Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Cubs by position - Third Base

Wow, this is a tough one. There are people on this site who are advocating releasing Aramis Ramirez. Not only will this not happen, I don't think it should. The Cubs simply have no one who can replace him in the organization and, in part because of Ramirez' contract, they will not be able to replace him via free agency after the season. Furthermore, I don't think it's clear that he's finished and I expect him to have a decent second half. Still, my hope is that Cub fans and the management alike remember this first half even if he goes back to a typical season in 2011 and don't try to bring him back in 2012. The problem is, third base has a chance of becoming a black hole once again after he leaves. The Cubs' in house options are very, very flawed.

Major League Level: Aramis Ramirez (age 32): Aram has been one of the most if not the most productive Cub since his arrival in the middle of the 2003 season. He has done it with the bat and overall has not really hurt the team with the glove. So far, 2010 has been a different story. He's well under the Mendoza line at .173 in batting average at the moment. He is producing the negative trifecta at the plate. He has seen his power go down to an ISO below .130 and his contact rate has tanked and he's still K'ing over 20% of the time on the season. On top of this, he has gotten very unlucky and has a BABIP below .200. I think eventually the BABIP will even out and Ramirez will get his batting average up to say .230 on the season. If the power comes back, I think he could be decent in the second half.

The question isn't really about this year though, it's about the future. Thing is, Ramirez has a player option for $16 Million in 2011. He will pick that up. Now, if the Cubs had an in house option to replace him that was either better than him or even just as good in 2011, I'd say release him. Problem is, they don't really have an option but to let him work his kinks out. They may be forced to even bring him back (at a severely reduced salary) in 2012 though like I wrote above, I hope Cubs' management doesn't get fooled too much if he hits, say, .260/.325/.435 or so in 2011. The Cubs have no real option for the 2012 season right now. They will probably play that one by ear and see what's available after 2011.

Major League Level: Mike Fontenot (age 30): Mike Fontenot is a decent player but I don't think he's going to be able to push Aramis out the door at third base. He's really more of a second baseman and I think the Cubs need to commit to a 2011 true platoon of Fontenot/Baker (see below).

Major League Level: Jeff Baker (age 29): Baker is such a solid defensive player that if the Cubs did decide to part with Ramirez, he is an option at the position. In fact he's so good, I would recommend a 2011 rotation which allows Baker 2 starts a week against right handed pitchers at third base. With the bat, he absolutely destroys left handed pitching and should be playing against them all the time. I think the Cubs have him through 2013 and he's exactly the type of player a championship level team has on their bench.

AAA level: Bobby Scales (age 32): There's no real good reason why Bill Hall has a job in the major leagues but Bobby Scales, who is just as good, doesn't. That being stated, he's far more of a bench player than he is some one who is going to be a starter at the major league level. He's also more of a second baseman. One of the problems with this exercise is that many players who are nominal third basemen make more sense at second basemen but I put them here anyway. Scales will show up on the second base list also.

AAA level: Matt Camp (age 26): As a 13th round draft pick back in 2006, it is amazing that Camp has even made it to AAA. He's more of a second baseman, so I will deal with him more in that realm.

AAA level: Marquez Smith (age 25): A stocky right handed hitting third baseman who's upside might be Casey McGehee. He has a decent glove and seems to walk enough to make him intriguing. Problem is, he was below average power and speed and sometimes struggles to make contact. Tack onto that the fact that he's already 25 and he's someone I'd love to see play in the majors but who I don't believe will ever be a regular in the majors. I'd have said the same thing about McGehee 2 years ago.

AA level: Josh Vitters (age 20): The brown eyed handsome man of the Cubs' minor league system and the hope by many to become Ramirez' replacement in 2012. I don't think he'll be ready and I worry greatly that he'll bust big time. Having said that, there are some signs that I am wrong and that he is going to be a stud at the major league level. I hope that is the case.

Here are the positives: He's just 20 years old and playing at Double A. After initial struggles, he's eventually conquered every league he's played at. He has excellent contact abilities and shows decent, slightly above average power. Despite predictions to the contrary he's stayed at third base, so far.

