Today's sideshow was epitomized by four men we saw sitting in the lower LF corner box seats -- three of them wearing Michael Barrett jerseys, the fourth wearing an A. J. Pierzynski jersey. They were good-naturedly ribbing each other, and fortunately, no fight broke out -- either there or anywhere else in the stands. Pierzynski himself even got hit by a pitch -- a Sean Marshall curveball, of all things -- and no brawls or other hoopla occurred.
The Sox fans in attendance -- who had to number at least half the crowd, maybe 60%, far more than ANY Cubs/Sox game at Wrigley Field since interleague play began -- cheered loudly for their favorites, booed Barrett (just as Cub fans booed Pierzynski), and then collectively yawned as the White Sox Express rolled over the Cubs effortlessly 6-2 this afternoon.
It's not just the Cubs, either. Between the Twins, Tigers and White Sox, the top three teams in the AL Central are now 39-7 against the NL this season. That accounts for all of the difference (but for one game) in the 128-75 advantage the AL has in interleague play this season.
It was yet another game I had to leave early to report to work, and this time, I was almost glad of it. The game slogged along -- the first inning alone took almost 45 minutes -- and it had barely finished the fifth when the time came to go.
Sean Marshall pitched credibly, going six innings and allowing four runs. Unfortunately, three of those were in that ridiculously long first inning, when he allowed five hits, all of them hit hard. The Cubs got two runs back right away, but again, depressingly, as they have all year, left runners stranded on second and third. They also left RISP in the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth innings -- by the ninth it was too late, after Juan Uribe's two-run HR put the game out of reach.
You know what this team reminds me of? The 1987 Cleveland Indians. I remember the cover of Sports Illustrated's baseball preview issue that year; the Indians, with several good young players including the just-acquired ex-Cub Joe Carter, Cory Snyder, Brett Butler and a kid who's still playing 19 years later, Julio Franco, had won 84 games in 1986 after a 100-loss season in '85, and were picked by SI to win the World Series.
Now, the Cubs weren't supposed to be that good this year, we all know that. And they don't have that young nucleus, either. But the 1987 Indians lost 101 games, mainly because their pitching staff was atrocious -- they allowed a shockingly large 957 runs. And this Cub pitching staff is getting there; the problem is made worse by the fact that the offense is far worse than that 1987 Cleveland team, which scored 742 runs.
You can see that just by comparing them with this year's White Sox.
The White Sox lead the majors with 458 runs scored (including today).
The Cubs are last in the majors with 310 runs scored (including today).
That's 148 runs difference -- ALMOST TWO RUNS PER GAME.
I think we all know the reasons for this difference, and don't have to rehash it here. It's clear, even with Juan Pierre playing better lately, that the Cubs need people who can get on base, whether by hits OR walks. We had a lot of debate today, Phil, Dave & I, on whether the Cubs should re-sign Pierre to a one-year contract.
I say no. There are other options. This team has to be retooled, and Dave, for one, says that if Pierre continues to play well, the White Sox might even be interested. Good. Perhaps the Cubs could package Bob Howry with him and get some real, good young pitching talent in return; Lance Broadway and Ray Liotta were suggested to me. Dave even came up with the novel idea that the Cubs could look into reacquiring Jon Garland -- since he seems to have fallen into some disfavor on the South Side -- because the Sox want bullpen help and are likely ready to move Brandon McCarthy into the rotation.
Food for thought.
Probably not food for thought for the White Sox, though; Brian Anderson, though he's hitting at Neifi levels, uncorked a bullet of a throw to third base in the first inning; it didn't get Aramis Ramirez, who was hustling, but all of us were impressed by the strength AND accuracy of Anderson's arm. Pierre, though, might be worth sending to the White Sox as a rent-a-player, and they could give Anderson another half-year in Triple-A.
On the other hand, the White Sox are winning the way things are.
Hadn't meant to make this such a White Sox-centric post, but that's about the way things are in this town, and in this game, right now. The Sox are hot; the Cubs are an afterthought.
Finally, Sox reserve Pablo Ozuna led off the game with a single; he then had to leave with a minor hamstring tweak. He is now 38-for-88, .432. It is believed that the player with the most at-bats with a .400 season average since Ted Williams in 1941, is Bob "Hurricane" Hazle, who was 54-for-134 (.403) for the pennant-winning 1957 Milwaukee Braves. Ozuna's got a shot at a .400 average with close to that many AB's, assuming he plays as much in the second half as the first.
I promise -- more Cub stuff tomorrow. A win would be nice. The Cubs finish June 9-18, which makes them 16-40 for May and June, as brutally bad as the 40-15 May and June 1977 were good.
Finally, it was nice to meet BCB reader ontheuptick and a couple of his buddies who sat with us today.