Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Aramis Ramirez is not a leader of men

or: No Women Were Harmed in the Creation of this Post

It takes a lot to get me to stand aside long-time Sun-Times sportswriter Carol Slezak.  Most days, when she isn't whining about how hard it is to live in Wrigleyville because, you know, there's so damn many Wrigley Field patrons some days, she is on her usual soapbox about gender inequity in sports.  If I had a chance to ask her one question, it would be: "Carol, are you really a FemiNazi, or does the paper force you into it?"  It really could go either way, except you do have to take into account the fact that, yeah, she once (and still might) lived in Wrigleyville and she's not a Cubs fan.  I mean, for the rents and the crowds and the Trixie/Chad factor, I wouldn't live there unless I was a) a Cubs fan, or b) a patron of the lively independent art scene. 

How's THAT for an euphenism?

Anyway, today she chose to address the response A-Ram gave when he surprisingly won the Hammerin' Hank award, or whatever it was called.  (BTW: the award is of such little consequence that the process behind it isn't worth discussing).  And, today, Carol was Right.  She couldn't have been more right.  I'm just taking her premise today a bit further.

See, A-Ram was asked the inevitable question, considering he was being honored for his hitting prowess, whether his sucktastic hitting performance was to blame for the cleen sweep in the playoffs.   He did stand up and answer the question.  In and of itself, his answer was well-reasoned, articulate, and logically correct.  No, he stated, he was not to blame for the loss, any more than Soriano, Dempster, Marmol, et. al.  It was a team loss, reasoned Mr. Ramirez, and indeed it was.  If he was running for Mayor, or examining for the Bar, I would be inclined to have him continue with his line of reasoning.  In otherwords, no, in samewords, his answer was very reasonable.

But it ain't what Carol wanted to hear, and I agree.  It isn't what I want to hear out of him, either.

Our team is staffed with a lot of talented guys who, unlike years past, understand situational baseball and are not utterly consumed with their own stats.  This is wonderful, well and good.  Gone are the Sosas and Farnsworths and Trachsels and Barretts and Neifi!  Dusty Baker is running another team into the ground.  Sarge is where he belongs, away from us. 

This is what we all must consider when we discuss Jim Hendry and the job he has done.  Sure, we haven't won anything of consequence yet, and the farm system is pretty meager, even though we haven't self-depleted it as trade bait like a lot of big-market clubs tend to do.  Sure, we aren't there yet, but take a minute and think back to, say 1999, or even 2005, and think of the last time you were watching us and really, truly wanted to pull your hair out (Game 2 excepted)?  Most of the pieces are pretty much in place.  

But we all know there's something missing - if your gut doesn't tell you that, then maybe the results do.  But I've been loving reading some people's reasoning behind the consecutive failures - and by 'some people', I mean the Cubs Braintrust.  "We lacked a lefthanded hitting presence.  We didn't see a left-handed pitcher in three games.  That's why we need lefties with punch."  Uh, oookay.  Don't I recall, just last year, that even though we were a stacked righthanded lineup, that Lefties Shut Us Down?  So why is it such a bad thing that we didn't face any this year?  "We hit lefties better this year!"  As we should.  But as it turns out, our LHP-RHP splits aren't gigantic.  Makes me think that whole line of reasoning is a reach.

We all know that the most feasible route to address issues is to find new players.  Fine, so we construct our thoughts in that manner, and in an attempt to be the most impactful, we tend to specify by naming names.  "We need a Leadoff Hitter like Brian Roberts," you surmise, or "We need a Front of the Rotation Starter like Jake Peavy".  That might be a bit simplistic though.  What we're missing, regardless of what number he has on his back or what glove he uses, is an Alpha Dog.  A Field Leader.   Our Leader is the fat old guy wearing #41, sitting on the bench, making water commercials.  And, that's not so bad, and in the regular season, as we've seen, it tends to work more often than not.

And forgive us all for not knowing this beforehand, because damn, we've hadn't much experience with this kind of thing.  In a 162-game season, the guy in the dugout Can Lead.  But in a Best-Of short series, the guy standing on the top stoop isn't able to react quickly enough to exert his will, in an attempt to stem the tide.  Maybe Game 1, 4th inning, when Dempster was getting his nutts squeezed by the home plate umpire before he served up the four-ply tissue to James Loney, maybe Lou shoulda went out there, Representin' Tha Cubbz, protecting his pitcher and tore a new poophole into the guy.  But he didn't, because the New Lou doesn't Do That anymore.  He hasn't had to - why start in Game 163?

