Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Series Recap: Cubs 1, Reds 2

We scored 9 (one, then three, then five), they scored 16 (seven, then two, then seven). We made three errors, they didn't make any. We had seven extra-base hits, they hit eleven (I think).

I would say the only pitcher that really stunk it up was Tom Gorzelanny. The Gorz allowed three home runs in his start: two to Jay Bruce (they're both left handed aren't they? what the hell?) and one to Chris Valakia (his first career bomb). For some reason, Cub lefties who look good everywhere else somehow end up sucking at the Great American Ballpark (Ted Lilly, Jon Lieber in 2008, etc).

Speaking of lefties, Sean Marshall's one inning of relief was not a good one. He allowed four hits, two runs (one earned), and took the loss in the rubber match on Sunday. He has struggled in the second half (albeit in a relative sense), with a 4.79 ERA compared to his 2.03 from the first half of the year. But that's mostly due to a change in BABIP -- .288 before the All-Star Break, .379 after. He's still getting a ton of strikeouts (26 in 20.2 innings) and not giving up many extra base hits (14 all year!).

I would say the only Cub hitter that merits mentioning would be the Fukster, Mr. Kosuke. On Saturday and Sunday, Fukudome went a combined 3-for-6 with two jacks. He's now hitting .274 on the year with an .835 OPS.

Anybody think we should keep him around for next year instead of trading him and eating half his salary for a 21 year old pitcher or two in exchange?

Series Preview: Cubs v. Pirates (Aug. 30 - Sept. 1 2010)

Overview
So much for that glimmering hope of optimism. After sweeping the Nats under new manager Mike Quade, I'll admit - I was a little intrigued by the Cubs again. Not in a "we're gonna go on some sick run and get back in it somehow", but in more of a "well maybe we'll be frisky down the stretch and be passable September viewing". After a weekend spent in the Queen City, I feel the needle has been jolted back in the other direction. Shaky pitching, shaky defense, not a ton of hitting in big spots. Most importantly, perhaps another month's worth of baseball without a ton to look forward to (non-Starlin Castro division). The Cubs are now back home against the team they can not beat, the Pittsburgh Pirates. This will be the last time the Cubs face the Buccos this year, whom they have a stellar 3-9 record against in 2010. Here's your series preview and the first post on Goatriders in over 2 days..guess everyone hates the Cubs.

Monday August 30th - Paul Maholm (7-12, 4.82) vs. Carlos Zambrano (5-6, 4.64) - Maholm, like a lot of the Pirates, is having a rough year, and his stats are all pretty much off what they've been throughout his career. He hasn't notched a victory since early August either, though perhaps that's not surprising with the struggles the Pirates themselves have been having. Big Z looked REALLY good against Washington, but then immediately flew out to Venezuela to deal with a family issue. I'm seriously hoping Carlos can build on that great start and string together some good outings as the season winds down. For his sanity, for Cubs fans' sanity, for his trade value, for everything.

Tuesday August 31st - Jeff Karstens (2-10, 4.98) vs. Ryan Dempster (12-8, 3.42) - Karstens fits the mold of the majority of the Pirates starters the last couple of seasons: former highly touted prospect from another organization who scuffled and then ended up in Pittsburgh. The former prospect sheen Karstens had with the Yankees is now long gone, and he's had an uneven 2010. He'll go up against Dempster, who continues to be the consistent cog in the Cubs 2010 rotation. Being paid well, Dempster has delivered again in 2010. He only went 79 pitches in a win against Washinton last week, so he should be good to go deep into the game Tuesday if needed...and with Z going the night before, he might be.

Wednesday September 1st - James McDonald (2-3, 4.97) vs. Tom Gorzellany (7-8, 3.98) - James McDonald fits the same profile as Karstens. McDonald is now out of the Dodgers organization and into the Pirates one (what an upgrade!). He's shown flashes since he's become a regular starter, but just like about everyone pitching for Pittsburgh currently, he's been up and down from a performance perspective. Long term though, I like McDonald. Gorzo the Great will be opposing his former team here. He got rocked pretty good Friday night against the Reds and had a fairly shaky month of August overall. Here's hoping for a better finish for Tom.

