The first two weeks after the World Series ends, are considered to be the most exciting period of the off season. With everything that goes on during this time period, you can understand why some people feel this way. Starting the day after the World Series ends, all players who are eligible to do so, can file for free agency, and their club has an exclusive 15 day period to resign them. During this time frame, the teams will hold their own private meetings, just to lay out a blue print for what they believe needs to be done for the up coming season. Also during this time, the General Manager meetings are usually held, which have officially started today, November 9. Here, the GMs will normally sit down with one another, and start discussing various trade ideas and scenarios just to get the idea out there to see if there is any real interest. This is when you will be overloaded with some crazy trade rumors floating around, but that is part of what makes the off season so much fun.
With the Organizational Meetings having already taken place, and the GM meetings just getting underway, there isn’t a whole lot to look at for the moment. Instead, lets focus on the five players who the Cubs have to make a decision on for the upcoming season. Both Reed Johnson and Rich Harden have already filed for free agency, which was expected and is a common practice, even if you want to stay with your current club. The Chicago Cubs have already begun contract talks with John Grabow, as he is also one of their free agents. Finally we have Chad Fox and Kevin Gregg who are also on the list of Cubs free agents. But who should the Cubs bring back for the 2010 campaign, and who shouldn’t they give a second thought to?
The first player on the list, is Grabow. Why is he first you ask? He is first because the Cubs have made themselves known to want him back. The Cubs are already deep into contract talks with him, and should be relatively close to announcing his signing. Since coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates, Grabow put up an impressive 3.24 earned run average in 25 innings pitched. I believe that putting him in the back end of the bullpen to be your situational lefty reliever would benefit the team more then some would realize. Add him to the mix for Carlos Marmol at closer and Angel Guzman in a setup role, and you have the making of what could be an impressive tail end to the bullpen.
Sadly, Grabow may very well be the only one of the five free agents to return to the Cubs for the 2010 season. With the payroll only getting a slight increase from the 2009 campaign, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry has to pick his spots very carefully and go over every option with a fine tooth comb. Would he like to bring back other players besides, Grabow? I am sure he would, but sometimes tough decisions have got to be made. Much like when he made the decision to let Kerry Wood leave in free agency, Hendry may be saying goodbye to another player who has gained popularity rather quickly with the Cub fans.
In his two years with the club, Johnson has made some extraordinary catches which will be on highlight reels for the Cubs for years. Who can forget his superman dive in Washington, or his stealing of a Grand Slam away from Prince Fielder? Unfortunately, Johnson may be forced to find a new home, despite how well liked he is in the clubhouse, because he may be asking for more money than the Cubs can afford. Last year, Johnson made $3 million and only played in 65 games due to a few injuries. His return to the ballclub may depend on how much he really wants to play for the Cubs, and if he is willing to take a fairly significant pay cut. As much as I would love to see Johnson come back, as would Ted Lilly who was sporting the ‘With Reed We Will Succeed’ shirt at the end of the season, I am afraid that this is just one more wish and hope that will be left unfulfilled.
Another player who is apparently heading out of town is Harden. Unlike with Johnson, who a majority of fans want back, the field is split on whether or not the Cubs should ask Harden back next year. Much like with Johnson, his return may very well depend on how much he wants to stay. With rumors floating around about Harden potentially in line for a multi-year contract worth around $10 million a year, that is a price that will be too high for a player who has suffered through as many injuries as he has had. His one and a half years in Chicago have been relatively injury free, starting 38 games and pitching over 200 innings. However, the rumored asking price, and length of contract would be far too rich for the Cubs to even consider. There are a number of young arms in the Cubs system that could slide in and take his spot in the rotation, saving the ball club millions of dollars.
As far as Gregg goes, there will not be a tear shed by Cub fans when he is given his walking papers. He quickly lost favor with Cub fans, pitching poorly and giving out games almost immediately. While he was able to put together good stretches in various points in the season, he quickly lost all of his bonus points by blowing what should have been an easy couple of saves in a row. Trading young prospect Jose Ceda for Gregg might have been one of the worst moves Hendry could have made in the off season. While he is considered to be one of the better players hitting free agency, the Cubs will not even consider giving him a contract extension. In fact, they will likely even pass on offering him Arbitration and give up the likelihood of getting draft pick from in just in case he accepts. If he accepts, the Cubs can non-tender him and nothing is lost. But why waste the time going through the entire Arbitration process? The Cubs will not give him a second look.
