I know that we all want to move on as quick as we possibly can but I want to take a two part series to vent and reflect about the season and post season that was. It might certainly be therapeutic. I would encourage you as readers of the site to take a moment to add your comments, venting and remembering over the next two weeks. Feel free to jump in on the comments page and add your two cents. It is always interesting to hear other people’s views and reminds us that other people are reading and tracking with what we write. This week I will write reflective ranting about the postseason…maybe I will leave Dick Stockton alone (Although in the final game he referred to Doug David as Ron Davis)…and maybe I will not. But this is my therapy, I will rant and I would encourage you do so as well. Next week I will write about my memories from this season, good and bad. I would like to hear yours as well next week. The Cubs came a long way this season, I’m not talking one season to the next, I’m talking opening day to end. Trivia question: Who was the first reliever that the Cubs called in from the bullpen this year? Try Neal Cotts….remember?
There were many mind numbing things from the playoffs that tell me that the team might need to do some big retooling this off season. I don’t think the problem was merely a failure to gel.
I mentioned this before, but for days and days prior to the beginning of the Arizona series against the D-Backs I heard expert after expert talking about how making Brandon Webb work was an absolute necessity in order to even have a chance of beating him. Am I wrong? Did you not hear that exact scouting report numerous times for days leading up to the series? So it almost made me drive my car into a pole when Alfonso Soriano swung at the first pitch to begin the series. What would get through to him? I am pretty sure that the Cubs know that he cannot be their leadoff hitter next year. On Comcast, following their elimination, the host asked Dan Plesac whether Alfonso Soriano, Ryan Theriot, or someone else should/would lead off next year. Plesac said “It has to be B or C.” He’s right. I know everyone quotes Soriano’s lead off numbers versus other numbers, but talk to me about his post season numbers. Talk to me about why Joe Torre wound up dropping him in the line up during the playoffs. Talk to me about his numbers against the quality pitchers of rotations. We don’t need guys who get fat stats during the year, but can’t fill their role on a playoff team. It takes a team to win a World Series…guys filling their roles…just ask the Yankees. It seems to me that teams are being built smarter, out of necessity, than they used to be. It is not just getting the big stars.
How badly hurt was Soriano? How many times did he pull up short on balls that dropped in front of him? Why is he paralyzed once he steps onto the warning track? What does he think the wall will do to him, forcing him to be unable to move laterally along the wall to be in the proper position to catch a fly ball at the wall?
Did you scream when Soriano got his first hit in the playoffs and watched it fly instead of running? Winding up with a single instead of a double? Is he hurt or lazy?
The playoff series seemed to expose every weakness that we had going in. We have one strong starter, and one guy who is a good number two but had a career year and was not strong down the stretch. We have a three, who began the year as a four, and was hot and cold almost the entire second half. We have abysmal (and that is putting it mildly) defense in the outfield. Did Jim Hendry think that would not matter? We cannot bunt…thus forcing our manager to allow our pitchers to swing away in obvious bunting situations. We cannot hold runners on, and our catchers cannot throw runners out. Our leadoff hitter is a showboat who hops before catching fly balls, can kill fastballs but looks real bad on other pitches, has a killer arm but probably costs you more runs than he saves you. Which of these things surprised you? And if we all say we knew all of these things going in, why do we keep going in like that? Aren’t these things obvious? And one final note, why do we keep basing important parts of our team building strategy on reclamation projects?
It was nice to see the rise of Geovany Soto. Did everyone smile when Michael Barrett dropped the play at the plate in the Padres and Rockies play in game Monday night? It made me think, did he ever catch a play at the plate? There are rumblings that Soto was benched in game three because he called Ted Lilly out for calling him off so often during game two. I am pretty sure those rumors are false, but I didn’t hear Soto call him out. Is that true? What did he say? Compare Soto’s numbers from all of his previous years in the minors to this year. There is a staggering difference…almost suspiciously so. I’m not someone to accuse, but I do wonder how much the Soto of this year will be able to be relied on in the future.
With regards to the future, why do we have few developed played who are talented? Look at the Rockies and D-Backs and Indians and even the Phillies (Chase Utley and Cole Hamels and Ryan Howard??). National League teams that win seem to build smart teams from within their system. Think about this, who is the NL Central front runner for next year. If the Brewers went out and shored up their bullpen, how would you answer that question? Probably the Cubs…but where are our young players. Why can’t our young guys do fundamental things well? Why does Felix Pie flail at the plate? Is there a systematic problem with development? Many times teams trade young talent to win at the moment, but how many of our younger guys are any good around the league? Maybe Dontrelle Willis, but not so much anymore. Jon Garland, but he improved in the White Sox system, there are no guarantees that we would have been able to develop him as well. I am probably missing some, but I can’t remember any. Why is that?
