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Some Blog I Wrote

stuff i think about and then type on a keyboard

Monday, August 08, 2005

What if...

...Dusty Baker isn't the problem. Perhaps the Chicago Cubs are individually not talented enough to be anything but "the team with the best record with the least talent."

It's really easy for me or others to put the weight of the team's problems on Baker's shoulders. After all, we've read reports about his hands-off management style that allows players' egos to simmer and boil. We all watched him allow the club to collapse in the last two games of the 2003 NLCS. While we can't blame him for leadoff problems during the last two seasons, we all watched in amazement last year as Sammy Sosa retained the cleanup spot when he was in a terrible hitting slump. That he was starting at all was confusing. We are all watching in amazement as a completely healthy club is not playing as advertised, all but proving that injuries couldn't shoulder much blame.

But, in the end, you play the game with the team you have, not the team you want. Baker's style simply demands self-disciplined players that work well together on the field, and he doesn't have that many. In spite of his recent hitting slump, Derrek Lee seems to be the most self-disciplined, cool player on the team both offensively and defensively. Aramis Ramirez is in second place. Otherwise, so many players are making so many mistakes that Baker can't be pigeonholed as The Cause.

During any other season, Baker should dodge all skepticism, but this season, the other Chicago MLB franchise is illuminating everything that is wrong with Baker's clubhouse. Ozzie Guillen has taken a group of players with rather mediocre statistics and made them a formidable team. The White Sox are poised to march right into the playoffs though they have a tough schedule ahead of them. Whether they survive the playoffs is a different issue, but they have the mental toughness and solid fundamentals to clinch their division.

Over the weekend, rumors were running around asserting that Baker has expressed interest in the Dodgers, and vice versa. He and Cubs' GM Jim Hendry were quick to dismiss the rumors, but I wouldn't be surprised if Baker has given a departure one year short of his contract's expiration some serious thought. While I think his presence in Chicago adds value, I won't be upset if he leaves. He's been given four years to build a new dynasty, and the Cubs are little more than they were before he arrived -- a glorified exhibition team often forgetful of fundamentals with a marquis hitter, a few underachieving aces, and a murky bullpen. A third year with a winning record is notable, but it still falls very short of a dynasty.

The Cubs organization will likely fight to keep Baker if only the keeps asses in seats during every home game. They still have to pay for Sosa, after all.

Posted by GiromiDe @ 9:30 AM
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