There's crazy, there's Milton Bradley crazy, then there's LaTroy Hawkins crazy
So...I went to Wrigley last night, fully expecting to come back here this morning and provide a service to the vast universe of you not fortunate enough to live within two hours' drive of the park, but the pitching last night was poor (hopefully this doesn't become a trend) and I can't really point to one particular instance where the game was lost. Maybe the play in the 5th where Dempster must have lost track of the number of outs. First and third, and on a comebacker to him, he immediately turned and threw down to 2nd to try to start a DP. If there was ONE out, sure. But there were no outs, and the runner on third was already halfway home. Ryan could have simply held his right arm out, holding the ball, and froze the runner. Anyway, he blew the throw to 2nd, everyone was safe, the AssTrolls scored two runs when they probably shouldn't have scored any, and it was simply that kind of night.
But what really grinds my gears today is the aftermath from Monday's LaTroy Hawkins ejection. Lady and gentlemen, we have learned something new today. There are different levels of crazy, insulting, and stupid in the big league game, and we have been introduced to the next level.
It is one thing to argue balls and strikes. It is a second thing to do what Big Z did that night when he made a show of "throwing the ump out" and chucking the ball into the outfield. It is a third thing to do what Milton Bradley did earlier this year, claiming the umps are out to get him.
But Hawkins went on record after the game Monday and said that the home plate ump had "already decided who was going to win" that night. Then, when asked again about it yesterday, he did not back off his statement.
I guess questioning an ump's integrity in general is bad, and questioning the ump's integrity on a personal level is worse. But the worst of all is accusing an ump of fixing the outcome of the game. I guess I don't remember anyone else ever making that claim before, and it appears that Hawkins has crossed a sort of uncrossable line. There exists a line, that every ballplayer knows about, a place where you are NOT supposed to go, and LaTroy WENT there. Whatever small shred of competitive dignity he still possessed has now been pissed away like so much cheap beer into a Wrigley Field trough.
My problem with all of this? I guarantee you that Mr. Hawkins has not gotten MORE crazy in the past five years. Whatever percentage of crazy he is, he was when he was with us. And Dusty Baker thought it would be a good idea to have him close games for us!! And not just in one year - the Dustbag persisted throughout most of 2004 and 2005, until such time that Jim Hendry had enough of his guff and sent him packing. Since then, the million dollar arm attached to the two cent brain has bounced around the league, burning bridges, wearing out welcomes, and losing games all over the place.
We actually won one more game in 2004 (89) than we did in the division winning year of 2003. Unfortunately, we needed to win about four or five more. Which we would have done, easily, if ANYONE else in the entire world was made the closer. The man came out on day one of his Cub career, the day he was signed, and said he was NOT a closer, that he had NO desire to be the closer, and if you then make him close, and he blows game after game in the most bizarre way imaginable, and you still PERSIST on sending him out there in the ninth? And we end up losing a division over it?
And when people (like me) come out when it happened and speak out against it, and others (you know who you are) grab your handfuls of stat sheets and drone on about how the man has the best arm and the lowest career ERA+ and blah blah blah...and then, a few years later, and it becomes clear, crystal clear, CRIMINALLY clear how much of a wack job this guy is and was?
The moral of this story? It ain't all about who has the fastest fastball, or who has the best OPS over the past 47 months. Baseball, now more than ever, is played by human beings, some of whom have faults and incapacities and psychological quirks that preclude them from meshing well within a "team concept" game. Essentially, one misused man blew a playoff berth for us five years ago, and today, our insistence on sticking with a second level psychopath in right field, our settling for two career backups to platoon at second base, all of which is coupled with the festering black hole we have behind the plate...and you're left with a cruddy lineup who, yes, scored six runs last night, but against the dregs of the Houston bullpen should have put up double digits, at least.
Just because you made a mistake by signing Bradley doesn't mean you should keep running him out there. Just because Koyie Hill and Mike Fontenot and Jeff Baker SAY they want to play doesn't mean you let them. Several of you tried to make the case that the Fontenot/Baker platoon is as productive as everyone else's Real Second Basemen. Um...the last 28 days? 3 HR, 9 RBI, 25 Ks, .252/.284/.425? An OPS+ of 88? This is not what I would call outstanding production, or even marginally acceptable. I'm glad they "want to", but that just ain't enough.
I understand Lou Piniella doesn't have a choice. Just don't always assume your Manager and General Manager always knows more about guys than you do. Sometimes, more often than not, YOU, the fan, can smell a bum long before your club's management does. Todd Hundley, anyone?