It is a sobering reminder of what it is to be a Cubs fan in the second decade of the 21st Century that, when the Cubs took a 5-0 lead in the first inning of Saturday afternoon's game in St. Louis, my very first thought was, "How are they going to blow this?"
I'll put some good things in here now, because there were very few of them in this game. The Cubs loaded the bases in the first inning and Geovany Soto missed a grand slam by about six inches. Two runs scored, and then Alfonso Soriano hit a three-run homer off Kyle Lohse.
That's it. The nagging feeling that they were going to blow the game continued through the bottom of the first inning, when the Cardinals scored a pair of runs. But then the game entered the bottom of the fifth inning with the score still 5-2, and I thought, "Well... maybe they can actually hold on to this lead."
Nothing doing. The bottom of the fifth inning was perhaps the worst-played inning I have ever seen the Cubs play in a regular-season game. No, check that. It's the worst inning I have ever seen ANY team play in a regular-season game. There were five walks issued, two intentional; two of the other three walks were with the bases loaded, scoring runs. There was a play that probably was interference on Matt Holliday, sliding out of the baseline at second base into Starlin Castro, but instead of making a play on a runner rounding third base, Carlos Pena started arguing with the umpires, allowing a run to score.
Ryan Freaking Theriot had a bases-clearing, three-RBI double in the eight-run inning.
And that's why I am saying:
ENOUGH ALREADY. BLOW IT UP.
This Cubs team is the worst fundamental team I have seen in my 48 years as a Cubs fan. They don't cover bases properly, they don't do good situational hitting, their fielding is atrocious, they don't work counts and take pitches (with a couple of exceptions, notably Pena); they don't throw strikes, they don't challenge hitters, they don't have pitchers with good enough repertoires to get major league hitters out on a consistent basis.
Why would you, as a team owner, Tom Ricketts, want to put as embarrassing a bunch of players out there as the 42-65 Cubs have been this year? The non-waiver trade deadline happens in less than 24 hours and all you've sent away is Kosuke Fukudome? The 23 games under .500 mark matches the low point of 2010 (51-74, the day Lou Piniella retired); the team hasn't been worse than that since the last day of the awful 2006 season (66-96).
Tom, you need to call up Jim Hendry and order him to blow it up. I would rather have the High-A Daytona Cubs brought to Chicago and play the rest of the season than watch this bunch flounder their way through more games like this. Pay them the minimum salary; you're paying multiple millions of dollars to many players who simply cannot perform at a major league level any more.
Here is the current 25-man roster. Here's who I would keep from this group:
Ryan Dempster. I like his approach to the game and he'd be a good mentor to younger pitchers.
Carlos Zambrano. Yes, this choice may be controversial, but I do like Big Z and he does, I believe, still have a chance to recover his previous level of performance. He's just 30 years old.
Matt Garza. Relatively inexpensive and pitching great, at least at home.
Kerry Wood. Hey, maybe make him pitching coach. The current guy isn't any help.
James Russell. I like his makeup in the bullpen and he's been really solid.
Sean Marshall. Maybe he can be re-converted into a starting pitcher. Great arm, great attitude, only 29, lefthanded.
Starlin Castro. At 21, he can only get better, and he's one of the few worth watching.
Darwin Barney. I like the way he plays the game; on a better team, he'd be an outstanding utility infielder.
Reed Johnson. Another good clubhouse guy, he's great off the bench and an excellent team leader.
The rest of the team: trade them for whatever you can get. Yes, including Geovany Soto, Marlon Byrd and Carlos Marmol, all of whom have some value on the trade market. I like Byrd, especially, for his attitude and hustle, but it's time to get some value for him. If you can't get anything, just eat the money and release them. That sounds ridiculous, but I am dead serious. This team has to start over, and if that means putting a bunch of minor leaguers on the field the rest of the year, so be it. At least those guys would appreciate being in the major leagues, something that appears at times to be lacking from some players currently on the major league roster. This may not be literally true, but it appears that way and how long can this team continue to charge these prices to see this kind of performance on the field?
It's beyond embarrassing. Do it. And while you're at it, Tom, get rid of this minor league coaching staff. They are so far over their heads -- it's just as embarrassing to see Mike Quade yell and scream at an umpire and get nowhere. Today, 2B umpire Derryl Cousins looked at Quade arguing with him and Cousins' body language screamed out, "What is this amateur coach doing on this field yelling at me?"
Tom Ricketts, I know you're not a George Steinbrenner type owner who yells and screams and throws things and I wouldn't want you to be that. I know you are trying to build a first-class organization and your improvements in the scouting department and this year's draft and international signings point to a bright future for the Cubs.
But at some point, you've got to be as embarrassed as we are angry and do something drastic. It's time to do that, I believe.
The Sun-Times' Rick Telander's most recent column had some things to say about various sports personages and teams, including the Cubs:
I was asked by a radio host the other day whether I stood by my long-repeated statement that the Cubs won’t win a World Series in my lifetime. I immediately said yes.
I said it was all actuarial. I’m 62, and I first thought the Cubs were going to win it all 42 years ago, in 1969, when I was a college sophomore and before Santo, Banks, Williams and pals expired in the August heat. But say I’ve got two good decades ahead of me, maybe even three. In fact, let’s say I’m an outlier and make it to 102. Forty more years.
That’s nothing! That’s less than 40 percent of the time the Cubs already have gone without winning a championship.
It’s math, for God’s sake!
I'm only seven years younger than Telander. I felt the same way he did 42 years ago. And 27 years ago, in 1984, and in 1989, and in 2003 and 2007 and 2008. But I am beginning to wonder, unless massive and drastic changes are made, whether the Cubs will ever win a World Series in my lifetime. I've been the most optimistic Cubs fan there is, for a very long time. But I have begun to despair of ever seeing the Cubs win it all. I'm starting to doubt they can.
So blow it up, Tom Ricketts. And if Jim Hendry won't do it, you're going to have to find someone else who will, or just do it yourself. Really, how much worse could new players do than this team did in losing 13-5 to the Cardinals on Saturday after taking a 5-0 lead, the 33rd time -- and fourth time on this road trip -- they have lost a game after having a lead.
Want more? The Cubs today had only two baserunners (Barney reaching on an error in the fifth, and Byrd's weird-bounce double in the ninth) after that first inning. Even getting that third hit screwed something up -- it could have been a very rare feat (five runs on two hits); instead, it's a little less rare, one of 73 such games in MLB history. Teams doing that are 56-17 in those games. Naturally, the Cubs are one of the 17.
That's somehow fitting for the Cubs, isn't it?
Enough already. Blow it up. This is unwatchable, unbelievable and completely unacceptable.