Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Lou Piniella

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Okay, so... what the hell, Lou?

I'm a firm believer that most of the time, the players - not the manager - are the ones that decide the outcome of the ballgame. But Lou wasn't exactly on his game last night, and it may have cost the team a win that, if not exactly essential to our postseason chances, would have been fan-freaking-tastic for my emotional well-being.

The biggest strategic blunder was probably making Soto put down the sacrifice bunt. The sacrifice bunt is almost always a bad play, unless:

  • It's the pitcher, who is going to make an out anyway.
  • You have somebody with a combination of bat control and speed that he can bunt for the base hit or the reach on error.

That's... just about it. In a key situation like that, you have one of your best hitters at the plate. That's the guy you want hitting in that spot. And Lou threw it away.

The second play is not the failure to intentionally walk Cesar Izturis. C'mon, you were all here in 2007, weren't you? You remember the Ballad of Cesar The Wonder Out, don't you? Meanwhile, Skip Schumacher can hit MLB pitching. In that spot, if I'm the manager, I don't care if you have a gun to my head and you're going to pull the trigger if I lose the game. If Cesar Izturis wants to touch first base then he's going to have to earn it.

No, I'm upset about the top of the sixth. Why let Dempster hit in that spot? You've got the bases loaded, one out. This is a great opportunity to cash in some runs. You have a career .089/.108/.114 hitter at the dish, so essentially if you let Dempster hit you're looking at basically handing the Cardinals a way out of the inning.

In fact, Dempster is probably a worse hitter in an RBI spot than his triple-slash stats would indicate - nearly half of his at-bats end in a strikeout, which is pretty typical for a pitcher. Also he doesn't make a lot of solid contact - you're unlikely to coax a sac fly out of Dempster.

Two other issues present themselves. Dempster has thrown 190.6 innings so far this season. Compare to the rest of his tenure with the Cubs:

  • 2004: 20.6
  • 2005: 92.0
  • 2006: 75.0
  • 2007: 66.6

If we want to have Dempster available in any meaningful capacity later on in the season, it might be a good time to stop treating him like he's C.C. Sabathia.

But you want to keep your best pitcher on the mound, right? At that point in the game, Dempster is not your best pitcher available! Check out his splits. During his first time through the batting order, hitters are batting .208/.285/.301 against Dempster, which is phenominal. Second time through the order, they're batting .210/.293/.324. Third time through the order, folks are hitting .254/.332/.388 against Dempster. Like all starters, the more Dempster throws in a game, the less effective he is.

And with expanded rosters, we have the players available to pinch hit for him - use Hoffpauir, or Ward, and you still have one of them for later! And we have a full bullpen - we had just called up a fresh arm in Randy Wells that day.

There was no reason to let Dempster hit there. And it may have cost us the game.

Lou spits hot fire

It was a little more than a year ago when the Cubs found themselves trailing the Milwaukee Brewers until Mount Lou exploded liquid hot magma all over an unsuspecting third base umpire. As we all know now, this was the turning point of the 2007 Cubs season as it set the team down the path that eventually lead to the Cubs overtaking the Brewers and winning the NL Central.

Few can explain how Lou’s tirade altered that magical season. Perhaps all his screaming and yelling allowed the field to be blessed by his saliva, which has been said to be made of holy water. Or maybe it was simply a Prison Mike ploy to scare his biatch-ass players strait.

Whatever the reason is, the world may never truly know.

Now let me take you back a few weeks ago when the Cubs came stumbling out of the second half gate.

After entering the All-Star Game with commanding 5.5 game lead over the division, the Cubs went 3-6 and allowed the Brewers to tie them for first place.

On the day the Cubs lost that sixth game, things may have changed again. During a close game at Wrigley Field with the Marlins (and the Brewers only a half game back), Mark DeRosa slid headfirst into first base and was called out on a bang-bang play.

Following a small avalanche of anger from first base coach Matt Sinatro, Piniella-horn erupted again out of protest and frustration.

While the Cubs went on to lose that game (and lose their division lead over the Brewers), the seeds were perhaps planted for another magical run.

The Cubs won their next five games (including a 4-game sweep of the Brewers in Milwaukee) and have gone 8-2 with their only losses coming in close games in which the Cubs were held scoreless.

Now I realize there is still a little less than 1/3 of the season yet to be played, but maybe what we saw on July 26 against the Marlins was another turning point for the Cubs.

I really can’t explain it and I don’t want to get ahead of myself (especially with Jason Marquis pitching today…shiver) but when all is said and done in 2008, maybe this will be the moment where everything changed.

I ain't happy, ain't been happy for awhile, and I ain't gonna be happy, I reckon

I haven't posted in awhile, maybe you've noticed. I figured, based on the state I have been in, what's the point?

My subject line refers primarily to the Cubs, but also to the whole internets at large.  I'll go off topic for a sec. 

Byron gets an e-mail from the Sun-Times wanting to know about Great Fan Rooms in people's houses.  He very thoughtfully forwards it to me.  I send my flickr album to the Bright One, I don't hear JACK back about it.  In the meantime, I keep seeing these other places which just PALE in comparison to the Mendotan Basement of Man Cub Love.  Then, Kurt gets an e-mail from a 'legit' sportswriter from a 'legit' sports.com, soliciting stories on how "average" Cubs fans got to be Cubs fans. (This portion has been edited to preserve a certain level of confidentiality that I promised I would keep).  Kurt thoughtfully forwards it to me.  I send the guy my story, and while the guy DID write back, he mentions that my story loses out to those written by Billy Corgan and Bonnie Hunt.  Average Cub fans, my ass.  I mean, what the HELL do I gotta do to get some love out thurr?

So anyway, back to the topic at hand, I'm pretty dim dam discouraged with the state of our ballclub, as well as the state of the Providers of Internet Content, whomever they may be, so me no writey.

I mean, if YOU want to be encourage about our two-game lead over the Brewers, go ahead.  Certainly Windsock Jay is.  If you want to feel good about where the Cubs are at, I guess I am not the guy to tell you otherwise.  If you can enjoy the journey, on the way to the destination, then God bless you, for you can practice what He preaches.

Not me, gatdammit.  This here deal, to me, sucks.

When the Cubs were coming back from 8 run deficits against Colorado, never losing at home, sweeping fools and playing the goofy-ass song every day, I felt better about things.  And YES, sure, most seasons aren't going to be like that from wall-to-wall.  And YES, sure, most teams, even the winning teams, don't dominate from day one to the end.  And YES, citing recent history, the 2004 Red Sox came back from a 3-0 ALCS deficit against the Yankees, down late in game 4, In The Apple, and ended up winning.  And the 2005 Sux looked like crap the last two weeks in September before going, what, 11-1 in the playoffs?  And the 2006 Deadbirds won like 83 regular season games before going on a tear at the end.

YES, other teams do these things.  YES, I suppose it is possible that the 2008 Chicago Cubs are going to grind out a World Championship, by doing little things like beating CC Sabbath on a Monday nite.  I suppose that I shouldn't be mad at Kerry Wood for missing a month over a gatdamn finger blister.  I shouldn't be mad at Kosuke Fukudome for looking like a gatdamn sillyass swan three times a game, swinging at pitches an inch about his shoelaces. I shouldn't be mad at Lee and Ramirez and Soriano for collectively making outs every single time they bat for an entire week.

Whatever deal Marmol had with the Devil has run its course.  Howry has forgotten how to pitch, it seems.  Anyone seen Scott Eyre, besides the side of a milk carton?  And Lou is spending all his man love on a former Golden Domer who has pitched, what, four major league innings?  He's the Savior?  Just because he's on a first name basis with Touchdown Jeezus doesn't mean he's the cure to our baseball team.

Other teams have overcome such obstacles.  Casual baseball fans think this.  Reasonable baseball fans think this.  Objective baseball fans think this.  Logical baseball fans think this.

I don't put stock in ANY of it.

If the Cubs were meant to gut one out, why the hell did they piss 1969 away?  When they came back even better in 1970, what happened then?  Why did they then piss away huge leads in 1971 and 1972?  When the Mets won only 82 friggin' games to win the East in 1973, where were the Cubs?  Why did they waste the entire careers of FOUR, yes, FOUR Hall-Of-Fame players on the SAME damn roster?  (Yes, I am counting Santo). 

