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.
Ryan Dempster (4-5, 3.74) vs. Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.79)
Lou Piniella and the Cubs are finding new and interesting ways to lose games. Most of these ways are screwing up in the most basic fundamentals of baseball. The Cubs allowed four unearned runs last night, and despite most of their mishaps, were in it for the majority of the game. However, a missed cutoff man here, and wild pitch there... letting your pitcher hit even though you are going to pull him, have a man in scoring position, and a very viable pinch hitter available... and the game fell apart. As I was in attendance, all of my frustrations have been told to the players on the field last night, so I figure it would just be overkill to let it flow out in this forum.
Apparently the term "Moneyball" means a nickel and diming offense that gets on base on a great deal of flukey hits and a few lucky bounces/errors courtesy of the opposing team. The Cubs found that out last night. Tonight the A's will send out (twice) former White Sox farmhand Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez has had a year very much like the Cubs ballclub: flashes of brilliance, moments of implosion, and mediocre peripherals overall. Gio tends to strike out a lot of batters, but he also walks a lot of batters. When he walks batters, he gets flustered and hitters can get to him. As a lefty, right-handers hit him better overall (.261 on the season), so I expect Lou to trot out the anti-lefty lineup and hope for the best.
Who's Hot: Um... That Colvin fella hit a nice home run when it didn't matter. I guess we can call that an injection of youth into the team.
Who's Not: The Cubs fundamentals. Lou and Hendry need to have a pow-wow with Tom Emanski and get these kids playing "pickle" and "hot potato" stat to get their glovework going. Or at least get this guy to get Big Z's mojo back.
We need a win. Any way possible. In the immortal words of Ron Stillenovich: "Just because some of us weren't born with a whole lot of natural talent doesn't mean that we can't contribute."
ESPN reported yesterday that the Brewers' search for their new manager has ended, and Bob Brenly was not selected. So much for all our speculation about who would replace him in the booth.
Although, to be fair, I would be a little surprised if there were no other new managers brought onto the scene this off season. While I haven't heard of any teams actively searching for a new skipper, Brenly might yet still find himself in a dugout next year, rather than in the broadcast booth.
And even then - if Brenly isn't signed to manage a team this winter, then it's probably only a matter of time before he is. Sooner or later, and probably sooner, the Cubs will have a new broadcast team in their booth.
Word on the streat is that Bob Brenly has been offered a chance by the Milwaukee Brewers to hop back into the saddle and manage the team. The rumored deal is worth 1.25 million a year.
Although he just signed a 4 year, 3.5 million extension with WGN on September 13th, Brenly very well might take this gig - lord knows he's wanted another crack at managing a team. It'll be an interesting scenario for the Cubs if only because a) Brenly has seen the team a lot which theoretically gives him a managerial advantage and b) he's actually a mediocre skipper so he'd need any advantage possible to win. Not to mention c) the Brewers had their chance, but they're about to become middling again.
If Brenly does find himself Cheeseward Bound, Len Kasper will be without a partner and the Cubs will probably have a little bit of trouble filling his shoes. Basically, the problem is that, while Bob Brenly is certainly no Steve Stone, there aren't many available guys out there who are Bob Brenly. However, here's a short list of the team's options, primarily consisting only of guys I can think of off the top of my head, and the odds of their taking the job.
Steve Stone - 0. Sorry, folks. The Pompous-But-Lovable-Douchebag that is Steve Stone is locked up for 6 years with the White Sox. I'm afraid he'll never again call a game for the Cubs.
Rick Sutcliffe - 20 to 1. It's like if Harry Caray and Steve Stone had a lovechild. A Cy Young pitcher with a keen understanding of the game who loves his booze and often sounds as though a denist injected him with a little too much Novocaine. Sutcliffe will always have a warm spot in his heart for the Cubs, but he probably won't take the job. He had an opportunity for the gig Back Before Brenly, but he refused it because he wasn't keen on working 162 games. In fact, that's a major problem. In many cases, guys don't want to work a full schedule anymore.
Dan Plesac - 5 to 1. Plesac already works for Comcast Chicago, covering Cubs games. Perhaps the biggest compliment and strongest criticism I can make about Plesac is that, although I'm sure I've heard him call games in the past, I have no memory of his delivery or style. I guess that means he's boring, which is better than annoying, but worse than good. (Side note: Some people are far more critical of Plesac than I am. It appears as though he actually sucks quite horrifically. One person actually said "I'd take Joe Carter over Dan Plesac." Ouch.)
Joe Carter - 100 to 1. Pleasegodnopleasegodnopleasegodnopleasegodno. Joe Carter and Chip Caray had to have equaled, bar none, the worst broadcasting team in the history of the world, even counting the Stuttering Charlie and Beepo the Monkey experiment executed by the Browns back in the Veek days.
Dave Otto - 4 to 1. Otto is another guy who hangs his hat in Chicago, often filling in for Ron Santo on the radio side. He also worked along side with ::shudders:: Chip Caray back in what I like to call The Dark Ages. He's probably a better choice than Plesac.
