9:54 AM CDT, June 11, 2012
Not only are the Cubs bad enough to blow past the single-season franchise record of 103 losses, but they might be just as bad next year, and management better figure out how to make it better ASAP.
That seemed to be Dale Sveum’s message coming out of Minnesota on Sunday: The Cubs are “not very good’’ and the future needs a lot more work than just calling up slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
Sounds as if Sveum is sending a message to headquarters from down in the trenches: It’s worse than you think and maybe worse than ever, and that’s saying something for a team founded in 1876.
In particular, this Sveum quote made me wonder: “There’s obviously going to be some guys available this winter and you’ve got to sit down and decide what the plan is. It’s not like we’ve got a lot of guys coming except the (Anthony) Rizzos, (Brett) Jacksons and (Junior) Lakes, guys with tons of upside. So we do obviously have to fix some things.’’
It almost sounds as if Sveum is saying management doesn’t have a plan, but more likely Sveum is talking about options regarding specific free agents available this winter. Problem is, there won’t be much of a choice once you factor in Theo Epstein’s intention to pay only for what a 27- or 28-year-old will do instead of what a 32- or 33-year-old already did.
But the damning part was Sveum’s assessment of the Cubs’ minor league system, even if he might not have meant it that way.
Remember, about two weeks ago as the Cubs struggled to hit like a major league team, Sveum remarked that there would be conversations with management about calling up Rizzo. Soon, seemed to be Sveum’s desire. Hurry, he seemed to be telling management. Wake up, Sveum seemed to be indicating, because this bunch stinks and he had the decimal points to prove it to the decimalheads running the baseball operations.
But Rizzo wasn’t coming up, not with service time an issue that could cost the Cubs millions in early arbitration and free agency. Now, though, Sveum is telling everyone that Rizzo himself isn’t enough, and he still wouldn’t be enough even if he brought a couple playmates with him.
After Sunday’s muscle-flexing, Rizzo has 20 homers, 53 RBIs and an OPS of 1.143 for the Iowa Cubs. You can understand why Sveum would want to put that in his dogbreath lineup.
But it sounds as if Sveum hasn’t seen Jackson’s and Lake’s numbers. Try this:
Jackson is hitting just .265 with 8 homers and 25 RBIs for Iowa, but has struck out 80 times in 230 at-bats. He would get killed in the majors the way Adrian Cardenas is, and Cardenas was hitting a lot better than Jackson when he was promoted.
Lake is a shortstop/third baseman playing for Double-A Tennessee. His stats tell you he has some work to do with the glove, and if you can’t hit .300 in Double-A, you’re probably not going to do it in the majors anytime soon.
So, to recap, Sveum would’ve settled for Rizzo alone two weeks ago, but things apparently are so bad now that the manager wants more, and the names he named are more suspects than prospects whether he realizes it or not.
In other words, Sveum seemed to be pleading with management for some hope, but it appears to be more hopeless than Sveum might’ve first thought.
But I’ll say this: Sveum seems to be getting Cubbed at an efficient pace.
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