Monday, June 18, 2007

barbarity and mismanagement

another tumultuous weekend in wrigley has yielded unfortunate results, with the home club dropping two of three to san diego. it is hard to know whether it was the absence of aramis ramirez or the particularly effective pitching of the opposition, or both or neither, but the cubs have since june 6 plated just 40 runs in eleven games (3.64 rs/g). going 6-5 in that stretch is an accomplishment of the pitching staff, which has allowed 41 -- including the 11 runs bunched into yesterday's mauling. there is as yet no announced timetable for ramirez's return, though he is eligible to return june 23.

his return was this weekend made all the more imperative by the actions of derrek lee, who has ensured himself a suspension with his regrettably primal reaction to a high fastball from chris young. a depressingly limitless and thoughtless support has echoed from almost every vile corner of cubdom for lee's barbarous failing of self-discipline, which will deprive the club of the services of one of its two most important hitters (the other being ramirez) for a period probably approaching ten games once the edict of the commissioner's office is handed down and all appeals are settled. for a player whose club can tolerate a margin of error in this season of nearly zero if any at all, this constitutes a serious lapse in judgment which -- in putting animal emotion over considered reason and personal vanity before collective obligation -- reaffirms in its way the ongoing decline of civilized sport.

maybe it is fantasy to expect an example of civilization from the kind of sick cult of the primal that infects the sport of the postmodern west, which has fallen so far from its religious and courtly chivalric roots. indeed, the spectacular collapse into the demotic and mean since even edwardian times allows for little optimism. but lee's actions deserve condemnation and correction all the more for it, and not the assurance and abeyance that has sadly greeted them. anything less than vilification amounts to an implicit statement that social violence is in some manner sanctioned.

if and when that has become true, this society -- not just the sport, but the society of which it is a mirror -- has become even more dismal a degradation than this writer considers it. it is difficult and horrifying enough to comprehend the gradual but perverse rise of the death cult in the third generation of sport in versions primitive and mechanized without quietly tolerating it backing and filling in the first (ie, soccer, baseball, college football and tennis) and second (ie, pro football, basketball and hockey) generations of sport-as-entertainment. this writer sees the second-generation sports to have already been lost to the fray within the last twenty years. when baseball -- whose decay is already marked and unnerving -- also finally and fully acquiesces, yours truly will quit with sport entirely. football as it is isn't fit for dogs, in the opinion hereabouts; when baseball too gives it up for blood and vanity, there's nothing in it sufficiently redeeming to merit continued interest.

as far as the cubs themselves go, however, the incident and losses should not completely obscure the excellent start proffered by carlos zambrano on saturday. this page has been following zambrano's travails closely, and would be remiss not to note that -- though his mechanics still look different from previous years along the lines analyzed by carlos gomez -- the differences are not as pronounced as earlier this season. the adjustment has perhaps been minor, but the results are indisputable.

lou piniella, however, did as much as he could to ruin the day. zambrano completed the seventh at 107 pitches on the day, with a hit allowed in a scoreless game and due up third in the inning. this is the point where responsible management -- beyond even concern for injury, simply out of a desire to keep zambrano fresh for the second half or merely knowing that beyond his 90th pitch zambrano is a much less effective pitcher with a 2007 line of 18 ip, 23 h, 11 bb and an 8.00 era -- would have lifted him. piniella, however, let him hit for himself -- and when after getting three more outs zambrano was relieved, it was with 123 pitches thrown and under the cloud of a russell branyan home run and a 1-0 deficit which proved to be the final line. zambrano currently leads baseball in stress, pitches per game, pitcher abuse points and catagory-4 starts -- unquestionably the hardest-ridden starter in the game. such continuing usage does not make injury inevitable -- but it surely does make it more probable, and every warning sign should continue to be treated with the utmost concern for his well-being. piniella is using zambrano carelessly and much harder than he has to.

in any case, with the milwaukee brewers having very nearly swept the minnesota twins over the weekend, the cubs fell back once again to 6.5 games out, a possibility anticipated previously. the cubs today enjoy their first off day since may 21, while superprospect yovani gallardo makes his first major league start for the brewers against the visiting giants and noah lowry.

No comments: