There's nothing quite as thrilling as opening day -- the only day of the year in which the best teams and the worst can all be tied in first place, with their glorious 1-0 records shining like becons of hope to millions of fans everywhere.
Except, uh, that didn't exactly happen today, now did it?
The Cubs, brimming with optimism and the promise of a new year, stormed the field in Atlanta only to get their sorry asses kicked en masse. Royal, serious, severe ass-kicking.
Carlos Zambrano imploded like a third world economy. Jeff Samardijza served up more meatballs than an Italian restaurant. The umpires blew more than a Pittsburgh hooker. Alfonso Soriano looked worse than ... well, a Pittsburgh hooker. Ryan Theriot couldn't buy a hit.
It was ugly. It was also, let's be fair, a series of unfortunate events built on blown calls and near-misses, from McClouth traps to Theriot blunders to Byrd boots. In most circumstances, despite the fact that the Chicago 6 through 1 hitters went 0 for 16, we'd be happy with 5 runs. They would be enough for Carlos to seal the deal. Even with the shoddy bullpen, it would be enough.
Today, it wasn't. Thus, the infighting has begun. We've got reasonable Cub fans calling for Samardzija to be shot back to Iowa from a cannon. We've got Zambrano being called a child. We've got white flaggers and husband-naggers demanding the Cubs be taken off of the Tivo rotation.
All I can say is this: before the start of this game, I said that it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things. There is no "tone" to be set -- the only time World Championships get lost in Game 1 of 162 is when a small airplane crashes on the field during that game and takes out half the starting lineup. The Cubs will not remember this game in two months, or even in two weeks. It's simply true.
Therefore, while the trend has been set for Zambrano blow-ups and Samardizja melt-downs, there's plenty of time for the course to be redirected. Maybe it will be, maybe not, I do not know. But my feelings are no worse now than they were before the start of today -- we knew all along that some players would look like shit while others would shine as if they are golden. We knew the bullpen is going to be troublesome, and we knew that, despite our greatest hopes and wildest dreams, the Cubs would not win 162. So what did we really learn from today's game?
Absolutely nothing. No surprises...yet.
Aha! Just when you thought we'd shirked our duties in the last game of the season, here finally is the belated Game Recap. Just look the other way and forget that Yarbage missed the GameCast.
So. Ryan Dempster became the only Cub to pitch 200 innings in his final outing of the season -- he didn't toss all 200 in one go, though, but lasted 5 innings -- while striking out 10. Dempster finishes the first of four seasons with 11 wins, 9 losses, and a 3.65 ERA. For comparison's sake, the five pitchers above Dempster in ERA and four of the five pitchers below him all have more wins, which is my way of saying that on a team with a more reliable offense, he wins 15 all day long. I still think that by the time year four rolls around, Dempster's going to have Cub fans contemplating suicide, but that's a ways away.
But Ryan didn't have his best stuff -- despite 10 strikeouts -- and so the Cubs lost to Arizona, dropping to 83 wins to finish the season.
Way back in March, I was convinced that they'd win about 17 more than they did. I didn't know that Chicago's offense would be non-existent, that their pitching would be erratic and often-injured, and that their manager would be clueless to fix the problems. I thought that they would walk an easy path into the playoffs, where they would be unbeatable.
I thought a lot of things. In case you haven't noticed yet, I'm actually kind of stupid.
Anyway, I'm over this "wait 'til next year" crap. It grates me to see it, to hear it, to think it. So instead, I'll say this: if you have daddy issues, resulting in a chip on your shoulder the size of Omaha, and if you are inclined to get confrontational with coaches, umpires, and fans, then you probably shouldn't play in Chicago. Just a heads up for the future.
Oh, and White Sox suck.
Maybe knowing that he was down to the last hundred yards of the marathon, Randy Wells decided it was okay to give it all he had left. Whatever the reason, Wells pitched 7 solid innings of 3-hit, 1-walk, 10-strikeout baseball to punctuate the end of his season. Very fittingly, Jason Stark wrote an article today in which he presumptively awarded the NL Rookie of the Year trophy to Chris Coghlan. Runners up included J.A. Happ, Tommy Hanson, Garrett Jones, Andrew McCutchen, and Casey McGehee. Wells didn't even receive an honorary mention.
For the record, his worn-down showing in September definitely would have played against him anyway, but no matter what the outcome I doubt Wells will get serious contention from the voters. But he finishes the season with a 12-10 record, a 3.05 ERA, and with 46 walks to 104 strikeouts. His only pitching rival, J.A. Happ, who I promise you will blow Wells away in the voting, is 12-4, with a 2.85 ERA, and with 55 walks to 118 strikeouts. Then again, Happ's younger.
