Series Preview: Reds vs. Cubs
Have you ever been in a relationship with somebody where, after it was all over, you just wanted to see your former partner ground into the dirt? It's not that you would ever go out and hunt him/her down, but you just want every bad possible thing to happen. You want him/her to get fired for looking at porn at work. Then you want his/her mother to be whisked off to rehab due to her raging alcoholism. Then you want him/her to lose their house and be forced to crash on a friend's couch. And the stress! You want him/her driven to perscription meds to overcome the building, unending swell of anxiety they feel -- and in the process you want your ex to gain about 100 pounds. Then, and only then, you want to run across that person. You want them to see you, looking great, your life moving in the right direction, even as he/she now weighs somewhere near 300 pounds, while sleeping on a couch, dealing with the trama of an alcoholic mother and the known history of beating meat on the company dime.
Wait -- you've never wanted that to happen to an ex? Me neither, but in baseball terms it's pretty close to how I feel about Dusty Baker. Never before had somebody promised so much and delivered so little. It's as if a con-man came to town, sold us our monorail, and skipped out of town with our money, our wives, and our hopes crushed by the looming shadow of that never-to-be-completed project.
Bitter? Me? Nah.
Still, if the Cubs fail to reach the playoffs I will feel a great consolation should they finish ahead of the Reds -- who themselves I pity for having great young players and pitching, all wasted on a manager who wouldn't know how to handle talent if given a step-by-step guidebook.
Friday, July 24th - Aaron Harang (5-10, 4.17 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (5-4, 3.00 ERA)
Ah, Randy Wells. Man of mystery. For the remainder of this year -- and surely into 2010 -- I'll be wondering if Wells is the real deal. If he is, despite his remarkable start he's still most likely to project as a #3 starter.
Aaron Harang, meanwhile, was the real deal for two seasons before Dusty got his hands on him. He was a two-time 16-game winner, who'd struck out 200+ in back-to-back years, before Dusty called on him to pitch in relief between starts last year. For the remainder of '07 Harang wasn't the same. So far this year, he's better than he was but not as good as he used to be. Teams are batting .292 against him -- up 50 points from two years ago.
Saturday, July 25th Ted Lilly (9-7, 3.59 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (8-6, 3.67 ERA)
Last year, Lilly was a top pitcher for the Cubs ... except when he faced the Reds. They owned him. Lilly was 0-4 with an 8.15 ERA in his 4 starts against him. The good news is that he's got a 0.00 ERA against the Reds so far this year ... (and an 0-1 record).
Cueto, one of Cincy's most promising pitchers, has seen his ERA rise from 2.69 to 3.67 this month.
Sunday, July 26th Kevin Hart (1-1, 2.30 ERA) vs. Micah Owing (6-10, 5.33 ERA)
Hart, like Wells, is unproven but with a good amount of promise. I could think of worse teams than the Reds for him to continue to hone his craft against.
Owing is another young and promising pitcher, although he's not showing a lot of it this year. Still, he's doing better than he did in '08, which is saying ...eh, something?
I may come back to add more later, but I'm out of time to write this. But I'll reiterate what I first said -- I really dislike Dusty Baker. I'm sure the Cubs will have their tough spots this series, but more than usual I'm rooting for a sweep. Besides, if the Cubs can manage one, they'll pretty much have single-handedly knocked the Reds out of competition, as Cincy is hanging on by a thread.
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