Well, Lou, we don't have any other leaders on the team, so you're as close as it gets.  So, do I blame Lou for not arguing the calls in Game 1?  (Yes, but...) No, he shouldn't have to start a melee to pump his club up.  If they can't rise to the challenge themselves, they're doomed.  And doomed they were.

We have no on-field leaders.  The closest thing we have is our oft-injured phenom-turned-closer.  Since he only plays one inning, and that's only if we have a lead, Kerry Wood is pretty ineffective in the role.  The next closest thing is our second baseman, who, face it, is no superstar.  Mark DeRosa was brought in to provide roster flexibility, not leadership.

Is that Hendry's fault?  In one hand, no.  He's paid 4 of his players Superstar Money, any and all of which should be accompanied by Superstar Leadership Performance.  But on the other hand, he's picked the wrong 4 guys, it seems.  We've discussed the quiet, gentlemanly Derrek Lee, and the quirky Alfonso Soriano already.  The third guy is Carlos Zambrano, of course, who seems to be losing the War between "Fiery Force of Nature" and "Batshit Crazy".

Our last, great hope was Ramirez, and based on his regular season performances since joining us, he is our best hope.  He is our best clutch hitter.  Hell, he is our best hitter.  He has overcome his lazy reputation and his tendency towards malingering injuries.  He comes to play every day, and he has nearly climbed to the summit of his game. 

He just seems to poop himself on the big stage.

So we finally get to where Carol comes in.  Once again, ARam's response was reasonable.  It was a team loss, everyone shares blame.  It was a nice answer that would have went over just fine if it had come out of, say, Lou's mouth.  Or Theriot's.  Or Marmol's.  But not from the guy who is as close to a superstar and a leader that we have on the team.  That's what Title IX Carol and I think.

As irrational as it sounds, it would have went over better if he HAD taken the lion's share of the blame.  We want our superstars to take losses personally.  We want him to internalize.  We want this thing to eat at him every day between now and next April.  We want to believe that, as he spends his entire winter in the Dominican, devoted to his cocks, that every time he watches his kids dive into the pool, or watches his chicken peck the other chicken into submission, or watches his wife lie down in their sweaty, mosquito-netted love nest, that he sees his distant cousin Manny running around the bases like a silly-ass preschooler with his arms out at his sides like an airplane, making humming pb-b-b-b noises with his mouth, his greezy-ass dreadlocks slapping against his neck as he's taking food out of our mouths and the very Blood of Life out of our hearts!

Maybe you don't have to SOUND like a leader to be a leader, but I doubt it.  So whatever Hendry does this winter, if he can ever buy, trade, or develop that big stud hoss with the red ass who hates losing and isn't gonna tolerate it anymore from himself or any of his men, now is the time to do it.  Maybe Geo Soto is gonna be the guy, but naaaah...he looks too much like Rico freakin' Suave to ever pull it off...


Honestly, real life is not a movie.

Corbin Bernsen's not gonna trot into Dempster and say, "Demp.... I've only got one thing to say to you... strike this m***** f**** out." That's not real, so don't give into the baseball writer brainwash that something like an 'on field leader' is actually relevant. For 2 consecutive seasons, the Cubs performed very poorly against some very good pitchers who had outstanding games. It's like you forgot the Cubs BARELY beat the Dodgers earlier in the season by squeaking out a couple 1-0, 2-1 type games. That team was missing Furcal and Manny, who, as you may have noticed in the box score, contributed to the Dodger victories in the postseason.

I couldn't agree with the post less.

This Cub team understood situational baseball more than other Cub teams? What does that mean exactly? This Cub team just got on base at a better clip than almost every other team in baseball... and not coincidentally, scored more runs as a result. Couple that with 4 pretty good starters and a back of the bullpen that struck out half of the nation's population last year, it's not really rocket science to see the reasons why the Cubs won... not really "an understanding of situational baseball" in my opinion. Normally that means stupid crap like intentional walks and sacrafice bunts, both which the Cubs employed seemingly to their own detriment in 08.

It's hard for me to read that Since Aramis has laid 2 eggs in the past 2 postseason's, this is somehow indicative of him having a problem with the 'big stage.' He hits cleanup for one of the 2 or 3 most likely to be on national tv teams, he absolutely RAKED in the '03 postseason and hit easily some of the most memorable homers of the last 2 Cub seasons. However, he did roll out an 0-28 stretch this season too, so it's not like a struggle is unheard of for him. Why is it so hard to accept what Aramis said? It's all true. Aramis could have gone 12-12 with 12 homers and the Cubs STILL would have lost because everyone but Lee and DeRosa took a glove to the plate with them.

