Is Dave Duncan Really The Answer?

Dave Duncan is a man's man.  He has cured the world of illness, brought global and universal peace, saved the United States economy and rescued kitties from trees.

OK, he hasn't done any of that.  But by some of the things people are writing about him, you would be surprised to hear that he has yet to accomplish any of those things.  For what it's worth, Duncan is an excellent pitching coach -- so much so that some say that he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer if there was such a distinction for pitching coaches.

The much-maligned (and deservedly so) David Kaplan and the well-respected Bob Verdi have both made the pitch for the new Cubs regime to bring Duncan to cure what ails the Cubs' pitching staff.

But is it worth it?

Larry Rothschild does not deserve as much heat as he has gotten since becoming the Cubs' pitching coach way back in 2001 when Don Baylor stepped in.  This season, the starting rotation ranks in the top five in quality starts, earned run average, strikeouts and hits-allowed-per-nine innings.  Oh, and they just miss the cut in WHIP ranking sixth.

Cubs fans find Rothschild an easy target for blame despite the fact that he can not be blamed for the following:
  • Ruining the prized arms of Mark Prior & Kerry Wood.
  • The Kevin Gregg experiment. He sucked before coming to the Cubs and he'll suck some more once he's gone.
  • Rich Harden's inability to go into the eighth and ninth innings. He didn't do it in Oakland, he isn't doing it here.
  • Neal Cotts.  (See: reasoning behind the suckfest that is Gregg, Kevin)
So, what has Rothschild done?  For starters, he has helped Cub pitchers develop and execute their strikeout pitches.  The Cubs have ranked in the top 5 in punch outs since Rothschild's debut.  And when you have the cavalcade of defensive suck the Cubs have trotted out to the Wrigley Field pasture.  You can't blame a guy for wanting his pitchers to pitch away from the team's weakness.  He's nurtured Carlos Marmol and Angel Guzman into steady relievers, just as he did with Kerry Wood.  He helped turn Ryan Dempster from below average reliever to above average starter.

Cubs fans, don't get it twisted.  If Dave Duncan does come to Chicago, he's not bringing Albert Pujols, Matt Holiday or your beloved Mark DeRosa with him.  And thanks to the state tax increase on liquor, it's very unlikely Tony La Russa will want to follow him to Chicago.

Duncan has worked wonders with career journeymen such as Joel Pineiro and Ryan Franklin, which is why Cubs fans wet themselves trying to imagine what Duncan could do with a pitching staff with $43 million worth of a returning starting rotation.  Could he corral Big Z's emotions?  Find some consistency in Dempster?  Push Harden past the seventh?

Who knows.  He sure as hell won't help Alfonso Soriano catch a fly ball.  Nor will he help Kosuke Fukudome from swinging at a ball in the dirt.  And despite the magic he worked in St. Louis, he doesn't have anything in his magical cabinet that will help Aaron Miles, Ryan Theriot or Mike Fontenot grow up into big boys.

What I do know is that Duncan would have to be a fool to leave a first-place team for a struggling division rival, no matter how mad he is at the Cardinals for demoting, then trading his son.

And if Cubs fans are wearing thin on the primadonna acts of Zambrano and Milton Bradley, how will Cubs fans embrace a guy who threw a hissy fit because Ozzie Guillen sent a purpose pitch toward Lil' Chris Duncan.

Be careful what you wish for, Cubs fans.