Just when you didn’t think things could get much worse for the Chicago Cubs, surprise, they have jut gotten worse. I guess this was to be expected when you are a fan of the Cubs, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The offensive slumber continued on for a third straight game, while the starting pitcher once again threw the ball well enough to pick up the win. For that matter, the bullpen has pitched great this series as well. Unfortunately, all their hard work was for nothing. While this is nothing new, there are new concerns coming to light that Cub fans should be aware of, as they will follow our team around for the rest of the season. With his recent actions and comments, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella has apparently lost his mind, or is very close to having a massive meltdown. To top everything off, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry may not be able to do a thing to help out our ball club with a trade.
Last night, Sean Marshall continued the trend by pitching well enough to keep the Cubs in the game. However, the offense also continued their trend by not scoring enough runs to win the game. For the second time in this series, the Cubs scored only a single run in the game. In case you are keeping score, that is a grand total of two runs in the three game set. I don’t care who you are, you are not going to have much success if you can only tally two runs in three games. Don’t play the blame game on the pitchers either, they limited the St. Louis Cardinals to eight runs in the three game set, but that was obviously not enough. I was joking when I said the pitchers may just have to throw a shutout every game to have a chance of winning, but that is looking to be the case more and more with every passing game. With our offense in a slumber this deep, the great pitching they have been getting wont matter one bit. While we are still only in the month of May, and only four games out of first, time is slowly starting to pass the team by.
With our offense struggling to score runs, Piniella and his coaching staff are trying to find ways to add more offense to the lineup. Due to Mike Fontenot’s failure to live up to expectations, Piniella threw an idea out, which he deems as the last resort. His idea? Move Alfonso Soriano back to second base and insert Micah Hoffpauir into the vacated spot in left field. Personally, I feel that this would be the biggest mistake our manager could make, and would likely do more harm then good. For one, I don’t think anyone remembers just how bad Soriano was at second base. He has averaged 21 errors a season while playing in the infield. To top that off, Hoffpauir isn’t exactly a great fielder either. So while we may improve our offense, I don’t believe that they will be able to out hit their errors. Leave them where they are, adding offense by taking away from our defense will not solve any of our problems.
Some people may be speculating that this is all just talk coming from Piniella as a way to tell Hendry the Cubs need help fast. However, that help may never come as Hendry’s hands may very well be tied. With word coming out that the ownership situation with the Cubs may not be settled until at least August, I don’t know how much Hendry can do to improve this team. Without a true owner anymore, and the team in the final stages of being sold, the Cubs funds are all but limited. That is one reason why the Cubs were unable to finalize a trade for Jake Peavy over the winter, they could not guarantee the $22 million dollar option at the end of the contract. That’s the same reason why the Chicago White Sox were unable to get Peavy’s nod of approval. Without any money to spend, the Cubs appear to be stuck with the team they currently have, only adding to the team through promotions from the minors. So anyone who was hoping to land Peavy or a bat to help the offense at the deadline, you can likely count that out. The trade deadline will likely pass before the Cubs officially change hands, and any major player will not clear waivers so we can make a deal.
From the looks of things, this is going to be a very long season. The Cubs best hitter Aramis Ramirez is still over a month away from returning to the team, and there is no telling just how much of an impact he will make when he does get back. While Derrek Lee is starting to look like he is getting back into form, Geovany Soto continues to struggle, Fontenot has fallen below the Mendoza Line and Milton Bradley still cant buy a hit. In his defense, though, he has been driving the ball hard lately. The problem is, he is hitting the ball at people. The hits will start to fall, and while he may not end the season around the .300 mark as we would have hoped, he should start to be a contributor on a regular basis. Don’t even get me started on Aaron Miles, he has been nothing short of a disaster thus far in the season. After our 1-2-3 hitters, everything else seems to be up in the air, and with that being the case the Cubs are headed nowhere fast. Thankfully, Carlos Zambrano is returning tonight. Not only do the Cubs get back a great pitcher, but they get back a much needed bat. Even if he will not be running as hard as he could, his bat could give our boys at least a little bit of a much needed spark.
How quickly things change in the world of the Chicago Cubs. Only a few days ago, I wrote about how the Cubs offense had finally decide to wake up. Well, if these last two days are any indication, I could not have been more wrong. The offense is just as bad as ever, and this series with the St. Louis Cardinals is exposing our “high powered offense”. Our starting pitchers have been doing great, and keeping our boys in blue I the game. As good as they are doing, however, they are not doing enough. Right now, they must be thinking the only way to win is to throw a shutout every night. We all know that will not happen, so the offense needs to pick things up immediately. Speaking of starting pitching, Jake Peavy was almost traded to Chicago once again.
