Siberian Baseball

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The importance of talent evaluation

I couldn't help but think of Carlos Zambrano's new contract this morning while watching SportsCenter and hearing that tonight's game against the Cardinals will be the first spin around the block on his new deal.

Knowing the wonders of Cubdom, this all makes me very nervous. Just getting him to the park in one piece will be a moral victory in my opinion.

Still, the five-year, $91.5 million dollar contract should be a positive sign to the Wrigley faithful, especially given the Cubs' long history of driving away top-tier players, or having to be strong-armed into signings like the Andre Dawson standoff.

This is a good step for the organization, which finally appears to be giving up the dream of Kerry Wood and Mark Prior as the cornerstones of the Chicago rotation. By sinking ace of the staff money into Zambrano, I hope the Cubs have turned the corner on the series of problems that have plagued the team for the past several years.

The funny thing was that immediately following the talk of Zambrano's big payday were highlights of Hanley Ramirez in Florida and Orlando Cabrera in California, the heir apparent and sitting king of shortstop for the Red Sox, neither one of whom are still in Boston.

It just goes to show that while teams are sometimes rewarded for making quick moves to win immediately, sometimes the jewels of the farm system are prized for a reason.

Julio Lugo has become a punchline for baseball fans - and Bston fans aren't above taking a cheap shot or two - batting .241 with six homers, 59 RBI and 27 stolen bases, compared to Ramirez, who is hitting .340, with 23 home runs, 63 RBI (for the Marlins) and has 38 stolen bases so far.

Add to that the hypothetical double play combo of Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia for years to come and you can see how simple second-guessing has grown to full blown lament for Red Sox fans.

So, as the playoff chase starts to take shape, with the Brewers falling apart, the Cubs trying to pick up the slack with Alfonso Soriano still out and the Red Sox trying to keep ahead of the suddenly viable Yankees, I see two teams that are going to live or die by their decisions on talent in the organization.

Given their individual histories, I think both fan bases have reason to be skeptical.

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