Friday, September 28, 2007

Chicago Cubs 2007 NL Central Champs

2007 Chicago Cubs
National League Central Division Champions

Following a BIG GAME pitched by the Cubs ACE Carlos Zambrano the Northsiders waited for the results 90 miles north of Chicago in Milwaukee at Miller Park. The Brewers loss to the Padres clinched the Cubs fourth divisional title in franchise history. We all know the seasons: NL EAST CHAMPS in 1984 & 1989, NL CENTRAL CHAMPS in 2003 & now 2007!

Again I say W-O-W. It has been such a roller coaster ride all season with these guys. The division sucked, but who cares. In the end the Cubs were the first NL team to punch a ticket to October baseball! In the end credit has to go to John McDonough, Jim Hendry, Lou Piniella and all of the coaches. Most of all credit has to go to all of the ballplayers(except Steve Trachsel) that wore the blue pinstripes this season. These guys got the job done.

What can I say. I'm heading for a celebratory OS Light or three. I'll write more on this win, the amazing month of September and the upcoming MLB playoffs later.

Most of all what I want to say tonite is simple: "Congrats Cub Fans, enjoy it."

It's gonna be great to have October baseball at Clark and Addison starting next weekend. The atmosphere will be INCREDIBLE. I can't wait.


An interview with Steve Trachsel

Vehere: Well, Steve, you had a rough go yesterday. 4 1/3 innings pitched, 5 hits, 5 runs all earned, 4 walks, 2 strikeouts. You’re 1-3 since returning to your old team. I’ve got my tape recorder here, do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?

Traschel: “Turn it the [expletive] off,"

Enjoy the day, we got meaningful baseball last week of the season.

the crucible

not the playoffs but the promise of the playoffs is, in my observation, the high test of truth for many a ballclub. baseball, it's said, is an easy game to play and a difficult game to play well; but it is also a nearly impossible game to play under pressure. so much of the game is relaxation, concentration, perseverence, attrition, acceptance -- any and all of which are quickly perverted and compromised with the admittance of even a sliver of doubt and fear. the accumulated weight of six months' sacrifice follows a september ballclub in a playoff race, a carefully hoarded treasure and intense sinking burden, the loss of which is simultaneously unthinkable and fervently hoped for. its pure emotional bulk makes every step hard. having finally made it into october, being freed of the cross, many clubs who had but a week before trudged and scraped and stumbled suddenly play with the fluidity of men reprieved from the gallows. but that is not their test. it is september, not october, is the crucible in which good teams are tested.

i'm not a big fan of modes of analysis that harp constantly on nothing but the metaphysics and psychology of the game and its players. much too much is made of it, in fact, and that in part because the real pressure is rarely on in professional baseball. six month seasons leave considerable margins for error, and the participants know it.

but the waning days of september are different, i think, when you're within a game or three of a playoff spot.

so it should perhaps be no surprise to watch as the chicago cubs try to choke away a divisional race that has been handed to them on a silver platter. being swept by the worst team in the national league in the final week leaves to the imagination only what greater horrors might be conjured in cincinnati in the next three days. but anyone who has been watching for a certain number of years should by now understand that this is how the cubs have pursued virtually every playoff spot. there's hardly room to expect otherwise. hearing about today's losing pitcher and supposed-playoff-ready-veteran-pickup steve trachsel shouting at clubhouse televisions is just the tip of the iceberg as several of these cub players are being forced to find out if they are strong or weak. not all of them are comfortable with the answer.

but it's as little a surprise to watch the young milwaukee brewers fracture under the very same weight. following on a sequence of four games in which manager ned yost -- the theoretical leader of that ballclub, mind you -- absolutely cracked, getting tossed three times in ridiculous and distracting style and doing all he could to narcissistically undermine his team's position, the brewers are as i write in the process of committing four errors in the first four innings, putting ace rookie starter yovani gallardo behind the eight-ball. prince fielder, in the biggest at-bat of his career to date, just grounded out meekly to end the home half of the fifth with the bases loaded, his team trailing 5-2. they are twelve outs through an excellent bullpen from facing the reality that the cubs left the door wide open and they, blinded by pressure, could not even find the doorknob. september is indeed the crucible.

and it isn't over. 1060w gurus ccd and vehere agree with me on a lot of things, which is one of the consequences of spending a lot of time boozing together over many years. one of those many things is that carlos zambrano is generally not a good pressure pitcher. he put in his worst month of the season in september of 2003, and was generally shelled in three postseason starts that fateful autumn. down to the awful wire in 2004, he pitched well until faced with true crisis on october 2 (though that collapse can hardly be hung on him). "volatile" doesn't quite do justice to the man at work, and the quiet desperation that almost certainly set in on the flight to cincinnati is little less than an open-channel amplifier buzzing in his agitated ear from now until gametime. much of how he performs tomorrow will be a function of how he deals with the sublime admixture of energy and panic that supercharges these kinds of games.

i've personally rarely found a kind word to say about zambrano's manner and the state of arrested development from which it springs. indeed, i think he's almost ideally suited to disappoint under such circumstances; the only thing that would likely be worse would be playing at home in front of wrigley's rowdies. but i'd desperately like to see him teach me a little something about his capacity to handle the electricity of september, and finally get the cubs a leg up and out of this crucible with something to play for.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Almost Live: Thirsty Thursday Afternoon OPEN THREAD

This afternoon will be the last Almost Live of the regular season. I know it is an emotional day for you as it is me. Sadly, with the chances slim that they will play any weekday afternoon games next week this could be it for the season. So with that I'd like to thank the academy and those of you who post in these little things. Cheers!

