clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Take A Deep Breath And Step Back

I guess it really hit me this afternoon while I was watching the Astros' methodical dismantlement of the Braves, 9-3 today, and I kept thinking:

"That's OUR game."

The Cubs would have been playing in Atlanta today, only with one difference -- I bet ESPN would have put the Cubs/Braves game in prime time, and had the Yankees/Twins at 4 PM ET. The Houston/Atlanta matchup is the one with the least drawing power, either by TV or in person (the Braves ought to be upset about helping knock the Cubs out, because today's attendance of 41,464 is about 10,000 fewer than would have been in the Ted had the Cubs been the opponent), and thus winds up in the afternoon.

But that's wishful thinking, and the Rogers Hornsby quote I have at the top of this blog is really true -- I HAVE been staring out the window, though it's too early to wait for spring, as it was 76 degrees in Chicago today, a gorgeous day for baseball, and it's supposed to be pleasant here this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, the days we would have hosted...

OK, I have to stop now. And that's what the Cubs players, management and broadcasters have to do too. Stop, think about what's been said and done and how destructive it was, and that continuing it now serves no purpose other than to drive the knife in even deeper than it already is, in every way.

This season didn't turn out like we wanted it to, and you know, looking back you could have almost seen this from the very first week of spring training, when Mark Prior got hurt. And then Mark Grudzielanek got hurt. And then Joe Borowski didn't seem right, and we found out HE was probably hurt all along. And Kerry Wood got suspended and THEN hurt. And Todd Hollandsworth...

Well, you get the idea. Virtually everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong in 2004 for the Cubs, and even with that, they won 89 games and were in the race till the final week of the season.

We are not used to this. You know, there may be something to the tag that everyone put on the Cubs for years -- lovable losers. It's hard to change the mindset from loser to winner, and Dusty Baker, for all his faults, HAS done that, I truly believe that, and getting rid of him would be a mistake of the first magnitude. It doesn't mean we have to be unlovable winners, but I think maybe this franchise has been so imbued with the losing mindset, that suddenly having all the ducks in a row -- at least on the proverbial paper -- was a shock to the system.

Getting rid of Steve Stone would also be an enormous error, and I don't think the Cubs are that stupid. They know of Stone's popularity, and they know how much money WGN, and the new Comcast Sports Net, brings in and will continue to bring in, and as I've said to many who've made a big deal to me over Stone -- it IS, in some ways, a great big TV show, and why would you get rid of the show's biggest star?

Of course, the TEAM ought to be the biggest star, but some don't see it that way, and after all, this is all about money, for good or ill, and the Cubs will make more money with Steve Stone than without him, and so after some time to sit and think and cool off, rather than keep sniping in the heat of the moment as they seem to be doing now, and I think Baker said it best:

I didn't want to leave [Chicago for the off-season] with that on my mind and that in my heart. Wipe the slate clean and start again next year.

This is really at the heart of all of it. 2004 is over. Looking back with recriminations doesn't accomplish a thing. Baker has the right idea -- he's off on a hunting trip and then back to his off-season home in California. In a few weeks, I'm sure all parties will sit down and work things out.

About the team itself, it's clear that the following things were the death of the ballclub:

* a lack of basic fundamental play, particularly defense and baserunning;

* monstrous bullpen failures caused in part by the injury to Borowski, the promotion and failure of LaTroy Hawkins as closer, and the failure to replace these two slots;

* too much reliance on three-run homers, which can't happen if there isn't anyone on base, which with too many strikeout-prone hitters, happened way too often;

* injuries.

All of these things can be addressed without ripping the entire roster apart, though I would say that there are only three absolutely untouchable players: Carlos Zambrano, Mark Prior and Aramis Ramirez. Anyone else could, in my mind, be traded in the right deal, and I emphasize RIGHT.

So many Cub fans are out for Sammy Sosa's hide, based on his poor performance and his disappearing act on Sunday, for which I am certain he will be disciplined.

But you underestimate Sosa if you think he won't rededicate himself to his craft in the offseason. I have said this before, and it bears repeating -- Sammy may be a hotdog, but he NEVER loafs, and I'll bet he's absolutely embarrassed by his season. Maybe he bristled at hearing Baker say that he (Sosa) must work hard this offseason, but if he sits down and soul-searches, I'd think he'll realize that Dusty is right.

With Moises Alou almost certain to be an ex-Cub (and perhaps torture someone else's postseason chances as a result), trading Sammy would be a mistake.

There's plenty of time to speculate on acquisitions, particularly since some of them (Carlos Beltran, for example, might be more likely to stay in Houston if they go deep into the postseason) are contingent on playoff performances, and don't pay any attention to ridiculous rumors like the one today: Sosa for Chan Ho Park and Alfonso Soriano? Absurd.

Bryan over at The Cubdom has gone through the traditional "Five Stages"... I'm not so sure that I have yet, but unlike 1984 when I could not watch one minute of the World Series, or last year when I just kinda peeked at the Marlins and Yankees, I will watch the playoffs this year...

and root really hard for the Red Sox. I figure, if they win, we HAVE to be next.

Finally, without comment, I post my 2004 baseball award picks. I doubt you'll find too many surprises -- the award selections this year, to my mind, are glaringly obvious in almost all categories.

The Bottom-of-the-Heap Awards will follow, probably next week.

MVP: AL, Vladimir Guerrero. NL, Barry Bonds.
Cy Young: AL, Johan Santana. NL, Roger Clemens.
Rookie of the Year: AL, Bobby Crosby. NL, Khalil Greene.
Manager of the Year: AL, Ron Gardenhire. NL, Bobby Cox.