I wish this was another of my lame-brain concepts on which I attempt to attach some half-assed humor, but nope, this is fact. The player's union is considering intervening on MB's behalf. Somebody ought to shoot the players' union in the head. It, more than anything else on the face of the earth, has ruined major league baseball. Eff it in the eyesocket.
Look, if they were really thinking about trading him this winter, wouldn't they just run his dumb ass out there every night for the rest of the year, to see if they couldn't get his .255, 12, 40 up to around maybe .260, 14, 50? In fact, I interpret this action as a sign he is STAYING.
If they didn't care, if he was dead to them after this season, they would just leave him alone. By suspending him, they are sending him a message they hope gets through his thick, thick skull - If You Rip The Fans, then We Send You Home.
Besides, is THIS any way of driving up his trade value? Suspending him for the final two weeks?
Actually, my prediction? This suspension doesn't stick. Either he whines to the Players' Union, or Hendry does a flip-flop after Bradley comes in and lays a sob story on him.
Way back in the off season -- y'know, when we were full with tall hopes and fine dreams -- the Cubs were looking at a handful of outfielders to compliment Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. After a long season of heartbreak, disappointment, and -- in Milton Bradley's case -- insanity, let's take a look at how the options Hendry passed up on have done.
Bobby Abreu - 491 AB, .297 AVG, 24 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 91 RBI, 84 BB, .396 OBP, .830 OPS
Raul Ibanez - 432 AB, .278 AVG, 29 2B, 3 3B, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 43 BB, .346 OBP, .913 OPS
Adam Dunn - 480 AB, .281 AVG, 26 2B, 0 3B, 36 HR, 96 RBI, 102 BB, .410 OBP, .970 OPS
Milton Bradley - 372 AB, .266 AVG, 17 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 39 RBI, 66 BB, .388 OBP, .802 OPS
No matter how you cut it, Bradley did worse than all of those guys. However, as we know from our encounters with pompous stat-heads, hits are so antiquated. Bradley easily leads all of these guys in the new and increasingly valued statistic HRTGKBBW, or "home runs that got knocked back by wind."
I'm sure that many of you, though, can look at Milton's OBP and OPS and see that he's not so far off the pace from these guys. But as far as the low RBI totals go -- and ignoring that Hendry signed Bradley to drive in runs -- we must remember that RBI are really out of the hitter's hands. He can't knock 'em in if they're not on base. And in Bradley's case ...
With runners in scoring position:
Bobby Abreu - 143 AB, .371 AVG, 12 2B, 2 HR, 74 RBI, .955 OPS
Raul Ibanez - 115 AB, .243 AVG, 7 2B, 7 HR, 52 RBI, .837 OPS
Adam Dunn - 130 AB, .285 AVG, 7 2B, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 1.046 OPS
Milton Bradley - 80 AB, .225 AVG, 4 2B, 2 HR, 23 RBI, .756 OPS
Even if Milton had 143 at bats in total, like Abreu, he would still have only driven in 41 RBI, or fewer than even the craptacular-in-the-clutch Ibanez. But, again, you can't drive in runs if you don't get the chance. It also turns out that Milton leads the league in RBIISTNAH, or "RBI in scenarios that never actually happened."
Still, we know that offense isn't everything. There's a little thing called "defense," not that Adam Dunn would know anything about it. Here's how they match up in the outfield:
Abreu - UZR/150: -10.4
Ibanez - UZR/150: ??? (Ibanez has only played in left field, but his career totals in RF are -34.1)
Dunn - UZR/150: -35.3
Bradley - UZR/150: -1.1
And there you have it. Bradley is hands-down the defensive better of all these jabrones. And that's why Bradley's been a great pick for the Cubs. Still don't believe me? Just check out his WAR (wins above replacement) compared with theirs:
Abreu - WAR: 2.3
Ibanez -WAR: 3.4 (it would be way less than that if he spent all his time in RF though)
Dunn - WAR: 1.9
Bradley - WAR: 1.7
See? Proof. And if Dunn and Ibanez played even more games in RF, their WAR would be even worse because they're so defensively inadequate.
So, before you lament again over the acquisition of Milton Bradley, just remember that the guys he was chosen over are hardly better ... even if they all have dramatically superior offensive numbers, especially with runners in scoring position.
