Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Pre-Con Pre-Func
2006-01-13 07:30
by Derek Smart

A couple of the papers have printed pre-convention Q & A sessions this morning, one with Dusty Baker, and 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.

2006-01-13 12:38:09
1.   Uncle Charlie
I wasn't as entertained by Bruce Miles' column as you were Derek, since I didn't think there were any questions that hadn't already been bandied about over the Internet for the past several months--and there weren't that many of them. It was almost as bad as Steve Phillips' mock GM press conferences on ESPN. Ugh!

I'd want to know exactly why we couldn't get Furcal and, more importantly, if Hendry thought it was wise, in hindsight, to let the whole world know that was his priority for the off season. Also, I'd want to know if McPhail had the final word and was the guy who wouldn't budge from the original offer made to Furcal.

I'd want to know if he saw trading Corey Patterson for two no-name mid-level prospects as simply a salary dump--one that admitted failure to bring a promising young player to his potential. And, Jim, having so little depth in your outfield, couldn't you have used a guy like Corey to hit situationally, pinch run, platoon defensively, etc. to see if he could come around instead of trading him at his all-time low value? And what are you going to do with that $3.5 million dollars you saved?

I'd want to know if he thinks Ryan Dempster is the real thing after seeing him succeed in just a half season. Three years is a big commitment. Is there a back-up plan?

I love Aramis Ramirez, but is he in better shape this year and can he avoid pulling his hammy in April? Is he ready to play better defense? I don't see a reliable back-up for him on the roster, do you? It's not Neifi or John Mabry, is it?

I want to know if Jim's really been watching the starting rotation closely enough to know that he can't count on them all to stay healthy. Did he make an effort to go after anyone to bolster the starting rotation? Millwood, Zito, Weaver,... anyone?

Can he promise, in front of God and Cubs fans, that he will never, ever, ever trade Mark Prior for anyone other than Albert Pujols?

2006-01-13 12:54:04
2.   joejoejoe
I did not know that Ozzie Guillen was a batboy for a Winter Ball team that Dusty played on in Venezuela. I wonder if young Ozzie had the same mouth as current Ozzie. Has a batboy ever been ejected from a game?
2006-01-13 13:25:06
3.   Uncle Charlie
He was never ejected as a batboy for swearing. It was for sacrificing chickens in the on-deck circle.
2006-01-13 13:30:44
4.   Derek Smart
Uncle Charlie-

Let me be clear: I said Miles' piece was "more entertaining" than the real interview, not that it was necessarily a hoot on its own. However, compare it to a pretty bland Q & A with his Dustiness, and it comes out looking pretty good.

And nothing is as bad as the Steve Phillips stuff.

2006-01-13 13:46:47
5.   Uncle Charlie
Absolutely right about S.P. Did he get even one free agent prediction correct? He's a complete waste of time.
2006-01-13 13:57:24
6.   Uncle Charlie
Here's another question that's been bugging me since early December. Is there bad blood between the Cubs organization and Ned Colletti from the time he worked in the Cubs' PR department? Or how about Grady Little... does he hate the Cubs after serving as their roving cathing instructor? It sure seemed like the whole Furcal deal was a great way for one of them to really stick it to their old bosses. A fond farwell f - you. And wasn't it convenient that one of them probably had knowledge of exactly the offer the Cubs had made and how far they'd be willing (or not) to go? Jim, am I just being paranoid? I am? Well, can you blame me?

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