Trading for PIDLs

If you’ve read any of these posts before, you know that I’m a long-time (though not life-long) Cubs fan. And one of the ways I manifest this is by collecting baseball cards from years gone by. It started when I was six or seven, and went away until I was in my thirties, and then it came back again. And unlike some other habits that I could have instead, this one’s never going to get anybody hurt or land me in jail. There are worse things I could do, right?

In the process of gathering up Cubs cards, on the internet or flea markets or wherever else they can be found, it’s inevitable that cards from other teams will be acquired, too. Some I have scanned and told stories about in this space, but most of them take up space until I can find someone who might want to trade for them, as I recently did with Julie at Thingsarefunnerhere.com. Thanks so much, Julie, and I hope you got some things from me that interest you.

As I was sorting through the stack of Cubs cards she sent me, feeling like a ten year-old kid again, it struck me how many of the Cubs players I don’t really like as players. The hazards of team trading are such that not every player will be of the Bobby Murcer/Bruce Sutter/Jose Cardenal variety. That is to say, players who wore the Cubs uniform, however briefly, back in the days of my youth.

The truth is that these players played so long ago that their cards are considered “vintage” by now. That’s another way of saying too old to be commonly seen in whatever trades I might be able to make. They can be had on eBay, typically, but paying money for these things isn’t the same as trading for them. There must be some psychological reason for this, but I don’t think I can explain it fully here. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

The cards I received recently, four of which are shown above, mostly fell into a different category of player. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I fully expected this to happen. But I am labeleling the players above as Players I Don’t Like, or PIDLs for short (rhymes with “middles”).

And I think I know why these players are PIDLs. More than anything else, they are all affiliated with the tenure of General Manager Jim Hendry, who was let go last July. In a sense, the sooner these players are off of the Cubs’ roster, the sooner this becomes Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s team, which has to be better than any of Jim Hendry’s teams were.

The process has already begun, at least with two of the four PIDLs above. Aramis Ramirez, who never appeared interested until it was contract time, or the postseason was safely out of reach, made his intention to seek a multi-year contract on the open market known. Farewell and thanks for not very much. And Kosuke Fukudome, who never lived up to the hype that followed the Cubs “winning” a bidding war for his services out of Japan, was traded away last season and looked better in the Indians’ uniform than he ever did in Cubs’ blue.

Ryan Dempster, who rubbed me the wrong way when he politicked for Mike Quade to be named the next manager after the 2010 season, still has one year left under contract. Dempster earned $1.35 million per win last season, while Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers won twice as many games as Dempster did, and earned $13 million less. But convince me I’m wrong about Dempster, if you want to.

And then there’s Alfonso Soriano. Where to begin? When Theo Epstein announced, in his introductory press conference with the Cubs, that the Cubs would be paying for future performance, rather than for past performance, he could have been speaking directly to Soriano. The Soriano who signed that eight year monstrosity of a contract hit 46 home runs and stole 41 bases the year before. And since then, the Cubs have gotten 54 steals from him–in five seasons. And he’ll still be around for three more years, unless the Cubs decide to swallow a healthy chunk of the $54 million he’s scheduled to be paid. The word earn doesn’t seem to fit in that previous sentence.

The process of expunging the team of Hendry’s PIDLs will take three years, at the most. I’m leaving minor leaguers and borderline major leaguers off this list, and Starlin Castro as well. But everyone else can’t go away soon enough for me. The Epstein braintrust will start bringing in new players any day now, and I’m looking forward to watching the team be remade before our eyes.

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