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Sunday

14

August 2011

38

COMMENTS

Game 120 – Picking Up the Pieces

Written by , Posted in General

Cubs 8, Braves 4

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Hit Parade  The Cubs put up 14 hits tonight.  Castro and Barney both had four, and Tyler Colvin had two – a triple and a double.  Even Campana got in on the action, with a hit in his only at-bat.  Looking back over that list of players, tonight was perhaps a glimpse of what many Cubs fans hope to see for years to come.  I won’t get ahead of myself, but it was a good night for the Cubs’ youth movement.  We’ll see if it lasts.
  • Starting Out on the Right Foot  Hey, look at that–Randy Wells got out of the 1st inning without giving up a run!  He did allow Dan Uggla to extend his now 33-game hitting streak, but that’s a minor thing compared to some of the deep holes he’s been digging for the Cubs in his early innings of late.
  • Calling in the Cavalry  Most of the Cubs’ relievers pitched pretty well tonight.  Ortiz and Russell each surrendered a run and a pair of hits–and Russell in particular had a rough night, loading the bases before Marmol came in for the save–but Samardzija, Marshall and Marmol all held the Braves scoreless and hitless.  Not a great overall night for the bullpen, but solid enough to hold on for the win.

What Went Wrong

  • No Free Passes  I realize that you never want to walk the lead-off hitter, but Dan Uggla’s at-bat to start the bottom of the 4th was still pretty frustrating.  He reached base every time he came up yesterday–including 2 homers–and he had a single in the first tonight.  So while his solo homer tonight didn’t do too much damage in the long run, it was enough at the time to tie up the game.  In fact, we weren’t able to retire him at all until the 7th.  All I’m saying is that the intentional walk can be a useful tool, and might be one we’d like to use sometimes against hitters as hot as Uggla.
  • No Need to Nitpick  There were other small miscues here and there–we left 9 runners on base, Marshall’s error at first–but I’m inclined ignore the little things with all that’s happened in the last day or so.  In light of the major off-the-field distractions, their performance on the field tonight was fairly admirable.

Game Notes

  • The Paul Sullivan Choir sings “Ding Dong Big Z is Dead”  I said this in the comments section from yesterday’s recap, but I’ll say it here again.  I for one am sorry to see what’s almost sure to be the end of Zambrano’s tenure with the Cubs.  He’s got no one to blame but himself, but he also doesn’t seem to have any allies–not on his team so far, and certainly not in the press.  This is the explosion sportswriters have been predicting for years–in fact, the dominant storyline about Z has been when, not if he would lose his head again.  Most of them couldn’t be happier, and their delight over the ashes of his Cubs career means we might not ever get the full story of what happened last night.  Zambrano’s said all season, and often in previous seasons that he wanted to be a Cub for his entire career.  Something had to set him off last night–something serious enough to make him walk away from the team he’s been with since he was (reportedly) 16 years old.  I doubt very much that that’s a story many writers will put much work into any time soon.  Right now, they’re too busy high-fiving each other.
  • How Do You Solve a Problem Like Zambrano?  Jim Hendry must be absolutely giddy.  Zambrano’s contract–while certainly not the biggest albatross Hendry’s brought to the Cubs–was a significant problem for the team.  So significant in fact that he was begging the Yankees to take Z off our hands as recently as the last couple weeks.  Zambrano was also one of the first players Hendry put on waivers this August.  Now that problem is temporarily off his back–with Zambrano on the Disqualified List for the next month, the Cubs don’t have to pay him and can use the time to find a solution to the problem Z presents.  Jim Hendry’s career might soon be crushed under the weight of the bad contracts he’s given out.  Zambrao’s outburst seems to have bought him a little breathing room.
  • From the Non-News Files  Earlier today, MLB Trade Rumors linked to this tweet from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, saying that the Cubs would keep Jim Hendry on as GM unless there is a “change of thinking.”  Which has basically been true since Ricketts offered Hendry his vote of confidence earlier this year in the now-infamous press conference when he said the Cubs’ only problem was injuries.  So congratulations Bob Nightengale for giving me a momentary heart attack but no real news of any substance.  And here’s hoping the Ricketts’ have a “change of thinking,” and that it leads to a Hendry change of employment.

