Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Lou Piniella

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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. 

Gamecast (August 22, 2010) Braves @ Cubs

Despite the muttering and anger that many of us have experienced in the last two years, I am happy we had Lou Piniella at the helm for the last 3+ years. He is calling it quits today. I, for one, am happy he was here and I think he is leaving at the perfect time. More on Lou's Cub legacy in the offseason.

Tomorrow begins the Mike Quade era, I guess. I am surprised that Alan Trammell isn't taking over as the manager. The apparent dissing of Trammell means it's unlikely he will be the next manager of the Chicago Cubs. I believe this means Ryne Sandberg is very likely to be the man next year. I know other writers on this site have bemoned the possibility but I, for one, believe that Ryno is the only guy for the job. I welcome his ascension to the job of Cub's manager.

This is a gamecast and the time to discuss legacy is the offseason so here is today's matchup:

Today's Matchup: Mike Minor (12IP, 3.75ERA, 4.25 xFIP) vs Randy Wells (148IP, 4.44ERA, 3.97 xFIP)

The awesomeness of the Cubs' pitching in the first half has faded greatly in the second half and with it the team's chances have gone right down the toilet that they were lodged pretty deep within anyway. Ah well, anyway, Wells has been generally decent. I think a lot of what I wrote about Tom Gorzelanny yesterday applies to Wells. Wells should be back next year and isn't even close to getting expensive. He has been generally effective this year and has an upside as an above average #3 starter or passable #2. Given how little he's being paid, that's an important member of the team.

As for Minor, he's drawing comparisons to a young Barry Zito. I'm not completely convinced in his eventual greatness but I am impressed at how quick he rolled through the Braves' minor league system when he was supposed to be a signability pick. I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch.

Who's Hot: His batting average has been dropping but Starlin Castro has drawn 3 walks this week. Who'd thunk? His batting average is down to .309 and he is up to 373 plate appearances so it's just a matter of time before he shows up on the top 10 list at ESPN in batting average. Personally, I think he is the key to the Cubs' future.



Who's Not: Hey, the Cubs won a game yesterday! Of course they did it despite the pitching of Andrew Cashner. I am very impressed with Cashner's stuff and I don't think the Cubs have anything to lose by just running him out there day after day. It is interesting to me that so far Cashner has gotten a pass that the Cubs didn't give the Shark. This is despite the fact that their numbers are very similar. I think this is a sign that the Cubs are higher on Cashner. If he can figure out how to pitch this offseason, the Cubs could have a rather awesome bullpen next year. This should be a project for Larry Rothschild (assuming he's coming back).

Conclusion: Even if the Cubs are out of it, it'd be nice if teams didn't look at them as a gimmee on the schedule. The Cubs need to win today to send Lou off on a happy note. They need to beat a rookier lefty for once. Let's go Cubs!

Top Ten Lessons Learned in 2010

Goat Riders of the Apocalypse is not going so strong, lately.  But, GOOD LORD?  Can you blame us?

Even the most optimistic, blue sky Cub fans could not possibly enjoy what they are seeing on a daily basis?  Losers of 13 of the last 16?  As it happens, Hendry and Piniella are pretty much doing what I asked them to do earlier this week - treat the rest of this year as if it is Spring Training 2011.  It began when Derrek Lee and Lou himself removed themselves from the proceedings - neither of them are going to Mesa next spring.  We have brought up the freshest produce from the farm.

But, once again, it goes sour, because pretty much everyone we brought up has sucked so far.  It would have been nice to see Micah the Hoff hit a few quick welcome-back dongs, or a Marcos Mateo pitch lights-out.  It is early in our extended Spring Training, but it doesn't appear that any of our recent call-ups are going to help us anytime soon.  So, as was the case going into this season, it appears that most of the heavy lifting in 2011 will be done by the men currently on the roster, a roster, once again, that is last in the majors in one-run losses.

So what have we learned thus far in 2010?

10) Alfonso Soriano may not be the most overpriced sixth hitter in major league history - but then again, he might just be. 

