Goatriders of the Apocalypse

On testy fans, some truly God-forsaken fans, enormous BABIP and why it is time to fire Lou

Looks like it got a little fiesty around here this weekend.  That will happen when your favorite team looks hopeless.  Let me try to sum up this mediocre weekend with the mediocre weather in this sometimes mediocre blog:

- First of all, my sympathies for the fans of the Pirates.  I got the chance to speak with many of them last fall.  Rum Bunter Tom holds us Cub fans up as the picture of loyalty because we pack our park every day, and his own (wonderful) park is mostly empty. 

You're wrong, man.  Most of the people in our park are either families from Iowa on their yearly pilgrimage to the yard, or twenty-somethings from the neighborhood visiting the world's biggest beer garden.  There are some die-hard blue Kool-Aid sippers, and a few of us loyalists who are dying inside the past two seasons.  But your fans WANT to believe, they get hooked year after year with the ARams and the Jason Bays and the Nate McLouths and now the Andrew McCutcheons.  I literally feel terrible knowing that by this time next year, the stiff at first base (Jones) will be making huge bucks and McCutcheon will be playing center for the Red Sox or Rays.  If any fans in the entire world deserve to be disloyal, it's your own.  Don't be so hard on your fellow Pirate fans.

- Besides Castro, Marmol, Soto and Colvin, (who in my mind are totally untouchable), the only other Cubs that would have any trade value are Lilly, Wells, Theriot, and in the right situation, Zambrano.  Z would be a trade deadline move, and it would require United Nations-level negotiations from all parties in terms of clauses, money, roles, and return.  We really don't want that trade to happen.  Not because we love Z so much anymore, but unless his teammates absolutely despise him, which they don't appear to, even this washed-out abortion of a team does not need that kind of distraction.

I think Lilly is the man most likely on the move.  That wouldn't be my personal choice, because I think he hates losing, can't stomach it, and we need more of that around here.  But Wells is a bit too young and resembles a young Greg Maddux a bit too much for Hendry to deal.  Theriot doesn't really have anything specific that other teams really want.  He can hit in the National League, and that's pretty much it.

- Even though I have no candidates in mind to replace him, my pick to be traded for even a bag of balls would be Derrek Lee.  I fully expect his production to increase with the temperature, and to me that's the problem in a nutshell.  It got prickly around here about Lee, and the thing I find so frustrating about him is the fact that he is held in esteem by his teammates as the leader, the barometer that everyone else tries to emulate.

And if THIS is the guy that is the pulse, then we need a pacemaker.  A true stud hoss leader would not struggle in April and May every year.  A real big man would not have spent the last five years taking walks in key clutch situations, leaving the heavy lifting up to Ramirez.  And now, when it is obvious that there is something physically wrong with ARam, a real leader steps up in the time of need and performs.  And if he is going to second-guess his manager, he doesn't do it meekly, mealy-mouthy.  If he doesn't like his guy mixing the order up all the time, then gatdammit, say it like a man!  Don't give us that "well, it's his team" crap. 

- Look, what is most wrong about the 2010 Cubs right now is motivation.  People are taking plays off, or whole innings off.  What does Carlos Marmol's enormous BABIP tell you?  What it says to ME is that, when he steps out on the mound, the rest of the team is not getting to any balls that are hit.  Marmol is not giving up homers, so the balls that are hit are in play.  Now, either the rest of the team are a) letting up or b) all tensed up by the situation. 

Regardless, it is indicative of a totally unprofessional attitude that pervades this team.  The thing Ryne Sandberg always stressed, and the reason why a man with average talents went as far as he did, was because he played every play the same way, all out.  The mistakes he made were physical, and although he was as fiery as a Jello pudding pop, his example rubbed off on certain teammates, which made them somewhat better than they were physically required to be.

Now, I'm not bringing Ryno into the mix here because I want him to take over the Cubs.  I'm not sure he is a long term solution to anyone's managerial situation, because being single-mindedly focused is just one attribute.  The guy the Royals just canned was basically Ryne Sandberg without the Hall-of-Fame career.  But the one thing I do have to admit, grudgingly, is that although I personally declared the season dead last week, and have no reason to believe that this .420 team is going to turn it around...

...the Chicago Cubs are still in the hunt.

