Alfonso Soriano is 35 in Dominican years, which means he is probably 38 in people years.
As you all know, he makes 19 million dollars a year, which represents about a fifth of the payroll. (Z also makes another 1/5th of the payroll, but more on that in a bit). For his lion's share of the spoils, Al pops a homer every so often. His on base percentage is around .300.
He has no speed anymore. He rarely, if ever, hits situationally. He cannot cover even an adequate amount of ground anymore on defense, and although his arm is still strong, it is not as accurate as it once was, so even his days where he leads the league in outfield assists are long gone.
Based on his contract, Soriano is a cornerstone of this team. He is being hidden in left field, and in the 7th slot in the batting order, which in itself is very inconvenient, but if he were being surrounded by a versatile roster of teammates, not necessarily fatal.
Unfortunately, the 2011 Cubs are anything but versatile.
After the jump: find out why I haven't written anything on here in awhile...
It has been good to see that Starlin Castro is the real deal, and that Darwin Barney is thus far doing quite well as his partner up the middle. The back of the bullpen looks real good, too. Fukudome is off to his usual strong start, but the last three years, he basically quit contributing after May 15th or so, and we'd have to project the same thing will happen here. Aramis Ramirez is also healthy and hitting for average, but unfortunately is not what he was, and three years removed from his last impact year, logic says he never will be again.
This is what the Cubs are doing well, and this hasn't changed much in the past week or so. In today's NL Central Division, this is enough to tread water. No team in history has literally managed to dogpaddle as we have so far in 2011 - never winning or losing more than 2 games in a row. What I described in the previous paragraph are all good, positive, strong things.
But certainly this doesn't a whole team make. A few of the things are not surprising to me (Pena sucks, Byrd is no impact hitter, Soto is getting worn out having to catch 10 games in a row because Three Finger Hill does not deserve to be here).
One overlooked characteristic of this team that makes it very boring to watch is its utter lack of speed. Very few Cubs are going to come up with a great defensive play, let alone take an extra base. These Cubs are not "dumb" baserunners ala Theriot, Ronny Cedeno and Neifi Perez, but any attempt at basepath daring usually ends up in an out, like Ramirez' rounding of second today.
There are a few people on the roster that simply do not deserve to be: Tyler Colvin needs to go to Iowa today. Koyie Hill needs to start his next career, woodworking or whatever. Blake DeWitt is our pinch hitter. Wouldn't some 30 year old guy like Scott Moore be better in this spot? DeWitt might still have some sort of trade value, but the longer he rots on our bench, the lower his value becomes.
These three guys need to be replaced with players that can either: hit, field, or run. Colvin, Hill, and DeWitt can't do ANY of these.
We also need to start wondering why Garza, Dempster, and Zambrano are pitching the worst ball of their careers. Me? As much as I hate to even CONSIDER coaches, you wonder if this new pitching coach is over his head? This is too much of a coincidence. New coach, and three guys who ought to be posting sub-4 ERAs are nearly doubling it. It looks to me that it is a matter of approach. Matt Garza hinted about it two weeks ago, and at the time, it pissed me off that he would run his mouth about it.
But 21 games in, and the Cubs, who last year was close to the top of the NL in Quality Starts, is now at the bottom. So what changed? Certainly having James Russell start games has impact. We can also blame Coleman, but he has two of the five staff Quality Starts. Z has one, Garza has one, and the prolongedly injured Randy Wells (why in the hell isn't he back already??) has the last.
I have held back on my opinion this year because playing ball in Chicago this spring has been absolutely nuts! But the past two days have been lovely outside, and except for the 8th inning yesterday, the Cubs have managed to play 17 innings of truly horsecrap baseball.
It is really hard to tell if Quade is any good as a manager, because versatility wise, he has almost nothing to work with. If I were him, I would get rid of Colvin, DeWitt and Hill, TONIGHT, and try to get to the bottom of why his three top starters can't refrain from filling their shorts every time they are asked to pitch.
It would be kind of cool in a Probability and Statistics kind of way if the Cubs went 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, etc. until they finished 81-81. But without any kind of a winning streak, it is going to be kind of hard for this club to generate any kind of buzz, that will help put fannies back in the stands.