As a longtime student of the intangible and the psychological, I understand why Hendry signed #12 back in 2007.  The interim owner gave him permission to spend whatever it took, and Alf was the premier free agent that winter.  Jim was convinced that the Cubs would win a World Series that year or next, and figured if we had, that people wouldn't care that the club would then owe Soriano $18 million a year for all perpetuity.  It was a crap shoot, and the first two years, Jim shot eights, but then last year, the dice came up seven, and now we're stuck with a number six hitter with degenerative legs, a miserable glove, and absolutely no knowledge of situational baseball.  For the next three years.

9) Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Silva are the yin and yang of miserable free agent pitching judgement

A few years back, officials at two separate organizations took a look at two big, strong, tough Venezuelan guys named Carlos and decided that yes, these guys were Quality, they would eat innings, win games, and lead men.  It would be the wisest thing to sign them to long term contracts worth nearly 8 figures, because everyone knows the work ethic of South Americans is second to none.

Ahem.  So it was inevitable that a few years later, los dos Carloses would both be Cubs, serving as twin anchors, keeping us firmly tethered to the bottom, representing the main sunk costs to the most miserable team contract picture in MLB history.

The difference is: Silva the Hutt is a follower, and Z is a leader.  There is no way to reign in #38 with the Cubs, none.  He appears to respect nobody but himself, which is the very reason why it is going to be so painful when he inevitably moves on to the Yankees a couple of years from now and starts winning games again (hey, Kerry Wood?  How YOU doin'?)  #52, on the other hand, is a follower, and I honestly feel that in the right situation, with the right guidance from the right pitching coach and staff, that Silva could be poked, prodded, and coaxed in a useful direction.  However...

Cool 2010 is the death knell of the Larry Rothschild Era

Several of my knowledgeable friends, like the boys over at HJE have called for the head of Rothschild for years now.  I personally was torn.  For every Wood and Prior who caved in, a Dempster or Marmol seemed to rise up.  Maybe, I have always thought, Rothschild wasn't part of the problem.

But lately?  Outside of Dempster, Marmol, Marshall, the first three months of Silva and the occasional Gorzellany outing, Cubs pitching 2010 has been beyond dreadful.  Walks, mistakes, walks, mistakes.  A conveyor belt of arms have made their way back and forth between here and Des Moines. 

Here's my problem with Rothschild - these guys pitch well in Iowa, come here, get blasted, go back to Iowa, pitch well, come back, get blasted.  And it isn't just a function of the quality of the hitters.  It is the command that they seem to lose here.  Is it the pressure?  Shouldn't be any pressure, throwing for a fifth-place team.  And if it is, whose job is it to help these guys acclimate?  As I see it, he is taking good arms and turning them bad once they get here.

When the new manager arrives, he should be allowed to pick his own pitching coach.

7) Marmol is a major league closer

Speaking of Marmol, he hasn't had a lot of opportunities in 2010.  Yes, the team has the worst one-run record in baseball, but curiously enough, it isn't really the closer's fault.  Most of the games have gone the way yesterday's game went - we fall far behind, and either come back to within a run and fall short, or tie it up only to let one of our "middle" guys, usually Cashner, go blow it. 

The few saves Marmol has blown, his defense helped blow.  Which, speaking of:

6) Our defense utterly sucks

Our catcher is "offensive-minded", a euphemism for a guy who isn't Yadier Molina.  Our third baseman is getting old, frail, and losing what little utility he ever had.  Our shortstop is better than the man he replaced, yes, but is young and may or may not be a major league shortstop.  Our second basemen define 'suck', We got DeWitt because we thought he is better than Theriot, of course, the Dodgers think just the opposite.  Uh oh.  Our fancy hood ornament, DLee has had his worst fielding year.  Soriano has had an Epic Fail year in left.  Our slick fielding right fielder can't hit enough to play, and the guy who can hit in RF should be playing left field. 

5) Marlon Byrd is a nice player

Byrd does everything pretty well.  He is not and will never be an impact major league ballplayer, and his CF play is very average at best.  He is the beneficiary of the "Robbie Gould Syndrome", in which he is surrounded by badness, so his relative competence shines brighter in comparison.  He is a fourth outfielder on a championship team, and although he actually tries to provide the leadership this team so woefully lacks, he really doesn't have the oomph in his game to back it up.

