One day after looking pretty good in defeating the Dodgers 7-3, the Cubs returned to the ways of most of the first half of 2010. They got shut out for the seventh time this season, 7-0 by the Dodgers, and finished the first half a terrible 39-50, their worst record at the All-Star break since 2006, when they went into the break at 34-54 on their way to a 96-loss season.
Will this year wind up that bad? Does this team have a run in it? We don't know the answers yet (they probably lie somewhere in between). First, a brief recap of a game in which the Cubs had no hits until the sixth inning and which was basically over when James Loney hit the 12th pitch of the game into the right-field seats for a three-run homer.
There were a few items of note in this otherwise one-sided game:
- Ryan Theriot had two doubles. That amounts to 18% (2 of 11) of all his extra-base hits for the entire season. The last time Theriot had more than one XBH in a game was almost exactly a year ago, July 12, 2009, the first game of a doubleheader vs. the Cardinals, also the day before the All-Star break, when he also had two doubles.
- Marlon Byrd was hit by a Vicente Padilla pitch in the seventh inning. The look on Byrd's face was priceless -- there's history between these two. They've been teammates with both the Phillies and Rangers, including last year in Texas, and when Padilla was outright-released by Texas in August last year, Byrd publicly applauded the move:
"About time," Byrd said. "It's absolutely a positive for this team. We have to get rid of the negatives to make a positive, and I believe this is a huge positive for this team."
- And thus, props to Andrew Cashner, who came into the game in the eighth and promptly nailed Blake DeWitt, causing the umpires to warn both benches.
- Finally, there were three more close calls at first base last night after the badly blown one on Saturday. The first one was correct -- Xavier Nady never tagged Padilla on his bunt attempt. But four batters later, when James Loney hit a ground ball to Nady and Carlos Silva was slow getting off the mound, 1B umpire Brian Runge called Loney safe. Replays showed he was out. Silva got himself tossed -- the way he was pitching, his worst outing of the year, that was probably a good thing. In the top of the eighth, on a similar play, Starlin Castro was called out, but replays showed he was safe. According to this tweet from Carrie, we almost had a real scene:
1st base ump Brian Runge nearly had to eject entire #Cubs dugout after another bad call. James Loney was off the bag
So, after the jump, I'm going to get back on my soapbox about replay review.
After some of the awful calls in last year's postseason, I made this simple proposal for replay review:
Each manager gets two "red flag" challenges to rulings on the field, which would be limited to: home runs, fair/foul calls, safe/out rulings, and trapped/caught fly balls or line drives. The red flag must be thrown before the next pitch; managers would have to make sure they pay close attention to questionable calls so they could throw the flag quickly. A fifth umpire would be stationed in the press box for review; this umpire would be part of the regular rotation of the crew, giving every umpire an every-5th-game break from field duty, and would also serve as official scorer. After the 7th inning of every game, the red flag system is eliminated and all close plays of this type are subject to mandatory review (similar to the NFL's mandatory review in the last two minutes). Just as in NFL review, replays would have to show conclusive evidence to overturn the ruling on the field.
This is simple and to the point and would not delay games any longer than they already are with managers trudging slowly out of the dugout to argue calls. Managers would know that they have an alternative -- and unlike last night, player ejections would also be reduced to near zero, because a player involved in such an obviously wrong call as the one Silva was ejected on would simply stand aside and let the play be reviewed. (As noted, the ejection of Silva last night was probably a good thing, the way he was pitching. Cubs relievers threw 6.2 innings last night and gave up two hits and one run.)
Again, I don't see how anyone could be against such a system. With a fifth umpire in the press box, in contact with the crew chief on the field by radio, you wouldn't even have the delays you have now for home run review where the umpires have to leave the field. On the two occasions where home runs have been reviewed at Wrigley Field since the HR review system was implemented, the delays have been no more than three minutes.
In most games you'd never use this at all. In the last two games, you'd have used it several times. It still wouldn't have delayed games longer than they already were by having Lou trudge on and off the field, or Silva have his little tantrum.
Somebody wake up Bud Selig and make him do this.
Finally, I didn't want to let this recap go without some comments about the remarks Tom Ricketts made to beat writers yesterday in Los Angeles, as reported by Bruce Miles:
Carrie Muskat of mlb.com says Ricketts was "still having fun in his first season as owner." Not sure the fans feel the same way. Ricketts so far refuses to play the blame game, specifically when it comes to GM Jim Hendry. Ricketts told Carrie and the other writers that he "had the highest level of confidence" in Hendry.
"I'm not going to assign blame to anyone or anything," Ricketts told the writers. "The fact is we came into the season, we had what appeared to be a pretty strong lineup. It hasn't worked out for whatever reason and it seems like the guys are putting it together now and let's just keep winning."
"The fact is right now, Jim is our general manager, I support him, I think he does a great job, and after that we'll just take it one day at a time," Ricketts told reporters, possibly leaving himself some wiggle room for a change after the season if he wants to make one.
Right now, it doesn't appear so and I believe any speculation by writers is just that, speculation. I know a lot of you won't click on Paul Sullivan links (and really, this is yet another ridiculous feud that ought to end), but a clue to some background on Ricketts' comments is in Sullivan's article on the topic:
Ricketts was in town with a couple of his children to watch Tuesday's All-Star Game in Anaheim. He stopped by Dodger Stadium on Sunday to watch the Cubs' first-half finale and reluctantly agreed to answer some questions.
Sounds like it was an impromptu, off-the-cuff meeting rather than any sort of formal interview, and Ricketts wanted to be civil and cordial as well as noncommittal. I don't think you can read anything more into it than that.
The All-Star break ought to be a real break for the team and for every one of us, too. The only Cub involved at all is Byrd. Hope he gets a chance to contribute and doesn't get hurt.