Meanwhile, Angel Guzman got rocked by the Dodgers. Maybe he shouldn't close. He served up a Grand Slam to Russ Martin, and that was pretty much all she wrote in this game against the inevitable NL West champions. Not that it's fair to only blame the horrible bullpen -- the equally terrible offense only managed to score twice, once off a solo homerun by the 3 for 3 Fukudome and once from a Ramirez single. All told, the Cubs as a team left 10 guys on base and squandered 17 total scoring opportunties. It's like Dustyball all over again. Thankfully it will all be over very soon. On the bright side, the Tribune is reporting that the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family will be finalized very soon. While there really isn't anything about this sale that could be accurrately described as "soon," it will be nice having a clear idea about what the Cubs will be able to do in 2010 budget-wise, whether or not Hendry and Lou will return, and what the outlook of the team over the coming years might resemble. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.
5 innings pitched, 5 hits allowed, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts, 2 earned runs. Chances are that will be Tom Gorzelanny's final line as a starter this season or at least for a week or two -- not that he pitched poorly, but he's not going to over-take the more vested starters in the Cubs rotation, nor Randy Wells as he continues to pitch his way into Rookie of the Year contention. If Gorzo returns to the rotation, it will probably be to replace a shut-down Ted Lilly, assuming the Cubs do the right thing and send him (and Aramis) off to be surgeoned once they decide this season is a lost cause.
Meanwhile, Angel Guzman got rocked by the Dodgers. Maybe he shouldn't close. He served up a Grand Slam to Russ Martin, and that was pretty much all she wrote in this game against the inevitable NL West champions. Not that it's fair to only blame the horrible bullpen -- the equally terrible offense only managed to score twice, once off a solo homerun by the 3 for 3 Fukudome and once from a Ramirez single. All told, the Cubs as a team left 10 guys on base and squandered 17 total scoring opportunties. It's like Dustyball all over again. Thankfully it will all be over very soon.
On the bright side, the Tribune is reporting that the sale of the Cubs to the Ricketts family will be finalized very soon. While there really isn't anything about this sale that could be accurrately described as "soon," it will be nice having a clear idea about what the Cubs will be able to do in 2010 budget-wise, whether or not Hendry and Lou will return, and what the outlook of the team over the coming years might resemble.
So we've got that going for us, which is nice.
Ladies and gentlemen, gimme somma' dat Post All-Star Break Rich Harden!
Showing up just in time to earn himself a few extra million bucks as he heads toward the free agent market, Rich has been on fire in the second half of the season. Is it too little too late? Maybe kinda sorta, but I'll take it while we've got him.
Speaking of awesome Post All-Star splits, allow me to present Exhibit B: with a .367 batting average, .406 on-base, and .617 slugging, ladies and gentlemen, Jeffy B. Baker!
(Having said that, anyone wanna guess which of those two gets overpaid by the Cubs in negotiating an extension?)
With last night's game, the Cubs save some face as they depart from the home of Ron Burgundy and head straight for Mannywood. Now that the Cubs have saved themselves from a sweep, it's about time I dispense with the standard "impact of one game" speech.
Usually when the Cubs end up on the losing side of a 1-2 three-gamer, I talk about how different Cub fans would feel this morning if things were just a tinge different--specifically, what might have been if the Cubs went 2-1 instead of 1-2. We'd have a series win on our hands, and we wouldn't mind that one "L" given the two wins.
However, at this point in the season, every game is pretty damn huge. We're six back in our division, and five back in the Wild Card. These "one game" differences are really starting to add up.
And now we're headed to Dodgertown. This should be fun!
Current Record: 61-57
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 6.0 games back of the Cardinals
Magic Number: 51 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 105-57
Worst Possible Record: 61-101
Record needed to win 90: 29-15
On Pace For: 85-78
That's how seven hits and five walks translate into three runs.
The pitching was bad, but not horrendous. Ryan Dempster posted an almost-quality start, racking up 10 strikeouts in seven innings, while giving up four runs. Guzman put the Cubs in an even deeper hole in the 8th inning, but the L still went to Demp.
It's not looking good, guys. The pitching isn't working, the hitting isn't working, and we're in San Diego of all places.
