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Columnist
These kind of misses so very costly
By Mike Imrem | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 1/19/2009 12:16 AM

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At some point Cubs management has to be embarrassed by this.

It has been kind of a joke that their hyped prospects too often turn into suspects and then rejects.

But this is serious business. It's just another reason the Cubs haven't won a World Series since 1908 or even been in one since 1945.

The likes of Gary Scott and Kevin Orie were a laughing matter when they fizzled.

But now the likes of Felix Pie and Corey Patterson are more a crying shame.

Pie - once the alleged next Willie, Mickey and the Duke all in one - was traded to Baltimore on Sunday.

That would be OK if the return was someone like Brian Roberts, the dynamite leadoff man/second baseman/energizer bunny the Cubs need.

Instead, all Pie could bring in return were a left-handed pitcher who had a 6.65 ERA last season and a right-hander who was in the low minor leagues.

The built-in excuses for any major-league organization are that projecting players from boys to men isn't an exact science and that every team misses once in awhile.

Every team also inexplicably hits once in awhile, or twice the way the Cubs have with less-ballyhooed Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot.

Still, missing twice in a decade on the most prominent of prospects doesn't say much for the Cubs, or perhaps it says too much.

This is very different from Mark Prior bombing out before our very eyes after a couple of decent flashes of big-league pitching brilliance.

Ailments - some to his body, some to his head - kept Prior from being all he could be. Meanwhile, it turned out that the only thing wrong with Pie and Patterson was their ability to hit major-league pitching.

No, evaluating youngsters isn't an exact science. But, man, how can a team be so back-to-back wrong about players like Pie and Patterson?

The answer is either the Cubs misjudged them from the beginning or didn't develop them from there.

Now both Pie and Patterson are flushed from the organization, leaving behind an ongoing vacuum in center field.

Unless something serendipitous happens between now and Opening Day, the Cubs will shuffle Reed Johnson, Kosuke Fukudome, Joey Gathright and who knows who else in and out of there.

Listen, every team goes into a season with a position that will require some juggling.

But there's another, bigger problem here, especially in these tough economic times.

Pie would be relatively inexpensive if he made it in Chicago at 25 years of age and still with limited service time.

Then again, if both Pie and Patterson became what we were told they would be, each would be worth whatever salary they demanded.

Instead, with those two guys failing to live up to their perceived potential, the Cubs needed other outfield options.

Those became Alfonso Soriano at $136 million over eight years and Milton Bradley at $30 million over three years.

That's a lot of loot for any franchise, but especially one up for sale and whose parent company is in bankruptcy.

If Pie and Patterson were players, the Cubs could spend most of the Soriano and Bradley money on, say, Roberts and Jake Peavy.

High-profile mistakes tend to haunt teams. Pie and Patterson are haunting the Cubs.

Embarrassingly, we might add.

mimrem@dailyherald.com