Here are the negatives: He walks so little that it's cause for a celebration when he does. This means that he will have to hit .330 in the major leagues to have a passable OBP and he's probably not going to hit .330. He also has decent but not great power, very little speed and even if he stays at third base, he will always have a below average glove.

It is because of those negatives and his overall youth that I think he'll need all of 2011 and probably all of 2012 in the minors before he's ready to face major league pitching. Those who have called for his ascension to the majors now are mildly nuts, he will probably produce a line of .130/.140/.180 at the major leagues with a weak glove right now. You don't bring up a player like this at this time unless you actually want to ruin not just his confidence but the team's chances of winning long term. Vitters is a project. He's young enough that he might be able to improve his fielding and get his walk rate over, say, 6% by 2013 and be ready. I am hopeful, but I am skeptical.

AA level: Nate Samson (age 22): Samson is a 34th round draft pick who has made it Double A (and is holding his own there). That fact, in and of itself is a good thing. Having said that, he's far more valuable as a shortstop/second baseman than a third baseman. He has zero power and that's an issue for him moving forward. I will deal with him in the middle infield section.

AA level: Russ Canzler (age 24): Canzler isn't really a third baseman either. He's played the position this year for Tennessee but he's really more of a first baseman/outfielder. He is already 24 and he is repeating the level and having a really nice year offensively. 24 year old first basemen who are repeating Double A better hit. I would be surprised if Canzler ever made the major leagues.

A+ level: D.J. LeMahieu (age 21): Daytona appears to be rotating LeMahieu and Ryan Flaherty between third base and second because since Josh Vitters got promoted, they have no one else to play the position. I'll deal with both LeMahieu and Flaherty at the second base review.

A+ level: Ryan Flaherty (age 23): See above. One of my favorite Cubs' prospects though I admit he's fairly old for the level. I'll deal with him more in second base.

A level: Matthew Cerda (age 20): At 5'9" and with middling power potential, Cerda is also more of a second baseman so I will deal with him there. The Cubs just don't have too many pure third basemen in their organization. Peoria has two of them that I am not going to list because I don't see them as ever being prospects. If they end up playing in Double A someday, I will make a note. The Cubs appear to have a great deal of depth at second base.

A- level: Arismendy Alcantara (age 18) At 18 years old, Alcantara is the prospect at Boise. Having said that, he too is more of a middle infielder. The theme continues!

Conclusion: At third base, the Cubs are all in on Josh Vitters as a longterm solution at the position. The only other potential long term solution is Ryan Flaherty and I'm still hopeful he will end up being the choice at second base. If Vitters doesn't work, which I would put the chances at about 50% of being the case, the Cubs will have no other option but acquiring talent to play this position. Third base, in the major leagues, has become a very thin position and unlike first base, there just isn't that much out there that can be counted on fall in the Cubs lap. I truly hope Vitters works because if he doesn't.....

Lilly pitches... illly? (Game Recap: Cubs 3, Pirates 1)

Ted Lilly was his usual self last night: he challenged Pirates hitters, gave up a home run and a walk, struck out a handful, topped out at about 86 mph on the heater, and went seven innings. And this time, he even won the game. Bravo, Theodore.

Not that the Cub offense really did all that much to get him the W, of course. But Alfonso "Streaky McStreakerson" Soriano is back into "hot mode," and hit two homers last night, which turned out to be enough to get Lilly the favorable decision. Also, kudos to Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol for their shutdown innings in relief. Each of their ERAs remains just a touch above 2.00.

Also of note: as a team, the Cubs threw 93 of their 127 pitches for strikes last night, a 73% ratio.

As far as positive offensive performances beyond Soriano's, Koyie Hill went 2-for-3 with two doubles, and Starlin Castro went 1-for-1, doubling in his only at-bat (walked intentionally and brought in a run with a sac fly in his other plate appearances).

Cubs win! Yippee skippy. What's more (less?), they play again in two hours. Go Cubs!

Putting the FIRE! in Fire Sale

Dear Goat Readers:

It has come to our attention -- despite our best efforts at total denial -- that the 2010 Chicago Cubs, despite their massive salaries and high expectations, are a steaming pile of crap. 