You all know that the Cubs need to win this afternoon's ballgame in South Florida and snap this unthinkable losing streak to the Marlins. More important they can send the Brewers elimination number closer to zero. The Cubs will send the sensitive and great Steve Trachsel to the mound. Trachs' only goal is to get a quality start and to hell with the rest of the team. Ahhh but that was a younger Steve Trachsel.

Here's the deal:

Cubs at Florida (3:05)
Trachsel (7-10, 4.74) vs. Olsen(9-15, 5.88)
Television: WGN
Radio: WGN, XM-185

Lineups will follow... (thanks coomerfan)

1. A Soriano, LF .293 31 65 19
2. R Theriot, SS .270 3 44 28
3. D Lee, 1B .318 21 80 6
4. A Ramirez, 3B .307 26 100 0
5. M DeRosa, 2B .295 10 72 1
6. G Soto, C .378 3 7 0
7. C Monroe, RF .227 1 4 0
8. J Jones, CF .275 5 62 6
9. S Trachsel, P .200 0 0 0

1. H Ramirez, SS .332 28 79 51
2. D Uggla, 2B .247 31 86 2
3. J Hermida, RF .293 17 61 3
4. M Cabrera, 3B .321 34 115 2
5. M Jacobs, 1B .271 17 52 1
6. T Linden, LF .276 1 8 4
7. M Olivo, C .237 16 60 3
8. A De Aza, CF .212 0 6 1
9. S Olsen, P .180 0 3 0

baby steps

it surely doesn't feel like it when they're having their hat handed to them by the worst team in the national league, but the cubs actually made some progress last night.

no thanks to their own efforts, though. now having not beaten the marlins for nine straight, the cubs could not contain miggy cabrera and could not touch the marlin bullpen over five and a third after chasing rookie danny barone. they get another chance this afternoon against scott olsen, and will send nervous steve trachsel to the mound.

instead the help came (again) from ned yost. trailing 3-2 in the away half of the eighth with one away, yost called in seth mcclung to face albert pujols -- whom he promptly plunked in the numbers and sent to first.

prince fielder and bill hall had both been hit by cardinal starter brad thompson, forcing the warning of both benches. there's of course no doubt that redbird manager tony larussa is exactly the kind of paranoid, bitter old bastard who would have ordered the plunking of fielder, who had belted his 49th and 50th the day before in a rout. but yost, in so obviously and blindly retaliating, not only got mcclung and himself run but put a baserunner on. i despise the jackass genius too, but not enough to hand him baserunners late in a close game. moreover, yost's final and fatal act was to call on derrick turnbow, who has been nothing short of a firestarter the whole second half (6.14 era with 28 bb in 29.1 ip) and turnbow responded by doing what he does best. after getting ryan ludwick to fan and allowing a skip schumaker single, turnbow walked both miggy cairo and kelly stinnett, forcing in a smirking pujols to make it 4-2. brian shouse came on to fan the flames and the brewers fell back 7-2 in a game they eventually lost 7-3.

yost has come in for a lot of criticism in milwaukee, and i can't say any of it is really misplaced. watching him recently allow pitcher dave bush hit for himself in the top of the sixth of a one-run-game, only to lift him before he faced another batter, any baseball fan could begin to understand that yost might be over his skis. the same game illustrated another curious propensity, which is to lift powerhouse third baseman ryan braun with any lead after the sixth. braun is not a good defender, of course -- but replacing him with craig counsell (as he has more often than not) is an obviously counterproductive policy, particularly when that lineup spot is likely to come around again. braun has committed 22 errors in 907 innings at the position; but he's also hit 33 home runs and driven in 94 in 437 ab. he's clearly more likely to help you than hurt you -- that's why you play him at all. so why would you deny him at-bats? then compound all that with rampant rumors of player dissatisfaction with and antagonism against yost, some of who apparently have as little or less respect for him than i do.

anyway, brewer ownership recently gave him a dreaded "vote of confidence", which -- in the context of having blown a near-unassailable 8.5 game lead with the best club in the worst division in baseball -- is probably good until their first serious losing streak in 2008. with a thousand possible competent managers in the baseball world, there's no reason (aside idiocy) to stick with yost. but i'm frankly as appreciative to have had the opportunity to watch him work for the enemy in 2007 as were fans of other clubs to watch dusty baker sabotage the cubs repeatedly over the course of his too-long tenure.

so what is the measure of progress? going into yesterday, the cubs needed four positive outcomes in ten events (five games for both themselves and milwaukee) to clinch the division. in other words, 40% of things had to go right. this morning, that percentage stands at 37.5% (three in eight). not much progress, but progress nonetheless.

there's been a small change in the pitching probables for the rest of the way:

here's hoping trachsel can find his bearings today. yovani gallardo goes for the brewers.

The sod: a developing story. Plus a touchy RHP

This isn't really a 'developing story'. I just like how the MSM uses that for everything. Maybe we could do a developing story on my angst. Oh wait, we've done that already. Here's some visual eveidence, taken by 1060west's very own Vehere, on the sod fiasco that is going on at Wrigley Field. Here's what Cub professional spinmeister Mark McGuire said about the sod:

"Our feeling is we wanted the field in good condition, and the best thing was to do it for the playoffs,"

They have been 'so concerned' about the suface that was tore up back around the 4th of July by a concert, that they have played half a season on it. Sounds to me like they really want the field in good condition. LMAO. I'll call bullshit Mr. McGuire. The only reason the Cubs are doing this is Uncle Bud's office told them to do so. This from a Daily Herald story last Sunday:

According to a Cubs source, Major League Baseball also believes the outfield is a concern and may be looking to re-sod portions should there be playoffs on it.

