Tuesday, April 04, 2006

what's with the bunts?

opening day was a rousing success on some levels for the chicago cubs and a twitchy affair on some others. it goes without saying that one can't say much on the basis of one game, but there were some interesting features of yesterday's contest that may merit mention on this, the season's first off-day.

  • sean marshall is old news -- let the matt murton hysteria begin! please note that this page has a copyright pending on murton's soon-to-be-ubiquitous nickname in these security-conscious times, The Red Terror. opie cunningham knocked a three-run homer in the first to get the team off to a flying start, then saved carlos zambrano from giving it all back by taking away an austin kearns grand slam in the home half. he followed that with two more hits and a walk and a strong bid to hit fifth -- even managing to look like the vastly better left fielder in the contest. perhaps he was juiced by having a faith-based tete-a-tete with the world's most powerful/machiavellian/evil born-again christian.

  • three bunts for the cubs -- two from juan pierre, one from ronny cedeno -- might exceed the whole total from the 2005 club before the all-star break. a cynic would note that these two are bunting because they can't hit -- recently, in pierre's case, and maybe permanently in cedeno's. but it was a very odd feature for this club and promises to be a persistent one for the speedy pierre, even though the successful of his two attempts was aided by a blown call at first.

  • contrary to professions to the opposite effect, carlos zambrano has done absolutely nothing to mature whatsoever, and put it on display for the first 4.2 innings. energetic, undisciplined, pumped, reckless, motivated, discombobulated -- call it what you will, but opening day adrenaline plus a tight strike zone of plate ump gerry davis combined to send z into a frenzy. he overthrew most of the day, didn't seem to have any idea where the ball was going and ended with seven hits and five walks in his abbreviated outing. there will be days like this for zambrano, whose immaturity is coddled shamelessly by a do-nothing manager in dusty baker, and one is left to hope that they'll be rare.

  • it was only three batters -- but scott williamson put all three aboard with a double and two walks. the consequences of the tight strike zone -- ten walks by cub pitchers, 17 in the game -- are in effect here too, but williamson is going to be closely monitored by this page among others. his output represents the best likelihood of a material improvement over last year's relief corps; if he falters, it will likely be another nail-biting year close and late.

  • it's understood that today's an off-day -- but does scott eyre really need to toss two innings with a six-run lead? isn't he going to be making way too many appearances anyway? isn't such a situation as that the reason players like michael wuertz are on this club? maybe dusty doesn't have that sort of mental flexibility -- cub fans saw what will probably be the "winning" bullpen sequence in williamson, eyre, howry and dempster, and the size of the lead be damned (especially in that pinball park).

  • jacque jones has already started to pay off for jim hendry, reaching in the first on an inexplicable adam dunn error on what should have been a can of corn. never mind his playing a womack hit in the second into a double. never mind that inning-ending swinging k in the fifth with men on, even though it is likely to be a regular feature. never mind that he was substituted shortly thereafter in dusty's first double-switch of the year for wunderkind angel pagan to make his first-ever big league appearance. that $16mm was well spent!

  • the cubs return to action tomorrow behind glen rusch in what promises to be another high-scoring affair, which this page anticipates with bated breath. in the meantime, wallow in the feeling of being a game over .500 -- it's a good idea to soak it in while a person can.

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