... now I try to be amused -- Elvis Costello
If you haven't seen it, here it is:
Here's the bottom line, as far as I'm concerned. A. J. Pierzynski is an ass. He's been an ass for a long time; he's disliked by a lot of people around baseball, except his teammates who have always liked his aggressive attitude (save the one year he spent in San Francisco).
Having done what he did -- and we still don't know what he said, and he likely did say something to Michael Barrett, Barrett has to simply walk away. It's just that simple. We all know this isn't the first time Barrett's imploded like this. He did it two years ago with the Astros and Roy Oswalt, and that might have spurred the Astros to the 2004 playoffs. He did it last Sunday, for heaven's sake, with Dave Roberts and the Padres.
There's something wrong with that. Maybe Barrett needs some of this:
And the Cubs have enough trouble without losing their starting catcher, one of the only people on the team who's hitting, to a likely suspension of, oh, five or six games.
The Cubs lost to the White Sox 7-0 in another game that wasn't that close -- but how do you get NINE hits and not score? Three double plays is part of it; having a replacement catcher who's now hitting .053 (2-for-38) is another, and the brawl pretty much KO'd Rich Hill.
Hill was doing a pretty good job of KO'ing himself. Again, as he did last Sunday, he threw that alleged 12-to-6 curveball -- which is more like 10:52-to-4:37, or something like that -- and that's a pitch that fools Triple-A hitters, which is why he puts up those gaudy stats that the scouts drool over.
Should have traded him in spring training. That pitch doesn't fool major league hitters and Hill doesn't have good enough stuff to get pitches by them -- just as I've been saying all along, "Quadruple-A" stuff. Hill was shuffling around the mound, kicking dirt about, after he wasn't getting the same reactions he got in Des Moines, and that's a real easy way to get killed, especially after the brawl. The delay was about 15 minutes, while the umpires tried to sort out who was ejected (turned out to be Pierzynski, Barrett, Brian Anderson -- who had hit the sac fly driving Pierzynski in, and then joined the fray -- and John Mabry, and I have no idea where Mabry was in the scrum. Looking at that video, third man in was Scott Podsednik, though he appeared to be trying to be a peacemaker). That gave Hill about enough time to think about stuff, and you could just smell a long ball a mile away. Tadahito Iguchi obliged with a grand slam.
Incidentally, Hill is now 0-7 for his career, with a lifetime ERA of 9.21. The record for most losses at the beginning of a career is sixteen -- held by Terry Felton, who pitched for the Twins in the early 80's. In fact, Felton NEVER won a game -- he finished 0-16. I have a sort of sentimental attachment to Felton and this record, because I own a game-worn jersey of Felton's from his time playing for the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, then the Twins' top affiliate. The Cubs don't have a lot of options -- Hill might have a shot at this record.
None of this mattered at all, as the run Pierzynski scored, making it 1-0, would have been enough. About the only thing I can say good about the Cubs today is that the bullpen did a pretty good job shutting things down after Hill was yanked in the fifth, having given up yet another homer to Iguchi that landed about ten rows behind me in the left-center field bleachers. Four bullpen innings, one hit, two walks, four strikeouts. Ryan Dempster had to throw an inning because the Cubs simply haven't had a closing situation lately... and that's not an exaggeration. Dempster's last save was on May 1 -- and the Cubs have won only three other games this month, by scores of 8-1, 4-0 and 5-0, none of which put anyone in a save situation.
Yes, it really is that bad. It has, as you know, been hard for me to admit, because I like to be an optimistic, look-forward person. But unless somehow this club is imbued with magical powers of offensive prowess in the next few days, it's not going anywhere.
Now. Does that mean we salivate and pant after Lou Piniella, Joe Girardi, Davey Johnson, Bob Brenly, whoever? Why? As I wrote the other day, if this season is a disaster, you're not going to get a manager in for the long term, if you go out looking on May 20. And do you really want four months of another Bruce Kimm or Jim Essian? I don't. I still advocate a wholesale change in the coaching staff -- because if there is any salvage to be made of this year, and if Jim Hendry is going to commit to keeping Dusty Baker (and he still might, you know), there has to be a change in approach, and that means a change in Dusty's Old Buddy Network.
First thing: fire Gene Clines and bring Von Joshua from Iowa. That'd help the batting approach. Second: fire Larry Rothschild. I don't have a real good immediate idea of who to replace him with, but it's clear that Rothschild doesn't have any idea where to take this staff.
As far as deals are concerned, you can float just about any name you'd like, but the most logical trade target on this team, presuming he does begin to play up to career norms, is Juan Pierre. He doesn't fit this club's future, and would be dealable -- but I'd wait a month, because he's not playing well now, and teams will be more desperate in late June. Then Felix Pie could come and play the rest of the year in CF.
Hendry's not going anywhere, having just been given an extension. I have it on good authority that he's "depressed" about what's happened.
That's not good enough. He's got to say, in the words of Peter Finch as Howard Beale in the 1976 film "Network"...
"I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
And then DO something!
Finally, a few notes on my day at the Cell: I ran into Jesus, the Nice White Sox Fan I sat near last year when I was there, and he's living proof that there can be nice Sox fans; he even asked me whether I thought the Tigers are for real (answer: maybe), and he said he was planning to be at Wrigley Field in June when the Sox are there. Today, there were almost no empty seats -- so I have to attribute yesterday's no-shows to the weather. The crowd was revved up, of course, by the brawl, and then by Iguchi's grand slam, and about then a guy behind me who was hammered (how do I know this? He was on his cellphone telling someone "Man, I'm hammered!" over and over -- and in a couple of years, this guy might even turn 21), spilled a beer on me.
And to add insult to insult, when I left and walked to the car, where Mike was meeting me, I decided to stop and get a Diet Coke for me and a regular Coke for him. Guess I didn't look too closely. When I got back to the car I had two regular Cokes. Since I can't drink that much sugar, I gave them both to him. It was just that kind of day.
Finally, as you may have heard, Barry Bonds has hit his 714th career HR, tying Babe Ruth. This does not make me very happy. When I told Mike this, he said, "When Albert Pujols goes after Bonds' season record, you had better be delirious with joy." I told him I would -- because Pujols plays the game the right way, the clean way.
Barry Bonds has hit 714 home runs. To me, many of them, and even any he hits after today, will be tainted.