Anyway, on top of Wells and his last gasping breath of a pitching performance, the Cubs managed 8 hits and 5 walks -- which they parlayed into 5 runs. Geo Soto is desperately trying to get his AVG over .220 -- he went 2 for 2 with 2 walks and 2 RBI (if only he'd raised his average to .222 today). I think it's safe to say, on this late date, that Soto proved without a doubt to be the lost cause Rob said he was way back in May ... but next season is a new story.
Speaking of next season, it can't get here soon enough. But tomorrow is the last of this year. We'll have the preview and recap and, mercifully, it'll be over.
In a game of stunning mediocrity and epic defeat, the Cubs were handed their 77nd loss of the season yesterday against an Arizona team that sucks golf balls through garden hoses. Still, in a series that matters none, these things are bound to happen.
The Cubs pitcher was Tom Gorzelanny, who is in rotation audition mode until next April. He didn't do much to help his cause, serving up 7 runs in 3 innings of work, but nobody's going to remember how badly he got his ass kicked once March rolls around.
He was relieved by a team of pitchers who all proceeded to bumble their way through the game, except for Berg and Grabow who both only allowed hits but held the 'backs at bay.
Offensively, the most impressive thing to happen was that Kosuke Fukudome walked 3 times. That's how you can tell that it was a meh-diocre day.
Today's game is an early one, for which I am sure we are all excited to watch. Right? Amiright?
Ouch. I guess the Cubs decided that they were successful in achieving their winning season, and so they decided to take the day off. Either that or Pittsburgh really, really doesn't want to lose 100 games this year.
Either way, the Cubs got their asses kicked by a combined score of 12-2, with the Cubs' only runs coming in Game 2 thanks to the bats of Ryan Theriot and Mike "Death Rattle" Fontenot. Cubs pitchers Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano were both shellacked for 4 earned runs, and the Moose is now facing his first ever single-digit wins total since he became a starter way back in the days when most of our male readers -- or female, for that matter -- were not yet able to grow a beard.
Offensively, no Cub hitter managed to get hits in both games, while Pirates outfielder Lastings Milledge went 4 for 8 between both games. The Cubs play one more against Pittsburgh, tomorrow, before wrapping it up against the Diamondbacks this weekend.
So, back to Carlos. I'm sure that the Big Moose is less than pleased with his performance this year -- in fact, he threatened retirement recently (for the second time this season) if he should happen to have as crappy a 2010. I appreciate this competitive fire in him. If Carlos is an ace -- and I will acknowledge after this crappy year that he's a poor man's ace at best -- then more important than his comradery, more important than his maturity, and even more important than the health of his arm is his desire to win and his ability to amalgamate that desire with his God-given talent.
This desire -- something we've seen this year reflected in his frustration -- will hopefully lead him to condition himself better and to work harder at preparation before each start. And, hopefully, to also remember his game-plan and mechanics even in the face of shitty defense and below-average offensive support.
I could be wrong about all that. I fully admit it's less a theory and more a hope, but Zambrano's "I'll retire" rhetoric sure as shit beats Manny's "who cares if we win the World Series, there's always next year" line from a few years ago.
Ryan Dempster pitched a complete game shut-out last night against Pittsburgh, earning his 11th win of the season and putting him within reach of becoming the only Cubs pitcher in 2009 to throw in 200 innings. Clownsevelt will likely have 1 more start against Arizona, and barring disaster should reach the milestone.
Taking a closer look at all the Cubs starters, we find a bunch of very talented pitchers with very good numbers ... if this was the end of July. Just about everybody has thrown in 26 or 27 games, everybody has won about 10 games per, and everybody's ERA is in the 3.00-4.00 range with Harden topping out at 4.09.
Were it not for the numerous injuries, the bad luck, and the shoddy offensive performances, then this would be a very fun pitching staff to watch in October. Still, the Cubs managed to win their 82nd game last night, meaning that they've achieved a first-in-my-lifetime accomplishment -- three consecutive winning seasons. (Hurrah?)
Offensively, the Cubs capitalized on three Pirate errors, resulting in 6 runs off of 8 hits and 7 walks. Derrek Lee drove in 2 more -- putting him at 111 on the season -- but Sam Fuld went 3 for 4 as he vies for a spot on next year's team as a backup.
Anyway, the Cubs play the Pirates today in a double header. It should be a good time, had by all, although the GameCast will be very, very late (as in, probably not until after the first game has been played) unless Yarbage is available.
In no particular order:
-Esmailin Caridad pitched two innings last night to bring his major league ERA down to 1.65 for the season. He also nabbed three strikeouts over the course of the outing. That seems like a good thing!
-Tom Gorgonzola had another five-inning outing, needing 95 pitches to get 15 outs. Serviceable fifh starter? I think so -- especially for a team with an already gargantuan payroll headed into next year.
