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by Derek Smart
A couple of the papers have printed pre-convention Q & A sessions this morning, one with Dusty Baker, and one...um...not. Actually, Bruce Miles' piece in the Daily Herald, which was a series of potential questions the front office might face at the convention with some often tongue in cheek expected answers, was considerably more entertaining, and likely, more truthful at root. My favorite "exchange."
Question: What's the deal with Todd Walker anyway? He had a solid on-base percentage of .355 and you want to dump him and start Neifi Perez, whose OBP was .298. On top of that, Walker made only 6 errors at second base and had a good fielding percentage of .985. What gives?
Expected answer: What is this "on-base percentage" of which you speak? But seriously, Todd is still with the ballclub as of this moment, and if he's still with us in spring training next month, he'll be in there battling with Neifi and Jerry Hairston Jr. for a job.
You gotta hand it to Bruce. He's the only beat writer covering this team with the courage to poke a little fun at the men he covers, and he's easily the most overtly progressive of the group. Not only that, but the answer provides a spot-on critique along with what appears to be an accurate view of the organization's sentiment toward the undeservedly out of favor Walker. It's not word for word what Jim Hendry said a couple of days ago, but it captures the gist.
Then there's this from Dave van Dyck's interview with Baker in the Trib:
Q: Speaking of trades, who's your starting second baseman, Neifi Perez or Todd Walker?
A: Right now Todd Walker is our second baseman. He's here. I've heard a lot of speculation [about a trade], but right now we have about 10 weeks before we start. Let us do our thing and we'll be ready by Opening Day.
If there's one thing that could save us all from the prospect of Neifi! manning the keystone, it's Baker and his unwillingness to change. This is normally a weakness, but if the Cubs don't deal Walker before the season, I'd guess that Dusty would keep him in the lineup until he showed inconclusively that he didn't deserve it. Recall, if you will, the seeming decades of incompetence Todd Hollandsworth was required to show before he lost his starting job.
That doesn't mean if Walker's on the team that Neifi! won't find his way into the lineup. Of course, if I'm going to take Dusty's words about Walker at face value, then I suppose I'm at least required to consider the veracity of this exchange.
Q: But can this team be better with two starters, left fielder Matt Murton and shortstop Ronny Cedeno, in their first full seasons?
A: Hey, man, you have to give them a chance to play sometime. Murton has hit everywhere he has played. And Cedeno really hit the last couple of years. He was the rookie of the year in Venezuela (winter league) and I was proud of him for going to play. He's ready to play for us.
Here's the thing: I'm willing to buy Baker's statements about Walker because I've seen a pattern of behavior in the past that lends credence to his words. When it comes to what he says about Cedeno, though, his past makes me believe that part of his answer was truncated, and that the last bit should go like this: "He was the rookie of the year in Venezuela (winter league) and I was proud of him for going to play. He's ready to play for us. Once a week."
In the end, this is all speculation, even when we've got the words of the individuals involved to work with. If there's one thing I've learned from the last couple years, it's that it ain't the words, it's the deeds, and until the deeds get done, we don't know a damn thing.