The Cubs play their final home game today, which would give MLB almost two weeks to fix the problem. The Cubs wouldn't host Game 3 of the National League division series until Saturday, Oct. 6.

Unreal how this team can always find ways to add more seats, or host concerts if it means more revenue. But put in a decent playing surface? Well that would cost real money. So the Cubs throw down some new sod and pray they don't have to play a tiebreaker game on Monday. WTF? I actually give Selig's office some credit for stepping in on this, lord knows nobody in the Tower would. But if they have to play a game on Monday... for the safety of the ballplayers maybe they should move the game to Comiskey. (and I'm only half kidding)

Anyways, it looks to me like MLB is calling the shots and the Trib ownership is as lame as it has ever been.

Touchy Touchy: I just had to laugh when I read this about today's starter Steve Trachsel in Chris DeLuca's story in today's Sun-Times:

MIAMI -- Suddenly, the Milwaukee Brewers matter. When the week began, the Brewers were a disappearing dot in the rearview mirror, but after the Cubs' 7-4 loss Wednesday night to the Florida Marlins, they were larger than life on the big-screen TV in the visiting clubhouse at Dolphin Stadium.

"Turn it the [expletive] off," shouted veteran pitcher Steve Trachsel, the latest Cub who will swim with the fishes today.

Certainly, panic buttons are being pressed all over Chicago, where late-season collapses come with the territory. Is the panic finally sweeping the Cubs' clubhouse?

Outside of the always-touchy Trachsel, there seems to be a remnant of calm confidence. But it's wearing thin.

LMAO. I'm glad Trachs has brought a calming veteran presence to the Cubs clubhouse. Today is possibly the last big league start he will ever make. Not sure if any of that sinks in with the Cubs touchy right hander. The guy has been a douchebag since he came up with this club. Why change now? Go get 'em douchebag!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

let your inner paranoid run wild

it's over, right? the cubs have won it. i even heard barry rozner say it on wgn radio a couple days ago.

i would answer that question with another question: how long have you been a cub fan?

here are the probable matchups the rest of the way:

if you as a cub fan don't see 0-5 as a possibility, you simply have not been around this club long enough. the cubs send their best against the best of cincy and send their worst to the mound in florida. does anyone really want to see arroyo, harang and superprospect bailey on the closing series?

conversely, here are the brewer matchups:

these are unfortunately not bad matchups for milwaukee. maddux is the toughest cookie, and milwaukee (complete with pitching coach mike maddux) has given him fits over the last three seasons. chris young has really struggled with control since august (9 gs, 0-5, 29 bb and 34 ra in 48.1 ip). none of the other three seem particularly big obstacles for an offense that is scoring 5.0 runs/game post-asb.

it's obviously very likely that the cubs win it, right? milwaukee's pitching has been a train wreck in the second half, right? unfortunately, having endured a disaster august, they've looked pretty solid in september -- going 14-9 with a staff era of 3.72 in spite of a .322 babip against. if you're looking for real weaknesses, you have to look at tactically-questionable manager ned yost and his use of a volatile bullpen.

do not discount the possibility of a one-game playoff -- as reassuring as any binomial odds report may look, the probability of a cub playoff spot doesn't have to go from 90% to 0% over the next five games to get ugly but instead just to 50%. some combination of the cubs going 2-3 while the brewers go 4-1 is hardly impossible here. it becomes particularly possible if the cubs somehow fail to capitalize on florida's weak pitching today and tomorrow. in the event, lou piniella has said he would send jason marquis, very probably against yovani gallardo.

anyone like that matchup? me neither.

so what am i saying? basically just this: assume nothing. it is very probable that the cubs win the national league central -- but these are the cubs, not the yankees. when the magic number gets to zero, then start talking playoffs. until then, my advice to you is to start drinking heavily. if past is any kind of prologue, this may be the most taxing week of the season.

Irrational or rational angst

AP Photo.

Following last nites debacle, here's a conversation I had with my self:

MY: A two and a half game lead with five games to
SELF: They can't blow this.
MY: Are you kidding yourself this is the Cubs. Look
Milwaukee just went up 7-1 on St. Louis. The lead is now two.
Still all the Cubs have to do is win three of their
final five and if the Brewers lose one, they have to lose one...
MY: There you go again. Trying to talk yourself into it.
Just admit it. If any team can piss away a 3-1/2 game lead with 6 to play it is your Chicago Cubs. They have nearly pissed half of it away in two days.
SELF: We'll get 'em tomorrow.
MY: LMAO. Will you ever learn, dumb ass.

Armchair therapists and Anon posters have at me. I can't decide whether I'm on the bandwagon or the ledge. This my friends is gut wrenching.

Oh well enjoy tonite...if you can.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Not even Rex Grossman's incompetence could ruin my sports Sunday. Even as the Bears were getting trounced by Dallas my beer tasted good. You see there come times when sport becomes just plain fun. It makes fans giddy. That is what is happening right now with the Chicago Cubs. The team is rolling and looks to be in a real nice position to capture the franchises first division title and playoff appearance since the memorable 2003 campaign.

Things have changed dramatically in one year on the Northside. Remember the last home game last season? There was more excitement about the off field news (MacPhail being relieved of his duties) than anything the Cubs did. That day John McDonough took the job of Club President and made this bold statement:
"My goal is singular. The purpose of what I've been asked to do is for the Cubs to win the World Series. Not win the wild card or win the division or win the pennant. It's time to win, it's time to win the World Series. It's time to reward these tens of millions of fans who have waited for a long time."