It is obvious, though, that if we just leave things alone, as is, nothing is going to happen.  It is totally plausible that Ricketts and Hendry have seen the wild moves Lou Piniella has tried have not worked.  They may choose to do nothing, but I honestly believe they are not THAT lazy.  Maybe so.  Ken Rosenthal expresses what I have heard several times on the national level, that a change is needed, and it could be Ryno (which I say: ugh) or Trammel (Lou once won 116...Alan once LOST 119) or Bob Brenly, which actually kind of speaks to me. 

Me, personally, I'd like to see us trade Lee for a bullpen arm, put Z back in the rotation, put Dempster in the pen (because his last four outings have been worse than Z's last four outings as a starter, and Z has simply sucked in the pen) and see if that doesn't freshen things up a bit.  Who plays first?  Who cares...give Colvin a mitt.  Bring up Hoffpauir.  Play Nady there.  Bring back Chad Tracy.  The Great Jason Dubois is still in the organization.  Whomever, the Grand Master Plan HAS to include bringing in someone new at first base for 2011.  Let's see what else we have in the pipeline, before we overpay this winter for somebody external.

Either way, fact is: the rest of the division seems to be cooperating, making us seem not quite as bad as we really are.  Standing pat is a poor option.  We need more leadership, and more accountability throughout.  Ricketts family - make it happen!

We just need somebody to step up here...anybody.  To paraphrase Dean Wormer, Quiet, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life. 

Good Post

Rob. I disagree with you about Lee but I've already stated my opinion on that.

As for Marmol's BABIP, a lot of that is luck, though I'm sure some of it stems from the fielders expecting him to either blow people away or walk them. Marmol's career BABIP is only .253 so it appears that they have been ready behind him often in the past. I'm just shocked it's so high this year. I'm sure a lot of that is sample size.

Did you know he is striking out 17.5 batters per nine innings this year? He's still walking 5 per 9 but that K rate is so high, he can actually handle the fairly high walk rate. Hitters simply can not make contact against him so they take pitches and hope he walks them.

and, as for Lee

It may very well be true that his stats will improve, perhaps greatly, in the next four months. Doesn't matter.

His best two years: 2005 and 2009. How did his team finish? Badly. The man is the prototypical "good stats with bad teams" kind of player. I will never convince some of you of the fact that Derrek Lee is not a winner. But he isn't. Nice guy, good fielder, has had some monster offensive years.

The sniff test? In terms of clutch plays that immediately come to mind, over the past five years, how many involve Derrek Lee? I can't think of one. The one good memory I have of him is brusing his ribs leaning over the rail to catch a foul ball (which he did not catch).

However, I can clearly see 10 to 15 occasions with the game on the line where he either a) struck out, b) GIDP, or c) walked to pass the game to Ramirez. The true stars don't do any of those things often.

I begrudge him his spot in the order, as well as his place as the so-called leader of the clubhouse.


Ahh, I love when phrases like these pop up in arguments; "Derrek Lee is not a winner". I don't know what a "winner" is, but rest assured it's completely subjective and entirely arbitrary. It cannot be quantified.

Rob, I tried to look up "winner" in the dictionary to help me out, but she shine of Derrek Lee's World Series ring made it tough to read.

Dempster to the 'pen?

Dempster's last four outings worse than Zambrano's last four starts?

Dempster last four starts: 8 IP, 7 IP, 7 IP, 7 IP; 4.34 ERA

Zambrano's four starts this year: 1.1 IP, 7 IP, 5 IP, 6 IP, 7.45 ERA

It may in fact be time to put Zambrano back in the rotation, but realize that will only make our bullpen that much worse. There is pretty much no statistical argument to be made to suggest that Dempster has been a worse starter than Z over the last three years, so it would seem odd to me to throw Z back in the rotation while taking Dempster out of it.

Brandon is right, but

since you can't have a rotation with 6 guys (I mean, you COULD, but they won't), and Zambrano's 1st start skews the last three, that were short but decent. Zambrano is not doing it in the pen, at all. The only other starter with pen experience is Dempster, and he is 0-4 in his last four starts, and he's especially been deserving of losses in the last two.

better idea

why not keep both Dempster and Z in the pen and the Cubs bring back the Great Trashheap Steve Traschel.......

Hate to say. Ricketts isn't going to do jack. He is the definition of a "Chad in the bleachers." He is more interested in gentrifying the tourist trap known as Wrigley than bringing a winner for the next five years.

And you know this

how exactly?? Based on a month and a half of ownership on his part?

You could be right but seriously dude. For us to really know what the Ricketts family committment is, you have to give it, I dont' know, 5 years or so. I realize that seems like a long time but it is a window to see where they are coming from.