As July is just around the corner, it's totally reasonable to expect Jim Hendry to fire up his ol' cell phone, duct-tape it to his head, and work non-stop to unload the numerous disappointments on teams too dumb -- or too desperate -- to say no.

As we've highlighted in other posts, the following players are likely candidates for trade -- assuming any team will take their bloated salaries:

SS Ryan Theriot - Sure, he'll give you a .280-.300 AVG most years, and he steals a decent amount of bases, but do you really want your team's shortstop to be a guy with middling defense and no power whatsoever?  No?  Me neither, but with a little bit of luck, some other teams feel differently. 

And remember -- before you decide to fellate Theriot, assuming anybody would at this point, the dude's got a slugging percentage of .307 and an OPS of .628.  Unload him!

1B Derrek Lee - He has a no trade clause, a big salary, and a batting average that only Dave Kingman could be proud of, but I think he should be on the block.  All Jim Hendry has to do is pull him aside and say, basically, "we are not re-signing you, but we can try to trade you to a competitive team -- and who knows, if you do well, maybe they'll extend you."  If Lee knows his time in Chicago is ending, he may agree to something like that.  The hard part will be finding any team willing to take him.

2B Mike Fontenot - He's a journeyman middle infielder who could be a servicable backup on any number of competitive teams.  Hell, trade him to the Red Sox or the Yankees -- they love their scrappy white guys.

3B Aramis Ramirez - He has a big contract and this is an opt-out year.  But, as Rob observed, A-Ram would have to be about as stupid as Bam-Bam to vie for free agency in a season where he's batting .173 into July!  The Cubs would have to eat a considerable amount of his salary -- probably the remainder of 2010's, and maybe even up to half of his salary for 2011, which I'm guesstimating to be in the $7 million range.

LF Alfonso Soriano - Ah yes.  The White Sox had The Big Hurt in Frank Thomas, the Mariners had the Big Unit in Randy Johnson, and the Cubs have The Big Albatross in Soriano. 

At this point, Sori's numbers aren't so bad -- he's on pace to play in more than 150 games, to hit nearly 50 doubles, 4 triples, nearly 30 homeruns, 80+ RBI, and his OPS is .910.  The only problem is that he's making 19 million this year, and he's going to earn roughly that much money for the next four seasons.  How the hell do the Cubs trade a guy who is still owed more than $70 million? 

RF Kosuke Fukudome - He has one year remaining after this season, in which he will earn around 12 million dollars.  Stat-hounds everywhere will tell you that the Cubs are paying him appropriately.  Realists who watch the games and have even the smallest semblance of how reality works will tell you that he's been a tremendous, heaping disappointment.  But -- if the Cubs will eat half his salary in 2011, who knows, maybe somebody will take him.

SP Ryan Dempster - He has two years left on his current contract.  At this point, he's actually pretty much earned his wage.  But based on his age, that probably won't be the case as he transitions from Year Three to Year Four.  Therefore, the Cubs should swing a deal for him while he might actually be worth something.

SP Carlos Silva - With the Mariners already eating a good portion of his salary, and with one year remaining on his present contract, and with Carlos pitching better than he ever has in his entire career, this might be the ideal time to unload him on a team needing a starter. 

SP Ted Lilly - I'll be sad to see the best free agent acquisition of my lifetime traded away, but why would Lilly come back next year?  Could the Cubs even afford him?  Despite his crappy record -- 3-6 -- Lilly surely has some value right now.

SP Carlos Zambrano - Alfonso Soriano's Albatross-in-Crime.  Who knew that Carlos would not only remain an immature asshole, but at the still-young age of 29 he'd lose the talent which justified his insanity?  If the Cubs can find any team willing to roll the dice on him, and if he'd be willing to approve a trade, this needs to happen.

Realistically speaking, Theriot, Fontenot, Silva, Dempster, and Lilly are all capable of finding homes without the Cubs needing to pay for parts of their salaries.  At the same time, Lee, Fukudome, and Ramirez would require some financial sacrifice to deal, and Soriano and Zambrano are probably untradeable.