Lately, the biggest problem seems to be plating runs. It's not that we aren't getting hits, and it's not that we're not getting walks. The base runners are there, and to a lesser extent, there's some power too--Lee had a double and a homer, and Baker doubled as well, in last night's game. But somehow, we just aren't scoring.
Maybe this year is some sort of balancing out of the baseball luck equation. After Jim Edmonds and Mark DeRosa and Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol and Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot had career years, we were due for some suffering this year I guess. Maybe?
Yeah, let's go with that for now. Unlucky.
In the meantime, go Cubs.
In response, I said: Sure enough, the lack of a lively offense, mixed with the closing incompetence of Kevin Gregg resulted in a blow-out at the hands of the incompetent Padres. Ouch. It's hard to point a finger at just one player. Maybe it'd be easier to simply lift one finger at the whole team. Ted Lilly played his part last night, pitching 6 innings in his return to the roster, exiting after only 70 pitches, but the offense gave him no run support whatsoever. Sure, the Cubs managed 7 more hits, and they drew 5 walks, but they had 17 opportunities to drive in runs that they failed to capitalize upon. As a team they stranded 10. Mike Fontenot, Geovany Soto, and Aaron Miles all had 0-fers. Kevin Gregg, meanwhile, has committed the greatest crime imaginable -- he's made Dave Kaplan right. That hurts. Goggle-wearing doucheman, I defended you! I put my opinion out there that people were wrong about you! And this is how you reward my loyalty, 4 earned runs against the PADRES?!? I was obviously mistaken. Gregg is a turdd.
You can do that. I'll just tack on an edit at the end in which I proclaim myself the doctor who just won't let go, hammering my closed fist into this season's chest, charging up the paddles for another electric burst, yelling BREATHE DAMMIT BREATHE even as you try to pull me away...
In response, I said:
Sure enough, the lack of a lively offense, mixed with the closing incompetence of Kevin Gregg resulted in a blow-out at the hands of the incompetent Padres. Ouch.
It's hard to point a finger at just one player. Maybe it'd be easier to simply lift one finger at the whole team. Ted Lilly played his part last night, pitching 6 innings in his return to the roster, exiting after only 70 pitches, but the offense gave him no run support whatsoever. Sure, the Cubs managed 7 more hits, and they drew 5 walks, but they had 17 opportunities to drive in runs that they failed to capitalize upon. As a team they stranded 10. Mike Fontenot, Geovany Soto, and Aaron Miles all had 0-fers.
Kevin Gregg, meanwhile, has committed the greatest crime imaginable -- he's made Dave Kaplan right. That hurts. Goggle-wearing doucheman, I defended you! I put my opinion out there that people were wrong about you! And this is how you reward my loyalty, 4 earned runs against the PADRES?!? I was obviously mistaken. Gregg is a turdd.So. Is this, then, the Time of Death? Am I, indeed, pushing away the knowing hands trying to hold me back from pounding the chest, from charging the paddles, from denying the obvious? Meh. Probably. When we look back on the failures of the 2009 season, while we will have plenty of fodder to go with I think that identifying this period -- the sweep at home against the Phillies, the surrender of another lead by Gregg -- as being the time when the final nail was hammered in.
Or, the Cubs could surprise us. What I didn't ask Rob in response to his EMail was whether or not he declared a Time of Death in 2007. (Rob: Technically, I did not. But it was simply an accident of timing that I hadn't). I sure as hell know I was on the brink of doing that, and I am certainly one of this blog's most reluctant. It's not a Cubs thing; rather it's a sports thing -- more often than not, teams will prove their fans' doubts right. But whether you "knew it all along" or not, you're still only right retroactively in my opinion. It'll be over when it's over, even if my gut tells me it's over already.
Does that make sense? No? Then I'll leave you with something that does...
Gregg eats ass.
I didn't get to see yesterday's game, but it sounded decent on paper. Instead I was with the wife at The Proposal. I much rather would have seen the game, but she has allowed me to watch about 110 games this year. So, if any GROTA members want to add to the recap, please do so.
