Derrek Lee Shines in a Season to Forget

chicagocubs03What can you offer up about the Cubs that hasn’t already been said? The Cubs have been a major disappointment in 2009 and yet, following Wednesday’s game they only find themselves 5.5 games out of first place. Yes, they also trail four other teams besides the Colorado Rockies, and yes they don’t even resemble in the least a playoff team, but that glimmer of hope is something that Cubs fans have grown accustomed to holding on to.

For the purposes of this post, which is my first as the resident Cubs voice on Baseball Reflections, I wanted to focus not on the negative, which is plentiful, but rather on the positive, of which there is little.

The Cubs of 2009 will become part of Cubs lore, much like the goat, the black cat, 1984, Alex Gonzalez (you know what I’m talking about) and all that crap. They will be remembered for what they couldn’t do rather than what they could, and that is so Cubs-like. They will be remembered for their contracts, their salaries and their failures.

Derrek Lee takes the field * Cropped from Imag...
Image via Wikipedia

And then there is Derrek Lee.

Where would the Cubs be without Derrek Lee? If you think things are bad now, picture what they could have been like if Lee had not stepped in and played the way he did this season. When Aramis Ramirez went down any number of Cubs could have kicked their game into another gear and pulled the Cubs through, but none did, except Derrek Lee.

Ramirez went down on May 8th in Milwaukee while Lee was battling an injury himself. At the time the Cubs were 16-13 and Lee was hitting just .208 on the young season (and you know who you are if you called for Micah Hoffpauir). When Derrek returned on May 12th he immediately began to contribute like the leader of a team should, hitting .300 for the remainder of the month of May. In June, when the Cubs as a team hit just .233, Lee hit .333 with six home runs and 20 RBI. Lee followed June with a .295 average and nine home runs and 27 RBI in July. In August it was .318/6/22.

Looking into Derrek’s splits only makes one appreciate him more. The Cubs have struggled this season with runners in scoring position hitting under .250 in those spots. In those same situations Derrek is hitting .303 with nine homers and 68 driven in. He is hitting .287 with runners on base and if their loaded watch out. He is not quite Pujols like, but his .615 average, two Grand Slams and 24 RBI are enough to make opposing pitchers nervous.

CHICAGO - APRIL 25:  Derrek Lee #25 of the Chi...

Image by Getty Images via Daylife

It is more than the numbers when it comes to Derrek Lee though. He also provides leadership with his demeanor. While Carlos Zambrano is busy accosting Gatorade coolers and breaking bats over his knees, and Milton Bradley is occupied with the fans, Lee has remained a rock. As turbulent as 2009 has been, Lee hasn’t once made headlines with his words or actions, other than when they are positive.

It is easy to take for granted a guy like Derrek Lee who has been with the Cubs for six seasons now. He isn’t flashy. You won’t get a great sound bite from him. He hasn’t led the league in any offensive categories since his break out year of 2005. He hasn’t won any major awards, and he probably won’t this season either. It would be wise if Cubs fans took notice, in a year as forgettable as this, of what they have in a player like Derrek Lee. You would have a hard time convincing me that any player in baseball has done more for his team than Derrek Lee has in 2009 for the Chicago Cubs.

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  1. JP

    September 3, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    couldn’t agree more!
    DLee brings the whole package. He’s going to make a great manager some day if he chooses that path.

  2. Brian

    September 3, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    If this is your first column as a Cubs voice, I have to say I will be looking for your columns. Great article and touches on all the points Cubs fans should be looking at. Ramirez out, Bradley blaming the city and Soriano not producing (you forgot that one). I did call for Micah, but rightfully so for the time being. When Lee came back, believe me I apologized to my friends who trusted in Lee. I felt the shame.

    This guy is definitely a “rock” for the Cubs in a dreadfully disappointing season. Bradley could hit .350 and I think I would not care for his off field demeanor. Ramirez also doesn’t talk much and was still producing when he came back. Zambrano, sorry buddy, but you have to either be consistent or get a punching bag for your frustration.

    Keep up the good articles and THANK YOU for not mentioning a certain someone who tried to grab a ball by the left foul line during a certain year. The kid deserves a break like you gave him here (by accident or not). =) Kudos Rex on the article!

  3. rex

    September 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks for the nice response to the article guys.

    It is so easy to focus on what has gone wrong for this team that I think people might forget the good, and really I can’t blame them. It is even easier still to take players like Lee for granted. A lot of teams and their fans would love to have Derrek on their team.

    I hope you continue to check out my posts.
    .-= rex´s last blog ..Playing the blame game with Chicago baseball =-.

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