At this point some will bring up Ryan Theriot as a young prospect. He was great this year. However, he did fade at times in the end. Will he improve now that he has a full year under his belt, or have a sophomore slump? What do you think?
Did you know that, according to WSCR, the salaries for the nine D-Backs on the field when the game ended Saturday night was 14 million dollars? It seems to me like having less money makes you work harder and think more. Isn’t it refreshing to not have to hear as much about how economics of baseball are unfair, and so only some teams have a shot. Now we see that teams with smart GM’s who work hard and have a good plan have a shot…except for maybe in the AL East. But this could be changing as well. The Yankees are getting old, you know.
Any fan that thinks this series was lost when Zambrano was pulled in game one is mislead. Were the Cubs going to score any runs because Zambrano was removed from the game? The seventh would have been his last inning anyway. So it stood to reason that Marmol could do the same job as Zambrano in shutting them down. He didn’t and so there are questions. But don’t you think that looking at the offensive numbers throughout the series you would come to a realization that we were probably not going to score? Leaving Zambrano in does nothing to better our offensive numbers. It is apples and oranges. It didn’t work, but it makes sense.
On a side note:
If we get there next year. Don’t plan for game four in game one. We might not have a game four.
The response to the Zambrano thing gave me a realization that Terry Boers on WSCR hit the next day. Fans in Chicago always like to blame a manager as opposed to blaming a player. How is Lou supposed to fix the truth that the big money clutch guys drove in nobody and did not get on base? People say stupid things. One guy said that Lou lost the Cubs this series because he did not call a meeting after game one to yell at the guys for not playing better fundamental baseball. HUH? I bet that would have done it. The old “Guys you are getting paid millions of dollars to do your job. Which is to be a baseball player. And that is what you have been preparing and practicing for decades. And by the way, we are in the playoffs so you should try to do a good job now” speech. If these are the kind of players you have you will never win. Which, by the way, is why I am sick of hearing how much guys make as if salary is a guarantee for hits and performance. It assumes that the wealth allows guys to call on some reserve strength, or something, to make them more equipped to get a hit in a clutch situation. The guys who perform get paid more, but getting paid more does nothing to guarantee future performance. Do we think A-Ram should take AB’s more seriously and try harder than Ryan Theriot because he makes so much more money? Or would we hope that they are trying just as hard? We expect all of our guys to work hard, regardless of salary.
The other thing that is absolutely true of the Chicago fan, and maybe all fans, is that we never lost to a team that is better than us. I got so sick after the Bears lost to the Colts last year with everyone talking about how the Bears should have and could have won…but who was the better team? Yes, we could have played better, but we all knew who was the better team. Sometimes the lesser team pulls out an upset, but usually the better team wins. The Diamondbacks’ on paper roster does not look as good as ours. However, they won 90 games. The most in the NL and in a much harder division than the Cubs played in…they had three teams that could have made the playoffs up until Monday of playoff week. They also had beaten the Cubs 4 of 6 times. I know a big deal was made about the fact that the D-Backs were outscored by their opponents this year, but doesn’t that speak to strength as well as weakness? What must be working well in order to get 90 wins and still be outscored by your opponents. We were out pitched, out hit, out thought, out managed, out run, out hustled, out clutched, in every aspect out played. And maybe we should have seen it coming. Matt mentioned earlier this week, did you ever get a feeling of something magical and dominant from this team? I don’t think I did…even though I began to love them as a team and group of guys.
Please, please stop with the curses and one hundred years stuff. Do you realize that the 100 years does not make it any more likely that we will win ever. Every year is a new start and new chance to build a team strong enough to win. There is nothing random about it. There is no promise that eventually chance will determine that this is our year. 100 years means nothing about our chances…it just means that we have endured much misery. And curses are just bogus.
Why, why, why would Ted Lilly throw a fastball to Chris Young in that situation? It was something that EVERYONE knew was a bad idea, why do our guys think they defy baseball logic? And then to follow it up, why on Earth (That’s as harsh as I get) would Rich Hill begin game three by throwing the same Chris Young a fastball? I think the two balls passed in flight. Why would he ever be thrown a fastball in the series again? It is nice to be down a run one pitch into a must win game. It defies logic, but our guys seem to do that often.
On a good note, getting beaten so badly exposed the weaknesses of the team. I am pretty sure that the management team sees that there is much work to be done. Hopefully, they will do it.