“Everybody wants to win. But the fans know one team is going to win and one team’s going to lose even before they get to the ballpark. But to come with the spirit of having fun... of laughing, of joking, of making trickery, of booing an umpire, or cheering a star, all the emotions are there. And whoever designed the phrase ‘the agony of defeat’ and ‘the ecstasy of victory’ certainly covered it all. But, it’s a game. Enjoy it.” - Harry Caray, 4th Inning

Monday, May 08, 2006

Breaking News...

I can't and won't talk about this weekend. Until I turn into a babbling old man, I can't bring myself to say the same things over and over again. I said 'em once, and I don't need to repeat myself.

So, here's something: The Cubs recalled 2B Ryan Theriot from AAA Iowa. Theriot was one of the last guys cut from the club in Mesa, and given the lack of hype surrounding him, he'll likely be a mainstay in the Cubs lineup for years to come.

I'm semi-joking, but if there's a curse out there worse than being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, it has to be the curse of Cubs Hype. Just ask Kevin Orie, Pat Cline, Hee Seop Choi, and so on. In fact, please send me your favorite failed, over-hyped Cubs prospects from the past. We'll do a week-long retrospective. Maybe we can even have Jayson Stark's readers figure out how they're astrologically aligned by their birthdates and draft positions.... or not. (And, see Carlos Zambrano, Dontrelle Willis, Ronny Cedeno, Sean Marshall for the corollary. Don't kill me for putting these guys in the hall of fame already, but thus far: no hype = big league results).

Anyway, Ryan "The Riot" Theriot will likely sit on the bench while Neifi, Hairston and Walker continue the merry-go-round of misery. I have no idea who they sent down, but it was probably Michael "The Answer" Restovich; I'm sure he really enjoyed his stay on the pine. Speaking of minor leaguers, thanks to an email from Cubs.com, I saw that West Tenn. AA farmhand 1B Micah Hoffpauir is having a heck of a start to the season leading the Diamond Jaxx with seven homers and 22 RBIs in his first 28 games. I guess I can understand the hesitation in calling him up since Baker requires all his regulars to be AARP eligible. Recalling him would make too much sense.

And finally, (we've gotten the grisly stuff out of the way, here's some fluff to end the post on a high note), Kerry Wood returned to the mound with an actual baseball in hand. Yup, looks like he left the towel in the clubhouse and mowed down those Class A hitters with authority. He hit '97' on the radar gun, and fanned 12 with no walks. THAT is a great sign, in all seriousness. I realize there is a better than incredible chance that these hitters were swinging at everything, and Wood couldn't have walked anyone if he tried, but that is legitimately encouraging.

As for Prior, I believe he was sighted at a motel in Omaha with Elvis Presley.

-Fletch

Friday, May 05, 2006

Gee, is it getting toasty in here?

Last night, I was disappointed and relieved to see that DIRECTV was not carrying the Cubs game in any capacity. It was one of those nights when both teams were being televised on their local broadcast partners, of which, usually, DIRECTV has no part of: in most cases this is Arizona, Philadelphia and San Diego. In any event, I'd say the Cubs picked a good night to hit up their friends at WCIU.

I was hoping for a Marshall-esque performance from Rich Hill, but I wouldn't have bet too much on it. So from now on, I think we should start issuing fines to people who compare him to Barry Zito. I'm really glad they have the same curveball, but I don't think he knows what to do with it. Hill sure does know how to make excuses; I saw a few 'bites in the paper about how he went back to AAA and fixed his presence on the mound, and really got things together. That's good, I know there's nothing more that frightens hitters than a solid presence when you're leaving 88mph fastballs up in the zone. It actually reminded me of a priceless article someone wrote for the Sun-Times in the Spring of '99 about how Matt Karchner got back to basics and went back to the slide-step and it was a "revelation." Did I mention how much I still hate Matt Karchner?

Anyway, there really isn't much to say about last night. Our offense is anemic, and I really don't think a Jeff Conine or Kevin Millar is going to help matters any. As for the pitching: When you consider that Greg Maddux has to return to Earth at some point, our rotation is in tatters- I like Marshall, but he is still a rookie who has had his best starts against the NL's worst. I've all but given up on Zambrano, whose poor attitude and tendency to show up his teammates are worrisome habits becoming much more magnified under the scope of innefective pitching.

And this is all leading to the thesis of this blog-post: I think Baker's chair might be heating up. Look, I don't care who goes down- I know D-Lee is a big loss, but you know what, this team has GOT TO PLAY BETTER. Play with some fire! I've seen worse teams play with much more intensity. Obviously, Baker's Cubs have never heard of the Ewing Theory: When a team loses their biggest star, the other guys band together and play out of their mind to prove something. And ultimately, if a team is misfiring on all cylinders, you have to start at the top.

Call this the Trump "Apprentice" Theory: As team manager, you have to take responsibility for your workers.

Donald: "Dusty... do you know why you're in the board room? You are the "team manager" for a group that could not overcome any obsticles. You know, back when I was buying the most beautiful buildings in New York, and turning them into the most luxurious living spaces in the world, I had to overcome a lot. There were plenty of days when the people who worked for me acted like they didn't want to be there, and there were plenty of times when the people who I needed the most couldn't be there for me... But you know what? I found a way to make it work. And Dusty... you're not making it work. Every day your guys are phoning it in, which means you're phoning it in. Dusty... You're fired."

-Fletch

Thursday, May 04, 2006

You know what, you're right!

