Albert Einstein famously described insanity as “doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results.” And with the Cubs having supplanted the Arizona Diamondbacks as the worst team in the National League, it’s clear that different results are exactly what the Cubs need.
One of the solutions may be more apparent than anybody thinks right now. We’ve been enchanted with the idea of Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Jorge Soler as the saviors-in-waiting of this franchise, after they develop a bit more in the minor leagues. But there’s a prospect at Iowa right now, and he’s ready to come up to the majors today. His name is Chris Valaika.
I wrote about Valaika in Spring Training, after he keyed a come-from-behind victory in a split squad game in Tempe. At that time, I pointed out that the versatile Valaika had his chances at making the Cubs roster dimmed by the signing of the similarly versatile Emilio Bonifacio. And sure enough, Bonifacio started the season with the Chicago team, while Valaika was returned to the Iowa Cubs, instead. The time has come to rethink that decision.
After his record-breaking start to the season in Pittsburgh, Bonifacio has returned to earth in a big way. His average has sunk below .300, and his versatility on the field is compromised by his return to Emilio Bonifacio-type numbers. He’s a lifetime .264 hitter, suggesting that he will continue to fall even further offensively in the weeks ahead.
But take a look at Valaika’s numbers at Iowa. His .321 average is higher than any regular on the Cubs’ roster, and his OBP, Slugging, and OPS are nearly identical to Anthony Rizzo’s for the Cubs (Rizzo is at .401/.485/.886 in these three categories, and Valaika is .403/.486/.889). Yes, Valaika’s numbers are against major league pitching and Valaika’s are not, but if you consider Rizzo to be an asset to his team, you must also consider Valaika as an asset to his.
Remember that Bonifacio was signed to a minor league contract, originally. His versatility on the field is his calling card, but he has nothing on Chris Valaika in this regard. So far this season, Valaika has played all four infield positions, and a couple of games in the outfield, too. And Valaika also keyed a remarkable comeback by the Iowa team last night, from an 11-4 deficit to a 12-11 win. Does the big league club have that kind of pluck, at this moment? Any reasonable assessment would have to conclude that they do not.
To shake things up, I’m suggesting that Valaika be called to the big leagues immediately, if not to take Bonifacio’s spot on the roster, then to spell Darwin Barney, Nate Schierholtz, and/or Mike Olt, none of whom are helping this team offensively right now. None of Theo and Jed’s hyped guys are ready to make the leap to the majors, but Valaika is ready to go. Or maybe the current 54-108 pace is what the Cubs are content with this season. That would be a true mark of insanity.
R. Lincoln Harris is a guest contributor for Wrigleyville Nation. He also writes for BlueBattingHelmet.Wordpress.com, ChicagoSideSports.com, ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com, and FiveWideSports.com. Thanks R. Lincoln for the contribution!