Guess what? 12 months later it looks like Jim Hendry and John McDonough are about to roll snake eyes on the one year turn around. That turnaround began with the hiring of Lou Piniella. An old time/in your face baseball manager with a reputation that proceeded him. Hendry signed several free agents that have panned out amazingly well. JH deserves executive of the year consideration if the Cubs pull this thing off. Yes I just said that.

What can I say about the job the Cubs did this weekend against the Pirate lefthanders. Sunday was the icing on the cake of a great homestand (5-1). What looked like two scary series against the Reds and Bucs ended up being the games that gave the Cubs some distance in NL Central race. As all of you know down in Atlanta, the Braves were taking 3 of 4 from the struggling Brewers. This gives the Cubs a HUGE 3-1/2 game lead with only one week to go in the season.

The Magic Number (or Brewer elimination number) stands at 4. If all goes according to plan later on this week there will be a party in Cubdom.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Almost Live: Friday Afternoon OPEN THREAD

Well, this is it. With a slim 1-1/2 game lead in the NL Central, the Cubs (80-73) look to finish off the home portion of their schedule this weekend in a three game series. Today marks the last 'businessman's special' this season at the Friendly Confines. It's the Buccos and Cubs and as gm explained yesterday the lefthanders are coming this series.

Pittsburgh at Cubs (1:20)
Maholm (10-15, 4.76) vs. Marquis(12-8, 4.07)
Television: Comcast Sports Net
Radio: WGN, XM-186

Lineups will follow...

N. Morgan cf .257
N. McLouth lf .255
F. Sanchez 2b .308
A. LaRoche 1b .272
X. Nady rf .286
J. Bautista 3b .258
R. Paulino c .263
C. Izturis ss .253
P. Maholm p .175

A. Soriano lf .292
M. DeRosa 2b .297
D. Lee 1b .310
A. Ramirez 3b .313
M. Murton rf .271
G. Soto c .387
C. Monroe cf .229
R. Theriot ss .268
J. Marquis p .130

Thursday, September 20, 2007

get the lefties

a blown call helped in a huge eighth-inning run that decided last night's affair in favor of the cubs, and that's the kind of thing that can get you into the playoffs in a tight race. with ryan theriot on third in a tie game thanks to a hustle double and a derrek lee single, matt murton lifted a soft liner to left that adam dunn nabbed with a sliding catch for what should have been the second out of the inning and a play at the plate after theriot double-clutched on tagging up. but the ruling was a trap, and dunn stupidly conceded to his first instinct -- which was to complain -- as theriot scampered home without a play.

an equally critical play followed in houston, as hunter pence singled in the winner in the extra frame forced by rickie weeks' clutch game-tying homer off brad lidge in the ninth. the net effect was to put the cubs up a game with nine to play, and you know that ain't bad.

a lot of things are tilted the cubs way over what little remains of this season, and it seems (unsurprisingly) precious few people are following my advice as hubris and destiny take hold in cubdom. but there's actually a big test this weekend as the cubs face paul maholm, zach duke and tom gorzelanny -- all three lefties -- fronting a pittsburgh club that is 24-24 since august 1.

i have a hard type even plonking out the letters that spell "fear pittsburgh" without smiling. but an objective take might suggest that this isn't the walkover one would like to see. the lowly pirates have notched a surprising 5.04 runs a game in the second half on the backs of adam laroche (324/378/489 post-asb), freddy sanchez (327/377/533), jack wilson (357/408/573), ronny paulino (308/367/467) and nate mclouth (259/353/493). fear the pirate offense? laughable! but there are the numbers.

but the harder part involves the cubs' travails against these lefties particularly. gorzelanny career vs the cubs: 3 gs, 3-0, 0.82 era, 0.90 whip. duke vs the cubs: 7 gs, 4-1, 1.57 era, 1.10 whip. maholm vs the cubs: 5 gs, 4-0, 4.94 era, 1.26 whip.

gorzelanny's figure is (obviously) babip-exaggerated, but success hasn't come easy against this lot. i was prepared to attribute it to the a bigger scheme of difficulty that the cubs offense is oft-rumored to have with left-handed pitching. but in truth they have hit 257/318/417 this year vs lhp (as opposed to 273/336/414 vs rhp), generating 165 runs in 1385 pa or 0.119 r/pa -- slightly better than they've done against the other kind of pitching (530 r in 4500 pa, 0.118 r/pa). in fact, the setup seem to indicate that maybe the cubs can ride some mean reversion here. maholm has been strangely effective since june, but was shelled last time out. duke is still shaking off the rust of a long spell on the disabled list. gorzelanny has been victimized by the babip trolls most of the second half.

anyway, the brewers are in atlanta beginning tonight (one of the blessed cub off-days) for four. they get a couple kids in the first and last games, but see tim hudson and john smoltz in between. you'd have to think a split would be a successful series for milwaukee. it's up to the cubs to capitalize on that to add to their lead and really put the screws to ned yost.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

dead heat

carlos zambrano's continuing struggles -- he has now notched an era in excess of 4.70 in four of the six months of this season -- helped the milwaukee brewers back into first place by a few percentage points.

i've made plenty of predictions of zambrano's untimely demise on this blog. he continues to be one of the highest-stress pitchers in the bigs. is he hurt? you're going to have trouble getting me to go there again -- it certainly wouldn't surprise me but i have no idea.

