Tag Archives: baseball

A Solution for the Cubs Offense

The Cubs offense is lousy. Awful. Terrible. Deplorable. Poo-poo stinky.

Call it what you want, but these guys aren’t hitting. No matter the combo Lou puts into the game, runs aren’t crossing the plate. When Xavier Nady is your best offensive player at any stretch, and people are clamoring to get Chad Tracy back up with the big boy club…well, things are not exactly going as planned.

But I have a solution — a tried and true method that has worked for baseball players in the past. Disgraced, down on their hitting former stars have rediscovered their power stroke, and those formerly unemployed have found work once more.

Beer league softball.

Come on, Cubs! My softball team, the Banzai Legends, could use a practice game…and you guys need to learn how to hit again. It worked for Eric Byrnes! It can work for you, too!

Lou? Hendry? Give me a call. I’ll set up a time for a practice field. It can be on your off day! Or, if you’re going to bench all of your stars on a regular basis, I guess it could be any day. I even promise to pitch meatballs. Let’s make this happen! I’m tired of watching 1-and 2-run outbursts against pitchers with ERAs higher than Starlin Castro’s age. It’ll fix you guys! And if it doesn’t, well…I’d be willing to strike out 50 times in 50 games, strand runners, and fundamentally hit poorly for WELL less than you’re paying the guys up there on the team now. And my facial hair is better than Fontenot’s.

I’m just here to help, guys. We’ve all learned so far this year that you need somebody with some kind of fresh idea to fix things.


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Darlin’, Indeed

Starlin Castro’s first night in the big leagues set his already lofty expectations at a new high for me.

After the embarrassment in Pittsburgh, I was ready to write the season off. I’m an optimist, and I will root for my Cubs to the very end, but a 10-run loss to complete a sweep at the hands of a perennial doormat didn’t do much to give me confidence that this club was going to give me much reason to cheer late in the season. The team simply didn’t appear to care in that game…and if they didn’t care, I figured, why should I? So, I’d begun the process of emotionally extracting myself from 2010. Then the Shortstop Jesus got the call.

I’ll say this about Starlin Castro’s expectations for the early part of his career: they were unfair. Spring training’s talks about him coming in, taking over the starting SS job at 19-20, being a huge piece to the puzzle for this season…all seemed like too big a job for someone who was born when I was in the third grade. I’ve seen the Pie and Pattersons of the world touted in the same way, and seen them never reach a sliver of the potential they supposedly had; never come close to matching expectations placed on them in a Cubs uniform. Everyone assumed Castro was different…his skills, his maturity, his dang smile…they all just pointed to big league success right from the start.

I was relieved to see him begin the year in the minors, though, because those other guys were needlessly rushed in. Some time to develop his game in AA seemed like a great idea. But the kid kept hitting. And kept hitting. And the Cubs kept losing. And kept losing. And, in the process, losing my emotional investment.

Dictionary.com defines ‘darling’ as “very dear; dearly loved; favorite; cherished”, and that’s exactly where Darlin’ Starlin put the Cubs, and himself, back into my heart once again. His performance last night more than exceeded expectations for himself, and renewed my expectations for this team. His play seemed to elevate everyone around him, and made my following-along-on-text-score-updates-alone self absolutely giddy.

I know it was one game, and that you can’t make too much of just one game’s performance. I remember Tuffy’s first game, too. But there’s just something about this kid that screams ‘he’s different’, that says he’s not only going to be around for a long time, but going to be a difference-maker for as long as he’s here.

I know he’s made a believer out of me…in himself, and once again, this team.

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Why the Cubs Will Make the Playoffs

I’m nothing if not an eternal optimist. I always try to see the bright side of things, even if it doesn’t necessarily make a whole lot of sense. For whatever reason, I’d rather be disappointed in the end while enjoying the ride than set low expectations and be pleasantly surprised. After years of Cubs fandom, you’d think I would know better.

But here I am, sucked in once again, as I sit and look at the Chicago Cubs after April of 2010. The record is bleh. The bullpen has been an expletive. The offense has been inconsistent. Lou has slept a lot. But, I still believe. And I’ll just go ahead and give in to the optimism and make a bold prediction: this team, the 2010 Chicago Cubs, will make the playoffs. And here’s why.

1. The WHOLE offense has not been inconsistent

Theriot has been hitting. Marlon Byrd has been so far ahead of last year’s MB, he should be named MB2.0 because of his significant upgrade. Fontenot has hit again this year. Soriano has hit again this year. Soto has hit again this year. Fukudome has had a typical strong April, but there’s always hope he’ll carry through all year. Colvin has been strong. Basically, the entire offense has hit well this year so far…with the exception of the heart of the lineup (and of the team), DLee and Aramis Ramirez.

