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.
With today’s loss to the Chicago White Sox, the Cubs have once again proved what I said my last time out. This ball club is just simply not that good. Today’s game is just another example of how far away they are from being a respectable team, which is capable of competing for the World Series championship, let along the division title that most of the people in the media thought was a certainty. Fans throughout the city are pointing fingers at everyone from General Manager Jim Hendry and Manager Lou Piniella, all the way down to the players on the field. They are well within their right to do so, as each and every one of them deserve to be taken to task for the garbage that we watch.
Lets start at the top, as Hendry is the main man responsible for building this team. Hats off to him for trying, something we can honestly say no other General Manager has done in any of our lifetimes. He has gone above and beyond, and constructed the teams that brought us back to back playoff appearances; which is something that this team hasn’t don’t since they last won the World Series in 1908. However, with as much praise as he got for those two division crowns, he must also get the blame for building the current ball club. He gets nothing but credit for trading away busts in Hee Sop Choi and Bobby Hill to bring us veterans like Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. But if you get credit for the good things, you must also sit back and take the blame when things don’t go right. Over the past three years, he signed three free agents who are now apparently more trouble then they are worth. Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome and Milton Bradley are all turning into massive busts, though some of them were there long before this season.
The first big free agent Hendry signed, was also the “biggest fish” on the market coming into 2007. When you are talking about Soriano, he is an all or nothing hitter who has been showing that he is more of a nothing this season then ever before. To make matters worse, his defense seems to be getting worse and worse as the days go by. Losing balls in the sun, making late breaks on what should be routine fly balls is completely unacceptable. I know that left field is not his natural position, but come on, you have been out there for three years now, learn to run a proper route to catch a damn ball. While you are working on things, how about taking some more swings in batting practice or the in the cages. Stop trying to hit home runs every damn time, and just try to get on base. With his albatross of a contract, and ever declining skills, he is just about unmovable, so get used to seeing him in the Cubs everyday lineup until his contract is up.
After the Cubs failed to even win a game in the playoffs that year, Hendry went out and once again reeled in one of the “biggest fish” on the market in Fukudome. In his defense, just about every team was going after him, and just about every Cub fan was thrilled when he was finally signed. No one could have predicted he would have turned into as impressive of a bust as he has. Even though he has been an amazing player in April and good in May, once the calendar turns to June, he turns into a pumpkin. While everyone in baseball thought that Fukudome would be a great addition when he was being scouted, Hendry deserves to get blamed for signing the biggest bust in recent memory. Much like Soriano, the Japanese Import has a contract which will make him rather hard to trade. Who would want a player who cant put a full season together? Sure, he has above average defensive skills, but when it comes to the bat, he is irreverent. Again, like Soriano, he will be here until his contract is up. The bright side? His contract isn’t nearly as long as Soriano’s.
Again, the Cubs failed to win a playoff game, so Hendry got desperate. He traded away fan favorite Mark DeRosa, non-tenured Kerry Wood and signed a slew of switch hitters including this years bust of a free agent Bradley. I will be the first to admit that I was fully wrong about him. I defended him left and right, but I have had enough of this team, so I am taking the gloves off and giving him what he deserves. He is a complete waste of talent, and a man that should never have been brought here. The whole idea of bringing him here was to get more left handed, and to bring a power bat that could hit from the left side, but Bradley has been nonexistent from the left side of the plate. He has been so bad, that Piniella has admitted he is thinking about working a platoon with Micah Hoffpauir, who because he is a natural lefty bat, would get most of the at bats. Way to waste $30 million Hendry. I have not been one of those Cub fans who have been lamenting the trade of DeRosa, but I have to admit we would likely be better off with him. He would be hitting better then any of the men who replaced him in Bradley, Mike Fontenot or Aaron Miles. All three have been very impressive in their failures. Much like both of his outfield counterparts, Bradley will be impossible to move thanks to his contract. Unless someone thinks they can solve the puzzle that is Bradley, he will be a Cub for another two years.
Our outfield situation has got to be the worst combination of bats in all of baseball. Three seasons, three outfield busts. For this, Hendry you deserve to be degraded and raked across the coals. As much as I would have to agree with the current statements of most Cub fans that Hendry should be fired, as I stated in another post, I don’t think he should be. Not because he deserves more time, but because handing over an unfixable mess to a new General Manager would not be fair to him. He did earn some leeway with three division titles in six years, this mess of a team is making everything he did, a distant memory.
With Piniella, who you can make the argument that he is clearly on his final year of the “Lou Piniella Retirement Tour”, as he seems completely uninterested in anything that is going on during the course of a ball game. Even in the post game press conferences, he looks like a lost little boy putting on a shame of a press conference which makes him look more like a rookie manager then the grizzled old veteran manager that he is supposed to be. While he can only play the players that Hendry gives him, and he cant not swing the bat for the players or field the ball when they are on defense, he still gets a lot of blame for the mess we are in. After the sweep in the 2008 playoffs, Piniella wanted changes made. He wanted more left handed bats, and according to some reports, he was not happy with DeRosa who said the Cubs had their backs against the wall. He wanted DeRosa traded, and being a good General Manager, Hendry gave his manager the ball club he wanted. They both deserve to stew in their own juices, as they are both responsible for this mess. On the bright side of things, neither man will be around much longer. The sooner we can move on the better. I just feel bad for whatever General Manager has to inherit this mess of a ball club.