That brings us to the final member of the Cubs free agent list, that being Fox. He will definitely not be back with the Cubs in 2010. In fact, he should never have come back again. I give him all the credit in the world for wanting to pitch, and for continuing to try. However, sooner or later you have to know when to throw the towel in. When you can barely make a single outing without injuring your arm, you have to figure that the time has come to say goodbye.
Hendry has some tough decisions to make, and has likely already made up his mind on which of the players he wants to keep. With payroll being limited, you can not keep everyone you would like to keep, which means that you have to say goodbye to someone you love. Unfortunately, the signs are pointing towards Grabow being the only Cubs free agent retained. How the Cubs fill the new vacancies remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised to see a lot of minor league players up with the team next year.
Now that the Chicago Cubs season has officially ended, or at least realistically, lets look back and see where everything went wrong. You can point fingers at whomever you wish, but you would still only be partially correct in your assumption. There are several factors which by themselves could have been enough to cripple a team for the year, but when you put them all together you get sure fire disaster. While I am sure that I will overlook a few things which added to the failure of the 2009 Cubs, I believe that the following is what contributed the most to the demise and heartbreak.
In order to properly start the autopsy of the 2009 Cubs, we need to go back to the end of the 2008 season, when the Cubs were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Not long after the series ended, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella threw out a statistic which showed that not one time in the entire season, including regular season games, did the Dodgers use a left handed pitcher against us. Using that as a jumping point, he claimed that the Cubs were too right handed, and he wanted to add some left handed bats to the lineup. One of the casualties of this statement was Mark DeRosa who quickly gained popularity with the Cub’s faithful fans. With his departure, the Cubs lost a big part of the clubhouse, and in the long run, helped to strengthen the competition when the Cleveland Indians traded him to the St. Louis Cardinals.
There are a few reasons why DeRosa was traded, one of which was that Piniella wanted to become more left handed in the batting order. Other then the desire to become more left handed, one factor which was rumored, was that Piniella wanted DeRosa gone because of his comments after the Cubs lost their second game in the National League Division Series, where he said that the Cubs backs are “against the wall”. That statement upset Piniella. Whether or not that rumor is true, I don’t know. Another reason why DeRosa was looked at as being dispensable was because of the surprising play of Mike Fontenot. The way he played throughout the 2008 season in limited playing time, fans were clamoring for him to get more playing time. When he was given that chance this year, he showed that he is not an everyday second baseman, as his batting average plummeted into the low .200s. If Fontenot had performed up to expectations, there would be a lot less fans disappointed that DeRosa was traded. Finally, the financial reason for his trade has to be mentioned. They had to trade him to free up some room in order to have enough money to sign a free agent who could bat left handed. While Cubs General Manager will ultimately get the blame for the trade, he was only doing what a good GM will do. Give his manager the team he wants.
Another loss, which hurt the Cubs and helped the competition, was the trade of Jason Marquis. While there was a good majority of fans who disliked Marquis, he was a big loss. Not even taking into account how good of a year he is having with the Colorado Rockies, he was a big part of the team the two years he was here. Even though his ERA was in the mid 4s, he was above .500, and a big innings eater. What more would you want from your 5th starter? While the Cubs could have used him, there was some good which came out of his departure, and that’s the emergence of Cubs rookie right hander Randy Wells. If Marquis was still a part of this ball club, we may never have known about this talented pitcher, who will hopefully be able to continue his success next year.
In what could have been the biggest mistake by Hendry in the offseason was replacing Kerry Wood with Kevin Gregg. The mistake was not in letting Wood go, but in trading for Gregg to replace him. While I will freely admit that I was one of the defenders of Gregg for most of the year, he blew up at the end of the season beyond anything I could defend. Thankfully, this is a mistake which the Cubs don’t have to live with for long. Gregg is a free agent at the end of the year, and he will be someone else’s problem next year.
I said the trade for Gregg could have been the biggest mistake Hendry made in the offseason; the reason that wasn’t the biggest, is because he also signed Milton Bradley. This was the biggest mistake Hendry has made since becoming the Cubs General Manager. I won’t buy into all the fans complaining about the failure to sign Raul Ibanez, because who could have envisioned he would be having a career year at this stage in his career? However, there were plenty of other options who should have been signed over Bradley. While the fans were against him from the start, he never did anything to win them over. From having a horrible April, to forgetting the number of outs there were in an inning, to the bickering with the fans and media he dug himself into a hole that no one could have gotten out of. Things got so bad with Bradley, that even on days he collected hits on his first two or three at bats, he got booed when he made an out in that same game. Now, he has been suspended for the remainder of the year, and will likely be traded after the season. Now, we can fully understand why Bradley has been on so many different teams in his career. Bradley does have talent as a ball player, he just needs to learn to shut up.
