Thursday, September 09, 2004

posted by James - 12:50 PM

I think Towlie says it best, “I don’t know what’s goin’ on.” I’m not as high as he usually is, but I’m just as flummoxed at the current state of the whole Cubs organization.

There have been several points this season where I thought the Cubs instilled in me a firm grasp of what it means to be embarrassed about your team.

I thought they put humiliations aside after NOMAR came to town July 31... I was wrong.

Over the last nine days, they’ve redefined embarrassment on three separate occasions.

August 31... The Cubs get shut out by the Montreal Expos, in the midst of a going nowhere season and a vagabond existence, in a manner which means your playoff credentials should be revoked.

Yes, they were facing the team’s “ace”, but unless his last name is Carlton, of Johnson or Young (no, not Matt Young or Curt Young... you know which one I’m talking about)... losing to him 8-0 (he also had two hits and an RBI off of our “supposed” ace), is unacceptable.

September 7... Even worse than getting shut out and blown out is losing a game where the other team did everything under their power to hand us a victory, and saying it just didn’t happen is putting it nicely.

forget niceness...

WE BLEW IT!!! To further distance myself (and all Cubs fans) from the Cubs’ state of emergency... THEY BLEW IT!

They blew it before the game. They blew it for nine innings. They decided they didn’t have enough fun blowing it, so they blew it for another three innings. And then, they blew it after the game too (more on this later).

I’ve said this before... this team has a coaching problem and a leadership problem. Jim Hendry can acquire all the Nomars he wants, but he doesn’t fill out the lineup cards, or make pitching changes or make ridiculous, ludicrous, unproductive, double-switches.

I, nor anyone I’ve asked yet, can figure out what Dusty Baker was thinking yesterday when he wrote (for, inconceivably, the 10th time this season) Jose Macias rf into the two hole in his batting order.

He sucks to a degree only a Pittsburgh Pirate can admire, and Dusty found a way to give him six at-bats. And four of them came with Corey Patterson on base (twice in scoring position).

Amazingly, the Cubs tagged the Expos the day before for a 9-0 win with Derrek Lee hitting second, and Dusty doesn’t think keeping that ball rolling would be a good thing.

Even worse, the Cubs could have had Mark Grudzielanek (three hits) or Michael Barrett (two hits) bat second. Both batted at the bottom of the lineup, where Macias should be banished to, where their five hits combined to drive in zero runs.

With astonished, bewildered and bumfuzzled looks on our faces, we at Casey Moran’s suggested several lineup alternatives, which I share with you now, for no other reason than to feed my insanity and the feeling of staring into an oncoming train’s lights and not being able to move:
1. Patterson cf
2. Lee 1b
3. Garciaparra ss
4. Alou lf
5. Ramirez 3b
6. Barrett c
7. Grudzielanek 2b
8. Macias rf

1. Patterson cf
2. Grudzielanek 2b
3. Lee 1b
4. Garciaparra s
5. Alou lf
6. Ramirez 3b
7. Barrett c
8. Macias rf

1. Patterson cf
2. Lee 1b
3. Garciaparra ss
4. Alou lf
5. Walker 2b
6. Ramirez 3b
7. Barrett c
8. Macias rf

1. Patterson cf
2. Barrett c
3. Lee 1b
4. Garciaparra ss
5. Alou lf
6. Ramirez 3b
7. Walker 2b
8. Macias rf
And the fun doesn’t stop there, but it always started with Macias, the worst bat-wielder without pitching responsibilities, batting eighth. Why Dusty thought differently is beyond me.

He compounds this almost insurmountable pregame gaffe by wasting his available replacements pinch-hitting Jason Dubois for Glendon Rusch in the fourth inning.

I can’t blame Dusty, et al., for Matt Clement leaving the game early, but Rusch’s availability makes that not so bad a situation.

This guy has been an amazing find for the Cubs this season, pulling them out of jams with long innings in the rotation and out of the bullpen. He’s even kicked in a little on the offensive side.

He’s saved our bacon more than I eat bacon. And I eat a lot of bacon.

And Dusty, starting his quest to burn through his bench faster than I can go through a slab of bacon (damn, this post is nothing but a bunch of pork), pinch hits for Rusch with Jason Dubois, ending Rusch’s night after only 1.1 innings.

I was working at the time, so I didn’t even notice Kent Mercker had replaced Rusch for the beginning of the fifth inning.

So the rest of the game, I wondered, quite vociferously on occasion, why Macias continued to get at-bats when even Dubois would be a better option, and why pitchers such as Jon Leicester, Michael Wuertz and Todd Wellemeyer were getting in the game and not Mercker.

Heaping on... Dusty further proved his ability to waste resources when he pulled the tried-and-true, always-works-out-great, what-makes-NL baseball-special, double switch out of his bag of tricks (I miss American League baseball) in the 11th, bringing in Wellemeyer, the eventual loser, to pitch and bat fourth and putting Calvin Murray in leftfield, batting ninth.

Of course, this meant losing Moises Alou for the rest of the game... OUR CLEAN UP HITTER!

I’m not going to harp on this game much longer, so I’ll just leave it with this:

An at-bat from Calvin Murray and an at-bat from Ramon Martinez with the game on the line or an at-bat from EITHER Murray or Martinez and an at-bat from Alou with the game on the line... Which would you rather have?

You don’t have to answer that, because I’m moving on from this embarrassment because it gets worse.

September 8... When Livan Hernandez shut out the Cubs, I was slightly okay with it. It was the one loss to the Expos I could handle and still consider this team the front runner for the fourth-and-final NL playoff spot. And if you’re going to lose, lose big. Lose in a way which doesn’t hinder your chances at taking the rest of the series, which the Cubs did.

...and it was against their best pitcher, even though he doesn’t have a last name Carlton, Johnson or Young (dammit... you know I don’t mean former-Cub Anthony Young), he’s got a World Series ring and the ability to do that to any team.

Scott Downs, on the other hand, came into Wednesday’s game with a 7+ ERA on the season and a near 10 ERA in his last three starts.

And the Cubs couldn’t touch him. They got only six base runners all night, and the Expos erased three of those on double plays.

Greg Maddux pitched his butt off, but three of the five runs against him were unearned off of errors from Derrek Lee and Paul Bako (why does he have a regular gig again?) and then Mike Remlinger, “our most trusted reliever”, added another charged to Maddux by serving up a bomb to Termel Sledge (who the Expos stole from the Mariners for Chris Widger, a future backup catcher, who never became a backup catcher. You would have thought they would have known this since they traded him to the Expos in the first place).

Remlinger has now dealt a serious blow to a potential Cubs victory in consecutive games.

And despite the floundering of the bullpen, with or without Kyle “I’m gonna kick that fan’s ass” Farnsworth, Hendry lets the Florida Marlins snatch up David Weathers for the minimum over the rest of the season.

Good work, Jim.

I’m in way too bitter a place to go to work on Hendry right now. He’s done a great job this year, but this team didn’t need another backup outfielder or catcher. This team has needed bullpen help all year long.

The Cubs now enter the most difficult playoff run I can imagine, including a whole heck of a lot of games against Florida Marlins and practically no days off.

And now everybody is in this hunt, including the Cubs since they’re no longer the hunted anymore no matter how many ESPN pundits keep saying they’re the favorites.

They don't have the lead anymore, and they have absolutely no momentum.

They're behind! No more belligerent quotes from our manager brushing aside criticism because his team is "still on top of the Wild Card".

This team has the talent. They just need to start making better calls, before fantasy football is where I’ll have to divert my attention in October.

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