To top things all off for Piniella, he crossed the line with his comments at Bradley the other day. While his actions are inexcusable, Piniella had no right to call him a “piece of ****”. In Bradley’s defense, he was the one with the cooler head, and did not respond in similar fashion. There have been many other Cubs who have thrown tantrums which did not draw the fire of Piniella. Even Carlos Marmol who threw his own cry baby tantrum a few innings later escaped Pineilla’s wrath. If he is going to call out one player for his antics, he should be calling them all out. They are all acting like little leaguers on the field, and behaving like immature children because they are underperforming. Yeah, I want them to be upset because they are sucking up the place, but they have all gone overboard with their actions.
Another player who is becoming a thorn in my side is our supposed Ace, Carlos Zambrano. His antics on and off the field are getting frustrating to watch. He loses his cool far too easily, and that hurts him when he is on the mound. Classic examples are in his last game, when he corrected predicted a suicide squeeze, but on the pitchout, he threw the ball away. The next pitch, he drilled the batter. From there, everything went down hill for him. I have been calling him out since his explosion on an umpire which got him suspended. Zambrano needs to grow up, or move on. Sure, he is very talented, but his temper costs him far too many games. He allows himself to be taken over by his emotions, and that limit’s his ability to be as great as he could be.
With Ramirez coming back in about two weeks, things could possibly be on their way up. Currently, the Cubs are in fourth place, only three and a half games back of the Milwaukee Brewers. They are also only one and a half games out of last place. With 90 games left, they can still realistically make the playoffs, especially in this very weak division. However, with the way they have played as of late, they are not giving off much confidence that they will be able to climb the hill back to the top of the division, or to do anything in the playoffs. I don’t know about you, but things are looking bleaker as every game passes.
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.
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.
This has been quite a week for your Chicago Cubs, but not exactly one that you would want to write home about. Frankly, for Cub fans, this has come close to being completely unwatchable as they continue to struggle offensively, while wasting quality pitching. To make matters worse, off the field the Cubs are making headlines as well. Again, these are not headlines that anyone should be proud of, as they fire hitting coach Gerald Perry, and Sammy Sosa gets exposed as the steroid user we all knew he was.
Let me start off with the recently disgraced and ousted Sosa, who if you have been following my blogs I defended him as much as I could without saying he was 100% clean. In case you missed things, I wrote up a blog stating how I believed he was worthy of the Hall of Fame, and listed off a bunch of stats. I also, however, mentioned how he has never tested positive (that we knew of at the time) and was never connected to any drug factory like so many others have been. Well, yesterday the walls came crashing down on Sosa as he was reported to have been among the 104 players who tested positive in 2003 for performance enhancing drugs. Ironically, the news came out around a week after he made reference to his hall of fame worthy career in his retirement announcement. Let me clear something up, if you did miss my last blog, I always thought that he was a steroid user. I just was giving him as much of a benefit of the doubt as I could. Now, all those stats that do make him worthy, they wont mean anything as he will join Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGuire, Alex Rogriguez and all others who have tested positive ( or will) in a group of players who will never get voted into the Hall of Fame. Their numbers make them all worthy of the honor, but none of them will ever be voted in because they have been caught cheating the game. Much like Pete Rose and Shoeless Joe Jackson, they will all be on the outside looking in for the rest of their lives.
That’s just one of the off the field stories for the Cubs. As I mentioned, the Cubs relieved Perry from his duties with the ball club. Am I the only one who sees this as a complete farce? Not just Perry’s firing, but hitting coaches being fired at all. They are not the ones who go to the plate and swing the bats, yet they get blamed when the offense falters. In fact, you could make the argument that the only reason they have hitting coaches is to work with the younger players who are still making the adjustments to the major leagues. By the time the players become veterans, they don’t need the hitting coaches, as they are already used to the majors and know how to watch video and detect flaws in their swings. However, Perry as given his walking papers, and had the blame placed squarely on his shoulders.
The firing of Perry was the one and only “big move” the Cubs are able to make this year. They can not add any payroll, so making a trade to bring in a star player to shake things up wont happen. While we are talking about trades, you can all but count out trading away some of our older veterans at this point in time. No one will want to trade for a high priced player who is struggling, at least not for the price tag they come with. Even if the Cubs were able to find a way to trade a player, they would be asked to eat a good chunk of the salary, which again the Cubs cant afford to do. Even if those roadblocks didn’t exist, there is still the little matter of the no trade clause they all have. This is the team the Cubs ill be forced to play with for the rest of the year. The firing of Perry was the only “big move” they could make, before firing Cubs Manager Lou Piniella which might very well happen if the team continues to play like a bunch of lollygaggers. Before you say that Perry was a bad hitting coach, keep in mind he held the same position with last years team, which you could argue was the best offense in all of baseball. As is all too typical, the coaches always get too much of the blame, and not enough of the credit..
Having to admit that this team is a joke makes me sick to my stomach. No one is coming up with clutch hits at all. Sure, some of the players are hitting, but they are not coming through with runners in scoring position. There have been far too many bases loaded or men at second and third, or men at the corners with less then to outs where the Cubs walk away with no runs scoring. Sure, there are players who are coming up with hits, like Derrek Lee and finally Milton Bradley, but they are not hitting for power. They are not coming through in the clutch. This team is next to last in the National League in scoring, a season after they led the league in that very same statistic. I am sick of hearing that the trade of Mark DeRosa or the injury to Aramis Ramirez is why this team is struggling this bad. They have four, count them four players running out there everyday who were all stars last year. Count them off with me, Alfonso Soriano, Bradley, Geovany Soto and Kosuke Fukudome. When Ramirez gets back, that will bring the total to five. They should not be struggling this badly, they look like a triple A team. To top things off, they just lost the first of a now to game series to the Chicago White Sox 4-1.
This has been a horrible week for the Cubs and their fans. The sad part is, this week is barley even half over. There is still plenty of time for things to get much worse.
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.