Tag Archives: Chicago Cubs

Cubs Trade Fukudome, Ask “Please Sir, May I Have Another?”

The Cubs unloaded (female) fan favorite Kosuke Fukudome today, making my #1 blue alternate a collector’s item. In exchange for Kosuke’s services, the Cubs get a pitcher who can’t pitch in AAA (.450 ERA), and a hitter who can’t hit in A (.244 BA, with a 0.18/1 walk-to-strikeout ratio since 2010). They sure are some shrewd barters. In fairness, the Tribune’s Phil Rogers thinks the hitter, Abner Abreu, could potentially be a solid outfielder – he does have 12 homeruns this season. But his article states that Baseball America doesn’t rank him as one of the Indian’s top 30 prospects, so don’t paint me excited.

But don’t take the Cubs for suckers. In exchange for two no-name minor league guys, they also get to pay 83% of Kosuke’s contract. So there’s that.

**update** According to the Chicago Cubs press release, Abner Abreu is in his fifth professional season. So if he continues this blistering move to the majors, we will be fortunate enough to see him strikeout 30% of the time at Wrigley in about 2021. I’m waiting with bated breath.

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The Harden Trade Analysis

Haven’t blogged in a while, which is a shame because I have some big (or at least numerous) plans in the works, but things have gotten a bit hectic lately. But I saw this and I had to immediately put aside everything to write about it.

The Cubs traded for Rich Harden.

Wow.

I did not see this one coming. I was hoping we could get our hands on CC Sabathia (no more periods), as he was having a bit of a down year (a relative term, to be sure), the Indians are having a very down year, and he was in the last year of his contract, which is pretty much the Pillsbury recipe for trade-bait. After they fell out of the front-running, I probably stopped hearing the Cubs mentioned about a week or so before he was traded to the Brewers, I just figured that was that and moved on. Though I figured the Cubs would probably do something towards the end of the trade “deadline,” I thought it would be something like, say, getting a Jason Kendell or Steve Trachsel. I had no idea they would get someone this good this soon.

Harden has been besieged by injuries; injured six times in his six major league seasons, he’s already sat out a month this year. But when he’s on, he is on. So far he’s 5-1 with a 2.34 ERA in the hitter-friendly American League.

The move surprises me mostly because the Oakland A’s are not exactly floundering. They are seven games above .500, only six back in the AL West, and a scant 3.5 games behind the AL Wild Card leading Boston Red Sox. Throw in the fact that the Cubs have not been one in my lifetime to trade for high-class pitchers ever, let alone in the middle of the season, and this completely blindsided me.

The Cubs did not make out like bandits. They traded four players for Harden (oh, and Chad Gaudin was thrown in, as well), at least three of whom have the potential to be very good players in the Major League level: Matt Murton, Eric Patterson, Sean Gallagher, who have all played in the Majors this year, and low A-ball Peoria Chiefs’ catcher Josh Donaldson. Eric Patterson was shaping up to be better than his brother, Corey, who showed me two years ago that Felix Pie was going to be a bust (looks like I was spot on there). I’ve always liked Sean Gallagher, and I love Matt Murton. Though I’m very sad to see him go, he’s been getting a raw deal in Chicago, and I am happy to see him traded to a team which may appreciate his talents a little more.

This trade was really made possible, at least from the Cub fan’s point of view, for four reasons.

First, the Cubs are obviously thinking short-term. Though this trade is a positive boon for the rest of the season, it could end up being a negative long-term even if he stays with the Cubs for a while. Seeing as he is probably a “loaner” and will sign with the highest bidder at the end of the season, and with Gallagher, Murton, and Patterson all solid prospects, this is obviously not going to be of any help for the 2010 Cubbies. Much has been made of the fact that mid-season trades seldom work out the way the team thinking “this year” hope they do, but this is completely different. The Cubs are not making this trade to try and find the missing link to get into the playoffs. They are already in a solid position to do so, nobody will be able to argue that Hardin is not an upgrade over Gallagher, Murton and Patterson would not be instrumental in getting there, and once the postseason starts it’s pitching, pitching, pitching. With the pending sale, the Cubs have been blatant in their attempts to win a World Series under the Tribune’s watch, future-be-damned, and this will be of tremendous help in getting them through three series victoriously, while sacrificing practically nothing to get there.

