I haven't even read the game thread yet, but I can just imagine what it looks like, over 600 comments after I posted it this morning.
But today's 8-5 loss to the Braves -- one that was, in the proverbial phrase, "not as close as the score indicated", may have at last been a turning point for this troubled franchise.
Or at least, if there is decisive management, it can and will be.
First, I thought of this post title in the early innings when the Cubs' defense was absolutely putrid:
- Ryan Theriot lost the very first ball hit in the game in the sun. Alfonso Soriano sort of loped in from left field; had he run harder, he might have caught it. No error was charged, and three batters later a run scored.
- Matt Murton dropped a catchable fly ball in the fourth inning, that Mark DeRosa had called him off, allowing yet another run to score. Now, that's the outfielder's call, in general -- usually, OF have a better shot at a play than a backpedaling infielder -- but if you do that, you damn well better catch the ball.
- And in the play that likely precipitated the day's big event, the most indefensible thing of all, the fight between Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett, Barrett let a catchable pitch from Z get away, and then threw the ball into left field, allowing yet another run to score.
And after that Z and Barrett got into the aforementioned fistfight in the dugout. Through anecdotal evidence, and Lou Piniella's postgame press conference, here's what must have happened:
Z may have said something to Barrett along the lines of, "If Henry Blanco had been catching me, this wouldn't have happened". Now -- that's not a quote, nor do I have any proof of this. But I can imagine some words like that might have inflamed Barrett to that point; we already know Michael has a temper, and he really would have had to be pushed past the breaking point to slug one of his own teammates. Some reports have Piniella, who is 30+ years older than both Barrett and Zambrano, stepping in to help separate them.
After that, both players were removed from the game -- Z was ready to be taken out anyway, after giving up 13 hits and two walks in five innings, and he was removed for pinch hitter Daryle Ward; Barrett was also removed for Koyie Hill (who was recalled when Blanco was placed on the DL with a herniated disk -- a fairly serious injury), although Hill's presence wasn't announced; I didn't realize Hill was in the game until he batted leading off the 7th inning.
Lou said in his postgame news conference that both players were "sent home", and that the club would "deal with it" on Saturday, and further, that there had been more fighting between the two after they had been sent to the clubhouse.
Well, that's not enough. I know much of the brass is in Arizona getting ready for next week's draft, but Jim Hendry's not leaving for Mesa until Monday.
Jim -- if you're reading this, it's time to make a bold move, time to shake things up, time to tell every single player and coach on this ballclub that "business as usual" (and five losses in a row is NOT good business, is it?) will not be tolerated. We discussed this at length in the bleachers today and here was our consensus.
Call up Omar Minaya and tell him Z's available, and make a deal. Now. Today, if possible, tomorrow, if not. Whatever's gotten into Z's head, it is clear that his time with the Cubs has to be up. And I hate saying that, because we all know the sort of talent Z has, and he just turned 26 today (some birthday, huh?), and he might turn in several more great seasons (although with 1/3 of this year gone and a 5.62 ERA, this year may be a lost one already). Minaya loves Z; the Mets could use him, and he's already hinted that he'd like to sign there next year (as opposed to with the Yankees, where he couldn't bat except during interleague games in NL parks), and the Mets can afford him.
What should the Cubs ask for in return? It's very simple, and in fact, I think the Mets would do this deal. Aaron Heilman and Mike Pelfrey. Heilman is someone Hendry has shown interest in before, and Pelfrey is one of their top pitching prospects. Heilman steps into the Cub rotation, and if he fails, Pelfrey -- who is 23 and has made ten major league starts, including six this year -- could step in instead, with Heilman becoming a setup man, something this club sorely needs.
This club is at a crossroads. When I mentioned making a deal like this to Dave, he said, "Not only for prospects, they need a major league pitcher, too", and he's right, because as bad as this club has been, this season is still salvageable. Trading Z would, in theory, leave the Cubs without a #1 starter -- though Z surely hasn't pitched like a #1 all season. That's why you'd have to get someone with significant ML experience (Heilman), who could start (though he has not started a game since 2005, he surely could. And getting Pelfrey would help the club look forward to 2008 and beyond.
This fight has to be the turning point. From here, either the season deteriorates into something that could be worse than 2006, or a bold move has to be made to say, "We're still out there trying," and further, to say that such things simply will not be tolerated.
Do it, Jim. Call Omar. Deal Z. Put him on a plane tonight. The Mets are at home, it only takes two hours to fly there. We could have two new pitchers by tomorrow. Show us you care, show us some fire, show us you mean business about winning.
UPDATE [2007-6-1 20:19:44 by Al]: Not sure how long this is going to last, but here's a pretty good YouTube video clip taken from ESPN: