Neifi, We Hardly Knew Ye

Actually, we knew ye all too well, which is the biggest part of the problem. Yes, I saw this comment which used the same "hardly knew ye" line, which Mike & I said at nearly the same time as it was posted, after we heard the trade had been finalized.

The joke going around among us, of course, is that this deal won't stop Dusty Baker from batting Neifi second tomorrow against the Phillies.

If you haven't heard (and how could you not, with BCB diaries screaming it out loud with big exclamation points and EEEE at the end of his name?), Neifi Perez was traded to the Detroit Tigers this afternoon. In exchange, the Cubs receive minor league catcher Chris Robinson, a University of Illinois product who is from downstate Dorchester, Illinois. He's not much of a hitter -- a .248 lifetime average -- but is only 22 years old and reportedly an excellent defensive catcher. Perhaps in two or three years he might be ready to be a major league backup.

Neifi's got to be happy -- he's going to be the starting second baseman (replacing the likely out-for-the-year Placido Polanco) for a first-place team. And the Cubs got the Tigers to take Neifi's contract for next year, too, freeing up $2.5 million on the 2007 payroll.

I have written this before and I'll write it yet again now. The reason we've made Neifi "designated whipping boy" isn't Neifi's fault. It's Dusty Baker's. Neifi is a perfectly good backup infielder; he fields well and can hit every now and then. But he is NOT anyone you want to pencil in the lineup every day, and NOT in the #2 spot in the batting order. To do that, as Baker has done repeatedly for two years now, makes the player look bad because he is being asked to do something he is incapable of doing.

My guess is that Jim Leyland won't do this. Ya think?

With the Tigers, Neifi will no doubt bat eighth, or maybe even ninth, and in that batting order, with many good hitters surrounding him, he won't be asked to do things he can't do.

Nevertheless, as I have also written, I think Neifi is a good 24th or 25th man to have on a ballclub. He comes ready to play every day and plays with enthusiasm and never loafs, and I still believe that someday he will become a major league coach or manager, and a GOOD one, at that.

Good luck, Neifi. Seriously. See you in the playoffs. No corresponding roster move has yet been made; I really have no idea who will be recalled from Iowa (I presume it'll be a Triple-A recall) to replace Neifi. The Cubs already have Ryan Theriot to back up the infield; so your guess is as good as mine here.

That news pretty much overshadowed one of the fastest games of the year, the two-hour and fourteen-minute 5-3 Cub loss to the Cardinals. The game was over in the first inning, when Juan Encarnacion followed up Chris Duncan's HR with a three-run job of his own, and Dave was saying, "Mateo's overmatched."

Turns out he wasn't, actually -- after the horrendous first, Mateo gave up only four more hits, one more walk, and struck out three over six further innings, and showed that he probably DOES belong at the major league level.

And, the Cubs had a shot at getting back into the game, except that Will Ohman, who was brought into the game specifically to turn the switch-hitting pinch-hitter, Scott Spiezio, around to the right side, decided to give up a RBI single to him, making the score 5-2. Naturally, Aramis Ramirez promptly led off the bottom of the ninth with a HR (his 30th; that makes this Ramirez' fourth 30-HR season, at the age of 28); that would have meant a lot more if the score had then been 4-3 instead of 5-3.

It was another one of those days that you want to freeze and let out in January when we really need it -- sunshine, light winds, low humidities, clouds breaking up by game time, and the planes from the Air & Water Show entertaining the 40,485 assembled, including a wing-waggle from the lead plane of the Blue Angels (not the Blue Angels jets themselves, though). Other things of note:

  • Chris Carpenter showed why he was the Cy Young Award winner in the NL in 2005. With 12 wins now, he's only one off the league lead, and with a 3.05 ERA, if he has a hot September, he could win another one.
  • Cesar Izturis made a couple of very, very slick defensive plays. Well, big whoop, I say. That doesn't make up for the 0-for-4 and leaving a runner on third with nobody out (Juan Pierre, who had tripled, did eventually score on Matt Murton's single). Izturis is going to have to hit way better than this (down to .249) before I stop thinking of him as the younger version of Neifi.
  • Juan Pierre's three hits raised his average to .288 and his OBA to .332, both still below his career norms. If HE has a hot September and can get those numbers up to near his career averages of .305 and .355, he's a useful player. Signing him isn't mandatory -- but what's the alternative? (And don't say Felix Pie, because he's not ready.) If Pierre is let go, not only do the Cubs have the same problem (leadoff & CF) they had a year ago, but that also means that there will be no useful return for Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto (I don't count Sergio Mitre as being any great loss).
  • I met BCB reader cubbiejulie, her husband and two small sons, one of whom was celebrating a birthday at the ballpark today. Nice to meet all of you!
  • Since this is my blog, I'm going to once again do something on the front page I don't normally do. I have two bleacher tickets available for tomorrow night's game vs. the Phillies. If you're interested in them, email me using the link on the right sidebar.
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