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Belated Series Preview: Cubs vs. Reds

Overview:
A long time ago, the Chicago Cubs hired a multi-award winning manager who'd just come thisclose to getting his former baseball team a World Series ring.  Of course, we were all pretty stoked about that.  And nobody was too concerned with why a baseball team that just reached the World Series would let their Manager of the Year-award winning skipper walk away.

About a million years later - or maybe it just felt that way - Dusty Baker departed the Cubs a failure.  Our anger toward him was only tempered by one, glorious fact - he signed on to manage a division rival with a considerably impressive farm system.  In other words, that was one less team to worry about.

Although, I have to admit, I sure felt sorry for those guys.  It's not easy being a fan without a glimmer of hope for the future.  And as long as Dusty managed the Reds, hope was gonna be in short supply.

However, much like the 2003/2004 Cubs, some teams are just too damned talented to not compete, regardless of whatever managerial bunglings they may be forced to play through.  And that appears to be the case of the 2010 Reds. 

In a way, a Dusty Baker playoff bound team is worse than a Dusty Baker basement bound team, because now there's a chance that Baker will return in 2011.  Harsh, Reds fans.  Harsh.

Saturday, August 28th - Randy Wells (5-12, 4.56 ERA) vs. Bronson Arroyo (14-7, 3.82 ERA)

It feels as if Arroyo has been around forever.  I still remember when he was that constipated-looking Red Sox pitcher who contributed just enough grit to get them a World Series ring.  This year, though, he's made pitching look easy, as he's leading the Reds in wins and has notched the 100th of his career.

He faces Randy Wells, who just might be pitching his way off the Cubs rotation for next year.  Think I'm wrong?  Let's continue this discussion in April, 2011.

Sunday, August 29th - Casey Coleman (1-1, 5.68 ERA) vs. Edison Volquez (3-2, 6.17 ERA)
Coleman, who is 23, is just another of the Cubs' "throw crap against the wall" strategy that's yet to find anything which sticks. Who knows - when the Cubs surprise us next season by competing for the Wild Card, it'll be guys like Coleman who make it happen.

He faces Victim 4 (or is it more like Victim 10) of the Dusty Baker School of Pitchernomics.  Three seasons ago, Volquez was 24, and he was a 17-win, 206 strikeout pitcher in Dusty's inaugural campaign.  Then, in 2009, Volquez caught Tommy John Disease (big shocker there). 

He's back now, having recuperated while also suspended due to using PEDs (newsflash: pretty much any pitcher who's ever had Tommy John surgery and come back in less than 12 months did it on PEDs).  I kind of wonder if his use of the growth (or whatever) wasn't done, in part, on the hopes that by the time he'd return, Dusty Baker*'d be long gone.

(Dusty's Indian name is Pitcher Destroyer)

Conclusions
Well, the Cubs already got their asses handed to them once this series.  The Reds are now 4 games ahead of the Cardinals.  Of course, there are a lot of Cub fans out there who are pulling for them, and I can understand why.  a) It keeps St. Louis out.  b) It keeps Dusty Baker employed. 

However, I find myself sort of hating the Reds.  Joey Votto is a dick.  Watching them collapse in the last month of the season just might be the kind of sports enjoyment I could get behind.

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Tangent Alert (Game Recap: Cubs 4, Nationals 0)

That's a shutout and a sweep for the Cubs. Why can't we play the Nationals every game? (And why couldn't we do this to the Pirates??????????????????)

We had a scoreless tie in the top of the eighth before TyCo took a walk (see? better pitch recognition!), stole 2nd (see? he's fast!), and was driven home by The Great Starlin Castro.

Guys, hold on for a second, we have to pause here. Starlin Castro deserves our appreciation. Of course, this is the Cubs we're talking about, so it's probably better to assume that the kid will peak as a solid starter. But really, when you watch this kid play, isn't it safe to assume that the sky is indeed the limit on his talent? Yes, the errors are discouraging; yes, he's obviously still figuring out how to steal bases at the major league level (I think he's 6-for-12); and yes, the power isn't all there yet. But the kid has RANGE, and an ARM. And he hits EVERYTHING. And he's 20 years old!!!!!!

Watch out, boys and girls. Castro could really, truly, honestly, seriously end up as a perennial All-Star at shortstop.

And speaking of young kids, it seems Tyler Colvin has developed nicely this year, no? Plenty of pop, improving eye, super speed, decent glove. Very toolsy. But then, as faustus mentioned in a recent comment, why isn't he getting more playing time? Why does Kosuke keep leading off?

