Cubs have several questions to be answered
Before taking over control of the Cubs last October, Tom Ricketts conceded there wasn’t “a lot of flexibility” in terms of adding to the payroll.
“But, as also you know, the dollars leaving the door is not the issue,” he said. “It’s the third highest payroll. The issue is getting the right performance for the number of dollars you spend.”
In Year One of the Ricketts’ era, the Cubs began the season with the highest payroll in the National League, and the highest average ticket price in baseball. Yet they begin the second-half tonight against the Phillies with a 39-50 record, 9 ½ games behind the first-place Reds in the NL Central.
Carlos Zambrano’s meltdown, Lou Piniella’s demeanor, the disappearances of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez and the arrivals of Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro and Andrew Cashner marked the first-half news.
Here’s what we can expect to see in the second-half:
Zambrano’s comeback: No one knows anything about when Zambrano will be back from anger management therapy, and worse, no one seems to care.
General manager Jim Hendry’s assessment of Zambrano’s blowup as a “tired act” lingers, and most will be waiting for a sequel.
Lilly watch: Ted Lilly’s last two starts have been disastrous—a 12.19 ERA and 18 hits (five homers)—in just 10 1/3 innings. He’s still their most valuable trade asset, but the return may not be quite a prize package.
Fast forwarding: Colvin, Castro and Cashner all were the recipients of great hype, and all have shown flashes of living up to it.
But Colvin is hitting .234 with a .290 on-base percentage since June 1, Castro already has 12 fielding errors and a handful of mental errors and Cashner needs to complement his 100 mph fastball with an effective changeup.
Piniella’s last stand: It’s not official that Piniella won’t return in 2011, but he sure sounds like a man who is ready to spend some quality time with his family and take up the Steinbrenner family on their expected offer of being a team consultant for the Yankees.
Piniella’s legacy in Chicago? He took them to the playoffs twice in two of the most exciting seasons in Cubs’ history, but the Cubs never won a postseason game. He helped create an atmosphere where winning was expected, then was criticized as dispassionate when they underachieved in ‘09 and 2010.
The only certainty is Piniella’s tenure will be remembered for years to come.