All that said, I was originally going to suggest likely teams for whom each player might fit some needs, but I think I'd rather leave it up to you guys to make suggestions. 

So -- what teams would take these jabrones, and how much might they be willing to pay for them?  I leave it to you.

My Midseason Top 15 Cubs Prospect List (Part 1)

It's June 29th, and I know 2 things for certain:
-The big league team is an absolute joke
-For me, it's a hell of a lot more fun to follow the minor league system

You know, the whole promise of something better on the way other than the overpaid, overanimated, underpeforming, often unlikable group of schmucks that dot the current big league roster. If you're like me - some of the guys you get the most joy out of watching include guys like Starlin Castro, Andrew Cashner, Geovany Soto, Carlos Marmol, and Tyler Colvin. So with those young guys in mind, and with the fact that we're roughly halfway through the minor league system, I figured I'd bust out my midseason Top 15 prospect list. I kinda compile this list on my own anyways, and since Kurt was so nice to give me an outlet for my fandom - I figured I'd share it. Feel free to comment on this, let me know who you think I have too high, too low, who you like that I don't have listed, etc.

Things that shape how my list looks:
*Andrew Cashner still "technically" has prospect status - but I'm leaving him out. He's a big leaguer.
*2010 draftees aren't included. We haven't seen what they've done against other pros with wood bats.
*Guys that haven't made their American debuts for whatever reason aren't included. No substantial data to go on. This includes recent $1.2M Korean bonus baby Kim Jin-Yeong. By his bonus alone and the little i've been able to glean from the net - he should be on this list somewhere - but for now I'm excluding him.

1. OF Brett Jackson (AA Tennessee) - Jackson was just promoted last weekend after a ridiculous month of June for Daytona. Before his promotion, he put up a line of .316/.420/.517, including 19 2B, 8 3B, 6 HR, and 12 SB in the toughest hitters league there is. He's 4 for 10 with 2 HR so far in AA. The hype surrounding this guy is swelling. I saw him play in Peoria last year - and he just looks like a baseball player. Reports on his defense are that he absolutely can stick in CF and be a plus defender. If you're not already - get familiar with this guy.

2. SP Jay Jackson (AAA Iowa) - Jackson had a great first month plus as a starter in Iowa, and then he was moved to the Iowa pen so he could be groomed for a potential big league bullpen job. The Cubs ultimately chose Cashner for that role, and now Jackson's back to starting. Just 24 months ago, Jackson was a non-descript 9th round pick with a little upside. Now he's the best pitching prospect in the system. He's sporting a 1.10 WHIP in Iowa, and though his strikeouts are down a bit, he's only allowing 2.3 BB/9. He's a very good prospect - and if things like service time weren't an issue, Jackson would spend September with the Cubs getting a cup of coffee. Because it is an issue, his future is undetermined.

3. 3B Josh Vitters (Tenn) - This guy is quite the mystery. He's having himself a carbon copy of his 2009 season in that he hit well (but not overwhelming) at his first stop (last year Peoria, this year Daytona), and then once promoted, he scuffled (last year in Daytona, this year in Tennessee). Vitters posted an OPS of .795 in Daytona, but that figure is just .665 in Tennesse. Still, he's just 20 years old. I believe in the bat. I dont know if he'll be able to stay at 3B or if he'll have to move to a less challenging position, but I think he's gonna be a hitter still.

4. SP Chris Archer (High-A Daytona) - Archer was the supposed "flyer" of the 3 prospects we received in the Mark DeRosa deal and it's starting to look like he could become the best player of the 3. He has always had a great arm, but he's always had trouble with his control, but that problem started to rectify itself last year - and is now looking like a thing of the past. After lowing his walk rate to 5.4 BB/9, this year it's 3.2 per 9. He's got a good fastball/curveball mix, and he's using it to strike out 10.2 batters per 9 for the D-Cubs. He's also just 21 years old. I'd LOVE to see what he can do against more advanced hitters in AA, but I also understand not rushing him and letting him build up confidence. It'll be interesting to see how the Cubs handle him as the season goes on.