You know why Kosuke's playing more recently? Because he's the better player.

Colvin's defense is good, but Kosuke's is better. Tyler can hit for power, but Kosuke is probably the best option we have at leadoff; even though he hits in the .250-.270 range he gets on base at a .369 clip.

Of course, the Fukster can't hit lefties. And he's on the wrong side of 30 -- just like our other two starting outfielders. It'd be perfect if there were a way to only play him sometimes, while at the same time possibly giving a break to the other outfielders... maybe we could call this new position a "4th outfielder..."

Joking aside, Tyler Colvin really ought to be a 4th OF. He's a fine hitter, and a reliable outfielder in any of the three spots. But you don't need to bench a .370 on-base guy for a little more pop from the left side every single day. And maybe it's a symptom of small sample size, but it looks like Colvin hits lefties better than righties anyway. Why not try dividing playing time more evenly among the four, rather than going 100% with one or the other like we seemed to do for the first four months of the season?

Off day tonight. Take this extra time to actually comment on something here!

The defense, unfortunately, rests

It's an underrated facet of baseball, something that's often overlooked when analyzing a team. But when it comes to the 2010 Cubs, it can't be ignored. As the title suggests, I'm talking about defense.

The Cubs lead the majors with 103 errors; they had 105 all of last season. They've turned 102 double plays after turning 144 last year because most of their double play chances are ruined by a bobble or a throw that sails into the outfield. The Cubs have exhibited a scary combination of lack of focus and just plain bad glovework, resulting in more unearned runs allowed than any other team, by far. It's strange that Zambrano chose to lash out at Derrek Lee after a play he probably couldn't have made anyways, given that he's probably had a lot of more legitimate opportunities to complain about one of his defenders' handiwork.

Nearly 20 percent of the team's errors have been committed by Starlin Castro (20)--only Ian Desmond (28) has more errors among shortstops. Aramis Ramirez is only four off the major league-worst pace at third base despite having played fewer than 100 games. Ryan Theriot had six before being shipped to LA, and Blake DeWitt has 11 between the Dodgers and Cubs. Even Derrek Lee has six errors this season, more than 13 other first basemen.

Soriano has five--just one away from the major league-worst in left--while Byrd and Fukudome have actually played well. Colvin has four errors in right field, none in left.

It should go without saying, but the next Cubs manager and his army of coaches will have to do a better job preparing the team defensively. The lazy throws, the missed cutoff men, the slow-to-develop double play attempts ... these are not qualities commonly seen in playoff teams.

Errors are going to happen, quite obviously, but not 103 of them. Earlier this week Blake Dewitt managed to bobble a grounder and walk lazily towards it, unaware that the runner got a slow start out of the box. The bobble's going to happen sometimes, though the Cubs have exceeded their fair share this season. The second part should never happen, but it seems like just about every Cub has done something similar this season: Castro didn't hustle over the weekend and allowed a runner to score from third; Bob Brenly just criticized Ramirez the other day for not getting in front of a grounder down the line; Soriano exerts effort like Drew Barrymore makes good movies--I don't think it's ever happened.

Most of the position players will return in 2011, which means the gloves themselves may not improve much. In fact, the Cubs' best defender--Derrek Lee--is gone. But hopefully the mental mistakes and lapses can be reduced, and clearly Castro has more potential defensively than he has exhibited in his rookie season. Defense can be one of those things you don't think about until you don't have it. Unfortunately, it's been a glaring problem with this year's team. I just hope that whomever's in charge next season realizes that defense must not be left off the list of things that need to be improved upon in 2011.

P.S. I have to commend Marlon Byrd for his superb defense this season. He's in the top ten in assists for center fielders, has just two errors on the season, and has made countless highlight reel catches. The Cubs have a number of players who have been defensive liabilities this season, but Byrd has been nothing but a strength. As Len and Bob have pointed out, he absolutely deserves Gold Glove consideration.

To read more from this blogger, visit Wait 'til this Year

Back to basics... (Game Recap: Cubs 5, Nationals 4)

...and what I mean by that is:

  • A hoss-like start from Z
  • Some general wildness from the 'pen
  • Three strikeouts plus a loading of the bases from Marmol
  • All of our scoring coming via home runs

Before the game, I thought to offer an over/under of 4.5 walks from Carlos Zambrano for the start, but I guess if the Nationals offense can make Casey Coleman look good, it stands to reason that Z could easily resemble an ace facing them.

