Thursday, January 12, 2006

Is He Is or Is He Ain't The Second Baseman?

The strange but true saga of Todd Walker continues. Since November, media outlets in Chicago have been reporting that he is on the trading block and will not be back with the Cubs next year. Jim Hendry added to the noise when he commented during a press conference that second base was not one of the positions that was set for 2006. Even the Cubs MLB website lists Walker as third on the depth chart behind Neifi Perez and Jerry Hairston, Jr.

But yesterday, while being interviewed on WGN radio in Chicago, Cubs manager Dusty Baker indicated that Walker would be his starting second baseman. What gives?

Blogsters across the Internet have been speculating that Dusty is just posturing to try to give Walker more perceived value. In other words, as a stater, he's worth more than as the third guy on the depth chart. I'm not sure that it really matters. Walker's resume is what it is. He's one of the top hitting second basemen in the league and his defense is slightly below average. He does a good job with the balls he gets to, but his range is a bit lacking. How Dusty postures doesn't change any of this.

Personally, I think the Cubs would be nuts to trade Walker, but the thing that intrigues me is why they want to trade him. On the surface, it seems that Walker is the perfect number two hitter in the Cubs lineup. He is a guy who makes contact, hits for a relatively high average, has some pop, plus he hits left handed. Yet, it seems like a forgone conclusion that Walker will be playing for someone else next year. But why?

I've read everything from Walker being a preachy born-again Christian who disrupts the clubhouse to be an unapologetic and frequent strip club patron which doesn't sit very well with the family friendly Tribune Company, owner of the Cubs. I've also read that Hendry wants to move Walker because he (Hendry) is determined to improve the defense, even if it is at the expense of the offense. None of this really makes sense to me, but obviously something is going on.

The other part of this mystery that intrigues me is that everyone apparently knows that the Cubs want to move Walker, but no other teams are jumping at the opportunity. That surprises me considering that Walker can be a contributor on offense without hurting a team too bad in the field. Even so, it doesn't appear that any other teams are showing an interest in Walker.

If it were up to me (and I think we all agree that it should be), Walker would be the starting second baseman with Hairston backing him up. Ronny Cedeno would start at short (assuming the Cubs can't make a move to add a first-tier shortstop) and Neifi Perez would be his backup. Unfortunately, if history is any indication, Perez wil be starting somewhere, and if the media can be trusted (which is doubtful), Walker will be playing elsewhere come April.


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