The trades and free agent signings aside, what really cost the Cubs their season were the injuries. I know the old cliché says that you can’t use injuries as an excuse, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The Cubs have suffered through more injuries then any other team in the Majors, with the exception maybe of the New York Mets. Nearly everyone on the Cubs starting 25 man roster spent at least two weeks on the disabled list, if not just sitting out for a week. The stat has been mentioned several times, the Cubs only had their desired roster together for a total of two games the entire season. That is a very tough obstacle for any team to overcome.
I wont mention every injury the Cubs faced this year, because that could take forever; however , the biggest and most damaging injury for the Cubs, was the loss of their best player for two months. When Aramis Ramirez left a game in mid May with a separated shoulder, Cub fans everywhere knew the team was in trouble. You cant lose your best player, and biggest run producer and survive easily. Sure, there were mistakes that were made immediately following his injury, such as the failure to bring up Jake Fox to fill the void, but nothing could have completely covered for the loss of Ramirez. As good as Fox has shown to be with the bat, he is no Ramirez. He has also shown that he is limited defensively, which has limited his chances at an every day job.
Along with the loss of Ramirez, our top four pitchers all spent time on the disabled list as well. The injuries to the pitching staff this year brought back bad memories of the 1985 Cubs season where every member of the starting rotation was on the disabled list. While I was not old enough to witness the season, I have read and heard a lot about what transpired. When you lose one of your starting pitchers for a period of time, you are bound to struggle. When you lose all of them, you are in for a long and stressful season. The Cubs have a tremendous pitching staff, and was supposed to be the strength of our team. However, the injuries to the starters hampered our success, even though I believe we are still near the top, if not at the top, in the quality starts category. While their injuries hurt us, they did everything they could to keep us in the games.
The other injury which caused our season to fall apart, was Alfonso Soriano’s bad knee. Soriano has had the worst season of his career, and fans wouldn’t let him forget how bad he was playing. I give Soriano all the credit in the world for trying to play through the injury and help the team in anyway he could. Unlike some other players, he wanted to stay on the field and earn his money. Sadly, his play suffered as the season went on. Love him or hate him, Soriano is a big key to the success for the Cubs winning. When he struggles, the team struggles. Despite his poor defense in left field, his bat is a key ingredient if the Cubs are too succeed. Over his first two years here, Soriano has played very well for us giving us what we expected, except for the speed. He has given the Cubs his career average in homeruns and in batting. He has admitted that he had a bad year, and I believe he will be better next year, now that he is having the knee taken care of.
Speaking of having bad years, two players come to mind other then Soriano. They would be Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto. In regards to Dempster, he has not been close to what he was last year, and that hurt us. The Cubs were expecting him to come close to what he did to earn his new contract. While he hasn’t been horrible, he has been less then what was expected. You can partly pin that on what was going on with his personal issues and his newborn daughter’s complications, but he would never use that as an excuse. However, you should note that once those complications were resolved he started pitching better, and as we had hoped he would all season long. Does that mean he is back to form and we can expect this from him next year? That remains to be seen, but you are seeing signs that would point to the answer being yes.
With Soto, there are a few things you can point to with his season falling off after his Rookie of the Year campaign. For starters, he participated in the World Baseball Classic. For the record, and if you read one of my earliest blogs you would know this, I hate the fact that these players miss Spring Training to play in this event. If the competition doesn’t help us win the World Series, I don’t want our players anywhere near those games. Soto played in the WBC and missed a lot of time in Spring Training, and when he did show up, he was out of shape. To start off the season, he also suffered a shoulder injury which placed him on the shelf for a good stretch of games. I am not willing to write off Soto after one bad year, and I feel he will return to form next year. His not playing up to expectations was a major blow to the Cubs offense, as he did not give us anything close to what he thought we would be getting from him.
These are the things that I look to when I think about what went wrong with the 2009 Cubs. I remember, way back in Spring Training, we were picked to win the division easily “Unless everything that can go wrong, does go wrong.” Well, that is exactly what happened this year. The Cubs faced adversity from all sides, in the end they were not good enough to overcome. All we can do as fans, is look forward to next year and hope for the best.