Tom Gorzelanny was good enough to get the win (He only threw five innings). Then the bullpen was able to get through four innings to hold on to the win. Jeff Baker provided most of the offensive punch with a RBI single and a solo home run a little later. The other run came off the bat of Gorzelanny, who knocked in Geovany Soto.
The Cubs go for the sweep today, and I will write about that in a few minutes.
Apologies for the lateness -- my internet died for the bulk of yesterday, and huge, huge thanks to Chris for stepping up and helping out.
The Cubs have bounced back nicely from those games where they played actual good teams, beating the Pirates for the second straight day thanks to some solid pitching mixed with a few timely hits.
Cub starter Tom Gorzelanny, whose last outing ended abruptly with an injured foot, bounced back to pitch 5 innings, allowing 1 run and striking out 8. He was relieved by Guzman, Marmol, and Gregg -- with Lou still using Angel and Carlos out of order -- who pitched 4 innings of scoreless, 2-hit, 0-walk, 5-strike-out baseball.
As for the Cubs offense, they slowed down from the previous day although they still managed 9 hits and 3 runs, with every regular but Fuld and Fox getting on base at least once. The biggest of the big winners though was Jeff Baker, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI single and a solo homerun.
Baker -- who was born in West Germany but resembles an Asian rail worker -- is batting .333 since joining the Cubs, with 6 doubles, 1 triple, 2 homers, 11 RBI, and a .934 OPS. Perhaps he should see some more play-time for the next little while.
Anyway, the Cubs will try to finish the Pirates a little later today. Go team.
Goat Friend and Tribune writer Paul Sullivan writes
Does Piniella's track record keep him immune from being a target of
criticism, or is he in danger of receiving the same kind of scrutiny
Dusty Baker had in his final two seasons with the Cubs?
"I haven't seen the abuse Dusty took yet," Derrek Lee replied. "But I'm sure if we don't win, it's around the corner."
But ... I thought Dusty took that abuse because he's black, not because the Cubs failed to win. Somebody clearly needs to get D.Lee back on script.
I still continue to shovel Lou's fair share of blame onto him, but I have to acknowledge that there have been an awful lot of negative factors going against the Cubs this season. With a hat tip to Desipio poster Dave B, the Cubs have had 13 players spend 431 days so far on the Disabled List this season. While that figure includes such riff-raff as Chad Fox, Dave Patton, Ryan Freel, and Aaron Miles, the Cubs have also lost a lot of time from key contributors Aramis Ramirez (58 days), Geovany Soto (31 days, and he's still not right), Carlos Zambrano (30 days), Reed Johnson (30 days), Ryan Dempster (25 days), Rich Harden (22 days), Ted Lilly (20 days), and Angel Guzman (15 days). While it's strange that four of the Cubs starters have spent so much time on the D.L., it's hardly a first (1985), but stranger still is that I'm pretty sure none of them have actually lost time for arm injuries. Even Ted Lilly, who will get scoped this winter, is currently recovering from kee surgery.
Ignoring that, the Cubs finally gave fans something to cheer about, thumping the Pittsburgh Pirates by a score of 17-2. They combined for 18 hits -- with multi-hit games coming from six players, including the pitcher -- and 6 walks, and they scored on their first 11 opportunities, which is pretty amazing considering how many chances they blew against Philly.
Kosuke Fukudome continued his string of solid play, going 1 for 4 with a walk, 2 runs scored, and a 3-run homer. But most impressive of all the hitters was Derrek Lee, who went 3 for 3 with 2 doubles and 7 RBI before getting pulled in the 5th inning.
As far as the pitching went, Randy Wells gave 6 solid innings, earning his 9th win of the year and dropping his ERA to 3.01. His three relievers -- Caridad, Grabow, and Gregg -- gave 3 innings of no-hit, one-walk relief and the Cubs ran - nay, sprinted -- away with the win.
So, what does it mean? It was nice to see a route, but in the grand scheme of thing it means dog piss jones. The Cubs will still be 4.5 games out when this day is over, with the same glaring problems as before. Still, it's nice to see a crushing. A repeat performance would be pretty effin' awesome. That is all.
Cliff Lee went eight innings for the Phils, we only scored once. Lame.
