Cubs Have Full Deck, but Need to Re-shuffle

Fans have no doubt been frustrated by a Cub offense that seems to flip on and off with the ease of a light switch. Most vexing is the fact that from a personnel standpoint, the lineup is loaded with enough talent that we should not even have to waste time talking about the it since the bats should be speaking for themselves.

Imagine the Cubs' offense as a giant puzzle. In order to complete the puzzle, each piece must fit perfectly with the others. It doesn't help to have nine identical pieces, no matter how great that piece may be. Nor is it productive to try and jam a piece that does not fit into the puzzle, because then your mother will not reward you with a Fruit Roll-up and pouch of Juicy Juice for finishing.

Sorry, just had a flashback to sixth grade. OK, fine, I suppose it was college.

The season is still young, but it is not too early to scoreboard watch and see the Astros winning regularly. Despite the number of games remaining, there is no evading the fact that the Cub lineup is more unbalanced than the Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown marriage.

However, an injury to shortstop Alex Gonzalez potentially opens the door for the Cubs to experiment with a new lineup that can correct this imbalance during a month (June) when they will need all the offensive help they can get.

To me, there is no conceivable reason not to insert Mark Grudzielanek as the starting shortstop when he returns in a few weeks. Defensively, the Cub infield (with the exception of Derrek Lee), will be sub-par, but Todd Walker and Aramis Ramirez have handled their positions better than expected, and the gold-glover Lee has saved the Cubs more runs than I can count by digging out wild throws.

More importantly, playing both Grudzielanek and Walker at the same time allows the Cubs to revamp the entire lineup without having to make an acquisition.

The primary reason that Grudzialanek is needed so desperately at the top of the order is the disappointing performance of Corey Patterson. Patterson is hitting under .100 with runners in scoring position, and is striking out in bunches.

This would be understandable if he were batting lower in the order with no protection, of course, but by hitting in front of Sammy Sosa, he should be feasting on fastballs.

Patterson can be an effective run producer, but he will never be a contact hitter until he learns to lay-off breaking pitches out of the zone.

Imagine a Cubs lineup with Walker and Grudzielanek setting the table in front of the 3-6 sluggers. The next step is to move Lee up to the third slot in front of Sosa.

Lee has suffered from hitting ahead of Gonzalez most of the season, and as a result, pitchers have had little incentive to throw him many strikes.

Shift Sosa into cleanup, followed by Alou, Ramirez, Patterson and Michael Barrett.

Patterson clearly will not like shifting down to the seventh spot in the lineup, but right now, I'm not sure there is a better place for him.

For one, he will have more green lights on the bases since manager Dusty Baker is less likely to have him steal when the middle of the lineup is coming up. At the bottom of the order, he can run at will.

In the event that Baker does not want to move Lee up in the order, he could remain in the sixth spot and should see better pitches with Patterson behind him.

I do not think my suggestions are innovative or radical, but rather practical. The Cubs have kept their head above water by squeezing out victories against some of the worst starting pitchers in the league.

When they face the top-level pitching in June, however, current offensive production may not be enough.

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