Last night the Chicago Cubs lost a game to the Philadelphia Phillies, which they should not have lost. Now, fingers will be pointed directly at Cubs closer Kevin Gregg for giving up the game winning homerun, but I am here to tell you that if he is who you are blaming, then you are way off base. I am not defending Gregg because I like him, or think that he is a stud closer. I am defending him in the here and now, because he is not the culprit that is responsible for the Cubs loss. Yeah, Gregg gave up the homerun which put the game out of reach, but that situation should never have even arisen.
In his first inning of work, Gregg faced three of the top hitters in the National league in Chase Utely, Ryan Howard, and Raul Ibanez getting them out in order. Any manager who isn’t fast asleep on the bench knows that if a pitcher has been struggling lately, you let them leave the game on a high note. You cant get much higher then that. I can understand why he was left in though, you get out of a tough spot against a teams best three hitters, and you figure the next few batters will be a breeze to get though compared to the previous inning. With the game still being tied, you need to save as many pitchers as you can, just incase you need them. Trying to get another inning out of Gregg was the final nail in the Cubs coffin, but the game started slipping away a few innings earlier.
What I will look back on as what really lost us the game, that moment would come in the eighth inning, with Carlos Marmol on the mound. Sitting there at the game, when his name was announced as the new pitcher, you knew the game was in serious jeopardy of being lost. As you can usually expect out of an inning that Marmol pitches, anything and everything usually can and will happen. He walks the leadoff hitter, as he has done more often then I care to remember, but then seemingly settles down, and retires the next two batters. With getting them out, you started to feel more comfortable. Thoughts that he would be able to get the Cubs out of the inning seemed like a real possibility. Sadly, we were fooled again as Marmol hit the next batter. This is where I feel the game was lost, not in the 12th when Gregg gave up the game winning home run.
Can someone tell me, why after hitting a batter did Cubs Manager Lou Piniella not get John Grabow up in the bullpen? Instead, he waits to get Grabow up and into the game until Marmol walks the next two batters, walking in the go ahead run. There was plenty of time to get Grabow up. Stall for time, send the catcher out to make small talk with Marmol. But no, they let Marmol try to get out of the inning, and allow him to face Howard with the bases loaded. Sure, walking in the go ahead run is better then giving up a grand slam, which is what I feared, but Howard cant hit lefty pitching. This was the spot Grabow should have been brought into the game. I am not saying Grabow wouldn’t have given up a bigger hit, but at this point in the game, I would have had more faith in him getting Howard out then Marmol.
Today’s game wont be much better though. The pitching match up of Jeff Samardzija and Pedro Martinez is sure to be a bad game. Samardzija has yet to show any signs that he can get major league hitting out, and he will be our starter? Something tells me that the Phillies will be scoring at will tonight. Though, they have Martinez starting, who is far from the dominating pitcher that he once was. The Cubs would hopefully be able to touch him up a bit as well. We could be looking at a very high scoring game, though if you look at past baseball logic things always work in reverse, so expect a low scoring game. Then you have to take into account that the home plate umpire for the game will be the blind as hell ump who called a foul ball a home run, you cant like the chances of an accurate or consistent strike zone.
Last night, the Cubs lost to the Braves in a makeup game from an earlier rainout. This is the kind of baseball that we have seen from the team for most of the season, at least before the recent four game winning streak occurred. The Cubs were able to collect 10 hits in the ballgame, and yet they failed to score a single run. They simply just could not advance the runners the entire game. Yeah, you could say that the main cause for that was because we were facing a pretty good pitcher, but that’s the problem. Good pitching tends to shut down this lineup, and if we do earn a playoff slot, we will see nothing but good pitching.
However, I cant sit here and just blame a lack of hitting, even though that was a main cause of the loss. There is more to blame then just the silent bats, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella’s decisions were also a key factor in the loss. One thing which made me scratch my head, was the mistake of sitting both Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley on the same night. I understand that you need to get your everyday players a day off when you can, I just feel that last night was not the time to rest them both. Soriano, I am fine with him sitting out. Maybe the rest will do him some good, and let him get his head on straight. So far so good, as he led of tonight’s game with a single. But why sit Bradley when he is finally starting to hit the ball? Taking him out of the lineup was a mistake, because you don’t want to sit a player in the middle of a hitting streak, of which he is close to the 10 game mark. A short streak, but a streak all the same. Putting Micah Hoffpauir and Jake Fox into the corner outfield slots was also a mistake I feel. Yeah, you want to get them at bats, but not both in the same night please. Especially when you have Fox starting his first game at the Major League level in left field.