Second, the acquisition of Jim Edmonds and Reed Johnson, both of whom came with huge question marks, made the Cubs’ outfield very crowded. Previously mentioned bust Pie has been sent down and probably will not return until the rosters expand, if he returns at all in 2008. But Soriano is due back shortly following the All-Star break, Fukudome has been all the Cubs (or at least I) had hoped, and the Cubs have two outfielders with major league experience in the minors: Sam Fuld and Jason Dubois. So though I would have loved to see a long Chicago career in store for Mr. Murton, he was not a needed part of the Cubs short-term plans.

Third, the unexpected play of Eric Patterson must have made him very appealing to a team needing a second baseman, and the Oakland A’s have a bunch of no-names lining up behind the pitcher. Mark Ellis is currently starting at 2B, and he owns a less-then-impressive .269 career batting average with an anemic .340 OPS, and is hitting under .250 so far this year. Eric Patterson’s numbers haven’t been fantastic, and his experiment in the outfield has been pretty much a failure, but he’s only played thirteen games with the Cubbies thus far. His minor league stats have been solid, a .300 hitter in 2007 and 2008 in AAA Iowa, and he has shown some great promise when he’s had the chance to play on the big league roster. The Cubs didn’t really have a place for him in the infield; Ryan Theriot looks like he’s going to be their shortstop for a long time, Mark DeRosa pretty much only gets a day off at second when he plays somewhere else, and there’s not a team in the league who wouldn’t like to have Mike Fontenot and Ronny Cedeno on their bench. Nobody’s going to supplant Ramirez or Lee in the next few years. So when Patterson looked lost in left field, he was an expendable but attractive part of the Cubs organization.

Finally, the Cubs starting rotation has been a mixed bag. The disappointing season of Rich Hill, who went all the way from the majors to struggling in A-ball, left an opening in the rotation they were not expecting and could ill-afford. Meanwhile, John Lieber has been solid out of the pen but was unpitchable in his only start, delegating him permanently to the bullpen this year. And Jason Marquis is Jason Marquis. However, there have been some pleasant surprises, as well. Ryan Dempster has been pitching better than anybody could have expected, and he’s headed to New York for the All-Star Game. Ted Lilly bounced back from a terrible start and, though he’s not really a surprise, has pitched well as of late. Sean Gallagher has pitched well this year, and has gotten better as the year went on. And probably most importantly, Sean Marshall has pitched very well since he’s come back from the minors to transition from reliever to starter, which ultimately allowed them to be able to send off a starting pitcher and absorb the loss.

A quick list of Cub players who did not suit up for the 2006 North Side season: Alfonso Soriano, Geovano Soto, Kosuke Fukudome, Ted Lilly, Mike Fontenot, Daryl Ward, Reed Johnson, and Jim Edmonds.

Can the Cubs be for sale every year?

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Cubbies Sweep and Prior Weeps

Friday I said that Daryl Ward has been practically useless off the bench. Actually, as of Friday afternoon he was literally useless, as he had not had one hit in a pinch hit appearance.

Saturday, off the bench, he had an RBI single which scored Mark DeRosa (who’s been one of my better fantasy league pickups, but that’s another blog) which tied the game, and yesterday he hit a two run double which ended up being the winning hit in the final game of a series sweep against the Diamondbacks at Wrigley.

So you know, I’m taking full credit. You’re welcome.

Of course, the other side of that story is Ward pinch hit for Felix Pie. Now, I understand the theory is Pie has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues. Last year he hit .362 with a Bonds-esque .973 OPS, so that certainly seems to be the case. But if a guy can’t hit in the majors, he can’t hit in the majors. And this guy can’t hit in the majors. Meanwhile, Matt Murton is hitting .368 with a .870 OPS in Iowa, so it’s not like he has a hell of a lot to prove, either. But he can hit in the majors; he has a career .295 BA, which most people would think is pretty damn good. And even though his field work’s not as good as Pie’s, he’s not exactly Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn, either (of course, they would argue that he’s not exactly Manny Ramirez or Adam Dunn, either).

