Today, the Cubs pretty much did everything that they've been doing wrong all year. If you've missed the season to date (and you'd probably have had a happier summer if you had), here's what happened today:
- A Cubs pitcher left the game due to injury
- That pitcher, plus two others, gave up six of the opponent's seven runs after two were out
- A Cubs baserunner made a bad baserunning play, squelching a rally where the tying run was at the plate
- The bullpen came in and coughed up a lead, and later on put the game out of reach
- Poor outfield defense and throws allowed at least one opposition run to score
The weather was nice, although as Mike and I noted in the seventh inning, about 3:45, the sun is now at a low enough angle that it disappears behind the upper deck in the late innings, putting us in shadow. This will likely make it quite cool in the new corner of the LF bleachers as September goes on.
Yes, September has to go on. Twenty-six games remain, seventeen of them against teams who are currently within five games of a playoff berth, believe it or not (the only ones that aren't: the final homestand vs. Milwaukee and Colorado, and "The Battle For Last Place" this week against Pittsburgh). So there will be meaningful baseball played at Wrigley Field, and by the Cubs on the road, the next four weeks, and there will be interesting things to watch:
- The Cubs have three games against the Phillies in their launching pad in Philadelphia. Ryan Howard hit three homers today off Atlanta pitching. How many do you think he can hit off this monstrously bad Cub staff?
- Greg Maddux, as of now, is tentatively penciled in to pitch Thursday, September 14 at Wrigley Field for the NL West-leading Dodgers. This will happen if Grady Little keeps Maddux on an every-fifth-day rotation (the Dodgers have an off day a week from tomorrow), and based on what I've heard, he appears inclined to do this.
- Carlos Zambrano, the lone bright spot in this misbegotten season, still has a chance, with five starts remaining, to lead the league in wins and win the Cy Young Award.
Today, even though Dusty Baker played Ryan Theriot and Matt Murton (likely having been ordered to do so from above; I can't imagine him not wanting to play the platoon boys, Bynum and Pagan, against a RHP), it didn't matter. Theriot did draw a walk, and so did Murton, and Murton doubled, but it was all for naught. Angel Guzman -- before he left the game with yet another Cub Pitcher Officially Licensed Arm Injury -- did lay down a very, very nice squeeze bunt, at the time giving the Cubs a 3-1 lead.
After Guzman left the game -- and after two separate trainer visits, and Dave pointed out that Aramis Ramirez was the ONLY infielder who didn't join the mound conference -- Michael Wuertz, who threw twenty pitches yesterday, came in and promptly walked Steve Finley, gave up a booming triple to Omar Vizquel (who tripled another run in later off Ryan Dempster), and a HR to Shea Hillenbrand, and that was pretty much it.
Has Dusty Baker learned NOTHING from the past? Michael Wuertz is a good pitcher. But he cannot go two days in a row. I'd even have taken Glendon Rusch (GASP! Yes, Rusch) or Will Ohman in that situation, given that the first two hitters up were left-handed. It was almost as if Baker were trying to help his old team into the postseason by giving them this game. I did say "almost", just in case you think that's a real accusation, which it's not.
The final indignity was yet another baserunning blunder by Ronny Cedeno, who attempted to move up a base with two out and a run already in (on a Derrek Lee PH sac-fly which he JUST missed hitting for a grand slam), and Angel Pagan at bat. Dave said, correctly so, that NO runner should attempt to move up unless he is absolutely certain he can make it, in a situation like that. Eliezer Alfonzo, the Giants' catcher, is a fine defensive receiver, and the ball didn't get that far away -- and once again, I have to ask, where was Gary Matthews? He seemed asleep yesterday on the pickoff of Ryan Theriot, and again today on this play.
This forced Baker to keep Pagan in the game -- not that it was such a great loss to double-switch Jacque Jones out -- because if he'd have put Dempster in the #9 slot, where Pagan was pinch-hitting, he would have had to use his last available man, Freddie Bynum (since John Mabry was not available today) to bat for Dempster in the bottom of the ninth. Yeah, I know, "and death is not an option".
It ought to be for this team. The extremely uncomfortable surgery undergone by Michael Barrett today likely puts Barrett out for the year. Barrett ought to be happy he doesn't have to play through this morass the rest of September. Dave said, and I agree, that the Cubs might want to consider moving him to left field and getting a better defensive catcher to platoon with Henry Blanco. Playing LF would likely help Barrett's bat, since he wouldn't have to think about catching defense, plus it would eliminate the wear and tear on his body.
It's something to mull in terms of improving this team.
Here's another deal we concocted -- and no, there aren't any rumors or sources, but I'd do this deal if the Red Sox would; they seem less than enamored with Manny Ramirez at times. Would you do this? Sign Aramis Ramirez to an extension, then trade him, Felix Pie and Rich Hill to the Red Sox for Manny and Mike Lowell?
I think I would. At some point you've got to make bold moves, because this is absolutely the worst Cub team in my lifetime. Even the 1966 team -- which lost 103 games -- had three Hall of Famers. The 1980 team had a good pitcher in Rick Reuschel and a batting title winner in Bill Buckner. Only the awful 1981 team, which was saved from a 100+ loss season by the strike, compares in its stinkitude to this one.
You'll note I have nothing to say about Barry Bonds and his 729th career HR, which came after Baker left the lefty Les Walrond (we decided his name sounds like the guy who runs the corner gas station -- "Walrond's Shell") in to throw to him. He was roundly booed, but the booing seemed more subdued than yesterday's.
Four weeks to go. Then the reconstruction begins.