Seriously, Milton Bradley, wtf? For the first half of the season -- y'know, the part of the year where the Cubs squandered all hope -- Bradley was a .243 hitter with 6 homers, 21 RBI, and a whole lot of suck. But since the pressure of expectations collapsed, Milton has turned it up. He batted .308 for the month of August and is, in fact, a .309 hitter since the All Star Break. Other oddities -- maybe he actually loves Wrigley Field, because he's batting nearly 120 points higher at home than he is on the road. So far this year Milton's a .326 hitter in the unfriendly confines, with 9 homeruns in 178 at bats. Meanwhile in 168 at bats on the road, he's batting .208 with 3 homeruns. Guh. Regardless, Bradley was 2 for 4 last night with his 12th homerun of the year. He and the Cubs offense combined for 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs -- enough to give Randy Wells his 10th win of the year. Wells almost certainly won't beat J.A. Happ for the Rookie of the Year crown, but it's impressive nonetheless that he has essentially sprung from nowhere to become such an effective rookie pitcher. Then again, as Geovany Soto taught us this past year, we probably can't expect a repeat performance. Rob: what is doubly impressive is, after a recent rough patch, Wells bounced back with last night's gem. The YMCA's are full of guys who got off to fast starts to begin a career (Jeff Pico handed me a towel the other day) but those fortunate few who can re-adjust and re-group provides a great indicator for future success. It will be nice to have another starter without having to overpay for him. Back to Bradley for a minute, he has become the first Cub in my adult life who angers me when he succeeds. More than any fan I know, I've been patient with him, I've made excuses for him, and I've defended him to critics, but at this point I believe he's a miserable human being who is more concerned with being right than he is with being a winner. So, screw him, at least for 2009. I'll give him a 2010 blank slate. As for the Cubs, they won their series against the Mets and they are now poised to win again against the Astros. They then play a makeup game against the white-flag White Sox before travelling to New York to continue their play against the useless Mets. Then it's a series in Pittsburgh, and they will then host the Reds and Brewers before traveling to St. Louis, then Milwaukee and San Francisco before wrapping it up back home against Pittsburgh. It's sad that they play such an easy schedule, against no more than two good teams, because they very well might be mathematically alive until the last week of the season. But they sure as hell don't look it, even in games they win.
Seriously, Milton Bradley, wtf? For the first half of the season -- y'know, the part of the year where the Cubs squandered all hope -- Bradley was a .243 hitter with 6 homers, 21 RBI, and a whole lot of suck. But since the pressure of expectations collapsed, Milton has turned it up. He batted .308 for the month of August and is, in fact, a .309 hitter since the All Star Break. Other oddities -- maybe he actually loves Wrigley Field, because he's batting nearly 120 points higher at home than he is on the road. So far this year Milton's a .326 hitter in the unfriendly confines, with 9 homeruns in 178 at bats. Meanwhile in 168 at bats on the road, he's batting .208 with 3 homeruns. Guh.
Regardless, Bradley was 2 for 4 last night with his 12th homerun of the year. He and the Cubs offense combined for 8 hits, 2 walks, and 4 runs -- enough to give Randy Wells his 10th win of the year. Wells almost certainly won't beat J.A. Happ for the Rookie of the Year crown, but it's impressive nonetheless that he has essentially sprung from nowhere to become such an effective rookie pitcher. Then again, as Geovany Soto taught us this past year, we probably can't expect a repeat performance. Rob: what is doubly impressive is, after a recent rough patch, Wells bounced back with last night's gem. The YMCA's are full of guys who got off to fast starts to begin a career (Jeff Pico handed me a towel the other day) but those fortunate few who can re-adjust and re-group provides a great indicator for future success. It will be nice to have another starter without having to overpay for him.
Back to Bradley for a minute, he has become the first Cub in my adult life who angers me when he succeeds. More than any fan I know, I've been patient with him, I've made excuses for him, and I've defended him to critics, but at this point I believe he's a miserable human being who is more concerned with being right than he is with being a winner. So, screw him, at least for 2009. I'll give him a 2010 blank slate.
