The All-Star Break isn’t at the halfway point of the season, though it’s close this year for the Cubs who have had like 17 games rained out so far this year.
The first half has been a real chore to try to watch.Â Every time the Cubs seem like they’re getting their shit together they go out of their way to prove that they really aren’t.Â Guys are getting hurt.Â Guys are playing hurt.Â Some guys are just plain dumb.
They didn’t hit so they fired their hitting coach.Â That never really works, and it certainly hasn’t in this instance.
They played 50 games without a real third baseman and that didn’t go so well.
They’ve played their left fielder at second base, their second baseman at third base, a designated hitter at third base–and now catcher, and a pitcher in left field.Â Forty percent of the state of Iowa has played at least one game for the Cubs, including a 30 year old rookie.
And through it all, people keep criticizing Lou Piniella for not “doing anything.”Â In fact, he’s tried just about everything.
Through it all, the Cubs are the living definition of mediocre.Â They are 43-43 and yet, only 3.5 games out of first place.Â It’s a far cry from where they were at last year’s All Star Break when they were 19 games over. 500 and had a 4.5 game lead.Â But pretty comparable to where they were in 2007 when they were 44-43 and 4.5 games behind the Brewers.
In other words, they’ve played 86 games and nothing’s even close to decided yet.
To listen to the ESPN dopes last night (I made it almost three innings) they were going to be eliminated if they lost the second game of the doubleheader, because the difference between being 44-42 and 1.5 back and being 43-43 and 3.5 back with a paltry 76 games left to play was HUGE!
The loss was frustrating, but not fatal.Â Frustrating because the teams they are currently chasing, St. Louis and Milwaukee, both suck.
The Cardinals started the season 17-7 and are 32-35 since.Â Some juggernaut.
The Brewers got off to a 26-15 start and are 19-28 since.
The Cubs have been hovering around .500, treading water since May 21, never more than three over, never more than two under.Â Just tumbling around in a big dryer full of suck.
And so we all kind of wait to see if they’re ever going to get it together.Â If they do, there’s still plenty of time.Â If they don’t?Â Hey, Jay Cutler and Bears report to camp in 18 days!
At least one Cub has put the first half of the season in perspective.
“You play 162 games for a reason. It doesn’t matter where you’re at right now. The Cardinals haven’t won jack.”
Who is that baseball sage?Â None other than the pride of Harbor City, California, Milton Bradley.
So lighten up.Â Enjoy the three days off.Â Watch the Home Run Derby tonight (with the sound off, Berman’s on the job again).Â Try to stomach the four hour long Albert Pujols’ jerkoff that is sure to be the All-Star Game on Tuesday night.
We haven’t even gotten to the interesting part of the season yet.Â Which is amazing, considering that the first “half” feels like it’s been going on for years.
Consider, the Cubs have already:
– Seen Milton Bradley get hurt stepping on first base in the first game of the season
– Played without Geovany Soto because of a shoulder he hurt as part of a three-catcher-platoon for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic
– Watched Alfonso Soriano get off to an uncommonly hot start: .284/.364/.591/.955, 7 HR, 14 RBI, first 21 games of the season.
– Lost E-ramis Ramirez for 11 games with a calf strain
– Saw Derrek Lee hit .189/.253/.284/.537 with 1 HR and 10 RBI in April.
– Listened to the fans inexplicably boo Glendon Rusch at the home opener.Â What the fuck was that for?
– Seen Bradley get kicked out of his Cubs’ debut.
– Had a Sun-Times writer claim Cubs’ fans are racist.Â Maybe he thinks Rusch is a Native American?
– Stashed a mildly talented Rule V pick, David Patton in the bullpen for no apparent reason.
– Lost E-ramis for 50 games when he tore his left shoulder off.
– Given Aaron Miles 123 at bats.Â 123!Â And he’s rewarded them with 32 total bases.Â To compare, Derrek Lee had 26 total bases on the last homestand.
– Used Bobby Scales at three different positions.
– Played Jake Fox at four.
– Pitched something called Jason Waddell.
– Traded for and then traded away Ryan Freel.
– Have a Sun-Times reporter decide to break the confidence of Ryan Dempster and make his infant daughter’s health situation “news.”
– Had Geovany Soto admit he flunked a drug test at the WBC for marijuana.
– Seen Carlos Zambrano throw an umpire out of a game.
– Seen Zambrano and Dempster do awful things to a Gatorade dispenser in the dugout.
– Had Lou Piniella send Bradley home early from a game against the White Sox.
– Seen the fans give Mark DeRosa three different standing ovations on three different days including once when he came to bat with a chance to tie and/or put the team ahead in the eighth inning.Â Oh, and did I mention he was playing for Cleveland at the time?
– Seen the fans give Sam Fuld a standing ovation before an at bat because he had four hits over three games before that.
– Witnessed Bradley lose two flyballs in the sun.
– Witnessed Bradley throw a ball into the stands when there were only two outs.
– Heard reports that a sale agreement has been made with the Ricketts family for nearly $900 million.
– Heard reports the next day that a sale agreement has been made with Marc Utay for $900 million.
– Figured out they can’t sell the same thing to two different people.
– Gone from a record eight All-Stars in 2008 to the bare minimum of one in 2009.
