Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Now Hear Me Out...

Throughout the long history of the Chicago Cubs, many players have left lasting imprints on this franchise that have outlasted their time with the team. For some players- the likes of Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, and Ryne Sandberg just to name a few- this is the result of years and years of playing Hall of Fame caliber baseball while wearing Cubbie Blue. On the flip side of that coin- and as a direct result of hosting cellar-dwelling clubs for the better part of the past century- there have been quite a few players whose imprints are more like stains. This list of players is littered with ill-advised free agent signings, and countless amounts of fizzled-out prospects. In fact, this list is so long that you could probably argue for days over which player rightfully deserves the dishonor of being considered The Worst Cub Ever.

For me, it would be tough to settle on one player. But if you asked every Cub fan on earth who their vote for The Worst Ever would be, you would probably find a lot Ronny Cedeno supporters (or in this case, detractors).

Indeed, Cedeno could very well take the cake. And it’s no mystery why. In 2006, after he earned the starting shortstop job on the tails of a strong showing in winter ball and spring training, we all witnessed perhaps the worst individual performance in the history of the Cubs.

Ronny Cedeno 2006 MLB- 534ABs- .245/.271/339- 6 HR- 17BB/109K- -17.8 VORP

Those numbers speak for themselves (what’s truly staggering is the BB/K ratio). Needless to say, it wasn’t just Cedeno’s bat that disappointed. He couldn’t hit the ball or catch the ball, finishing with 23 errors. Basically, he shit in the bed.

This however was not some unforeseeable result. In fact, this very page crucified Jim Hendry and the Cubs’ brass for entrusting the job to the young Venezuelan. The fact of the matter is that coming into the 2006 season, while Cedeno had shown signs of improvement with the bat, the only credible body of work he had to show for in his entire career came in just 245 ABs the previous season at AAA, where he posted a line of .355/.403/.518. Truth be told, after taking a look at Ronny’s numbers prior to his arrival at AAA, it’s an absolute mystery to me how Cedeno even made it there.

Anyways, with 2006 in the rearview mirror, and Ronny relegated to the minor leagues, Cub fans can breathe easy and rest assured that they’ll never have to see him again, right?


I’m here to say that Ronny Cedeno deserves another shot. Now hear me out…

I am fully aware of the gravity of this suggestion. I know that defending Ronny Cedeno’s worth with Cub fans could be about as worthwhile as discussing the merits of Satan with a devout Christian (honestly I can’t wait to hear GM’s thoughts). But before staging an internet riot in an effort to remove my brand-new voice from this page, at least consider a few things.

Since his demotion to AAA on the heels of a disappointing stint with the big club, Ronny has absolutely torched the Pacific Coast League to the tune of .383/.461/.629. He has 9 HR, with 5 of them coming in his last 6 games. Not enough? How about his shiny 23BB/22K ratio? That’s right. Ronny F-ing Cedeno has walked more than he has struck out.

Now, I’m not suggesting the he can hit .383, or slug .629 for that matter. It is obviously worth mentioning that his work thus far has come in just 167 ABs. On top of that, Cedeno has benefited from an admittedly astronomical BABIP of .411. But even after correcting that BABIP, his line would still be quite impressive. It’s not like that .411 BABIP has dictated Cedeno’s new found plate discipline. And at 24 years old, Cedeno is certainly young enough to still be considered a prospect. You have to remember that this is a guy that scouts really liked. He might not have ever been a blue-chipper, but scouts were sold on Cedeno becoming an everyday big-leaguer. What are scouts saying now? Look no further than here, where Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein says Ronny is a changed man (sorry, subscription required). Goldstein goes as far as to suggest that should Theriot and Izturis continue to scuffle, Cedeno could provide an immediate upgrade.

Believe me; I’m as surprised as anyone. I still have nightmares of Cedeno chasing sliders low and away. I didn’t think he would ever have a chance of bouncing back. At his worst, I was prepared to launch ihateronnycedeno.com. Considering just how much I detested watching Ronny play, I can hardly believe I am even making this argument. But the way I see it, his performance speaks for itself. Maybe calling him up right now isn’t the best idea, but eventually it is going to come down to just how much more of Izturis and Theriot this team can handle.

I say, give it some time. See if Cedeno is still raking 150 ABs later. If he isn’t then forget about him. And if Theriot isn’t killing us (because you know Izturis would) then I say let him run around like his hair’s on fire for the rest of the season. But I have my doubts. This is why I think Cedeno at least deserves a shot. It will be interesting to see if the organization can look past Ronny’s struggles last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if they couldn’t- it has got to be tough to get that kind of bad taste out of your mouth (which is why I wouldn’t fault any readers who feel the same way). If he does get called up, the Cubs could keep him on a short leash. If he flops again, send him down to Iowa and forget all about him- and that I suggested he even deserved a shot.

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