-Jake Fox keeps hittin'. He's got a .280 average, and 43 RBIs on the season. I've gotta believe the Cubs will work his arse off this offseason trying to teach him how to play passable defense. He needs to play every day.
(Just like Micah Hoffpauir and Mike Fontenot deserve every day spots...? Whoops.)
-Sam Fuld went 1-for-3 with two walks. The plate patience part is definitely there; if he can keep flippin' singles with any sort of regularity, how can the Cubs spend $3 million on ReJo for 2010?
-Aramis Ramirez is still good at hitting, even with one shoulder. But then again, why hasn't he had surgery yet?
All in all, a nice win. Nice job playing spoiler, whether or not the Giants secretly suck.
Either way, the Cubs have successfully spoiled the crap out of the Giants. It's about a sure-bet that the Rockies will be in the post season this year, thanks to the beat-down Chicago has dealt San Francisco.
Today's game, though, was the death rattle for the Giants, as they were able to step up and win against a -- I will continue to argue -- worn out Randy Wells.
Offensively, the Cubs managed only 5 hits and 3 walks, but Randy Wells got his ass kicked. Wells surrendered 10, walked 2, and only struck out 1. In fact the Cubs only run came in the 9th, thanks to a Bobby Scales triple.
I'm just going to call this a pity win. Clearly the Cubs feel sorry for San Fran, and so they threw them this empty victory.
Anyway, tomorrow's the last off day, and then it's a 4-gamer against Pittsburgh.
Does anyone know where to look for the stat that records “Most Baseball Games Won Singlehandedly?”
I’ve got to imagine Carlos Zambrano is at the top of that leader board.
He was at it again last night, knocking in two runs and giving up only one over the course of a complete game two-hitter. ‘Los walked one, and struck out eight.
That’s kind of been the story of Z’s career, in that: WE KNOW HE CAN DO THIS! The no-hitter, last night’s game, his performances in the postseason (do NOT pin the ’08 game on him, after he got five freakin’ outs in the inning) are all evidence that he’s got ace talent.
But we also know he lacks ace composure.
You might say Z is at his best when the game matters least. I for one would argue that maybe he’s not good in somewhat meaningful games, but in the Huge Games with Major Implications (read: postseason) he’s money.
So where does that put us on the whole “Trade Z” debate? For me, he’s a top pitching talent, with one of the best bats at his position in the league (…), and that’s someone you want to keep on your team. Maybe as he
ages he’ll get less crazy? Or maybe not.
Oh yeah, and the offense still sucks.
Jeff Baker is looking like a hell of a pick up by Jim Hendry. It was his bat -- and his bat alone -- that lifted the Cubs to victory last night in a game dominated by pitching.
Ryan Dempster went 7 innings and allowed only 2 runs, but Brad Penny was even more effective. The only runs the Cubs scored in the first 8 came from a double play ball -- hit by Baker -- after which the Giants scored 2 runs (1 immediately in the 4th, the other in the 7th).
Then, in the 9th inning, Derrek Lee drew a walk, stole his first base of the year, and was then knocked home by a Baker ball that could not be contained by the ballpark. Carlos Marmol then proceeded to strike out the first batter he faced, before giving up a single to Randy Wynn and then walking Travis Ishikawa. Then, like the Marmol of old, he buckled down and struck out two batters to end the inning.
Since joining the Cubs, Baker is batting .329 with 4 homers and 19 RBI. Odds are he's a backup at best next year, but he has definitely been a pleasant surprise in 2009. Anyway, the Cubs play the Giants again late tonight.
The Milton Bradley saga continues! After Jim Hendry suspended him for the remainder of the '09 campaign, there was some talk that the union would contest it. But then - then! - the Cubs decided not to withhold the $400,000 Bradley would have been set to lose, and so Milton and the union have accepted it without complaint.
At the same time, M.B. issued an apology to the team and fans. I think that if he was sincere in his sorrow, then he would indeed admit he does not deserve the $400k still owed to him. I and a lot of Cub fans would have respect for the man if he actually ask Jim to keep the money that he has not earned. Or better yet -- if he was a smart worker, he would take that remaining cash and donate it to a couple of major charities (perhaps even Cubs Care) as a way of winning over the fans.
No matter what, Bradley needs to start the healing if he means to play in Chicago next year, and cheap words will not get it done. A gesture like a $400k donation, and perhaps seeking psychiatric help, would go a very long way.
Anyway, back to the subject at hand -- the Cubs failed to sweep Milwaukee, although it wasn't due to the better effort of Jeff Samardzija. The Shark shocked me by pitching 5 innings, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk, striking out 3, and allowing 3 runs off of 2 homers. He also hit a homer himself, although his offensive stroke was about all the Cubs had tonight.
Thus, the Cubs failed to sweep. Still, they're only 4 wins away from finishing at .500. It's gonna hai!