Jeff Samardzija of the Chicago Cubs breaks the bat over his knee after striking out against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Look at the photo above. Go ahead, stare at it for a while, contemplate it.
Can someone explain to me the odd 3:35 p.m. PT starting time? All that does is ensure that shadows will cover the plate while the pitcher is in sunshine during the late innings.
And the Cubs certainly helped out Clayton Richard by not hitting him in sunshine or shadows; whether it was the shadows responsible or just an anemic Cubs offense is up to you to decide. In five of the nine innings, the Cubs went out 1-2-3, and had only three hitters bat in the eighth when Darwin Barney lined out and David DeJesus was doubled off first base.
Breaking your bat over your knee is pretty counterproductive -- the most you're going to do is hurt yourself, and it never seemed to help Carlos Zambrano much -- but you can understand Samardzija's frustration.
Samardzija threw seven good innings, allowing just one run on four hits. There are times, like Wednesday
afternoon evening whatever, when Shark really does look like the dominant pitcher everyone hopes he can become. He's had several starts like this, so it's not just the Padres or pitcher-friendly Petco Park. He just needs to do this sort of thing consistently. His next outing will be Monday against the Astros at Wrigley Field, so he should have another chance to throw a dominant game. Call it a confidence-builder.
Meanwhile, the Cubs made Clayton Richard look like an All-Star; just two Cubs baserunners reached third base and no one had an extra-base hit. Len & Bob mentioned that Richard had patterned his style of pitching after his former White Sox teammate Mark Buehrle; Richard and Buehrle aren't the same type of pitcher, but Richard works fast, just as Buehrle does. I think that's a good way to work -- fielders like it, it can keep hitters off balance if you stand in there and just keep pitching, and Richard was very, very good. Give the guy credit where due. The 2:18 game length meant that the Cubs could make an early departure from San Diego and get back to Chicago not too late, so they can rest up before facing the Reds in a four-game series starting Thursday night.
There's not a whole lot more to say except this: remember when I said I thought this team could repeat its 12-game losing streak from back in May? That's looking pretty prescient; I don't see the Cubs, who now stand 22 games behind the division-leading Reds, winning a single game this weekend.
If they do lose Thursday, they will do something only one other Cubs team has ever done: have two losing streaks of nine games or more in the same season. The 1954 Cubs had losing streaks of 10 and 11 games.
I know that things like this are necessary in order to build a firm foundation for the future. Len & Bob mentioned during the telecast that just six players remain from the 2011 Opening Day roster: Samardzija, Barney, Carlos Marmol, Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro and James Russell. Dallas Green did much the same thing from 1981-82; by the end of the 1982 season, here are the players who were left from the beginning of 1981: Randy Martz, Dick Tidrow, Willie Hernandez, Lee Smith, Jody Davis, Leon Durham, Scott Fletcher, Steve Henderson, Pat Tabler, Scot Thompson and Ty Waller. You can see the base of the 1984 division winners there (Davis, Durham and Smith); Henderson, Tabler, Waller, Martz and Tidrow were all traded away after the 1982 season -- which was nearly as bad as the awful '81 campaign. That team, like this one, was 43-66 after 109 games; it had a decent 30-23 finish to wind up at 73-89.
It didn't matter; it took two more years and a bunch of deals before the '84 team was in place. The record this year doesn't matter, either, although with much more money at stake than there was in the early 1980s, there is a risk that the casual fan, who doesn't understand what's being done behind the scenes and has seen his or her favorites all dealt away, could stay away. Not saying that'll happen or even that it's right, just that it could.
If they do, they'll miss the rebuild. I just hope it happens sooner rather than later.