but there's another (well-worn?) possible aspect to zambrano's underperformance this year. examining his record on batted balls, it becomes clear that, in 2005 and 2006, zambrano significantly benefitted from the fate of balls in play -- .256 in 2005, .257 in 2006. and we might further break those years down to see that the outperforming streaks were unsurprisingly concentrated to only some months of the sample -- a three-month run from may to july 2006, and two month windows at the start and end of 2005.

excluding those years, zambrano has of course certainly been a good pitcher -- on a .284 babip over 743 innings, a 3.96 ra and 1.34 whip -- but not a great one. in fact, if one removes just the five luckiest babip months of those two years from his career sample, his runs allowed per game floats up to 4.11 and whip to 1.35 (on a .285 babip).

i can hear some good folks howling about data manipulation (eg, "how can you exclude his best months and include his worst?!?") but follow me just this far: what if zambrano has been as much lucky as good? what if that recent concentration of good months was aberrant?

some good observers of the arguments over dips have noted here that very good pitchers may in fact have the capacity to suppress babip, and that's not a point i'd argue against absolutely. but i'd also note that zambrano, at the .285 babip in the adjusted sample, would already be displaying a career babip less than that of greg maddux, who may be an even better example of a great pitcher who, with the help of some luck in a few years like 1994 and 1995, became transcendental. zambrano may be good enough to effect a lower-than-league-average babip; but what if that ability isn't quite so much as it currently appears?

the cubs have zambrano locked up for a long time now, so maybe it's a moot point. and certainly it's possible that the idea itself is flawed. time will tell. but i thought it might be worth mentioning the conjecture -- maybe zambrano isn't hurt at all, or even widely underperforming. maybe, in posting 4.43 ra/g and a 1.35 whip, he's just being something more like the normal carlos zambrano than the lucky guy cub fans have become accustomed to expecting... only at a higher pricetag.

all that aside, it's now a dead heat in the national league central with two weeks left. i'm not as pessimistic as some, but the brewers have built some momentum following a brutal august in which they were colossally unlucky. as i feared some time ago, they're riding yovani gallardo (3-0 with 0 ra in his last 21 ip) and ryan braun (293/339/672 in september, 306/355/620 in the second half), and prince fielder has done anything except cool off (386/462/772 in september, 301/403/606 post-asb). moreover, sean marshall is nowhere to be found and the aforementioned zambrano has been pointing his cannon at the deck -- even as aramis is thumping (313/413/641 in sept) and cliff floyd comes out of nowhere (290/421/742 in 38 september pa). that the majority of my qualifiers from june have failed to materialize and the cubs are still in it should hint at how very lucky they've been. but now they have a coin-flip chance at this thing, and it's in the hands of the gods.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

don't tempt the gods

on the heels of a game like that, it's very easy to believe that everything is coming up metaphysical roses. mark derosa's capping of a gutty ninth in what had been to that point a dismally played affair makes a lot of wrongs right.

but please -- have more respect for your history than to run around as though the cubs have won something or pretending that something magically ordained is happening. even novice cub fans have been here before, and old heads really ought to know better. remember 2004? remember 2001? nothing here is determined and nothing is sure -- except that whom the gods would destroy they first make mad with hubris.

as i strolled to my train in from the suburbs this morning, coming the other way i encountered some middle-aged guy wearing a cub hat, 1984-style pullover jersey and carrying a glove and ball. breaking a longstanding morning rule of not talking to anyone before my second cup of coffee, i asked him if he was coming back from last night's game.

then i remembered why that rule is a rule -- this poor fellow was exactly the sort of cub fan i tend to avoid, but i was too sleepy to read him at a distance. driven to a jittery state that mimics mild mental dysfunction by the agitations of the season, wild eyes and some speak-shouting about "oCtObEr bAsEbAlL!!" told me all i needed to know and i averted my eyes with a quick laugh and kept on walking.

naturally that wasn't punishment enough. the guy followed me into my train car, chattering aimlessly about the cubs, holding the venti four-shot latte that he surely shouldn't have had and that i desperately regretted not having had before i opened my yap. over the next half-hour, as i came to find he was on his way to the game today and not home from yesterday's, every molecule of caffiene he drank was thoroughly metabolized into the venom of hubris. the poor guy actually talked about which american league team he'd like to play in the world series (his thought: the yankees, because "you want to beat the best"). to him, milwaukee was as much an afterthought as the white sox, their inferiority so blindingly apparent to him that every mention was colored by contempt. the whole scene was such a caricature of the cub-fan-escape-beyond-reason that i unconsciously began to look for the candid camera.

when folks like this are afoot, my friends, the gods are being tempted.

the cubs have now won six of their last seven to get to 11-7 in september -- and it's hard not to get carried away with that kind of run. but the resurgent brewers are 10-5 and look to this old cub fan like the perfect instrument of an ironic deity. one has several reasons to expect to come out ahead on what little remains of this year. the cubs play no one -- a brilliant schedule of patsies in cincinnati, pittsburgh and florida -- while milwaukee gets atlanta and san diego. the cubs have a couple off days to rest the bullpen; the brewers have none. best of all, the cubs still cling to that one-game lead.

if you're a cub fan, this is all good news. but -- if you're truly a cub fan -- if you don't expect some shoes to drop you haven't been paying attention. indeed, the sum of it all is, to jaded eyes, simply to add a couple rungs to the ladder the team can fall from.

by all means, enjoy it. the promise of an autumn pennant run is why we bother to endure years like 2006.

just don't tempt the gods. don't look forward. don't look back. live fully in the moment and keep your head down. that's the only and best advice i have.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Great time for a great trip

