This is probably the hardest thing that I have had to write so far this season, but the time has come to do so. While I am a very optimistic fan of the Chicago Cubs, and always believe that they still have a shot, I am having a harder time believing that with every game that passes. The expectations all throughout Spring Training said, that this was the team to beat in the National League. However, as more and more games pass, those expectations are looking to be well over what the team really and truly is turning out to be. Time to start facing what could very well be fact, the Cubs just are not that good.
You can point to any number of reasons why the ball club has failed miserably up to this point, but none of them are all too realistic. I know people are going to point fingers at Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry who traded a good club house guys in Mark DeRosa and non-tendered long time Cub, and another good clubhouse guy Kerry Wood. But come on, DeRosa being in the lineup would not help Alfonso Soriano who is hitting in the low .200s, or Kosuke Fukudome who is continuing his annual slide into baseball obscurity. DeRosa being on the team would not be the difference maker in Geovany Soto who, while he is starting to hit again, has seemingly forgotten what he did to make him the rookie of the year last season. While DeRosa as a good club house guy, he would not be the difference maker that everyone thinks he is. Sure, he would have been nice playing third base with Aramis Ramirez out of action (and I will get to this in a bit), but he would not make that big of a difference.
As far as Wood goes, if he was in the bullpen for the Cubs this year, his presence would not be a magical solution to Carlos Marmol who cant seem to find the plate anymore on a consistent game to game basis. He would not have helped out Neal Cotts when he was here, nor would he have a positive effect on Aaron Heilman or David Patton. His presence on the ball club wouldn’t keep Rich Harden healthy, or Carlos Zambrano sane. Whether he was in the bull pen or not, would not be the difference in this team having a good bullpen, or a bad bullpen. He is only one man, and can not change how good others are.
Another mistake Hendry made, was not having a legitimate backup for Ramirez, who has now missed close to two months. I wont lie, I was worried about him not signing someone that could play third base. Ramirez has missed time every year, so having a backup should have been a priority for the club, yet nothing as done to protect the ball club for just this instance. But at the same time, you can not point to his absence as being the sole reason the club is dying a slow death. As good of a hitter Ramirez is (and he is the Cubs best hitter), one player should not make this much of a difference. Look at what is going on with the Los Angeles Dodgers, they lost Manny Ramirez for 50 games, and they have not skipped a beat. He is their best hitter, yet they are still going strong and are looking like the best team in all of baseball. The Cubs losing Ramirez was a big blow, don’t get me wrong, but the Cubs have players who are too good to allow this team to look so bad.
Speaking of Ramirez, I don’t think that he should be brought back this season. Not with the way the team is playing now. I think this way for a few reasons, and here they are, all lined up for you. No one knows what condition he will be in when he returns. No one knows how close he will be to full power, and if he will be able to give us anything close to what he normally could. If the Cubs are playing this poorly when he gets back, even if he is at full strength, he may not give the Cubs enough of a boost to make any noise in the second half. Finally, he is likely going to need shoulder surgery in the off season to help correct the damage which has been done to his shoulder. I say, sit him out and allow him to get that surgery now. Give him as much healing time as possible so he can return next year as close to 100% as he can get. This year is just about a lost cause anyway, start looking forward to the 2010 season.
I don’t want to hear that the Cubs are only 3.5 games out of first, they are nothing more then a .500 ball club. I know that in 2006 the St. Louis Cardinals were a .500 team and that they went on to win the World Series. But they are the exception, not the rule. This team does not look like they have anything going for them right now. They win four straight games, then they go out and lose four straight by doing the same exact thing they have done all season; fail to hit with runners in scoring position. The Cubs lead the league in runners stranded in scoring position, and that’s not a stat you want to brag about.
The time has come to say goodbye to this season, time to play Steve Goodman’s classic song “A Dying Cub fan’s last request”. Who knows, maybe the Cubs sweep the Chicago White Sox this weekend, and go on a lengthy winning streak. However, with the way this team has inconsistently played, I don’t see anything in the cards that tells me they will.
I wont go anywhere, I will still follow the Cubs and root them on. I will still post my thoughts on a regular basis, and I would love to be proven wrong in the end.