When they went THIRTY freakin' games over 500 in 1977, how the HELL did they end up blowing that ENTIRE cushion?  When they simply annihiliated the Padres in the first two games of the NLCS in 1984, how could they possibly manage not to win a single one of the three remaining?  Why couldn't they "gut" anything out in 1989, 1998?  Why did we keep throwing ripe cheese to Garvey and Will Clark? We wasted the Hall-Of-Fame careers of Sandberg AND Maddux. 

When God gave us the Golden Geese, laid them in our laps, how did we screw up Wood AND Prior?  With the same task at hand in 2003, win one game out of three for the NLCS, AND Home Field Advantage, how the fee-yuck do they fritter that away?  With the most powerful team in Cubs History in 2004, AND the Five Aces, AND THIS MAY BE THE MOST DREADFUL FAILURE OF THEM ALL, how could they not even eek out a Wild Card?  Last year, with the Great Lou Pinella at the helm, with a Substantial Talent Advantage, we get swept by a bunch of no-names, and it wasn't even close.

You want to know why I am not happy?  Yes, casual, sensible, sane, knowledgeable, logical people can point to a whole armful of nice, wonderful things about our ballclub.  There are analyses of every type, everywhere, that paint rosy pictures about the Cubs' immediate future. 

It ain't enough.  Not for me.  Unless I know, for absolute certain, cross my heart and hope to die, bet the mortgage, swear on your mother's grave, cold stone-pipe-lock guarantee that the Cubs are going to win every single last game between TODAY and the END OF OCTOBER, I won't be happy.  And kids, I ain't feelin' it.

When it comes to the Cubs, life ain't a Journey...it's a Destination.  Is that backwards?  Is that the wrong way to be?  Is that insane?  Is that just infantile, moronic, juvenile, psychotic.....is that wack??  Does that make me a Bad Person?

Yeah, well, f you, then.  When this is all said and done, and we're sitting at home AGAIN this fall, watching some OTHER mopes jump up and down, don't look at ME.  Don't even EYEBALL me.  I ain't gonna be in the mood for you.  I'll swing for your face, and try to rip yer eyes out.

One other, final thought

Just a little second guessing before I go to bed tonight...

With 2 men on in the 9th, after having surrendered a run, Lou chose for Woody to walk the bases loaded after LaRussa sent in Duncan.  Chris Duncan is hitting .239 this season and he'd only faced Kerry Wood once before in his career.  

By walking Duncan and loading the bases with 0 outs, Piniella was ensuring that, barring a double play, Wood would have to face Ankiel; a high strikeout batter but with some pop.  Lou was also running the risk of Kerry walking home a run - an obvious possibility, considering that, up til then, he'd been having control issues.  On top of that, while he was having control issues, in 2008 Wood has become one of the best closers in the league.  He started out rocky, and he certainly blew it tonight, but he's been pretty damned good since the beginning of June.  If I have a closer with as much talent and stuff as Kerry Wood, I'm never, ever intentionally walking a pinch hitter, especially one with the numbers of Chris Duncan.  

In other words, upon reflection it didn't make a ton of sense for Kerry Wood to intentionally walk Chris Duncan.  Maybe there were some additional factors that I'm not taking into consideration, but at a glance, I'd call it a mistake.  Not to pile on Lou, who's done a good job so far in his career as Cubs skipper, but he came to Chicago with a reputation for mismanaging his bullpens, and while this might not be a direct example of that, in time it may become concerning.

I'm still not panicking, though. 

Whatever Happened To The Hall of Fame Game?

Lou has stirred perhaps the smallest pot in existence. Here is the quote that is causing this tempest in a teapot:

"It's something we really didn't need."

What is “it?” It is the Hall of Fame Game, a meaningless exhibition where the Cubs try to avoid injuring players who they need to compete for the pennant. Kristian Connolly disagrees, however:

"It is disappointing to read the recent comments made by Cubs manager Lou Piniella regarding the upcoming celebration of the national pastime in the sport's celebrated home," said savethefamegame.com creator Kristian Connolly. "The Hall of Fame Game is about something much bigger than the 2008 Chicago Cubs, and I hope that they understand and respect that on Monday. …

"All baseball fans -- especially those who are true Cubs fans who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to see their beloved team play if not for the 2008 Hall of Fame Game -- want the Cubs to please respect the game and enjoy the event for what it is meant to be: a celebration of baseball on baseball's home field in baseball's hometown."

