TO EVERYTHING A SEASON
Now that I have had a few innings to reflect back on the HSL season just past, I realize that the 2007 campaign came to us straight out of the Good Book, courtesy of the third chapter of Ecclesiastes. From this sacred tome, we know that to everything and to all things there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven, and for our beloved Shamu, 2007 was his season. For him, it is a time to laugh, a time to dance, a time to expunge the hated asterisk.
The rest of us should have known that 2007 was the Season of Shamu, when he showed up for the Draft monumentally more prepared than the next guy, having devoted more manhours to draft preparation than the rest of us all lumped together. Looking back now, it hardly seems coincidental that Shamu drew a line in the sand and double-dog-dared his former boss to pink slip him at just about the same time that the 2007 draft guides starting come out. Only now can we begin to recognize the magnitude of the self-sacrifice Shamu was willing to make to try to take his team to the title in 2007.
THE MAKING OF A CHAMPION
As is customary in this time and place, allow us to take a look at how Shamu assembled his juggernaut team in 2007:
Bold first pick in defiance of sophomore slump jinx. A great start for the Cubs. Fifth-best first baseman, 17th highest point total among all hitters.
Back-to-back 600+-point players. Nice.
An early stubbed toe that Shamu was able to overcome in spades.
A shrewd pick after a down year in ’06 by A-Ram.
Decent points, and allowed Shamu to shout, “Another K by my Dice-K!” to Jan and the girls about 200 times this season.
A little soon for a so-so catcher, but not a terrible pick.
Almost as many points as at-bats, a solid if not spectacular year for Godzilla.
Second-highest point total among all pitchers from this 8th round draft pick, plainly the most brilliant pitching selection of the Draft, taken that late and finishing that high.
A 9th round steal by Shamu, the brightest of his many luminous moments. Shamu won this thing in rounds 8 and 9 with C.C. and Magglio.
Scored a passel of points for Shamu, then became top trade bait enabling key acquisition of Miguel Batista from the Master Fleecer, Itchie. A remarkably foolish, but in the end harmless, trade.
Not bad for the 11th round. Dropped on July 31 for that much-in-demand Julian Tavares, who spent less than 11 hours on the Cubs roster before being turked in favor of the much more attractive Jeremy Affeldt. Can you say “overmanaging”?
Gary Matthews, Jr.
Let go by Shamu on September 14 in favor of household name Jason Kubel, most likely after advising Shamu that he was no longer willing to take performance-enhancing drugs.
Certainly an acceptable pick in the 13th round, even after 17 spinal surgeries and the removal of his last spinal disk. Finally gave way on July 28 in favor of Sean Green, the Seattle reliever, not Schecky of the Mets.
Give me a break on this one. Kelvin Escobar, 526 points, 21st best among all pitchers, more than Roy Oswalt? Kelvin Escobar?? Hey, when it’s your year, it’s your year.
Wisely dispatched by Sir Charles on April 1.
At age 50, Todd Jones was a natural pick for Shamu. He didn’t do much for him on the field, but became good trade bait and was parlayed into a Matt Cain pickup from Big Guy on July 22.
A short-timer for the Cubs, dumped before the All-Star break.
Another great pick for Shamu, an 18th round starting shortstop who finishes with only 12 fewer points than Michael Young.
Not a bad thought, but injured early on and had to be cut loose. Fortunately for Shamu, he picked up replacement second sacker Richie Weeks in the free agent draft, who scored a ton of points for him at this position.
Hung around as a Cub until mid-July, then ditched in favor of the much-traveled Woody Williams.
Cut by Shamu on April 8, throws a no-no 10 days later. Shamu’s only serious blunder all year.
Somehow Old Mel lasted the entire season on the Cubs roster, but drew plenty of bench time.
Without steroids, just another Gary Matthews, Jr.
A serviceable backup, but had to be cut loose when he lipped off to Shamu.
Shamu does love those aging superstars, but when his roster spot was needed, Shamu didn’t hesitate to cut him loose during the swan song of his career. It’s a cold business.
Sent packing on May 10 when Shannon Stewart became available in the free agent draft.
His 20 strikeout game was 10 years ago, Shamu. Give it up.
Probably the best 29th round pick in the bunch.
Just filling out the roster.
FREE AGENT PICKUPS
Although Shamu had one heckuva Draft Day in 2007, he probably would not have won this thing without working the waiver wire 24/7 for six solid months. Picking up Carlos Pena (674 points) on May 8 was a godsend. All of the following free agents were still on Shamu’s roster at the end of the season:
Date Picked Up
8/15 & 9/26
In addition to all of the above keepers, Shamu went through other free agents like Itchie goes through a case of Blatts. Pick ’em up and drop ’em down. 65 free agent adds for the season, all told. He picked up so many free agents throughout the course of the season, until reviewing the website to prepare this issue of From the Bullpen, I had not even heard of many of them, including: Mike Bacsik; Jason Kubel; Jason Bergmann; Rick Vanden Hurk; Manny Perra; George Sherrill; Saul Rivera (is he Jewish or Hispanic, or both?); J.D. Durbin; Yusmeiro Petit (Andy’s shirttail kin?); Jonathan Sanchez; Dallas Braden; Cha Seung Baek; Billy Trable; and Casey Janssen. Hmm. Maybe this is why the Senators finished in 13th place.
FROM THE TRADING BLOCK
In addition to his drafted players, Shamu also picked up Scott Downs from the Monarchs in exchange for Kevin Gregg, Miguel Batista from the Skipjacks for Bobby Jenks, and Matt Cain from the Tigers for Todd Jones. Not exactly blockbuster trades, but three more pieces of the puzzle.
In the final analysis, only 12 of the Cubs 30 Draft Day players finished the season as a Cub. Of the 17 hitters that Shamu drafted on March 24, only 8 survived the season on this team. Of the 13 pitchers that were drafted by the Cubs on that date, only 4 (Matsuzaku, C.C. Sabathia, Kelvin Escobar, and Oliver Perez) finished the season on Shamu’s team.
In the end, it could easily be argued that Shamu did as fine a job of picking and then managing a team as has ever happened in the Hot Stove League. Other managers may have picked better teams, and still others may have done a better job of managing throughout the season, but it is doubtful that anyone has done both jobs as well as Sir Charles in the same season. The proof would seem to be in the pudding, as the Cubs lapped the field and finished an astonishing 875 points ahead of his nearest competition, the Highlanders. His Cubs finished so far ahead of the last place team, more than 4300 points, that one manager should be checked for performance-enhancing drugs and the other for mental competency.
Shamu, it was one whale of a season, no pun intended. Plaudits, congratulations, kudos, and a hearty “attaboy” for a supremely fine season. The asterisk is no more.