5. SS Hak-Ju Lee (Low-A Peoria) - At first blush, his batting numbers look pedestrian (.273/.343/.342). However, he's just 19, and in his first full professional season. He's got 20 SB already this season, but he has a Starlin Castro-like error total of 23. I do like how he's showing such good plate discipline at a young age, and to be fair - the Midwest League is a tough place to hit early in the season, I just wish he showed a little more pop. There's time for that I suppose. I will say this for Lee - he's tremendously fun to watch in person. I've got the opportunity 3 times this year, and he looks great. Great range at short too - every bit as good as Starlin, I believe.

..This has got a bit lengthy. I'll bust it into 2 parts and post the 2nd half tomorrow. Go Cubs!

Reader Blog: Out with Lou, in with Ryno

It's time for a change in the Cubs' dugout. It's not that they need to "inject life" into the clubhouse, as they always say; this team was DOA when the season began. It's also not a desire to see Lou Piniella punished or called out. In fact, I think Lou deserves the opportunity to resign. But the point is, he's not coming back next year, and the second half of the season will be as pointless as the first if he's still at the helm.

Wave the white flag, Jim Hendry. I know, it's embarrassing. The third highest payroll in the majors yet only a half game better than the Royals. It's bad. It's pathetic. But what's worse: yelling "Charge!" to your troops and sending them to certain defeat, or admitting that it's time to reorganize and regroup before the next battle?

I personally feel that Ryne Sandberg should get a chance to be the next Cubs' manager, whether it be today or starting in November. The organization gave him a chance to prove that he was serious about the whole managing thing back in 2007, and now he's in Iowa. He's going to get a shot with a major league team, and soon. While he certainly wasn't management material back in his playing days, he and those around him acknowledge that he's a much different person now. He knows how to communicate, how to lead, and how to work with young players. The Cubs' 2011 roster will include Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin, Geovany Soto, Andrew Cashner and other youngsters, making it the perfect time to give Ryno a shot.

By making the change now, Hendry can give Sandberg a chance to get his feet wet in a virtually pressure-free situation. This team's cooked, anyways. Will anyone care if he goes 30-50 the rest of the way? You could argue that hiring him in the offseason gives him a clean slate, a fresh start. But there's pressure with every new season, and high (if unjustified) hopes with each Opening Day.

And this way, Ryno will have a three-month head start on evaluating the Cubs' talent, their strengths and weaknesses. He can play an integral role in forming the team's offseason plan rather than stepping in in November with more knowledge about dining out in Des Moines than which trades or free agents the Cubs should pursue.

We knew back in March the sun could be setting on the current era. The sun shone through a window of opportunity over the past few years, but aging veterans and a decimated bullpen have brought the team to a turning point. Turn the corner, Jim Hendry. It's time for the native son to rise to his dream job. Give Ryno a chance, and do it now.

Surprise! Pirates win! (Game Recap: Cubs 1, Pirates 2)

Three points, plus a link:

1) Our offense sucks. Who knew?

2) Grabow back to the DL. Thank the Lord for that balky knee -- and maybe it is the knee that's been causing him to pitch poorly this season, but if you look at his numbers historically (specifically walks and hits allowed regardless of handedness of batters faced, plus lack of strikeouts), then you shouldn't be surprised to see him pitching this way even if he had a clean bill of health.

3) As for Randy Wells sucking: lately, despite maintaining a good K/BB ratio, Wells has been giving up too many hits. So I liked last night's strategy of throwing more balls outside the zone; even if it led to a few more walks, at least it was something new. And in the end, the guy's line was pretty darn good: 6 IP, 3 H, 6 K, 1 ER (and yes, four walks).

Link) Last night, Cubs fans were introduced to Brian Schlitter -- well, unless of course the fan in question was already a regular GROTA reader, because if that were the case, they'd already know who the kid is! That's because Former GROTA Contributor Kyle (now with the Tribune, I do believe) interviewed Schlitter for a GROTA article not too long ago. It's worth another read now that Brian has pitched in Wrigley: http://www.goatriders.org/brian-schlitter-chicago-cubs-minor-league

Go Cubs!

Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Chicago Cubs, June 28-30 2010

The Pittsburgh Pirates are 8-1 versus the Chicago Cubs this year.  They are 17-49 versus the rest of the league.  It's been that kind of season for the Pirates, and of course the Cubs as the Buccos come into Wrigley Field for this weekday set.  The Cubs are coming home after losing 2 of 3 a few miles to the south of Wrigley (Hey!  I predicted that!), while the Pirates have been struggling as well, even moreso than the Cubs.  They've got losing streaks of 12 and 6 sandwiched around 2 wins in their last 20 games.  The only real reason for optimism in Pittsburgh is that their penny-pinching ownership finally gave the green light to call up blue-chip prospect Pedro Alvarez.  Despite being more than ready, and despite incumbent 3B Andy LaRoche sucking out loud this year, Alvarez stayed in AAA Indianapolis until there was no chance he could head to arbitration a year early and get a bigger contract that he, you know, actually earned.  He's off to a slow start, but that will change as long as everyone's patient with him.

Monday - Paul Maholm (4-6, 4.24) vs. Randy Wells (3-6, 5.21)
It's time to stop sugarcoating it, Randy Wells has flat out not been good for the majority of this year.  I'm not sure if it's a sophomore slump, or if the league now has a good book on his assortment of non-overwhelming stuff, or exactly what - but the results have been brutal this year.  His last start in Seattle was no exception as he could never get going, and gave up 10 hits and 6 runs in 6 innings.  Maholm was even worse in his last start.  He gave up 7 hits and 5 runs in just 1 inning - a career low.  Besides that blip, however, Maholm has been their best starter this year.  The Cubs should be plenty familiar with him, as he beat the Cubs twice in 11 days in early May.

Tuesday - Jeff Karstens (2-2, 4.60) vs. Theodore Lilly (2-6, 3.28)
Karstens' picture would be in the baseball dictionary under the picture of "underwhelming back of the rotation righty" if such a dictionary actually existed.  He's a former Yankees farmhand who's now 28, and really a "what you see is what you get" finished product.  And what he is isn't all that exciting.  Last time out he allowed 8 runs in 5 1/3 innings of work against Texas.  Lilly gave the Cubs 6 solid innings last Thursday against the Mariners, but didnt figure in the decision as that game went 13 innings before the Cubs were able to eke one out.  With the Cubs being dreadful, the rumor mill has started to grumble where Lilly is concerned, and there are reports circulating that the Mets might be interested in the Free Agent to-be.

Wednesday - Brad Lincoln (0-2, 6.00) vs. Tom Gorzellany (2-5, 3.41)
The matinee on Wednesday will be an interesting pitching matchup.  Lincoln was drafted 4th overall in the 2006 MLB draft and promptly got hurt.  He needed Tommy John surgery, which wiped out his entire 2007 season.  He was drafted 3 spots before Clayton Kershaw, 6 spots in front of Tim Lincecum, and also in front of Tyler Colvin, the Cubs first round pick that season.  He finally made his big league debut this year, and will be making his 5th MLB start against the Cubs.  He's had 2 awful starts and 2 just "OK" ones thus far.  Hard to say what he'll do on Wednesday - maybe he'll go ahead and throw a no-hitter.  Gorzo will be making his first start since May 26th, filling in for the now "restricted" Carlos Zambrano.  Honestly - I'd rather see Gorzo pitch than Z right now.  I'm sick of Zambrano, I'm sick of his antics and I wish he'd just go the fuck away for a while.  And this is coming from one of Z's biggest fans over the past 8 years.

So..if you're like me and still holding out some hope that the Cubs can get their shit together and make a little run - this series would be a nice spot to start.  We owe these guys, and we need a sweep.  As miserable as we've been (and we've been awful), we're still just 8 1/2 games out.  We're not out of the race.  Let's get the sweep.


