I’ve written everything that I think needs to be said about Larry Rothschild and the Wuertz-ification of the Cubs’ staff, except to offer some historical perspective: when Rothschild coached the Marlin staff in ’97 and they won the Series, Cleveland scored 44 runs in 7 games, or 6.3 per game.
I’d rather turn my attention to Gerald Perry, the hitting coach, who was hired away from the A’s to teach the Cub hitters how to be takers and walkers, moneyball-style. Maybe it’s a coincidence, and maybe it’s not, that the three Cub hitters most in need of help this year, Pie, Cedeno and Fukudome, progressively lost the ability to drive the ball while under Perry’s tutelage. Derrek Lee, meanwhile, did not lose his power stroke, as people often say. I would contend that Derrek Lee still hits more balls 380 than Soriano does, but he hits them to center and deepest left- and right-center where they turn into doubles or outs. What Lee has lost is the ability to speed up his bat on inside pitches. Lee wants to watch the ball a little longer before he swings. That works with outside pitches but not so well on balls down the middle or middle-in. I don’t expect anyone to rewind the tape on this but if you do, you will see that during the at-bat in New York where Lee drove in the game winner with that late-swing hit down the line in right, he swung late and missed on two sliders down the middle. Late on sliders! Maybe Lee’s hitting tendencies have nothing to do with the coach. Maybe Perry doesn’t give a veteran like Lee advice, and it’s a coincidence that Lee increasingly practices what Perry preaches: patience, patience, don’t swing yet . . . wait!
Fukudome has learned the hard way that when you get a reputation as someone looking to walk, umps widen the strike zone on you. You don’t raise your OBP by standing there with the bat on your shoulder.
Meanwhile, hitters like Soto, Cedeno, Pie, Dubois, Kroeger and Hoffpauir kill the ball for hitting coach Von Joshua in Iowa.
Fire Rothschild and Perry, and if you want to make a clean sweep (pardon the expression) of the coaching staff, that’s fine too. There is a lot of managerial and coaching talent deserving of promotion in the minor-league system, which is quite sound.
Like all good Cub fans, I love Derrek Lee, and I’ve even started to love Mark DeRosa now that he’s finally broken the fifteen-home-run barrier. But a ball team is a talent-investment bank, and to be profitable you have to buy low and sell high. After a disappointing end to a season, fans want to trade punitively, which is counter-productive. Playing Fontenot and Hoffpauir full time next season is buying low. Trading Lee and DeRosa for high-level pitching prospects is buying low, selling high. The Cubs have some great young arms but they were mostly at high-A Daytona.
So move Lee, and move DeRosa if you have no other position for him than second base. If he’s your right-fielder, that’s different. He showed enough power this year to be a plausible right fielder. Then you’re consigning the $48 million man, who is untradeable at this point, to the bench, but that’s between you and the new owner’s accountant. DeRosa would be a defensive upgrade and a halfway decent offensive replacement for Ramirez at third, and you could reap a bonanza by trading Ramirez. These are realistic trades, it just depends what you want to do.
But begin by freeing up first and second bases for Hoffpauir and Fontenot. Lee is a “superstar without superstar numbers,” and there are more players in the league than you might think who can duplicate those numbers, players like Andre Ethier. There’s no reason Hoffpauir can’t hit .280 with twenty home runs and a bunch of doubles. Soto did it.
No more fading stars on the Cubs, please. When Edmonds dove awkwardly for that ball in game two, I thought I was watching Damn Yankees after Shoeless Joe turned back into a geezer. Let’s go with Pie and Reed Johnson in center next year, and hopefully it will become mostly Pie. Youth and speed, that’s the premise of this website. The lack of youth and speed is usually what’s wrong with the Cubs.