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Bob Howry Must Go: Cubs 2, Marlins 3

There, I said it.

I'm sorry, but no matter what his veteran status, how many times management can say, "Well, he'll come around", how many dollars are left on his contract -- how many times can we sit here and watch Howry, who at one time was a premier setup man, blow game after game (or take blowout game and force a closer into the 9th inning, as he did at Arizona on Wednesday)?

There are only two choices: find out if he's really hurt (or make up an injury) and put him on the DL, or DFA him, which would mean the possibility of making a trade (bad as Howry has been, there may be a team or two who would take him), or just releasing him.

Not that today's depressing 3-2 Cub loss to the Marlins is all on Howry's head, either, but he's the most convenient target, because he's the one who gave up the winning run, Jeremy Hermida's pinch-hit HR leading off the top of the 9th. No, there's plenty of blame to go around:

Case #1: Jeff Samardzija. It's been said many times on this site and elsewhere that no one can quite figure him out. And after seeing him throw 31 pitches -- 23 for strikes -- in two innings, I still can't figure him out. He's got a funky delivery that can send a pitch to the plate at up to 99 MPH. Or, more correctly, can send a pitch to within the vicinity of the plate; he threw a couple to the backstop, one of which would have been a wild pitch (about fifteen feet over anyone's head back there), except that Hanley Ramirez had broken for second on the pitch and got credit for a stolen base. Then he almost got out of the inning, but Jorge Cantu's ball slithered down the LF line just out of Aramis Ramirez' reach for a game-tying RBI double.

That was the first of two innings Samardzija threw -- coming in and leaving to a large ovation, which I thought was pretty overdone for a kid who's been a pro baseball player for a year and a half. This ain't Notre Dame football any more, people. To be fair, Samardzija, as Dave said to me, had to be pretty "amped" in that first inning. In his second inning of work, he retired the side 1-2-3 and had a nice K of Cody Ross. He's got a chance to be a real good pitcher if he can harness his command -- think of him as Kyle Farnsworth with a brain.

Case #2: Ryan Dempster. Sure, Dempster gave up only one run and two hits in six innings. But the six walks ran up his pitch count so he had to be taken out after six, and he hit Dan Uggla leading off the 2nd, which led to the only run he allowed when Josh Willingham followed with a double. Stuff like that always seems to come back and haunt a team.

Case #3: Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome, the heart of the order, went 1-for-12 today and stranded a bunch of runners, as did Alfonso Soriano -- Soriano could have broken the 2-2 tie in the 8th, with two RISP, but he popped up. These are the guys who are being paid to drive in runs. D-Lee, in particular, has been disappointing recently, although his single in the 5th could have scored Soriano. Me, I think I'd have held Soriano at third, leaving the bases loaded for Ramirez, though Dave disagreed with me ("send him with two out, it took a perfect throw from Willingham", which is true). Fukudome's looking particularly lost at the plate, and the Cubs, rumor has it, might be seeking a RH-hitting platoon partner for him.

So blame Howry. Absolutely. But also blame the offense; the Cubs had ten hits and five walks today and stranded eleven, including RISP in the 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. You can't win that way, and although five Marlins relievers did their job, I don't think they're that good. If the Cubs are to be the playoff team we think they are and want them to be, they have to win games like this.

Oh, and despite the statement made at the season ticket lunch the other day -- that the "L" flag was to be retired immediately -- it did fly above the scoreboard after today's loss. Good, I say. While changing the loser mentality is absolutely the right thing to do, the "L" flag doesn't say "we are losers". All it says is, "We lost the game today", telling people riding by on the L or walking through the neighborhood, people who might not, later in the evening when the crowd has all gone home, even know there had been a home game that day.

Enough. Onward to tomorrow; Rich Harden was acquired to be a co-ace with Carlos Zambrano. He's pitched well enough to earn that tag. Now let's get him a win.