Thursday, August 30, 2007
Back in 2004, it was easy for Cub fans to hate their own team. The team was full of players who were not only mediocre on the talent level, but they were jerks on the personality level as well. Despite their push for a playoff birth, it was actually a mild pleasure when they lost. There were so few guys on that team that you really wanted to remember fondly they way many on the 1984 and 1989 teams still are remembered today.
After watching the play of this team of late, it's also getting easy to hate the 2007 edition as well, but for other reasons. Sure, Jacque Jones has the biggest hit of the season so far, but he is such a pud that you almost want to see him fail. It seems Jacque still holds a grudge against us fans for having a first half that made many of us wish Corey Patterson was still here. We booed him, deservedly so. Now that he has reached a level of competence, we're cheering him. Seems he's still mad that we booed him. Fine by me, Jacque. No matter what you do, I won't ever cheer you again. Launch a dinger to win a playoff series? I'll sit on my hands. That seems to be what you want.
But, beyond (and actually including) Jacque, the main issue seems to be stupidity. Every at bat that Alfonso Soriano has had since returning is infuriating. He's clearly a fundamentally unsound player that has no business being at the top of any lineup. And his base running? If the umpire sees a play a different way last night, the Cubs could have been shut out. Having to watch this guy through 2014 is going to be a challenge.
Carlos Zambrano, the guy who did this club a favor by forcing the sacrifice of Michael Barrett, now is echoing the Barrett-Roy Oswalt feud of 2004:
Zambrano did everything he could to wake the sleeping giant with his usual array of pointing, dancing, screaming and fist pumping -- and, offered the opportunity to deliver the dagger to a dying club, Zambrano instead gave the Brewers new life.
It didn't help that Zambrano wasted no time angering the Brewers or home-plate umpire Gerry Davis when he protested close calls in the first inning, and went nuts after striking out Prince Fielder. He jumped off the mound, pointed, hollered and acted like he had recorded the final out of the World Series.
And all that time, Fielder just stood at home plate and stared at Zambrano, watching his every movement into the dugout, before having words with Cubs first-base coach Matt Sinatro when he reached the bag.
Asked postgame if he was bothered, Fielder smiled and said, "A little bit.''
In the fourth, with the Cubs ahead 1-0 and Zambrano throwing a 1-hitter, Fielder led off and laced Zambrano's third pitch into the left-field gap for a double.
When he reached second base, Fielder waited for the pitcher to look at him and screamed with delight, clapping five times fast and hard, mocking the man who said he'd win the Cy Young Award this season.
I asked Fielder if that was particularly satisfying, noting his applause at second, to which Fielder laughed and said, "I didn't really clap. I just said 'timeout.' ''
The question has to be asked, "Where the hell is Lou?" One of the reasons the Parrot was reanimated was the Piniella Effect that seemed to be touching some of the players. Zambrano and Aramis Ramirez seemed to particularly take Lou's gospel to heart.
While this team can still win, it's going to take a manager that can get inside the heads of a Z and an A Sor and get them thinking straight. If he can't, this team will lose. And some of us will see it as players getting exactly what they deserved.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
At around 7:15 PM tonight, Lou Piniella will make the biggest mistake of his managerial career here in Chicago. At that time, unless Rich Hill poops in his pants between 7:05 and 7:13, Alfonso Soriano will swing at Jeff Suppan’s first offering of the evening (anyone want to wager he won’t be swinging?).
In caving into the needs of Soriano, Lou is harming the team’s chances of winning. It’s pretty obvious that Soriano is mentally weak. If he thinks pitchers are going to throw him fewer curve ball in the leadoff spot, he’s sadly mistaken. If Soriano wants fastballs, he’s got a better chance of seeing them with Ryan Theriot on base than leading off.
Additionally, with Soriano’s quadricep likely below 100%, Soriano is not going to be stealing any bases anytime soon. That further lessens the ability of a leadoff hitter to distract a starting pitcher.
The lineup for tonight should be Ryan Theriot first and Soriano second. You could even go with Mark DeRosa second and Soriano cleanup and drop A Ram to 5th (stat seen – A Ram is leading the team in RBI, but 20th in the National League? Don’t even begin to suggest that the offense on this team is sufficient!).