As for the Cubs, they won their series against the Mets and they are now poised to win again against the Astros. They then play a makeup game against the white-flag White Sox before travelling to New York to continue their play against the useless Mets. Then it's a series in Pittsburgh, and they will then host the Reds and Brewers before traveling to St. Louis, then Milwaukee and San Francisco before wrapping it up back home against Pittsburgh. It's sad that they play such an easy schedule, against no more than two good teams, because they very well might be mathematically alive until the last week of the season. But they sure as hell don't look it, even in games they win.
I'm too lazy to look, but it's a fair guess that Wells has probably never thrown so many innings in his career. Then again, he's in his mid 20's and while endurance/conditioning might be an issue, his arm should be able to handle the load. Nevertheless, the last month of the season will be interesting if only because he might be getting gassed out. But at least the Cubs bullpen managed to pitch 2.2 innings of scoreless baseball. Small victories, folks. That's what we're left with.
Offensively, the Cubs saw homeruns from Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, the two of whom were responsible for 5 of the team's 6 hits. Kosuke Fukudome, Alfonso Soriano, and yes, Milton Bradley combined to go 0 for 13.
Speaking of Bradley, since he's a hot topic of debate these days...
When he signed with the Cubs last winter, like a lot of fans I was supportive of the idea. I was impressed with his offensive production in Texas, and knowing full-well that he'd struggle to ever play at 100% for a full season I believed that he would give the Cubs more offense in the time he was healthy than any other option on the market. And yes, I knew that he was volatile and fragile, but my argument was that if he started the year out well then the fans would never turn on him and it would be a good situation.
Of course, he started the year something like 1 for his first 23. But even before then, the story-hungry press had already written plenty about whether or not Bradley would be able to handle the fans in Chicago. It's kind of like if you started a new job and from the first day there were people in the office reminding you not to lose your temper when the paper jams. You could be a very well-constructed individual, and yet, after a few months the steady warnings to not lose your temper when the paper jams, you might be inclined to do just that. It's called a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the media made this an issue long before it was one. I like a lot of the guys who cover the Cubs clubhouse, but they need to owe up and acknowledge that while they didn't build the car they certainly turned the ignition.
Anyway, all of that said, Milton Bradley is a prick. He is a giant, turgid dildo (and I would love to be quoted saying that in a venue he might read -- c'mon, Paul Sullivan, Bruce Miles, don't let me down). He is, quite frankly, a chip-on-his-shoulder idiot.
Milton, sir, the fans have booed you and treated you with hostility because you have sucked. It has nothing to do with the color of your skin or where you come from. I speak as a person whose all-time favorite player is Andre Dawson, whose first baseball jerseys were those of Ernie Banks and Sammy Sosa, whose current favorite pitcher is the tempromental Carlos Zambrano, whose wife would probably leave him for smooth-looking Derrek Lee. I don't think you're an asshole because you're black. I think you're an asshole because you're an asshole.
Like Todd Hundley before you, and Will Ohman after Todd Hundley, and yes, like LaTroy Hawkins and Jacque Jones, you are an excuse-making jackass who has come nowhere near earning the contract you've signed. And like Hawkins and Jones, you would rather play the race card than acknowledge that we can't stand you because you are a miserable person.
As somebody who supported Bradley and defended his signing, I recognized at the time that this could be an issue but I was hopeful his play would prevent that from happening. I was wrong. And if I should happen to find myself in the right field bleachers anytime over the next two seasons where Milton remains a Cub, so long as he continues to complain, pity himself, and cast off the blame, I will boo the ever loving shit out of him. He will be the first Cub I have ever actively booed at a game, and he has earned it.
I suppose there exists an argument that Milton Bradley may not be hurting the Cubs with his petulant attitude. I imagine you can consider yourself justified by floating the hypothesis "Just because Bradley is a turd does not mean he affects the play of (Player x)". Personally, I think you are WRONG to think that way.
But, as commenters like Irish Yeti pointed out yesterday, many of us are related to or married to or work with negative people, and we go about our business without having it (appear to) affect us. Well, I can go on and on about how we as humans do not and never can exist in a perfect scientific vacuum. In fact, someday I think I will. (Not here; thank God, but somewhere, I will). I bet it does affect you, and you don't know it.
But as sure as I think I am about my stance, I am also just as sure that there is no way I am every going to talk you off our yours. So we agree to disagree on my diagnosis of "M. Bradley - Clubhouse Cancer".