Mark Grace - 4 to 2. A long-time favorite of Cub fans, Grace would probably punch his own grandmother for the chance to work the booth in WGN. The only unfortunate part of this - he's not very good and, more importantly, he may be too much of an uncontrollable element for the Cubs to trust him calling the games. He just might be a bit too critical.
Ron Santo - 50 to 1. Actually, I think I'd really enjoy Santo joining Kasper, even though he's an unbearable homer at times. The thing is, Santo really has a niche on the radio side, and I don't think the Cubs would want to break up the Santo-Hughes team.
Dark Horse Candidates, according to speculation at Desipio: Doug Glanville, Keith Moreland, Eric Karros.
Kurt's Preferred Choice: Bob Brenly. Sorry, Fire Bob Brenly, I don't think any of the available options would do as good a job.
The Daily Herald is reporting that Bob Brenly has signed a contract extension with the Cubs that will keep him in Chicago until 2012.
Photo Courtesy of WGN TV
Brenly has been a pleasant surprise in the booth. He was the direct replacement to Steve Stone, but with memories of Joe Carter still crapping about in our heads, it would've been hard for him to be a bad pick on the part of the Tribune.
I think many people are surprised because Brenly probably wants to manage again someday, but there are two things to remember:
1. Lou's probably gone after another year, and while bench coach and ex Tigers skipper Alan Trammell is probably the first in line to get the gig, Brenly knows that Hendry would probably consider him, too.
2. If another team comes calling, much as San Diego almost did two years ago, then Brenly probably reserves the right in his contract to leave for other pastures.
I know that some of us want what's on the other side of the fence - a return by Stone would have been nice, as he's a legend, and Mark Grace will always be the one that got away. But while Stoney is without a doubt the best in the business, I've heard nothing to believe that Gracie is better than Brenly. The Cubs have a great duo in the booth these days, let's be happy about it and let's hope that Chip Caray, Joe Carter and their ilk remain a thing of the distant, painful, can't-forget-soon-enough past.
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
FOR AND ON BEHALF OF ALL CHICAGO CUBS FANS WATCHING THE CUBS GAME ON 3 JUNE 2008 AT 00:04.
COMCAST SPORTSNET CHICAGO,
UNNAMED PRODUCER OF COMCAST SPORTSNET CHICAGO,
UNNAMED CAMERAMAN OF COMCAST SPORTSNET CHICAGO,
SAN DIEGO PADRES,
CHICAGO NATIONAL LEAGUE BALL CLUB,
(Jury Trial Demanded)
Plaintiffs, by and through their undersigned attorneys, for the Complaint in this action, hereby allege as follows:
1. This action is filed by the victims of unnecessarily dramatic coverage of the final out of the Chicago Cubs game started on June 2, 2008 and finishing shortly after midnight on June 3, 2008. Plaintiffs are the loyalest of Cubs fans, brave enough to stay up after their bed time in hopes of witnessing the Cubs' eighth consecutive victory. The defendants together conspired to perpetrate unnecessary drama at the end of said game.
2. Pestilence is a Chicago Cubs fan who suffered heart failure immediately before the final out of the game was recorded. Pestilence is filing this action on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of viewers who are likely to have suffered similarly. Pestilence and the undersigned attorneys will seek to elevate this matter as a class-action complaint.
3. Comcast Sports Net Chicago is the broadcast outlet that aired the game in the greater metropolitan Chicago area, and select households subscribing to MLB EXTRA INNINGS.
4. Carlos Marmol is the Chicago Cubs pitcher who set the table for the unneccessary drama by allowing two runners to reach base before grooving a pitch over the heart of the plate.
5. Adrian Gonzales is the San Diego batter who crushed said grooved pitch into the seats closing the 4 run lead to 1 run.
6. Michael Barrett is the San Diego Padres catcher who is primarily responsible for the underlying action that caused the unnecessary drama. Barrett is a former Chicago Cub who left the team under dubious circumstances. Had his warning track flyball been a home run, the emotional scarring of this home run would have been more significant than if another Padre, who had not been a former Cub, had tied the game. Barrett has a propensity for hitting dramatic home runs.
7. Kerry Wood is the Chicago Cubs closer who relieved Carlos Marmol. Wood also hung the slider that Michael Barrett hit for a warning track flyball.
8. The Unnamed Comcast Cameraman filmed the 9th inning of said game. This cameraman willfully filmed a much higher trajectory of the flyball than was necessary. Due to this high trajectory camera angle, hundreds of thousands of Cubs fans were momentarily led to panic as they assumed Michael Barrett's warning track flyball was indeed of home run distance sufficient to reach the Western Metal Supply Co. warehouse far beyond the left field fence.
9. The Unnamed Comcast producer chose to use the unnamed cameraman's feed of the flyball. This decision contributed to the heart attack suffered by Cubs fans everywhere.
10. Len Kasper and Bob Brenly are the Comcast announcers who emphasized the unnecessary drama by not reassuring viewers early enough that the baseball would remain within the confines of the playing field.