Lou left himself some wiggle room to move Soriano in future lineups by saying, "We'll put Soriano back in the leadoff spot and Theriot in the 2-hole, and we'll adjust."
With any luck, what he’s doing is giving in to Soriano today so that Lou can assert his will tomorrow. If that’s not what’s happening, Lou is not creating the most effective lineup for an offensively challenged team.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The Little Things
While the Cubs did what they had to do in beating the Cardinals twice, they didn't do what they needed to do in sweeping them. Why didn't they sweep them? Because, there are still to many stupid baseball players on this team that Jim Hendry has assembled. Look at what Barry Rozner compiled about the end of yesterday's game:
So the Cubs are down 2 runs in the eighth Monday and the Cards send their closer out for a 2-inning save, but the Cubs make Jason Isringhausen throw only 16 pitches in two frames.
After Derrek Lee led with a 6-pitch walk, Aramis Ramirez — here’s a shock — swung at the first pitch and flied out. After Daryle Ward swung at the first pitch and singled, Mark DeRosa swung at the first pitch and hit into a double play.
In the ninth, Matt Murton swung at the fourth pitch, Jason Kendall at the second and Jake Fox at the first.
Brilliance of this level is not rewarded with winning. Perhaps the next general manager will get talented players who are also smart.
Friday, August 17, 2007
Z Signs, Z Bails?
By now you've all heard that Carlos Zambrano has signed a five-year, $90 million contract extension with the Chicago Cubs. This can only mean one thing:
Sam Zell is bailing on buying the Chicago Tribune.
Follow this. Back in April, the day before the season opens, Zell announces that he's going to be buying the Trib. A late deal put together by Jim Hendry was accepted by Zambrano and ready to be signed.
Whoops! Zell comes in and the deal is off! "Can't create future obligations for the team that a buyer of the franchise would have to assume." was Zell's thinking.
Now, Zambrano signs? Why now instead of back in April? What's changed?
Simple. The Trib has continued to see declines in its advertising revenues. Cash flows and profits are shrinking. The stock of the company has been falling like Derrek Lee's batting average. This morning's price is $25.04 per share. Zell's deal was to buy the company at $34 per share. That's a 26.4% discount to the purchase price. What is Mr. Market telling us?
That the market doesn't believe the deal is going through.
That Carlos Z is signed is good news for the Cubs and their fans. It also means that Sam Z is heading out, back to the land of real estate.
And it still means the Cubs will be sold, just with Carlos as part of the asset base.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
My name is Chuck Gitles and, today, I am 40 years old. A little over four years ago I started this blog because I wanted a place to record and search some e-mails I posted to a Cubs's listserve group. It shocks teh hell out of me that I've kept up with it. If I've learned anything it's that I understand why people keep diaries. It's fun to go back a few years and try to recall what the hell I was thinking.
As an aside, that other people actually read this space has never ceased to surprise me.
Since it started as a place to record my thoughts, today seems to be a good day to use this place to do just that. Pardon me if you came here expecting something pertaining to baseball, but it’s my site and I’m calling the shots.
A lot of people have been telling me lately that 40 is the new 30. You know who says that? Forty year olds. To me, what 40 seems to be is the halfway point. You are 19 years into your career and 19 years from being able to tap your IRA. You are 40 years from birth and, with some luck, about 40 years from death. So, how have I done at the midpoint? Well, let’s see.
I live in a house right near where I grew up. Call that a strike against diversity. I’ve got a wife of 10-plus years who still puts up with me. Call that a point in favor of patience and cochlear implant batteries that run out of charge with regularity. I’ve got three children whom I adore and would do anything for, no matter what they think of the high a standards I hold them to. I’ve got a good career that supports my lifestyle and gives me the freedom to participate in and enjoy the irregularities that pop up from time to time. I’ve been able to give back to the community through elected public service and pure volunteerism. And I spend way too much time obsessing over professional athletes who wouldn’t know me from any other shlub they ignore and couldn’t give a crap that this page exists.