If the Cubs want an 'on field leader,' then I guess they should just sign Tom Berenger to be the Catcher and make Phil Rogers the GM so he could stuff the roster with Eckstein/Lemke types. That team would have ALL KINDS of on field leadership and the team would be giving non stop interviews to writers with gem's like, "I just give 110%" and "people have always told me I wasn't good enough," all the way to a 62-100 finish.

Doug Davis and Derek Lowe are Very Good Pitchers?

I love hearing from you people who can only look at numbers and completely disregard the human element.

I'm sorry, I cannot accept that the Cubs have lost the last six postseason games in a row because the opposition sent out six superior pitchers. Hell, I thought in 2007 that Zambrano and Lilly were superior to their opposition, and I thought our pitcher was superior to what the Dodgers rolled out there In All Three Games!

Very Good pitchers my ass! They're ALL decent pitchers at this stage of the game...else you wouldn't be there. Your argument simply states the obvious - we lost. Yeah, I know. I saw it on the internets. So why did we lose?

Was it a talent shortage? Shouldn't have been.

Was it a matter of health, either injuries or sickness? No.

Were we suffering from some slight or injustice brought forth by the Evil Bud Lite, ala Houston/Hurricane Ike? No, we had Home Field advantage.

Did Lou manage badly? I didn't see much evidence that he was negligent in his role.

Did the Dbags or Dodgers play extraordinarily well? No, they played well. They did what they had to do.

Why couldn't we? What's your theory on that one, China?


I agree with your point about having leadership being important. However your post sounds like (as does the article by title IX lady) a person who has little experience being on a sports team at a competitive level. I don't know this for a fact obviously, but from my experience (16 years of competitive swimming, I know not baseball but its still an experience) leadership can be had in many different ways, and it seems to me that you only think it can be vocal and in your face. This is simply not true, and I know the Cubs team had leaders in Lee, Dempster, DeRosa, and surprisingly Edmonds as has been documented by articles throughout the season. Just because they laid eggs in small sample sizes doesnt mean its a leadership issue.

Oh and we lost because we played poorly for a short period of time, its all about the size of the sample.

For those of you

that came out of the binge like stupor needed to dull the pain of another postseason disappointment, I'm sure you've noticed that certain studs on the other playoff teams have gone through similar offensive woes that Ramirez and Soriano went through. Rollins, Pena, Longoria, Howard have all sucked ass for stretches of 3 games. Hell if the World Series was best of 5 it would be over already.

The main difference I can see is that somebody else picks them up. It could be Utley or Upton or a back end of the lineup catcher or SS, but somebody picks them up.

Piniella shouldn't of had a fiery chat with Dempster, he should've just yanked his ass out. 7 walks in 4+ innings, are you kidding? If you don't think Piniella, while not coming close to Dustbag lore, is less than adroit at managing the pitching staff, go back to last years game one playoff fiasco with Zambrano.

Still whether you see it in the dugout or here about it in the press, I do think there is a lack of never quit players on this team. Anything can happen in a short series but when push comes to shove you need to have fighters, whether vocal or not that just won't accept defeat.

We all must realize that the stars can line up just so that while not probable it is possible to lose three straight games. But when you see the all the wind go out of the sails when you're only down by 2 runs in the 5th inning of game 1, you have to question how many fighters if any does this team have. Four errors in one game is a fluke for sure, but how many of them came as a result of the team fighting tooth and nail? None, Zip,Nada.

The Cubs should've been confident but weren't, and lack of leadership was the problem. From Piniella on down no one stood up with the possible exception of Zambrano, who for all his prior meltdowns, really held it together.

Maybe it's because the team is composed of players, with the exception of a couple of pitchers, that have no real committment to anything more than the big money, I don't know.

Losing three straight games was not the problem, laying down was.


