... Glendon Rusch had pitched this way all year.
... Juan Pierre had started hitting this way in April instead of mid-June.
... the Cubs drew nine walks a game every day.
... the Cubs could execute squeeze bunts as they did today.
... Jacque Jones could have hit the way he's hit since the beginning of June, in April and May.
... Cub pitchers could strike out twelve and walk only two every day.
... the Cubs could have six extra-base hits every day.
... the Cubs could win a blowout game with their best hitter going 0-for-6 every day.
If the Cubs could have done that, the way they did this afternoon in dispatching the Brewers easily 11-4, we'd be talking about a team that was 54-34, instead of the reverse record.
The Cubs still aren't a very good team, but they have played excellent baseball the last three days (and four of the last five), and thus go into the All-Star break with a three-game winning streak, and a winning record (5-4) so far this month.
Yes, I know it's not much. But at this moment, it is all we have. I was so confident that the Cubs would win this game that after it became 8-2 in the 7th, I went and got my car washed and bought some office supplies -- using the $10 off coupon they handed out from one of those big box office retailers at the Cubs/Sox series at the Cell back in May.
Rusch did throw a very, very nice game, considering he didn't know till this morning that he was starting. He used to do this quite well in 2004, also -- maybe that's the way to do it with him, don't tell him he's going to pitch till game day. That sounds silly, but maybe he's got some sort of psychological block that makes him screw up when he's in the regular rotation.
Note that I am NOT advocating returning him to the rotation, or in fact using him in any important way at all. I DO hope that scouts from other teams that are looking for lefthanded pitching were sitting in the stands at Miller Park today -- maybe the Cubs can deal him somewhere. Lefthanders always seem in demand, and even though Rusch has an unsightly 7.76 ERA (and that is DOWN from 8.19 entering today's game), maybe there's a pitching coach somewhere who thinks he can fix that.
With the Kerry Wood "era" in Chicago likely over, and Mark Prior with another in his endless line of injuries, the ballclub is going to have to begin looking elsewhere to build a winner in the future. This means trading tradeable parts; this means scouring free agency over the winter for help, and yes, it means deciding whether Dusty Baker is the right man to lead the club to its next title, or whether they should start over.
I still believe the jury is out on that. It may be that the second half of the season will follow the first, and in that case, yes, Baker will have to go. But I also believe that the remaining 74 games will be useful to evaluate everyone in the organization. I am pleased to see in the new manager poll, the two top choices are Joe Girardi and Fredi Gonzalez. I cannot imagine the Marlins allowing Girardi to walk, even to the Cubs; he's done a very good job in the first half for them and I suspect they'll probably try to lock him up to a long-term extension, maybe even before this season ends.
I have long said that IF Dusty Baker is not retained, my top two choices for his replacement would be Joey Cora and Gonzalez; although Gonzalez is in his fourth year as 3B coach under Bobby Cox (he also coached 3B from 1999-2001 with the Marlins), he is a young man, only 42 years old, and one thing I believe that would be a positive development under a young, first-time manager, is that he would NOT feel the need to reward his old buddies with coaching jobs, as Baker has done. This is one of the things I dislike most about Baker -- and I did with Don Baylor, who did the same thing with his old Colorado coaches (remember how bad Gene Glynn was as a 3B coach?), and in fact, Jim Riggleman did the very same thing when he was hired, bringing in a slew of coaches from his San Diego managing stint. One of the things I'd want to ask someone like Gonzalez in an interview is whether he'd do something like this, or whether the Cubs could simply interview multiple candidates for EACH of the open coaching slots.
As I noted somewhere else (one of the comments, or one of the diaries, I can't remember where), the last Cub manager hired with NO previous managerial experience was Lee Elia, and he was a special case since he was brought in by Dallas Green along with a passel of other ex-Phillie coaches like John Vukovich (who, incidentally, would have been named Cub manager in 1987 had Green been given the team presidency he coveted). Previous to that, the last Cub manager without previous managerial experience was Jim Marshall, and Marshall had been a coach under Whitey Lockman, so inherited his longtime coaching staff.
Hiring a young-gun manager who could truly change the direction of the organization, then, would truly be a first for the Cubs in the modern era. If Baker is indeed out, this is the way I'd go.