Take my Ace… please!

The idea of Ben Sheets on the Chicago Cubs is almost as hilarious as a good Henny Youngman one-liner.

Look, I love Ben Sheets. I love having Ben Sheets on my team. I love introducing him by his full name: “Olympic Gold Medalist Ben Sheets.” But he’s never going to pitch for the Brewers again, and of course, if he’s pitching for the Cubs in 2010, we won’t wish him well.

Sheets is trying to get number-one Ace money (something like two years guaranteed for $10-$12 million per year) after sitting out for a year with an injury. The pitcher-poor market just might grant him that money. Six to ten teams appear interested in watching his Tuesday throwing session, and there’s no indication that includes the Brewers. Conventional wisdom holds only from one of the four teams that throws money around — the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Mets — could land Sheets. There are probably hard feelings after he turned down the Brewers offer of arbitration, and the questions of whether the Brewers would pay for his elbow surgery just so he could possibly finish the 2009 season with the Texas Rangers.

Sheets hasn’t pitched in a year, but the hot rumor this week is the Cubs want him.

On the four-letter leader, The Krukster summed the situation up pretty well. The Cubs, along with many other teams, would be excited to land Sheets on a one-year deal. The 2008 version of Ben Sheets was an unstoppable All-Star, and he pitched 31 starts with a second-best five complete games.

But then, there was that fateful Saturday afternoon. The Brewers needed a win and a Mets loss to clinch their first playoff berth in 26 years. Ben Sheets came out after two-and-a-third, later saying, “I got a broke arm, I got a broke arm.” And here’s what I wrote:

With the Brewers losing 0-4, were treated to three innings of no-hit ball by Dave Bush. This was day, Sept. 27, 2008, when we wished Dave Bush had started instead of Ben Sheets.

I’m not saying Sheets isn’t a gamer. He is, and Milwaukee fans love him for that. What I am saying is that in the 2008 playoffs, when he represented half of the most terrifying pitching duo in baseball, through no fault of his own (except maybe his hard-on for complete games), he wasn’t there. They had to go with C.C. on three days rest, and Suppan because we paid him, and not Gallardo and Parra, because they were hot but unproven, and C.C. again on three days rest.

A Cubs rotation of Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ben Sheets, Ryan Dempster and Randy Wells would be formidable, possibly the best in baseball. But Lilly is coming back from an injury and could miss April, Wells could suffer a “sophomore slump,” Dempster could play himself out of starting roll, and Zambrano has been hurt (and is a mad man).

The Cubs could join the Cardinals on the shortlist of playoff hopefuls by signing Sheets. One team could easily grab the division, and the other the Wild Card, leaving the Brewers out of luck. But if the Cubs do make it to the playoffs, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which Lilly is eminently hittable, Dempster is shaky after temporarily losing his spot to Samardzija or Silva late in the season, Zambrano is pressing after coming back from a minor injury, Wells is pitching as well as he can for a second-year student and Sheets is hurt — again.

This may be a Brewers fan sticking voodoo pins in a Cubs doll, but it’s not hard to imagine the Cubs signing Sheets, having the best pitching staff by far at the All-Star break, and going on to get swept in the playoffs — again.


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