I don't know if you noticed it the same way that I did, but 2010 really seemed... off somehow regarding the Cubs. It wasn't their lack of a consistent offensive presence, nor was it the mysterious "snoring" sounds that often came from Lou Piniella during the latter innings of most games. It was the definitive lack of Scrappy White Baseball Players.
Clearly, Jim Hendry sensed this, as well. While he could have been wasting his time pursuing top free agents, thereby building a team that'd be only as good as a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup without the peanut butter inside, Jim instead burned up his anytime minutes in hot pursuit of a player who could solve the Cubs' one true deficiency.* He pursued... Reed Johnson, a player so white he reflects sunlight, an athlete so scrappy that he's practically torn.
(*Sidebar: This is one epic mother of a sentence ... but I like it. Hopefully it makes sense to you. If not, the gist is that the Cubs needed more mediocre white players rather than expensive star players)
But... what are Reed's actual chances of making this team? Let's take a look.
(I was tempted to leave this blank, to signify that his chances are "none" ... I'll probably keep that joke tucked in my pocket for another day)
Actually, Reed's got a shot at being the 5th outfielder, especially now that SWBP alumnus Sam Fuld is spending his summers sunning in Florida. But what Reed doesn't have is a huge chance, if only because the Cubs are over-saturated already with outfielders. Between Soriano, Fukudome, Colvin and Byrd the Cubs already have four players who, on some crappy teams would be competing for a starting gig.
On top of Chicago's own Craptastic Four*, Reed has to play better baseball than Tampa throw-in Fernando Perez
, who is described as being a defensive gem. (That means he has the tendency to hold the baseball bat upside down when he's in the box.)
(Colvin and Byrd are ok, but if they really were super heroes, then they'd be depicted as dragging Soriano and Fukudome behind them, bound together in chains)
Reed also has to overtake former Cub top draft pick Luis Montanez
, who's back with the team as a non-roster invitee after setting the AL East on fire last year with his .140 AVG. (But I must admit - Luis has now played in 93 games and seen 251 at bats in the Major Leagues, and his career AVG of .223 is a damn sight better than what I would have expected from him.)
Last of all, Reed's outfield opponent is Brad Snyder
, a 28-year-old career minor leaguer who hit 25 homeruns in Iowa last year. Snyder is probably the fan favorite of the uneducated statophiles, on account of how it's always an accomplishment to finally figure out Triple A hitting after spending four seasons there. P.S. did we mention that Snyder finally tasted the show last year, and in 12 games and 27 at bats he struck out 12 times? But he hit a double!!!1!
Anyway, I digress. None of this has actually been about Reed. Let's take a look at where he's gone and what he's done since he left Chicago.
2010 stats: 102 G, 202 AB, 53 H, 11 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, .262 AVG, .291 OBP, .657 OPS
Ok - let's shoot straight for a moment. Reed isn't exactly setting the baseball world on fire, but at the age of 34 he has demonstrated a high degree of consistency and versatility. A 5th outfielder who can play every position, bat better than .250 and deliver unto a team that highly-sought after Scrappy White Player factor cannot be overestimated.
Point of fact, unless Reed dislocates his neck or something, I'd argue that the 5th spot is his to lose. He's not the best hitter (well, compared to his competitors he is), nor does he have the best glove, nor is he the fastest, and he certainly doesn't come in first when comparing facial hair but Reed Johnson brings enough to the table to make him my odds-on favorite for the job.
Besides, we love him in Toronto. We just can't help it. He's so... so... scrappy.