THE SPORTS DOCTOR- Order up: Cubs opt for a ham sandwich
You've seen them, those cars that still sport Bush/Cheney 2004 bumper stickers. Maybe you've even spotted a few Clinton/Gores on your way to work. On a list of paltry annoyances, outdated bumper stickers rank just behind shopping carts with paralyzed wheels. So on December 31, I headed outside with a razorblade.
You see, when asked, "Got DeRosa?" I can no longer answer "yes." At Major League Baseball's winter meetings, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry made the incomprehensible decision to send Chicago's most valuable utility player to Cleveland. Cleveland!
There's something wrong with the Cubs; no one can deny that. It's difficult to defend a team whose picture hangs in the choking hall of fame between Cass Elliot and Jimi Hendrix. But the Cubs can't hide behind a curse anymore. As the Mark DeRosa trade revealed, the Cubs are determined to eat that ham sandwich.
If you were the GM of a team like the centuries-old loser Cubs, you'd be looking to make some trades during the winter meetings for sure. If you were even a little smart, you'd be looking to dump someone who didn't make the hard plays, someone who couldn't get the hits when the chips were down. You'd be looking to unload someone who said, "Sure, I'll take it" when offered that ham sandwich.
Kosuke Fukudome, perhaps? The Japanese import started the 2008 season with a bang. On opening day, Fukudome went three-for-three and hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning. By mid-season, the $48 million right fielder was striking out on straight pitches and ending up riding the bench by September. That's what a .217 batting average will get you.
When it comes to choking, the $137 million Alfonso Soriano may be the Cubs' biggest liability. Not only did the Cubs play better when he was injured (which was often), in 2008 the outfielder stole only 19 bases and hit 29 home runs, ending the season with a .280 average. Soriano's performance is even more embarrassing considering he joined the 40-40 club in 2006 with 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases. Only an ignoramus would keep Soriano considering his downward spiral and his hitting 1-14 this past postseason.
And what about third baseman Aramis Ramirez? I've never seen someone so reluctant to stop a ground ball, not to mention someone who so eagerly spreads blame. Ramirez– the 2008 Hank Aaron award winner for "outstanding offensive player"– not only batted less than .300 for the year, but also went 2-11 against the Dodgers in the postseason. When asked about his pitiful performance, the $75 million "power hitter" told the Chicago Tribune, "It wasn't Aramis Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano or [Ryan] Dempster or Carlos Zambrano. It was the whole team that struggled."'
Remind me to add "speaking of one's self in the third person" to my list of petty annoyances.
Not only is Ramirez wrong on the field, he's wrong in his assessment. While he and Soriano and even Zambrano may have struggled in the postseason, there was one team member who did not. Care to hazard a guess?
DeRosa was the only Cub to make a consistent showing this year, not only leading the Cubs in runs scored (103), but hitting .316 at home and leading the postseason with a two-run homer against the Dodgers. He showed up at every position where Lou Piniella played him– right field, second base, third base– he played six different positions in 2008 alone.
Unlike Fukudome's, Soriano's, and Ramirez's, DeRosa's numbers were at an all-time high this past year. If DeRosa is so valuable that even the power-hungry Red Sox floated the idea of acquiring him for second base, why did I spent the better part of December 31 scraping a bumper sticker off my truck?
After such a heinous year, why did the Cubs throw their most reliable player away with both hands?
Oh yeah, they need one hand free to hold onto that ham sandwich.