But there is one thing I do know, and this is a thing that none of you can dispute, deny, or argue.
I don't like him, and I don't want him on my team. His .400 OBP may intrigue someone somewhere, and hopefully so. Trade his dumb ass! His stats are hollow, as hollow as his racism arguments. I don't need to hear one of the players on MY team ranting about racism. Maybe it exists - in fact, I know it does. After all, I was the guy who came out here after the 2007 NLDS and relayed all the racist crap I heard people hurl at Jacque Jones. It exists.
I still don't want to hear about it from Milton freakin Bradley, who has as much credibility as Paris Hilton. He ain't gonna shut his mouth, he ain't ever shut it before, and he never will. He IS the Human Red Flag. He hasn't had anywhere near enough offensive impact in 2009 to utter a peep. Geo Soto, as much of a disappointment as he's been this year - have you heard complaint one from him? Or Alfonso Soriano? Or Kevin Gregg? Or Aaron Miles or Mike Fontenot or Carlos Marmol? I'm sure ALL of these guys have been booed, because I've done it myself!
Go away, go far away, leave us and never look back, trouble maker. I'm sick of your crap. Take it like a man, a man who makes an eight-figure salary. You feel racially threatened? Boo huckin' Foo!! Tell your story walkin'......
Last night, even though we were blown out by the worst team in baseball, Don't Wake Daddy his own self went four-for-four with a dinger, so he felt like talking. Lucky us.
The result? The headline in the Tribune today? "Bradley - I face hatred on a daily basis". He goes on to outline that he is never comfortable playing in Wrigley Field. That's pretty troublesome, since he has to play there half the time. He was also asked if he felt his team was demoralized. To his credit, he didn't flip out the stock "no" that other guys would, but offered a "I don't have a politically correct way to answer that, so I won't". In other words, Yes.
Look, folks. I know what a troublemaker sounds like when he talks. I know what a rabblerouser says when he's speaking. I speak the language of the disgruntled. This is one disgruntled, rabblerousing troublemaker. This is not a healthy influence. Sure, he isn't just lying around all fat and happy, like a few of his peers. (Cough*Soriano*Cough). I honestly don't mind friction, we lacked it last year. But this isn't the kind of friction we want. This isn't the friction of a finely tuned machine generating torque. This is the friction of ill-fitting parts rubbing against one another.
In terms of on-the-field misery, Milton is not in the top 5 in "why we suck this year". Off the top of my head, you have to figure "Soriano's year-long slump", "Ramirez' dislocated shoulder". "Gregg's deft touch with a gas can", "Soto showing up fat, drunk, and stupid", and "the great sucking chasm just to the right of the second base bag" as more compelling reasons why we lose. For all his failings, the man fields his position adequately, hasn't made any serious baserunning blunders, and is still getting on base 40% of the time. These are good things, and to the right team, have value.
In other words, Milton Bradley has not lost the 2009 season for us. But he sure as hell isn't winning the 2010, or any other years' season for us, either. He has a negative approach to life, and certainly to baseball. He would be most happy in an environment without pressure, without expectations, and with as little criticism as humanly possible. As you all well know, the North Side of Chicago is NOT that kind of place. Sure, there are still the blue kool-aid swilling, rose-colored shades wearing, bleating sheep who still sit in the bleachers and root for our guys while down 9 runs in the bottom of the ninth against Washington.
(Aside: if you're the Where's Waldo shirt-wearing dork in the bleachers last night that was repeatedly being shown in the ninth, really, man. It is Time To Re-Evaluate. I can't BELIEVE I live on the same PLANET as you, let alone the same country or the same state. Get a clue, man!)
But more and more of us every day have higher expectations than to just see guys run out and run back in. So we boo. Big rippin' deal!! The first order of business for the off-season is to try to maximize the trade return for this guy. Once again, he isn't the worst on-field performer we have. But he is, by far, the worst off-field performer. We took a chance, on a guy who has never had a long-term contract before, on the notion that some long-term security would calm the savage beast. It hasn't, not by a long shot. It happens, too bad. Now, fix it.
He is the poster boy for Clubhouse Cancer. Let's all band together, and stamp out Clubhouse Cancer in our lifetimes! Tell me what effin' color ribbon I have to put on the bumper of my car, and I'll buy the damn thing, and display it proudly, if it means this guy soils somebody else's laundry next year!