And that's pretty much what he did, getting 22 outs on just over 100 pitches. And his batted ball stats looked just like Coleman's from the night before: 10 ground balls, seven flies, and just one line drive.

Tyler Colvin and Alfonso Soriano drove in two and three runs each on their home runs last night, and we'd end up needing every one of those runs after Marmol went nuts in the ninth.

Since you probably already knew all of that, I'll leave you with one more thing to think about: has Tyler Colvin's pitch recognition improved this season? Seems like his ratio of walks to strikeouts has been improving for the past lil' while:

Thanks Fangraphs!

Who plays 1B in 2011?

The trade of Derrek Lee to Atlanta has thrown 1B into a state of flux. Charitably speaking, the Cubs now have three first basemen on the roster: Xavier Nady, Micah Hoffpauir, and Tyler Colvin. The Cubs will want a full time first baseman entering the 2011 season. I'll present some of the options before the Cubs, along with pros and cons for each option.

Tyler Colvin:

Tyler has the power to succeed as a major league regular, if not the plate discipline. His .356 season wOBA has been 19% better than league average. However, his on base percentage is a subpar .314, and he's rocking 4 strikeouts for every free pass. He's had a successful rookie season, but I want to see more.

Pros:

  • He's already on the roster and makes the league minimum. Putting Colvin at 1B allows the Cubs to use their resources elsewhere. For instance, a 9 year contract extension for Castro....
  • He hits for enough power to not be a liability at the position. Tyler leads all major league rookies with 19 HR in only 333 plate appearances. Averaged out over 550 plate appearances, that's 31ish HR. If Colvin is a 30 homer hitter, bat him sixth in the lineup and forget about his mediocre plate discipline.
  • If Colvin plays 1B, Fukudome won't be the world's most expensive sub. We all know Kosuke's faults, and I won't reiterate them here. Instead, lets focus on what he does well: He reaches base. This season he's gotten on base at a .374 clip. That's second on the team behind only Soto and his outstanding .403 OBP. In limited PA's, Kosuke has still been worth 1.4 WAR on the season. Yes it's nowhere near what he's being paid, but his contract is a sunk cost. Better to get him off the bench and in the lineup, where he can contribute. Plus, it'll allow the Cubs to audition him for a trade.

Cons:

  • Can he play 1B at the major league level? No one knows because he hasn't played there with any regularity in over five years. I'm inclined to believe he can do it, as he plays an average corner outfield. However, the uncertainty might scare the Cubs brass into looking elsewhere.
  • If the power isn't for real, he'll be a black hole of suck. That's the largest issue with Colvin. 353 career PA is a small sample size, and we know he has holes in his swing that pitchers can exploit. If Colvin can't improve his plate discipline or reproduce his power output, he'll be one of the worst 1B in the majors.

Alfonso Soriano:

Most Cubs fans seem to think that Soriano's eventual move to 1B is fait accompli. If that's true, wouldn't it make sense to move him now, when there is an opening at the position?

Pros:

  • Playing 1B might keep Sori healthier. Alfonso can still hit, even if he can't run, and keeping him healthy and on the field will be the key for the remainder of his career. A shift to 1B means less running, which should help preserve his legs for launching the bat at the baseball.
  • It makes sense to move him before his defense collapses. As he gets older, Soriano will cover less ground in LF, which means more fly balls will fall in and more runs will be scored against the Cubs. Soriano will be here for another 4 seasons, so it seems reasonable to make the move now, before he becomes an epic liability in the outfield.
  • As noted above, there is an opening at the position, so the time seems ripe to let Alfonso start getting comfortable there.
  • Putting Soriano at 1B allows both Colvin and Fukudome to start in the outfield.

Cons:

  • This may come as a shock to you, dear reader, but Soriano is still pretty good in the outfield. This season, his play has been worth 12.3 runs saved over 150 innings, versus the average outfielder. In layman's terms, he is still contributing with the glove, no matter how ugly he looks doing it. Last year he was below average in the outfield, but he was hurt and I'm prepared to give him a pass for it. In 2008, he was worth an impressive 25.5 runs saved above average over 150 innings. The guy is nowhere near the statue that his reputation would have you believe, and moving him from LF next season might actually weaken the outfield defense.

