Many years ago – well, two, I guess – when I was but a humble poster on Chicago Cubs message boards, I was absolutely incensed at one of Jim Hendry’s signings.
The Cubs were looking for a second baseman to replace Todd Walker/Tony Womack/Neifi Perez/Horror. Walker had played relatively well in his time with the Cubs, before being traded to the Padres in August of 2006 for pitching prospect Jose Ceda (a young fireballer who was traded a few weeks ago for Kevin Gregg).
Second base was a pile of crap for the rest of the year, and so expectations were high in the offseason for a solid starter. There were a few solid options that year, including Ray Durham, Julio Lugo or Akinori Iwamura.
But Hendry jumped the market, and snapped up a career utility player/backup second baseman, coming off an inexplicable career year at the age of 31. He gave that guy a multi-year deal, too. Cubs fans were not happy.
More after the jump.
Mark DeRosa hadn’t so much as solidified himself as a quality, everyday major leaguer when Jim Hendry gave him a three-year, $13 million contract to become the Cubs’ second baseman. Before his 2006 season in the Arlington smallpark, DeRosa’s career highs in the major rate categories mostly came from his 2002 campaign with the Braves where he put up a respectable .297/.339/.429 line. But he did it in just 212 at bats. In fact, before 2006, DeRosa never topped 350 at bats in a season, and only topped 300 once.
But in 2006, DeRosa became more of a full-timer, and broke out with 55 extra base hits, 78 runs and 74 RBI to go along with a career best .296/.357/.456 line. Some attributed the breakout to his new, full-time role. Others said it was a new approach at the plate that he had developed. But cynical Cubs fans, such as myself, thought: self, guys don’t just “figure it out” at 31. It must have been the ballpark at Arlington. It must have been a fluke. It must have been… something.
We were wrong. DeRosa easily matched his 2006 performance in 2007, and then exceeded it in 2008. Cubs fans rejoiced. Jim Hendry is a genius.
But then Jim did something we didn’t expect – at least not without Jake Peavy coming back our way. He traded Mark DeRosa. Jim Hendry is an idiot!
Or so the cries from the message boards went.
And then, to add insult to injury, Jim did the unthinkable – he signed Aaron Miles, a former Cardinal no less, to replace Mark DeRosa. Now, to be clear: I don’t actually believe Jim signed Miles to replace DeRosa – or at least, I don’t believe it’s that simple. I believe Miles was signed to replace the utility aspect of Mark DeRosa, and a Mike Fontenot/Aaron Miles platoon will replace the second base starter aspect of Mark DeRosa.
But two years and $5 million for a guy whose career numbers look terrifyingly Neifi-tastic? What was Jim Hendry thinking? Before last year, Miles’ best year was back in 2004: .293/.329/.368. And he did it IN COLORADO!
Guys like me returned to the message boards to decry another blunder by the Cubs’ front office. Suckered in by a .317/.355/.398 career year that Miles had put up in 2008 at the age of 31, for crying out loud. That’s what had happened.
For a day or two, the irony had been lost on me.
Maybe there’s a lesson here. Perhaps the lesson of Mark DeRosa is patience. Temperance. Maybe the lesson is that guys can “figure it out” at age 31. Nobody likes to see Mark DeRosa go, and nobody thinks that Aaron Miles can truly “replace” him. Even at his best, Miles does not approach the hitter DeRosa has been the last few years. Then again he costs less than half of DeRosa, of course.
But maybe the Chicago Cubs got themselves a guy who really can hit .300 and get on base at a .350 clip. Maybe he really can be a top notch day-t0-day replacement player at a whole host of positions. Maybe.
Like most, the signing really angered me when I first heard about it. But I’m willing to believe that it’s possible that Miles can duplicate his 2008 performance. If you’d asked me two years ago in a similar situation, there’s no way I could have ever believed it.
And that’s when the man that Aaron Miles is replacing proved me wrong.