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Happy Birthday, America

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It's getting more and more difficult to pay attention to these games, wouldn't you say?

Not necessarily because they are loss after loss, but because each and every day, a new and creative way to lose appears to be found.

Today, an identical-score-to-last-night 7-2 loss to the Astros, was actually a close, tightly-played ballgame into the bottom of the sixth, and Mark Prior was, as the Cubs seemingly have been so many times this season, just a couple of pitches away from getting out of a difficult jam (bases loaded, one out), when a pitch in the dirt got away from Michael Barrett, and not only did one run score, but then Prior, trying to back up the play, bobbled the ball, allowing a second run to score.

That's all the Cubs need -- one bad play -- to pretty much deflate them, take away any possibility of winning, and though the score was still only 4-1 after that play, you knew, you just KNEW, that they had absolutely no chance to come back and win.

And for all of you who think that Michael Barrett is a good major league catcher, there's all the proof you need. A good major league catcher blocks balls like that. The Cubs don't lead the majors in wild pitches (the Royals do, with 50), or even the NL (the Brewers do, with 35), but their 30 wild pitches allowed is far, far more than teams with good catchers allow. Barrett's bat doesn't begin to make up for this. And even if you argue that Barrett's bat is worth keeping -- put him at third base, trade Aramis Ramirez, and get a catcher who knows how to handle a pitching staff, block balls in the dirt, and throw out baserunners (yet another thing Barrett is terrible at doing -- his 54 SB allowed are the most of any ML catcher, and his six passed balls are second in the majors).

After Prior left the game following the disastrous sixth inning having thrown 109 pitches (the Astros' Andy Pettitte was just about as bad, throwing 106 in his six innings), Roberto Novoa did as he was asked. So did Will Ohman. So did Bob Howry. All of those relievers recorded one out in the seventh inning, keeping the game reasonably close.

Glendon Rusch then came in and did NOT do a good job. I'm trying to be nice here, but allowing three hits, three walks, and three runs in a single inning of work when you are TRYING to keep your club within three runs, doesn't come under the category of "doing your job".

It comes under the categories of:

  • he sucks;
  • he's done;
  • he ought to be released.
The Cubs need look no further than the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are paying Russ Ortiz $22 million for the next two and a half years to work either for someone else or not work at all.

At this point, the remaining dollars on Rusch's contract come to about $4.5 million (half of this year, and all of next year). Even in today's inflated payroll terms, that's NOT all that much money.

Jim Hendry, eat it. Admit you made a mistake. Rusch cannot pitch at the major league level competently any more. The last time he appeared in a game without allowing a run was May 24; that was a one-inning garbage-time relief appearance in a game the Cubs lost 9-3. Maybe he's been hoping someone will offer something for Rusch in trade. But every time he gets sent out there and gets pounded hard -- and he's allowed 17 HR in 48 IP this year, although no HR today, and six of those HR have been in his last 15 IP -- other GM's have to be telling their scouts to head on to some other ballpark.

Barry Rozner said in today's Daily Herald that the Cubs should just "blow it all up" and start over. While this is a noble sentiment, it's not exactly just that easy. Turning over a 25-man roster completely is something teams just don't do, and not because it wouldn't be worth doing. There are contracts to be dealt with. Agents and players who are real human beings to be dealt with. This isn't just fantasy baseball where if your player sucks, you just click your mouse and cut him. Granted, that's about all Glendon Rusch is worth, but Derrek Lee? To my mind, there are two untouchable pieces here -- Lee and Carlos Zambrano. Everyone else is dealable, but the question is WHO WANTS THEM? Rusch could be DFA'd, but I imagine Hendry would have liked to receive something in return. That may no longer be possible.

Here's an instructive story from fifty years or so ago, when "blow it all up" deals were becoming almost commonplace. On November 17, 1954, Paul Richards, who was well-known for trying new and different things in baseball and then the GM of the Baltimore Orioles, engineered a 17-player deal with the Yankees, which went as follows:

Traded players to be named later, Bob Turley, Don Larsen, and Billy Hunter to the New York Yankees. Received players to be named later, Gene Woodling, Harry Byrd, Jim McDonald, Hal Smith, Gus Triandos, and Willy Miranda. The New York Yankees sent Bill Miller (December 1, 1954), Kal Segrist (December 1, 1954), Don Leppert (December 1, 1954), and Ted Del Guercio (minors) (December 1, 1954) to the Baltimore Orioles to complete the trade. The Baltimore Orioles sent Mike Blyzka (December 1, 1954), Darrell Johnson (December 1, 1954), Jim Fridley (December 1, 1954), and Dick Kryhoski (December 1, 1954) to the New York Yankees to complete the trade.

Can you imagine how many lawyers would have to be hired in 2006 to try to figure out all the various arrangements that would need to be made contractually and otherwise for a deal that large?

The above-linked Baltimore Sun article also says of Richards:

In 1956, he proposed swapping entire 25-man rosters with the Kansas City Athletics, backing off only after the A's asked to take Roger Maris and Clete Boyer out of the deal.

It's an intriguing thought, swapping 25-man rosters -- but what team in today's game would do that with the Cubs? Or with anyone?

Food for thought, or for computers, but probably not for reality. I do expect the Cubs to make deals, and turn over several roster spots, by the time July 31 comes around. Stay tuned. And have a happy Fourth.