Aramis Ramirez:

Aramis is likely to exercise his $14.6 million player option in the offseason, and return to the Cubs. I'll be happy to see him stay, as the guy is still capable of being a great player. This season was atrocious, but he was playing hurt for much of it and has been victimized by bad luck on balls in play. I fully expect a bounce back 2011 from Rami.

Pros:

  • Ramirez's health is an issue as much as Soriano's is. Moving across the diamond to an easier defensive position might help keep him on the field and productive at the plate.
  • Unlike Soriano, Ramirez is pretty bad in the field. He hasn't posted a league average or better UZR/150 since 2007, and that was 3 years and multiple injuries ago. Moving Ramirez to 1B might improve the Cubs defensively.

Cons:

  • Moving Ramirez shakes up the rest of roster, and probably necessitates a free agent signing. Legend has it that Blake DeWitt is an excellent 3B, but his bat would be pretty pathetic at the hot corner, and I don't see the Cubs going in that direction. There aren't many quality 3B free agents this coming offseason. The class is headed by Adrian Beltre, who I covet, but he'd be expensive and is already 32 years old. Long term, big money contracts to older veterans is the kind of shoddy roster construction that I've accused Cruller Jim of on dozens of occasions around here. I haven't had a sudden change of heart, and dropping millions on a free agent when this team is 4 or 5 players away from contention seems foolish.

Adam Dunn:

I expected the Cubs to sign the big donkey after the 2008 season. Instead, they opted for Milton Bradley. That didn't work, and the popular speculation is that the Cubs won't pass on Dunn twice.

Pros:

  • Dunn seems like a panacea for this roster. He's a left handed slugger who has hit historically well at Wrigley Field (although that might be an indictment of our pitching staffs of yore.) He's always featured old man skills like walking and hitting for power, so he may age more gracefully than players who depend on speed or athleticism. His full time position change to 1B has even made him an average defender. Dunn used to remind me of a buffalo on ice skates in the outfield. He was that comically terrible. This year, as a full time 1B, he has been worth 2 full wins more than last season, with almost 6 weeks left to play. The difference is in his defense, which has been about average at 1B.

Cons:

  • Money and length of contract. MLBTradeRumors speculates that it will take a 4 year offer to get Dunn to sign a contract. That's a lot of years for a guy who is already 31, and should be entering the downside of his career. 4 years/$50 million seems likely to me, and it wouldn't surprise me if that was low. Anybody else think Dunn will fail to produce to the level of that contract?
  • Signing Dunn will cost the Cubs their second round draft pick. Washington intends to offer Dunn arbitration. Dunn projects to be a type "A" free agent, so if the Cubs subsequently signed him as a free agent, they would forfeit a draft pick. Because of their dogshit play this season, the team is projected to have the #6 overall draft pick, which would be protected, and the Cubs would instead lose their second rounder. Although with Pauper Tom in the owners box, the Cubs will probably squander their draft picks on bad but cheap amateurs. Scratch this one.

Some other free agent?

The corner infield cupboard is bare in the Iowa and Tennessee, so the Cubs will have to grab a different free agent if they don't go any of the routes suggested above. This is not an ideal situation.

Lets hear your preferences. How should the Cubs fill their 1B vacancy next season?

All statistics, as always, from fangraphs.com.

Casey on the Mound (Game Recap: Cubs 9, Nationals 1)

Casey Coleman followed his game plan last night, and fortunately it worked just about as well as you could expect it to.

The 22-year old Coleman is not a K-machine, but he doesn't walk many batters either. Indeed, Casey showed solid control last night, keeping the ball down against Washington hitters, inducing 11 ground balls against eight flyballs and just one line drive. He's no ace, and doesn't exactly project to ever become one, but a career 3.73 ERA in 321.1 minor league innings at age 21 is nothing to sneeze at. I look forward to watching him in his next start.

The offense came through as well, collecting 15 hits against Nationals pitching. Xavier Nady, Blake DeWitt (each with three), Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Starlin Castro (with two) all had multiple hit nights. Aramis Ramirez walked twice, while Geo Soto walked three times (probably because he was hitting eighth).