What do Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, and Milton Bradley all have in common? Scratch that -- the more appropriate question is what don't they have in common.
All three have big contracts, given to them by a general manager who was likely bidding against himself.
All three are putting up "worst case scenario" numbers -- statistics you won't likely see from a playoff-bound outfield. Soriano is batting a meager .243 with a .303 OBP, 19 homers, 52 RBI, and 110 strikeouts in 108 games. (That's 7 more than he had last season in 12 more at bats.) Fukudome is batting .272 with a .390 OBP, 10 homers, 43 RBI, and a 43% success rate at stealing bases. And Bradley is batting .259 with a .390 OBP, 8 homers, 30 RBI, and a bad attitude. Oh, and collectively they're making something like 40 million dollars this season.
But apart from their big contracts and offensive suck, they have something else in common too -- they were coveted by OCD Hendry for years before he signed them. Soriano had been a target of the Cubs since his earliest days with the Yankees, where he was a reported Target of Interest in the never-occurred Sosa trade. Fukudome was being spoken of at Wrigley from as early as 2003, and Hendry had vowed to pursue him even before the 2006 season. And Bradley was a target of Jim's back in the Dusty days, with Baker pondering his ability to manage the troubled star should a trade come-to-fruition.
At this point, Hendry's idiosyncracies aren't even disputed anymore. He will always go out and acquire three of whatever he needs -- when the one that would suffice goes elsewhere. And he'll always covet certain players who, mark our words, will someday make their way to Wrigleyville. In a way, it's miraculous that ex Reds (and current Nationals) Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns -- perhaps Hendry's Most Coveted -- have avoided a Cubs uniform, but if Jim remains in charge it's probably only a matter of time.
So now we're left asking how the Cubs repair these mistakes. Let's break it down by player and problem:
When Soriano signed with the Cubs, my initial reaction was of joy and despair, mixed in equal portions. I wrote at the time that only Hendry could turn the joy of such an acquisition into a move that we'd all hate within three-or-so years (while also saying I wouldn't care if the Cubs won a Series beforehand).
So, here we are, at Year Three on the cusp of a possible -- if not probable -- Soriano decline. He has 5 years remaining, he'll make something like 18 million per year until he's done, and the Cubs are stuck with him. One reader suggested that Sori should be waived and given to the first team that claims him, although that's putting a huge assumption in any team stepping up to eat that albatross of a contract. I EMailed one Cubs beat writer asking if he knew as to whether or not Sori passed through waivers, and he said, "clubs, and particularly the Cubs, try to keep that stuff private. But I'm sure he was put on waivers, and I'm sure he cleared easily. Who would want that contract? Nobody in their right mind."
Therefore the Cubs may need to first hope that he will rebound from this horrible season, which remains a strong possibility. Soriano is 34 next season, and while he will almost certainly never hit 40 homeruns again it's still possible that he'll be a 30 homer guy if he gets everything working. As for his defense, he clearly belongs in the American League where they can hide him in the DH spot, but since that's not going to happen then the Cubs probably have to consider posturing to move him to first base once Lee's contract ends.
Otherwise, Hendry will need to consider dealing Soriano and eating probably half his remaining contract to find an interested buyer. For a guy already in his 30's when he signed, an 8-year 130+ million deal was just ridiculous. There's no way his career ends on a high note, unless his last homerun is a walk-off that wins the World Series.
We were hoping he'd be Our Ichiro. Turns out that was a bit of a mistake on our part. But while Fukudome is not, based on his numbers, a 14-million-a-year guy, he is defensively solid and he's not a negative presence in the lineup. It's just that he doesn't give enough positive, either. Still, in 160 fewer at bats this season he's already matched-or-surpassed last year's totals in doubles, triples and homers. I don't know if Rob would still call Fukudome a "bust," but he's certainly a winner only if we view him with diminished expectations.
On a team where Soriano is killing the ball, Fukudome's decent-but-not-rah-rah-great statistics would be acceptable. On a team where he is flanked by Milton Bradley, however, Fooky is a disappointment.
