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Locking Up Lee
Dennis Hobein. 11th April, 2006 - 10:22 pm

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On Tuesday morning, the Cubs announced that Derrek Lee has agreed to a 5 year, $65M contract. In other words, he won?t be clipping coupons any time soon. He is worth every penny of that $13M per year contract. While the Cubs ?aces? are once again rehabbing, and the everyday lineup endured a facelift this off-season, Derrek Lee will be asked to carry the brunt of the power. Ask yourself this, ?Where would the Cubs be without Lee?s production?? Looking up at the Pirates and the Reds in the standings is one possibility that comes to mind.

Another question you may ask yourself: ?If you were to take Albert Pujols out of the Cardinals lineup, and take Derrek Lee out of the Cubs lineup, which team would suffer more?? I believe the obvious answer is the Cubs would suffer more. Derrek Lee means more to the Cubs success than Albert Pujols means to the Cardinals success. I?m not saying that Derrek Lee should have won the M.V.P over Pujols last year; however, this factor should have been given more weight in the voting.

Singing Derrek Lee for 5 more years may just be GM Jim Hendry?s best move yet. Maybe he left Cubs fans squirming in their seats a bit too long, but better late than never. After two years of utter disappointment, Cubs fans would not have forgiven Hendry if Lee found a better deal somewhere else. Many Cubs fans are still bitter about Greg Maddux signing with the Braves in 1993 and winning two more Cy Young awards, after management decided he wasn?t worth big bucks. With Sammy Sosa?s contract off the books, and the new revenue streaming in from the expanded bleachers, the Cubs had money to spend. I believe Derrek Lee was the best investment they could have picked. In fact, I believe Derrek Lee could have played his cards into an even more lucrative deal. If Lee would have waited until the end of the season, the pressure would have landed squarely on Jim Hendry?s desk. However, luckily for the Cubs, Derrek Lee is not A-Rod. "If it's a deal I feel is fair for me, I would sign it. It's still a business. I always look at it as if there is a deal that makes me happy now, why not sign it? I don't think $2-3 million a year more is going to change my life," he said.

Lee is off to another fast start this season. Through 5 games, he is hitting .375 with 3 HR?s and 6 RBI?s. If he isn?t already, he should be considered one of the elite players in the game. His all-around game of hitting for power and average, becoming a base stealing threat, and his gold glove defense puts him in the same class as A-Rod and Albert Pujols. Not only does he have tremendous ability, but he is also a solid leader for the Cubs. Lee plays hard everyday and shows passion and excitement for the game. After watching the Cubs sweep the Cardinals on Sunday night, one thing clearly stuck out in my mind. When Michael Barrett crushed his game winning grand slam, the Cubs dugout erupted. Last year, you may have seen some ?fist bumps? in the dugout. This excitement starts at the top, with leaders such as Derrek Lee.

While the Cubs are off to a good start, much of the pressure still lands on Lee?s shoulders to carry the Cubs while Wood and Prior continue their rehab. Lee can now fully concentrate on just baseball, not business, which should translate into big numbers for Lee and more wins for the Cubs. Jim Hendry endured much criticism this off-season for not making enough moves, but he should be congratulated for making his best signing yet. One that he had no choice but to make.