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Padres 14, Cubs 4: Roster Decisions Made Easy

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PEORIA, Arizona -- The recap of today's 14-4 Cubs loss to the Padres, the second straight game they've given up 14 runs, requires a history lesson.

In spring training 1984 -- the very first spring training I ever attended in person, incidentally -- the Cubs looked awful. At one point, they lost 13 games in a row. Online stats for spring training don't go back that far, but Fergie Jenkins, as I wrote yesterday, was so bad that he was released with two weeks to go (coincidentally, 27 years ago today). The losses mounted. Finally, GM Dallas Green got so fed up with the whole thing that he made a deal; on March 26, 1984, he shipped Bill Campbell and Mike Diaz to the Phillies for Bob Dernier, Gary Matthews and Porfirio Altimirano. That '84 team had talent, but without the contributions of Dernier and Matthews, they wouldn't have gotten off to the good start they did, nor won the NL East. The deal shook up a complacent team and let them know no one's job was safe.

I'm not saying the Cubs necessarily have to make a trade to improve. But Jim Hendry (and Mike Quade, too) have to start putting aside sentiment and loyalty and see that the decisions that appear to be making themselves on the field, are reflected in the 25-man roster that comes north for Opening Day on April 1.

Not that Hendry and Quade are going to listen to me, but, to wit:

  • The Braden Looper experiment appears to be over. He was bad awful horrific today, giving up eight runs on eight hits and a pair of walks in two innings, including a long grand slam hit by Chase Headley. It was worth checking him out. He's done.
  • Reed Johnson should get the fifth OF spot. Fernando Perez misplayed a couple more balls today -- one into a game-leadoff triple by ex-Cub Eric Patterson -- and went 0-for-4, dropping his spring average to .172. He's a one-dimensional player -- he can run. Johnson went 1-for-2; he's hitting .206, but playing well in the field, and his experience should help.
  • Most importantly, the competition for the backup catcher job should be between Welington Castillo (.733 this spring, 11-for-15) and Max Ramirez (.294 so far, a grand slam today, nine RBI). I know all the reasons Koyie Hill is still on the roster. It is time for Hendry to ask him to step aside and take a coaching job in the organization, for the good of the team. I think Hill will make a fine coach, and maybe even a major league manager someday. But he can't play any more.

More on today's game after the jump.

It was quite a bit cooler today -- "only" 75 at game time, and as the afternoon went on, clouds thickened and the wind blowing out picked up quite a bit. The wind had nothing to do with the three Padres home runs -- all of them were rockets. (For that matter, so was Max Ramirez's grand slam for the Cubs; it cleared the RF berm and almost left the premises.) Matt Garza left the game after only three innings; there were Twitter reports from Carrie Muskat that he had "some soreness" in his left hamstring and that he "couldn't find his landing spot". He threw 20 more pitches in the pen after being removed and then said he felt fine, but "out of whack". Fortunately, there are still two weeks left for him to find that spot, and this is, in part, what spring training is for.

Jeff Samardzija gave up a leadoff double down the line to Cameron Maybin (who later homered off Looper), then struck out the side. That sounds good, but the three K victims were Nick Hundley, a .242-hitting catcher; pitcher Aaron Harang, and Aaron Cunningham, who has struck out in 68 of 265 MLB at-bats.

Still, it was progress for Samardzija, the only Cubs pitcher not to give up a run today.

Until the eighth inning, when the Cubs got three hits and M-Ram's grand slam, they had only a pair of singles (one by Jeff Baker, the other by Kosuke Fukudome, whose name the Peoria PA announcer pronounced three different ways, none of them correct). As I mentioned earlier, this team does have some talent, but it's just not coming along, except in fits and starts like yesterday.

I haven't been one of those in favor of the Cubs going after Rangers infielder Michael Young, who wants to be traded. But second base is looking... not good. What if the Cubs did something like this? Young is owed $48 million over the three seasons from 2011-13. The Cubs have a lot of money coming off the books after this year; they could handle that cash in 2012 and 2013. Why not see if the Rangers would take Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Silva? That would cost Texas $20 million this year and $2 million (Silva's buyout) in 2012 -- but nothing else after that. Maybe the Cubs take $4 million of the money back to equalize the 2011 hit.

It's just a stab in the dark, really. The Cubs might be able to shore up second base with Darwin Barney, who is an excellent fielder with an unknown major league hitting ability. One thing I do know -- Jim Hendry has to start making tough decisions and stop being so loyal. Loyalty is great and does have its uses. But sometimes it can hurt you. Make it stop hurting, Jim.

Tomorrow, Randy Wells -- who has been excellent this spring -- will face the Giants in another televised game (3:05 p.m. CDT, CSN Chicago). The Giants send a split-squad to Mesa, so the Cubs will miss Madison Bumgarner; instead, Shane Loux will start for San Francisco.