This first part of the Recap concerns the veterans whose contracts have expired, and since this consists of four men: Pena, Ramirez, Johnson and Grabow; of whom Kurt has already spoken of Pena, A. J. will speak of Ramirez, and only God himself can speak for Grabow, I will share a few thoughts for you all about Reed Johnson and his ridiculous chin pubes.
I have always defined "anger" as the appropriate emotion when somebody purposely misleads you or intentionally hurts you, and "hate" as the embodiment of sustained or repeated anger. In the case of Reed, since there were never any real expectations attached to his employment by the Cubs, it is really impossible to hate or be angry at the man. He has had two tenures with the club. Both times he entered via a minor league deal, and neither time anyone really expected him to make the opening day roster, let alone become an important member of the team. Thus, when he actually DID make the club both times, and without any fault of his own, it was a symptom of the meager level of outfield talent the Cubs have possessed, and in fact is indicative of the failure of the organization to develop any semblance of outfield talent.
We all remember the handful of ridiculous catches he has pulled off for us; can recall several times when he was clutch for us; and the back of his baseball card suggests he hit for a high average and fielded his position cleanly. In fact, someone who isn't paying real close attention, such as 90% of the fans in the Bud Light Bleachers, can do a little cocktail napkin math and conclude that, if you just made Johnson the starter in CF, let him bat leadoff and gave him his 650 plate appearences, that he would maintain his .308 batting average, hit 15 homers, steal 25 bags and in general be one of the best center fielders in the game.
So then, why is it that when he was given the opportunity to start, such as when Marlon Byrd was recovering from his beaning from late May to early July, the Cubs suffered the worst part of their season? Why does this always happen when Reed is forced to play every day? There are lots of guys like this - Brent Lillibridge on the Sox is another example, Todd Hollandsworth several years back - who are good guys to have around, good in the clubhouse, good in a pinch, but will just "f" you if you play them everyday?
I don't live with Reed Johnson, I'm not his wife, I don't know how he feels when he gets up every day. We know his back is crap: what that means on a day-to-day basis for him is not known. I don't know if his back is so bad that he can't play every day like the way he plays sometimes, or if it is just a symptom of an overall physical liability, or if it is a mental liability, or what it is that does not allow a man with the ability to hit like he does (sometimes) and field like he does (sometimes) to be able to do it every day when called upon. It truly is one of the last things about sports that I still do not understand.
It would be a lot simpler if Reed Johnson could play every day as he plays sometimes. Then we wouldn't have to worry about finding a center fielder in our system. The next few years could be his, and that would be that. I wish that were so, because I have no trouble cheering a team on when Reed Johnson is playing. But, by now we've all realized that it has never happened, it will never happen, and on a rebuilding team, there is no place for the Reality of Reed Johnson. I hope he gets a chance to hook on with a contender, with a good clubhouse, where he can be the perfect fourth outfielder, and get the chance to perform on the biggest stage.
I wish him quite well. In Reed We Trust. It's a slogan, no doubt, one cooked up in 2009 as the Cubs let all the goodwill of the previous two playoff seasons slip through their fingers. They chose as their cornerstone a man born to play baseball part time. What else can I say?