Artist's Rendering of my Kitchen Table last night (without blue velvet)
Well, after another Cub Scout pitching effort last night, I'm actually happy. That's right, the title is no lie. I'm happy we lost, and I have a million and one reasons to find relief and (hopeful) vindication despite the ESPN-broadcast hit parade.
Last night I had two options for TV viewing: the Cubs on ESPN, or that heavily-hyped, glossy FOX production "Prison Break." It seemed like a tough call, but in reality, watching either programme felt like watching the same thing: the efforts of a group of people to escape their confinements and absolve their names of all wrongdoing.
This happened last night, not only in the form of FOX, but in the performance of our team and their resultant roster moves and transactions in the hours that followed.
(It's perhaps pertinent to note that I spent most of my evening watching the claptrap on FOX, relying on periodic channel changes to witness the carnage.)
Having made this cutesy analogy, it's about time I actually get around to talking about what I wanted to talk about.
The Cubs have, in their wisdom (said without a pinch of sarcasm), begun to fly the white flag high from the Wrigley rafters, and I couldn't be more pleased. It's a much-needed change of perspective, and it actually has a positive connotation as opposed to the negativity of our mid-August postseason chase. The fact that it slipped away much like the beer in my glass was irrelevant; it was more the hope and the prayer that they could climb back into it, and as each loss piled up, that hope turned to bitterness and vitriol (at least in my case, for I can only speak for myself, despite constant efforts to the contrary). Now, having acknowledged the reality of our season's end, we can be optimistic and positive about the direction of our team, because they've made some ballsy moves in the last few days.
So, where to begin?
- Kerry Wood taking season-ending surgery
This is a smart move, as the front office has obviously realized the outcome of our season. Hopefully the extended rest until Spring Training 2006 (he goes under the knife Wednesday morning) will enable him to rehab sufficiently and take good enough care of himself in order to come back strong in '06. That sounds ominously like a broken record, because we've harboured such hopes over the course of several post-surgery or post-injury seasons, but there's no reason to feel pessimistic about this decision.
In addition to this, he was effective as a hard-throwing 8th-Inning reliever, much like Borowski has become for his new club, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (21 IP, 0 ER for TBay). His power style was well suited to that holding relief role, but it would obviously be better all round to get him back into the starting rotation that will hopefully remain intact through next year.
- Nomar @ 3rd Base, Cedeno to become SS?
On a long-term scale, I'm not sure whether this would work, but it has been said before many times that Cedeno is the "shortstop of the future." Well now, hopefully he'll be the shortstop of the present, given the injury to Ramirez. While his condition is improving (the likelihood of him coming back after 15 days is quite high), when he's healthy again, Cedeno should still get some regular time.
I've heard talk about the Braves releasing Rafael Furcal in the off-season given the progress of Wilson Betemit. Why do I mention this? Simply because he might be available, the Cubs have been tentatively linked with him on that ambiguous "interested" scale, and he could be a good lead-off man/SS etc etc. That shouldn't happen (and probably won't), so Cedeno is the way to go.
Either way, given the departure of Hollandsworth, Dusty will be forced to play his hand (and quite rightly so, in my opinion) to give some playing time to the new guys. This quote from Dusty really pissed me off:
Baker may have a different opinion on what the fan base wants. "We owe it to ourselves and to our fans to put the best team on the field and try to win," Baker said. That suggests kids like Cedeno and Murton won't play on a regular basis.
"It's too early for me," Baker said. "I haven't been in this position in years. You still owe your best to the team and to the fans and to everybody, for now."Eventually you're going to have to start thinking about that, but right now we plan to end up the best we can. We owe it to ourselves, to the paying customers and out of respect for the game."
That attitude really angers me, because there is little to no proof that putting out guys like Neifi, Patterson and Macias on a regular basis would be any more effective than giving Murton, Cedeno, Fontenot, McClain, anyone a shot. That opinion displays his vision, and I feel it's hopelessly out-of-touch: the fans are paying to see their team develop, not repeat old/failing tricks. The fans are now coming in the hopes of seeing the Cubs of the future, and not to watch aging hands trot out and do little to improve the team.
I fully acknowledge that:
a. my opinion is horribly negative
b. I should be called out for it by a number of readers
c. it's hackneyed and I've been repeating it for ages
but still, it's the way our management makes me feel at times. It's time to acknowledge our position, something we've obviously done in dealing Lawton and Hollandsworth as well as letting Wood get fixed up (moves that have undoubtedly cleared up our LF platoon and our bullpen), and so let's not make the same mistake and call up minor-leaguers to replace them on the bench. It's poor planning and detrimental to the well-being and mindsets of our promising prospects. But I digress, and I know, my song is getting old, so I'll move on.
