Look, some news! Wait, not really!
The Sun-Times has awoken from a non-news slumber with this gem:
"Cubs finally put lead-off man on front burner"
It smacks of intrigue, excitement, and terrible obvious-ness. That's right, obvious-ness. It is the 2006 Cubs priority, and look for Furcal's house to be inundated with bouquets and chocolates over the next few days.
In all fairness, the article does bring up a couple of sad sack facts that are painful to read: the Cubs were the 2nd worst team when it came to lead-off BA, batting an NL-worse .245. Only the Texas Rangers with their .243 BA were worse.
Who had a crack at leading off last season?
Jerry Hairston Jr. - 76 games
306 AB, .265 BA, .344 OBP, 43 R, 8 SB, 8 CS as lead-off man
Corey Patterson - 29 games
128 AB, .211 BA, .263 OBP, 4 R, 5 SB, CS
Neifi Perez - 26 games
114 AB, .254 BA, .263 OBP, 11 R, SB, 2 CS
Jose Macias - 8 games
35 AB, .229 BA, .270 OBP, 3 R, SB, CS
Matt Murton - 2 games
10 AB, .300 BA, .364 OBP, 2 R
Ryan Theriot - 2 games
9 AB, .111 BA, .111 OBP, 2 R
(Matt Lawton, 18 games, and Jody Gerut, 1 game, also tried lead-off, but who cares about their stats? They're not with us anymore, so I left them out.)
It all amounts, as the Sun-Times could not possibly fail to recognize, to a gigantic problem. Our leadoff guys scored 83 runs this season, second-worst to the Dodgers (81), and it meant that our first innings were terrible - of the 699 runs we scored this season, 58 came in the first, while our opponents scored 89 in their first inning against us. It meant that far too often our rotation was chasing games, playing from behind, and that alone contributed to plenty o' losses on the ol' scoresheet. The only table that group should be setting is at Thanksgiving (groan).
So, with this being said, and the collective hunger in Cubdom for that lead-off position, who could play it this year? Consider that money is no object, and that our front office is acting without the duress of idiocy. Wait, scratch that.
1. Rafael Furcal, SS - Braves
Blah, blah, blah. I've prattled on about this speedster for ages, as has the rest of the CBA. Next!
Pros: Fast (stole 46 bases in 2005). Scored a lot of runs (100). Friends with Neifi Perez. Shares an agent with Neifi Perez (Paul Kinzer).
Cons: May have shared women with Neifi Perez. Has been on the wrong side of the law (2 DUIs), but then again, we need a loose cannon in the dugout. Price might also be a touch high, considering the shallow FA pool this offseason, and if the Mets get involved, we'll have to open the checkbook.
2. Juan Pierre, OF - Marlins
He's fast, he's young, he's coming off a down year that will affect his overall price tag. Had stellar back-to-back years in 2003 and 2004 (2003: .305 BA, .361 OBP, 100 R, 65 SB//2004: .326 BA, .374 OBP, 100 R, 45 SB), and despite a slight drop in 2005 production, he is there for the taking. Apparently, allegedly, the Marlins have offered us a trade already for Pierre: JP for Corey Patterson and Rich Hill/other good pitching prospect. We've already given them one All-Star SP (Dontrelle Willis), so what's another between friends?
Pros: Fast, young, aggressive, adaptable. Would fill an empty CF spot and lead-off all in one swoop. Could do well in Wrigley. Cheaper than he would have been in 2004, for sure. Can grow a sweet moustache if necessary. The Marlins want CP, supposedly. What more could be better?
Cons: The Cubs won't want to give up Rich Hill. This trade won't happen.
3. Corey Patterson, CF - Cubs
Pros: He's.... already.... ours? Could..... have..... improved..... swing?
Cons: He's Corey Patterson. Don't make me go any further.
4. Elroy Jetson, RF - Outer Space
Pros: Young, versatile. Has played in difficult environments, used to thin air.
Cons: A touch naive on defense, especially back on the warning track. Slightly underdeveloped in the power category.
5. Fast Eddie
Pros: The name says it all.
Cons: Still plays "like the olden days." Not in touch with today's game.
6. Air Bud (Circa "Seventh Inning Fetch"), CF - Angels
Pros: Unbelievable range in the outfield. Career 1.000 FPCT is just the trick in windy, spacious Wrigley. Has that magic about him that makes him a playmaker. Looks good in blue.
Cons: Light on power. Might not be a friend of the groundskeeper come late-August.
At the end of the day, whether this is old news or not, it's something. Who would you like to see in the lead-off slot?