no one can say that florida manager joe girardi doesn't have a sense of humor. on a day when former cub farmhand ricky nolasco was made to look like the ghost of mordecai brown by a cub offense which is terrible in the epic sense, girardi didn't hesitate to give irony its fullest manifestation by giving former cub farmhand renyel pinto and former cub farmhand todd wellemeyer chances to twist the knife in their erstwhile matron.
is this rock bottom? it might be, dear reader. the marlins are a farm team transplanted to the majors. the entire active roster named just a handful of players who have seen a major league field prior to this season for anything more than a cup of coffee. nolasco spent last year in double-a west tennessee for the cubs. so did pinto. hanley ramirez spent the evening utterly destroying cub pitching, from sean marshall to michael wuertz to roberto novoa to scott williamson -- he reached in all five plate appearances. chris aguila did more damage. and nolasco himself went two-for-three, including his first major league hit -- a towering solo shot off marshall in the fourth to put a touch of absurdity on a well-worn story of daily cub failure.
these chicago cubs were not only beaten by a quadruple-a ballclub last night, but beaten badly in every facet. cub defense looked spotty, with punchy barrett notably embarrassing himself again by dropping a standard-issue popup behind the plate; ramirez taking the extra base on another daft toss to the wrong base by jacque jones; and marshall throwing away a pickoff throw trying to catch mercurial ex-catcher josh willingham.
cub pitching set the stage by issuing runs in four of the first five innings -- and missed going five-for-five only by the happy fortune of a double play in the third that allowed marshall out of a bases-loaded one-out jam. now is a very dangerous time for marshall -- he's been lit up in two of his last three starts, and (as was commented on before the game) last night was the official beginning of his second tour through the league. he looked good against florida a month ago -- but the marlins came at him with a plan to be patient, and consistently got him into hitters counts and destroyed him. this page would encourage dusty baker and jim hendry to stay with the kid -- he carries a 5.29 era now, isn't looking particularly effective and will get hit hard more frequently than we might like, but this season's over and you might as well let him take his lumps and see what he's made of. this page didn't agree with the decision the club made with marshall -- but it's been made, so at least stick with it and don't start with the debilitating discount-bus-pass to des moines.
and the cub offense -- what more can be said? is it enough to say that they are the least potent offensive team in baseball, including kansas city, pittsburgh and tampa bay, averaging just 3.64 runs/game? is it enough to say that they are on pace to score jut 589 runs -- which would represent the lowest output of any national league team since the 2003 dodgers? and, before them, the 1993 new-expansion-franchise marlins? it may be promising that aramis ramirez appears finally to be awakening, but no one player can eradicate the deep problems with construction and talent inherent to andy macfail's debacle. even with derrek lee in the lineup and playing to expectation, this was always a lower-third national league offense.
kerry wood will apparently make his scheduled start this evening in spite of pain in his repaired shoulder and missing his side sessions -- with bruce froemming behind the plate, he'll probably get the benefit of the doubt around the corners, and maybe that will help him along. but even coming up against rookie scott olsen may be too much for this patience-challenged cub team -- olsen is really struggling, but can get by if he isn't allowed to get himself into trouble with questionable control. olsen took a no-decision a month ago against the cubs, tossing five innings of one-hit ball. this team will need to show more patience this time around to get to him.
is it rock bottom? only time will tell, dear reader, but this writer suspects that, if it isn't, you can at least see it from here.