The Takeaway

The young guys performed tonight.  They need to keep doing it.  They are, in the words of Princess Leia, our only hope.

Stars of the Game

Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Dan Uggla (.201 WPA)

2nd Star – Darwin Barney (.196 WPA)

3rd Star – Carlos Pena (.184 WPA)

  • BLPCB

    If Hendry is not fired after 2012, Ricketts officially achieves clown status. I would like to put a disclaimer in right now, I will never drop my loyalty to the Cubs. I love them too much to give up. I never loved the Bears the way I love the Cubs, which is what made it easy to give up, plus the fact that Bears fans are stupid.

    The MLB Union is not going to let the Cubs to keep Bozo on the DQ’ed list. They should just cut him and eat the contract. Sometimes you just got to do it. It wouldn’t be any worse than a trade.

  • Norm

    I couldn’t disagree more about the intentional walk. I would almost NEVER use it.

  • cap’n obvious

    It’s not like Zambrano hadn’t shown more than glimpses of the fact that he’s an idiot BEFORE Hendry gave him his last contract, so I’m not sure how this latest meltdown gives him more breathing room. To the contrary, I see it as another glaring example of a guy with a bunch of blank checks paying $20 million bucks for severely flawed merchandise, and getting relatively little retuurn on said investment.

  • Randay

    I think the Cubs should take this as a chance to void the rest of his contract for conduct unbecoming. Barring that, bring him back the last few weeks, tell him he’s done with the organization and that his attitude and performance in the last few weeks of the season will determine if he ever works in the league again. That will probably motivate him over his last four or five starts to give us some wins. Once the season is over see if the Yankee’s will take the last year at a 50% discount.

  • Doug Bagley

    some of the comments by his (ex) teammates sure were telling about zambrano!

  • Buddy

    I doubt the Union will allow the Cubs to void the rest of his deal, but maybe they can agree to a number that buys him out and grants him free agency. Right now there’s $22 million left on his deal. Maybe half will get the job done?

  • Darrylx77

    It’s ashamed to see people give up on someone like people are giving up on Carlos Zambrano. I’ve been a Cubs fan for over 40 years.

    Earl Weaver, Lou Pinella, Ozzie Guillen, former LA Dodgers player Reggie Smith, former Atlanta Braves manager and a host of others would explode on the field.

    All of a sudden, the media wants us to side with them over a player exploding on the field because his team is crappy and the GM has done next to nothing in putting quality players on the field behind that particular player.

    What pitcher would not go nuts when his team has the worst fielding average in the National League and his teammates routinely fail to drive in base runners, or when a manager promised last year that he was going to teach his team fundamental baseball and this guy does not call for bunts in some of the most basic situations and the batter routinely (Starlin Castro) routinely hits into a double play.

    Carlos Zambrano,

    If this was your last appearance in a Chicago Cubs uniform, I for one would like you to know that I appreciated your efforts to win and the passion you showed while wearing a Chicago Cubs uniform.

    I am sorry to see the Cubs with a team of milk toast players like Tom Ricketts. I am tired of people beating up on Aramis Ramirez because he does not show any passion, but those same people want to attack you for showing passion.

    Some people are never satisfied. If we could look at the average fan at his or her work place every day to view their efforts, I am sure that we would all find reasons to criticize some of their efforts.

  • Buddy

    For me, there’s a difference between “going nuts” after you give up five homers, and cleaning out your locker and telling a trainer you retired. That’s quitting on your team, which is simply not tolerated. And as we all know, this isn’t Zambrano’s first episode. Not even close. It’s yet another in a long line of childish, unprofessional antics that impact his teammates and the entire organization. Honestly, I think the Cubs are just sick of his crap. Now if he was still a dominant SP, they’d be more likely to look the other way. It’s really pretty simple…Players get more slack when they perform at a high level. The guys who suck have a much shorter leash.

