Let's Get The Party Started

Sometimes you don't know how something will feel until it happens.

I didn't expect to feel much about Matt Garza getting traded except more bitterness at the Cubs plight amidst Theo's Plan, which I could agree with if it didn't come with an insistence that building an organization from the ground up was mutually exclusive with building a team at the major-league level, especially given the dirty little secret of the Ricketts family running a tightwad, greedy ship that has resulted in reduced payrolls for the league's most profitable team.

But, even amidst questions about the 25-year-old Mike Olt and his ex-Rangers compadres, the Garza trade feels like it finally unlocked the door to the Cubs' future.

Surely Junior Lake's concurrent spark and even seeing the hustle (if ill-advised) of Cole freakin' Gillespie last night have something to do with it too, but this finally is starting to look like it was supposed to look a year ago.

We thought that the pain part of Theo's Plan would at least include exciting young players who hustled instead of hopped, and generally knew which base to throw to and which base to run to.

We didn't see that out of the gate last year, though, as Soriano was once again assigned to left field and retreads such as Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol were brought back to blow up the bullpen. (There was also the failure of the Cubs to land Yoenis Cespedes, as well as the Ian Stewart and Chris Volstad fiascos.)

Then things got worse instead of better at the trade deadline. The Ryan Dempster deal got screwed up, denying us of young pitching talent Randall Delgado; Matt Garza's injuries prevented nixed a trade and kept him around until now; and Alfonso Soriano refused to go to the Giants.

Now reports have Soriano on his way to the Yankees. It's starting to fall into place - a year later than expected, but still. This is what we've been waiting for.

That doesn't excuse the elements of Theo's Plan that are still an insult - such as telling the most devoted fan base in the world to simply ignore the big-league product for a few years - but it does mean that we can finally get the party started.

Or at least start to get the party started.

Week in Review: The Cubs lost two of three to the Rockies in their first post-All Star Game series. But in their first post-Garza game, they put together a professional and exciting 4-2 win over the Diamondbacks on Monday night, led by Junior Lake's home run - sandwiched by two bunts for hits, one to each side of the infield - as well as a dong by Dioner Navarro and a strong start by Chris Rusin. It's finally starting to feel new, even if Navarro is a veteran who might not even finish the season as a Cub and Rusin isn't really projected as a prospect so much.

Week in Preview: Four against the Diamondbacks followed by three in San Francisco. Then the Ryan Braun-less Brewers come into Wrigley. Everything's coming up Cub. Well, not everything . . .

The Second Basemen Report: Darwin Barney went 3-for-11 in the Rockies series, with one BB, two RBI, and three LOB, and 1-for-4 last night with another LOB. He's hitting .224 with a .274 OBP. Perhaps he's just having a bad year at the plate, but his career AB/OBP is .255/.298. He ranks 9th in DWAR with 0.8 - the same was former Cub DJ LeMahieu, whom we saw in Colorado, where he was sent along with Tyler Colvin for Ian Stewart. LeMahieu is hitting .268/.319 and has played all four infield positions, the Sun-Times's Gordon Wittenmyer notes.

"I'm happy to be on this team," LeMahieu told Gordo. "We're right in the hunt in our ­division."

While LeMahieu's star is on the rise in Colorado, Barney's star is plummeting. "Barney's production has plummeted in each of his three full seasons in the major leagues," SportsBank's Jeremy Harris notes. "His batting average has dropped from .274 to .254 to .222; and his OBP has fallen from .313 to .299 to .272."

In former second basemen news, the Houston Astros designated Ronny Cedeno for assignment , along with former Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena. We believe Cedeno's assignment will be "How In The World Did You Manage To Stay In The Major Leagues This Long?" and it will be due Friday. Pena's assignment will be "The Great Lakes: Compare and contrast."

Wishing Upon A Starlin: Did it really just take a day off to fix Starlin Castro? Not exactly. There was a technical matter involving his back leg that was preventing him from catching up to fastballs which has now reportedly been worked out. (Castro's season at the plate had take such a Darwin Barneyish turn that he was even compared to . . . Ronny Cedeno, CBSChicago's Tim Baffoe notes.)

Then again, being "back" is a funny thing in Cubsland; Castro opened the second half of the season by going 1-for-9 in the first two games against the Rockies before a 4-for-5 outburst on Sunday. (He was 2-for-5 against the Diamondbacks on Monday night, with four LOB.)

Castro, like the blazing Junior Lake (of whom we said a month ago: "It's time") and, say, Brett Jackson and even Josh Vitters, are classic remnants of the Jim Hendry era - supremely athletic talents with skills who are lacking in certain fundamentals and/or baseball intelligence that calls into question their potential as finished products. They are the kind of players the scouts in Moneyball loved - physically gifted specimens who are somehow less than the sum of their tools (think Corey Patterson or all those "sluggers" the Cubs piled up who never really had a position). That doesn't mean they're doomed, just that they're development path is more fraught than it will presumably be for Theo's guys - which says as much if not more about Hendry than Theo.

The Legend of Dioner Navarro: On Sunday, Navarro struck out in a pinch-hit appearance, leaving a runner on and disappointing his legion of followers. On Monday, he not only hit a home run but got plunked in his next at-bat. Dioner!

More importantly, last week we said Dioner was the only fun guy on this team. Now we can add Junior Lake to what is now a list.

Lake and Navarro - sounds like a prog rock folk art band that will sometimes tour with Neil Young as Lake, Navarro and Young. In another guise, they will play as Crosby, Stills, Lake and Navarro.

Mad Merch: Have you gotten your The Junior Lake Effect t-shirt yet? Sounds like an jam-oriented pyschedelic rock outfit with acid guitars and gospel-prog blues keyboards. And yes, they do Hendrix covers.

Deserted Cubs: Sadly, Tony Campana is still in Reno (.289/.352) so he can't steal home against the Cubs this week.

Bullpen Bullshit: "Don't count one of the Chicago Cubs' best potential trade pieces as being on board for leaving the team anytime soon," Jesse Rogers wrote for ESPNChicago in late May. "Closer Kevin Gregg doesn't want to talk about trade deadlines - at least not until he knows the Cubs are out of it.

"I almost look at it as a little disrespectful to the guys on the team that are here because this is a good product," Gregg said. "What the future brings in this game, you have no idea what's going to happen. To try and predict something would be wasting time."

Now, however, Gregg wants out, according to Gordo:

"Garza's a headline piece, but I think that in the baseball world, people are looking for relievers," said Gregg, who relishes a chance to pitch in the playoffs for the first time since he was a setup guy for the Angels in 2005. "I hope I'm on that list."

Well, Kevin, the feeling's mutual, even if the new closer is Pedro Strop.

Ameritrade Stock Pick of the Week: False Hope is back on the board and selling at high volumes while trading activity on Let's Get Real has slowed considerably. Also, get out of Biogenesis if you still can.

Sveum's Shadow: Dale Sveum's Five O'Clock Shadow has returned all the way to its Five O'Clock position because he always shaves after four days off fishing with Uncle Lou. Plus, he doesn't have to listen to Garza yapping all the time anymore.

Shark Tank: Jeff Samardzija gets it now - sort of.

Jumbotron Preview: 5,700 square feet of distraction for when The Plan doesn't cohere.

Kubs Kalender: Wait 'til next year 2015 2016 2017 2016.

Over/Under: Games before Junior Lake goes into a slump: +/- 5.

Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that baseball players have a greater distribution of colorful names than the general population.

The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!

The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.


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