hundley key chain day. I’m still saving it for the worst white elephant gift in the history of Christmas.

Jeff Blauser, SS, 1998. .219 AVG / 4 HR / 26 RBI / 2 SB
The Cubs wanted the Cub killer. They got him, and he lived up to his reputation.

Gary Scott, 3B, 1992. .156 AVG / 2 HR / 11 RBI / 0 SB
Gary “Great” Scott didn’t play in a lot of games, but his Cubs career spanned two seasons of hopeless potential that he would be the one to break the since-Santo 3B drought (the one that is so long, it made this the toughest decision in the lineup). He didn’t end the drought. He was a goatee away from being Aaron Miles. The list of dishonorable mentions is legendary.

Mike Morgan, P, 1994. 6.69 ERA / 2-10 / 1.810 WHIP / 1.3 HR per 9 innings
I liked Mike Morgan. I did not like seeing him on the mound to start the game. As tough a century as the Cubs have had, the 1990s was a brutal decade and Morgan’s 1994 season pretty much defined the era of futility.With Morgan, expectations were never as high as his ERA and WHIP.

Pointless Closer: Mel Rojas, 1997. 4.42 ERA / 0-4 / 13 SV / 6 BLSV
Kevin Gregg doesn’t really hold a candle to Mel Rojas. In ’97, the Cubs very rarely had leads to begin with, so acquiring 6 blown saves by mid August was no easy task. But God bless him, Mel got the job done. The job, of course, was sucking, and he pretty much taught that freaky German Dyson dude everything he knows about never losing suction.

I would ask you to include your own suggestions for your own Nightmare 9, but I must warn you: this exercise took a lot out of me. I had to relive a lot of pain, and I was not ready. Don’t face those demons unless you’re willing to let them inhale your soul just one . . . more . . . time.

My Cubs 9

MLB is celebrating 09/09/09 by inviting all baseball fans to select their team’s top 9, the dream lineup from their team’s all-time roster. They have you select individual seasons rather than the player on the whole, which actually makes it tougher in my opinion. How do you pick Andre Dawson’s 1987 post-astroturf knees over Sammy Sosa’s 1998 pre-drug-testing bat? Would you really rather have a 1990 Sandberg (.306, 40 HR, 100 RBI, 116 R) over a 1929 Rogers Hornsby (.380, 39 HR, 149 RBI, 156 R)?

I decided to go with 60% heart and 40% brains on these decisions. If I went total heart, Jody Davis and Shawon Dunston would be on the squad. If I went all brains, I might not recognize half the team. So here’s my squad:

Leading off, playing 2B, Ryne Sandberg. 1990 .306 / 40 HR / 100 RBI / 116 R / 25 SB
This team doesn’t have a lot of speed, and Sandberg easily leads the stolen-base category. That’s why he’s hitting leadoff. But that’s not why he made the team over Hornsby. Sandberg’s here because I love him. There. I said it.

Hitting second, playing 1B, Derrek Lee. 2005 .335 / 46 HR / 107 RBI / 120 R / 15 SB
Ernie Banks could have played two positions on this team, and if the rules allowed multiple manifestations of the same player, Mr. Cub would finally get his wish and “play two!” But he wasn’t an option, and Lee was the obvious winner. He’s also a luxury in the #2 spot in the batting order. I like it.

Batting third, the SS, Ernie Banks. 1958 .313 / 47 HR / 129 RBI / 119 R / 4 SB
The only tough part about this decision was where to put Ernie in the lineup. But in an all-time Cubs scenario, Ernie Banks is hitting in the first inning. End of discussion.

At cleanup, the LF, Hack Wilson. 1930 .356 / 56 HR / 191 RBI / 146 R / 3 SB
The outfield situation is a bit muddled. I would have like to put Kiki Cuyler out there in center, but this is a dream lineup. None of my dreams have Kiki Cuyler in them. Hack Wilson was a terrible outfielder, but I think I can get used to a poor fielder in left. Something tells me I don’t have to dream to find that. Hack drove in 191 RBI. He’s on the team, and we’ll just tell Fergie to pitch the right-handed hitters away.

