Thought #1) I'm ok with it.
Yeah, me too. I really wanted Dave Martinez, in part because I believe Joe Maddon is the smartest manager in the history of the game. Still, managers do not really affect the team much -- certainly not the way NFL or NBA coaches affect teams (see: Dusty Baker vs. Bill Belicheck). So, I'm of the opinion that as long as the manager does not make Joe Girardi-like mistakes, then just hire a guy with whom you get along.
Thought #2) Why not clean house? This means fire Jim Hendry and rebuild. Everything. The problem with this logic is that you still have three position players (Ramirez, Soriano, Fukudome) with massive contracts. They are, in affect, untradeable (due to the lack of production and sizeable contracts). Fukudome is up at the end of this year and after that payroll starts to trim down. A nice treat would be if one of these guys comes out of the gate just hitting the ball all over the place-then the cubs should trade them. The Cubs will still get shorted though because during the course of the season, there seems to be a precipitous decline in production (I would think any scout knows this).
I think a .500 or worse start will result in house cleaning. I think Hendry and Co. deserve a longer leash for their 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009 success, but I also think a fresh approach a la Andrew Friedman and the Tampa Bay Rays would ensure consistent, long-term success (especially given our currently weak division).
I'll be taking an in-depth look at our contract situations later, but basically I don't feel like the payroll has overly handcuffed the organization. The Rays make success out of a lot less, so Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome (who's actually worth his contract, in my opinion), and Carlos Silva should not roadblock our success.
Thought #3) Stop piece-mealing. Marlon Byrd had the typical Marlon Byrd year. But I think the Cubs cannot continue peace mealing players such as Byrd, Nady and the like. A commitment needs to be developing talent from within and use free agency to land a big-splash or two (at reasonable prices).
I'm pretty sure "landing a big-splash" at "reasonable prices" is a contradiction. Unless the free agent market heavily favors buyers, teams cannot get the best without overpaying (see: Alfonso Soriano).
This summer's market for 1B/DH talent should be buyer friendly -- i.e. the Cubs could snag Paul Konerko for reasonable prices. However, the reason the Cubs got Byrd last summer was because we needed a CF and the market for CF was too hot. Granted, the Cubs lucked out and got the healthiest of Curtis Granderson, Mike Cameron, Byrd, et al., but Byrd is also the most average of the corps.
In my opinion, the Cubs need to act like a small market team for the next few seasons. They need to trade aging talent -- such as, sigh, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster, and Randy Wells -- and build on their wealth of pitching talent. If they can trade their aging not-as-talented-as-before players too (Soriano, namely), then great. Sell them below market value and make the other team assume the entirety of the contract.
(Note: I believe the Cubs should hold on to Carlos Zambrano for at least one more year. He's still valuable, but I fear the perception of him is otherwise.)
Thought #4) No one is expecting Quade to win the World Series. And if they are, they're idiots.
Well, so is Joe Girardi, but he's got a ring. The success of the Cubs relies entirely on Jim Hendrey's shoulders. It always has.
Thought #5) This is about rebuilding and being competitive again. Building on and around the young talent (Soto, Castro, Colvin, Vitters). I heard Vitters is taking some shots at first base.
I too think the Cubs should pursue the "tails of talent." That is, young, pre-arb players (because they are cheap) and old, past-their-prime players (because they are cheap). This is essentially what the Rays have done since eternity: Fill 75% the roster via the draft and minor league trades. Complete the final 25% of the roster via cheap Cliff Floyd-type players (productive, near retirement players). Also, take advantage of guys with favorable platoon splits (Gabe Kaplar for the Rays, an expensive Kosuke Fukudome for the Cubs) because they should come cheaper.
A side thought concerning our young guys:
Castro: worries me (more on that later), but should be the best SS in the NL soon.
Colvin: poised to disappoint (see: Jeff Francouer).
Vitters: more valuable at 3B.
Thought #6) Cliff Lee is a BEAST!
Agreed. I've been saying for a few months that his xFIP, LOB%, and BABIP warrant him a Cy Young.
Many thanks to Will for sharing his thoughts whilst deathly ill! For more analysis and discussion about Quade, head over to Another Cubs Blog and Tail from Aisle 424.