So, given that life has dealt me a hand akin to “three of a kind,” it would seem that I’d have a rather positive outlook on everything. Why so curmudgeonly on the Chicago Cubs?
I think that it’s precisely because things have gone so well for me that I can’t stand to see ongoing struggling with the team I follow. “So, why follow them?” people ask me. I respond simply, “I’m a Cub fan for the same reason I am Jewish. Because my dad told me that’s what I was.”
I guess my biggest regret in life, so far, is that my father didn’t get a chance to meet his grandchildren (of which he has four as of last week, thanks to my new nephew). He’d have loved the fact that The Seven Year Old has also turned out to be a huge sports fan. He’d have loved to give piggy back rides to The Four Year Old. And he’d have melted when The Two Year Old Girl would have run to him and hugged his legs. With any luck, I’ll get a few experiences he missed out on. When he was 5, the Cubs were in the World Series. It’s gotta be my turn one of these days.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
The lack of writing about this team is only due to one reason: There’s really not much to say. What ails this team is obvious and that is big play from their best players. This team really hasn’t missed Alfonso Soriano and his out-of-proper-place position in the batting order. Carlos, Derrek and A Ram are what's killing this team right now.
For Aramis Ramirez, it’s really not his fault that he hasn’t done much the last month. It’s clear that his injuries are far worse than anyone ever let on. A healthy A Ram is so key to the 2007 Cubs that should he miss more than about 5 of the final 44 games, the Cubs season is shot.
Derrek Lee de-funked for a night with an opposite field homer and a dribbler to the right side RBI. Btu, he’s been so bad for so long that he’s going to need to sting the ball for two or three games in a row to prove he’s reliable.
Carlos Zambrano’s salary drive looks like the current market for jumbo mortgages. If there’s one thing that has become clear about Carlos over his career is that he, too, is unreliable. He’s a very talented pitcher and can be the best in the game when his head is on straight. But Carlos’ neck bolts are smothered in graphite. Should the Cubs survive and make the playoffs, Carlos will be the most feared weapon that any NL team would have. The only question is: Who is in greater danger from Carlos: The opponent or the Cubs?
The only real plus is that this week should be a make or break kind of week. With Milwaukee playing the Cardinals now and the Cardinals coming to Wrigley for an extended weekend series, it’s likely something will be decided by Monday. There will be something blue flying atop the scoreboard Monday afternoon. The only question is if it’s a pennant or a parrot.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
History Repeats Itself
Thirty three years ago, a six year old kid was sitting, bored, in his Skokie home. He got up. walked across the room, and flipped on the TV. He turned the channel dial and stopped on Channel 5 because there was a baseball game on. About 1 minute later, Hank Aaron launched home run 715 over the left field wall in Fulton County Stadium. The kid couldn't believe his timing and luck at seeing this moment in history.
Two nights ago, that same kid, now older, grayer, fatter, and more curmudgeonly, was lying in bed watching a DVR'd movie. He was too tired to finish it so he hit stop on his remote. Up popped channel 173, ESPN-HD. The camera panned some cheering fans at a baseball game. The scene then cut to a centerfield camera shot of Barry Bonds at the plate waiting on a 3-2 pitch. That pitch ended up being home run 756.
Remarking to himself that the similarities to 1974 were eerie, he also remarked that he was glad this whole drooling over a self absorbed asshole were over.
If there's one memory I will take from seeing both events as they happened it will be the running. Hank, upon hitting his record breaker, ran the bases. Fast. Barry Bonds, the smug, arrogant, prick that he is, stood there and watched. It wasn't about the game or the accomplishment. It was about Barry.
Barry Bonds has surpassed Hank Aaron in home run totals, that much is true. But he'll never succeed him.
The really, really, good thing about Hank moving to number 2 on the list will be the end of hearing Milo Hamilton's rehearsed, overrated home run call. What's hillarious is that Milo, as much of a self absorbed asshole as Barry Bonds, knows that he's moving to the category of the ignored.
"It was a fine call and it has stood the test of time over 33 years," Hamilton said Wednesday. "I don't think the call[s] [of Bonds' homer Tuesday] night will last 33 years."
