Geovany Soto of the Chicago Cubs drops the ball for an error as Willie Bloomquist of the Arizona Diamondbacks slides in to score in the 5th inning at Wrigley Field on April 6, 2011 in Chicago. The Cubs made Bloomquist look like an All-Star this series. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
I was trying to figure out some way to make everyone feel better about today's 6-4 Cubs loss to the Diamondbacks, put some positive spin on it, so how about this:
Didn't work, did it. It's hard to put any positive spin on today's game, played in sprinkling drizzle, temperatures that didn't get out of the 40s, and a Cubs team that played shoddy defense, making three errors. Add that to the news this morning that Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells were both headed to the DL with arm woes, and it was an entirely lost day for the Cub franchise; 3-3 isn't exactly what a team with any hope of contending should have done on this season-opening homestand.
Nevertheless, there are other teams that were supposed to be contenders this year who have also got off to lousy starts -- the Red Sox are 0-4, the Rays are 0-5, and the defending champion Giants are 1-4 and have played almost as bad defense as the Cubs did today. So I won't pass judgment on this Cubs team -- yet.
The Cubs really should have won today's game. Ryan Dempster blew through the first two innings easily, then gave up a pair in the third, one unearned after Alfonso Soriano couldn't handle a triple by Chris Young and he wound up scoring. It seems to me, after watching Soriano run in the outfield, that his legs are pretty much gone, even for a left fielder, who doesn't necessarily have to be as mobile as the other OF positions. We are, unfortunately, just going to have to live with that. Soriano sort of made up for hit in the seventh with his third home run on the homestand, after Aramis Ramirez had hit a two-run jack of his own in the fourth; but the three-run pounding Dempster took in the fifth, giving up three runs after Ramirez's shot tied the game, put Arizona ahead to stay 5-3. The teams traded eighth-inning runs and that was it.
Regarding the DL time for Cashner and Wells, a forearm strain for Wells and a rotator cuff strain for Cashner, neither has any structural damage and surgery won't be necessary; hopefully, this is just a case of being really, really cautious and they'll both be out no longer than the 15 days. Casey Coleman is apparently going to be recalled to start in Wells' place on Sunday. Dempster, who will be on four days' rest, could start on Monday in Houston -- but then the team will need another starter to go in Houston on Tuesday.
Who could that be? Mike Quade suggested James Russell could start, but that, in my opinion, would be a really bad idea. Russell wasn't a good starter in the minors and hasn't been stretched out. To me, the next logical choice would be Chris Carpenter, who is in the Iowa rotation. Calling up two starters from Iowa makes their rotation thin -- but then, the point of having major league ready guys in Triple-A is so that they can be available for things just like this. They can be replaced by pitchers from Double-A. (And no, don't even think about Carlos Silva. Because I'm sure the Cubs aren't.)
The announced crowd was 32,272; about half that many, maybe 15,000 or so, were actually in the ballpark. That makes the attendance total through six dates 193,600, an average of 32,267. For the first six home dates last year, the total was 236,165, an average of 39,360. So the average is down 7,093 per game, or 18%. Now, last year the Cubs opened against the Brewers in a weekday series, which is a much better draw than the Diamondbacks, and later in April. Still, this is definitely a warning shot fired across the bow of the Cubs marketing ship. And if they can't right the on-field ship and play better than this... that 18% drop could become season-long.