Photo from the Chicago Tribune

What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday the Cubs finished the day in second place one game behind the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers were heading home for series with the Pirates and Reds. The Cubs were heading home for a makeup game with the Cardinals and then right back on the road for series' with the Astros and Cardinals. During the week the Brewers, the best home team in the National League, went 3-3 at Miller Park. The Cubs won the makeup game at Wrigley Field and went on to go 5-2 on their roadtrip. A 6-2 week for the Northsiders puts them back atop the division with two weeks to play. Here are the standings with two weeks to play:

Central W L PCT GB E#
CUBS 78 72 .520 - -
Milwaukee 76 72 .514 1.0 13
St. Louis 70 78 .473 7.0 7
Cincinnati 68 81 .456 9.5 4

It gets even better. The Cubs 4-1 record against the Cadinals this week contributed to St. Louis' 9 game losing streak. Taking 3 of 4 from the Cardinals at Busch Stadium basically finished off the defending World Champs. The Redbids now stand seven games back with 14 to play (how do you like them odds?). The NL Central is now a two team race between the Cubs and Milwaukee. The Redbird series saw several players step up and be heroes. So many players came up big this weekend. There were the players you would expect: Zambrano, Soriano, Lee (to name a few). There were also some surprises: Kerry Wood, Matt Murton, Geovany Soto, Felix Pie and even Sam Fuld.

Allow me a paragraph or two to enjoy what has happened in St. Louis. How bad are things in the nations self proclaimed 'best baseball town'? How about this mornings St. Louis Post Dispatch declaring the Cardinals season over!
More than five painful months have escorted the Cardinals to the painfully obvious. The Chicago Cubs showed them the door to their season Sunday in a 4-2 loss at Busch Stadium that might as well have represented their summer in miniature.
How about a Sunday column where Bernie Miklasz goes after the great Tony LaRussa:

"Have you seen what Ryan's done against Chicago? What matchup are you talking about? Check Soriano this year against him," La Russa said, dismissing Soriano's success against Franklin as "American League numbers."

Soriano was 0 for one against Franklin this season until Saturday.

La Russa based his decision on that one at-bat?

Well, George Will never wrote a book about you.

I know it's been a rough year for Tony, and I'd never expect him to be unaffected by a loss. But I've covered Tom Landry, Joe Gibbs, Joe Torre, Jimmy Johnson, Dick Vermeil and Whitey Herzog on a daily basis, and they didn't treat other people shabbily when their teams lost. They maintained reasonably civil manners during tough times.

This hasn't been one of La Russa's better months. His six-man rotation was a disaster that expedited the collapse. Other decisions backfired (see: Kip Wells). La Russa has acknowledged a strained relationship with players.

And in a display of terrible timing, La Russa twice sounded off about his managerial future in St. Louis. With his team drowning, is it appropriate for TLR to be promoting his potential availability on the job market?

LMAO. Well if the Cubs do nothing at all the rest of the way, I will fondly remember that they put the Cardinals out of their misery in 2007. I'm sorry, but there is nothing better than watching that organization in free fall.

So back to the division race. So the Cubs have 12 to play and Milwaukee 14. The two teams are even in the loss column. Maddog at ACB takes an in-depth look at the records and stats the two teams have with their upcoming opponents. Then Maddog adds this:
Past stats mean nothing at this point. The season has come down to one very small sample size where it’s simply impossible to predict what is going to happen based on what has happened throughout this season.

That is the point we have reached. Throw away the stats. Get out the dice. This is a two week race with two imperfect teams. It is likely to go down to the final weekend in Cincy. I don't assume anything with this Cub ballclub. Memories of what a bad Reds club did to the Cubs in September 2004 at Wrigley Field are too fresh in my mind. They have not played well against Cincy or Pittsburgh this season. But that is the past. The Cubs have 12 games in 14 days and they control their own destiny. As Pat Hugues says: "Time to fasten those seatbelts."

Friday, September 14, 2007

backing into october

the chicago cubs accomplished something i frankly didn't think at all likely this year when on august 1 they climbed back into a first place tie with the milwaukee brewers in the national league central. but in my view the tenuous crux of their situation remained then no different from what i had been saying virtually the entire year to that point.

the simple truth of what has happened to the cubs is that it could not have happened without very liberal and rare doses of good luck. not only have the cubs outperformed their pythagorean expectation since june 2 (at 256 scored and 199 allowed, they should have won 32 of 53 but have actually won 35) -- they have further managed to hit with a babip of .318 and allow just .274, meaning that their runs scored and allowed have been again heavily distorted by good fortune on balls in play, much as they were in april. this is to be compared to the milwaukee brewers, who have over the same span gone 27-25 while scoring 267 on a normal .298 babip but allowing 240 on a disadvantaged .306 babip.

how long can this last? in fact it may already by over -- the cubs have, after all, gone 4-3 in their last seven, scoring 32 and allowing 28. longer term, there's no intrinsic reason to think it should continue -- as noted previously, babip extremes show no permanence from half to half, and as much is very probably true from month to month. good examples are provided this year from the new york mets, whose extraordinary early season pitching babip has reverted to league mean and upward in subsequent months, and the florida marlins, who experienced the same phenomena to a lesser degree on the batting side. this is the normal course, and should serve as stark relief to drive home just how fortunate these cubs have been.

the cubs thereafter confirmed the weakness of their position by actually trading for the godawful steve trachsel at the end of august and consciously putting him in the rotation, misguidedly thinking he might be an improvement on sean marshall. he has since gone 1-2 with a 7.82 era, allowing 20 hits and 5 walks against 7 strikeouts in 14 innings, which is entirely unsurprising.

but the mean reversion had already begun for the club well before that, with 1060w calling the turning worm on august 15.

