Baseball Toaster Cub Town
2007-07-17 09:15
by Phil Bencomo

Many months ago – in January, to be exact – Lou Piniella, attending his first Cubs Convention, made quite a statement, about his intentions and demeanor, when he said, "It's time to bring some swagger back to Chicago."

It took a few months of play, but Piniella's done it: He's turned a lackadaisical organization seemingly content with ticket sales and spreading the Cubbie brand into a team with a burning desire to win, no matter the inning or deficit. Cubbie swagger, indeed.

As was evident over the weekend and last night, this is a Cub team that will not give up. The hero seems to change every game, too, be it a player big (Ramirez) or small (Theriot).

* * * *

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


– Dylan Thomas

* * * *

If A's fans are "very happy" about the trade of Jason Kendall, I should be sad, shouldn't I? Instead, I'm ambivalent. Kendall's been atrocious this season – but the Koyie Hill/Rob Bowen/Geovany Soto combo certainly hasn't been any better for the Cubs.

Now, if this is Hendry's idea of a big, pull-out-all-the-stops-because-we're-going-to-win-this-thing type of deal, then I'll be a tad more upset.

* * * *

Until Larry Rothschild came out to the mound yesterday to talk to Rich Hill, I hadn't really thought about the Cubs' pitching coach in some time. With the starting staff doing so well, there's been no need to point fingers. But that's how just about everything works: If you do a good job, it often goes unnoticed; you mess up, and suddenly everybody has their eyes on you.

So I can't help but wonder: Just how much of the Cubs' pitching success is due to Larry? Marquis' turnaround, the emergence of Marshall and Marmol ... is it all Larry's doing?

2007-07-17 09:29:36
1.   Scott de B
Now, if this is Hendry's idea of a big, pull-out-all-the-stops-because-we're-going-to-win-this-thing type of deal, then I'll be a tad more upset.

It clearly is not, since Hendry said that until this weekend, he hadn't even been thinking about Kendall at all. It was Beane that approached Hendry.

2007-07-17 11:58:42
2.   Todd S
I've been in a foul mood ever since I heard about the Kendall trade. Horrible move. Kendall is the 2nd-worst offensive player (357th in VORP) in the majors this year with at least 100 at bats. And he's expensive, which means he'll command the lion's share of the playing time. And Hill is out of options, which means Soto is probably the one to be sent back to Iowa. I just don't understand this at already had two cheap, crappy offensive catchers. Why do you need to trade for an expensive, crappy one? Michael Barrett, in his worst year in three years, is way better than Kendall this year. How did we get from that, to this? This is one of Hendry's worst string of decisions, and it makes me fear for the Cubs future trade evaluations. Can the new owner just set a rule that Hendry is not allowed to trade with Beane, Shapiro, and Scheurholz? ("Jim, those guys are much smarter than you. They'll fleece you. Don't trade with them.")

I'm perplexed, frustrated, and disillusioned. As I said over in Catfish Stew, I don't understand how you can construct a decision tree and arrive at the conclusion that Jason Kendall is the answer.

And hey, Phil, while I'm in a bitter, sarcastic mood, how about giving Soto more than 8 plate appearances before concluding that he's part of the problem?

2007-07-17 12:52:25
3.   Scott de B
Kendall isn't expensive; the Cubs are paying him a pittance. And his 40 OPS+ is better than any of the Cubs catchers that were on their roster, believe it or not.
2007-07-17 13:12:34
4.   Mordecai Brown
Why are we getting so exercised over the Kendall trade? The Cubs need help now, not next year, to win now. Losing a mid-grade prospect like Blevins is only a possible future loss. Kendall has done well for many years in the major leagues. There is some sense in expecting him to turn his season around with a change of scenery; he wouldn't be the first player to do so. If he does, the Cubs are better. If he doesn't, the Cubs are no worse off this season than they were with Bowen.
2007-07-17 13:21:49
5.   Ken Arneson
Kendall can't hit. At all. You'll be amazed at how weakly he hits the ball. And he doesn't throw all that well, either.

That said, as a catcher, he is the best handler of pitchers/caller of pitches I've ever seen. I know there's no statistical proof that catchers can affect a game that way, but that may be more of a statement about statistics than about catchers. I used to watch games all the time and wonder "why the heck did they call for that stupid pitch?", but I haven't had that thought cross my mind in over two years. Ray Fosse's man-crush on Kendall is not totally without merit, and he's a better player than his stats indicate.

But pinch-hit and double-switch for him--often.

2007-07-17 13:42:20
6.   alex 7
I'm guessing the arguement is that the Cubs could have traded those same two guys for a better catcher than Kendall.
2007-07-17 13:42:29
7.   Phil Bencomo
3 Right. He's making $13 million this year, $5.5 million of which the Pirates are paying. He's owed about $3.6 million for the rest of the year, of which Oakland is paying an undisclosed amount. The Cubs are not paying a lot.


Remember, the Cubs have gone 16-5 since Barrett was traded. Having a weak-hitting catcher, like Koyie Hill or Rob Bowen, did not kill the Cubs over the last 20 games, and it isn't going to kill them now.

2007-07-17 13:48:32
8.   Todd S
My worry, which admittedly is exaggerated at this point, is that the Cubs will not start their best option at catcher to win games right now: Geovanny Soto. The guy was raking in Iowa, and he deserves a shot to show that he can contribute in the majors. But since Soto has options left and Hill does not, my worry is that Soto gets sent down to Iowa instead of getting most of the playing time in Chicago. If I'm wrong about this, and Kendall is just a backup to Soto, then I'm not overly concerned about this trade in the short-term.

However, I'm still VERY concerned about what this says about the thought process of Hendry and his staff, and the impact this will have on the future of Cubs trades.

Maybe Phil is right with the title of the post. The Cubs have so much swagger right now they feel like they can run the 2nd-worst Major League regular out there and still catch the Brewers.

2007-07-17 13:54:12
9.   Todd S
#7 Phil, I hear what you're saying (metaphorically-speaking, of course) about a weak-hitting catcher not killing the Cubs. However, to me that looks like the same reasoning Yankees brass used this year in deciding to punt offense at first base. That hasn't worked out so well. Why should you purposely handicap a lineup spot?

I hope Ken is right about Kendall's game-calling ability, but I doubt it's going to offset the offensive ineptitude.

2007-07-17 14:04:07
10.   Tom K
Uh - Guys - Soto is not that great. Yes he was doing good in AAA, but so is Cedeno and Murton and neither one of them could hit a lick up here either. I agree Soto should get a fair chance - but not right now when you are making a playoff push. Now is the time to bring in a veteran precence to help your young pitching staff..

Soto has "future Henry Blanco" stamped all over him. It's not like we are benching Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

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