Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Debate the 2015 Cubs

Kids are playing outside right now. In shorts. With snow still on the ground. But it’s sunny and clear and 40 might as well be 70 after the weather we’ve been having. The sheer juxtaposition of happiness and warmth in the face of the lingering memories of winter’s inhospitable embrace brought a smile to my face.

Skipping around in her boots, an unzipped light sweatshirt flapping as she skipped, I’m not sure my little girl could have looked more pulchritudinous. Well, maybe earlier this morning during her basketball game when she shot-faked a kid and then rose up to knock down a baseline jumper over him.

She’s playing alone right now though because her brother is working less than assiduously to set his pit of a bedroom to order. Dealing with his inability to keep a week’s worth of clothes off of his floor is commensurate with watching Indiana play basketball this season; both endeavors are conspiring to make me tuck into that bomber in the fridge and get Brainless on Peaches.

Or, as I’m sure many of you feel about me, just on Peaches. In any case, the meteorological dichotomy and half-assed housecleaning had me jonesing to dust off an old feature I had done for Yahoo in which I argued with myself in the forms of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

As an aside, I was rebuked in the comments (don’t read the comments!) for invoking the narrative voice of a sociopathic literary figure. Alas, some folks take things a bit too seriously and some, present company included, need to learn to knock the chips from their shoulders.

I’ve been both laudatory and critical of the Cubs at various points, so I thought it would be fun to allow my two halves to beat each other until they’re white and gold. So let’s have at a few topics, shall we?

Kris Bryant and the arbitration clock

Jekyll: The thing is, there’s this agreed-upon set of rules between Major League Baseball and the Players Association. Contained in said agreement is a structure by which players become eligible for arbitration and free agency. The Cubs are aware of those rules and they are playing by them.

While the immediate dividends of such adherence to the law might not be as favorable, Theo and Co. are banking on a long-term return on investment. In an ideal situation, they’d be able to sign the unicorn to a club-friendly extension well into the foreseeable future. However, club-friendly and Scott Boras (Bryant’s rep) aren’t exactly on speaking terms.

I want this team to win as much as the next guy, but I’ve waited a lifetime already and I’m willing to wait a few more years, particularly if Bryant is around for at least one more of them.

Hyde: A lifetime, huh? You’re not even thirty-six years old yet, jackass. What about the old lady shuffling to the games with her oxygen tank in tow, just hoping to make it to one more October? They got the ace, they got the manager, and they already had two All-Stars under the age of 25.

I want this team to win too but part of me hopes that they start slow and then pick it up once Bryant comes to town, missing the playoffs by a game. How would you feel about your precious strategy and arbitration clock then?

Jekyll: If they can’t manage to play decent baseball without a rookie over the first couple-three weeks of the season, I don’t think Bryant will be the catalyst for resurgence. A big part, yes. The driving force, no.

Hyde: *fart noises*

Editor’s note: Bryant just blasted a homer in the Cubs’ Spring Training game vs. Colorado. 

Starlin Castro’s future

Hyde: Ooh, I get to go first. Despite my desire to take advantage of this, I fear I must keep it short. Castro has been okay at short, but the Cubs have too much young talent, among which there are at least two players who could take over for him. He doesn’t put out max effort and his brain often resembles my previous response.

And speaking of questionable thought processes, there have been at least three incidents in which he’s been questioned by police. Sometimes a great deal of smoke over a prolonged period of time means a delicious brisket; other times it means fire. And I’m not aware of a good barbecue spot at Wrigley.

Jekyll: I actually prefer you going first because it’s essentially like hitting off a tee. Look at the numbers: Castro is basically a top-5 offensive shortstop. Unlike tickets, those things don’t just grow on trees. And the last time I checked, prospects aren’t sure things.

Does the guy have a little baggage? Sure. Can he improve in a few areas? Absolutely. But he’s a known commodity who has a proven track record and has already made three trips to the All-Star Game. Given the ability to be more of a role player than a reluctant leader, he’ll more than live up to the reduced expectations.

I think Castro can become, if not one of the best, certainly one of the most consistent performers on this team for years to come.

Organizational competence

Hyde: As for the baseball brass, I have nothing but the highest marks. I think Tom Ricketts is a bit smarmy, but he’s a whirling dervish of candid charisma when compared to Crane Kenney. The Cubs biz ops frontman reminds me of one of those squirrelly little kids who goes around picking fights because he’s got a protective older brother.

I’m not sure if Kenney’s got all kinds of dirt on the owners or if he simply earned undying loyalty as a result of helping the Ricketts family buy the team, but he’s somehow maintained his role despite repeated mistakes from his charges. The business side has handicapped the team even as baseball operations have improved.

Jekyll: Yep, pretty much.

Cubs playoff chances

Jekyll: I’ve said for a long time now that I think 85 wins is a bold prediction and that even a win total 10 games shy of that would not surprise me. They’ve improved a great deal, but there are still so many questions yet to be answered that I can’t just put them in the playoffs.

Besides, it’s not as though the rest of the NL just fell off a cliff. The Central alone contains some pretty treacherous waters that the Cubs have not been able to successfully navigate for years. I see this as a bit of a springboard season, though, as I believe they’ll learn more about what it takes to win.

So the Cubs will be also-rans this year but are likely to start scaring people in earnest from 2016 and beyond.

Hyde: Bold is the text of our names, not a prediction of 85 wins. And as for questions, I’m wondering who in the hell gave this writer the opportunity to have a weekly radio appearance. It is, after all, his words you’re spouting. Between the upgraded rotation, solidified lineup, and ascension of Bryant, this team has all the makings of a playoff noisemaker.

Sure, the NL Central might have, as you stated, treacherous waters. But for all the good Cubs skippers have done of late, they might as well have had Francesco Schettino at the helm. Joe Maddon might be a hippy, but he’s the real deal when it comes to getting the most out of the talent he’s given.

With that second Wild Card now in play, the window of opportunity will be open plenty wide enough for the Cubs to climb through. Mark the tape.

* * *

Thanks, guys. There’s really nothing like arguing with yourself through dueling identities and then tossing in a self-referential dig in the process. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Cubs game to listen to and two kids fighting over what is likely a toy that neither would have cared about before the other picked it up.

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