My #5 hitter and CF is Billy Williams. 1970 .322 / 42 HR / 120 RBI / 137 R / 7 SB
Sweet swinging Billy needed every ounce of sweetness to make this team. He did, and I’m at peace with it.

Hitting sixth and playing RF, it’s Andre Dawson. 1987 .287 / 49 HR / 137 RBI / 90 R / 11 SB
Sammy Sosa would have been a much more powerful hitter in this lineup. And Sammy still holds a special place in my blue-blood-pumping heart. But all of Sammy’s showmanship can’t steal the spotlight from the toughest hombre I ever saw hit a baseball, and that’s the Hawk. The dude could throw guys out at 1st on a would be single to right. He had no knees and still stole 11 bases. He was the scariest looking hitter to ever stand in the box, and when Eric Show hit him, I thought Eric Show was gonna die. I just hope the dream-team field is easier on the cartilage.

Batting 7th and catching, it’s Gabby Hartnett. 1935 .344 / 13 HR / 91 RBI / 67 R / 1 SB
Another old school pick and one of the greatest catchers of all time. Jody Davis, Geovany Soto, and Rick Wilkins were the only other choices. This one was a no-brainer, although my heart would have been singing “Jody Davis” if I let it.

In the 8th spot is the heel-clicking 3B, Ron Santo. 1964 .313 / 30 HR / 114 RBI / 94 R / 3 SB
Statistics aside, Ronnie’s on this team because I think he would have enjoyed playing this game (albeit on an alternate theoretical metaphysical plane) more than anybody. And I would love to watch it.

For some strange reason, MLB only posted the batting statistics of the Pitcher nominees. I’m assuming the guy would have to pitch too, though, so I’m going with Fergie Jenkins, circa 1971. .243 / 6 HR / 20 RBI / 13 R / 0 SB.

You can’t go wrong with Fergie, at the plate or on the mound.

So, what do you think? What would you have changed? You can vote here on the All-Time 9 site or just post your dream 9 in the comments or tweet it to the left.

September 9, 2009 Question – Out of the Funk

Trivia Funk
Brought to you by George Clinton
I’ve been in a funk. But today, I’m coming out of it. Here is my trivia pledge:

  • I will send trivia out today. I will try to do it again tomorrow.
  • I will limit my funk to bouncy, heavy-handed bass lines, the emphasis on the down beat, and spasmodic dancing.
  • I will shower.

These are my goals. They are not as lofty as some might expect, but they are not as simple as they seem.

Okay. I’m getting a call on my other brain, so I need to cut this short. Here’s some trivia for you.

Today’s Question
Funk
Who did James Brown credit as being the first to put the funk in the rock ‘n’ roll beat?

Previous Answer
And the people who knew it
I think the answer was Cornell. I’m giving credit to the entire month of August. Sorry, August. It wasn’t personal.

M.V.Lee

Derrek Lee will not win the 2009 NL MVP award. Barring a completely unforeseen positive test of some kind (like discovering he’s half machine) the name Albert Pujols is already engraved on that trophy. So don’t take this as an argument that DLee deserves it over his 1B counterpart in St. Louis. However you define “MVP,” whether it’s the league’s best player, the best player on a winning team, or the most indispensible player for any team, Albert Pujols is pretty much the runaway winner in every category. Heck, Prince Albert even wins the contest of which player makes his teammates better. Look at Matt Holliday’s stats before and after joining the Cards this year, or check out Aaron Miles’ 2008 numbers.

I won’t provide links to either set of stats, as I believe both are technically to be considered malware.

But I did want to take a moment and praise D-Lee for being the lone offensive bright spot for the Cubs this season. Without him, I genuinely shudder to think where this team would be. Here’s the stat that says it best: Derrek Lee has a very distinct shot at doubling the RBI output of the 2nd-place run producer on the 2009 Chicago Cubs.