Ryan Dempster went seven innings, got hit with a crooked number in the 4th, gave up a couple bombs. That sucked.
Hey, Jeff Baker is hitting .275 all of a sudden! That's cool!
Geovany Soto has been worthless. You nailed that one, Rob. I'm sorry we ever doubted you.
Justin Berg looked great, huh? Ninth rookie pitcher the Cubs have used this year. That's great.
Mike Fontenot is hitting .229 this year.
K, that's all I wanna say. Bring on the Pirates.
The Cubs got swept at home by the Phillies. Yay?
Much as the toughest part of the minor league manager's job is cutting players who just can't hack it, the hardest part of a Cubs blogger's job is writing about the team when they suck serious ass. In that sense, the last couple of seasons have been a blessing, almost making up for 2005 and 2006. But while nobody - and I mean nobody - expected much from the '06 Cubs, we obviously had some high hopes for this team.
They have responded so far by crapping in our Cheerios. This leaves us with a bit of a conundrum. After all, many of these under-performing players are aging, expensive, and quite possibly untradeable. On top of that, the Cubs still aren't sold -- and we haven't heard about the sale in weeks -- and for so long as the team lingers in limbo we are stuck with Jim Hendry helming and Lou Piniella managing. Except everybody loves Lou, so it's only half a problem.
Well, my friends, it doesn't get much worse-feeling than this. I invite you all, then, to consider this season a bust. Let your feelings of despair out. Overturn a car. Throw baseballs at rare seagulls. And when it's over, make your way back to the team and pick a player, any player. From here on until October, root for that guy, cheer for him whenever he does well, and if he ends the season with a good performance between now and then consider it a small consolation.
But, hey, stop freaking out about the Cubs. If you know the season is done for, you shouldn't be upset anymore when they lose. It's as simple as that.
Even though the Worldwide Leader was providing video to a national audience, I have to say--this game was difficult to watch. I myself was done around the same time as Samardzija was.
Since I didn't watch the entire play-by-play, let's look at the box score, which should be telling enough.
Samardzija: 3.1 IP, 7 ER
Marshall: 3.1 IP, 5 ER
Not surprising. Having said that, it's almost infuriating how much this team is jerking around these two quality young arms. Fact: Jeff Samardjiza is not ready to pitch in the major leagues! Fact: Sean Marshall is a reliever! Guh.
Here's another good one, related to pitch count:
Pitches-strikes: Marmol 12-9
At least we know the kid's CAPABLE of throwing strikes. Now if only he could chill the eff out and do it when the game is on the line. I wonder if Marmol will get any better when the Cubs have a new manager (read: next year).
On offense, no one really stood out. Theriot got three singles; Fuld got a hit in his pinch hitting appearance; Fukudome had another double. A bunch of "meh," really.
So here we are, another game back. That whole thing I mentioned yesterday about "running out of time?" Yeah, that's still in effect.
Last night's game was another one of those playoff-type contests, the kind of game that reveals the true identity of the team you're rooting for.
The offense scratched out a decent number of runs against a solid starter and decent bullpen--and in the postseason, you're sometimes gonna need to find a way to win with just three runs scored. Those runs scored on good situational hitting rather than pure mashing, on a couple of timely singles with runners in scoring position (one of which had been bunted over), along with a sacrifice fly.
Maybe you disagree with me, but in last night's game, I myself can't blame the offense. Happ, Park, Madson and Lidge are all quality (except for maybe the last guy--who we scored on), and we still managed to plate a few runs.
(As for Walker, Eyre, and Durbin, perhaps we should have come through with one run at some point, but then again this game should never have gone into extras. More on that in a minute.)
Then there's the Cubs' pitching, starting with the starting.
If anyone's whining about the two runs Rich Harden allowed, then those people are just plain stoopid. Richie had a no-hitter going for a good while, walked the #8-hitter (kinda dumb but whatever) and then gave up a homer to Jimmy Rollins. Look, the Phillies have a good offense; they're gonna score runs. I'll take 2 ER in 7 innings every time out.
That brings us to the bullpen. And to that end, I've really got just one question.
