Game Recap: Cubs 9, Nationals 4
A day after Milton Bradley re-confirmed what we already knew about his being a giant, turgid dildo, Cub fans got to witness last night his continued ability to produce after it stops mattering. In other words, he is the Fred McGriff of the '09 Cubs, and his ass-eating, empty calorie production is nothing more than a big F.U. tease. More on that in a minute.
Speaking of not producing until it stops mattering, Rich Harden delivered another solid six innings of work last night, lowering his ERA to 3.99. At his worst, his ERA was 5.47 as recently as his July 10th start, but in 8 starts since then he's tossed 51 innings, allowing 10 earned runs (and no more than 2 on any given start) while striking out 61, walking 16, and posting an ERA of 1.76.
Naturally this has caused some Cub fans to call for a contract renewal, but that's a fairly bad idea. It's not that Harden isn't good; he just happens to be a lot like a car with a bad transmission. That car might get you to and from work for a while -- maybe even for years -- but you'd be stupid to take it on a long car trip and sooner or later, no matter how much care you give it, that tranny will drop out on you.
Incidentally, it was a meaningless outing but it remains concerning nonetheless that new Cubs closer Carlos Marmol pitched a 1 inning, 1-hit, 3-walk, 2-run 9th inning. I'm sure he'll stop missing the strike zone in outings that matter.
Back to Bradley, he led last night's 9-run charge driving in the first 3 runs the Cubs scored. He's now batting .259 on the season, but with an OBP of .391. Since the All Star Break he's batting .289 with 5 homers and an .870 OPS, but I don't think that even the stat-head apologists would be able to justify his poor production particularly in situations that matter. Impossible as this may have sounded back in late July when he was just a .238 hitter, Bradley's line might actually look half-respectable by year's end. Yay?
Anyway, Rob wrote yesterday that Milton is a cancer whose attitude and actions have a negative impact on the clubhouse. This opinion expectedly caused some debate, primarily because people who measure play soley by statistics have trouble accepting that intangibles can have an impact on numbers. For example -- is Bradley's crappy attitude causing players like Alfonso Soriano to struggle? Probably not, but if the clubhouse mood is hostile, if people don't want to be there or aren't enjoying the company they are forced to keep in those small confines, then it's absolutely conceivable that there's a minute impact.
In professional sports, a lot of success stems not only from physical ability but also from ability to focus, or at least that's what the athletes will tell us. Think back a job you hated compared with a job you love ... if we're being honest, it's probably fair to say that it's a little harder to focus and do your job as perfectly as possible when you're busy not being able to stand the presence of that douchebag who complains all the time and, on top of it all, makes more money than you. (Incidentally, other intangibles might include things going on in a player's personal life -- how many athletes have struggled horribly in years they are getting divorced, or having long, painful contract negotiations -- and work out regimens. Just saying, these things do impact play.)
But even if all the other players on the team dislike Bradley, I'm not sure that it it would hurt clubhouse chemistry. It'd be pretty easy for them as a team to just ignore the douchebag and let him brood silently. Still, I have no doubt that Bradley's bad attitude has impacted his play. His overall production is dramatically down this year, or in obnoxious geek talk his wRS in 2008 was 101.0; this year he's on pace to land at 75.4. If his production last year was worth 10 million a year, then we can probably agree that his failure to even come close to duplicating that output this season makes him -- for at least his first year -- a bust.
Back to the game -- although Harden pitched well, and Milton Bradley got the Cubs ahead early, the game remained close until the 8th inning. That was when the Cubs offense EXPLODED!!! for 6 runs, thanks predictably to the bats of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez -- who respectively doubled and singled home 3 runs -- and shockingly thanks also to Three Finger Hill and Mike Fontenot, both of whom doubled home some runs. It was a 13-hit, 4-walk day for Chicago, and they play today for the series win against the hapless Nationals.