Starlin Castro gets one of his 4 hits4) Starlin Castro is a major league hitter

The storybooks are full of great men who started off as middle
infielders who committed a ton of errors in the field, and were
converted to other positions so their teams would not lose their bat. 
Mickey Mantle comes immediately to mind, and Alf Soriano is a recent,
close-to-home example.  With Hak-Ju Lee in the low minors, there are
discussions that Lee will eventually be the SS, and Castro will play
2nd.  Or maybe 3rd, since the 24 year old DeWitt is on board, except
that DeWitt has 'utility guy' written all over him, and don't 3rd
basemen usually hit with more power?

It is easy to forget that Castro was born in 1990, and that he will gain
most of his strength in the next seven years.  He will never have
A-Roid power, but maybe Jeter power.  The most pleasant development of
2010 has been that, for once, we can believe the hype.  Starlin Castro
seems to be for real.

3) Here comes Adam Dunn

A couple of years ago, when it was late in the free-agent season
(this was the year we signed Milton Bradley early, remember) and Adam
Dunn still did not have a team.  The only substantial offer for a man
who had averaged 40 homers a year the previous five years was from the
godforesaken Nats, and human nature being what it is, there rose an
effort to find out what, if anything, was wrong with Dunn.

Rumors arose that Dunn did not like playing baseball much, that much of
the conversations that would arise when opposing players would stand on
first base next to the Big Donkey revolved around offseason hunting. 
Growing up, Dunn was a football player first, and teams perhaps
questioned his character when formulating contract offers for a
one-dimensional guy.

So, he has played nearly every day in Washington, has continued to hit
his 40 homers a year, and has weathered two trade deadlines.  You know
what?  The man would rather play football and shoot pheasants.  But he still hits and we are going to sign a first baseman this winter.

And just
our luck, watch us sign the guy and watch him age faster than the Nazi
mope in "Raiders of the Lost Ark".  In my gut, I see us going after
Adrian Gonzalez his off season, and ending up with Adam Dunn.  Because
Dunn has always been one of "Hendry's Guys", like the Marquis Du Suck
and Kosuke Fukudome, and we always seem to end up with Hendry's guys.

2) Since nobody seems to know what is going on, Hendry is staying, I guess

The inmates run the asylum at Wrigley Field.  As bad as the Cubs have performed, and for as much pressure that the General Manager of a team such as ours ought to be under, compounded by the fact that he has a known history of heart trouble, Jim Hendry looks pretty damn healthy.

Is he taking his statins and his red krill oil?  Maybe, but hey, why shouldn't he look healthy?  He has the greatest job in the world.  Where else in American business can you mess up, again and again, and nobody calls you on it?  Wall Street?  Well, yeah, but those guys always have the specter of the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission, not the high-falutin college football conference) breathing down their necks.  Lots of those guys jump off bridges, lock themselves in their garages with their Bentleys running, but not Jim Hendry.  His boss is a failed corporate attorney who doesn't know spit from shinola, who in turn works for a owner who is more concerned with piss troughs and gaudy neon signs than a winning ballclub.

There is only one man on earth who gets to play fantasy baseball for real, and lose all the time, and not get called on the carpet for it.  Until there is some accountability established in the Cubs' organization, what you see this year is what you will continue to get in the future.

1) 2011 is going to look a lot like 2010.

Soriano will play for the Cubs next year.  Ramirez will play for the Cubs next year.  Fukudome will sit on the bench and take the Cubs' money next year.  Byrd and Colvin and Castro and DeWitt and Soto will play for the Cubs next year.  Jim Hendry has no ability and no gumption to make a blockbuster trade involving young major league talent for impact major leaguers in return.  Could you see him somehow packaging Castro and Colvin in a trade for, say, Albert Pujols?  Maybe not Pujols, because a Cubs-Cardinals trade will NEVER happen, but something of that magnitude?  How about for Miggy Cabrera or Joe Mauer?  Young stars for a superstar?  Never happen.

