There's not much more to be said about today's 2-1 Cub loss to the Cardinals that hasn't already been said in many, many other game threads. We can rehash over and over the idiotic Dusty Baker lineups, bullpen choices, and pinch-hitting decisions -- but it begins to sound a little "Groundhog Day", doesn't it? We already KNOW that stuff is ridiculous.
What's getting ridiculous is the defense that the media, both national and local, is giving to Dusty Baker.
Yes, I realize that "inside baseball" people often defend their own. Tim McCarver was particularly egregious today. Now, McCarver hasn't been on the scene of many of the Cub disasters of this year, but he can read the stat lines and the standings just the same as the rest of us can. If he really believes that Dusty Baker is doing a good job with this year's Cubs, or that the failings of the Cubs aren't in good measure Baker's fault -- well then, he ought not to have the principal analyst's job on the main broadcast network covering baseball games.
Now, there are some who feel this way anyway -- and I'm pretty much in agreement with that page, incidentally -- but he really did go overboard today.
And I was out for a while this afternoon and was listening to part of the game on WGN radio, and I was disturbed to hear even Pat Hughes subscribing to Baker-speak.
No, I'm not kidding. He and Ron were discussing the decision -- I should say, NON-decision -- to let Jacque Jones bat in the 8th inning with two runners on, against the lefthanded Randy Flores, rather than make the obvious move and pinch-hit Phil Nevin.
Pat spouted the company line -- "Nevin has been hitting righties better than lefties". Well, that's true, but not by much: .248/.317/.449 vs. RHP, .230/.326/.451 vs. LHP. That's a slightly lower AVG and OBA vs. RHP, a higher SLG, and .777 vs. 765 OPS -- a negligible difference, and in fact, one that will vanish after his HR today against Chris Carpenter.
But what really bothered me was that Pat went on to say, "Jones, just the other day, hit a HR against Arthur Rhodes, a lefthander." While this is true, it was left, amazingly enough, to Santo -- who almost NEVER comes up with incisive analysis -- to point out that Rhodes throws mostly fastballs, and Randy Flores is a junkballer, and last night he got Jones out on three breaking balls, and that that was why Jones could hit Rhodes, but not Flores.
Now if RON SANTO, whose analysis usually consists of saying "All-RIIIIIIIIGHT" or "Oh, NOOOOOOOOOOO!", knows this, why does a major league manager not know this?
And why does a major league manager not know that Roberto Novoa doesn't belong on a major league roster, much less throwing in the ninth inning of a tie game against a playoff contender?
This roster is poorly constructed. That said, there ARE things you can do with it to increase your chances of winning. Starting Freddie Bynum at second base is NOT one of them. Bynum is, as I am sure you know, a poor man's Jose Macias.
That, my friends, is a frightening thought. Ronny Cedeno doesn't really belong in the major leagues either, and neither does Novoa, who is the VERY poor man's Kyle Farnsworth, only he doesn't throw 100 MPH, and the balls he DOES get in the strike zone lay there flat, so hitters can whack them good, as Gary Bennett did today for the game-winning single. What's up with Bennett, incidentally? He also homered today, and has two of his three 2006 HR against the Cubs, and for the year is hitting .522 (12-for-23) vs. the Cubs, with 2 doubles, 2 HR, and 5 RBI -- this from a guy with a .241 lifetime average.
All of this came after Rich Hill threw a very, very nice game, particularly the fact that he didn't walk anyone. That is only the fourth time in 21 major league appearances that Hill hasn't walked anybody, and the first time in a game he started. This is a very good sign that he MAY be making the adjustments necessary to succeed at the major league level. He lowered his ERA to 5.81 (that doesn't seem very low, admittedly, but considering that it was 7.23 three appearances ago, that is progress). It's a real shame that Cub pitching held the Cardinals to only four runs in two games, yet couldn't win either of them.
Frankly, with only 33 games left this year, it is almost pointless to fire Dusty Baker now. If Baker were fired, you'd pretty much be stuck with someone on his coaching staff as an interim guy -- likely Dick Pole or Larry Rothschild -- because there just aren't that many people available for these sorts of jobs this late in the season, and further, you'd be stuck with the rest of the coaching staff, particularly Mr. Nibbles (Rothschild), and Mr. & Mr. Hackamatic (Gene Clines and Gary Matthews). This means that even if Baker WERE fired now, you'd see the same sorts of lineups, bullpen use, etc. the rest of the year anyway.
It does seem, as has been noted by many of you, that Baker is going off the deep end, deliberately making bad lineups and bad bullpen choices and bad pinch-hitting moves or non-moves, in an attempt, perhaps, to get Jim Hendry to not renew his contract.
He needn't do this; all he has to do if he really wants to leave is just walk in to Hendry's office and leave. As most of you know, I used to like Dusty Baker -- but his actions, and words, in recent days, cannot be defended in any way, shape or form. As I said, it appears we're stuck with him, but on October 1, let that be the end.