Derrek Lee: 96 RBI
Alfonso Soriano: 55 RBI (he’s probably driven in his last run)
Aramis Ramirez: 49 RBI (the biggest threat at preventing this feat)
Ryan Theriot: 49 RBI (the pace has slowed of late)
Kosuke Fukudome: 48 RBI (always tough to double up)
Milton Bradley: 39 RBI (for the sake of parallelism, I feel the need to comment here)

I don’t want the heart of the Cubs order to stop producing runs to help Derrek make them look even more impotent than they already do. But if a player drives in twice as many runs as anyone else on the team, his value is inarguable. Derrek Lee owns 16.9% of the Cubs RBI this year, roughly one in every 6. (In case you’re wondering, Pujols has driven in 20.1% of his team’s RBI . . . without him, the whole NL Central might be in danger of retraction.)

Things are bad this year. But for Derrek Lee, at least, it’s been all good. When the Cubs return to Wrigley, he deserves a standing O (for being the Only source of Offense in ’09).

The 2009 Cubs: One Doodle That Can’t Be Undid

Some Cub fans would like to give the last offseason the Mark McGwire treatment and just leave the past in the past. Others would like to see every move Jim Hendry made go up in a mushroom cloud. Others are still holding out hope this year will have a happy ending.

I know we can’t turn back time. I know this season is all but mathematically over. But I still think we can at least try to learn from our mistakes. (Yes, I know we didn’t make the mistakes and that Jim Hendry needs to do the learning in this scenario, but maybe this will at least  be fodder for some good awkward questions to ask at Cubs Convention 2010.) Hendry made a whole pile of moves after the 2009 Dodger sweep, and I want to know which one has hurt the Cubs the most.

I had my opinions, but before sharing them with the world of sorrows that is Cubdom, I was curious what other people thought. I asked my #Cubs tweeps what single move they would undo if they could. Jmkobus spoke for millions who would have never signed Bradley, opting instead for Adam Dunn, the Knight of Wrigley. Pbernicchi would be the leader of the “undo the DeRosa trade” party. Ehudmh posited that if he could reverse Hendry’s initial pursuit of Milton Bradley, he could undo every other bad move the Cubs made. TheCubsInHaiku just wishes (in 17 syllables) that Hendry would have quit.

The tragic fact of the matter is that all of those arguments are better ideas than what’s played out in reality in 2009. Here’s a list of all of the moves since last October that involved signing new contracts, welcoming new players, or saying goodbye to former Cubs with a look at the amount of damage inflicted by each:

10.29.2008 3B Casey McGehee claimed off waivers by Brewers. His 13 HR and 50 RBI make this a pretty damaging move considering Aramis Ramirez’s prolonged injury this year, but somewhat unpredictable. Cubs Richter Scale: 3.5

11.13.2008 Traded RHP Jose Ceda to the Marlins for Kevin Gregg. The opposition is slugging .436 against Kevin Gregg. The Cubs only have 3 hitters with a slugging percentage that high. Even if Jose Ceda never pitches again (and he hasn’t, since the deal) this trade hurt the Cubs big time. Cubs Richter Scale: 7.5

11.18.2008 Re-signed Ryan Dempster to a 4-year, $52-million contract. Given the length of the deal, this could get worse, but I wouldn’t call Demp’s numbers in 2009 damaging. Cubs Richter Scale: 0.5

12.11.2008 Bought RHP David Patton from the Reds for cash. This is one move (let’s see if there are more) that actually helped the Cubs. David Patton has been pretty decent. Cubs Richter Scale: -0.5

12.12.2008 Signed LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Chad Gaudin, and OF Reed Johnson to 1-year contracts. Setting aside Reed, who is great to have on the team, injured or not, the Cotts and Gaudin signings didn’t really work out so good. Cotts especially had a disastrous time with the big-league club, albeit limited. Cubs Richter Scale: 3.5

12.16.2008 Signed free agent Joey Gathright to a one-year contract. He left town quicker than you can say “car-jumping,” in a later move. Cubs Richter Scale: 0.085

12.31.2008 Traded Mark DeRosa to Cleveland in exchange for pitchers Jeff Stevens, Chris Archer, and John Gaub. The Cubs have struggled to find run production anywhere in the lineup. 2B has been an offensive black hole. When Ramirez was out, 3B produced similar suction. The pitching prospects might help down the road, but this season, only Stevens has helped at all. What’s worse, DeRosa has made the division-leading Cardinals that much better. This one hurts more the longer the season goes on, and nobody but nobody liked this deal at the time it was made. Cubs Richter Scale: 9