As for the pitching, good lord.  While the positional outlook seems stale yet static, the pitching outlook is totally fluid, and utterly without direction.  We have a #2 starter, maybe a #4, a closer and a utility guy, a LOOGY who isn't really a LOOGY with a torn knee ligament, and about 20 other guys who have walked a lot of batters and given up a lot of late-game home runs.  You can't fix that.  The only thing you can do is throw a ton of money at it, and HOPE the guys you sign don't get injured or fat-and-sassy. 

And Ricketts is NOT going to spend a lot of money in the offseasons.  So forget about the Ol' Free Agent Injection.

Fans of the Chicago National League Ballclub have survived the past 102 years on one glorious element: hope.  Yep, the same hope that got our president elected, the same hope that is being frittered away by this same president each day.  Hope is perishable.

I ate whole platterfuls of Cubs hope as a kid, and into my early adulthood.  I confess to have spent good money on the all-you-can-eat hope buffet as recently as fall of 2008.  Nowadays, there is very little fresh hope in the steamer, most of it is discolored and spoiled, like the bananas Soriano and the Fukudome skirt steak.

Our third base prospect, Josh Vitters, is rehabbing.  The next great Korean hope is still years away.  Andrew Cashner was supposed to be the next big thing, but I can't figure out what that thing is supposed to be, unless he is supposed to be a Matt Karchner impersonator.  That's something he does quite well.

But hey, Castro went 4-for-5 yesterday.  Rookie of the Year, gotta be?  Right?

Why Lou's retirement announcement is such a non-story

The current state of the Cubs:

All you really need to know is that Aramis Ramirez is hitting mistakes again.

At the beginning of the year, he wasn't.  He wasn't hitting anything.  Neither was Derrek Lee.  And outside of the couple of times our bullpen blew leads early in the season, and the other night with Marmol, this was pretty much the story of the year.  Guys would get on base and Lee and Ramirez would strand them.  Over and over again.

Now Ramirez has healed, and is hitting like he always has, and a few days after that, so has Lee and Soto.  The word is that Lee is the clubhouse leader on the Cubs, and that is unfortunate because not only does he not have the personality to truly lead, he is also largely irrelevant offensively.

He has had two monster years with us, 2005 and 2009.  The Cubs finished below .500 both years.  Ramirez has had big years in 2004, 2007 and 2008, all winning years.  As Ramirez goes, so does the Cubs offense.  There is a greater statistical correlation as well as a practical correlation between what Ramirez contributes and what Lee contributes in terms of offense-to-wins.  This is what makes teammates sit up and listen, and only if Aramis could back up his practical relevance with words.

But he chooses to defer, like he did after each of the playoff sweeps, and this is why I went bat feces when he did.  Ramirez SHOULD lead the Chicago Cubs.  When he hits, we win.  As long as he keeps it up, we should have a winning second half, even though the decent starting pitching is beginning to falter.

Lou's retirement announcement, and why we are yawning

This was the biggest non-announcement ever.  Of course Lou is retiring.  Some say he retired 2 years ago.  He did it so people will quit asking him.  Some say he has earned the right to finish this year on his terms, and he will.  I'm not one of them, but there is the sentimental side of me who will give the man his respect.

Besides, Crane Kenney and Jim Hendry aren't going anywhere, so even if they got to choose a new man this afternoon, he would be no better than the last two guys they hired.

There seems to be no accountability in this organization.  Lou has the freedom to do one wild, crazy move after another, and when he is asked to explain himself, he either stutters and/or gets testy.  Jim has developed a decent drafting mechanism, and he is the king of the desperation trade and the fire-sale steals, but he has never made a good value-for-value straight trade in his whole tenure.  Not to mention, of course, his poor free-agent record, as well as his aversion to conflict, which has resulted in avoidance of arbitration - and overpaying players.

But, neither one of these guys can say they have done their job as badly as the Tribune holdover, Crane Kenney.  What exactly DOES he do?  How is the Triangle building doing?  How about the Great Wrigley Field reclamation?  What great marketing angles have we exploited lately?  When can we expect to watch the Cubs Network?  When Jim Hendry sucks, who calls him on it?  And if Hendry were to get fired, who would pick the next guy?

A corporate lawyer with no baseball background?

