No, not the game, silly.
The Cubs are putting stickers on random scorecards; if you get one you win a scorecard signed by a Cub of their choice.
It'd figure, wouldn't it, that last homestand's signee was Greg Maddux. Today, when I got a winning sticker, it was Juan Pierre.
So, now I am the proud owner of a scorecard autographed by a player who's likely to be an ex-Cub in a few weeks.
You know what happened today. The Cubs lost to the Tigers 9-3, falling a season-low 15 games under .500 -- and the game wasn't that close. Even when it was only 4-1 -- which it was until Bob Howry got cuffed around in the 8th -- the Cubs never seemed in the game.
They put the leadoff man on in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 8th innings -- and scored ONE run out of all that. They can't hit with RISP. They can't hit with RIP (runners in position -- ANY position), either, and RIP seems pretty appropriate for this team, doesn't it?
You all know how old I am. Mike's a bit older than I am, and Dave somewhat older than that. We've all been watching baseball at Wrigley Field for forty-plus years, and together since 1979.
Dave said today, "I think this is the worst Cub team I've seen in forty years" -- and you know what, I think he's right. This team looks absolutely listless in every way. "Going through the motions" would be kind. How else could you explain having the first three hitters reach base in the 2nd, and scoring ONE run? Sure, a double play.
I said to Dave at that time, "Why shouldn't you bunt with Carlos Marmol?" At the time the Cubs had a run in, and runners on first and third. There was at least a chance that a safety squeeze would have worked, and even if the runner didn't score, a successful bunt would have put runners on 2nd and 3rd with the top of the order up (such as it is).
Instead, Marmol hit into a double play, inning over.
Other "rallies" -- getting the first two men on in the sixth, then clogging the bases full with a Tony Womack pinch-walk -- also failed.
All of it failed until the 9th, when the Cubs insisted on dragging things out by scoring two of the most meaningless runs they've scored in years. Dusty Baker also dragged things out by insisting on making two mid-inning lefty/righty pitching swaps.
"What's the POINT?" I yelled out. I yelled out some other stuff that Mike said could have been the headline on this post, but this is a family blog.
All of this on a day when Tigers rookie Justin Verlander didn't have his best stuff, and finally had to be lifted in the sixth after having thrown a Zambranoesque 103 pitches. Meanwhile, Marmol was OK after a shaky first inning where he allowed three hits, including a 2-run HR to Carlos Guillen. After that he gave up only four hits and a run in five further innings.
We are reduced to this: comparing this team to other horrendous Cub teams. The 1962 and 1966 teams, which hold the club record of 103 losses, at least had future Hall of Famers playing for them (and the '66 team had three, Jenkins, Williams and Banks, a fourth who should be, Santo, and in fact, a fifth Hall of Famer, 39-year-old Robin Roberts, playing out the string). Interestingly, in both of the following years, the club had a significant improvement -- 24 games in 1963, and 28 games in 1967.
Those teams at least had some entertainment value, and young stars. I mentioned the 1980 and 1981 teams -- those were horrendous teams without any star power. Bill Buckner was probably the best player on both of those teams, and he did win the batting title in a weak year, 1980, but he wasn't a first-rank star. Dave said, "Which player on this year's team would you pay to see, if you wanted to see one player play?"
Without saying the smartass answer, "Neifi!", it'd be Derrek Lee, of course. But he's hurt. There have been bad Cub teams in recent years -- 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 -- and all of those had Sammy Sosa, who, in the steroid-blinders years, was at least smacking home runs out of the yard. This year's Cubs have hit only 19 home runs in 31 home games -- that's pathetic.
Dave finally got disgusted and left in the 8th inning, leaving Phil, Mike & I to register our revulsion by ourselves.
Look, I know this team is terrible. To me, it's all on Jim Hendry's shoulders for paying a lot of money to people like Neifi, Glendon Rusch and Jacque Jones, overpaying for mediocre production, and then not going out and acquiring suitable injury protection so that losing a major star like Lee would hurt less than it has (the Cubs are 17-36 since the day Lee was hurt in Los Angeles, and that's really, really bad).
My sources say that the beginnings of a breakup are, if not imminent, not too far away, and my autograph winnings from today, Mr. Pierre, will likely be the first to go. If this is true, at least a prospect or two might be acquired to replace Ricky Nolasco and Renyel Pinto, to soften that apparent blow.
Further, there have been rumors floating around that Torii Hunter, who is a free agent, would waive his no-trade clause to come to the Cubs. I have heard that there is some interest in acquiring him and signing him -- there'd be no point in acquiring him and NOT signing him. Also, Carlos Lee is on the shopping list, but the thought is that the Brewers are drawing well, and he's a drawing card, and trading him would be a "White Flag" sort of deal, unless the Brewers fall far out of the race.
What that means is that Matt Murton and Felix Pie may not be part of the future of this team. I know many of you seem to like both of them, but Murton hasn't produced and Pie isn't ready, clearly, with his performance so far this year, which includes 65 strikeouts in 65 games. At 21, it's not time to give up on him -- but maybe he needs another year in Triple-A.
It is sobering to think that less than three years ago, the Cubs were five outs from the World Series. Today, they don't seem five light-years away. There were a ton of Tigers fans at the ballpark today, chanting "Let's go Tigers" loudly and frequently, and I know that less than three years ago, they were finishing up a nearly historic 119-loss season. They know well how we feel now.
Continual discussion of the sale of the team -- which is NOT likely to happen -- or replacing Andy MacPhail or Jim Hendry -- is simply counterproductive. Whether you want the current ownership or management here or not, the fact is, they ARE here, and likely not going anywhere. So -- Jim Hendry, please fix things so that we can have as quick a turnaround as the Tigers fans have.
Mark Prior throws tomorrow. At least that'll create a bit of a buzz. This team is so flat, they can use anything to boost them.