  • Norm

    “What pitcher would not go nuts when his team has the worst fielding average in the National League and his teammates routinely fail to drive in base runners, or when a manager promised last year that he was going to teach his team fundamental baseball and this guy does not call for bunts in some of the most basic situations and the batter routinely (Starlin Castro) routinely hits into a double play.”

    I’m too lazy to look them all up, but I guess we can go through every 5 man rotation of the last 30 years and come up with a number around 99% of them.

  • Doc Raker

    The Cubs should fight for the DQ as hard as possible, underachieving FA’s are bad enough but one that quits on you is unacceptable. If there is language in these contracts that would support a DQ or void then the Cubs should fight with vigor to do so.

  • Doc Raker

    I have some very happy news to report. I attended one of the most exciting baseball games I have ever seen last night. Our little league, Ocean View Little League out of Huntington Beach CA, won the Western Region Championship last night and earned the right to go to Williamsport PA for the LL World Series. Maybe some of you saw the game on ESPN. After going undefeated in the regional tournament OVLL came in as favorites to win last night. Their potent offense was shut down by a crafty lefty and we found ourselves 3 outs away from elimination in the top of the 6th trailing 1-0. This would be two years in a row that OVLL had made it to this championship game, an amazing accomplishment in itself, and lost.
    Two pitches into the the top of the 6th and the score was 2-1 good guys. A triple by Nick Pratto and a HR by Stephen Kotkosky lifted our spirits and brought the OVLL crowd into hysteria. Hagen Danner then went out and shut down the Red Bluff CA team in the bottom of the inning to finally punch our ticket to Williamsport. Danner had a 25 pitch first inning and finished the 6 inning game with a total of 79 pitches throwing just 54 pitches in the remaining 5 innings while striking out 14- an awesome outing- averaging 11 pitches an inning for a strike out pitcher. Pitchers must be removed after 85 pitches so recovering from the 25 pitch 1st inning was key. Watching the early high pitch count and zero’s go up on the scoreboard for 5 innings had us all worried we would be ‘one game away’ for the second year in a row. This comeback victory to go to Williamsport was the most dramatic baseball victory I have ever witnessed. Tears of joy flowed from the entire OVLL family of players and parents alike. My son is not a member of this team since he is league age 10 and this team is a 12 year old team but we are very proud of our Ocean View Little League none the less. Please follow and root for OVLL as they play as team WEST to take it all in Williamsport.

  • Buddy

    Congrats to the Ocean View squad. Good luck going forward.

  • Eddie Von White

    Zambrano should get no sympathy whatsoever. He is in the Bigs. Along with his big contract comes a personal responsibility to carry himself professionally. If you can’t run with the big dogs then stay home. Obviously he is too immature to handle the pressure of Big League baseball. I, for one, am tired of the Cubs management catering to his temper tantrums. The fact that he is constantly going nuts has nothing to do with his team not backing him up – it has everything to do with his inability to pitch like he is being paid to pitch. It’s hard to blame the team when he just gave up 5 homers, went ballistic, threw at a player on another team, not once but twice while bailing on his own team because he wanted out of the game. I hope I never see him pitch again on any team because he is dangerous. What if he gets mad again (at himself, his team, the other team, the ump, or who-knows-what) and hits someone in the head or face and ends their career because he doesn’t know how to control his temper?

  • Buddy

    It may not be for the Cubs, but Zambrano will pitch again. With our luck he’ll go to the Cardinals and win the Cy Young Award.

  • Lando87

    Cubs win (10-3 in August) and end Dan Uggla’s hit streak. Barney continues to be on fire, Pena (who sans April is having a decent comeback year) hit another bomb, and Colvin contributed 2 RBIs. I’m very happy to see Colvin has been playing fairly well since coming back up after the Kosuke deal.

  • Buddy

    Pena has been awful vs. LHP (even with today’s homer), but his numbers are pretty solid vs. RHP: 251/.372/.498. If he comes back next year, he should be platooned.

  • BLPCB

    Doc, Congratulations on your team making it to the LLWS. I will be pulling for you.

