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When Jimmy Comes To Town
by Derek Smart
Nothing will be solidified until sometime tomorrow, but based on all the ink spilled on the subject, come Wednesday night, or Thursday afternoon at the latest, there will be a Jedmonds in our midst.
I'm trying to find positives, trying not to just spew obscenities, and it's absolutely killing me. Here's what I'll do instead. I'll outline what I believe the club is thinking, and then we'll see if I want to call in an airstrike when I'm done. The chain of events should move something this:
Edmonds will be signed and added to the 25-man roster (there shouldn't be a move with the 40-man, since my accounting shows 38 at the moment).
Pie will be sent to Iowa, where he will work on the corrections the club wants him to make to his swing, while getting daily game action to transfer those corrections from conscious action, to unconscious reaction.
Edmonds will start in center field.
Edmonds will hit fifth.
Fukudome will hit second.
Theriot will hit eighth.
That's six separate things, and judgment on the first item - the addition of Edmonds in the first place - needs to be reserved until the other pieces are assessed. We're left, then, with five items requiring comment. Let's start with the easy stuff.
Fukudome will hit second, and Theriot will hit eighth.
To me, these moves are undeniable positives. Fukudome is the perfect prototype for a Major League two-hole hitter, so much so that it makes one wonder at the collective sanity of a club that heretofore has refused to put him where he so clearly belongs.
I understand the reasoning - the Cubs want to break up the right-handers in the middle of the lineup and either gain some late game platoon advantages, or force their opponents to spend their bullpen chits in quick succession to gain the advantage themselves - but I remain unconvinced that this use of Fukudome and his skillset is a net positive when compared to what's gained by hitting him higher in the order - namely, more PAs for Fukudome, which based on his OBP would mean fewer outs in general for the club, and more RBI chances for Lee and Ramirez. What the Cubs hope is that the acquisition of Edmonds will allow them to both have and eat their proverbial cake.
Then, of course, Ryan Theriot becomes displaced by Fukudome's move, and since it makes no sense to put him in a traditional RBI spot, is migrated to the bottom of the order. Despite his early hotness, Theriot is pretty clearly the worst hitter in the lineup most days, so treating him as such by placing him just before the pitcher is optimal even when he's performing well, and will become a near necessity once his descent to mortal climes commences.
Still, despite all the sense it makes, the only reason any of this is happening is because....
Edmonds will hit fifth.
For Fukudome to move, there has to be another lefty to take his place in the 5-hole, and in order for that lefty to viably do so, he needs to be someone who has some power and ability to drive in runs. This is something that Edmonds brings to the table. Assuming, of course, that he can drop a year or three on his way to town.
There is a root issue with the ploy, and it goes like this: Jim Edmonds is no longer a good hitter. He hasn't been since 2006, and he hasn't been truly dangerous since 2005. It is a tremendous leap of faith to assume that a 38 year-old who is two years removed from his last productive season, and two years removed from the last time he was a legitimate power threat, will jump into your lineup and bring the game he had in days of yore when dragons feasted on the flesh of men and damsels yodeled helplessly from the tallest local tower.
Sure, there's an outside chance that Edmonds can put together a solid month or so and be of use during his stay, but more than likely, he'll be so bad as to unplayable, or he'll injure himself yet again because....
Edmonds will start in center field.
As bad as Edmonds is likely to be at the plate - and considering the number of RBI opportunities he'll have because of the guys hitting in front of him, his badness could be especially damaging - he might be even worse in the field. It won’t just be Edmond’s area that’s affected, either.When a center fielder’s range has become diminished to the point that Edmond’s has, that necessitates the men on the corner playing tighter to center, leaving the lines vulnerable. Later in the game, if the lines are being guarded, the gaps become larger. The entire outfield defense is affected, domino-like.
The good news is, Wrigley's relatively small, so some of his foibles will be masked. The bad news is, eventually the team will go back on the road where the pastures will be considerably less kind, and once they do, I fear the combination of terrible hitting and worse defense will be too much to bear. Especially since....
Pie will be sent to Iowa.
This is something I have mixed feelings about. On the one hand, despite the lack of concrete results, I think Pie's looked better at the dish lately, more like someone who has an inkling of what to do than a hopeless heap, and I'd love to see him get enough playing time let the changes he's made fully take hold.
On the other hand, there's something to be said for following what I'll call The Rich Hill Model, where you send a guy down with every intention of bringing him back the minute he shows that he's internalized and deployed the lessons he's meant to glean on the farm.Certainly with Hill, it was an absolute necessity.With Pie, I don’t believe that’s the case, although I can see the argument that by giving him a couple pressure-free weeks in Iowa, Pie will more quickly digest his intended learnings.Of course, in the end my thoughts are irrelevant because….
Edmonds will be signed and added to the 25-man roster.
It’s looking inevitable, and if I do a straight tally of the five items above, I’m coming out about 2.5 pro and 2.5 con.While that implies I might be able to live with this arrangement for a time, if I think about how the above might be weighted, how I might prioritize these various parts, I think it’s more important for me to not have an obvious piece of dead weight on the roster than it is for me to see some marginal gains from lineup reconstruction. Edmond’s likely contributions on offense and defense could be so damaging as to not only wipe out any gains from the batting order changes, but be a major net negative if allowed to go on for any length of time.
I won’t be phoning for bombers if this deal does, indeed, get done, but if the experiment goes as I think it will, and lasts beyond the month of May, rest assured I’ll be calling for the cavalry.