Friday, July 07, 2006

the song remains the same

bad teams play bad baseball, and you'd be hard pressed to say that the 2006 chicago cubs are not a bad team. as such, perhaps it shouldn't be unexpected that every day seems to bring yet another comic misplay that seems to embody the state of a ballclub that has gone from bad to worse to simply piss poor.

last night it was aramis ramirez, helping chris capuano to a complete game shutout -- the tenth shutout of the cubs in just 85 games this season -- with a classic baserunning gaffe in the seventh.

behind by two with no one out, ramirez slashed a ball out to the right field wall. ramirez plainly dogged it to first, admiring a ball that he believed he'd dumped between the outfielders.

"Yeah, I did [watch the ball]," Ramirez said. "I did a little bit. I didn't think I hit it that well. When I saw the ball carrying, that's when I started running. He made a good play."

the good play was brewer rightfielder geoff jenkins', who took the ball off the wall and pirhouetted to throw a strike back into the infield.

ramirez would've been perfectly fine if he had simply obeyed the cardinal rules of baseball -- never make the first or last out of an inning at third base -- and stopped at second to be driven in from scoring position with no one out.

but he didn't. inexplicably, despite not having made a serious effort out of the batters box, ramirez rounded second and headed for third.

"We've been struggling, including myself, with men in scoring position," he said. "I tried to get to third base and tried to make it easy for the guy behind me."

he was pegged by the better part of a country mile, and the cubs never threatened thereafter.

baker, of course, being what he is, took every opportunity to enable ramirez's awful play.

"I thought we had a big inning going there," Baker said. "Any time you get a leadoff double -- Aramis was hustling to third. Everybody says he doesn't hustle, but he was hustling. He just hustled at the wrong time and wrong situation."

this is a libretto we've seen sung time and again over the last few seasons -- each time set to slightly different music and sung by different voices, but always the same composer in the end. whether moises alou or korey patterson or jacque jones or carlos zambrano or aramis ramirez, cubs players play dumb baseball -- and their splinter-sucking leader loves them for it, lying furiously to make sloth and idiocy seem like effort and intelligence.

is there any question of consequences here? does anyone think dusty baker would lift a finger against ramirez for this -- or anything? does anyone pretend anymore that baker has any real control over or responsibility for his charges? or that he wants any?

this cub team is as abject a disaster as any that have ever taken the field in chicago, and certainly that is not all the fault of any one man. it is, however, the responsibility of dusty baker, jim hendry and andy macfail -- and this page for one cannot understand why any of them should survive it.

ramirez's play is his own, but this is a cub team that never drills and never practices in season, and the results -- terrible fundamental baseball, physically and mentally -- have been strewn all over the field for the last few years. why don't they drill? because dusty baker is the manager.

ramirez's play is his own, but there is nothing about it that requires it to be justified and rationalized. it was a grievous error that may have cost the team any chance at a win. dusty baker cannot call it that -- preferring instead to tell bald-faced lies to the public (and quite probably to himself) as a means of escaping any sense of culpability for what happens on the field for either himself or his players.

ramirez's play is his own, but if he is to be responsible for it in any meaningful way there must be consequences for failure. this page clearly remembers bobby cox running out onto the field to pull 21-year-old andruw jones, the best defensive outfielder since willie mays, off the field mid-inning in july 1998 for dogging a fly ball -- publicly humiliating an overconfident young star to demonstrate to him that good baseball requires hard work and that nothing less would be tolerated. that braves team won 106 games and the fourth of 14 straight division titles, and jones went on to become the all-star he is. try for a moment to imagine baker -- as he spits justification after irrational justification for both the failures of his players and himself -- doing anything of the kind.

don't bother, dear reader, to imagine these sorts of things are handled by baker behind closed doors. they aren't -- the team's consistently careless and putrid basic play is proof enough of that. the concepts of responsibility and leadership clearly elude baker in private as well as in public. indeed, his pathological evasion of duty is so complete that it knows not even the bounds of decency, as he holds his young son up before him in press conferences in the hopes that reporters would dare not embarrass his father with honest and full-blooded questions. what kind of a man is it that can do this? this page would humbly suggest that such a person has clearly never really became a man at all.

and still hendry dithers. why? how?

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