A recent stop to Wrigley Field by the crew of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN did much to again dispel the notion that the place is more a dump than it is a shrine of baseball. The stadium had come under recent scrutiny as something that needed to be replaced. Let’s hope that idea doesn’t happen soon as we’ve lost enough landmarks as it is. The emphasis on the stadium by the Sunday Night crew was merciful because it lessened the scrutiny that should be put on the team and not the stadium. Nothing is going right for the Cubs and we’ve heard talk about injuries to people like Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney. But injuries occur for every team. The contention of this writer is that the stadium shouldn’t be torn down and rebuilt. The Cubs, though, perhaps are another story.
There are so many cheap shots this writer could take. The owner has a name that calls to mind a childhood disease. The field is named after childhood dentists’ worst nightmare. But we’ll try to take the high road here. The obvious fact is that this team needs to be torn down to begin again. Lou Piniella obviously lost the team last year. The Cubs had a brutal start. This writer railed from the outskirts that old Lou needed to go. He was the problem. And sure enough, the old guy did step down and Mike Quade took over and the team took off. But here it is a year later with that same Mike Quade and the Cubs are pretty much where they were a year ago with Sweet Lou. And Buster Olney of ESPN.com is hinting that Quade has lost some of the clubhouse.
None of those facts and innuendos add up to good news for the Cubs. If a certain segment of the team has been “lost” by Quade after Piniella “lost” the clubhouse last year, perhaps it’s time to get rid of the members in the clubhouse. Let them go poison some other teams for a change. Part of the Cubs’ story is about sunk costs. There are enormous contracts to Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano. What good are those three if you have a team that is kicking its legs like a turtle turned upside down? Sunk costs are sunk costs. You aren’t going to get rid of the costs no matter what, but you can get rid of the players.
Alfonso Soriano will make $18 million this year…and next year…and the year after that…and the year after that. He was worth around $7 million last year and will have to hustle in the second half to earn that this season. He is a sunk cost. It isn’t going to get better. Why not admit that and get rid of the guy. Plenty of teams could use a DH in the American League if the Cubs were paying the tab. Perhaps some of those teams would even give a marginal prospect or two. The Cubs aren’t going anywhere anyway. Get rid of him.
Aramis Ramirez is getting paid anywhere from $14.6 million to $16 million this year. He might be an eight or nine million dollar player this season. There is a club option for him next year. There is no way the club will pick that up. From many accounts, the guy doesn’t try very hard. There are too many whispers about him to not think there is something behind those whispers. Ramirez has a $1 million clause in his contract if he is traded. That complicates the Cubs’ prospects of making a deal this year. If there are no takers. Then release him. He’s a sunk cost anyway.
Carlos Zambrano is a sunk cost. He’s getting $18 million or thereabouts this year and will make the same next year. He’s really worth closer to $10 million. He’s only 30 years old and probably has the highest trade value of the three players we’ve talked about. It’s possible that a team would take a chance on him and give up some value to get him. That should be encouraged as much as possible. It’s time for his era to end in Chicago.
The pain involved with getting rid of three anchors of your team is finding people to take their place. But if you are fallen and can’t get up, that pain can’t be lessened by keeping players who make too much money and may be a drag to your team in the clubhouse and on the field. Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney are a step in the right direction and show what can happen by getting younger. The drawback is that those two players lack some skills needed to improve the Cubs (like getting on base by being patient at the plate). The bottom line is that the people they have can’t or won’t get the job done.
The Cubs need to concentrate on pitching and defense. Matt Garza has been a disappointment. But at least he was a step in the right way of thinking. He has a big time arm and that’s what the Cubs need to start stockpiling. They also need to fix their defense. The Cubs are dead last in the majors in fielding efficiency and fielding percentage. That’s a deadly double-whammy. Ridding yourself of Soriano and Ramirez will not hurt there either.
The one constant through all these long-term signings and through the way too many years of stuttering is the general manager. He’s been the constant in this picture since July 5, 2002. He certainly is a love him or hate him kind of guy. And it’s hard to argue with the Cubs winning three division titles under Hendry. But since 2008, the team has foundered without any break in the gloom except for their second half run last year. Perhaps there needs to be a change in direction. Perhaps it is time to say that Hendry has had his chance and it hasn’t worked out. That’s business and that’s life. These Cubs…these misfits with big wallets are his. If this writer was Mr. Ricketts, the mandate would be to get rid of the high priced and low productivity and get as much as you can for them. How well that assignment goes would be the win/loss variables for job security.
We hear a lot about the Cub fans. We hear about their loyalty and about the diehard nature of their yearly existence. They deserve at least some indication that the problems are understood and that a plan is in place to undo the mistakes of the past. Those fans know that the bottom line is that this club is bloated and beached like a whale and even if Quade was Captain Ahab, it’s going to be impossible to get that whale back off the beach.
-William J. Tasker, a/k/a The Flagrant Fan, a knowledgeable and passionate baseball fan that can be followed on twitter and found writing daily at his blog
Filed under: Digging Deep - Analysis | Tagged: Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Darwin Barney, Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella, Marlon Byrd, Matt Garza, Mike Quade, Starlin Castro | Leave a Comment »