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Columnist
DeRosa one valuable asset
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/2/2009 12:00 AM

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The Cubs' loss is, well, the White Sox' loss.

And the Indians' gain.

A trade this week sent Mark DeRosa to Cleveland to compete against the Sox in the American League Central.

The Cubs then turned to the next best option, signing free agent Aaron Miles. He's no Ze-ro but will have to go some to replace De-Ro.

After the impact DeRosa made on the Cubs, we would be remiss in failing to salute him on his way out of town.

DeRosa isn't Ryne Sandberg, Ernie Banks, Billy Williams or any other Hall of Famer who played for the Cubs. He wasn't even Kerry Wood, who also went to Cleveland recently after 11 years here.

But DeRosa was one valuable asset as the Cubs qualified for the postseason in both his seasons here. Some even considered him the club's most valuable asset.

You might think I'm saying that because DeRosa was so good with the media, but his game was even better.

Last year general manager Jim Hendry said, "(Assistant GM) Randy Bush pounded on my desk during the '06 off-season and told me, 'We gotta have DeRosa.'"

So Hendry signed DeRosa to play second base. He wound up playing there and everywhere else but linebacker.

"When we went to watch him play," Bush recalled of scouting DeRosa, "he always did something to help his team win."

That didn't change here. My favorite memory of DeRosa occurred in the Cubs' clubhouse one Sunday morning, right next to where that day's lineup was posted.

Players casually walked past, perhaps glancing at the lineup card but pretty much already knowing where they stood on it.

But how could DeRosa be sure of anything?

"I've gotten a feel for how (manager Lou Piniella) plays matchups," DeRosa said later. "Positions I'd play and also where I'd hit in the order."

DeRosa was like most players. He would like to settle into one spot. Unlike most players, he unselfishly accepted the role of everyday utility player.

That's exactly why Bush recommended DeRosa so highly. He knew exactly what the Cubs would be getting.

"Good scouting," Hendry said of Bush's evaluation.

DeRosa became a leader who sacrificed his own game for the good of the whole.

The Cubs made several significant changes during that winter of '06. Piniella was hired as manager. Free agents Alfonso Soriano and Ted Lilly were signed.

DeRosa was in that free-agent class but almost an afterthought for fans. Not for the front office, however.

"We felt he would be a good fit for us," Bush recalled last October. "What we were focusing on was to change the culture. He (was into) the team first and his statistics second."

Having that mindset is one thing. It's something else to still compile these 2008 stats: .285 batting average, 21 home runs and 87 RBI.

Hendry didn't want to lose DeRosa's versatility and productivity but had to subtract salary to fill other needs.

But can Miles or anybody else contribute what DeRosa did? Will the Cubs' culture regress without him? Did somebody pound on a desk in Cleveland and say, "We gotta have DeRosa"?

If the Indians finish ahead of the White Sox in 2008, this trade likely will be one of the primary reasons.

If the Cubs don't make the playoffs, the same might be said.

mimrem@dailyherald.com