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Gamecast: June 28, 2010- Pirates at Cubs

Paul Maholm (4-6, 4.24 ERA) vs. Randy Wells (3-6, 5.21 ERA)

After a weekend marked with aggression in the dugout of the Cubs perhaps taking out some aggression out on the Pirates might be what the doctor ordered.  The Pirates went 2-13 during interleague play and have dropped their last six.  While the Pirates have owned the Cubs so far, it can't hurt to run into a team that has hit the skids even harder than your own.

Another storyline of interest is that the Cubs placed Big Z on the restricted list today.  Much to the delight of Paul Sullivan, this situation will not be resolved with an immediate and quiet apology.  According to Jim Hendry, Big Z will "not meet formally or travel with the team before the (All-Star) break." Moreover, he will begin treatment on Wednesday to deal with his "issue."  The corresponding move will likely be a call-up of Jeff Stevens.

Who's Hot- This isn't so much a "who" but a "what" and that is the term "dead-ass."  This phrase seems quite popular among Cubs fans and the national media alike.  I expect Bob Brenly to quickly trademark the phrase like one Pat Riley and have a lucrative cashflow from merchandise bearing the phrase.

Who's Not-  Outside of the obvious, being the Cubs and Pirates, the trade market has been conspicuously quiet.  I would have expected to hear more names being thrown around at this time, particularly of those wearing Cubs Blue.  I guess we will just have to wait.

The Cubs need a win.  In fact, they could use multiple wins.  I know many have given up on this team, but it would be nice to see the Cubs string a few together and at least extend the losing streak of the Pirates.  Strange things can happen in late June and July, but the team has to put forth effort to make that happen.  Whether that can happen is still an unanswered question at the moment.

What a difference a year makes

As one of the two original founding members still writing here on occasion, this site was formed at a time of guarded optimism for our Chicago Cubs.  It was after the 2004 season, a season that on paper should have brought us at least post-season play.  In fact, if you did the idealistic blue-kool-aid math, and added Greg Maddux and the young Derrek Lee to a team who came 5 outs from a World Series, it should have meant much more than mere post-season play.  So in those heady days, we braced for an apocalypse.

Either the Cubs were finally going to fulfill their destiny the next year and win the whole thing (which would result in what?  Lord only knows what would honestly happen) or the whole thing would have to be blown up (which would have been, we thought, apocalyptic in its own right).  What happened??  Well, the next two years royally sucked, but there was no real bloodletting, the Dusty Baker era went out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Then the Tribune was bought with purposes of maximizing asset valuation.  The new owner trusted his baseball men when he was told that spending LOTS of money was the way to build equity.  This brought us to two immediate division titles, and midway through the following year is when this site had its own Meta-apocalypse.  GROTA as we knew it, blew up.

On the surface, it appeared to be about my own insensitivity towards the Gay community, of all things.  Just like this past weekend, there was the Cubs/Sox series at Cell Hell, the Taste of Chicago started, and the Gay Pride parade took place up on the North Side.  One of us attended the parade.  The other (me) attended a heartbreaking 9-8 walkoff defeat, whereupon my wife and I were verbally assaulted by all sorts of under-educated Sox fans - and many of the slings were unfortunately related to Wrigley Field's proximity to "Boys Town", the predominately Gay neighborhood which borders it to the East. 

So, unfortunately, I was overcome by irony to find out that while I was being called fifty types of foul names, my cohort was at the Parade, and I insinuated that he should have been watching the game instead of being at the parade.  This pissed him off, and rather than apologize, I didn't.  The four of us founders picked sides, and unfortunately, half of us aren't on here anymore.

Now, here's the funny thing, that actually relates to the 2010 team: I can't say for sure, but I would like to think that it was not my "insensitivity" that broke us apart, because, Number One, I think it no more intelligent to discriminate against homosexuals than it is to discriminate against their race, gender, height, or anything else a person is born with.  I would hope that was understood.

The second reason, though, felt like it had more validity: the other two guys were of the opinion that we had just enjoyed two great seasons, and they fully expected that last year would be great, as well.  At this point in the year last year, we were floundering, playing .500 ball, but most folks believed, truly believed, Lou Piniella would lay his finger on the magic formula, Jim Hendry would make the magic mid-season move, and the Cubs would succeed once again.