Sean Gallagher had a great game in his first major league start (Zambrano was supposed to start but was held up because of an hour rain delay). He couldn’t make it past the fifth inning, but he has been a reliever for quite some time now so five innings at one go is asking a lot. Not sure I want him to stay in the starting five all year, but he certainly deserves another start or two to see what he can do, and if it seems to be just a fluke then hopefully Rich Hill will have his stuff together by then, or at least Sean Marshall will be ready to step in. And since the rotation includes Jason Marquis, it’s always good to have that one extra guy who can step in just in case.

In other news, Mark Prior is having shoulder problems again. According to the Chicago Tribune, the San Diego Padres (or as Mom would say, the South Dakota Padres) wanted him to be in a minor league rehab assignment by now. Instead, this is his second delay due to shoulder soreness, and he hasn’t even made it out of extended spring training yet. This is a familiar story. In case you don’t recall, last year he wanted to make the Cubs 25-man roster and start the season in the bigs. The Cubbies thought that wasn’t such a good idea, said he would start the season in the minors, and had him pitch in extended spring training. Of course, the Cubs were being complete jerks about the situation. He was fine, but there was nothing he could do because he was “just an employee.” “It’s up the Cubs if they want me,” he said bitterly, joking that he could be in the minor league Futures Game because he was going to pitch so well and show us all. He was shut down by the end of April, and hasn’t played in the majors or minors since.

What a loser.

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Another “Cubbie” Moment

Scott Eyre was activated from the DL today, which was a very important move because the Cubs desperately needed another bullpen lefty. So far all they’ve had out of the ‘pen was Sean Marshall, who used to be a starter and is much better suited to long closing roles than the “face one batter and you’re out” typically reserved for the lefties. As an added bonus, Scott Eyre can be one of the better left-handed relievers in the game, as evidence by his spotless second half 0.81 ERA (however, his final ERA was 4.13, so that should tell you something about his first half struggles). Eyre is one of my favorite players, so I love that he’s back. But there’s one thing about his return which completely baffles me.

Their response for finally getting a second lefty in the ‘pen is to send the first one down.

Marshall has played well this season. Not sparkling, but well. And they really need a long-reliever and a second left hander in that bullpen.

Now, maybe there is a method to their madness. Rich Hill was sent back to the minors because his pitching has so far taken the year off, and John Leiber got knocked around the park in his only substitute start to the tune of four home runs (in the second inning. Not by the second inning; in the second inning.) Leiber had done well out of the bullpen when they needed two or three innings to eat up, so I could definitely understand putting him back in the ‘pen and sending Marshall down to get his arm ready to start again. That would make sense.

Even so, the Cubs’ handling of the major league roster has been questionable, at best. They have an overcrowded outfield that includes Felix Pie, a guy who couldn’t hit a major league pitch with a cricket bat, while Reed Johnson and Ronny Cedeno chew sunflower seeds on the bench and career .295 hitter (and that’s in the big league, folks) Matt Murton shags fly balls in Iowa. There’s an obvious player to send back to the cornfields, but “Marshall” isn’t on the back of his jersey. Daryl Ward, who’s supposed to be their big bat coming of the bench, is hitting a measly .136, and the very few times he does get on base they have to waste another bench player to go run for him. So you have a player who can’t hit, another player who can’t hit, run, or field, and you’re sending one of your two lefty relievers down and keeping a solid hitter with decent speed in Iowa to rot.

As Bob Brenly would say, “Where’s the justice?”

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For the 10,000th Time!!

There have been a lot of things to discuss recently, but nary any time to discuss them. I desperately wanted to point out the unfair treatment given to Obama’s “bitter” remark. I don’t think he meant to apply it universally to the lower socio-economic class, but growing up in and among the American proletariat I can personally attest to accuracy of his claim on a somewhat limited scope.

I also thought the criticism given to Bush for planning on attending the opening ceremonies of the Olympics was quite unfair. I certainly think the U.S. should take a hard line against China’s treatment of workers and their citizens in general, but the Olympics isn’t exactly the best forum to do so. Both parties have supported trade agreements with China which not only allowed, but actually enabled, such violations of human rights, and for either party to insist on such a meaningless protest while refusing to discuss foreign policy which would actually change the situation is damn hypocritical.