  • Doc Raker

    http://www.ocregister.com/articles/kotkosky-312005-view-ocean.html

    Thanks for the good cheer BLPCB and Buddy. Here is a link to the OC Registers article on the LL game for anyone interested. The article does a great job in capturing the emotion of the night. Go OVLL!

  • Chet

    Doc, awesome news! Congrats!

    I am not a fan of Pena being re-signed. I think it would be terrifying to sign this guy to a multi-year deal, not to mention the amount he will be looking for.

  • Buddy

    I wouldn’t want a multi-year Pena deal either. However, if the Cubs can’t find a better replacement, another one-year deal wouldn’t be bad. Especially if they wise up and limit his exposure to LHP.

  • Doc Raker

    Pena is just another soul you don’t want on the team in three years so why bother for 2012. If you are going to rebuild you only want guys on the roster who you want in 3 years. Mark me down as a ‘NO’ for Pena. Forget about winning in 2012, think rebuilding.

  • Not a bad point, but if the Cubs don’t sign Fielder, Pujols, or Pena, who plays 1B for the Cubs in 2012 in a rebuilding season?
    Colvin?
    Ridling?
    LaHair?

  • Norm

    Who plays 1B next season doesn’t have to be decided until the offseason when we know who else will be available.

  • Well it can be figured out who’s available judging by whose contracts will expire after the season. As far as trading for someone, not sure who the Cubs would want to give up, and I’m pretty sure Teixeira, AGonz, etc won’t be available in trade.
    Also, the deciding to not sign Pujols, Fielder, Pena….will of course be made in the offseason…so I’m not sure of your point Norm.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Just to play a little “Zambrano’s Advocate” here, how many pitchers are forced to stay on the mound after giving up 5 homers and 8 runs in less than 5 innings?

    Quade’s own words on the matter only confuse things. http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110814&content_id=23201466&notebook_id=23202594&vkey=notebook_chc&c_id=chc

    Again, I don’t think we’re ever going to get both sides of the story. Which is a shame, because I think it’s pretty clear that this was more than just another Zambrano tantrum.

  • Eddie Von White

    Jeremiah – here’s a web sight that gives a little history on poor pitching performances.

    http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/05/16/the-worst-pitching-performance-ever/

    Just a little teaser on the above column – since 1919, 148 pitchers have given up 10 runs or more in an appearance.
    I don’t ever remember hearing anything about them acting even remotely like Zambrano.

    Like the bumper sticker I saw one time in the 80’s: “Go Bills, and take the Sabres with you.”

    Go Zambrano, and take your contract with you.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Eddie, thanks for the article. I remember the highlights (?) from that dreadful inning a few months ago.

    And even though 148 relievers giving up 10+ runs sounds like a lot (and I’ll admit, it’s more than I would have expected) that’s a relatively small number compared to the potentially hundreds of thousands of games played since 1919.

    I’m going to look further into the numbers, because you’ve peaked my interest and this might be worth writing about. But based on the column above, I think it’s probably safe to say that the magnitude of Zambrano’s collapse qualifies as relatively rare.

  • Jedi

    Quade’s words don’t confuse anyone – he is still a complete idiot. The idea that our bullpen was too tired to deliver 4 or 5 innings of relief on Aug 10th is preposterous. It’s amazing that a “reporter” can print that crap without checking the veracity of it.

    Norm, so you’d count Quade’s penchant for employing the intentional walk with great regularity as giant mark against him right? We might’ve finally found something that you and I can agree on…

    By the way, don’t anyone go getting the wrong idea – what Zambrano did was unconscionable…but Quade needs to shut his mouth; offering up a “reason” for not yanking him earlier is garbage. Quade either 1) is really vengeful and wanted to give Zambrano a dose of humility, 2) is really incompetent and didn’t realize that Ortiz hadn’t pitched in a week, Grabow hadn’t thrown in 4 days, and Russell had thrown 15 pitches all month or 3) is really stupid and believes that when your “ace” has already lost the game, it’s the “ace’s” job to bite the bullet and give you 90-100 pitches or at least 5 innings of work. In any of those situations, Quade is wrong and even worse, he’s downright foolish to open his mouth and submit his reasoning. It’d be better if he’d get his mealy mouth shut.

