The Cubs franchise lost another face on Thursday. The team has lost a lot of heart (and stomach) wrenching games this season, but none have been as regrettable to me as the loss of this lone man, Derrek Lee. (He joins Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and Andrew Ladd as Chicago athletes cast off to Atlanta this year.)
I feel like I ought to be writing psalms and sonnets in commemoration of D-Lee’s seven years in Chicago. His glove alone is worth an ode or two. I’ll never forget the Oakland A’s broadcasters sighing and admiring our 1st baseman during spring training in 2008. They compared him to a ballerina. I imagine that Cubs fans will be holding (unfairly) all succeeding first baseman to the Derrek Lee standard.
His bat was nothing to sniff at, either. The same broadcasting duo mentioned above fawned over D-Lee just as much when he was at the plate. The comment I particularly remember was, “He makes striking out look good.” Can’t argue with that.
What makes this man really valuable, of course, is his quiet leadership and honorable conduct on and off the playing field. Hitting home runs and winning gold gloves will win you plenty of fans, but it takes something more than that to hold on to them.
These few paragraphs hardly seem a worthy sendoff for a man who was as important to my team for as great a period of time as Derrek Lee was. Simply know that I offer this puny farewell with all the respect and admiration that my heart can muster. Were I in attendance at today’s Cubs-Braves match-up, I’d be the first fan on my feet to offer Mr. Lee the ovation that he deserves.