As much as I hate to admit this, the Cardinals have gotten the upper hand on us. Their starting pitchers, Joel Pineiro and the returning Chris Carpenter limited the Cubs to a single run in two games. The first game might have been the most pitiful display of offense I have seen in a long time. Pineiro threw just 92 pitches in a complete game shutout. The Cubs showed a complete lack of patience swinging early and often. In the middle innings, Pineiro recorded five outs with just seven pitches. I can understand a pitcher being on his game, but five outs on seven pitches is inexcusable. To top things off, the Cubs only recorded three hits. The pitching for the Cubs was not the problem, as Ted Lilly only allowed the Cardinals to score three runs in his seven innings of work. He was shaky for parts of the game, but did enough to keep his team in contention. Kevin Gregg pitched a scoreless eighth inning, rebounding from the awful game against the Houston Astros where he allowed four runs without recording an out.
Sadly, the second game of this series did not go much better for the Cubs as Carpenter made his first start in over a month shut our offense down for the second straight game. While Carpenter only went five innings in his return, he only gave up three hits without allowing a run to score. When he left, the Cardinals bullpen picked up right where he left off, pitching four innings of three hit ball, with the only run coming off their closer Ryan Franklin. Much like with Lilly, Ryan Dempster pitched well enough to keep the Cubs in the game, allowing only two runs to score in his seven innings of work. The bottom of the eighth inning was handled by Carlos Marmol, who kept the Cubs in the game. However, once again, the Cubs offense was held in check when they were only able to score a single run.
Tonight, things will not be any easier as Adam Wainwright takes the mound for the Cardinals; while the Cubs will counter with Sean Marshall. The pitching match up alone seems a bit lopsided, but you never know, Marshall just may pitch a gem. The problem is, even if he does pitch well enough to keep the Cubs in the game, the offense needs to show up. Otherwise, no matter how Marshall does tonight, the Cubs will likely face being swept for the first time this season. I can not predict what is going to happen, but the odds are against us tonight. Lets hope that I am wrong again.
Well, the hunt for Peavy continues as teams are starting to make proposals to the San Diego Padres. Today, the Chicago White Sox took a stab at acquiring him by offering up for players, which included Clayton Richard and Aaron Poreda and two others. From what the Chicago Sun Times is reporting, Peavy may have vetoes the trade due to the White Sox refusal to pick up the $22 million option that he has waiting for him in 2013. Not that I can really blame him for refusing the trade, $22 million is a lot of money to give up, but why stay in a place that doesn’t want you around anymore. I know he wants to stay in the National League, preferably in the Midwest according to sources, but he may not get what he wants. With the news breaking this morning about the possible trade, we also learned that his top two teams are the Cubs followed by the Milwaukee Brewers. Both teams are in the National League, both are in the Midwest, and both present an opportunity to win. If the Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry was smart, he would try talking to the Padres and try to work out a deal again. Now that he knows what other teams are offering, he likely will have a better gauge on what he would have to send their way. The only road block would be that $22 million option, which would be hard for the Cubs to approve, with their ownership situation still in limbo. I will not get into that now, nor will I since I do not know all the details.
Making a deal for Peavy would solve many problems at the same time. With Carlos Zambrano coming back on Friday against the Padres, either Marshall or Randy Wells will head to the bullpen kicking Neal Cotts or David Patton out. That improves the bullpen, but so would adding another start quality pitcher. If Peavy comes to the Cubs (or another top of the rotation pitcher), then who ever stayed in the rotation with Zambrano’s return would also go into the bullpen. By adding to the starting rotation, the Cubs also improve their bullpen, killing two birds with one stone. On top of that, they would be keeping him away from the Brewers, which would be a great help to us as well.
While the Cubs working a trade at this moment in time is pointless, I can dream cant I? However pitching is the least of our concerns, we need help on the offensive side of the ball. Maybe trading for an upgrade at second base or a reliable replacement for Aramis Ramirez at third. Hank Blalock would look very nice right now in a Cubs uniform, but they would have to offer up a lot to get him here. Forget about who gets benched upon Ramirez’s return, lets cross that bridge when we get there. Another name to consider would be Chone Figgins, who is a free agent at seasons end. He would be unlikely though as the Anaheim Angels are unlikely to fall out of contention. As far as second base goes, while Mike Fontenot has been struggling most of the season after a fast start, you may not want to pull the plug on him so quickly. However, if we look close enough, we may be able to find someone who can come in and play a better game. While many fans are calling for a return of Mark DeRosa, the Cubs trying to make a trade to bring him back seems unlikely. Though he would be a nice fit, filling in at third then returning to second base with Ramirez’s return. Unlikely I know, but they may have to do something, and fast if Fontenot does not pick things up fast.
That about covers things, the Cubs need to quickly wake up and start scoring some runs, because they got some great pitching which has gone to waste. Tonight has got to be better, because short of being no hit, things cant get much worse in this series.