While I think that was a big mistake by Piniella, that was not the biggest. For that mistake, you have to fast forward all the way to the top of the seventh inning. After struggling in the bottom of the sixth inning, and laboring hard to close things out without a run scoring, Ryan Dempster was set to lead off. What a better time to use either Bradley or Soriano to pinch hit for him. While you can never be sure that Soriano or Bradley would have gotten a hit, you would have to like either of their chances to succeed more then that of Dempster’s, even with his recent slump. One thing Piniella has got to stop doing, is allowing his players to talk him into things, such as letting him try to pitch another inning after clearly struggling. One factor that may have played into his being convinced, was the availability of the bullpen, which has been heavily used the past few games. However, if you have an opportunity to pinch hit for your pitcher in a much needed spot, you roll the dice and take your chances.
Enough of last nights game, lets talk Cubs players, more specifically Derrek Lee. I remember many Cub fans calling for his head after his slow start to the season. Fans were calling into sports talk stations saying that he should be traded, or benched so that Hoffpauir could get his shot at first base, and give the Cubs some offense. People seem to forget, that Lee has been a slow starter for his whole career, and then he goes out and puts up his normal numbers for the year. The problem that I see, is everyone fell in love with Lee when he went wild putting up monster numbers in 2005. That year was a career year for him, and those numbers will never be met again. The way fans turned on him at the start of this year reminds me of his first year with the club in 2004 when fans were chanting Hee Sop Choi’s name at him every time he came up to bat. Now, Lee is our hottest hitter, and he is carrying our club on his back. Would you still rather see Hoffpauir at first base instead of Lee? I sincerely hope not.
Another player which has faced a lot of the Cub fan’s wrath since his arrival, is closer Kevin Gregg. The fans want nothing to do with him, and want him to go away as quickly as possible. My question is why? Gregg has not done a bad job at all this year for the team, in fact, I commend him on how well he has pitched this year. What more can he do, then he has already done? He has gone 10 of 12 in save opportunities, with a 3.66 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings pitched. Despite one bad outing, where he allowed four runs without recording an out, he has been fantastic on the mound for the Cubs. If you take out that one bad game, he has an ERA of 2.84 and a WHIP of 1.25, which while not great, that’s not a bad stat. Most fans likely hate Gregg, because he is not Wood. They are holding a grudge and taking our their anger at General Manager Jim Hendry for letting Woody walk away on Gregg. That’s not fair in my books. Let the man do his job, and judge him on the job he does.
That actually brings up a big problem that I have with Cub fans, which rose up over the weekend with the series against the Cleveland Indians. I know that everyone loved DeRosa, and were pretty mad when he was traded, but I can not understand how a man who spent a total of two years with the team got a better ovation then a man who as with the team for 10 years. The way the fans were cheering DeRosa, you would think that he was the second coming of Ernie Banks. Yeah, I get the picture, DeRosa was a fan favorite who always went above and beyond. He did whatever was asked of him, played six different positions and was considered to be the most valuable player of the team last year. I understand all of that, but Wood has been a face of this franchise for a decade, and he played second fiddle to DeRosa. Kid K deserved a better welcome then the one DeRosa got, and while he got a nice welcome back from the crowds, there is no comparison. To give the fans at Wrigley Field a little credit, perhaps they were a bit subdued because they were afraid he was about to slam the door on the Cubs, saving another game for a team that wasn’t the Cubs. That may very well be the case, but when he started to walk to the mound, he still should have gotten a bigger and better ovation then DeRosa. Just my opinion, feel free to disagree all you want.
The Cubs are playing game two of a very long 10 game road trip, and tied 1-1 in the top of the 5th, much like last night the offense is being held in check. Hopefully the bats will come to life as they did when we were playing the lesser teams of the American League Central last week. Lets just wait and see, we have four innings of baseball left to play tonight.
Last nights game ended in a train wreck, and the Chicago Cubs managed to steal a loss from the jaws of victory. Before everyone starts pointing the finger at the closer Kevin Gregg, bring the finger back in to your fist, because he is not the first player that should receive the blame for that loss. Not even close to being the first. In my mind, there are five men who all need to share in the blame just as much, if not more then Gregg. Those players Carlos Marmol, Ryan Theriot and Geovany Soto. You might want to add in Cubs manager Lou Piniella into the mix as well for people who should receive blame for what should have been a win against the Atlanta Braves. Lets go back in time, and relive this game, going in the order of the mistakes that were made. First one up, is Piniella.