Lack of never quit players? How many comeback wins did this team have throughout the season? They never felt like they were out of a game during the season, they always kept playing hard and made things happen. It's an attitude issue, in the post season they came out nervous and played tight, as if waiting to mess up. There was no confidence, no we're going to comeback and win this game. They played different baseball. Yes, it's the playoffs and important to win, but no you don't have to change your approach. It's just another game with bigger consequences. Faces on the bench after giving up runs to the Dodgers showed weakness, we've already loss this is over, each face said. Even after horrid showing of fans on the first night, that was a bloody embarrassment by the way, the second game people were up all game cheering every play, and the team didn't catch on or funnel that energy. The game one moping continued, they didn't think they were the superior team. What is it in the water in Chicago that gets in pro athletes heads? If anything Lou should have calmed Demp down, Larry, Lou, and Tram just shrugged and looked at each other while Ryan had a mental breakdown on the mound.

The Dodgers

September/October 2008 stats for Derek Lowe, Chad Billingsley, Hiroki Kuroda and Jonathan Broxton:
Lowe - 30.1IP 17H 6BB 19K 2ER 0.59ERA
Billingsley - 25.0IP 29H 8BB 24K 9ER 3.24ERA
Kuroda - 27.1IP 32H 5BB 18K 9ER 2.96ERA
Broxton - 11.1IP 8H 6BB 13K 1ER 0.79ERA

In 94 total innings during this time frame, these guys gave up a sum total of 4 homers. Pretty damn impressive.

Only Helen Keller might think these pitchers weren't very good when the Cubs played them... right up until Anne Sullivan spells it in her hand, then even she'd know.

I'm glad you enjoy hearing from people like me. As a counter compliment, I particularly enjoyed the thoughtfulness of your post suggesting that the Cubs need an 'on field leader' without actually explaining what that 'on field leader' could have actually done to prevent the utter craptacularness that the Cubs displayed.

I think your question to me was... why did the Cubs lose? Right? It's not really a challenging question. Ryan Dempster walked more guys in game 1 than he walked in any game all season. To my untrained eye, baseball is won and lost in pitch by pitch increments. If you control the strike zone, you control the game (or are skating on thin ice). Dempster was not in control of the strike zone and he paid for it. In 161 games, the Cubs drew 636 walks, for around 3.9 a game (2nd best in MLB). In the postseason, they drew 5 in 3 games, for a 1.7/game rate. From a pitching perspective, the Cubs went from 3.4/game of walks in 161 games and 4.7/game in the postseason. On a different angle, the Cubs had a total of 8 extra base hits (7 doubles and 1 homer) while the Dodgers had 12 extra base hits (8 doubles and 4 homers). If I could toss out one other reason, this one under the category of 'total fluke,' the Cubs made six errors to one for the Dodgers.

These three reasons are the reasons the Cubs lost, I believe. Lots of guys sucked at the same time, so I think this illustrates how fruitless it is to consider it a problem that Aramis feels the same way, since it's the truth. You could have put Patton out in LF for the Cubs and they still would have sucked. The suggestion that an 'on field leader' could have reacted to something more quickly and actually change the outcome is kinda goofy.

The Cubs had stretches this season where they weren't hitting and had other stretches where they were getting only singles. Since they were not unheard of during the season, while surprising and frustrating, it shouldn't have been unthinkable that it would happen to them in the postseason.

I think you guys are missing

I think you guys are missing Robs point. He is tired of hearing the same old crap over and over. He knows its a team loss, but he wants someone to stand up and say yeah, I F***ED UP BIG TIME AND I WONT LET MYSELF OR ANYONE ELSE ON THIS TEAM DO IT AGAIN!!!!! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!

I don't..

Care what they say. Words don't win or lose a play off series. Just hit the f***ing ball, don't have an E at every infield position, throw strikes, uhh, win!? I don't need Derek Lee to hand write a letter to me: Dear Adam, I'm sorry I hit into so many double plays this year, I really am. Sincerely Derek Lee. Honestly, they don't owe me anything, they really don't, taking responsibility for it is nice, but how is anyone more at fault than the guy in the locker next to him.

Why say something when it's

Why say something when it's untrue? The only point in saying that would be to appease fans. Nothing about it would be true. Particularly the part about "not letting it happen again."

The Cubs lost. It happens. All the time.

Please, not this.

All of this for 6 games? It's one week on the regular season schedule. I can look back in the 2008 season and find a stretch of 3 games in which they played worse than they did against the Dodgers. I could probably find several stretches.

There was nothing wrong the attitude. Losing happens and it happens to good teams. The attitude thing is nothing more than an excuse to make one understand what seemed unlikely to them. The Cubs getting swept certainly was the least likely scenario going in, but there was still a decent chance it would happen. About 9% if I remember correctly. What would you say if I told you that you had a 9% chance of winning the lottery? That's a pretty good chance, isn't it?