Has Milo ever said a nice word about anyone other than Milo?
Good riddance to hearing this bit of noise. And, when can we say good riddance to Milo, in general?
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
While the parrot isn't back yet, it certainly is warming up. This club is lifeless right now. Derrek Lee has done little for weeks. Aramis Ramirez is hurt worse than this team is letting on (Wow! The Cubs obfuscating about injuries? That's fresh!). Cliff Floyd has the power stroke of Mick Kelleher. And the player that fills what they need most, Felix Pie, the Cubs aren't interested in having on their team.
But there is one player who is costing this team tremendously. And it's up to Lou Piniella to spread this sack of crap on a pile of mushrooms in some dark basement.
Tonight, in the first inning, the Cubs loaded the bases with no one out. Woody Williams had nothing. After three walks and a Mark DeRosa bad at bat, up came Jacque Jones. Jacqueshit, as this site is fond of calling him, did something that even The Seven Year Old knows not to do.
You never, never, never swing at the first pitch with the bases loaded. Especially with a pitcher having control problems.
So what does Jacqueshit do? Pops weakly to short. Jason Kendall ended the inning with a soft liner to right. Bases loaded, no outs, 1 in and the Cubs get no more runs until the 8th. The 8th! Game over with Jacque's at bat.
Lou benched Jones at one point earlier this year for Pie. So, why isn't Pie here now? The rumor seems to be that Pie likes to "stay out too late" at night. So, because a 22 year old kid can't seem to stay away from clubs, this team suffers thought the offensive and defensive nightmare that is Jacque.
This page has been in Lou's corner for a long time. We praised "baseball by scientific method" as practiced by Lou. It's time to re-bury Jones and get Pie up here. Whatever Lou needs to do to make Pie understand what he needs to do to stay in good favor, Lou needs to do. That's Lou's job. If it's not Pie, then find someone else.
But, if Lou plays Jacqueshit any more, then Lou bashing is appropriate.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
The injury that Alfonso Soriano suffered tonight looked bad. Real bad. Lou Piniella has already said that he will be out two weeks to a month. And, given how late in the season this is, it's possible that the next Soriano sighting could be in March in Mesa, Arizona. This will have major ramifications on the race for the NL Central title.
The Cubs should be a better team.
Yes, this is going to be a positive development for the Cubs.
Soriano has been causing problems for this team all year. On this team, he really should be playing right and batting 2nd or 5th in the order. Due to his weak mental makeup and lack of a smart approach to an at bat, he has to bat first and play left. Because of this limitation, the Cubs are worse in right field, employing mostly Matt Murton, Daryle Ward, Cliff Floyd. All those guys are left fielders. Soriano has the arm for right, but can't play there because it screws up his hitting. That's a sign of weakness alright.
With Soriano out, Felix Pie comes back. That improves the defense in center by eliminating Jacque Jones. Jones moves to right and will platoon with Mark DeRosa. This is at worst a push defensively compared to Floyd and Murton, and likely an improvement.
Floyd and Murton move to left which is, at least, the proper place to play them. Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot play full time at second and short, and bat 1-2. That has the potential to be something fun to watch as those two may have the best approach to batting on the team.
The last reason that Soriano's absence will help the team is that it eliminates one of the dumbest players on the team. Did you hear Bob Brenly rip Soriano the other day? He talked about how a leadoff hitter needs to give his pitcher a chance to go easy after an at bat. Brenly said most leadoff hitters will stall with the pine tar, play with their batting gloves, and give the pitcher a chance to get a few seconds to relax in the dugout. "Not Soriano," said Bob.
This guy is either unsmart or selfish or both. I'm betting on both.
The Cubs will not miss this guy. In July, he was .265/.276/.425/.701 with 3 homers, 12 RBI and 19 runs scored. To date in August, he was .294/.333/.353/.686 with 0/0/2. That's replaceable. Easily.
In fact, with the competition getting easier now, the winning should get better in a hury. The Cubs are 7-8 over their last 15 games. With Houston, Colorado, and Cincinnati on the horizon, Soriano will not be greatly missed.
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