clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Could Nico Hoerner become DJ LeMahieu 2.0?

What happened with LeMahieu’s career trajectory can be a lesson for the future.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

I don't bother with articles regarding player awards. It isn't that achievements aren't important. Far from it. The Cubs that are finalists for awards deserve all the acclaim they receive. However, getting bogged into discussions on Trevor Bauer versus Yu Darvish aren't what I enjoy writing about. Often two or three competitors both are equally deserving of an award. Preferences are often based on which jersey you prefer. Nonetheless, one Gold Glove Award finalist this cycle spurs me to an article that ought to be written.

Nico Hoerner is a Gold Glove finalist at second base. I was surprised that Hoerner and Alec Mills were finalists. Not that they aren't capable, but to be "top three" is a bit surprising for either. Being a Gold Glove finalist is, as they say, forever. Who best deserves an award, though, isn't in my usual jurisdiction. I'm about trying to learn things, and figuring out lessons from the present and past, to better prepare for the future. One item about Hoerner that fascinates me is how it comps him to a replication of a DJ LeMahieu-type of career.

LeMahieu was a rookie holdover when Theo Epstein arrived, and was outgoing in a trade that was both terrible for the Cubs, and a preceding event that somewhat led rather directly to the Cubs adding Kris Bryant. Whether any lessons of LeMahieu's time in Chicago should be remembered for assessing Hoerner might be somewhat underplayed. While that seems an article that should be written with more regularity, that's not really the point of this article. (Assessing it below is welcomed, however.)

What I try to assess is data points, lessons, and how the past bleeds into the future. How bad the LeMahieu trade was, seems to have best been discussed a decade ago, before career trajectories played out. I'm not here to canonize nor cannonize that Epstein transaction unless it teaches about the future.

One time too often in my timelines, I've had well-intentioned Cubs fans wag a finger at past decisions without trying to indicate a lesson for the future. It's very easy to point out past mistakes. Unless a lesson is trying to be learned from past actions (whether successes or failures) is rather pointless. Harkening back to the Babe Ruth transaction by the Red Sox that sent him to the Yankees is rather a waste of time on its own. It was a foolish move that proved rather foolish. We already knew that. Lou Brock was better with the Cardinals than he was with the Cubs.

I want to help people to learn lessons. The past can be a good teacher, if we are good students. One popular fantasy since 2014 that has been spurred on from many angles has been that a "core" left basically undisturbed is a good thing in baseball. The Braves weren't monolithic in their period of success. While the Yankees had Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera for extended periods, many of the other pieces moved in-and-out, gracefully or not. The Dodgers shuttle in new talent as time goes on. The constant is that some new players are shuffling each season. Reliance on "the same five guys every season for a dynasty" isn't how baseball works. Yet, that is exactly what Cubs fans misunderstood the "core players" as being a call for.

Some will claim that's what the executives called for. Perhaps yes, and perhaps no, but by now, it should be obvious that anyone who thought Albert Almora Jr., Addison Russell, Carl Edwards Jr. and Kyle Schwarber were going to get better every year was wrong. The same applied for Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez or Willson Contreras. While front office types shouldn't have bought the hype, neither should have fans bought it.

Few outfields go unaltered for three years. While the Dodgers used the same infield for about a decade (Ron Cey, Bill Russell, Davey Lopes, and Steve Garvey), that was an outlier. Normally, players enter and leave every season. Free agency has increased this.

As I start with Hoerner, I finish with him. Players with years of control and a degree of success are the valued ones in trade talks. The people thinking the Cubs will get long-term pieces with quality in a trade for a non-elite "one or two years left on his contract" type are either trying to deceive themselves, others, or both.

For the Cubs to markedly improve, better decision-making would be helpful. That is the job of the executives and the owners, mainly. As fans, though, we have the opportunity to learn which methods work better in baseball than other methods. Much as we do in inter-personal relationships, gambling on sporting events, which car or house to buy, or that specific hobby that makes you, you.

As usual, I'm more about baseball as a 150-year-old classroom, with lessons to still be learned into the future. Was it logical to believe the Cubs were good enough to be a dynasty? If you abhor logic with your baseball, will emotions of recent malfunctions late in the season educate you? Will Hoerner's bat develop as he matures? We'll see. Can be become as good as DJ LeMahieu? We can learn from lessons of the past, much as we eventually saw that bullpenning has, for the time being, won. Because history turning to the present has shown that to be the case. What lessons are you learning from your previous baseball beliefs?