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Here’s something I posted about this morning on Facebook and Twitter (which reminds me, you should Like BN on Facebook and Follow BN on Twitter, or else you might miss this kind of thing), but I wanted to give it a little more attention.

This offseason, there was a pool of free agent first basemen/corner outfield types from which a number of teams were choosing. Two such teams were the Chicago Cubs – who needed a first basemen – and the St. Louis Cardinals – who needed a corner outfielder. The Cubs chose Carlos Pena, and the Cardinals chose Lance Berkman.

The Pena signing was, for the most part, met with applause. Not a glitzy signing, but one that made sense for the Cubs. Pena was coming off a down year due to injury, but it was his first really bad year in the last five.

The Berkman signing, on the other hand, was met with ridicule. Berkman was also coming off a down year due to injury, but, at three years older than Pena, the idea that Berkman could play regularly in the outfield at this point in his career was ludicrous.

Well, the gist of what I posted this morning: Lance Berkman has 8 homers, 22 RBI, and a league-leading 1.263 OPS. Pena, on the other hand, has no homers, just 5 RBI, and a hilariously awful .464 OPS.

The Cubs are paying Pena $10 million. The Cards got Berkman for $8 million. Yikes.

Still, as I said, when the signings happened, most thought the Pena deal was decent, and the Berkman deal stupid. So the fact that they’ve played out as they have is just luck, isn’t it? So far, the Berkman deal has just happened to go right, and the Pena deal has just happened to go wrong.

But this is emblematic of a larger issue we’ve all seen brewing between the Cubs and Cardinals over the last decade. Specifically, how many decisions have to “go wrong” for one organization, and how many have to “go right” for another organization, before attributing it to luck is a purely self-deluding exercise?

I submit that, whatever the number is, we passed it several years ago.

Now, obviously it’s early. Pena could end up righting the ship, and Berkman’s knee could explode while running down a fly ball. But no one can argue that, to this point, one signing looks like pure genius, and the other looks like pure idiocy.

And, unfortunately, that sounds about right. I joke about the Cardinal “voodoo magic,” but it’s probably unfair to a well-run organization to do so. And if the Cardinals have voodoo magic, what do the Cubs have? The reverse Midas touch?

Don’t worry, I’m not developing some kind of newfound admiration for the Cardinals’ organization. I still hate them with the passion of million lost lovers. In fact, I hate them all the more because their organizational successes serve only to magnify the Cubs’ organizational shortcomings.

  • TWC

    Yeah, well, Theriot’s still an asshole.

    FWIW, I think the “reverse Midas touch” is the LaRussa reach around. And that dude has short arms.

  • http://SOI veryzer

    I think you may have pimped this idea on Sons Of Ivy too. Now there’s a great Cubs baseball site.

  • Butcher

    Or maybe the Cardinals simply have better drugs than the Cubs.

    • Ace

      Find their supplier.

      • Butcher

        Me, personally?

        • Ace

          Do you care about this organization or not?

          • Bric

            I’ve said for years that the Cards are dirty team because of LaRussa. Sure, he’s never been directly implicated but look at all the players he’s coached and he used to live thre miles from Balco. It’s always made me think.
            Anyway, the point is, is it a coincidence that Byrd’s drop off happens about two weeks after a monster spring training that gets him called out by the commish to stay away from steroids perveyers? I don’t think so. I don’t think so at all. Now that Byrd’s been called out publicly, his bat speed and power will diminish until he’s cut next year. Another boner signing by Hendry.
            And to think that Fuld could be playing his position now if not blocked and traded away.

            • Ace

              Eh. My understanding is that ‘roids don’t move that quickly. I think Byrd is just showing his age, is going through a particularly bad stretch, and is not as good as he looked in the first half last year.

              • Joe

                Let us not forget that until last year, he was never good outside Texas either.

                As much as I hate to say it, his 2010 away numbers (the only part that gave him a respectable -but not great- overall season) could have just been an outlier too…

  • Raymond Robert Koenig

    I said it then and I’ll say it now. When it became apparent that the Cubs were going to sign a FA 1B, Berkman was the obvious choice. Why? All the candidates were coming off down seasons and there would be a risk the downslide would continue, but Berkman was familiar with the NL Central and his asking price was lower than Pena’s. Why Hendry chose Pena instead, I’ll never understand.

  • Brian Elsen

    I’m personally glad the Cubs didn’t sign Berkman. He has been a douche about the Cubs in the past. He is not afraid to speak his mind about how he dislikes the team, traditions, and Wrigley Field. Sure, he is putting up good numbers, but I don’t want to see a guy on the team that has openly talked shit about them in the past.

    Pena is going to heat up eventually. In fact this whole team is going to get back on track sooner than later. Wells and Cashner really corkscrewed the team into the ground with their injuries, they’ll come back and everyone (especially James Russell) can take a huge sigh of relief. The offense needs to spark up though… so many opportunities to put up huge numbers.

  • Joe

    Hey, it could always be worse…

    I mean, at least we signed Byrd last year instead of acquiring 2 years of this guy to play center again
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/JPWall.jpg

    Where we could have always been stuck just playing out the contract with this guy as well
    http://www.chicagonow.com/blogs/chicago_sports_mob/bradley.jpg

    And of course this guy was scheduled to be under control for 2011 too
    http://www.timesunion.com/mediaManager/?controllerName=image&action=get&id=943932&width=628&height=471

    As was this guy
    http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5256/5554395457_c8e7769622_z.jpg

    Oh, and with Hendry still having a job, we could have always re-upped with this guy
    http://i1.mailcdn.com/912/367912,h=425,pd=1,w=620.jpg

    Yet now we instead have this guy!
    http://i.cdn.turner.com/si/teamphotos/mlb/20100725/Cardinals_Cubs_Baseball.sff_184319_game.jpg

    along with this amazing guy
    http://nimg.sulekha.com/sports/original700/starlin-castro-carlos-gomez-2011-4-9-22-11-36.jpg

    plus this guy!
    http://i.usatoday.net/sports/gallery/2011/04/12/s110412_08tag-pg-horizontal.JPG

    and this guy as well!!!
    http://blogs.desmoinesregister.com/dmr/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/bo_knows_samarzija_sucks.jpg.jpeg

    oh wait…

    • Ace

      Terrifying. And I’ll soon be making changes that will allow you to actually post those pictures.

      • Joe

        oh cool. Yeah, I thought many of them were pretty hysterical – well, in that “oh man, that hurts… this team is so F*ed up” kind of way at least

        • Ace

          If we can’t laugh at ourselves…. well, just shoot me now.

      • TWC

        Really? Even that painfully douchey picture of Spellcheck? Can’t you filter that crap out?

        • Ace

          All Samardzjia pictures will come with a mandatory piratestache.

        • Jeff

          He can be as douchey as he wants if he keeps pitching like he is.

          • TWC

            Cy Young. Seriously. You heard it here first.

  • Cardfan

    I’ll let you in on the secret that will come as no surprise – you need a strong GM. I give alot of credit to Walt Jocketty for where the Cardinals are now. He kept StL a very desirable place to play and they have fielded winners. Success breeds more success and, even with a step down in GMs, they are still able to carry the day. You all know that it wasn’t Dusty Baker that loaded the bus with gas and drove it to the division title last year for the Reds.

    I laugh that your organization tolerates the failures of Hendry year in and year out. Every year you keep him around is two future years of lost opportunity IMO.

    • Ace

      No surprises (and that was the intimation in the post).

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