Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Differential Diagnosis

It takes me an hour and a half to watch 60 Minutes.With the Cubs spiraling ever faster into oblivion, Michael Barrett finally figures out what's wrong with the Cubs:

"I feel like, starting with me, I need to play smarter," said Barrett, who had difficulty on the bases and behind the plate over the weekend in Los Angeles. "It's one thing to play harder. But it's no excuse to play dumber. The all-out rule of thumb for me now is that we’ve got to play smarter baseball."

Yup. It didn't take Hugh Laurie to figure this one out. The Cubs are a stupid baseball team.

Actually, if you look at the team the past five or six years, they've been loaded with stupid players. Sure, many are talented, but they manage to overcome that talent with stupid play.

Michael Barrett is, perhaps, the most fundamentally unsound starting catcher I've ever seen. His instincts for the game, defensively and offensively, are attrocious. As Andy Dolan perceptively noticed yesterday:
The most annoying of (Barrett's habits) is when he wants a pitch to be low he smacks his mitt on the ground to emphasize it. You see other catchers do it from time to time, though they are nearly always careful to not actually reach the ground with the glove, to avoid making it obvious to the hitter. Not Michael, he not only does it frequently, he might as well announce it to the hitter. "Hey, listen up, I'm going to smack the ground, so that sound you hear is me... smacking the ground." But more damaging than that is that when he wants a pitch up, he signals it by raising his glove above his head just before the pitch. That move pretty much guarantees that the next pitch will be called a ball. And why not, you basically just told the umpire "This one's going to be high and out of the strike zone. So call it there." Even when the pitch is lower than Barrett's exaggerated target, it's going to be a ball. Again, while some catchers do it occasionally (say in 0-2 counts), Michael does it constantly.

The position on a baseball field that most requires a feel for the game is catcher. Michael has all the touch of a horse doing needlepoint.

Alfonso Soriano is another talented, but stupid baseball player. You watch how he runs after balls in the outfield and how he approaches an at bat and all you can think is, "What the hell is he thinking?"

Matt Murton, who gets a lot of love around here for off the field reasons, at least has a clue at the plate. On the basepaths and in the field, notsomuch.

Jacque Jones is easily the worst Cub since Corey Patterson. Ceasar Izturis - bad.

It's almost as if this team was put together by a guy who only scouted their stats.

At some point, Jim Hendry's going to start to take the blame for all this. Unfortunately, it won't be until after this season ends and new ownership comes in. And there goes two seasons where 88 wins would earn you a playoff spot.

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