I've noticed over the past few years, it seems the Cubs are the only team that continues to deploy a left and right-handed lineup card depending on the starting pitcher. To me, that seems like it would be hard for anyone to get in a groove. Why not just let the best eight players play on a consistent basis and sub them when the need a day rest? Since Dale Sveum and now Rick Renteria are doing it, is this coming from the top (Theo Epstein)? All I can say is the poor record we have had the past few years, it obviously isn't working. -- Charles Greenland, Allendale
The Cubs’ brass been enamored with and has played righty-lefty matchups for a few years now, and, frankly, they've consistently stunk, and stunk bad. If they are serious about this rebuild and seeing what they have for the future, why the heck aren't they playing the likes of Junior Lake and Mike Olt every day to see if they can handle the competition and will be valuable future pieces? -- Dave, Bucktown
First, let’s go on a case-by-case basis with the players affected. At third, Luis Valbuena hadn’t played more than 103 games at the major league level until last season with the Cubs, when he played in 108 games. Ryan Sweeney played in a career high 134 games with the Athletics in 2009 and hit .293, but he has spend time in virtually every subsequent season but 2011 but batted only .159 against lefties. Nate Schierholtz had a breakout year in 2013 in terms of production, but his time was limited to playing mostly against right-handers. Justin Ruggiano wasn’t a full-time player until last season with Miami, where he fared better in day games and against left-handers. Ryan Kalish hasn’t played a full professional season since 2010 because of injuries. As for Darwin Barney, he picked a bad time to come off a .208 season with the arrival of switch-hitter Emilio Bonifacio and the evitable arrival of Javier Baez.
Simply, many of these players haven’t had a large sample size of playing full-time at the major league level. At some point, I think Junior Lake and Mike Olt will get an extended look at left field and third base, respectively. It could occur sooner as we get deeper into the season and players get a chance to prove themselves to the extent that there is a larger sample size to make assessments.
The Earl Weaver-managed Orioles teams of the 1970s and early 1980s had plenty of platoon systems (with Gary Roenicke and John Lowenstein getting plenty of production in left field in 1979, and Dan Graham hit 15 home runs while sharing the catching duties with Rick Dempsey in 1980).
But the biggest difference between the lineups of the Orioles in those days and the Cubs were the full-time position players. The Orioles had seasoned veterans like Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, Ken Singleton, Al Bumbry and Doug DeCinces. Cubs full-time players Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo are only 24, and Welington Castillo is in his first season as a full-time catcher.
As a side note, Andrew Koo of Baseball Prospectus did a remarkable job of revealing the Oakland Athletics’ unique platoon of favoring fly ball hitters against ground ball pitchers.
While hope always is there for Cubs fans - and most games are won with pitching and defense - some hitting is still needed. Power hitting being part of that. Although the season just started, concern must be on every Cubs fans face. I understand platooning - but it cannot be performed at five different positions. Stability in a line-up is also essential - so it must be said that time lines must be accelerate. For the youth in the minors, with at least two of the four hitters being summoned before we get through the April showers - with my suggestion being Javier Baez and Albert Almora - while letting Mike Olt play virtually every day at third before moving him to left field and bringing up Kris Bryant in the June time frame.
There is no reason to wait any longer. And this buys additional time for the pitching staff - to gain the fifth starter back - before needing C.J. Edwards to be called up by All-Star break. Can all Cubs fans please vote on this? -- Jon Fech, Fairfield, Conn
Your vote has just been cast.
Is Edwin Jackson the highest paid Cub? -- Jaime Sommers Goldman, Universal City Texas
Yes, Edwin will receive $11 million this season. And Jeff Samardzija will earn much more in subsequent seasons after 2015. The $11 million Jackson will receive is $3 million less than what the Cubs will play Alfonso Soriano – currently with the Yankees.
Here are three new Cubs and two leftovers: Emilio Bonifacio, career .266 hitter over eight years, Ryan Kalish .236, Justin Ruggiano .249, Nate Schierholtz, career .266 hitter over eight years (starting to see a pattern?) and the high mark, Ryan Sweeney with a .277 career average but nothing over.265 since 2011.