The subject line here refers to a quote by an alleged member of the Chicago Cubs baseball club:



"I'm just going to be one more guy in the rotation, trying to do my job," he
[Kerry Wood] said. "I'm not going to look at it by any means of being a savior.
It's almost ridiculous for people to think that."


You know what, Mr. Wood? That's right, it is absolutely ridiculous. Speaking on behalf of Cub Nation here, I think we're pretty worn out from counting on you all these years to be a savior. So thanks for being honest with us... Another sentence on how you fully expect to break down in a few months would have been great, but hey, you can't always get what you want.

My apologies for being out of the loop, but sometimes real life/work interferes with the world of CubsWatch. While I was away, it looks as though the ship known as the 2006 Chicago Cubs have sprung a few more leaks. Maybe it's time to inject a bit of reality into the situation: We're in a lot of trouble without D-Lee.

I know, I know: Duh.

A few thoughts:

a) I think Hendry did the right thing with Juan D'Vaughn Pierre (yes, actually his middle name) by holding off on an extension-- I know he brings value to the lineup, but am starting to believe, as others have said, he might be on the decline. I know I was expecting the 2003-2004 guy who hit in the mid .300s and had an OBP in the upper .300s; Both of those figures dropped in 2005, and in the 26 games played thus far, they have shrunk further. Let's see how he responds to the hot weather and middle months, but as of right now, it doesn't look like those numbers were an aberration. If we're in serious trouble at the deadline, he'll make fine tradebait. I know I'll miss watching the lil' guy at the plate with his lil' cap underneath the helmet... but, it might be the right move. (Jayson Stark, if you're out there, can you tell us if JP is the only MLB player EVER to mimick little leaguers with the hat under the helmet thing?)

b) Aramis. Get your bat going. Now.

c) Ronny. You're beautiful, kid. Don't go changing!

d) Murton. You too.

e) I read that Prior is way behind Wood and Miller, and actually suffered from food poisoning in Arizona just the other day. Obviously this sets him back even further. Quite honestly, I think Prior must have had Tommy John surgery and the Cubs are keeping him locked in their own Area 51, while they continue to put out these weird quasi-rehab rumors. This is seriously odd stuff. And Wade Miller's shoulder is tight. Great guys, really great.

I'm too aggravated by the lackadasical play and weak offense to really write more... but I'll leave you with this thought:

Is Glendon Rusch actually Edgar Stiles (24)?



-Fletch

Monday, May 01, 2006

The good, the bad and the ugly...

...or 'the good, the ugly, and the bad' if you're going in chronological order. To reset the weekend, we can start with Friday's game: Sharp starting pitching, great timely hitting, and a killer bullpen. Friday saw the 2006 Chicago Cubs playing to their potential, the way they are capable... with some great breaks. Let's face it, every team needs them. No need to dwell on Friday, it was very nice.

Saturday. Bloody Saturday.

I'm an emotional Cubs fan, and have broken things watching them play. I wish I could have kept a log of the things in my apartment that didn't survive Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS. This Saturday, however, nothing was broken. Few curse words were uttered. My blood pressure didn't do anything crazy. Simply because I knew it was coming, and once the bleeding started, I was hoping for the worst kind of blood-bath, making it impossible for the Cubs to allow Rusch another start.

Certain pitchers become that guy... Estes in 2003, Trachsel in 1999 (and again in 2000), when despite their past achievements and record, it becomes blatantly obvious (to everyone except management) that they can't hack it.

Let's cut our losses. Eat the contract, get rid of Rusch. He obviously sat on the couch all winter and did not come to camp ready to play. Lefties are NOT helpful if they can't get anyone out. And warning track fly-balls are not my idea of "getting people out." Excuse me for thinking we learned that lesson with Felix Heredia. I know management loves the idea of having a lefty in the rotation, and we already have one, who despite never pitching above AA, is having a pretty decent rookie campaign. I'm not terribly wild about the idea of recalling Rich Hill (as the papers have indicated), who, despite a Zito-like curve seems to be one pitch shy of a complete arsenal. But, fine, I'll take him over Rusch. I'll take Hill's mother over Rusch. Open up the yellow pages and pick a name. I'm done with this guy.

More troubling, however, is Zambrano. Now I'm not sure if I was right about O'Brien and his comments... have the Cubs turned him into mush? When I read Dusty Baker begging for the old Zambrano back, I think I may have been wrong in my previous analysis. I can't speculate on what it is they did to him, or if they did anything! I'm still seeing him stomp around the mound and shatter bats! My fear is that there was a whole documentary made about this, like Metallica's Some Kind of Monster, where we watch Carlos go through intensive psychotherapy over this past winter. He has a few good cries, goes and hugs Barry Bonds... or, he pulls a Pedro Cerrano circa Major League 2 and becomes a total softy who meditates and hugs people he doesn't know.

Look, I don't know, and I've run out of bad movies and nightmarish scenarios. But they need to figure this out. Find a guy who deprograms people in cults and have him take Carlos into the woods for a week. Frankly, I think we've seen stranger trips to the DL.

Bottom line: The Brewers always play us tough, but this was bad. This was 1999-2000 bad, and I haven't even mentioned David Aardsma or Will Ohman (Isn't it funny how neither of the guys we got for Hawkins can pitch?!) If I were Hendry, I'd cut Rusch and call up Jae Kuk Ryu. The guy was battling Marshall for a spot in the rotation in spring, and probably is ready to pitch in the bigs. As for the rest... Well... IT AIN'T OVER YET!!

TODAY'S FORGOTTEN CUB OF THE PAST:

JULIO ZULETA
















-Fletch