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Thank God for Russ in Los Angeles!
Russ wrote to the Tribune's Mark Gonzales for his mailbag feature and asked:
I watched the All-Star lineup introductions, and who is the National League starting second baseman but DJ LeMahieu. I looked up who the Cubs got when he was traded in 2011: Casey Weathers and Ian Stewart. What a horrible trade - who is responsible for that?
Maybe because Russ is in Los Angeles, he doesn't know you aren't allowed to question Theo Epstein. Every word he utters is the gospel - the Theospel. And he's infallible!
Look, Theo is a smart guy. And no major league GM/President is going to bat 1.000. If you're just above .500, you're a genius. Every GM will make a bad trade, a bad free-agent signing, a bad draft pick. We're just saying we should be allowed to discuss Theo's (long list of) mistakes without getting crucified by local sports-hack fanboys who so dearly want him to like them - maybe even pass them a mash note in the cafeteria.
At least Gonzales, in this case, gave a relatively decent (though flawed) answer:
"That would be this current administration. I think this group has done a terrific job, but they have committed their share of mistakes. One of the local unpaid advisers recently praised the under-25 talent they gathered in Boston and with the Cubs through multiple acquisitions. But he failed to point out several of the financial mistakes that include Edwin Jackson and Daisuke Matsuzaka."
(Does Gonzalez mean a local member of the media when he references an unpaid adviser? Name names! That's your job. And provide a link.)
But Gonzales really gives Theo a break with that answer. First, to the question at hand: Yes, DJ LaMahieu is an All-Star. And, yes, the Rockies got him from the Cubs for Ian Stewart and Casey Weathers. And then Theo brought Stewart back for a second go-around after he battled through a fucked-up wrist - with the same miserable results. Just let him own it!
LaMahieu is coming into his own at age 27, hitting .326 with a .384 OBP. His fielding percentage is third in the NL, as it was last year when he won a Gold Glove.
There have been other mistakes, too - we won't list them all here. But this also came out of Gonzales' mailbag:
"Some people are having a fit over what will become of Miguel Montero and the remaining 2 1/2 years and $32 million left on his contract. It's not my money, but I have no problem with the move because relying on Welington Castillo would have been too much of a risk for a team that intended to contend before the start of the season, and Montero has given the Cubs more offense than his .230 batting average suggest.
"Some Cubs fans in Arizona already were griping about giving up Zac Godley as part of the trade to acquire Montero. But Godley has made only one - albeit impressive - start for the Diamondbacks. I would say that the Diamondbacks scouts who recommended Godley did their homework, but he's pitched in only one major league game."
Just FYI, Castillo, who is 28, is hitting .293 with a .379 OBP for the Diamondbacks.
Godley, 25, is actually now 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA.
Oh, and just to make matters worse:
"The Cubs have designated pitcher Yoervis Medina for assignment, according to the MLB.com transactions page. Medina, who turned 27 last week, came to the Cubs in the May deal sending Welington Castillo to the Mariners.
"The right-hander has tossed a combined 21 innings for the Cubs and Mariners this season, adding up to a 4.71 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9 in a small sample size. In 20 Triple-A appearances, the hurler has posted a skyhigh 7.03 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9. Medina struggled in Triple-A Iowa and, at this time, doesn't seem like a candidate to receive tremendous outside interest."
Now the Cubs are reportedly interested in acquiring Chase Utley.
"An Utley acquisition would provide depth to existing middle infielders like Starlin Castro, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez."
This pierces another Cubbie myth - that they are knee-deep in middle infielders. Not so. Castro is a mystery; Russell is still a prospect with good potential but who cannot yet hit in the major leagues; Baez is back to mashing in AAA, but we've seen that movie before. Do the Cubs have even one decent major-league middle infielder right now? No.
Here's Peak Theo:
"We certainly were very aggressive in my mind packaging our prospects, especially for controllable, impact, major-league talent," Epstein said, "including deals both in volume and impact - volume in big numbers of impactful prospects going the other direction.
"The two main players we focused on late ended up not getting moved. There's only so much you can do about that. We'll definitely live to fight another day."
