Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gotta start somewhere

"but you the living, you're stuck here with the Cubs, So its me that feels sorry for you!"--A dying Cub fans last request written by Steve Goodman (1983).

When a team is going as bad as the Cubs have gone over the past few weeks it's easy to just quit watching. We all know that's not true. I can't keep my eyes off this thing. It's one of those things where you know you shouldn't look but you just keep watching and you can't turn your head. If you've stuck with the team this long, what does another bad spell or another down season mean? This is business as usual, IMO. So as Dusty's seat gets hotter and hotter, as Tribune writers tell us how bad the Cubs are compared to the Sox and as the Cub GM prepares to make a few cosmetic moves to make you think you'er happy for a day or two. Here are a few things I would like to see the Cubs accomplish this season to make sure 2007 and 2008 are not this bad.

Heading into Sunday's final meeting with the Padres, the Cubs record stands at 15-21. 6 games under the .500 mark. If you consider just how bad the last few weeks have been, I'm surprised it's only 6 games under. You have to have goals and I'd suggest the goals be attainable. 81 wins should be the goal for this team. I'm not sure that is attainable, at this point with the current mix, but some cosmetic changes(more on this later) are gonna happen and at least one oft-injured pitcher may show up one of these days to take a turn or two in the rotation.

From Andy MacPhail-to-Jim Hendry-to-Dusty Baker-to the players, who is the leader of this team? I can't answer that question. I don't think this team has a leader. In bad times more than good times somebody needs to step up and lead. Leaders can be the management (Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen on the southside) or the players themselves(Jeter). This team lacks a leader from the top down. That needs to change. The Cubs need to find a leader amongst what they have, or go out and get one if they want to be succesful in the coming years.

Evaluating and playing the youngsters
Dusty Baker surprised the hell out of me when he started the season with Ronny Cedeno and Matt Murton penciled in as regulars. He downright shocked me when he added Sean Marshall to the starting rotation. The Cubs have more young players on the roster than they have had in years. As the injuries have mounted and pithcers have failed Rich Hill, Angel Guzman and now Jae Kuk Ryu have all found there way to the majors (Guzman has since been sent packing). Now what the Cubs need to figure is which of the young arms will be part of a revamped rotation in 2007 & 2008. Both Ryan Theriot and Michael Restovich have had stints with the big club but neither got to see much playing time. What do the Cubs have to lose? Play the kids and if they aren't good, you make sure they are not part of the plans for 2007-8.

Change for changes sake
It has reached such a low that a change (even a cosmetic change) would be welcome to acknowledge to the fandom that Jim Hendry recognizes this team is bad. In case JH has missed it the msm is now questioning him. I'm sure the manager at this point would be happy to take any new talent the GM can give him. Sometimes you just have to move the deck chairs on the titanic. Go move the deck chairs Jimmy. At least we'll all know you're still with us.

Acquiring Young Talent
It looks like the Cubs are gonna have a chance to restock their farm system in the coming months. Several of the Cub veteran players will be coveted by teams that are in contention. The Cubs have the opportunity to add prospects that can be part of the mix in 2007 and 2008.

"Plan Z" with Mark Prior
Whether we like it or not Mark Prior will probably be around this team next season. The Cubs should make having him ready to pitch next spring training a goal. Forget this season. The organization needs to get to the bottom of what is troubling Mark Prior. Is it mental as many suggest? Is it the use of him over the past several seasons? Is it the fluke injuries? Whatever it is, something ain't right and it's time the Cubs get their 2001 first round pick healthy and ready to go for spring 2007.

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