The name Patterson still gives me nightmares
Spring Training is kicking along, but I have to admit it's all rather boring. I can't get any games on the radio, and most of the guys we want to see [or at least measure] are either off at the WBC [shame on Team USA for not letting Barrett and Lee come back and train with the Cubs on off-days, considering that the two teams are in the same goddamn state right now], or are being treated with kid gloves to avoid them entering the season with fatigue or wear and tear.
Lee is hitting HRs in the WBC, which is promising, but looking firmly at the Cubs for a second, there are a couple of intriguing stat lines after 10 days of action.
1. RONNY CEDENO
Coming off a good winter, where he was named Rookie of the Year in the Venezuela Winter League [60-for-169, hitting .355, 2 HR, 9 2B, 4 3B, 28 RBI in 45 games], Cedeno has visibly struggled so far in Spring Training, and noticeably so. He's currently 26th in team batting, posting a .188 mark [3-for-16], with 1 RBI and no extra-base hits. Perhaps it's of little consequence given the commonality of players performing at one extreme [good or bad] during Spring Training, only to perform to the other extreme when the regular season begins, but for a rookie with so much pressure already on his shoulders, and the added strain of being the expected starting SS on Opening Day, it's worth reading into a little more.
Bottom line: we need a solid performance this year from Cedeno. He's proven himself in the minor leagues:
AA-West Tenn: .279 BA/.328 OBP/.401 SLG, 6 HR, 48 RBI [116 games]
AAA-Iowa: .355/.403/.518, 8 HR, 36 RBI [65 games]
and has given us little reason to not give him a full season with the Cubs as an everyday player. However, it's definitely a talking point as we reach the midway point in March.
2. MATT MURTON
I always worry about Dusty Baker. Despite his "charisma" and fondness for bizarre quotes and soundbites, his fierce allegiance and attitude towards older players has always been a problem for the Cubs. Last year, it was Todd Hollandsworth, Jose Macias and Mike Remlinger. In 2004, it was Tom Goodwin. In 2003, it was Troy O'Leary, Tony Womack and Shaun Estes.
This year could potentially be no different, considering the [possible, pending his contract and current status as a non-roster invitee] arrival of Marquis Grissom and the signing of John Mabry. Both are players who have logged many years trolling around the major leagues, and while still capable of helping the team, they're far from their everyday player days.
The person most likely to suffer as a result of this "veteran favouritism" that Dusty has clung to for many years [there are quotes all over the place to back that up] would be Matt Murton. He's young, he's compiled only 140 at-bats at the major league level [although impressive: 45-for-140, .321 BA/.386 OBP/.521 SLG], and his defense is slowly improving to where it needs to be. All of this evidence makes him a prime candidate for Baker's veteran shuffling and tinkering, and it would be a shame.
Murton, to this point in Spring Training, has done just about everything he could do to prove his worth as the everyday player we all want him to be. He's seeing the ball well [.471 BA/.526 OBP/.765 SLG], is fielding well, and generally showing the spark that should give him the seniority in left field, not the other guys. Let's hope it continues so Dusty's lineup choice is an easy one come Opening Day and beyond.