Bad day for Dopirak
Cubs first base prospect Brian Dopirak managed to get screwed twice in Chicago on Tuesday, literally and figuratively.
The first screw went into his foot. Dopirak broke it on Opening Day with Double-A West Tennessee in a season many felt was pivotal for him. Back in 2004, the slugging first baseman had a monster year, hitting 39 homers, driving in 120 runs and hitting .307 en route to the Midwest League MVP award. Last year, though, was an unmitigated disaster. Dopirak hit just .235 with 16 homers and 76 RBIs. How he bounced back from that, many thought, would go a long way in showing what kind of future Dopirak has. Now we’ll have to wait to try to answer that question. With the screw inserted in his foot, the 22-year-old faces 4-6 weeks of recovery time, assuming everything goes well. He’s been a slow starter in the past (in 2004, he obviously bounced back; in 2005, not so much). Now, if he struggles early, it’ll be late May and he won’t have that much time to right himself. Hopefully, he won’t press like he did a year ago.
Not that it matters now, as far as his Cubs future is concerned. That’s where the second "screw" comes into play, courtesy of the Cubs organization. You have to wonder if Dopirak was in the middle of his medical procedure when Chicago announced they had signed Derrek Lee to an extension through 2010. The deal has a no-trade clause in it and Lee will be 35 by the time the last year of the contract comes up. Listen, I can’t say I blame the Cubs, not after the year Lee had last year and the start he’s off to now. D-Lee is a tremendous player, an upstanding citizen and a bona fide leader. But this isn’t about him.
This is about Dopirak and the fact he clearly doesn’t figure into the Cubs’ plans anymore. And it’s not because of this injury. The Cubs have claimed in the past that they are still high on Dopirak, that they were actually pleased with how he dealt mentally with the adversity he faced on the field last year. Some think he’s got the most power potential in the organization. But it’s obvious now that he won’t get a chance to show it in Wrigley Field unless he’s visiting with another team.
I don’t know if Brian Dopirak is the guy from 2004 or the guy from 2005 or a guy who falls somewhere in the middle. But now Dopirak needs to change his focus a little when he gets back from injury. Instead of trying to impress the Cubs brass for a possible job in 2008, he’s going to have the eyes of 29 other organizations on him. I can’t imagine the Cubs not dealing him, especially if he comes back and resembles the 2004 version. This won’t be a Ryan Howard situation, mostly because I don’t think Derrek Lee requires Jim Thome-like insurance. So here’s hoping Dopirak comes back from the DL on fire, the Cubs get a nice deal for him and Dopirak has a clear path to someone’s big league lineup in ’08. — Jonathan