Earlier this year I compared him with Moises Alou, whose first-of-three years with the Cubs was a huge disappointment. The difference was that Alou got mad, stayed mad, and hit the crap out of the ball. When Milton gets mad, though, he seems to come apart mentally. Not good. He may not have the fortitude to ever succeed in Chicago.
But I'm willing to give him the chance. Maybe he's not the guy you want to be the face of the organization, but contrary to what fans seem to hope for, he does not appear to be a clubhouse cancer like Sosa was. Maybe he's never going to play in 150 games in a season, but we knew that coming in. What we were hoping for -- if not expecting, though -- was an OPS around 1.000 in his 120 games played. If he stays strong mentally, I expect him to meet that hope next season.
Still, it's pretty crappy that we have to basically hope for the unlikely -- in his and Sori's return to productivity -- because Hendry has left us with no alternative.
So, that brings us back to the general manager Jim Hendry. His time with the Cubs has been very mixed. He was, at the onset, viewed as a prospect guy. Only that's turned into a bust. Therefore to save his job he had to turn to expensive, somewhat old free agents. It worked, he's still got a gig, but burning the field to save the farm has its setbacks and we are experiencing that now.
So, since he hasn't been able to draft and develop, and since he's backing the Cubs into an unwinnable corner when it comes to huge contracts for untradable players, and since he can't seem to fill his team's gaping holes in a sensible way ...
...perhaps it's time for Jim Hendry to resign, or be fired, or get turned into a scout, or anything to get him out of a decision-making role in Chicago. Enough is enough.
There's only so many things a manager has control over.
He's gotta keep an eye on his starting pitcher, and he's gotta know which reliever to go to when it's time to make a change. He's the one that pulls the trigger on pinch hitters, and he'd better know the lefty/righty splits when he makes the change.
And every day, he sets the lineup for his team's offensive attack.
The Cubs have always had a few quirks regarding their approach to the lineup. Most notably, the "leadoff hitter" debate had (until very recently) gone on and on among Cub fans (e.g., "Drop Soriano!", or, "We need Brian Roberts!").
The Cubs have also struggled, for a few years now, to find a left-handed hitting RBI producer for the middle of their order. To that end, you know you have a problem when you allow a 36-year old Jermoy Burnitz to play right field for your major league team.
However, after two and a half years of unrest among the Wrigley Faithful, I think it's safe to say that Lou has settled upon the Absolutely, Positively Correct Lineup against right handed hitters.
If there's one thing about lineups that every baseball fan can agree on, it's this: when you set your lineup correctly, your 1 and 2 hitters will get on base in front of your 3-through-6 guys, who will slug in some RBIs for your team. On that note, here are the slugging percentages for the Cubs' three bona fide RBI guys (A-Ram, Lee and Soriano), in order, with a fourth mystery hitter included in the rankings.
- A. Ramirez, .543
- D. Lee, .539
- Player X, .461
- A. Soriano, .443
Player X is Kosuke Fukudome, and for the foreseeable future, the Cubs' left-handed RBI producer. On Sunday, Lou made the last needed change to improve an otherwise optimal Cub lineup by moving Kosuke into the 5th spot, and pushing Milton Bradley up to the 2-hole.
Fuk hasn't always been the clear choice for the 5-hole on this team. He started well in 2009, posting solid numbers in April and May, before seriously slumping in June (his slash line for that month was .169/.266/.241). At that point, the question was whether Kosuke should pay at all, not where he should hit.
Since then, however, the Fukster has been on fire. As proof of his deserving a regular spot in the Cub lineup, he recently broke his habit of posting declining numbers in each subsequent month of the season.
Furthermore, he did so in glorious fashion. His July slash: .307/.392/.534. Wonderful.
Kosuke's .461 slugging percentage is roughly 60 points higher than that of the man he's replacing, the famously infamous Milton Bradley. But Bradley isn't beat in every category; despite a .230 average against righties, as of today MB is sporting an overall on-base percentage of .401, which is very nice (and 53 points higher than Ryan "Sluggo" Theriot's).
Rest assured, Cubdom. Even as the team struggles through a stretch of tough games, made more painful by the Cardinals' feasting on weak opponents, at least we've got the right lineup in place. Finally.