When your set-up man walks a guy and hits a batter, and the opponent has three consecutive lefties due up, how do you not get your LOOGY warmed up the moment the HBP happens?
Of course, Lou left Carlos in, and we all know what happened.
As for letting Kevin Gregg pitch two innings, if you check his game log on a site like Yahoo! Sports you'll see that he's actually done it before this season. It's hard to blame Lou for trusting Gregg there.
But for pulling Harden on one of his good nights after just 87 pitches? And for leaving Marmol in, against a lefty, after his having demonstrated to everyone everywhere that he didn't have any idea where the ball was going last night? Those decisions are a bit more questionable.
So once again, we see what this team really is: an offense that might score two or three, but certainly not five or six runs against quality pitching; a starting rotation with some great arms; a bullpen with some questionable ones; and a manager that doesn't know how to manage those relievers.
We're running out of time here, guys.
A lot of that had to do with injuries. Carlos Zambrano was unable to take the mound for his scheduled start; perhaps more detrimental was the fact that he was unable to inform the team of that fact until moments before the first pitch was scheduled.
Tom Gorzelanny was hit in the foot with a comebacker that ended his start prematurely. Actually, maybe that Caridad guy pitched better than Gorgonzola would have, but still, injuries suck.
Also, Aramis Ramirez' shoulder is acting up again. I've even seen rumors that he might be headed to the DL. That would really suck, although perhaps this time around we'd see more Jake Fox at 3B, and less Mike Fontenot.
Having said all that, I think the real head scratcher (that's a technical term) from this past series was Sunday's game.
On the one hand, the Cubs had to be disappointed by the untimeliness of Randy Wells' first failure as the team's most recently anointed stopper. After having allowed just one earned run in his last 15.1 innings pitched, Wells was decidedly less-than-shutdown against the Rox, allowing five runs in 5.1 innings pitched.
Then again, there's also the flat out astounding issue of the hit column in that game.
If I told you the Cubs outhit their opponent, 17 to 14, and lost, you may have been a bit surprised. But how do those numbers translate to an 11-5 rout?
Let's look specifically at some of the missed opportunities from that game.
- 1st inning: men on 2nd and 3rd, 2 out, Kosuke K's.
- 2nd inning: men on 1st and 3rd, 1 out, Wells grounds into a DP (instead of bunting...?).
- 3rd inning: men on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, Soriano flies out softly and Baker K's (after MB failed to score from 2nd on a Kosuke single).
- 6th inning: man on 2nd, 1 out, Theriot and MB both strike out.
- 7th inning: men on 1st and 2nd, no outs, K-flyout-flyout.
That's not even a comprehensive list of every time the Cubs had runners in scoring position. It's just an arbitrary selection from a simply staggering number of opportunities that the Cubs had to turn Sunday's game into something a bit more interesting.
As it happened, though, the Cubs lost the game on Sunday. And they lost the series, which gave them a losing record for the road trip (4-6).
As a Cub fan, would you have been having a better Tuesday morning if, after last night's loss, the Cubs had ended up splitting the series, and the road trip? That one game difference has a bigger psychological impact than it deserves to make, I think. It's just one game, after all--one game out of what's getting to be a smaller and smaller number of chances to get back into this playoff race, unfortunately.
I give AJ credit for all the detail -- it's not easy writing about suck.
Just a couple of extra thoughts to bridge the gap between now and tonight...
One of the reasons I believe this blog is a pretty good place to get your Cubs content is because we do not all agree. In fact, sometimes we disagree with each other into the point of ridiculousness. Despite what detractors would tell you, we do not stifle contrary opinions as long as they are constructive. Hating Milton Bradley or Alfonso Soriano because they aren't earning their salary is an opinion I cannot contest -- although I'll probably never think of Soriano as being "selfish." I got to see selfish patrol in right field for the Cubs for a decade, and Sori's not that. But calling Cub players epithets will get you banned from GROTA; just ask the douchebag who keeps trying to come back. You can even tell me I'm an idiot, or a hater, or a moron, none of that will get you in trouble... probably because I am too much of an idiot to prevent people from trying to chip away at my ego. (This again is something that marks us as being different from most places. I have a feeling that if you headed over to BCB and started calling Al names, you wouldn't be allowed to do so for very long.)
