Blow-Up

It's over! Start planning for 2006! Trade everyone except Prior, Zambrano, Ramirez and Lee! Go get someone, Hendry! You haven't done a darn thtgkjrmang....

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Hey, who let Chuck in here?

Seriously, though, you all know me. Mr. Optimist. Mr. One-Day-At-A-Time, Mr. We Can Win On Any Given Day, Mr. Give-Hendry-A-Chance... This one hurt. There is no way, NO way you score six runs on the Cincinnati Reds and don't beat them. In a stunning display of inept relief pitching, the Cubs bullpen gave the Reds the following: five hits, five walks, a stolen base, a balked-in run, and six total runs in a meltdown we haven't seen in weeks. The resulting 9-6 loss to the Reds split the four-game series, and that is simply not something a contending team can afford to do.

Is it over? Of course it's not. There are 67 games left. Know where the Cubs were after 95 games in 2003?

They were 47-48, one game worse than they are right now, 4.5 games out of first place, and that was before Jim Hendry pulled the trigger and got Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton. Yes, the Cubs dropped into a fifth-place tie with the Marlins in the wild-card race with the loss. Know where the wild-card Astros were on August 18, 2004?

59-60, one game under .500, fifth in the wild-card race, eight games behind the Giants.

So it can be done. And yes, Chuck, I agree with you -- it can't be done with the team as it is currently constructed. The offense actually did a pretty good job today, getting fourteen hits and a pair of walks. You'd be right, though, if you pointed out that with that many baserunners, no caught-stealings and only one DP turned by the Reds, they ought to have scored more runs. Nine freaking runners left on base -- and it was that way after the fifth inning.

That's totally unacceptable. You simply cannot leave that many men on base, especially when the score is already 5-1 -- with that many chances to score, the score should have been 8-1 or 9-1 by then. That would have made it much more acceptable that Greg Maddux, likely gassed in the heat, took himself out after five innings and only 71 pitches. The bullpen simply didn't do its job today, and Jim Hendry has to stare hard in the mirror and pull the trigger on some sort of deal to improve the relief corps.

Yes, Scott Williamson might help. But we don't know that for sure, and whatever help he can give is at least two weeks away. There's no way Hendry can wait that long.

OK, rant over. There were some bright spots today, and you know me -- I like looking for those. Todd Walker is wonderful -- he hit a three-run homer that made it 5-1, and why on Earth Dusty thought that taking him out of the game for Jose F. Macias, is beyond me. JFM must be sharing the Compromising Photo Collection with Todd Hollandsworth (conspiracy theorists note: Holly didn't play at all today). Aramis Ramirez homered in the 9th; of course, by then that was of the Sammy-Sosa-Meaningless-Jack category. The 9-6 score, in fact, was identical to the score of this game -- you'll have to click on it, I don't really want to mention the date itself -- and it felt about the same, a game that coulda-shoulda-woulda been won, but wasn't.

Jerry Hairston also made a wonderful, diving catch to end the seventh inning with the Cubs still leading 5-4 and at the time, it appeared that this catch would save the game. There was much debate in today's game thread about whether Ryan Dempster should have started the eighth inning:

  • sure, considering the alternative.
  • But, no manager today gives closers two-inning saves.
  • Even though, occasionally, it IS the proper thing to do.
  • And, once Dempster came into the game, he sucked too.
Each series must be taken as an entity unto itself. That said, there is no way the Cubs can afford anything less than taking two of three from the Cardinals. Is this a pipe dream? Actually, I think not. Remember, despite this horrid, awful, distressing, hair-pulling-out (I would if I had any!) loss -- the Cubs have still won eight of their last eleven games. Keep up that sort of pace, and eventually you will overtake your competition.

But geez, Jim Hendry has GOT to go out and get some bullpen help.

Keep the faith. That is, after all, why we are fans, isn't it?

UPDATE [2005-7-21 17:25:04 by Al]: Kerry Wood will not go to the DL -- yet. But he will miss at least one start; I presume Glendon Rusch will take his place.

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