"When you play with the Cubs, it's like playing with heavy shoes on."
Those were the words of Pete LaCock, a first baseman/outfielder with the Cubs in the 1970s, but they would apply for thousands of Cubs players over the last century.
As the Cubs play out the string in 2010 and prepare to assemble a team for the 2011 season, general manager Jim Hendry is faced with three fundamental areas that are in need of vast improvement: hitting, pitching, defense. Other than that, the Cubs are in good shape.
It is conventional wisdom that the problem with the Cubs' offense is their inability to hit with runners in scoring position.
But the problem runs much deeper than that. For decades, Cubs GMs, Hendry included, have fallen into the trap of building a team based on the fallacy that Wrigley Field is a hitter's paradise. Any longtime fan knows this isn't true. The ball certainly does fly out when the wind is blowing out, but when the prevailing breeze is coming off the lake, you can't shoot the ball out of the park with a cannon.
In 2010, the wind has blown out twice as much as it has blown in. Weather records indicate that the wind has blown in 37 times and blown out 18 times. There has been a cross breeze on 11 occasions. These conditions, I believe, are the norm.
Bu the Cubs continually stock their roster with slow, plodding power hitters, forcing them to employ an unsuccessful (and boring) station-to-station style of play.
Some fans are hoping that Hendry goes after free-agent first baseman Adam Dunn this offseason. The logic is that the powerful, left-handed hitting Dunn will provide more balance to the right-handed heavy Cubs lineup and thrive by playing 81 games at Wrigley Field. Entering Saturday, 25 of Dunn's 347 career homers had come at the Friendly Confines - more than in any other park he has never called him.
But the problem with the 6-foot-6 Dunn is he is basically a left-handed hitting version of Dave Kingman. He provides lots of pop, but hits for a low average, is below average defensively, and his poor speed makes him a liability on the basepaths. From Chuck Klein to Ralph Kiner to Kingman to Aramis Ramirez, Cubs fans have seen this formula before.
It's time for a new approach.
It's not Micah Hoffpauir.
I would like to see Tyler Colvin play some first base during the final five weeks of the season and if shows promise to gain some further infield experience in winter ball. If Colvin proves he can handle first base, the Cubs could take the money they would throw at Dunn and go after a more dynamic free agent like Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford.
The 29-year-old Crawford is the complete package - a five-tool player in the middle of his prime who can hit for average a bit of power, is an outstanding fielder, and a terrific baserunner. In that one move, the Cubs would improve their team in so many ways.
Crawford would be an ideal No. 3 hitter, give the Cubs a bona fide base stealer, and would immensely improve a defense that has allowed the most unearned runs in the majors this season.
I understand that Crawford will have many suitors, but he is a guy to build around and a guy I'd pay to see play on a regular basis.