Today's 2-1 Cubs loss to the Cardinals, their fourth in a row, wasn't all Bobby Scales' fault, obviously. The Cubs did manage to tie the game up in the 9th inning before the Cardinals got three quick hits and the winning run off Carlos Marmol.
And I shouldn't blame Scales, either. Like LaTroy Hawkins under Dusty Baker, Scales is being asked to do a job by his manager that he isn't qualified to do. So let's say this in big, loud, bold type so maybe Lou will pay attention:
Hey, Lou. Bobby Scales isn't an outfielder. Will you please stop playing him there?
Scales did play some outfield in the minor leagues, though not very much, and it's been three years since he's spent significant time in the outfield (13 games there for Iowa this year, 10 last year). Admittedly, Jake Fox isn't really a very good outfielder, either, though the man can hit. And the Cubs haven't been hitting or scoring many runs lately. Plus, Fox might actually have a role for the 2010 Cubs. Scales will turn 32 on the last day of the regular season and he's had his proverbial 15 minutes of fame. Most likely, he won't be part of the Cubs' 25-man roster next year. And if Lou wanted an outfielder who can actually play, plus is familiar with Busch Stadium, why not So Taguchi?
Nope, it was Scales, who also overran a single by Chris Carpenter in the seventh inning, turning it into a double, although that didn't result in any runs scoring, unlike the ball that Scales had in his glove, hit by Brendan Ryan, that popped out into the bullpen for a home run.
Which was a damn shame, because it ruined yet another outstanding outing from a Cubs starting pitcher. Ryan Dempster nearly matched Carpenter, who is a Cy Young candidate, pitch for pitch over the first eight innings. Only Ryan's HR made the difference; Dempster walked one and Carpenter two. The Cubs eked out a run on a pair of singles and a sac fly by Jeff Baker off Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin in the top of the 9th. Incidentally, the Cardinals ought to worry about Franklin in the postseason. After being nearly unhittable the first five months of the season, Franklin has made seven appearances in September, in which he has thrown 6.1 innings, allowed 11 hits and six walks and seven earned runs for a 9.95 ERA.
Carlos Marmol came in and allowed a single to Ryan Ludwick, who was forced on a bunt attempt. Two more singles scored the winning run, the 20th time this year the Cubs have lost a game in their opponent's last at-bat, a testament to the inconsistency of the bullpen.
But what sums up this game, and in fact, the entire season, is this quote from Lou, which I think we've heard way too many times in 2009:
"He's trying so hard, he's playing a little out of control," Piniella said of Scales, who is in the big leagues for the first time after toiling 10-plus seasons in the Minors. "What are you going to do? This young man played the infield in the Minor Leagues all year."
What are you going to do, Lou? How about managing the team and putting someone out there who can actually play the outfield? I'm getting tired of hearing "What are you going to do?" or "What do you want me to do?" That's not the Lou Piniella who led the Cubs to two division titles. He sounds tired and defeated. Maybe it's time for him to retire.
In the meantime, the Cubs will try to salvage the final game vs. the playoff-bound Cardinals this year, tomorrow night. It's worth watching for the pitching matchup, Carlos Zambrano vs. Adam Wainwright, and to hear what misstatements (or even outright lies) Joe Morgan will say about the Cubs. Till tomorrow, and till then: go Bears.