– Watched Ryan Dempster break his foot by trying to leap over a rather small railing.Â One fan enjoyed it more than others.
– Tried to figure out who the hell Jeff Baker is.
– Kicked the Brewers in the head, winning three of four from them at Wrigley, and sending them on a 3-8 tailspin to finish the first half.
– Gone into the break 3-4 in their last seven.Â Not exactly piling up the optimism.
The weekend series with the Cardinals had a lot of interesting occurances.
On Saturday, a botched throw on the front end of a potential double play and a botched call at the back end created a situation where both managers were on the field arguing different calls with different umpires.
The first game on Sunday turned when in the span of two hitters the Cardinals catcher couldn’t find home plate with his foot, and Pujols let a routine grounder roll through his legs.
Then last night we had the most interesting scene of a season full of them.
Angel Guzman gave up a lead-off single to Yadier Molina.Â The next batter, Joe Thurston bunted and Ryan Theriot dropped the throw to second.Â (Typical.)
Lou brought in Sean Marshall to pitch to Chris Duncan, who was pinch hitting for Adam Wainright, and The Genius sent Nick Stavinoha up to hit for Duncan.Â (Got it?)
Marshall walks Stavinoha to load the bases and bring up Brendan Ryan.
Lou comes out to take out Marshall and bring in Aaron Heilman.
But then he sends Marshall to left field to replace Alfonso Soriano.Â Now granted, Soriano’s not great in left, but using Marshall as a defensive upgrade?
Heilman strikes out Ryan.
Lou comes out again and brings Reed Johnson with him.Â Marshall comes back to the mound to face the two scheduled lefties and Johnson goes to left.Â A-ha!Â Oh, Lou you devious prankster, you.
The Genius comes out to argue about something.Â Most likely he just wants to be on TV so the ESPN guys can talk about how smart he is, instead of how smart Lou is.
Jarrett Hoffpauir hits for Skip Shumaker and strikes out.
Colby Rasmus flies to left, Reed falls down, but still catches the ball and the inning is over.
That was pretty cool, and not the first time I’ve seen a Cubs manager do it.Â But the ESPN crew acted like Lou was either a) cheating or b) insane.
Joe Morgan went as far to demand that the rule be changed so that once a pitcher moves to a new position that he can’t come back and pitch again.Â Why?Â Nobody’s sure.Â Putting Marshall in left was an advantage for the Cubs because they could use him again as a pitcher later, but it was a huge disadvantage in that they had a 6’7 galoot with the gracefulness of a newborn antelope in left field with a right handed batter in the box.Â One flyball near Marshall and it’s 7-2 Cardinals.
Steve Phillips got all confused when Marshall came back in to pitch and wondered if LaRussa could pinch hit for Shumaker.Â Well, of course he can, Steve, you dipshit, you can pinch hit for anybody at any time.Â Then, Steve seemed to figure out he wasn’t arguing the point he thought he was.Â He was really wondering if, once the Cardinals pinch hit for Shumaker, if Marshall had to pitch to the batter or if he could be relieved for?Â No.Â He’s a “new” pitcher again and he has to pitch to someone before he can be taken out.
Here’s what I wondered.Â Does that count as one relief appearance for Marshall or two?
I also wondered, what would happen in this situation.
Say Carlos Zambrano is pitching with a one run lead in the eighth, but with two outs there’s a runner on and a lefty batter coming up and Lou brings Marshall in to pitch to him.Â But he wants Zambrano to pitch to the next batter who is right handed, so he sends Carlos to left.Â Marshall gets his batter out, and Zambrano comes back to pitch the ninth and finishes the game and the Cubs win by that one run.Â Does Zambrano get the win and the save?
He was the pitcher of record when he left the mound.Â And he re-enters the game in a save situation.Â I think he does get both.Â So a note to the managers of Yovanni Gallardo and Dan Haren, if I need a win and a save in the last game of the season to win my fantasy league, I expect both of you to try to make this happen.
Lou’s manuever brought to my mind, memories of Les Lancaster playing left field for a batter during the Don Zimmer years.Â And sure enough, here’s the box score from June 13, 1990 when in the top of the seventh with the Cubs up 8-5 Lancaster loaded the bases with one out.Â Zimmer brought in Paul Assenmacher to replace Les, but sent Les to left to take over for Doug Dascenzo for THREE hitters.Â Assenmacher didn’t get anybody out.Â Daryl Boston singled in two runs, Mackey Sasser had an infield single to score a run and Assenmacher walked Gregg Jefferies.Â Lancaster came back in and retired the next two hitters, but the game was now tied at eight.Â The Cubs went on to lose 15-10 and Lancaster got a blown save (which happened while he was standing in left field), a loss and no balls hit his way in the outfield.
Dave Kaplan is reporting (so take it for what you will) that Tom Ricketts and his family have been told they they are the new owners of the Cubs.Â Of course, Kap first reported there’d be an announcement today and then he had to backtrack on that, so who knows?
This comes just hours after Bloomberg reports that the Cubs will file for bankruptcy themselves to keep them out of the Tribune’s bankruptcy procedure, in an effort to speed up the process.Â If this move is taken and it works, the Cubs sale could be ready for league approval within 20 business days of the filing.
Either way, the Cubs are that much closer to the most important, and most enjoyable, part of a sale.Â The firing of Crane Kenney.