I didn’t allow myself to get worked up over the final score last night. After all, winning the game was not the object of the drill. Oh, winning was AN object alright, but it wasn’t THE object.
No, I’d say the object of last night’s drill at Shea Stadium was threefold:
1. Provide rest to those who would benefit from rest;
2. Provide playing time to those who would benefit from additional playing time;
3. Provide performance information for evaluation and improvement of performance.
Let’s review these three objectives:
1. Beneficial rest – I’m thinking of regular or semi-regular players here, like Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez, Jim Edmonds, Geovany Soto, Rich Harden, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood.
This objective was achieved. All the players listed sat out last night’s game.
2. Beneficial playing time – These are the players who Lou and his staff feel need improvement in a specific aspect of play, i.e., hitting, fielding or pitching. I’m thinking Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Ronny Cedeno, Micah Hoffpauir, Casey McGehee, Daryle Ward, Koyie Hill, Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin, Kevin Hart, and Angel Guzman.
This objective was achieved. All these players got additional playing time.
3. Performance evaluation, adjustments and lessons learned – Since none of the Cubs are batting 1.000, and since the Cubs are not going to win 162 games this year, there is room for improvement. I’ve never been a prefessional athlete, baseball player or coach, so my observations and opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. But some trends appear to be obvious.
Positive trends: Had Lou pulled Sean Marshall after 4 innings as originally announced, the overall evaluation might have seemed rosier. In the 5th inning Marshall’s situation deteriorated. He hit a batsman, gave up a weird infield single, walked a batter and then allowed a 2 run single. Still, he completed 5 innings with 6 Ks, 2 BBs, 3 hits and 2 runs allowed. I’m sure Sean and his coaches learned things which will help him in the future.
I’d like to see Kosuke Fukudome get 4 hits every game with multiples for extra bases. But, as Lou says, “That ain’t gonna happen”. Last night Fuku had 2 hits in 4 at bats, including an RBI double and a single. So he batted .500 for the evening and that’s pretty good.
Historically, Reed Johnson does well against Johan Santana. Last night was no exception. He drew a walk and was 2 for 3 officially with 2 singles and 1 RBI. His successful hitting vs. Johan Santana continues unabated.
Downward trends: Chad Gaugin returned to the mound after an absence and received a rude welcome. He faced 5 batters and got 1 out. He allowed 4 consecutive hits and made one “ill-advised” throwing error (an error in judgement). I think Chad would agree that this was not the performance he had hoped for.
The most disappointing performance last night, in terms of actual or potential improvement, was, in my humble opinion, that of Alfonso Soriano. He was 0 for 4 at the plate and his fielding was lackadaisical. Maybe the lackadaisical part is just a misperception on my part. I hope so.
But if I compare the fieldwork of Alfonso to that of, say, Kosuke, for example, the difference in attitude and approach seems clear. Kosuke’s defensive play is focused, concentrated, crisp, intense and effective. Alfonso’s performance tonight seemed, in comparison, to be unfocused, disinterested, mushy and lacking in spirit.
My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that Soriano’s situation is psychological. Either he thinks he should have been given a rest with the other regulars tonight, and so his heart wasn’t in it; or his performance level is, in his mind’s eye, “good enough”, so no improvement is required. And when he bangs one of his extra base hits, or demonstrates that cannon of an arm in a crunch situation, it’s hard to argue.
Still, my perception is that Alfonso has an attitude thing which is limiting his effectiveness. I didn’t break it, and I can’t fix it.
So, to summarize, the Cubs accomplished their 3 major objectives last night.
Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.