- Todd Walker rumours
Like Lazlo mentioned, I would not like to see this happen. While we do have Neifi, Walker should still be figuring prominently in our future plans (Neifi to a lesser degree), and if Cedeno could fill the SS gap for a period of time to get his feet underneath him, Walker and Neifi would be formidable in a rotation at 2B.
Using the following rotation:
2B - Neifi/Walker
SS - Cedeno/Neifi/Nomar
you ensure yourself the versatility of having good guys on the bench to PH or PR, while having a solid infield. Give it a shot Dusty, I'm sure you will in time.
- Aramis Ramirez' injury
This was just the footnote to our roster shuffling, and if anything, it helped give the Front Office enough clarity to see our departure from the Wild Card race, and it helped to precipate the flurry of transactions, AAA callups and designations that our team should have made. He'll be back, and he'll be fine, so there's not much more to say on this one.
- Jerome Williams loves the Walk
King Rib still has some way to go. After a promising start to his Wrigley life, he's become quite a big fan of the Bases on Balls. His control is a little shaky, but it would be reactionary to yank him from the rotation. The debacle last night was just an illustration of the problem at large; in his last 6 starts, BBQ has posted the following numbers:
1-4, 30 IP, 19 ER, 5 HR, 18 BB, 20 K
It's not terrible, but it points to a larger problem in the pitching staff at the moment: the overall lack of control.
As a team, we've thrown 17 walks in our last 5 games, which seems high to me (someone correct me if I'm wrong). I don't think it's something we should be overly concerned about, but it's just another interesting stat to use as a scapegoat for our recent play.
- Trading Todd Hollandsworth to the Braves
Ok, so I'm a little sad to see him go. Who shall I poke fun at now? (Joking)
In seriousness, he was never terrible, but the Braves have snagged him I guess to add a little more veteran experience and muscle to their youngish outfield going into the postseason. Another old head might help out their Francoeurs and their McCanns, but who knows.
It definitely presented the whitest of white flags from our Cubbies, and I'm glad his departure will pave the way for our younger guys to taste the field and develop their major league skills in a major league environment.
You can say what you want about Hollandsworth, and countless many undoubtedly will. Yes, Lazlo, I do remember his .318 performance last season (57 games) on the coattails of Sosa and co. It was his best "season" since 2001 with the Rockies, where he began the year hitting .368 in 33 games before leaving the field for good that year.
He's a typical journeyman despite not having journeyed very far: he's experienced little in the way of serious fanfare during his time in the majors (11 years), but has experienced more than his share of bad luck. The numbers, unfortunately, do not lie:
This year is the first year since 1997 that he's managed more than 105 games due to various leg injuries. The last time he did, his numbers weren't much different:
73-296 (.247), 4 HR, 31 RBI, 17 BB, 60 K
.286 OBP, .368 SLG
68-268 (.254), 5 HR, 35 RBI, 18 BB, 53 K
.301 OBP, .388 SLG
I do give him all the credit in the world for his hustling approach and his effort (at times it was his effort to make the diving grabs at Coors Field that ended up with him on the DL with a litany of injuries), and his defense was always more than you could have hoped for (Career .983 FPCT, 23 Errors in 780 games), but I am honestly happy to see him go. It paves the way for a more "new school" lineup, and one that will hopefully foster great performances like so many other teams have experienced by throwing their rookies into holes caused by injury, only to watch them flourish:
Brian McCann, C - ATL
Jeff Francoeur, OF - ATL
Robinson Cano, 2B - NYY
Ryan Howard, 1B - PHI
John Rodriguez, OF - STL
Victor Diaz, OF - NYM
to name but a few. If you count guys who had limited MLB experience last season but have seen significant playing time this year, the list expands. Regardless, I'm just flogging a dead horse at this point.
I will say this: Farewell Hollandsworth, thanks for yr efforts, and best of luck in Atlanta.
LAD: RHP Brad Penny • 6-8, 3.75 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 1.13 ERA in 2005 vs. CHC
CHC: RHP Mark Prior • 9-5, 3.68 ERA in 2005 • 0-0, 4.26 ERA in 2004 vs. LAD
One last message:
Dear Wolf Blitzer,
Please, stop doing the Situation Room. It's crap, there's way too much going on (as if that wasn't already true of 24-hour news networks), and you can't handle it. Improvisation isn't your strong point, and showing us German news feeds is not impressive in the slightest (especially considering that we have no idea what they're saying).