WTNYFebruary 19, 2004
A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT
By Bryan Smith

One Cub Fans Impression of One Huge Move

Back to that same old place, sweet home Chicago. Frank Sinatra

I wasnt ready to leave the first time...its nice to have an opportunity to come back, and with those words, the Cubs greatest homegrown pitcher (so far) was welcomed back to Cubdom. Greg Maddux, after an eleven-year hiatus, will be wearing Cubbie Blue once again.

While Maddux may be one of the best products to ever come from the Cubs minor league system, its fitting (considering the Cubs history) that his best years came in another uniform. Fans have cursed the organization for letting another Lou Brock slip away, and this is Jim Hendrys way of reconciling that move. But as the Cub boss says, Greg is coming home because Greg can still pitch. And Greg can still win games.

Winning games has never been a problem for Maddux, as he owns the Major League record for most consecutive seasons with at least fifteen wins (16). Gregs career win total is up to 289, so its likely that number 300 will come in the uniform that it all began.

Maddog also has kept his innings pitched numbers up as hes gotten older, starting at least thirty-three games in every season since 1995. That dependability will be important for a Cub staff that will be clouded with yellow lights. As Will Carroll pointed out when breaking the story yesterday, Gregs reliability will especially help Carlos Zambrano, who should see less stress in the fifth spot. Hopefully Dusty will see Maddux as an excuse to lay off the young arms, letting the veteran become his innings-eater. While Maddux has become an eighty-five pitches/game starter, his efficiency allows for six or more innings a start.

Maddux critics will of course point a few negative indicators the thirty-seven year old has shown: his worst ERA+ since 1987, a four-year declining K/9 rate, and a home run total that has peaked. These are all valid arguments, and the same worries that I as a Cubs fan have. The ERA, while rising, was lower than Andy Pettite and Wade Miller, while mirroring Roger Clemens. The K/9 rate might not be as sexy as it once was, but his K/BB balances it well. And finally, I cant explain the HR numbers, and frankly, they worry me. Gregs road ERA is cause for concern, but I guess he keeps the ball down enough to combat that.

As a Cubs fan, Im supposed to be optimistic. I mean, hell, look at the title of my blog, it indicates the hope that Cubs fans have. Greg Maddux becoming a Cub is a move that I will keep my optimism on, even through all three years. I cant promise that win streak is going to continue, but I think it has a damn good chance.

Another important question this raises is whats next? The Cubs have a roster built right now, it goes as follows:

C- Michael Barrett
1B- Derrek Lee
2B- Mark Grudzielanek
SS- Alex Gonzalez
3B- Aramis Ramirez
LF- Moises Alou
CF- Corey Patterson
RF- Sammy Sosa

B1- Todd Walker- IF
B2- Todd Hollandsworth- OF
B3- Ramon Martinez- IF
B4- Tom Goodwin- OF
B5- Paul Bako- C

1. Mark Prior
2. Kerry Wood
3. Greg Maddux
4. Carlos Zambrano
5. Matt Clement

CL- Joe Borowski- RH
SU- LaTroy Hawkins- RH
SU- Mike Remlinger- LH
MR- Kyle Farnsworth- RH
LOOGY- Kent Mercker
6th- Cruz/Beltran/Wellemeyer

To go into camp with only one problem is fantastic. The last relief spot will be a battle royal between Juan Cruz, Francis Beltran, and Todd Wellemeyer. First of all, Id love to eliminate Cruz, who just doesnt have the stuff cut out to be a reliever. I have big plans for him thoughkeep reading. Beltran was sensational in the Winter League, becoming closer on a team that had Guillermo Mota and I believe, Danys Baez. The only problem is that Beltran would need to pitch some long innings, a trait Im not sure he possesses.

So by default, Todd Wellemeyer gets the job. I think Wellemeyer is well-suited for this role, his stuff is relief-quality and hes able to pitch a lot of innings. The other five will allow Baker to seldomly use Wellemeyer, only when we need a reliever in the fifth.

As for Cruz, I would first send him to Iowa. Hes trade bait. The Cubs have one need and one need onlya leadoff hitter. Everyone at the Cub Reporter keeps pointing to Jose Vidro, but my hope is Jason Kendall. Why not send Cruz, Beltran, and Mike Barrett to Pittsburgh for Jason Kendall? Great catcher, great leadoff hitter, Dusty Baker-type player. It would solidify the lineup, and make the Cubs the undeniable favorites to capture the National League crown.

And all because one man came back home.

Theres no place like home, theres no place like home. Wizard of Oz

Comments

With Kendall, it always comes down to (1) how much $$ will Pittsburgh pick up, as his contract is AWFUL, and (2) will Kendall accept a trade to team X (he has veto power and has expressed a desire to only go to SoCal).

If Littlefield finally admitted failure and would eat fully half Kendall's money, then something can happen.

Cruz and Barrett make sense in that regard, and I'd stop there, maybe throwing in Steve Smyth who Littlefield passed on once before (took Hill instead). I do NOT want to trade Beltran though. I've liked this guy for 2 years now, he is our future closer, I'm convinced.

So Cruz/Barrett/Smyth for Kendall and $21MM coming back from Pittsburgh, and let's talk. If you REALLY twisted my arm, I might agree to a better second pitcher prospect at a lower level, like say, the interesting Bear Bay, but that's it.

Its all about the money and if the money could work it would have happened with the Padres. I agree Kendall would be the perfect solution, a hitting catcher and a lead off hitter in one. I think Barrett may be a pleasant surprise though.

"Sweet Home Chicago" is credited to Robert Johnson, I believe.

"Sweet Home Chicago" is credited to Robert Johnson, I believe.

Bryan-

Sorry this is off topic, but I believe I read that you really like Jose Contreras and think he could win 20 games. I was just wondering why you were so high on him. Thanks.

Jose Macias is the 6th bench player.

Also, I don't believe the Cubs can send Cruz to Iowa. I believe he's out of options.