Speaking of the offense, I thought Mike Quade did a pretty nice job filling out the line-up card. If DeWitt sticks with the team as a starter (and he should), he's a pretty solid leadoff candidate. The only person better suited would be Kosuke, but we all know he's on the trading block. Other than that, I guess some folks thought Soto should bat higher, seeing as how he leads the team in OPS. I guess I agree with that, which means I guess I'm saying the first baseman should bat eighth, be it Xavier Nady or Micah Hoffpauir -- actually, yeah, that pretty much makes sense.

Nice job by Andrew Cashner pounding the strike zone, getting five outs on 11 pitches (nine strikes). And Thomas Diamond got two strikeouts and a ground out in his inning of relief, also on 11 pitches. Coleman does appear to have higher upside as a starter, whereas Diamond doesn't seem to fit there. In fact, against the 11 batters he's faced as a reliever, Diamond has allowed one single, zero walks, and nabbed four strikeouts. Certainly a small sample size, but better than Justin Berg maybe.

Although that's not saying much, I guess.

Series Preview: August 23-25, Cubs at Nationals

After a tearful goodbye to Sweet Lou, and a game that caused even more tears, the Mike Quade Era will hit the ground running.  It appears that the beginning of the era itself speaks volumes about how the Cubs feel about certain others on their coaching staff.  In particular, it appears that the selection of Quade to serve as interim manager was a big "screw off" to Alan Trammell.  I don't know the reasons why he has already been eliminated, but at least he has taken the classy route and chosen to stay as the bench coach through the end of the season.

Outside of that, nothing is new.  Our middle relief is atrocious.  Starlin Castro is close to qualifying for the batting title, and we get to see if Colvin can regain his bearings at first base tonight.  On the Nationals front, uber-prospect Stephen Strasburg was placed on the DL today in what many assume will end his season with a strained flexor-tendon.

Now here are the matchups for the series:

Casey Coleman (0-1, 7.82) vs. Livan Hernandez (8-8, 3.06)

In a shocker to most, Livan is still making a living in the majors.  Even more surprising was the early season success he had for the Nats.  Despite cooling down from his hot start early on, Livan has put up a pretty respectable stat line.  In 21 career starts against the Cubs, Livan is 11-6 with a 3.84 over 140 2/3 innings.  He tends to have success against the Cubs as a whole, and this year should be no exception.

Coleman got his first shot at a rotation spot last week against the Padres.  Despite starting off with a grueling 37 pitch first inning, he settled down and got in somewhat of a groove but only lasted 4.1 innings.  The spot is his to lose right now, so it'd be nice to see a good audition from here on out.

Carlos Zambrano (4-6, 4.97 ERA) vs. John Lannan (5-5, 5.13 ERA)

Lannan used to be the "ace" of the staff for the Nats.  While he's never really featured dominant stuff, he has a knack for getting groundball outs when he needs to, and sometimes that is good enough.  After struggling quite a bit this year, Lannan had a nice outing against the Braves last week where he picked up a win after going 5.1 innings.  He'll be very successful if the Cubs are over-eager and beat the ball into the ground

Z has been such an interesting study since coming back to the rotation.  While he is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA, he has been a free-pass machine.  Going forward, I'd like to see a lot fewer walks.  If he keeps walking batters, its gonna get even uglier than I thought possible.

Ryan Dempster (11-8, 3.56) vs. Marquis De Suck (0-6, 11.39 ERA)

Yay, we have a chance on this one.  True to form, Marquis has been flat out terrible this season.  His "best" outing of the season came this past start when he pitched his first five-inning game.  I'm sure everyone will welcome him home with open arms.

Conclusion
Well, the new era starts tonight.  Maybe Quade will light a fire under their asses like Showalter did in Baltimore... and we can fend off those Pirates for last place.

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Game Recaps: Cubs 5, Braves 4; Braves 16, Cubs 5; So Long, Sweet Lou

Note: This is gonna be a bit of a doosey.  If you want to get past the bad news (the Game Recaps) and get to the more interesting stuff, I won't hold it against you.

Cubs 5, Braves 4

Thus proving that not even the Cubs can lose every game, Chicago held on -- despite 3 late inning Atlanta runs -- to win yesterday's affair by a score of 5-4.