Everyone is bitching and

Everyone is bitching and moaning because Ricketts didn't make wholesale changes before the year started, and hasn't made any yet this year. While I hope that he dispatches Jim Hendry, and that a new GM takes over the team, and while I also hope that Lou's days are numbered, I think Ricketts is being prudent.

1) He knows that Wrigley is his cash cow. By extracting as much revenue as possible from it as he can, we can expect player salaries to at least stay on a level with where they are at. We can also expect changes to the park and surroundings that impact the players on a day to day level to come to fruition.

2) He's a new owner. He kept a man in place that I think needs to go before Jim Hendry or Lou should...Crane should probably be kicked to the curb as team president. But, I don't want Crane Kenney making the decision of who the new GM should be, I want a man with actual baseball accumen making that decision.

3) If Tom Ricketts wants to get out in the crowd and be THE face of the Cubs as it's owner, I say great. We've had damned near thirty years of some imageless conglomerate as the owners of the Cubs...and the last few we had some guy who barely knew the team existed as it's owner.

4) Maybe the man is smart enough to just let this mess play out this year. He knows he has albatrosses for contracts on the books. He probably knows that the current power structure isn't going to change the fortunes of the team. If he's smart (and I think he is), he realizes that the status quo isn't the answer. He has to build through the farm system. That takes time. If it means a world series, or a damned National League pennant, then I can be patient for some of these changes to take effect. Even if it takes a couple of years.

Stork has some great points

But it doesn't mean I, for one, am just going to sit here quietly while the five-year plan takes shape. Watching the Cubs right now is simply painful, and it doesn't really have to be that way.

Rob, don't get me wrong. I

Rob, don't get me wrong. I hate every minute of this. I'm 35 years old, and I can't remember feeling good about this team in the last 25 years for more than 5 or 6 years. Let's count...84, 89, 98 (kind of), 03, 07, and 08. Not good. But, the faster and more efficiently this team remakes itself, the better. That, unfortunately, likely means pissing away this year and next. If we can trade a couple of players for prospects, or get a verified setup man, great. But, I think we may have to just let this thing play out.

On Marmol and his BAbip – he

On Marmol and his BAbip – he only has 29 balls in play. So while I would love to say it’s the defense slacking off behind him, the .411 BAbip is really nothing more then an arbitration created by a microscopic amount of playing time. Had he allowed one fewer hit it would already go down like 40 points.

Relievers are just extremely susceptible to BAbip fluctuations from month to month (and even year to year) because they throw so few innings. It’s really best not to give too much attention to relievers BAbip marks.

On Lee – don’t really disagree. I mean, I am a big Lee fan and all; but I know we should trade him if we can because we wont get squat for him othewise anyway. And you’re right; he is a huge part of why this club has come up so short in clutch situations.

But the thing that really has me supporting you here; this:
“I work with Rudy,” Lee said. “I still feel I’m my best hitting coach. I listen to how my body feels and I know what I need to do. Rudy’s there for support. I’ve had this swing for a long time. I know what gets me in trouble.”

And making it worse, this:
“I am my own hitting coach,” Ramirez said. “I can listen to Rudy. I know what I have to do to be ready.”

See, that’s something I see as a huge issue; and part of the underlying problems of the club. I mean really, what kind of message does it send when our team vets/leaders are basically saying “Rudy is cool, but I don’t need him” in the middle of their pitiful, nearly 2-month long slumps?

On what needs to take place – I got my pitchfork ready, and will gladly stand beside anyone wanting to run Jim and Lou out of town. But the thing is, it needs to happen fast and neither should be here if we plan on bringing in kids. And that means through either call-up or trade.

And that is where I am really starting to question Ricketts myself. Sure, the fact that its a "five year plan" is fine, and understandable. But, that plan has to be helped along the way - you cant just sit back and hope it goes right. Only a small, small percentage of prospects ever become anything special - and an even smaller percentage become something when they all have gigantic holes in their games like everyone we have. So, we need to add to that group of prospects when we can - which means we need to make trades and intelligent baseball decisions along the way. Yet he acts as if there is no urgency to do anything with Hendry and seems to care less that Lou is seemingly creating more friction and controversy then anything else.

Ricketts either needs to embrace the 5 year plan and start on its course, or dismiss it and go all in to win now. Ridding the fence, letting it ride and acting carefree is solely disrupting both though; it's the exact opposite of what he should be doing right now no matter what his plan.

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