In Reed We Succeed


While most of the attention this winter was on the Cubs acquisitions of Matt Garza, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Pena, there is one addition that may be flying under the radar. That addition would be Reed Johnson returning to the Chicago Cubs. While Johnson only signed a minor league deal and will compete with Fernando Perez for a spot on the team, Johnson’s clubhouse presence may have a greater affect on the team than any other addition will this season.

The Chicago Sun Times labeled Johnson as the “feel good outfielder” for the Chicago Cubs. In the report, Marlon Byrd mirrors what the rest of the Cubs players feel about their new teammate Reed Johnson.

"Cubs center fielder Marlon Byrd was talking one day early in camp about the team’s improved outlook and some of the key players added when he mentioned the guy sitting across from him in the clubhouse.‘‘And when Reed Johnson makes the team .  .  . ,’’ Byrd said, then repeated, raising his voice to be heard by anyone in the room, ‘‘ When Reed Johnson makes this team .  .  .’’ Chicago Sun Times"

In a lot of ways that is why Reed Johnson is important to any team he is on, in particular his current team in the Cubs. The Cubs’ clubhouse issues have been widely noted in the past two seasons, featuring blow ups from Carlos Zambrano, Milton Bradley,  as well as chemistry issues with former manager Lou Piniella. Needless to say, adding a quality teammate and leader in Johnson will definitely put the Cubs clubhouse in sync. While manager Mike Quade has not named captains, it is fair to say that Marlon Byrd is a respected voice within the clubhouse. Meaning, I’m sure Quade will take into consideration Byrd’s endorsement of Johnson.

But Quade is no stranger to Johnson’s work ethic, as he remembers how valuable Johnson was to the Cubs when he first signed with Chicago.

"‘‘First and foremost, I know what he can do on the field,’’ said Quade, who was the outfield coach when Johnson gained local folk-hero status with plays such as the bill-busting dive across the warning track for a catch in Washington in his first month with the Cubs in 2008.‘‘And I also know what he can bring in there with his familiarity and the fact that he played here, in this division, in this ballpark, in this city. There’s a lot of real good stuff that comes with Reed. That’s why he’s here.’’ Chicago Sun Times"

The reason why Johnson is admired by his teammates is because of his defense. To simply put it, there is not one play where Johnson will give up on. Whether it is diving into the grass, or jumping into outfield walls Johnson does not hold anything back when playing defense.  However that does have a down side, as that type of mentality has made Johnson acceptable to increased amounts of injuries. But, if Johnson can prove that he is still healthy, then he may be the odds on favorite over Perez to make the 25 man roster.

That is not to take away anything from Fernando Perez. If you remember, the Cubs acquired Perez in addition to Matt Garza in their trade with the Tampa Bay Rays. Perez may hold an advantage over Johnson, considering many consider Perez to be one of the fastest players in baseball. Not to mention, that Perez is well liked within the Cubs front office. As Luke pointed out this past week, if Perez proves to us in Spring Training that he can hit at a major league level, there is a good chance he may bypass Johnson and make the team.

In the end, I expect Johnson to start the season with the Cubs, and Perez to start the season in Iowa. Not because of talent purposes, but because of what Johnson means to his teammates in the clubhouse.