I don't know what that last sentence mean - every team lives to fight another day, or something. But if Theo is to be believed - and I'm skeptical, though I suspect he's talking about going after Padres pitchers Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy - put that in the FAIL column too (although, to be fair, no one was able to make a deal with San Diego GM A.J. Preller).
Which prospects was Theo packaging? Probably Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, for starters, showing that sometimes Theo is like every other meathead fan who thinks you can wrap your garbage up with a bow and find a taker.
But here's the real Theo reveal:
"I don't think finances played a big part of what we were able to do or weren't able to do," he said. "You see some teams out there that were just absolutely leveraging their massive resources, taking on bad contracts left and right in order to acquire young players. In their situation it's smart and creative. But every team has to find what's appropriate for their situation."
You don't think finances played a role?
Let's let Theo clear the situation up himself:
"He said it's not out of the question the Cubs could add a hitter during the waiver period in August, but the payroll is close to tapped at this point. They had just under $5 million of payroll left before the moves, according to sources."
The Ricketts' were just named by the New York Times as one of the 400 families in America funding our political system.
The payroll for their baseball team should never be tapped.
The Week in Review: The Cubs rebounded from getting swept by the Phillies to take two of three from the Rockies before sweeping the Brewers and putting together a five-game winning streak going into Monday night's series opener against the Pirates. The Cubs also neither won nor lost the Trade Deadline, they just kind of . . . stood pattish, Dan Haren and Tommy Hunter notwithstanding.
The Week In Preview: Big Boy Series in Pittsburgh and Big Boy Series against the Giants at Wrigley this week. Theoretically, we should know in seven days just what kind of club we have here. Realistically, they'll probably win three or four out of seven and basically tread water.
Left Field Report: The Cubs now have a three-headed left-field monster we will call Conorfber. In the last week, Chris Coghlan got three starts in left, going 3-for-12 with 5 LOB and being replaced once by Chris Denorfia; Chris Denorfia got two starts in left, going 2-for-8 with 6 LOB; and Chris, I mean, Kyle Schwarber got two starts in left, going 2-for-7 with 4 LOB and being replaced twice by Chris Denorfia. It's all so Coghlanesque.
In former left fielder news, we miss Junior Lake below.
Also, in former second basemen news, the Marlins have released Jeff Baker. Bake is missed.
Mad(don) Scientist Hey, everything is great, man. Don't the pressure of the moment exceed the pleasure. I'm just gonna take my bike ride and plot the kidnapping of Starlin Castro and invent a new position for Kyle Schwarber. I think I'll call it catch baseman. Rock 'n' roll.
Wishing Upon A Starlin: The Cubs reportedly tried so hard to give Starlin Castro away before the trade deadline that they started packaging him with Ernie Banks' estate and the ghost of Harry Caray. Maybe just have Robin talk to him.
Lake Effect: Theo & Co. sure never thought much of Junior Lake, whom they gave to the Orioles at the trade deadline for reliever Tommy Hunter. The Orioles were eager to get whatever they could for Hunter, a pending free agent occupying a spot in the bullpen for which they had other plans. Lake has been one of The Cub Factor's all-time favorites; he truly gave us moments of happiness." Lake burst onto the scene in 2013, batting .284 with 16 doubles, six home runs and 16 RBIs in 64 games," Reuters notes, "but he fell off considerably the next season, hitting just .211 with nine homers and 25 RBIs in 108 games." Lake was electric in those first couple of weeks, proving Theo right when he said "he can do some things on the baseball field that make you drop your jaw." He meant that for better and worse. My favorite was his habit of following a home run with bunting in his next at-bat.
Kubs Kalender: The first 5,000 children 13 and under through the gates on Sunday will get a "Construction Clark" plush bear. There are a couple different ways I could go with that, and none of them are pretty.
Over/Under: The number of left fielders who will get starts the rest of the season: +/- 4.
Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that there are several likely ways the Cubs will lose its wild-card play-in game, none of them pretty.
Including: The Starlin Castro Saga; Len Kasper, Company Man; Bill Veeck, TV Bartender.
* Touch 'em all: The Cub Factor archives.
* Know thy enemy: The White Sox Reports.
Marty Gangler is usually our man on the Cub. He welcomes your comments.