You Thought the Cubs Had It Bad

Yee-haw!

So, I'm surfing the Internets during lunch the other day, and I come across this article at SI.com. It's about the Chicago Cubs. Well, it's about how Cubs's general manager Jim Hendry is on

the hot seat

this season.

This is easy to understand. The team's without, once again, star pitchers Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Greg Maddux is in San Diego. Fireballing ace Carlos Zambrano is still around, but he needs help. So Hendry went out spent lots of money on journeyman Ted Lilly and on Jason Marquis — he of the huge ERA last season. The bullpen is a mess, and you know a team's in trouble when it's depending on closer Ryan Dempster to get his act together.

Now, the Cubs do have three certified sluggers in Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and brand new multimillionaire Alfonso Soriano. And there's a new manager in Lou Piniella. But that's about it. This is mostly the same Cubs team that has flopped the past several seasons.

Yeah, I said, it's easy to see why Hendry's on the hotseat. And it's easy to say that the Cubs will once again disappoint the Windy City.

Then I started thinking — I'm a lawyer in real life and thinking tends to be one of the dangerous side effects of the job. So, as I said, I started thinking: wait a minute, this looks kind of familiar.

That's right ladies and gentlemen. 2007 Chicago Cubs, meet the 2007 Houston Astros.

The Astros have an A-One certified ace in Roy Oswalt. But Rocket and Andy are gone — well, Andy's gone, but Rocket's still toying with the fans like a cat playing with a cornered mouse. Their replacements are the aging Woody Williams, who was mediocre in the pitcher's paradise that is San Diego's Petco Park, and Jason Jennings, who was mediocre in the hitter's paradise that is Colorado's Coor's Field. The team's still trying to convince the world that Wandy Rodriguez is a major-league caliber starting pitcher. Plus, the Astros are depending on Brad Lidge to get his act together.

But that's not all. The Astros made cattleman Carlos Lee a multimillionaire with the hope that he can help Lance Berkman generate some offense. As for the rest, well, there's the season-long quest for Craig Biggio's 3000th hit. And which Morgan Ensberg is going to show up? And though Richard Justice will call me an idiot who doesn't understand baseball, the hitless tandem of Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus ain't gonna give Lance and the Rancher much help. Then there's the Chris Burke experience in centerfield, and we get to find out if Luke Scott's for real, or if he's just another Jason Lane.

The offense is almost non-existent. The defense, but for Everett and Ausmus, is bad. The pitching, but for Oswalt, is AAA-quality.

If the Astros were the Cubs, the team would be ridiculed and mocked and picked for last place. Luckily, the Astros play in the National League Central, so the Cubs, Reds, and Pirates are around to fight for last place.

The point, and I do have one, is that if Jim Hendry's on the hot seat because of the job that he's done with the Cubs, shouldn't Tim Purpura be on the hot seat because of the job he's done with the Astros?

Who am I kidding? This is Houston. I'll just slip on my Houston Chronicle sportswriter goggles — there, that's better — and I'll find a team capable of getting to the World Series.

Sure, I could do that, but I think I'll stick to reality, for now at least. -- John Royal


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