I want a baseball man put in Kenney's place.  Someone who can evaluate Hendry fairly, and determine if he is the man or not.  A new manager needs to be found.  Do we do the popular thing and stick Ryno in there?  Is Joe Girardi the guy?  How about Bob Brenly or Alan Trammel?  I heard Joe Torre mentioned?  Who do you choose?  They all have their own qualities.

There needs to be a organizational direction, which is developed and regulated by the President (the Kenney position), communicated throughout the competitive organization by the GM, and implemented on the field by the manager.  Depending on that direction, it could be Brenly, Torre, Ryno, Girardi, the frozen head of Ted Williams...but we need a direction first, and Kenney is not the guy to set it.

The President needs to see the middling-to-slightly above average health of the farm system, as well as the capabilities of what I am calling the Core of the 2011 Cubs, the guys who will definitely be here.

Soriano, Byrd, Marmol, Dempster, Soto, Ramirez, Castro.  Everyone else, even Zambrano, I could see a scenario where they may not be here next year.  These seven individuals will be, and the direction starts with what we are going to surround these seven guys with.

I don't know if Hendry is or isn't that guy.  I'd really like a real baseball man to evaluate what he has done.  I don't like his results, myself, but then again, he hasn't had much to work with from above.  That's the biggest question going forward for us.

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.

Reader Blog: Who's Next?

So there has been a lot of talk, some offhand comments, some full rants, about the managerial competence and questionable deservedness of Lou Piniella continuing to be the skipper for our beloved Cubs. A few of these people have suggested replacements, but it doesn't seem that this part of the equation has really been fully developed. While this is in no way a post saying "Lou Should Go"... it is suggesting that whether it be on his own terms or someone else's, he will no longer be here between now and November.

So, who's next?

Let me first start off by saying I like Lou. He's led the Cubs to back to back playoffs (albeit with 0 wins) and 3 consecutive winning seasons. He's shown fire when he needs to, and it seems he's been paitient and calm when he needs to. He's given hilarious interviews and given new meaning to starting a sentence with the word "Look". But his heart just isn't in it anymore. Really, none of the guys from the deflating 97-win, 0-playoff win 2008 juggernaut seem to have their hearts in it anymore. So besides the roster being overhauled (it needs to be) how can you remake the mindset and passion of this team? Well, before we answer that, let's look at a few things that are wrong with them. (These will be mostly mental things as a manager has more control on his ballclub's outlook than he does on their skills)

- The Cubs are 10-16 in one-run games, 0-37 in games when they enter the 9th trailing and have blown 17 leads this year. Those 3 things together suggest that this team is not mentally tough enough to stay in close ball games or pick up their balls and win when they're down.

- The Cubs have scored 195 runs in their 31 wins (6.29 runs/game) and have scored only 100 runs in the 40 games they've lost (2.5 runs/game!). This again suggests that this team clearly has the talent and ability to score, but only when things are going well. A motivating, positive leader is needed.

- The Cubs have 58 errors this season, good for 3rd worst in baseball. This is clearly slightly more slanted towards the actual skill of a team, but still, mentally tough, fundamentally managed teams do not lead leagues in errors

So, when Lou is gone, who can change these things for us? I'd like to throw out a few suggestions and pros/cons, but this post is really about everyone giving their input. I mean... who the hell knew who Tom Thibodeau was 2 months ago?

Ryne Sandberg - Apparently the "fan favorite". But why? Cause he's one of the few truly likeable, succesful Cubs of the last 2 decades? I guess he's been fairly successful as a minor league skip, but his fast track to the big seat scares me. Highly touted prospects and "saviors" do not fare well in this city (see: Patterson, Corey)

Joe Girardi - The "other guy" from the 2006-2007 off season. His dream job was managing the Yankees. And they won a championship last year. I've heard his name kicked around recently, but why would he leave New York until they force him out?

Mike Scioscia - Talk about a guy getting the most out of his players. Year in and year out some dark horse AL West team is discussed as taking down the Angels finally, but it never happens. Him leaving is very much a longshot also as they're currently in second, and playing good baseball. (Not to mention he's under contract through 2018??) But stranger things have happened

Ron Gardenhire - Another quality guy who gets the most out of seemingly less talented players. Minnesota has done very little in the playoffs under his tenure, so with another early exit, or if they miss the playoffs altogether, he could be available.