McCain said some stupid things, Hillary Clinton is complaining about Obama complaining about the media after she has spent the better part of twenty years doing the same, and Jerry Angelo decided that the best way to cure da Bear’s ills is to swap out their best offensive player for a couple of average receivers and take a hard line on their best player since Walter Payton (pay the Lurch! This isn’t rocket science, just pay the guy! He’s Brian freakin’ Urlacher for cryin’ out loud!!)

But today I have something much grander to discuss. Forget the fluttering importance of something as trivial as the Presidential election, something truly historic has just occurred.

The Chicago Cubs have won their 10,000th game.

The Cubs won their 10,000th game in the same city they won their 9,000th, Denver Colorado, in a 10th inning (one for every thousand wins) affair against the Rockies.

Nobody said it would be easy.

Fittingly, Kerry Wood, the Cubs most storied and tenured player, was the victor. Typical of his ebb-and-flow career, he was awarded that distinction only because he blew the save in the bottom of the ninth inning. But he is on my fantasy team so it worked out fairly well for me.

Despite their loveable loser label, the Cubs are actually the only team in the major leagues to never have a franchise record below .500. That is to say, the Cubs are the only team in the major leagues to have a winning record throughout their entire existence. Their first victory was in 1876 against Louisville (?), and they went on to win the first League Championship. They become only the second team to reach 10,000 victories, behind the New York/San Francisco Giants. The Giants have won 119 more games than the Cubs, but the Cubs are pretty good this year and the Giants are terrible, so we may catch up to them eventually.

The only team to lose 10,000 games is the Philadelphia Phillies. Jon Lieber, who gave up a home run which almost cost the Cubs the game today, was also part of the Phillies team to carry that dubious distinction.

The history does not stop there, either. It was Lou Pinella’s 100th win with the Cubbies, which isn’t really extraordinary but the roundness of the number is interesting. But it did give Lou Pinella his 1,619th career win as a manager, moving him into a tie with Ralph Houk for 14th all-time.

The Cubs just won their 15th game of the season, placing their record at a solid 15-6. Since 1908, this is only the fourth time they’ve started that well. The other years were 1937 (went to the World Series), 1969 (lost the pennant to the Miracle Mets, but came close) and 1975 (terrible record that year). Today was the sixth victory in a row, and the previous four were not even close. They won all the games by at least six runs, and the last time they won four games in a row by at least six runs was . . . 1886. 122 years ago.

It happened exactly one week before the 25th anniversary of Lee Elia’s famous rant against Cubs fans, which I mention only because the rant is kinda funny, even if it is extremely offensive (“85% of the world’s working, the other fifteen come out here!”)

Of course, it’s been 100 years since our last World Series victory, which is about the only stat most people know. It’s also the stat they point to when they make their firm proclamation that the Cubs will surely suck, because they always do. (People don’t seem to care they won the division last year, or went to the playoffs three times in the last ten years, which is pretty respectable in baseball. But on the flip side, most people who stake that claim don’t actually know a lot about the game.)

Here’s hoping the Cubs end that little piece of history this October.

On the same date the Cubs won their 10,000th franchise victory, Sirhan Sirhan was sentenced to death, George Washington moved into the first executive mansion (in New York), the U.S. Army Reserve was created, James Earl Ray and Boris Yeltsin died, Hank Aaron hit his first major league home run, and “Sticky Fingers” was released, featuring a real, working zipper on the album cover (Mick Jagger was wearing underwear). People born on April 23 included William Shakespeare, Sir William Penn, Max Planck, James Buchanan, Stephen Douglas, and Michael Moore.

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The Starting Rotation and Tampering with Briggs

Well, in case you noticed (and you probably didn’t) I completely blew it.  My prediction was dead wrong.  Entirely incorrect.  Not even remotely accurate.  That’s right; my preseason pick for the final two starting spots was bad.

I said Lieber and Marshall would get the spots, Dempster would end up in the bullpen, and Marquis would be out the door.  Dempster and Marquis won the two positions.  Oops.

So the rotation is Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Hill, and Jason Marquis.  Not too shabby.  Of course, Rich Hill is really the number 3 starter, but he’s going to pitch in the fourth spot to separate the two lefties.  That’s smart.

And there are options in case this whole thing goes awry.  Lieber is going to be the long man in the bullpen, and I’m sure the Cubs will hold on to him.  And Sean Marshall didn’t have a bad spring, 3.65 ERA with 9 Ks and 6 walks in 12 innings, so he could be a good call-up (or trade bait) later on.  And that’s good, because I’m still not sold on Marquis and Dempster hasn’t pitched 100 innings since 2003 and hasn’t pitched 200 innings since (gulp!) 2000.  That’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen.

In all, I’m happy that Dempster’s getting the chance to start, and Marquis has had a great spring, so things are looking good for the Cubbies’ front five.  And Wood is going to close, so at least I got that one right.

Finally, da Bears may have had a rough year, but at least they did better than the 49ers.  Turns out they tried to illegally sign Lance Briggs by talking to him before he was a free agent.  This is going to cost them a fifth round pick, and they have to swap third round picks with the Bears.

What’s worse than getting caught engaging in illegal conversations with a free-agent target?  Not being able to sign him once he hits the market.  Ouch.  That’s like getting a penalty for holding the guy who sacks the quarterback.  At that point, you just can’t do anything right.

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Many Words about the Cubs and Bears, and Some Love for Grossman

I’ve been talking a lot about politics lately, and I’m sure I’ll have some more stuff to say after tonight’s debate.  But I haven’t spent much time at all on sports, and it’s been a busy week for sports in Chicago.  No, I’m not talking about the Ben Wallace trade.  An NBA man I am not.  Rather, da Bears have been active, and it’s spring training.

I must say that I’m pretty excited about this coming baseball season.  I’m not sure Dempster’s World Series prediction is completely justified, especially with the Mets being the Mets (then again, the Mets are the Mets), but they should have a pretty decent shot of making the playoffs as the division champion or wild card.  It’s always hard to say a team’s a lock for the playoffs in baseball, because the season is so long and the playoffs are pretty exclusive, especially when you compare baseball to other sports (you have to be pretty bad to not make the playoffs in hockey and basketball).   But I it’s obvious the Cubs are better this year than last, when they won 85 games and the Central Division Championship.

The fifth spot in the rotation worries me a little bit.  Right now there’s competition for the fourth and fifth starters between Ryan Dempster, Jon Lieber, Jason Marquis, Sean Gallagher, and Sean Marshall.  Like I said before, when you have a lot of competition for a spot, it usually means there’s not a solid choice.  A team will usually spin it to say there are several strong candidates, but that’s typically not the case.  I certainly don’t mean to imply that a couple of good players competing for a spot is bad; competition usually makes the winner more productive and depth is often just as important as who’s starting.  However, when you start getting three or four players competing for a spot then usually there’s not a solid starter between them.  Most teams are not going to have three starting-caliber players for a position.  It doesn’t make sense; it’s a waste of money, and at least one of those is not going to get much playing time and will probably start to get disgruntled.

Pitchers are a little bit different than position players, because you need so many of them.  But to have five guys trying to pitch into two starting spots makes me nervous about the quality we’re going to get from the winners.  I’m sure out of the five at least one of them will have a solid year, so the fourth spot doesn’t concern me much.  But the Cubs already had Dempster, Marquis, Gallagher, and Marshall, and still found it necessary to sign Jon Lieber, so I think even they have their doubts about what kind of contributions they can expect out of the five spot. Fortunately, most teams’ fifth starter is kind of a “mop up” guy, and overall the Cubs do have an above average, if not excellent, rotation.

My preseason prediction, and mind you that there hasn’t even been an exhibition game yet so don’t hold me to it, is Sean Marshall will be the fourth starter, Jon Lieber will be the fifth starter, Gallagher will go back to the minors in case Lieber gets hurt (he has been hurt a lot the last few years), and Dempster will end up back in the bullpen.  Marquis’ days in the Cubs organization are probably numbered; though he might end up in the ‘pen he will probably be traded or released at some point.  He is an inning hog, but there’s not really room for him and he’s no better than any of the other four, so there’s not really any reason to keep him and he could be a valuable addition to a team lacking a fifth starter right now.  Also, Marshall is a pretty solid prospect and Gallagher does show promise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them get traded by the end of the year.

