Al Yellon runs one of the finest baseball blogs in existance at Bleed Cubbie Blue. He was nice enough to answer a few question on the Cubs for us just in time for the four game series with Chicago that's starting tonight. I also answered a few questions for him that you can read here.
On to the show:
1) What did you think when the Cubs signed Tony Womack?
Like most Cub fans, I was appalled at this signing. It seemed worthless. Womack somehow popped out a decent year for the Cardinals in 2004, and got signed by the Yankees as a result. He was bad last year, and didn't play much for the Reds, which I suppose is why they let him go, especially after they signed Brandon Phillips.
I knew he'd get a lot of playing time, because he is Dusty Baker's "type" of player -- baserunning speed, but no way of getting on base in the first place.
He's been -- well, not terrible. It was still a silly signing; all it did was prevent Ryan Theriot, an actual useful young 2B, from playing.
2) What on earth has happened to Juan Pierre, and how long are the Cubs going to hit him leadoff when his OBP is at .287?
The problem is that the Cubs don't really have any other leadoff options. You're right, the .287 OBP is just about as bad as Corey Patterson's was in the leadoff spot last year. It seems he tries to bunt every single time up, and every team in the league knows it. He doesn't walk, so he HAS to hit to be useful.
I wish they had another choice. But they don't.
3) Do you think the Cubs made a mistake in getting rid of Corey Patterson? He always seemed to have so much talent to me, and it looks like he might be finding himself a little bit in Baltimore.
Patterson's last year with the Cubs was so poisoned that even though he COULD have been a decent fit in right field this year, there's no way he could have had the year he's had so far in Baltimore, in Chicago. He was booed relentlessly -- not just for his performance, but his attitude toward his performance (he was perceived as not caring, not wanting to make adjustments, not take coaching
suggestions, or when he did, there were "too many" such suggestions). Had he started slowly with the Cubs this year (as he did in Baltimore), the booing would have absolutely killed him.
Sometimes players have to move on to succeed. I'm still not convinced he's for real, but if so, he may be one of those players.
4) You guys have been hit pretty hard with the injury bug this season, and the first couple of months haven't gone very well. Do you think the season is over, or do you still have hope that getting Derrek Lee back can get the team into the Wild Card race?
Well, obviously after the last two days, getting one run total in two games off a pitcher with an ERA orbiting Mars, and another making his first ML start, obviously the Cubs could use Lee back, especially when you consider this: with Todd Walker playing first base most of the time, the lineup substitution is Womack for Lee. Or Neifi Perez for Lee.
I think you can see how that just doesn't work in terms of scoring many, or ANY, runs.
Lee will help. But the Cubs may be in too deep of a hole to get out.
5) Is Dusty Baker a plus or a minus? The thing that has really defined the Cubs offense in recent years, at least to me, is their inability to take a walk. Lots of hitters go up and swing at the first thing they see, and the organizational philosophy seems to be okay with that (see the Juan Pierre, Neifi Perez, Tony Womack acquisitions). It seems like Dusty wants hitters to be too agressive, at least to this outsider. And this is without even discussing the pitch count question, and his
perceived tendency to ride young pitchers pretty hard. Do you think the Cubs would be better off with someone else at the helm?
I'm going to be posting this at BCB as well as having you post it, and my readers know well that I am NOT an advocate of firing Baker now. Yes, his managerial tendencies are clearly well known -- as you have articulated quite well in your question. He doesn't seem to understand lineup construction -- he keeps putting the "speed guys" in the #2 slot, without comprehending that they can't "steal first base", as the old saw goes.
For this year, I blame Jim Hendry for not putting together a team that could withstand the injuries that have been suffered, and for spending $16 million on Jacque Jones (who is hitting well now, yes, but I'd NEVER have given him a three-year deal), and $2.5 million on Neifi Perez and Glendon Rusch.
I saw what happened in 2003. Baker can be the PERFECT manager, given the right combination of players. He had a similar pattern in San Francisco -- a great first year, then three down years (90+ losses in the third), then suddenly a division title the next.
Right now, firing Baker means nothing. At the end of the season, I'll re-evaluate.