Why do I even write this blog.
After 20 games, I really don’t like the feel of this 2009 Cubs team. After losing 10-0 in Arizona on Wednesday, the Cubs completed a miserable 2-4 road trip and fell to 10-10 overall, 4 games behind the 1st place St. Louis Cardinals.
I knew I didn’t like the off-season move to acquire Milton Bradley. GM Jim Hendry had to try too hard to convince everyone that Bradley would be able to stay healthy to play more than 120 games in the outfield in 2009. Granted, he had only been able to do that twice in his career (way back in 2003 and 2004 ) and although he did play in 126 games in 2008, more than 90% of those games came with Bradley serving as the Rangers DH (an option not available for the Cubs who play in the National League where there is no DH). Duh?
Right now, Bradley has played in only 13 games. In 31 at-bats, he had 3 hits, including 1 home run good for a .097 batting average. He has 1 RBI and 4 runs scored. Not sure what Hendry was thinking on this one, especially since there were other left-handed hitting options out there – see Raul Ibanez (20 games, 78 at-bats, .359 batting average, 7 home runs, 17 RBI’s and 20 runs scored for the Phillies); Bobby Abreu (17 games, 71 at-bats, .352 batting average, 0 home runs, 12 RBI’s and 6 runs scored for the Angels); Adam Dunn (20 games, 68 at-bats, .324 batting average, 6 home runs, 15 RBI’s and 11 runs scored for the lowly Nationals). All of these guys signed for similar or less deals than Bradley and have been far more productive than Bradley. Given Bradley’s inability to play the outfield consistently over the last 5 years, this should have been obvious to Hendry.
What I liked even less was the move to unload Mark DeRosa for 3 minor leaguers. DeRosa has gotten off to a slow start in 2009 (.236 batting average, 5 home runs, 18 RBI’s and 16 runs scored), but look deeper than that. He has played in 21 games, and already accumulated 89 at-bats. His 5 home runs best every player on the Cubs except Alfonso who has 7 home runs, and DeRosa would lead the Cubs in RBI’s (Kosuke Fukodome currently leads the Cubs with only 15 RBI’s). The numbers don’t even bring into play the intangibles that come along with DeRosa for free. His versatility is invaluable. Take the injuries to right fielder Milton Bradley and 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez, for example. If the Cubs still had DeRosa, the Cubs would not be relying on an infield that contained Mike Fontenot and Aaron Miles day in and day out. Or if you went with those guys, DeRosa could play right field, so that Reed Johnson didn’t have to play the outfield everyday. By not having these options, Soriano, Theriot and Fukodome have had to play in just about every Cubs game so far this year. DeRosa also a great club house presence and is a great sounding board for younger, up and coming Cubs stars (Soto, Hoffpauir, Theriot).
While I love Mike Fontenot, he is not an everyday player. In 20 games, he has 66 at-bats and a mediocre .227 batting average. While he has shown some pop with his 3 home runs, he is better suited as a role player who makes 2-3 starts each week. Hendry relying on him as an everyday player was a big mistake. Hendrys’ other move to sign Aaron Miles as a utility infielder has also looked like a big mistake. Forced into an everyday role, his weaknesses have also been glaring. Miles has only 8 hits in 41 at-bats and he breaks more bats with his weak-ass swings than Carlos Zambrano does over his leg after a bad at-bat (and that is saying a lot).
Unfortunately Cubs fans, we are in for a long, bumpy ride this season. Unless Hendry can pull off a Jake Peavy or Matt Holiday trade, the Cubs will likely hover around the top of the NL Central division and need a lot of luck down the stretch to pull of the unprecedented 3rd consecutive NL Central title.