Thursday, January 05, 2006


First post on the new blog

The one I created yesterday, Blog in Horto, was my first one, and I already decided that name was lame. So here's a new one. Let's hope it lasts a bit longer than the first one did.

Here's a repost of my Cubs ruminations from the last BIH post. Enjoy.

Is this it?

I know Jim Hendry does not have to answer this question, at least not from me, but I’m asking it anyway. Thirty years of my loyalty, devotion, and money have given me the right to at least ask the question.

So I’ll repeat it again: Is this it? Are the 2006 Chicago Cubs now in place? No other players to add, no other trades to make, nothing? Because, if it is, it’s not good enough.

Adding Jacque Jones in right field, Juan Pierre in center, Marquis Grissom to do who knows what, two middle relievers and John Mabry is not marked improvement over last year. In fact, speaking strictly in terms of player salaries, it’s a large step backward. The Jones signing finally completed filling in the $8.25 million that Nomar received (and can we now admit that trade was a bust?) and some of what Burnitz was paid. I may be only a fan, but I can tell you that the way to improve a 79 win team is not to spend less on player salaries.

And then there’s Sammy’s money. Where did it go? Last year it went to Baltimore, because the fans were never going to take him back after he ran out on the team. I recognize that. But that’s over now. Where does all that money go for next season? Apparently into the new bleacher seats, which will not help if winning a championship is on the to do list for the foreseeable future.

Maybe Miguel Tejada will be the “big name” to replace Sammy. That’s a win-win for the Tribune, since not only will they have to pay Tejada less than Sammy made last year, but they would also get to unload Mark Prior’s salary (or maybe Carlos Zambrano’s) to boot. That deal, if it happens, will add millions to someone’s coffers. But would it really improve the team?

How does a franchise celebrate an entire century without winning it all at least once? I get the feeling we’re going to find out soon. This team, as presently configured, will win no more than 85 games next season. A winning season may be enough to improve what must be an already fat bottom line for the Tribune, but it is not enough to keep people coming to the park forever.

Misery loves company. And the Cubs’ misery was shared, for way too many years, by the White Sox and the Red Sox. Now, in the course of two seasons, that’s all changed. So why is there no urgency to address this? Jacque Jones, Juan Pierre and the others do not say “urgency” to me.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean by urgency. After the 2002 season, Jim Thome was a free agent. All those stellar years in Cleveland proved that he was a premier player. He’ll be a Hall of Famer some day. And even though he was commanding a high salary, the Tribune has the resources to write a big enough check to get him. I even remember talk of the “home town discount” he would give in order to play for the team he grew up rooting for.

The reason the Cubs didn’t want him is because they were convinced that Hee Seop Choi was good enough at first base. So Thome followed the money and signed with Philadelphia. They rolled the dice. That says urgency to me.

So what happened in 2003, Thome’s first season in Philadelphia? He hit 47 home runs and drove in 131 runs. Adding those numbers to the 2003 team means the Marlins do not clinch the pennant at Wrigley. That series would have been over in five games. Steve Bartman and all the other fans would have needed ticket refunds instead.

And what did Hee Seop Choi do that year? I remember he got hurt in the Yankees game in June, taken off the field in an ambulance, and was never really heard from again. When the Cubs went out and got Derrick Lee after the 2003 fiasco was over, wasn’t that an admission that Choi wasn’t the answer they thought he would be?

Lee’s a very good player, maybe even a great player in the making, but the only reason he came to our attention in the first place was because of what the Marlins were able to accomplish that year. And they accomplished it, in large part, because the Cubs (meaning Jim Hendry) let Thome get away.

I have been hearing that Jim Hendry will get a contract extension, and then Dusty Baker will get his extension, and all will be good on the North Side. But not in my mind, it won’t. One division title, one playoff berth, and no pennants (which, thanks to the White Sox, is where the bar will be set for the foreseeable future) is not enough to show after three years of Hendry/Baker.

The Mets and Dodgers are adding players like they have the urgency. And both of them have already won championships during the Tribune’s era of futility (now at 23 seasons and counting). The Cubs, on the other hand, are content to upgrade the ballpark. That’s where their bread is buttered, after all.

And I count myself as one of the butterers. True, I’ve never had season tickets, so perhaps I’ve buttered less than others have. But I’ve been to at least one game each season, and usually many more than that, over the past two decades. I’ve been to over a hundred games at Wrigley, and each game has stories and memories I’ll always cherish. But that’s about to change for me.

I’m just one fan, and I fully understand that someone else will buy the tickets instead of me. But, if I’m feeling this way, I have to believe there are others who are having similar doubts about this organization and what their priorities really are.

I won’t quit being a Cubs fan, and I certainly won’t become a White Sox fan either. But I have to say that adding Thome , re-signing Paul Konerko and acquiring Javier Vazquez have impressed me far more than any of the Cubs’ moves have. One title doesn’t seem to be enough for them, and I like to see that.

But not going to any games next year is all I can do to say “enough.” By continuing to flock to the park, Cubs fans are feeding the beast that is the Tribune’s lack of interest in winning. They will deny this, of course, but what has Jacque Jones ever won? Or what about Dusty Baker? He gave away the World Series against the Angels in 2002, burned out the Cubs’ pitching staff when he came here in 2003, and hasn’t had a whiff of anything since. I would not be surprised if Joe Girardi wins a World Series as a manager before Dusty Baker does.

If something should happen next year and the Cubs start winning, I’ll become one of the bandwagon jumpers that I dislike so much. But the team won’t win the way it is now. And, upon minimal reflection, anyone who knows baseball can see that.

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