But these guys WILL hit. Lee has historically started slow, and Ramirez is just too good a hitter to continue his slump for too long. All of these scoring opportunities and men LOB they’re squandering so far will become RBIs. These close losses will become W’s. And the offense will provide up the momentum needed to get this team to the postseason.

But what about the bullpen? The offense not scoring runs hasn’t been the ONLY culprit so far! The bullpen has been bad. Baaaaaaaad. Well…

2. The bullpen WILL improve.

They can’t get much worse. And, as young and inexperienced as they are, they will learn from their mistakes. Zambrano is a stabilizing force for the bullpen (and who would have ever considered ‘Zambrano’ and ‘stable’ in the same sentence?), but he won’t be in the pen forever. My gut thinks the team hopes Gorz will pitch well enough to garner a decent, experienced right-handed reliever through a trade, allowing Z to slide back into the rotation. Until then, he offers experience in an area that there really is none.

For most of these guys, this was their first April pitching to big league hitters. They’ll take this experience, these lumps and knocks and failures, and improve as the season progresses. Their June through September will look much better than their April, and will keep them in enough games to play into October.

3. Lou WILL wake up.

I’ve covered this in a previous post, but I will briefly mention it here: Lou has to spark this team. Get thrown out of a game…bump an umpire…challenge Ozzie to a cage match…something. And I think he will. His response to the Fontenot bunting question seemed to show a little fire that he really hasn’t shown this season. Rest assured, Lou will snap, he’ll do something that’s vintage Lou, and the Cubs WILL respond. If this is to be Lou’s last year in Chicago, at least he’ll go out with a playoff appearance.

Once we get to the playoffs? Probably a first round sweep. Again. But everybody’s optimism has to have a limit SOMEWHERE…until then, I’m planning on enjoying the ride of optimistic expectations for this team. I invite you all to join me.

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Dont Lose Heart: How to Fix the Cubs

<div class="wp-caption alignnone" style="width: 560px"Whatcha gonna do when the Cubs run wild on you?

Whatcha gonna do when the Cubs run wild on you?

This is one of my least favorite Cubs teams in quite some time.

There have been some stinkers in recent memory, sure. But from a bloated payroll, expected superstar, psychological makeup of the team standpoint, this one has let me down in a huge way.

Who knew that to this point that Silva would be a) the most dominant Carlos and b) the most sane? Who knew Aramis would fall into a hole at the plate he has no signs of climbing out of? Who knew the bullpen would be so impressively atrocious? (OK, everybody knew that. But I digress.) The fact is, this team has been a major disappointment so far, and it looks like this will be a long summer on the North Side.

The last time I felt this way was in early 2007. Soriano was a big offseason splash, Lou had just come aboard to manage, the pitching staff was solid, the offense looked pretty good…and…

Blah. Bad start.

It wasn’t so much a direct result of the play on the field. I’ve seen many a year where the Cubs play on the field was horrible. My dislike for that team in early 2007 had the same cause as my dislike for this team here in 2010.

They have no heart. They play with no fire, with no pride.

Now, I’m not exactly a good player by any stretch of the imagination, but I play hard. I run out every fly ball. I leg out singles into doubles. I give everything I can when I’m playing (beer league softball now that I’m a codger) because I love the game, I cherish the game, and I take pride in playing the game to the best of my abilities. Its not about pressing; its about giving it my best.

This team does not do that. The team in early 2007 didn’t, either.

But then something happened, and the team woke up.

Lou woke up.

Lou’s famous tirade on June 2 was, in my opinion, the turning point of that season and carried over to 08. The team started PLAYING, and back to back division titles was the reward. Lou breathed life into the team by going out and showing them he believed in them by exploding.

This team needs Piniellamania back.

Lou has got to show some fire. He’s got to show some heart. He needs to angrily trudge out of the dugout at a snail’s pace and kick some dirt on somebody, being careful not to dislocate a hip. He needs to yell, spraying CB Bucknor in the face with profanity-laced saliva. He needs to pull up the bases, and bring them back to the dugout to explain to Theriot what they’re on the field for. He needs to get himself suspended for at least as long as it would take the bullpen to blow 5 games. He needs to rip off his shirt, point to all of his little Piniellamaniacs, and flex while “Real American” blares over the Wrigley PA. SOMETHING.

He needs to show he CARES. His team will follow suit. They proved that in 2007. They can prove it again in 2010.

And if they can start putting their heart back into baseball, I can start putting my heart back into rooting unabashedly for them.

(Special thanks to @plamorte for the Piniellamania pic.)

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