Thursday, May 06, 2004  
Choi for Lee; or, the Eternal Struggle Between Heart and Mind

At the beginning of the 2003 season I was faced with a dilemma. The title of Favorite Current Cub was a position left unfilled since the Cubs decided not to re-sign Mark Grace, and it was time to pick a new one. There were several criteria in my exhaustive search: I wanted my new favorite Cub o be around for a while, I wanted him to have plate discipline, and I wanted him to have some interesting attributes which would allow me to latch on to him above the other players. The result of my exhaustive search was Mr. Hee Sop Choi.
After watching him get jerked in and out of the lineup, get a concussion and sit on the DL, slump, and hearing loud criticism about how he "flopped," he was still my favorite player. Through all that he ended up being as effective as a hitter as "Beef" Simon and Karros, and he had significant upside (which the other two did not have). Plus there was tremendous power in the way the crowd would chant his name when he came up to bat. "Hee! Sop! Choi!" It was awesome. By the end of the year I was quite comfortable in my decision, and was hoping that Dusty would come around to my way of thinking. I was so confident, in fact, that I believed Choi would rise above Favorite Current Cub status-granted to the guy I liked best on the roster at the time-all the way to Favorite Player, a position not held by any major leaguer since the only player ever to hold Favorite All-Time Player, Ryne Sandberg.
(By the way, in other sports not so firmly tied to my concept of rightness in the universe, I tend toward scrubs and goofballs. My favorite basketball player of all time is Granville Waiters. Favorite football player? Tom Waddle. Favorite Hockey player? Toe Blake, just because of the name.)
Then, during the off-season, Jim Hendry traded for Derrek Lee. At first I was bummed out; after all, my new favorite was now a member of the team that stopped the Cubs from going to the World Series and our new first baseman was an enemy in our camp . Then I started looking at the numbers and realized that, apart from making the lineup very righty-heavy, this was a very good trade that would probably help both teams. The Cubs got a player in his prime who could get on base, hit for power, and play good defense. They gave up a potential star to get a current star. Logically, the trade made sense.
Still, I yearned. Anyone who can follow a team that hasn't won a world series in three generations isn't exactly a Vulcan.
So I grudgingly accepted my star-crossed fate, but couldn't really welcome Lee into the pantheon of Good Cubs until Dusty gave him the nickname "Rodan." I can root for a guy named Rodan! Helping Lee's cause was his 5 RBI day today, bringing me back to Sandberg's early May grooves following his perennially bad Aprils.
The feeling that I missed out on something special when Choi was traded will never go away, and I'll always root for him wherever he goes. But logic would never have been enough for me to embrace Derrek Lee. If not for Baker's off-hand reference to a Godzilla villian, each mention of Lee's name would bring the same disinterested shrug as the words, "Fred McGriff."

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