... I believe the Cubs DO need to make a bold move before next Tuesday's non-waiver trading deadline, and after I say just a few things about last night's tough loss, 5-4 to the Reds, I'll tell you what important move I think this club needs to make to get it to the postseason.
With the rain delay, forcing the game to start nearly 90 minutes late, and me having to get up at 3:30 am for work, I turned the TV off after the sixth inning, figuring -- after seeing Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot and Derrek Lee making meek-looking outs -- that the game was over. Little did I know that the Cubs would mount a stirring 9th-inning comeback, featuring an RBI single by Jason Kendall, tying the game, before Ryan Freel would make a terrific play gunning Jacque Jones, trying to score the go-ahead run, down at the plate on Mike Fontenot's single. Four Cub relievers -- Will Ohman, Michael Wuertz, Scott Eyre (yes, even Scott Eyre!) and Carlos Marmol -- kept the game close after Rocky Cherry lived up to his name (his first name, silly, not his last name) by turning a 2-1 game into a 4-1 game.
Unfortunately, Bob Howry turned into "Bad" Howry in the bottom of the 9th, and the Cubs fell three games behind the Brewers, who annihilated the Cardinals 12-2, and two games behind Arizona in the wild-card race, as they had a comeback win of their own on an 11th inning walkoff HR.
So what is it that the Cubs need? So many of you are clamoring for Ken Griffey Jr. I admit, looking at his numbers, that even approaching age 38, he's having a good year. It's remarkable to note that he's on target to have 500+ AB and play in more than 140 games for the first time in seven years. Yes, that's right -- 2000 was the last time he played a "full" season, the first year he was with the Reds.
But is offense what the Cubs need? Yes, they are not hitting home runs. So what? Yes, they rank 8th in the NL in runs scored -- but they're only 20 runs behind the Reds for fifth place.
And despite the fact that the team ERA is 3.88 -- second in the NL and third in the majors (behind San Diego and Boston) -- I'm going to tell you that I think the club's biggest need is a mid-to-top rank starting pitcher.
Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly have combined for the most wins (24) of any two teammates in the major leagues so far this season. But right now, that's all the Cubs have for consistency. As much as most of us love Rich Hill and Sean Marshall, they're just not consistent enough to get this team into the postseason. Hill didn't throw too badly last night, and he got squeezed a bit by one of the worst ball-and-strike umpires in baseball, C. B. Bucknor, but he has a tendency to give up hits at the worst possible times, not pitching himself out of jams. And much as I was in favor of the Jason Marquis signing (even though it was for way too much money), he's been maddeningly inconsistent himself.
So let's go get a starting pitcher. And here's where I'd start, Jim Hendry: Get on the phone to Kenny Williams, who has already begun the White Sox' fire sale by dumping Tadahito Iguchi on the Phillies for not very much, and see what it would cost to get Jon Garland. Garland had another solid start last night, winning his 8th game of the year; he is durable, having never missed a start; he doesn't walk people; and he won't turn 28 years old till September (for sake of comparison, and you may be surprised to learn this, he is only six months older than Rich Hill).
It'd probably cost Sean Marshall and Ronny Cedeno. So what? If the idea is to win now, why not go get a starting pitcher who is a two-time 18-game winner with World Series experience? If you're worried about trading a "young pitcher" away -- Garland is only three years older than Marshall, and is signed through 2008 (he'll get $12 million in 2008, not unreasonable for a pitcher like him in today's marketplace).
Not only that, but the Cubs would get a little psychological payback for having had Ed Lynch trade Garland, who was the 10th overall pick in the 1997 draft, away when he was an 18-year-old kid in low-A ball and getting a mediocre middle reliever in return.
There's my "bold move". Go do it, Jim. Even if it costs more than Marshall and Cedeno. With Zambrano, Lilly and Garland, the Cubs would not only be well-suited for the rest of the regular season, but would have three solid starters with postseason experience ... should we get that far.
Three days to get it done. Go for it.
One final, curious baseball note: it seems that Royals outfielder Emil Brown, a Chicago native, shot a Kansas City TV reporter in the face yesterday with a pellet gun. The weirdest thing about this is the official reaction from the Royals:
"It was certainly an accident," Royals spokesman David Holtzman said. "He wasn't shooting at anybody."