Despite the competition “problem” that often manifests itself in a crowded field, there are three people (Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol, and Bob Howry) competing for the closer’s spot, and I feel very good about this.  First, all three of them are going to be valuable out of the bullpen, so it’s really more like a competition for the number one spot in the rotation then, let’s say, starting at second base.  I also think all three will do a very good job.  Lou Pinella is going to reward the position based upon spring training performances, but I think Kerry Wood should just be given the job.  I have a lot of faith that Kerry Wood will be an exemplary closer.  I also have a lot of faith that Bob Howry would be exemplary, but he is probably the best pitcher in the bullpen and I would hate to see him pigeon-holed into the closer’s role.  Many people feel the best reliever should be the closer, but there are many times in a game which you need a big out just to get to the closer.  If the game is close and bases are jammed with one out in the seventh, I’d much rather have Howry coming in than sitting there waiting for a lead in the ninth.  I think Carlos Marmol is an extremely talented pitcher who can compete with Howry for “best in the pen,” but he’s still very young and closing is the most mentally and emotionally challenging position in baseball.  If you have a one bad inning, you probably just single-handedly lost a game your team should have won.  And you might be expected to come out tomorrow with the game on the line again.  Closing can kill a kid’s confidence, and sometimes his whole career, and veterans should fill that role with very few exceptions.

Honestly, though, I really think Dempster should just close, as he’s done for three years now.  People claim he’s too inconsistent to close.  If you examine his performance, that’s simply not the case.  Dempster had 28 saves in 31 opportunities last year.  28-3 in close situations is not inconsistent.  Any team would love to have a closer who’s 28-3, and most don’t.  Over the last three years, he has 85 saves in 99 opportunities.  Compare that to the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, widely considered the best closer in the game right now, who has 107 saves in 118 opportunities (the Yankees have 56 more wins than the Cubs during that time, by the way).  That’s not a bad comparison at all.  Dempster got the “inconsistent” label because he struggled when he pitched in non-save situations.  The solution to that is easy; only pitch him in save situations.  Not getting enough work?  Have him throw BP.  Put him in during a blow-out.  I don’t really care how he gets his work in, but anybody who was 28-3 in close situations should be the closer the next year.  But I guess Dempster wants to start, and Pinella is rewarding his efforts with the opportunity.  He has worked very hard to for it, and I do hope he’s successful.

Overall, I feel very good about the pitching this year, and there are very few weak spots in the field, too.  Starting second baseman, Mark DeRosa, has had arrhythmia and might need an operation.  This is bad news, but the Cubs are pretty deep in the infield (I have no problems at all about starting Mike Fontenot), so as long as he’s not lost for very long (which he shouldn’t be) they’ll be okay.  The Cubbies have been entertaining trading for Brian Roberts all winter, and this may convince them to finally give up what the Orioles want for him.  He would be a great addition to the team and really push the Cubs over the edge, but he might only be around for a year or two and would probably cost Matt Murton and a couple other young guys to get him.  Murton doesn’t have a spot in the outfield right now, which makes me sad.  I love this guy, and hope he gets a chance to be the everyday right fielder at some point in the future.  Soriano in left, Fukudome in center, and Murton in right is an outfield that I would love to see for years to come.  Murton does have to work on his defense and show a little more consistency at the plate, but man, do I like him.

Center field is probably going to be weak offensively.  I just don’t think that Pie is going to turn into the player the Cubs have been touting him as for the last couple of years (Corey Patterson comes to mind).  But he is a great defensive player, so I’m happy to give him a shot.  The Cubbies should have a good enough offense to make up for him even if he drastically underperforms at the plate, and it’s important to have a strong defensive center fielder.

