Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lee trade signals winds of change at Wrigley

Well, if you know anything about this blogger, it's his passion for the Cubs.

As much as I try to hide it (not that much), Wednesday was a sad day for the Chicago Cubs (not really).

There was a small pit in my stomach when news broke that Derek Lee had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for three mediocre low-level pitchers. This wasn't about the minor-leaguers.

It was about starting over for the Cubs. This is the twing in the gut part.

Not too long ago, the Cubs were annual threats to win the NL Central. A powerhouse, if there is such a thing in that division.

The core of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Derek Lee and Carlos Zambrano were going to help them break that 100-year World Series. Or so we believed.

Then, they got old. Together, Soriano (34), Ramirez (32) and Lee (34) brought to the plate a century worth of years to the plate. And who knows what happened to Big Z. Probably too much e-mailing his brother.

But this is what happens when you hand out long-term contracts like full-size Snickers at Halloween. Eventually someone gets the circus peanuts. And that's the Cubs right now.

Nobody knows what they're doing. Lou's retiring. They're trying to play the young guys, although Tyler Colvin has now sat out three straight games.

Shedding their aging, big-money contracts gives fans hope, as they make room for younger guys like Micah Hoffpauer, who seemed more than ready after the 2009 Spring Training.

Between Colvin, rookie SS Starlin Castro, Hoffpauer, Randy Wells and Carlos Marmol there is a youth movement starting to creep into Wrigley.

The sad part is a true youth movement takes years to mature and pay off.

Look for Ryne Sandberg to get the managerial gig, if Joe Girardi spurns their advances (and why wouldn't he).

But there's still a lot of dead weight in that lineup.

Derek Lee was the lightest. Sure, he was hitting .250, but he just raked 4 HR in the Cardinals' series. He's a "professional hitter," as some would say.

He will be missed. A quiet leader, Lee never really took over that position, but he was a stand-up guy and one of the fan favorites on the North Side.

So much so, that someone put together this little ditty:

Fantasy Spin: Lee's value probably gets a kick up in Atlanta. Presumably, he'll hit 3rd or 4th with the Braves, who desperately need the Gold-Glover's service. Lee has a way of hitting HR in bunches when he's healthy. A wrist injury limited him a couple years ago, but it's been the back that has kept him off the field. Still, if he's around your wire, snatch him up. Double-digit HR are not out of the question. Since when has a pennant race not help energize a slugging hitter?