  • Jedi

    Sorry, should be August 12th. The Zambrano game – you get the idea.

  • Norm

    “Norm, so you’d count Quade’s penchant for employing the intentional walk with great regularity as giant mark against him right? We might’ve finally found something that you and I can agree on…”

    Absolutely.

  • Doc Raker

    Who cares who plays 1b in 2012. This team has profound fundamental problems starting with starting pitching, who cares who plays first base. Hendry refused to trade Pena last month because he didn’t know who would play 1b for the remaining 40 games of 2011. How stupid is that? Passing up an opportunity to acquire a prospect or two so Pena can play 1b for a team that is going to win 65 games, not to mention rid some payroll. What is Hendry afraid of, the Cubs only winning 62 games, what is the difference at this point? Anyone Cub who is expensive, will be expensive before 2014 or who can bring prospects into the fold needs to go, until that rebuilding process starts we won’t even begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. So who cares about who is going to stand at 1b to finish 2011 or 2012.

  • Doc Raker

    Jeremiah- are you suggesting Zambrano has reason to be mad because he was not removed from the game sooner? As in, “I sucked enough today, get me out of here?” How about, “Hey I suck but I will pitch my heart out until my manager takes me out, regardless of how much suckage I got today because I understand my team may need me to be out here regardless of if I give up runs or not and since I make about $500K a start I guess I can throw a few more pitches for my half million.”

  • I say we bring back Z in 2012, run Koyie and Pena out the door, and bring back Michael Barrett and D Lee. Let’s do this thing for real.

  • Jedi

    Doc – I’ll take a crack at that…I think that’s exactly what Zambrano was feeling. I think he wasn’t mad at the Braves at all…it wasn’t about a perceived slight by his opponent showing him up; it was about his manager making him run out there again when it was obvious that he just didn’t have it.

    While I agree that the proper response is for your pitcher to do what you ask of him – even if that means take a beating for the good of the team – I wholeheartedly disagree that the Cubs should be asking that of Zambrano. It’s not a question of “should we be able” to ask that of Carlos – it’s a question of “should we” ask that of Carlos. We SHOULD be able to – but knowing Carlos, we SHOULDN’T do it.

    Quade gets the benefit of the doubt because Zambrano’s history of decision making is so poor. The funny thing is, if you look at the tape, Carlos never lost his temper – he made some rash decisions, but it was unlike any of the other Zambrano blowups in that regard. He was calmly out of control.

    Anyway, I’m not saying what Zambrano did was right – it wasn’t…but whatever reason Quade had for running him back out for the fifth – it was a bad reason…just a bad call all around by Quade.

  • Jedi

    jswanson – what you’re describing sounds like a Pay-Per-View event for Vince McMahon. 3-way match where one guy gets obliterated.

  • Jedi

    Check this out http://espn.go.com/chicago/mlb/story/_/id/6864438/chicago-cubs-pitcher-carlos-zambrano-wants-remain-cubs

    Sosa and Guillen! That’s like a serial killer getting support from Charles Manson and John Wayne Gacy. Or trying to cure cancer by snorting cocaine and contracting AIDS!

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Doc–I’m not suggesting he has reason in the sense that it was a reasonable decision to quit on the team and “retire.” My sympathies with Zambrano go only so far, and I think he’s crossed a line he can’t uncross, at least with the Cubs. He’s paid to be a professional, and Friday night he wasn’t.

    What I am suggesting is that there is a reason he (apparently) intentionally got himself thrown out of the game, and ran out on his teammates. And there’s a reason that Quade left him out there when his mop-up duty guys (Ortiz and Grabow) were well-rested. The reasons (or causes) for those things are what I’m interested in.

    If it’s any other starting pitcher in the league, the rational behind what when down Friday night is at least one of the dominant national storylines. Instead, baseball writers across Chicago and beyond are high-fiving each other and chalking it all up to Zambrano’s neuroses. I think there’s more to the story, and I doubt we’re gonna get it.

  • Buddy