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.