Get ready to be overloaded with “addition by subtraction” type optimism pieces as we gear up for the 2010 Chicago Cubs season. The Cubs, apparently, are going to win eight to ten more games in 2010 simply by virtue of not having Milton Bradley on the team anymore. I question the statistical legitimacy of such a claim, but who am I to quibble with Lou Piniella – the guy who said it.
It’s no wonder the good-guy nature of newly signed outfielder Marlon Byrd — and clubhouse chemistry in general — was the undercurrent of the pre-convention media event Wednesday at Harry Caray’s downtown.
How important is it to new teammates that Byrd is a good clubhouse guy?
”As opposed to what? Who are you implying?” pitcher Jeff Samardzija said, smiling. ”You hear a lot about the clubhouse growing up as a kid, but you never really know going into it. But after being here for a couple years and understanding the dynamics of it, it means a lot.”
Especially after 5Â½ months of one underachieving, oversensitive outfielder grinding against the grain of a team already grinding through injuries and slumps.
Whatever Byrd might bring as a center fielder, it’s his reputation for a personality nothing like that of Bradley, his friend and former Texas Rangers teammate, that’s attracting more attention.
”Hopefully he’s a great guy. I’m sure he will be,” Samardzija said. ”That means a lot. When you’re on each other’s side and everyone’s on the same page, it means a lot. It makes going out and playing the game a whole lot easier.”
As opposed to what? Throwing helmets and tantrums so often your manager finally kicks you out of a game and calls you an unprintable name? Claiming umpires are out to get you? Eating your pregame meals alone in the trainer’s room? Taking yourself out of games? Refusing to pinch-hit and creating a dust-up over it with your hitting coach? Claiming that negativity within and around the organization is why the team hasn’t won a World Series in 100 years? Spending the final 15 games of the season at home because you’ve alienated and ticked off so many people that the general manager suspends you?
Piniella often downplayed the value of chemistry last season, deflecting Bradley’s drag on the Cubs. He used his Bronx Zoo collection of infighting Yankees of the 1970s as an example that friendships have little to do with championships.
But there’s no denying the shared focus on winning those Yankees had, regardless of their personal differences.
And there’s no denying the difference between that and what the Cubs went through last year. The Bradley saga — and by extension the chemistry problems — might have played out differently had he hit well enough and the Cubs stayed healthy enough to overcome the other issues and reach the playoffs.
But when asked about Byrd’s intangibles Wednesday, even Piniella said, ”There’s no substitute for having hard workers on the team and having good chemistry in the clubhouse.
”We’re going to start anew. I like the things we’ve done. We’re going to have a good ballclub this year. I’m looking forward to a team that will win this division again and give us another chance to move on and win the World Series.” CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.
So I guess it isn’t merely the subtraction of Bradley that will lead to more wins. It’s the addition of a good clubhouse guy like Marlon Byrd. I’m sure it can’t hurt, but let’s hope he performs as well on the field as he does in the clubhouse.
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