I think Jayson Stark started this Player “A” jazz. I’ve stolen from him before, I’ll steal from him again.
Player “A” has three homers, 11 RBI, and a .295 average in 23 games (just twelve as a starter).
Player “B” has three homers, 15 RBI, and a .209 average in 24 games (but was up to .294 in his last five games).
And it’s good news that Player “B” won’t go on the disabled list, and will return to his team’s line-up this week, replacing Player “A”?
They are, of course, A) Micah Hoffpauir, and B) Derrek Lee. There may be 44 guys in this country not named Hoffpauir who think it would be worth the Cubs’ while to let Hoffpauir succeed D-Lee right now. I’m one of them. It’s tough to think in those terms of a man who slammed 46 homers just four seasons ago. But considering he’s produced only two full, healthy seasons, since (averaging 21 homers and 86 RBI in each) and with this largely untreated bulging disk in his neck, is not likely to make this a third full season, nor reach those production numbers, it’s time to face the fact that he’s no longer among the game’s elite sluggers.
He hit five homers after July 1st last year. He hit .258 “close and late.” He hit .205 against the Cards last year and .239 against the Brewers. As he slides into his mid 30’s you begin to look around and say, salary considerations included, which teams would happily trade their first baseman for him, straight up?
It can get late early out there at first base. The Cubs might have been serving themselves well to put D.L. on the D.L. for two weeks and see if Hoffpauir has the chops on a daily basis, that he seems to offer sporadically. It’s a damn tough thing to bench a richly-compensated player, and a good guy, and a veteran. But, especially without Aramis Ramirez in the line-up, the Cubs need more than the vague hope that their first baseman will be healthy enough to finish the year with 20 homers and 85 RBI. Hoffpauir may not be the solution – two weeks would’ve given Chicago a better ability to guess.
I just don’t think guessing that D-Lee is going to perform worse, not better, requires very much ability at all.