The 2007 pitching match-ups weren't fair. The Dbacks pitching was far superior to what the Cubs sent out there. The 2008 pitching match-ups were a slight advantage for the Dodgers.

Teams get swept. It happens all the time. Lesser teams sweep superior ones all the time. Having a so-called leader won't change anything. This team won 97 games and they supposedly didn't have one.

Come on, Rob. Let's not lose all perspective here based on 3 or 6 games, in which almost anything can happen. It's not surprising the team got swept. It's disappointing, but the odds of it happening weren't so low as to be shocking when it did happen. If the Dodgers and Cubs play that series a million times (I know, impossible), the Cubs win the majority of the 3-game series. They'd sweep some, get swept some, and others would be decided in 4 or 5 games.

Were none of you at any time

Were none of you at any time in your lives an athlete of any kind? Dont tell me that someones mindset doesnt effect thier play. Whether it is true or not, they all need to take personal responsibility for what happened. And look at any championship team in any sport. How many of them had an undisputed LEADER?? ALL OF THEM!!! If you all want to look back and say hey, look what we did in the regular season without that leader? Who gives a flying F?!?!? I could care LESS what we did in the regular season when you get SWEPT TWO YEARS IN A ROW IN THE FIRST ROUND. If you know ANYTHING about professional baseball you know that the playoffs are completely different and it takes different strengths to win in them. If you want to make excuses and use the regular season as your crutch go right ahead. Dont get me wrong, I LOVED what we did this season and am one of the most optimistic Cubs fans. But I DO KNOW that it is true that someone needs to step up and be that Leader. And I want us to WIN IN THE PLAYOFFS!!!


I could not disagree more. Its still the same game and rules post-season or not. Its true that some people get affected by pressure and it ruins their performance, but these are highly paid ADULT athletes and at this point in their careers they should be over such nonsense, they have high pressure all season. Its not making excuses, its a simple point that losing 3 games in a row, be it two seasons in a row or not, is not as telling as fans are making it out to be. Its a very small sample size, if we judged the cubs on the first 3 games of 2008 (they were 1-2) we would not only be dumb we would be completely wrong about how good the team actually was. This is all a strange effect of overthinking as fans since we did in fact lose the series and badly at that. However a team that wins so often and plays so well over 90% of the time does not have leadership issues, it takes good leaders to be a good winning team at all times and they did have that all season.

I do find the posturing that we know some intricate details of the cubs clubhouse chemistry to be absolutely hilarious by the way.

Its also funny how we have gone from desiring just a good team that could be competitive yearly, to demanding they win now or else. This is not how it works, there are 30 teams only 1 wins, every other team ends the season on a loss. Personally im happy if they just make the playoffs on a fairly consistent basis, the playoffs can be a crapshoot so you have to give it a lot of shots and have some luck to get it done in the end. The best way to win it is just to be in it every year. People need to just relax and realize that knee jerk reactions to a 3 games is the worst possible thing the team could do.

Well, we will agree to

Well, we will agree to disagree. Im glad the Cubs fullfilled your needs as a baseball fan. But I am not satisfied yet. Hopeful and optimistic for the future, yes. But far from happy and satisfied.

And had the Cubs won, you'd

And had the Cubs won, you'd be talking about their leader. The "leader" comes out of winning, nothing more and nothing less.

Of course I have played, but my playing time in high school has as much to do with playing big league baseball as me removing a splinter does to performing surgery. Mindset? I'm sure it does, but do you know how it affects? You don't. None of us do and that's why it's bandied about as an excuse.

These players do not need to take personal responsibility for losing 3 games in which they won 97 games. No way, not at all, NEVER. They wouldn't need to if they won 37 games either.

Look, I understand your frustrated, but wanting the players to give you some words to make you feel better, even if they did so, aren't going to make you feel better. This isn't about anything other than your frustrations. It's not based on anything other than you wanting to know that the players feel responsible.

Guess what. They played 3 games, when they could have played more. I don't need to hear from them as I already know they feel like shit.

The bottom line is that teams lose. They lose 3 in a row all the time. Teams with "LEADERS" lose 3 in a row all the time.

They won 97 games. I honestly don't care how they did in the playoffs. I had a lot more fun watching those 97 wins and some of the losses than I was going to have if they won it all. I understand the playoffs are mostly a crapshoot and anything can happen once a team is in. That's what happened the last 2 years. Nothing more than that.

Chicago Tribune's Chicago's Best Blogs award