No, I haven't gone off the deep end to the "dark side" and am going to begin calling for the Tribune to sell the Cubs, although if you read this Business Week article, there are rumors that the entire Tribco might be a takeover target. Thanks to BCB reader BeerCub for posting that link in this diary, where you can continue that discussion.
But it is absolutely clear, after today's dispiriting 8-0 loss to the Pirates, that if the Cubs are going to accomplish anything positive this season, they MUST go out and get someone to improve the offense.
No, Jeff Conine and Carlos Pena don't fit that bill. I believe Tony Clark is the guy, IF they can convince him to waive his no-trade clause, and IF it doesn't cost too much in terms of players sent to the Diamondbacks -- the team the Cubs, coincidentally, will be playing the next two days in Phoenix.
My sources say nothing's doing regarding Clark, but that could be Dusty Baker-style misdirection, not wanting to let on too much. Clark is sort of a semi-poor man's Derrek Lee -- a tall, good defensive 1B, good in the clubhouse with some pop in his bat.
There is a wild card, or possibly a division, to be won. I don't see any dominant teams in the National League so far this season, the good starts of the Astros, Reds and Mets notwithstanding. It can be done, and after today, I think doing something is imperative.
And, it may be just coincidental, but the Cubs are 12-4 without Jerry Hairston in the starting lineup, and 2-7 with him as the starting 2B. In those nine games, Hairston is 6-for-32 (.188 AVG), with one double (.218 SLG), three runs scored, 1 walk (.212 OBA), and 1 RBI. That's worse than pathetic. So, I'd think it important to not start him anymore, and that likely requires another presence at 1B -- someone NOT named John Mabry.
Don't blame Roberto Novoa for this one, although his Alfonseca-like error on what should have ended the sixth inning allowed four unearned runs to score and put the game away. This game was over when Angel Guzman had a rotten first inning -- hitting Chris Duffy to lead off the game, then having him steal second off Michael Barrett (which made Dave say, "Wake me up the next time Barrett throws anyone out!"), then scoring on a Freddy Sanchez double.
Guzman nearly got out of the inning with that being all the damage, but after Sanchez advanced to third on a Jeromy Burnitz groundout, Guzman wild-pitched him home.
After that, Angel was no devil (darnitall, the devil made me do that, considering there are TWO "Angels" on the Cubs this year, including the disabled Angel Pagan) -- he was pretty good thereafter, getting touched only for a Burnitz two-run homer. He struck out seven.
It didn't matter, as Zach Duke (Dave was joking that "we ought to punch his ticket for Cooperstown right now!") dominated the Cubs from start to finish. Two hits in the ninth inning only made two drunks sitting in the row in front of us start cheering wildly, hoping the Cubs would score even one run.
The rest of us were just wanting them to get this loss over with -- the third blowout loss in the last four games, in which the runs-scored totals have been two, zero, two and zero. And they WON one of those games.
Which brings me back to the lack of offense. Yes, this starting rotation isn't bringing fear into the hearts of National League hitters, but if the Cubs pitchers had done a bit better, say, on Saturday, maybe they'd have split the four games instead of losing three of four.
I'm splitting hairs here, of course, and ALL teams go through stretches when they don't hit. But with Aramis Ramirez (and you don't want me to repeat what Dave has said about him; suffice to say that he asked whether Aramis has ever taken a step to his left or right at 3B) hitting .203, someone needs to step up.
Here, I have one positive thing to say about today's game, played in clearing skies where the temperature felt cool under the clouds, but summerlike when the sun came out -- Will Ohman, who's been brutally bad this year, threw a nice scoreless inning, with nine strikes in his 13 pitches. Guzman, for all his first-inning troubles (and that first inning lasted about 35 minutes; the rest of the game took only 1:50), wound up throwing 70 strikes in a still-too-many 104 total pitches, before Dusty finally yanked him so that Novoa could put the game out of reach.
Matt, who is a loyal BCB reader, joined us again today. The Cubs also got blown out the last time he sat in our section in the bleachers. We are detecting a pattern here, so we are going to test this theory one more time. Matt is going to join us again on Saturday, May 13, this time bringing his wife Jackie for reinforcement. If the Cubs lose again then -- he may have to be banned. (Kidding, Matt!)
The upcoming nine-game road trip, against three mediocre teams, will be telling. The Cubs really have to go at least 5-4, and preferably 6-3, to have any real shot at moving up in a very competitive NL Central.
We'll see if there's an acquisition of a hitter in the Cubs' near future. It's nearly imperative if this season is not to be written off.