The problem was, I did not see it that way, and came out here over and over again to say so.  The same article where I appeared insensitive toward "teh gheys" was primarily about the lousy bullpen which, along with the insistence to bat Soriano leadoff, Ramirez' injury, Zambrano's immaturity (hey!) and especially Soto's completely abandoning his dedication towards his craft, and all I saw was gloom, doom, and a return to the lousy years I knew so well from my childhood. 

Nearly all of you, including our two co-founders, thought I was just pissing on the Cheerios as usual.  Accused me of being a professional complainer, someone who would bitch about a good steak.  Late last June, there was still universal hope that the Chicago Cubs were still a great team.

What about now?  Now we pat ourselves on the back for moral victories.  "Hey, we lost 3-2 to the Sox Saturday night, but at least we played well, especially after the (latest) Zambrano incident".  "Whee!  We beat the Sox (1 out of 3) yesterday!"  I look to our Shout Box: "God, I hate everything about this team.  Everything"; "I'm suck of him.  Cut him.  Designate him for assignment.  He's a loser";  "Good old Zambrano - fighting his own teammates again".

What a difference a year makes.  My point is: you're all intelligent people.  If you had chosen last year to look at what was going on with your heads instead of your squishy blue hearts, you would have seen us playing exactly the same way: dead ass!  Our manager was just as stuttery and non-plussed last year as he is now.  He really is no worse than this time last year: the first clues that Lou was not in fact a Magic Man was when he blamed a lack of left-handed hitting for the sweep in 2008, instead of what really mattered: a lack of on-field leadership and motivation, along with a lack of 1-2 hitters to kickstart our offense.  I knew all that.  My question has always been: why didn't you?

Look at it this way: if, instead of a headlong pursuit of Milton Bradley two winters ago, what if Jim and Lou decided instead to pursue the best leadoff man?  Would we be better off right at this moment?  Yeah, I think so, too.

Reader Blog: Week 12 awards: aaaaand scene

Well, that's all she wrote. The curtain is closed on the 2010 Cubs season (or at least on its chances of involving a postseason). Little did we know on the morning of April 7 how dreadfully terrible "Year One" would be. If it were a play, I would give it zero stars. DO NOT WATCH THIS PLAY! Give the tickets to the nearest homeless person and apologize to him as you do so.

It's fitting that the Cubs lost the so-called "BP Cup" because they're the BP of baseball, and not just because Randy Wells and Carlos Zambrano are usually throwing batting practice to the opposing hitters. They are an absolute disaster, a failure that only William Shakespeare could give due description.

Hopefully a few of the players will be exiting stage right in the near future. Ted Lilly should bring a decent return, in my opinion. He has 46 wins as a Cub and could help a National League contender down the stretch. How Hendry will get anything for guys like Fukudome and Lee, I have no idea, but I don't see Lee returning and we have no need for the $12 million man next year with Colvin here to stay.

I'll tell you, with the Cardinals in first and the Sox on a tear, this is turning into an absolutely brutal season for me. I think I am now in a place mentally where I can start rooting for the Reds to win. No, I don't want to see Dusty Baker in the playoffs, but goddamn do I hate those redbirds.

Goat of the Week: Have to start with the Goat this week because it was just that kind of week. I think I have no choice but to go with the entire offense. The eight runs yesterday were nice, but they scored six runs in the five games before that. Six runs make for a decent game but a pretty bad week. It's really not worth singling any one player out--they're all pretty terrible. None of them can hit when it matters, and now everything after the All-Star break won't matter.

Dishonorable mention: Carlos Zambrano

For Big Z to have launched into an angry tirade within the confines of the clubhouse would have been bad, but to do it in front of the cameras--to have yet another immature explosion on camera--was unacceptable. The suspension was certainly warranted, and the Cubs might as well put him on waivers and see if another team wants to roll the dice on an overpaid hothead.

Ryno of the Week: Eight innings/two runs and seven innings/three runs for Ryan Dempster. His 11 quality starts this season tie him for 11th in the NL in that category.

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