12.31.2008 Signed POC Aaron Miles to a 2-year contract. Yes, the same day the DeRosa deal went down, Hendry also signed the human out. The New Year’s Eve drinking started plenty early in the Hendry house. This has to go down as the single worst day of the offseason. Aaron Miles was sketched in as a possible everyday starter on the Cubs roster. He’s hitting .174. In the 2nd half, he’s hitting .038. The Cubs are paying him two and a half million bucks to do that. Cubs Richter Scale: 5 (but considering how tiny Aaron Miles is, that’s a tremendous shock)

1.5.2009 Signed LHP Bill White (aka Guillermo Blanco) to a minor league deal. I put this in here only for the Blanco joke. Cubs Richter Scale: NA

1.6.2009 Traded RHP Jason Marquis to the Rockies for RHP Luis Viscaino. In the baseball sense, this move helped the Rockies immensely. He has 14 wins (and has reached double-digit win totals for 6 years running) and a 3.75 ERA. From the business side, the Cubs wound up paying Luis Viscaino a few million bucks to get released by every team in baseball. Since financial restrictions were such a pressing factor in the offseason, it would have helped to gain a productive salary instead. While I don’t think the Cubs have been hurt all that much by not having him, the Rockies are leading the Wild Card race, so . . . that hurts. Cubs Richter Scale: 2.5

1.8.2009 Signed Milton Bradley to a 3-year, incentive-laden contract worth up to $30 million. I’ve said before that Cub fans put too much blame on Bradley for the 2009 debacle. It is pretty standard for newly signed veterans (Alfonso Soriano, Jacque Jones, Derrek Lee, Moises Alou) to struggle in their first half-season at Wrigley. Since then, Bradley has been productive and healthy. Some chastise him for the distraction he has been, but I don’t see how anything that distracts attention away from this team could be viewed as a bad thing. Bottom line: if a clubhouse distraction is the reason you’re losing, you suck. Yes, the Cubs did commit a lot of money to Bradley, but not so much that they couldn’t have kept DeRosa and just not traded for Kevin Gregg or signed Aaron Miles. Cubs Richter Scale: -2.0 Yes. That’s right. I’m saying he’s helped the Cubs. Deal with it.

1.18.2009 Traded Felix Pie to the Orioles for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williiamson. Painful, but hardly damaging for this season. Although it did pave the way for their next move. Cubs Richter Scale: Owie

1.28.2009 Traded Garrett Olson and Ronny Cedeno to the Mariners for Aaron Heilman. I feel like Heilman has gotten some bad breaks and that he would be better as a starting pitcher than a reliever. But he hasn’t provided much relief to Cub fans. He has a WHIP of 1.5, an ERA of 4.35, and opponents are slugging .422 off of him. I view him as the replacement for Bobby Howry, and he’s been precisely that. Not good. Cubs Richter Scale: 6.5

1.30.2009 Signed Paul Bako to a 1-year contract. He didn’t make the team. Cubs Richter Scale: —

2.2.2009 Traded Rich Hill to the Orioles for PTBN and traded Michael Wuertz to the A’s for prospects Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers. Rich Hill is struggling. But Michael Wuertz has a 3.09 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, and a .205 batting average against for the A’s. I always liked Wuertz, even though he struggled with his control (his strikeout to walk ratio is up to 4.3 now, though). Given the struggles of the Cub bullpen, this oft overlooked deal deserves more attention. Cubs Richter Scale: 7.4


Aside from minor league deals and other insignificant moves, that’s the sum total of the 2009 Cubs offseason. Now, you might be wondering about letting Henry Blanco and Kerry Wood walk away, but in my opinion A) those aren’t really moves, they’re just moves that didn’t get made; and B) neither one would have been a whole lot of help to this Cubs team. Koyie Hill is a white Hank White. Kevin Gregg has been Kerry without the blisters.

So, yeah, if I could undo one move, I have to admit it would be the DeRosa trade. If the Cubs had not acquired Kevin Gregg, Aaron Miles, and Aaron Heilman, we still could have afforded Milton Bradley.  If we’ve learned nothing else, it’s that we should take away Jim Hendry’s cell phone this New Year’s Eve.

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