Okay. First of all – anyone who presumes to determine who is a “baseball fan” or a “true Cubs fan” has a lot of nerve.

Second, either Kristian Connolly is lying or blindly and obliviously passing on a long-ago discredited lie. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide which it is. But Cooperstown is not baseball’s hometown, and it never was.

I have two baseball histories on hand – “Past Time: Baseball As History,” by Jules Tygiel, and Baseball: A History of America’s Game, by Benjamin G. Rader. “Cooperstown” does not appear in the index of either book. Abner Doubleday, the so-called “Father of Baseball,” is mentioned in the index of both books just four times between them. Only one of the entries is so long as a paragraph.

So what is Cooperstown’s claim to be “baseball’s hometown?”

Albert Spalding (creator of the Spalding sporting goods company, as well as a former Cubs player and owner, back when the team was called the White Stockings), and created a commission in 1905 to resolve the question of the origins of baseball. National League president Abraham Mills chaired the commission, which included two members of the Senate as well as other dignitaries.

They settled upon Civil War General Abner Doubleday, based on the testimony of Abner Graves, who claimed that Doubleday first came up with the sport in the spring of 1839. Cooperstown became known as the birthplace of baseball, and Doubleday Field was built (and is where the Cubs will play in the last Hall of Fame Game) to commemorate the spot where the sport was invented.

The question is, why even have such a commission? And why come to such a definitive conclusion based upon the testimony of one man? The answer:

Many of the game’s historians, from Henry Chadwick to the present day, have postulated that baseball descended from the old English game of rounders. Chadwick, who was born in 1824 in the town of Exeter in western England, recalled playing rounders as a child. Because baseball reminded him of his childhood pastime, he naturally concluded that rounders was the ancestor of the American game. Beginning in 1860, Chadwick included his baseball-from-rounders theory in virtually every one of the innumerable writings on baseball he produced over the next 40 years.

Of course, it was this “un-American” theory that provoked Albert Spalding into convening the Mills Commission, which ultimately saddled us with the Doubleday myth.

The Mills Commission was rather overeager to prove the American origins of baseball, and thus got a little sloppy in their research:

The commission, through a series of nationally distributed articles in newspapers and sporting publications, asked all Americans who had any knowledge about the formation of the game of baseball to come forward. … Graves happened to pick up a copy of the Akron Beacon Journal and read with interest one such article written by Albert Spalding. He went back to his hotel room and typed a letter to the Beacon Journal on his personal stationery. Graves' letter ran the very next day under the headline "Abner Doubleday Invented Base Ball."

According to Graves, Doubleday improved the local version of Town Ball being played between pupils of the Otsego Academy and Green's Select School in Cooperstown, New York. This took place "either the spring prior to or following the 'Log Cabin and Hard Cider' campaign of General William H. Harrison for the presidency" (Tofel A20). Graves claimed to be present when Doubleday, drawing on a patch of dirt with a stick, outlined defensive positions on a diamond shaped baseball field. He also claimed to witness Doubleday draw this diagram on paper along with a crude memorandum of the rules for his new game that he named "Base Ball."

Spalding, Mills, and the rest of the committee were thrilled when they received a copy of the Beacon Journal article. This was exactly what they were looking for. Not only was Doubleday an American, but he was a heroic General in the Civil War. In addition, quaint, picturesque Cooperstown was the absolute perfect setting to represent the country.

The Mills Commission did not investigate the Graves claim. Nobody in the committee ever met or corresponded with Graves. Many glaring facts were overlooked: Graves was only 5 years old at the time of baseball's "invention." Doubleday was away at West Point and never set foot in Cooperstown in 1839. Mills himself was friends with Doubleday for over 30 years-so close he was chosen to command the military escort which served as Doubleday's guard of honor when his body lay in state in 1893-yet never previously mentioned Doubleday's role in the invention of baseball.