So...I went to Wrigley last night, fully expecting to come back here this morning and provide a service to the vast universe of you not fortunate enough to live within two hours' drive of the park, but the pitching last night was poor (hopefully this doesn't become a trend) and I can't really point to one particular instance where the game was lost. Maybe the play in the 5th where Dempster must have lost track of the number of outs. First and third, and on a comebacker to him, he immediately turned and threw down to 2nd to try to start a DP. If there was ONE out, sure. But there were no outs, and the runner on third was already halfway home. Ryan could have simply held his right arm out, holding the ball, and froze the runner. Anyway, he blew the throw to 2nd, everyone was safe, the AssTrolls scored two runs when they probably shouldn't have scored any, and it was simply that kind of night.
But what really grinds my gears today is the aftermath from Monday's LaTroy Hawkins ejection. Lady and gentlemen, we have learned something new today. There are different levels of crazy, insulting, and stupid in the big league game, and we have been introduced to the next level.
It is one thing to argue balls and strikes. It is a second thing to do what Big Z did that night when he made a show of "throwing the ump out" and chucking the ball into the outfield. It is a third thing to do what Milton Bradley did earlier this year, claiming the umps are out to get him.
But Hawkins went on record after the game Monday and said that the home plate ump had "already decided who was going to win" that night. Then, when asked again about it yesterday, he did not back off his statement.
I guess questioning an ump's integrity in general is bad, and questioning the ump's integrity on a personal level is worse. But the worst of all is accusing an ump of fixing the outcome of the game. I guess I don't remember anyone else ever making that claim before, and it appears that Hawkins has crossed a sort of uncrossable line. There exists a line, that every ballplayer knows about, a place where you are NOT supposed to go, and LaTroy WENT there. Whatever small shred of competitive dignity he still possessed has now been pissed away like so much cheap beer into a Wrigley Field trough.
My problem with all of this? I guarantee you that Mr. Hawkins has not gotten MORE crazy in the past five years. Whatever percentage of crazy he is, he was when he was with us. And Dusty Baker thought it would be a good idea to have him close games for us!! And not just in one year - the Dustbag persisted throughout most of 2004 and 2005, until such time that Jim Hendry had enough of his guff and sent him packing. Since then, the million dollar arm attached to the two cent brain has bounced around the league, burning bridges, wearing out welcomes, and losing games all over the place.
We actually won one more game in 2004 (89) than we did in the division winning year of 2003. Unfortunately, we needed to win about four or five more. Which we would have done, easily, if ANYONE else in the entire world was made the closer. The man came out on day one of his Cub career, the day he was signed, and said he was NOT a closer, that he had NO desire to be the closer, and if you then make him close, and he blows game after game in the most bizarre way imaginable, and you still PERSIST on sending him out there in the ninth? And we end up losing a division over it?
And when people (like me) come out when it happened and speak out against it, and others (you know who you are) grab your handfuls of stat sheets and drone on about how the man has the best arm and the lowest career ERA+ and blah blah blah...and then, a few years later, and it becomes clear, crystal clear, CRIMINALLY clear how much of a wack job this guy is and was?
The moral of this story? It ain't all about who has the fastest fastball, or who has the best OPS over the past 47 months. Baseball, now more than ever, is played by human beings, some of whom have faults and incapacities and psychological quirks that preclude them from meshing well within a "team concept" game. Essentially, one misused man blew a playoff berth for us five years ago, and today, our insistence on sticking with a second level psychopath in right field, our settling for two career backups to platoon at second base, all of which is coupled with the festering black hole we have behind the plate...and you're left with a cruddy lineup who, yes, scored six runs last night, but against the dregs of the Houston bullpen should have put up double digits, at least.
Just because you made a mistake by signing Bradley doesn't mean you should keep running him out there. Just because Koyie Hill and Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker SAY they want to play doesn't mean you let them. Several of you tried to make the case that the Fontenot/Baker platoon is as productive as everyone else's Real Second Basemen. Um...the last 28 days? 3 HR, 9 RBI, 25 Ks, .252/.284/.425? An OPS+ of 88? This is not what I would call outstanding production, or even marginally acceptable. I'm glad they "want to", but that just ain't enough.
I understand Lou Piniella doesn't have a choice. Just don't always assume your Manager and General Manager always knows more about guys than you do. Sometimes, more often than not, YOU, the fan, can smell a bum long before your club's management does. Todd Hundley, anyone?