When it comes to our expectations -- and our hopes -- for the '09 season, at this point my personal take is very, very different from Rob's. I believe first and foremost that the Cubs are capable of making the playoffs -- which isn't the same as an expectation. I wouldn't be surprised if they did, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't. They've shown me enough good and bad to leave me thinking that they might be an 83 win team or an 87 win team, and in the NL Central 87 wins might be enough to get them into the dance.
I'm not 100% sure if Rob has completely ruled out a playoff appearance at this point, but I suspect he expects them to not get there. That's cool, I can understand that.
But this is where we differ strongly in opinion -- I believe that history has taught us that great teams do not win championships, although winning a championship can make a team great. I have seen in my lifetime no-name teams win, poor teams beat rich teams, 83-win teams collect titles, 116-win teams fail to even get there to lose, and so-on. I've seen enough to know that the playoffs are unpredictable, at least to a layman like me. Therefore, I have concluded that if the Cubs reach the playoffs, then they are capable -- again, not the same as expected, or even anticipated -- of winning the whole she-bang.
Rob, on the other hand, believes that this is impossible. Why? Because they're the Cubs. Their long history of losing, mixed with their long season of underperforming, sprinkled on top of by the immense pressure a playoff appearance would bring, leaves them as being absolutely, undeniably sad participants should they waste our time and theirs by reaching the playoffs.
That I have disagreed with Rob on this point makes me guilty of "shouting your false hopes into the cruel winds." But I think we all know the difference between an expectation and being free of them, and I definitely fall into the latter category. And so long as I have a pulpit here, anybody who wants to prematurely stick a fork into the Cubs will learn that their wielded implement is double-edged.
Odds are, the Cubs will prove Rob right. If they even make the playoffs, they are likely to get their asses handed to them by whichever opponent they face. The same is true of pretty much all post season teams ... the playoffs favor nobody but the team with the most momentum and the greatest amount of luck. Even the Cubs -- yes, even the Cubs -- can fall into that category if they get there. We've seen it before with the '04 Red Sox, and the '06 Cardinals, just to name two recent examples -- two examples that cannot be countered by any facsimile of reason or logic.
And if the statement I've just made is in contrast to your opinion of baseball, if you honestly believe that Christmas has been canceled and the kitchen has been closed here on August 11th, with a month and a half of baseball left to be played, then do yourself a favor and pretend the season is over. You're just causing yourself anxiety by following along in this season of unavoidable woe. Get geared up for football, or hell, soccer. The CFL is already in full swing and it's a pretty exciting league. The NFL promises many storylines this season. And if the Cubs should shock you and make the playoffs, do yourself a favor and don't watch -- you've already written them off for dead. And if they should happen to win the first series they play -- which you know won't happen -- then continue your avoidance of the post season. Keep it to overhearing hallway talk and cubical chatter. And if they should happen to reach the World Series -- a truly ridiculous proposition that you already know can't possibly happen -- then whether you enjoy it or not, whether you are excited or not, I hope you never forget that you quit on an under-performing team long before they were ruled out of anything. May the words "I always knew" never escape your mouth. But I won't wish guilt upon you because I get why you would've given up so soon.
Anyway. Strong words from me honestly not directed at Rob but at anybody who thinks that way -- and there are plenty of Cub fans out there who do. But to go back to the very first thing I said, this blog kicks ass because we do not all agree, we do not all subscribe, we do not all swill, and no matter how frustrating it is, or how angry we make one another, GROTA is better because of the debate. Besides, if Dave Kaplan has taught us anything it's that controversy drives readership. So, consider this my open plea to Rob to continue disagreeing and debating on this topic openly and, if necessary viciously -- because we're all better because of it. Not to mention the fact that he's probably right... even if for the wrong reasons.
Current Record: 58-52
Position in the NL Central: 2nd place, 3 games back of the Cardinals
Magic Number: 54 (thanks to cubsmagicnumber.com)
Best Possible Record: 110-52
Worst Possible Record: 58-104
Record needed to win 90: 32-20
On Pace For: 85-78