So why the lie? Baseball was desperate to prove that it was an indigenous sport, wholly American, without foreign origin. The Doubleday story was a convenient fig leaf for the origin of baseball as a game originally created by British children. It was utter nonsense, of course; Jane Austen mentions the sport in her Gothic satire novel Northanger Abbey:

Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least books of information—for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all. But from fifteen to seventeen she was in training for a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.

The book was published in 1803, well before Doubleday’s supposed invention of the sport.

It’s a double sin that the Doubleday myth is still perpetuated to this day, despite having been disproved decades ago - Robert W. Henderson published his opus on the subject in 1947.

The first sin is that baseball continues to associate itself with an essential whitewash of its earliest history; given baseball’s later problems with racism, it seems rather uncouth to essentially sweep under the carpet the xenophobia of the titans of the early days of the National League.

But more importantly, it overshadows the achievements of people who really did do much to create the sport, like Alexander Cartwright, who published the early Knickerbocker Rules and was influental in spreading the sport in New York, or Henry Chadwick, who did much to popularize the sport, including creating the box score.

Of course, the greatest testament to baseball’s history is baseball’s present – a hugely popular sport, entertaining millions accross the globe, not only in the United States, but increasing parts of Central America, Asia, even Europe – where the game began, let us not forget. The Hall of Fame Game does little for those fans or for baseball’s history.

And as for us true Cubs fans – I think I’m not too presumptuous when I say all true Cubs fans, even ones in the vicinity of Cooperstown, think that the most important thing is seeing our boys in the World Series. And watching your team compete for the highest honor in the sport – that, sir, is the central meaning of baseball. To say that the Hall of Fame Game is more important than that is to mistake the sport as a marketing vehicle for Cooperstown’s tourism board. You should be ashamed.

Damn you, Cubs!

Although I have yet to see nor hear anything official, it would appear as though my cunning ruse will soon fail.

We've been planning on attending the Cubs-Jays series from the get-go, while intentionally skipping the stinking pile of poo that is Jason Marquis.  However, part of my hopes were on Carlos starting Friday's game against the hated Blue Jays.  Unfortunately, because Lou Piniella appears intent on the Cubs laying the smack down on the Braves, it's possible-if-not-likely that the Big Moose will be starting tomorrow night in Chicago.

The coup de grâce in this entire deal comes from the Blue Jays website.  We finally bought our tickets tonight to Friday's game, and the official website of the perennial third place AL East team reports that A.J. Burnett will be kicking off the three-game set by squaring off  against Cub phenom Sean Gallagher.  

Don't get me wrong, I like Gallagher quite a bit.  I'll enjoy watching him pitch.  But he is no Big Moose, not by a long-shot, and I am angry, fiercely angry at the Cubs for apparently trying their hardest to get to the playoffs by possibly enabling Carlos an extra start over the span of the baseball season.

But, hey, it's just one report and while I have intentionally avoided reading the Chicago papers, I have yet to hear anything official from the Cubs front office about it.  Besides, don't the Cubs know that A.J. Burnett is a tough pitcher and Carlos has a better chance of beating him?  Bastards.

Pujols wiped out

Get it?  It's a poo pun.  I'm sure the Desipiots aren't in the least bit surprised.

Anyway, it turns out that they don't make a band-aid big enough to cover all of the wounds on Albert Pujols.  ESPN is reporting that the man who broke the Major League color barrier will be out for the next three weeks, which is an excellent chance for the Cubs to spring toward sweet, delicious dominance.  You see, while the Cubs have a rough schedule ahead of them - they play 16 of their next 24 games on the road, including 18 against teams with .500 records or better - the Cardinals are also facing a difficult schedule.  They play 11 of the next 24 games on the road, including 9 in a row, including 9 against teams with .500 records or better.

Okay, so the Cubs definitely have a rougher ride ahead of them, but, without their key offensive player, St. Louis will not have any easy wins for the next three weeks.  This could have been a chance for the Cardinals to really close the gap between them and the Cubs - who definitely have a make-or-break month ahead of them - but now they will struggle to simply keep up.

Tough pu...jols.  (Couldn't resist). 

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