Props go to Tom Gorzelanny (yes, I just started a sentence with the word "props," proving that my heart isn't in this) who went 7 strong innings, striking out 9 batters and walking only 2 in order to get his 7th win of the year.

Poops go to Andrew Cashner, who surrendered 3 runs in a third of an inning.  Hmm, Props and Poops.  This could become a regular segment here.  I actually kinda like it..

Offensively, Aramis Ramirez continues to try like hell to get his batting average up to .250 on the year (after all, what else does he have left?).  A-Ram went 3 for 4 all singles, while driving in 2 of the Cubs runs. 

All told, Chicago managed 10 hits and 4 walks, reminding us of what a good offense looks like. 

Braves 16, Cubs 5
Props:Starlin Castro, Marlin Byrd, and Aramis Ramirez -- the heart of the Cubs lineup went 10 for 14 on the day, with Castro hitting 2 doubles, and Ramirez hitting his 19th homerun on the season.

Poops: Pretty much every other Cubs hitter, since they all combined to go 3 for 25 on the day.  I'm looking at you, Barney&Baker, you 0 for 8 douches who struck out 5 times.  Good job, guys!

Oh, and Poops -- heh, I keep saying "poops" -- to Randy Wells, who gave up 7 runs (5 earned) on the day.  No wonder you canceled your Facebook account! 

Also, Justin Berg continued the bullpen tradition of allowing many, many runs in few opportunities.  5 earned in 1.1 innings of work.  Fan-freakin'-tastic!

On Lou Piniella
First of all, Rob is not alone in his views on Lou.  I'm sure a lot of Cub fans blame Lou's old age, or his incontinence (heh, I said "incontinence") on the mediocre showing of the last two seasons.

And I'm sure that every time Rob or people like him pass even a portion of the blame onto Lou, Jim Hendry feels grateful.

Look.  Honest to God.  A good manager's greatest virtue is the fact that he will rarely cost a team games through stupid decisions.  But these guys don't win games.  The most genius managers of all time, be they Joe Torre, or Tommy Lasorda, or Casey Stengel, or whomever ... these guys weren't geniuses because they "knew how to win."  They were genius managers because, on the contrary, they knew how to not lose.  (Or, hell, they just happened to be the beneficiaries of talented GMs who constantly re-stocked their teams with ever-ready players.  Unlike Lou Piniella, who got stuck with Jim Hendry.)

In reality, the Motivational "Win One for the Gipper/Every Time We Win A Piece of Clothing Comes Off" Speech doesn't exist.  It's FICTION.  If anybody here honestly believes that Lou Piniella could've fixed the 2010 Cubs by throwing a fit on the field, or giving a motivational speech, or forcing them to take more practice, or ANYTHING, then you are a victim of FICTION. 

There was nothing wrong with Lou Piniella in 2009 or 2010.  There was something terribly wrong with the team he was stuck with.  That's the truth of the situation -- Lou was carrying the burden of a 150 million albatross, and it doesn't matter where you bat Kosuke Fukudome, there's no getting around having crappy, expensive players and a poorly managed, crappy farm system.  There was nothing that Lou Piniella could have done.

So, now he's gone.  Again, it's not a big deal.  The next guy -- whoever he is -- will do no better.  He could do worse, however, because it is possible for managers to lose ballgames.

I'll be honest and admit I was wrong about Lou, and I'll miss him.  Originally, I thought he was going to be a wasted pick.  I thought he would continue to express the same shoddy managerial mentality that'd gotten us into the mess of 2005/2006; that he was going to be another Old School Manager like Dusty Baker.  I didn't know he was going to be a calm, resourceful skipper whose flaws -- while not minor -- were no worse than any other manager.  (Because they all have flaws.  Really.)

Of course, I'll also be honest and say that I've been calling for Lou to be fired since the middle of last year.  But I've also been calling for Jim Hendry to be fired.  And the reason for that is a simple one -- Lou was never going to hang around for long enough to lead the next competitive version of the Cubs into the playoffs, and Jim is never going to be the guy who builds that team.  By axing them both, it would be possible for the Cubs to begin a new, hopefully better rebuilding movement.

But we all know that Jim Hendry is still around, and probably will remain for another year or two.  So instead of a rebuilding movement, we get just another movement.  That's bad news for Lou, though, since he already apparently has incontinence. 

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