To preview the upcoming series against the Chicago Cubs, The Nats Blog sat down with Joe from the Cubs blog, The View from the Bleachers. Joe had a lot of great insights on the Strasburg signing, the Cubs season, and their future.
The Nats Blog: The Nationals just signed Stephen Strasburg to a record breaking $15 million contract last week. The man who’s record he broke was of course, former Cub, Mark Prior. How do you think the expectations for Strasburg compare to those of Prior, and experiencing Prior’s fall out, do you think the big deal was a wise choice for the Nats?
The View from the Bleachers: Will, that's a great question. Unfortunately it brings up a terrible wound that I can't bear to recount at this time. Curse you and all your family for bringing up such a hurtful memory for me. In all seriousness, I think the question is a valid one. While the position and signing bonuses are very similar, I think the situation surrounding both are different. When the Cubs signed Prior, they did so specifically based on his "can't miss" tag and "sound mechanics", and no other reason. For the Nats, it seems to be deeper rooted than that. Strasburg appears to have the same labels as Prior, but the situation of the organizations is vastly different. The Cubs routinely pack the park wherever they go, regardless of the team on the field. Prior offered them the chance to have a marquee talent to make up for losing Greg Maddux. For Washington, they're still wrapping their hands around the idea of baseball again and haven't come out in droves to the new park like the team probably hoped for. Signing Strasburg shows the fans that the former Expo organization is still committed to bringing top notch talent through the system. To no sign him would have been a slap in the face and contrary to everything the system has always been about. Whether it was a "wise" deal can't ever be determined until you see the end result. I'll say this, though. No one ever wins the World Series without taking risks. I commend the Nats for doing the deal and look forward to watching him pitch in person, since I'm in NC and usually make a trip that way each year for the Cubs series.
TNB: What were your expectations for the Cubs coming into 2009? Did the team fail to meet them?
TVFTB: Dude, seriously, another wound. My expectations were high, and I don't think I was alone. It's been a very disappointing season, especially the last two weeks. We've seen this team go from first to 8 games out in just over 2 weeks. It's been a disaster. We're routinely not hitting in clutch situations and have a nasty tendency to play bad fundamental baseball. Then again, so do the Nats if I remember correctly from my trip to DC for the series ending beatdown in July.
TNB: What do you think are the Cubs odds to catch St. Louis or Colorado?
TVFTB: If we're going to catch someone, it would have to be the Cardinals, though I think they're a better team. It's simply too hard to leapfrog multiple teams in the wild card race. With the Cards playing some of the best baseball in all the league, it's almost impossible. I'd put the odds at 25-1.
TNB: Will the Cubs make an effort to resign Rich Harden? Should they?
TVFTB: This is another good question. We picked up his 2009 option, and he becomes a free agent at season's end. We've seen Randy Wells emerge in the rotation as a legit starter in this league and have Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano all under contract for next year. If we were to re-sign Harden, it would have to be with incentives laden througout the deal, which I doubt seriously he'd approve. Someone will pay him, the bigger question to me is what his status is as far as compensatory picks and if we'd offer arbitration to get him, knowing we'd be stuck if he accepted.
TNB: Name a hidden gem in the Cubs system that other people might be interested to read about.
TVFTB: Ah, now you're in my wheelhouse. Love talking about the farm. I'm quite fond of a few names. Rebel Ridling was a 25th round pick in 2008 out of college. He spent some time with Peoria (Low A) last year after impressing in rookie ball and has spent the full season there this year. He's put up .305 / .354 / .468 with 15 HR and 89 RBO at the 1st base position. He may not emerge to be a gem, but he's a guy I like a lot. Plus he's got a cool name. Another name on the mound that deserves watching is Chris Archer, who was brought in during the Mar DeRosa trade. He's a 5th round pick from the '06 draft out of a high school right down the road from me. He's 20 years old and has pitched for Peoria as well. In 23 starts, he has an ERA of 2.75 with a 5-4 record with a 9.9 K/9 rate. He has control issues he needs to work on, but he can definitely miss bats.
TNB: What is your favorite all time Cubs memory?
TVFTB: Definitely going to game one against the Braves in ATL in 2003 for the NLDS. Kerry Wood, my favorite Cub, got the start and pitched great. He even hit the ball well. It was an outstanding experience. Playoff baseball live is something every fan needs to experience.