here we are, unfortunately, seeing that babip-related disaster unfold. as you can see form the shaded regions of the 12-day babip differential graph, whenever this team has experienced anything like even a balanced babip -- luck-neutral, as it were -- is has generally played .500 or worse. we're seeing that again now.

after one of the more amazingly lucky years on record, the pitching staff finally began to experience some normal luck on balls in play -- and the effect has been as singularly devastating as i've long expected it would be. august saw the cubs staff allowed a .300 babip, compounded the issue by allowing 121 walks in 246.2 innings, and watched as the staff runs allowed per game jumped to 4.89. september has been worse still, with a .307 babip against translating into 5.08 ra/g.

recall that, in the entire season prior to that point, the cubs staff had been one of the best in baseball on the strength of a fortuitously low babip -- any examination of the monthly splits makes the correlation obvious. failing that good fortune, the cubs staff has completely fallen apart and the team has been one of the worst in the nl again since august 1, going 17-22 (.436).

it's been another spot of unbelievable good fortune in this magical season that just beneath the cubs on that list lies the milwaukee brewers, 16-21 (.432) since the break of august. if the cubs have failed under the duress of merely ordinary fortune, the brewers have been absolutely hexed -- babip allowed figures in august and september to date of .349 and .337 illustrate the awful luck (and, for the cubs, exquisite timing) that has hit that team. the brewer pitching is not very different in underlying talent than the cubs, so that kind of misfortune is catastrophic. the brewers have allowed 6.05 runs per game since august 1, overwhelming a typically productive (5.05 rs/g) offense for the power-laden brewers behind devastating twin engines ryan braun and prince fielder, both of whom have torn it up most of the year.

it doesn't take a mathematician to deduce that, if the cubs are flailing with merely normal luck while the brewers are reduced to such a state only by honest-to-goodness acts of god, the cubs are at a disadvantage. this has been the story all season, as the northsiders have stayed with milwaukee -- and above .500 -- on the backs of a stunning differential in grace.

it has become a common meme in chicago sports media (not uncommon to hear on wgn, shockingly) that, looking at the nl central, it's clear the cubs are the most talented club and should therefore win the race. i see also even in the comments here that an adjunct meme -- that many of the cubs players are "underpeforming", thereby explaining the struggling -- is making the rounds.

folks, talented clubs don't struggle like the cubs have for the majority of this year. they were one of the worst clubs in baseball from opening day to june 2, and have been again since august 1. for four of six months, they've sucked. as to underperformance, on a team level i'm not sure where that can be found. even individually, if you're surprised that alfonso soriano hasn't hit 40 homers, i think your expectations are what's out of line -- his 290/329/518 line to date is squarely atop his 281/326/511 career numbers. aramis ramirez at 316/371/552 is likewise duplicating his prolific output of recent seasons. derrek lee at 312/398/495 is actually well ahead of his career output of 280/367/499. indeed, i can find nothing very disappointing in what the cubs have done offensively. at 4.59 rs/g, they've come in at the low end of preseason expectation in a down year in league scoring, placing 8th in the nl -- which is exactly where i would've guessed them in march. and can anyone find the stones to argue that pitching has somehow disappointed overall this year? as stated it's quite the opposite; they radically outperformed until august began.

in all sincerity, it seems to me that all that has separated this team from an outright disaster not far from 2006's magnitude has been a spate of extraordinary midseason luck. with a normal course of events, this club could well have lost 85 and possibly more.

what the cubs have is not the most talented team in the race but the most expensive. many commenters have little idea what the difference is, and are therefore befuddled at how the brewers have remained in the running. you, on the other hand, shouldn't be. the cubs aren't very good at all, and i myself overestimated them at the outset of the year by calling for 82 wins.

if they somehow manage to hold off milwaukee over these final sixteen, it will conclude what is easily the least probable playoff season in chicago cubs history, bar none. i don't expect them to -- but as i've said, over such short runs, luck is by far the greatest part of the result. following on the cardinals' promptly eliminating themselves on the heels of my last idea, i'm done trying to predict what could happen. it's downright embarrassing to ask the baseball gods for a bit more than the immense pile they've already granted this team in hopes of backing into an october series with either new york or arizona.

but i'm asking. please?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The worst pennant race imaginable

The other day I wrote:

Yeah this division sucks . Frankly, I don't even think they should allow a team from this division into the tournament. But that's a post for another day.

Well this is another day and this is that post.

Tonite the Cubs tied the Milwaukee Brewers for the NL Central lead once again. The Cubs once again are tied with the Brewers as the best of the worst division in baseball (the tallest midget if you will). A few weeks ago I thought that one of these clubs, specifically the Cubs, would take their lead, at the time 2.5 games, and grow it en route to the 2007 divisional title. Instead what I have watched is three teams piss all over themselves, not once, twice, or thrice but repeatedly. These teams are playing horrendous baseball. Not a single one of these teams is worthy to play in October and have the great Chip Caray (tongue inserted in cheek) call their playoff run on TBS.

What makes this whole thing even worse is the fact that one of these teams not only makes the playoffs, but they are going to have an actual shot at winning the whole damn thing. We saw last season that anything is possible in October. As shameful as it was that the Cardianls won it last year, it will be just as shameful if the Cubs or Brewers win it. You see the World Series is not for .500 clubs. This is not the Stanley Cup playoffs or the NBA Playoffs. The 162 game regular season is supposed to mean something. When you allow the 05 Padres, the 06 Cardianls and the 07 NL Central Champ into the playoffs, the regular season no longer means very much. Thank you Bud Selig.