Who is running the asylum? Is it really possible the Cubs couldn't find a few guys that could hit better? Add in players like John Baker and Darwin Barney and you can see why this squad is doomed.
So here is my question: Doesn't it make sense to never start both Barney and Baker in the same game? It stands to reason that, since both are weak hitters, Barney should only start when the better-hitting Castillo is behind the plate and Baker should only catch when Bonifacio starts at second.
Finally, it is great to watch the other team's television coverage. They crucify the Cubs’ game management and players' mental gaffes. The Cards announcers were dead-on and much more candid. -- Steve Monroe, Chicago
Outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury were available, but the lengths of those contracts could have caused a logjam somewhere with Albert Almora expected to arrive no later than 2016, the possibility of Kris Bryant moving to the outfield and Jorge Soler still in the mix.
The third base free agent market was pretty thin, and it was only 18 months ago that Mike Olt was perceived as an untouchable in the Rangers’ organization, so I was all for giving him a shot at third if he was healthy.
A veteran infielder like Willie Bloomquist or Nick Punto would have helped this team, but the late signing of Bonifacio looks great so far.
If Welington Castillo needs a break or he has trouble against a right-handed starter, I would not have any issues starting Baker behind the plate and Barney at second. Barney is doing a better job of taking his walks, and his defense remains Gold Glove caliber.
One of the perks of watching games outside the market is listening to other announcers, but how many are willing to rip their own teams when they play poorly, and how many are under scrutiny by their own teams to not blast their players? Jon Miller of the Giants does a terrific job of describing a gaffe by a Giants player without making it personal.
When Theo Epstein assumed the Cubs' helm, he said the team needed to clear the rubble and rebuild the organization from its minor league foundation. Virtually the entire Chicago media bowed in assent, as if Epstein had just spoken the Gospel.
But three years later, the Cubs' best minor league prospect, Javier Baez, was signed by Jim Hendry. Hendry also drafted one of the most promising young pitchers in the game, Andrew Cashner, in the same year the Cubs won 97 games. And he acquired another highly-touted arm, Chris Archer, in a trade. Oh, and he also drafted Jeff Samardzija.
Hendry's regime managed to do this while the major league payroll was dramatically higher than now.
Isn't it time we stop subscribing to this myth that the Cubs were utterly devoid of young talent before Epstein, or that they can't simultaneously operate a decent minor league system and compete at the major league level? -- Mike Truppa, Chicago
The biggest issue toward the end of Jim’s regime was what the Cubs gave up for acquiring players like Matt Garza (Archer and Hak-Ju Lee, who currently is sidelined because of a left calf strain) and Rich Harden (Josh Donaldson), although Harden was 5-1 in the second half of 2008 with the Cubs.
The 2010 draft wasn’t one of the Cubs’ better drafts, but Baez and Cashner are high ceiling talents.
I’ve said it in this forum before and I’ll say it again – the key to this current strategy is building high-level depth at every position. It will take more than just high ceiling players such as Baez, Bryant, Soler, Edwards and Almora for this plan to work. That’s where pitchers like Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn must progress, as well as this June’s draft producing plenty of depth and maybe a fast-track player or two.
And for all the talk about adding pitching depth, the Cubs desperately need catching. The Orioles drafted four catchers in the first 10 rounds in anticipation of losing Matt Wieters to free agency in 2016.
Is third base coach Gary Jones related to former pitcher Sam Jones, the first African-American in either league to throw a no-hitter in Wrigley Field? -- Cynthia Lee, Chicago
There is no mention of this in the Cubs’ media guide as well as several stories on Gary Jones in the past.
Jones’ decision-making as the third base coach has been one of the few positive developments during the Cubs’ 4-10 start.
Whatever happened to Jin-Young Kim who the Cubs signed for $1.2 million in February of 2010? -- Rudolph Heinze, Wheaton
Kim was released last July.