Do the Cubs Have a White Flag in Their Future?
"It's just disappointing, I guess, to think you have a team where everybody in here thinks you can still do it and you can't. You'll never know what could have happened."
So said White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura to Phil Rogers of the Tribune on August 1, 1997, the day after Ventura's bosses completed the so-called "White Flag Trade," in which the Sox shipped three of Ventura's veteran teammates to San Francisco for six minor leaguers, all while Ventura's team—52-53 at the time—sat just 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians.
"This team had a chance, and it didn't seize it. It was hard to look at this team and feel very confident. I wasn't interested in finishing second in a poker hand."
So said Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf in defending the deal, which moved pitchers Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez, and Danny Darwin, and netted shortstop Mike Caruso, outfielder Brian Manning, and pitchers Lorenzo Barcelo, Ken Vining, Keith Foulke, and future Cub Bob Howry.
"I looked at it today and I was thinking all it takes is gaining one game a week for the rest of the year and you can win your division... It's going to take 50 wins or so from here on out to...win this division, and we're capable of doing it."
So said Ryan Dempster on ESPN Radio last week when discussing the Cubs' chances of clawing past the Reds and Cardinals.
I bring this up because, while enjoying almost all of the Cubs' four-game series with the Phillies this past weekend, I couldn't help but wonder if Cubs GM Jim Hendry wasn't at least a little bit conflicted. A week ago, he was (presumably) making plans to shed excess salary and re-arm the Cubs organization with prospects acquired through trade, and he would have had the support of all Cubdom in doing so.
Now, with home-and-home series against the lowly Astros and a three-game set against the division leaders in the Cubs' immediate future, Hendry has to at least ponder the possibility that ten days from now, his team could be within, say, six games of the division lead. At the same time, he (presumably) has teams like the Mets and Tigers and Yankees and who-knows-who-else knocking on his door and calling his office to inquire about possible deals with the third-place Chicago Cubs.
What to do, Jim? What to do?
At the time of the "White Flag Trade," Dusty Baker's Giants were in a dead heat with the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. Following the trade, the Giants went 31-23 and won the West by 2 games over Los Angeles. Alvarez went 4-3, 4.48 for SF down the stretch, while Darwin was 1-3, 4.91, and Hernandez went 5-2, 2.48.
The White Sox finished the season 80-81, six games behind the Indians, who went on to win the AL pennant.
Of the six players the White Sox picked up in the big trade, only Manning failed to reach the majors. A year after the trade, Caruso was the White Sox' starting shortstop and batted .300, Howry saved 49 games for the Sox between '98 and 2002, and Foulke collected 100 saves for the Sox before he was traded to Oakland in a deal for Billy Koch at the end of '02.
Chapman shouldn't be reserved anymore on 40 man.
Interesting split on Heyward according to ESPN. As a CF, his slash line .292/.363/.375/.738. At RF: .212/.204/.300/.604. 21/72 as a CF, 58/273 as a RF.
He's also been better when batting 2nd, but he had a nice start in the 6 hole, but has slumped ever since. He was heating up before the All Star break, but is only hitting .108 in the 2nd half.
When we played the Reds with Chapman, I always thought of it as an eight-inning game. So now other teams have eight innings to try to get a lead against the Cubs. Should be a challenge, assuming three or four Cubs ever start hitting again.
I don't really try to get to know and like these players personally. I'm rooting for laundry, for the most part. Exceptions might be when a player makes trouble in the clubhouse or in the dugout. (Zambrano and Bradley come to mind. Also Papelbon.) But I don't think Chapman is one of those jerks.
Unfortunately, a pretty good summary. It looks like next year Heyward will be getting yet another batting stance adjustment.
The recent good news has been Baez. I'm afraid about the next league adjustment on him, though, which is probably right around the corner.
Bryant I don't worry about too much. Just not seeing the ball well right now. He'll turn it around. Russell's been good with men in scoring position all year and he's 22ish. He'll be fine but next year is likely to be his breakout year.
If Travis' back-to-back-to-back walks cost Hendricks the ERA title, that would really suck.
Edit: "A lifeless loss to a lousy Sox team."
This place is a real downer after a loss to the Sox.
I expect they will go 5-9 games above .500 the rest of the year. 96-98 wins will win the Division.
They should have one more 2-3 week hot streak in them.
However, several players are just "average" for the last month: Zobrist, Ross, Russell, Ceasar. Montero is terrible, plus he cannot throw anyone out. -WAR. Heyward is abysmal at the plate, but a plus in the OF. Still with RISP he has been terrible. KB has not been driving in runs as of late. But Apparently the team is still above average with RISP according to S Sahadev.
I came to that realization tonight. I kept expecting them to play better, but now I realize they aren't going to. They are a .500 team now.
- They have one reliable starting pitcher. Jake's magic is gone, and it doesn't look like it's coming back. Lester has been lousy recently. Lackey's ERA goes up every time he pitches.
- Heyward has been dead weight all year. I can't remember a single series where he was a significant offensive contributor. Not one. Great defense, but but if he were hitting .270 with 10 HR and played average defense, the Cubs would be better off.
new rule...no one's allowed to throw k.bryant a changeup
Team is .500 since early May and is playing like a .500 team. Lack of offense seems to be putting a lot of pressure on the pitchers...and they aren't handling it terribly well.
.500 the rest of the way still may win the division though.
...i hate espn.
nothing like settling into a cubs game to get a few minutes cutaway for an ortiz AB in the 6th inning of the det/bos game.
oh, at least they're doing split screen now...i guess.
I'm liking this rookie Nathan.
Richard DFA'd. Meh...
Throwbacks with fashionable cutouts would be a nice touch.
The next 2 games are nationally televised. I think we dominate tonight, hitting 3 HRs off Shields. Great night for KB to end HR drought facing HR prone pitcher in one of the most hitter friendly parks in the league.