Can someone tell me the reason Piniella pulled Randy Wells from the game in the 8th inning when he had only thrown 83 pitches? I know that Atlanta is a warmer climate area, and you can get dehydrated easily if you are not careful. But come on, Wells was pitching a gem, and he was pulled after two batters in the 8th inning. Sure, the first two batters got on base, but the man earned the right to at least attempt to finish the game after pitching so well. He took a no hitter into the 7th inning, one out away from finishing with seven no hit innings. Okay, so the first two batters got on base, and if Wells gave up a homerun, the score would be 5-3, but hasn’t he earned the right to give things ago, and try to finish? Maybe he was spent, and Piniella saw this from the dugout. I can halfway understand this move, especially the thinking that Marmol could come in and save the day for the young pitcher, and get him his first win. However, I think that pulling Wells was the first mistake of the game, and Piniella gets part of the blame.
Enter Marmol into the game, and he started off the inning very poorly. With a run already in, thanks to a homerun off of Wells, and a runner on base Marmol came into the game to keep the score at 5-1. However, a few walks, and a hit batter later they scored an additional two runs. Time to face facts guys, the lock down, sure fire bet to get you out of a jam, is not the same guy we have seen in previous years. Marmol is pitching very poorly this year, at least compared to what we have come to expect out of him. His wildness is starting to hurt us in the pen, and is giving up the inherited runners that he is trying to keep from scoring. Granted, his ERA is still in the low .300s, but that does not show how many runs he has allowed to score. He is supposed to be the glue that holds this bullpen together, but he has not performed up to expectations. Where have we heard that before with this team? Alright, he got out of the inning with the Cubs still leading, but the runs he allowed to score would hurt the Cubs. Marmol doesn’t get the most blame, but he is the second guy in my eyes. Enter Gregg into the ninth, but he is not next in the order of things. That honor belongs to Soto.
What has happened to our young stud behind the plate? Simple, he has gotten fat, and has apparently forgotten how to catch a ball in the dirt. The pitch wasn’t great, don’t get me wrong, but a good catcher should be able to block that pitch in the dirt. Because Soto was unable to do so, the drop third strike came into play, and a runner reached base. The following fly ball should have ended the game, instead we still needed to get an extra out. Soto is who I blame more then anyone for this loss. If a catcher cant block a ball in the dirt, he is just about useless, especially if he cant hit the ball. The game should have been over with Gregg notching another save, without allowing a run to score. Instead, Gregg is the goat in this game because he gave up the tying homerun. Never mind that Soto called for a fast ball against Jeff Francoeur, which is basically the only pitch he can hit. A good pitcher I supposed to trust what his catcher calls for, if you cant trust your catcher’s calls, then he is no good to your pitching staff. However, Gregg was the man who gave up the homer to tie the game.
That’s right, the man who Cub fans love to hate gets stuck with the blown save. He is the main everyone was quick to point the finger at, calling him the man who lost the game. But as I just showed you, there were three other incidents which put us behind the eight ball. Yeah, he threw the wild pitch, and the eventual homerun ball, so he gets the blame too. However, he should not be the first person to blame. He isn’t Kerry Wood, and nowhere near as good of a pitcher, but he is our closer, like him or hate him. He will get more opportunities, and he will blow another save or two and will deserve the full blame, but I don’t buy that this time around. The final mistake, goes to a man who made a costly error that wasn’t called an error.
The ball that Theriot misplayed, led to what would be the eventual winning run. He should have gotten that ball and should have been able to throw out the base runner. There is no telling what may have transpired had he gotten him out, we could very well have lost the game anyway . But that is a play you have to make, especially in extra innings when one hit makes all the difference. Yea, the play was a tough one to make, but not one that was impossible.
Sadly, all five of these people helped contribute to the loss the Cubs suffered last night. You can make up your own mind as far as who to blame. If you want to single out a single player, by all means do so. Whatever reason you want to believe for that person being to blame, may very well be the right decision. If you want to blame a group of players, take your best shot, you are most likely right. Baseball is a team sport, so if you win as a team you also lose as a team. Mistakes were made, and they all led to the loss. There is n fairness blaming one single player.
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.