Baseball Toaster Cub Town
More Thoughts on Garciaparra
2004-07-31 20:09
by alex ciepley

[Alex]: Nomah no longer. Now that he's lost his Boston accent, what do we call him? Nomair? I'm a southern Indiana native (and don't even have that accent), so you Chicago natives will have to give me a little help here.

It's one "p", two "r"s, and a trade made by a General Manager who believes his team can win now. This is also, unlike the Mets trades, a trade made by a team that can win now. The Cubs are in the thick of the Wild Card hunt, and are the only team legitimately in that race (and no, I think the Marlins are not in the hunt) that made a significant move before the deadline.

The Cubs gave up some young talent, but when you acquire one of the best shortstops in baseball history, you should expect to bleed a little. I'm going to miss Brendan Harris the most, and would argue (contrary to most, I'll assume) that he has the best chance of coming back to haunt the Cubs in the future. Harris was a career 304/372/488 hitter in the Cubs' system, and will likely be permanently ensconced at third for the Expos by season's end.

We know, of course, that the chances of Dusty Baker happily playing Harris next year at second were nil, so that figures a bit into things. Baker did give Francis Beltran plenty of chances, however, and Beltran showed flashes of why he's considered such a good relief prospect. Beltran, like many pitchers, only needs to gain a bit of control to become a very good reliever. But still, we're talking about a 24-year-old relief prospect; if that's not a tradeable commodity, nothing is.

Finally, the Cubs lose Justin Jones, Godsend, Randy Johnson's protege, the pitching version of Michael Jordan... No, that's not it. Justin Jones is a highly regarded pitching prospect who put up wonderful numbers last year and a solid line so far this season. He's left-handed. He's also 19, had to be shut down twice last year with a "tired arm", and missed time this season with an elbow injury. Jones could turn out to be awfully great pitcher at the major league level, but -- as with all pitching prospects -- there is a better chance that this moment is the most newsworthy event of his Major League career.

The Cubs got a nifty left field prospect (Matt Murton) who actually garnered a mention in Theo Epstein's press conference (Theo was bummed he had to include Murton), and a 31-year-old shortstop who has put up a career line of 323/370/553. He's at the tail end of his prime, but Nomar has still managed a magnificent 305/349/523 line the past three years, and should be very good both this year and the next few. Sure, we all know Nomar's name, but have we really appreciated how good he has been in his career so far?

1997 684 44 30 35 92 22 9 .306 .342 .534
1998 604 37 35 33 62 12 6 .323 .362 .584
1999 532 42 27 51 39 14 3 .357 .418 .603
2000 529 51 21 61 50 5 2 .372 .434 .599
2001 83 3 4 7 9 0 1 .289 .352 .470
2002 635 56 24 41 63 5 2 .310 .352 .528
2003 658 37 28 39 61 19 5 .301 .345 .524
2004 156 7 5 8 16 2 0 .321 .367 .500
Look at those lines. In every full season of his career, Nomar's batted above .300 and slugged over .500. He averages around a strikeout every 10 at bats (i.e., very rarely -- Sammy Ks once every 3.8 at bats), doesn't walk much, and can steal a bag here or there. He has a fantastic throwing arm, solid range, but can be prone to throwing or fielding errors. If his career ended tomorrow, he would probably not make the Hall of Fame, but it would be close, and he will most likely end up in Cooperstown when all is said and done.

The Cubs' new lineup, as I'd construct it:

1. Walker/Grudz
2. Nomar
3. Lee
4. A-Ram
5. Sosa
6. Patterson
7. Alou
8. Barrett

Of course, Sosa and Alou will bat 3-4, which really is totally fine, but there is not a single hole in the lineup. Not when your number 8 hitter is batting 295/346/490.

The deal for Garciaparra is a great, but it doesn't mean it will work out. Nomar is an impatient batter (easily seeing fewer pitches than anyone on the Cubs team, Alou and Patterson included), he's been injured most of the year, and is yet another right-handed bat. He could slump for a couple months. Or he could be fantastic, and the rest of the team could fall apart.

But this was the right deal, at the right time, for the right Cubs team. Jim Hendry has put together a Cubs team that is good enough to make it to the playoffs. He's done his job, now the guys on the field just have to do theirs.


Here's how my day went:

7:30 -- Wake up, check ESPNEWS, see that the Mets had picked up some pitchers, the Marlins traded Big Choi to L.A., and not a whole lot else had happened.
9:00 -- Conference call with the rest of the writers. Talk about trade possibilties, among other things. Remark that this was going to go down as one of the most boring deadline days in recent memory.
9:40 -- Will Carroll joins the call, says the Nomar-to-the-Cubs trade "isn't dead, but isn't really breathing."
10:30 -- Back to ESPNEWS. Nothing going on. Jim Bowden gives the Nomar trade a 50-50 chance of happening.
1:00 -- Trade deadline. All the news is about Randy Johnson staying in Arizona. Bowden remarks that trades still might be announced over the next 45 hours.
2:30 -- Head down the hill to meet with the manufactured home guy and run some errands.
5:40 -- Flip through AM sports radio to try to get word on any trades. Some guy is talking about how Boston fans are reacting badly to Nomar, but I figure it's just because they're sick of him.
6:30 -- Check my voice mail. Message from Mark: "Just heard the Cubs got Nomar as part of a four-team deal but haven't seen the details yet."
6:32 -- Another voice mail from Mark: "Just got online and saw the details. Hendry is a fucking genius. To get Nomar without giving up Clement -- amazing. Oh, by the way, I'm going to be out all night and won't have my phone with me." What the hell is that about?
6:33 -- Start driving home, flipping frantically through the AM radio trying to find details while trying to find Alex Ciepley's number and also trying to get through to Will Carroll. Finally, one station mentions the deal, but only says that the Cubs got Nomar, and that Orlando Cabrera and Doug Mientkiewicz (?!?) are involved.
6:34 -- No answer on Will's phone.
6:35 -- No answer on Will's phone.
6:36 -- No answer on Will's phone.
8:15 -- Arrive home, log on, and read the happy details as posted by Alex. My initial reaction: god damn! What a great trade!

Feels good to be a Cubs fan right now. I'll miss Beltran, but relievers are fungible. All-star shortstops are not. Great trade, great trade, great trade.

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