Gut und Evil (I dont know "evil" in German)
Two fans from the US/Ghana game Thursdaz. Guess which one I blame for the loss?
Dufresne shuts down Cubs
Who the heck is Dufresne? Well that was Tim Robbins character in one of my favorite movies of all time - The Shawshank Redemption
. Why does Astros starter Andy Pettitte remind me of him? Well he is able to crawl through 500 yards of foul smelling sewage and come out clean on the other side.
For my memory I cannot come up with another pitcher that consistently wins uglier than he does. Every count seems to have three balls, every inning there are baserunners, but in the end very few crooked numbers go up on the scoreboard. I remember this habit from his playoff days with the Yankees. He is definitely one guy whose stats look better than the performance.
Give the man credit though, he fails to compromise and give a batter a fat pitch to hit. He got the outs when he needed and helped propel the Astros to a 9-2 in the series opener. Of course, facing this lineup I would only give up 4 runs, so a major league pitcher is expected to do better. Lets just hope the Cubs can repeat the outcome of the Reds series where they laid an egg in game one and won the rest of them.
Arguing for Baker
I urge everyone to head over to Al Yellon's blog
and read his argument for keeping Baker as the Cubs manager. Like all of Al's posts it is well thought out and he makes good points. His main argument for keeping Baker is that he has some sage like wisdom about baseball and that we really do not have a suitable replacement. Going half a season with an interim manager and then reloading next year does not smell of progress for a team who is bordering on going a century without a title.
Good arguments, but I just cannot agree with all of them. Last night's lineup was the main reason why I think Baker should be let go. He decided to bat Neifi and his obscenely low OBP in the second hole. It is debatable that Neifi should even be on a major league roster let alone batting second. All things created, the greatest impact you can have on runs crossing the plate is the OBP at the top of the order (prime example being the Cubs over the last two seasons). Putting Perez up there coupled with Pierre's struggles just kills the offense.
Larger point is that these sorts of decisions do not happen in isolation. He constantly puts out lineup combinations that baffle the mind. He designs his roster with marginal players who would probably not be on any other roster. He consistently over manages a game doing unneeded double switches and loses baserunners by trying to make things happen. In addition the Cubs have been the worst fundamental team in baseball over the last couple of years - that falls on the manager.
While I think Al makes good points about Baker, I think that his argument about a blank interim manager is the best. I am not sure any fan wants that. However, that does not mean we should retain him for next season. To be frank, I just don't think he is a good major league manager. I hope he is not retained for next season.
The Sound of Silence
With a headline like that one might expect the first line to be "Hello Darkness my Old Friend", but there is no darkness in Cub-land today - well minus the record, the injuries, the manager and the presence of Neifi. After dropping the first game of a four game set to the Redlegs in uninspired, apathetic fashion the Cubs came roaring back to win the final three.
What does the Sound of Silence refer to then? It will be the sounds of my co-workers today. Being a vocal Cub fan living in Cincinnati I hear plenty of trash talk from the Reds fans in the office after they beat the Cubs. Actually, I don't think 75% of these people actually like the Reds, they just like beating a man while he is down. Nice thing is that most of these jokers will keep their mouths shut today.
Speaking of talking trash, the fans at the stadium were about as brutal towards me in my jerseys as I can remember during my five years living here. Walking out of the stadium after the Thursday loss, I had people telling me to get the f**k out of their stadium. I also heard the phrase "Cubs Suck" about 30 times while walking to the car. Give the Pete Rose loving crowd some success and it goes straight to their head.
Of course that is when the crowd actually shows up. The Reds came back to town in first place after polishing off a 7-2 road trip all against Central foes. Talk show radio hosts and newspaper men were looking for large crowds and the people of Cincinnati showed their true colors - that is this has become a bad, bad baseball town. They were outdrawn by Jimmy Buffett on Thursday, got a sell out on Friday due only to firework night, and then drew well under compacity for the weekend. Saturday and Sunday's crowd was probably 50/50 in terms of Cub fans and we were definitely more vocal. I attended Sunday's game with a friend and commented that the crowd looked like a college basketball game played on a neutral court - behind the Reds dugout was all red and it was all blue behind the Cubs dugout.
The middle games were pretty exciting while the first and last were laughers. Below are some bullet style observations from a long weekend of baseball:
- I wore a different jersey to each game and the blue ones that Zambrano always wears was the only one that took a loss. I might have to kick it out of the rotation.
- I caught my first foul ball on Saturday (I do have another one from an OF throwing it in the stands when I was 12). I was sitting behind home plate and Walker rocketed a ball back. It bounced off the facade of the press box and rebounded right into my waiting hand. I turned and gave it to my wife. We are now done keeping foul balls since we both have one and will give all future balls to young children until we have kids of our own. Nothing drives me more crazy than 40 year old men with gloves fighting for a 12 dollar baseball.
- That Walker AB was in the 7th right before he walked leading to Barrett's second grand slam of the season. That was a legitimate jump out of your seat moment. He just smashed that ball. Barrett is one of the few right handed hitters that seems to prefer the ball down in the zone. He just dropped the head of the bat on that one.
- Am I the only one that thinks Dempster is hurt? He only hits the high 80s on the gun and seems to have fallen in love with the slider. He is just not fooling anyone anymore.
- The game on Friday where the Cubs won by one run, the Reds had runners on third and no outs twice and failed to score (including the bases loaded situation in the ninth). I was happy to see the other team fail to execute for once.
- After Dempster walked in a run in the ninth, Aramis looked like a little leaguer in the field as he took off his glove and almost threw it to the ground in obvious frustration. That would have been an absolute stomach punch game if they would have lost.
- My buddy and I worked hard to put the reverse hex on Milton's no hitter. Of course seeing a no-hitter would have been cool in a way. In the end though I saw something even more rare than a major league no-hitter, I saw a Neifi homer.
- The homer was even after a Cedano walk!!
- The one time the Cubs actually could have used a double switch was on Friday and Baker did not even pull it off. It was obvious that Howry would have to pitch the end of the 7th and the 8th, but Baker stuck him right in the pitcher's spot to bat in the 8th. Of course, he took this opportunity to get his first major league hit. He should teach Pierre that fine opposite field stroke.
- Marmol looked real good in his first start. The Reds were off balance all day. Once he started getting that curve ball over in the third inning, he put the game on cruise control.
- I have noticed that Carlos is starting to throw his slider at 80 mph and not in the 88-89 range. This change of speed is really tying up the batters. Having that much difference between this pitch and his hard sinking fastball is really providing solid results over the last few starts.
I suppose that is all I can remember from this series. Lets hope we can keep this rolling into the Astros series.
Tuesday the Cubs lost, scored one run, and drafted a toolsy project outfielder considered by most a reach at #13 overall. The good news is, I'm leaving for Germany tomorrow, and I think the EU stand against torture includes a prohibition on televising Cubs games. If it doesn't, it should.
If you're curious what I'm up to over there, visit the aptly named Scott's World Cup Blog. There's not much there yet, but I'll be posting stories and pictures once I arrive in Berlin Friday and on through the rest of my trip. Till then, go Estados Unidos. Oh, and go Dusty (and take Hendry and MacPhail with you.) Ha. Sigh.