Joe Torre - Not much needs to be said here. Great with young kids, great with juggling egos, great track record of success and has already managed in the two markets bigger than Chicago. His contract is up at the end of this year.

Bobby Valentine - Seriously, he hasn't managed in the MLB since 2002? Between 1997 and 2001 he worked a record of 449-362 (.553) and took the Mets to The Series. I admittedly don't know what his coaching style is like, but he has managed succesfully in New York with some pretty big egos and pressure.

So that's what I have for now. Again, by no means definitive, but it's a start. If we're all mostly in agreement that this season is lost and Lou is even loster, who's next? Let's get some discussion going. Thoughts on these "options"? Who are your ideal candidates?

Go Cubs.

Reader Blog: A question

With the Cubs and Mariners doing battle until 11:30 and an early morning World Cup game for the U.S., I have just one question in light of Lou Piniella returning to Seattle, where he managed for 10 years, and Milton Bradley being back in the same ballpark as the Cubs.

Who is having a worse year?

  • Lou Piniella

Piniella is the lame duck manager of a team eight games under .500. He usually looks like a homeless person. He answers "What else can I do?" in response to 90 percent of reporters' questions, and yelled at a reporter and at Steve Stone for suggesting he should play Colvin more, and then promised to play Colvin more each time. He was also roundly criticized for moving his highest-paid pitcher to the bullpen (a move I agreed with, but I doubt he takes much solace in that).

  • Milton Bradley

He's batting .214 with a .301 OBP. He's earning $11 million and yet is owned in just 3.6 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. He spent 13 days on the "restricted list" after admitting he's crazy. He has managed not only to make the Cubs' trade for oh-so-terrible Carlos Silva look good--he's made it look like one of the best trades they've ever made.

Last night's game was a perfect example of Lou and Milton's struggles--the Cubs lost with another meek performance while Bradley went 0-for-3.

Reader Blog: Why is Theriot leading off?

Generally speaking, I don't blame Lou for the debacle that this season has turned into. When your two best hitters have combined for -.8 WAR midway through June, there isn't much you as a manager can do to improve the situation. That said, I have a nit to pick with the skipper. Why is frat boy favorite Ryan Theriot still leading off? By almost every measure available, Theriot is having an awful season at the plate. His sub par .326 on base percentage and complete lack of power have left Theriot with a weighted on-base percentage (wOBA) of .300. By contrast, hated ex-leadoff man Alfonso Soriano has a respectable .346 on base percentage and his wOBA is a robust .386.

Other regulars/semi regulars who would serve as better leadoff men than Theriot: Derrek Lee (.314 wOBA), Marlon Byrd (.403 wOBA), Geovany Soto (.387 wOBA), Tyler Colvin (.411 wOBA), Kosuke Fukudome (.360 wOBA), Mike Fontenot (.342 wOBA).You get the point. Theriot's empty batting average and gutty scrappitude have kept him at the top of the Cubs lineup for far too long. Piniella would immediately make this team better if he moved Theriot into the 7 or 8 slot in the lineup and gave those extra at bats to one of the better hitters on this team.

(For a detailed description of wOBA and why it's one of the best measures of total offensive contributions, click here: http://saberlibrary.com/offense/woba/.)

Gotta play defense. (Game Recap: Cubs 4, Brewers 5)

For this team to win, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have to find a way to produce with the bat.

It's not that the team won't score every once in a while without them. Clearly, we have some good hitters elsewhere on the roster. But when Lee and A-Ram are out, that means Xavier Nady and Chad Tracy are in on the corners.

Tracy's bad throw allowed Rickie Weeks to score on the botched rundown, and Nady's high throw into the stands allowed Carlos Gomez to score on the final play of the game.

Ryan Dempster wasn't very good either. Again, a Cub starter walked five Brewers yesterday. Also, Tom Gorzelanny sucks at pitching from out of the bullpen.

Nine walks, three unearned runs, really makes you proud to be a Cubs fan doesn't it!

Laaaaame.

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