Da Bears I’m not so optimistic about.  They did not franchise Bernard Berrian, and I am very worried he won’t be back.  This could be fatal for them next year.  The Bears did sign Rex Grossman to a one-year deal to give him another shot (which I love, and will explain why in just a second), and I think that’s going to go a long way in convincing Berrian to stay.  But if he ends up leaving via free agency there’s not a lot of people for Sexy Rexy to throw to. (Or Kyle Orton.  What’s a good name for Orton?  Old Style Kyle?  He does look like a drunk.  If the Bears hadn’t released Muhsin Muhammad I’d go with “Orton Sees a ‘Moose’”, but most people probably wouldn’t get it anyway.)  They did resign Dez Clark, and between him and Greg Olsen have one of the better, if not one of the best, tight end groups in football.  Devin Hester is going to be a great wide receiver someday.  Someday.  I think he’ll always have problems dropping the ball, and you just don’t go from defense to great receiver in one year, especially if that one year is in the NFL.  Mark Bradley is a good receiver, but he’s hurt a lot and any team which lines even a healthy Bradley as their number one option is in a world of trouble.  Rashied Davis has made a few huge catches for the Bears, but he seems like a specialty receiver who’s really only effective in three or four receiver sets.  I think Bernard Berrian over-estimates his skill level, but he’s the best the Bears got, and by a lot.  Plus, he seems like a team guy.  Nobody ever complains about him, and he doesn’t have that WR affliction of running the mouth that seems so prevalent in the NFL today.

I appreciate that the Bears organization does not want to overpay for anybody.  I really do.  It makes good football sense and as a fan I’m happy they won’t be handicapped for years by a stupid signing in the heat of passion.  But the Bears need to just pay the guy what he wants, or at least let him test the market and start matching offers.  It’s going to be very, very difficult for them to get all the new people they need to be successful, and I’m one of the few individuals who’d actually be happy with Grossman, Orton, and Griese back next year.  On the Bears list of “needs” is a starting running back, at least one starting offensive tackle and one starting guard (and they could do with three new starting O-linemen), a solid backup safety capable of starting, (since Mike Brown’s always hurt) and a solid linebacker (Lance Briggs is as good as gone; they do have a couple of guys in place who can start, but you need a good contingency plan when you lose a guy like Briggs).  The draft is loaded with good offensive tackles; they should do well there.  But most teams could use a good starting running back or offensive linemen, so it’s not like we get our pick of the litter here.  It’s going to be tough to fill all these positions with quality people, let alone to do it and find a number one receiver.

I can just see it now; they lose Berrian, Benson takes 75% of the snaps, they aren’t able to adequately fix the offensive line, and then when the offensive sucks more than Monica everybody says they made a huge mistake staying with Grossman.  You almost have to wonder why he would want to be back.  People, Grossman is not the problem.  The QB play in general is not the problem.  But since everybody seems to have an anti-Rex bias, let’s try a little “hypothetical” thinking exercise, shall we?

Let’s say you’re the general manager of a football team, and you have to rebuild your offense.  Now let’s say last year the passing game was ranked, oh I don’t know, fifteenth in a league of thirty-two teams.  And let’s say your running game was ranked 30th, just for shits and grins.  And let’s say you have the oldest offensive line and NFL.com ranked them second to last in the conference and 29th overall.  Now, would you be in panic mode trying to get a new quarterback?  Would you think the reason why your offense is sub-par is a crappy passer?  There is no reason why almost any team should have a passing game ranked in the middle of the pack when they have no offensive line and no running game.  None.

Let me put it this way; teams with good running backs, good offensive lines, and bad quarterbacks don’t get their passing game ranked fifteenth in the league.  Teams with bad quarterbacks, bad offensive lines, and bad running backs get ranked at the very bottom in passing.  The very bottom.  We’re talking as low as, well, as low as the Bears offensive line and running game was ranked last year.  Teams with bad quarterback situations just don’t end up doing as well as the Bears did last year under the conditions which they had to work with.

Of course, that’s not going to stop people from complaining about the quarterback play because, let’s face it, people want to believe two things about the NFL:  First, the quarterback is a magical player who will transform any group of twenty-one other guys into a world champion just by showing up and giving a good motivational speech during half time ever now and then (the premise for every football movie ever made, save “Rudy”).  Secondly, the Bears will never, ever, ever have a quarterback who is good enough to play on a professional football team.

I’ll tell you this much though.  If the Bears let Berrian go, don’t find another number-one running back, and don’t dramatically improve the line in the offseason, Jesus Himself couldn’t quarterback this team to the playoffs unless somehow Jerry Angelo can convince Durga to play wideout.

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