One of the few open competitions on the Chicago Cubs this Spring is at second base. Incumbent, nominal starter Mike Fontenot had a terrible season last year after tearing it up in 2008. Mid-season, the Cubs acquired versatile back-up type Jeff Baker, who went on to hit .300 with the Cubs.
So who’s the starter in 2010?
It’s been a reasonable assumption thus far that the answer was: both of ’em. Predictably, Fontenot, as a lefty, is generally a better hitter against righties, and Baker, as a right, is generally a better hitter against lefties. The Cubs would like to have Fontenot in the lineup as much as possible, given that he would be just the second lefty after Kosuke Fukudome. But for his career, Fontenot puts up a pathetic .630 OPS against lefties. Jeff Baker against lefties? .889!
So this is a pairing that just screams platoon. Right? Well, not to Cubs manager Lou Piniella.
“I don’t think it will end up as a platoon,” Piniella recently said. “It could end up that way, yes. We haven’t played any games yet this spring, and we’d like to see this thing how it works on the field. What it’s going to depend on is who swings the bat. They can both play defensively. It’s whoever brings the best bat to the party is the one who’s going to get the bulk of the playing time.”
Oh, Lou. Guys don’t just suddenly start dominating in ways that they’ve previously sucked for years. Fontenot will never be a great hitter against lefties, and Baker will probably continue to be a great hitter against lefties. So unless Piniella is secretly saying he thinks Baker will be the everyday starter, a refusal to platoon is really going to irk me.