What's even more shameful than this is the fact that the large market Chicago Cubs spending $300 million (mostly backloaded money of cousre) could not construct a team that would win 87-90 wins playing the majority of their schedule against the crappy teams that makeup this shit division. Yeah the Cubs has several really good ballplayers, but for some reason none of them has played up to expectations. Something is simply missing from the club. I know there is no such thing as a perfect baseball club, but in this division the Cubs didn't have to be perfect to run away with this race.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Nineteen game season

It's hard to believe that after 143 ballgames this is where the Cubs find themselves. They are in a dead heat with Milwaukee for the NL Central. If you look back on the season it has been a very strange one in the NL Central.

The Cubs and Cardinals were the teams that most of the prognosticators picked at the start of the season to win the division. After a hot April and May it looked like the young Milwaukee Brewers were gonna run away and hide taking this division running away. As late as June 23rd the Brewers had an 8-1/2 game lead in the NL Central race. But a funny thing derailed the Brew Crews coast to October. Our Chicago Cubs played the best baseball in the big leagues in June and July, they became the hot pick to run away and hide. So August comes and goes, and the Cubs and the Brewers play so poorly that the left for dead Redbirds climb back into the race.

Yeah this division
. Frankly, I don't even think they should allow a team from this division into the tournament. But that's a post for another day. Whether I like it or not, one of these teams is gonna make the playoffs. So with 19 to play (21 for the Cardinals) here are the current standings:

CUBS 73-70 - .510
Milwaukee 73-70 - .510
St. Louis 69-72 3.0 .489

These are the schedules that the three clubs are looking at through the end of the regular season:

Sep 11 @Hou 8:05 PM
Sep 12 @Hou 8:05 PM
Sep 13 @Hou 7:05 PM
Sep 14 @StL 8:10 PM
Sep 15 @StL 1:05 PM
Sep 15 @StL 8:10 PM
Sep 16 @StL 2:15 PM

Sep 17 Cin 8:05 PM
Sep 18 Cin 8:05 PM
Sep 19 Cin 8:05 PM
Sep 21 Pitt 2:20 PM
Sep 22 Pitt 1:05 PM
Sep 23 Pitt 2:20 PM
Sep 25 @Fla 7:05 PM
Sep 26 @Fla 7:05 PM
Sep 27 @Fla 4:05 PM
Sep 28 @Cin 7:10 PM
Sep 29 @Cin 7:10 PM
Sep 30 @Cin 1:15 PM

Sep 11 @Pitt 7:05 PM
Sep 12 @Pitt 12:35 PM
Sep 14 Cin 8:05 PM
Sep 15 Cin 7:05 PM
Sep 16 Cin 2:05 PM
Sep 17 @Hou 8:05 PM
Sep 18 @Hou 8:05 PM
Sep 19 @Hou 8:05 PM
Sep 20 @Atl 7:35 PM
Sep 21 @Atl 7:05 PM
Sep 22 @Atl 3:55 PM
Sep 23 @Atl 1:05 PM
Sep 24 StL 8:05 PM
Sep 25 StL 8:05 PM
Sep 26 StL 8:05 PM
Sep 27 SD 8:05 PM
Sep 28 SD 8:05 PM
Sep 29 SD 7:05 PM
Sep 30 SD 2:05 PM

St. Louis
Sep 11 @Cin 7:10 PM
Sep 12 @Cin 7:10 PM
Sep 13 @Cin 12:35 PM
Sep 14 CUBS 8:10 PM
Sep 15 CUBS 1:05 PM
Sep 15 CUBS 8:10 PM
Sep 16 CUBS 2:15 PM

Sep 17 Phi 8:10 PM
Sep 18 Phi 8:10 PM
Sep 19 Phi 8:10 PM
Sep 20 Hou 8:10 PM
Sep 21 Hou 8:10 PM
Sep 22 Hou 7:15 PM
Sep 23 Hou 8:05 PM
Sep 24 @Mil 8:05 PM
Sep 25 @Mil 8:05 PM
Sep 26 @Mil 8:05 PM
Sep 27 @NYM 7:10 PM
Sep 28 @Pitt 7:05 PM
Sep 29 @Pitt 7:05 PM
Sep 30 @Pitt 1:35 PM

The Cardinals will play the most games at home in the final stretch. They also have the advantage (or disadvantage) of playing 7 games against the two teams ahead of them in the standings. As much as I'd like to say the Cardinals are out of it after today, I'm not gonna make that mistake again.

The Brewers who carry the best home record in the NL will play 11 games at Miller Park. From September 20th on their schedule gets pretty difficult playing the Braves, Cardinals and Padres.

After today the Cubs have only 6 games remaining at home. The good news is the Cubs have been a .500 club on the road this season (this stretch will probably need a little better than .500, but who knows?). The Cubs don't have as tough a schedule as Milwaukee or St. Louis IMO. The trouble is they have played Milwaukee and St. Louis strong this year in the division, they have really struggled with the bottom feeders Cincy, Houston and Pittsburgh.

So it's down to this. Win or go home. At this point I'm supposed to make a prediction. But most of those have been wrong all year. So I'll pass. I'm just gonna sit back and watch the final 19, hoping Lee and/or Ramirez can get hot for three weeks and carry this team into October. Hopefully their big days today were just a start.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The eyes of Cubdom are on Big Z

Tonite the Cubs will look to their ace to stop a two game losing streak. More important they will look to see how Z rebounds from his embarassing start on Labor Day and his absolute horrendous pitching in August and one start into September.
Following his embarrassing performance on Monday Carlos sent the Cubs PR machine into overdrive with his foolish comments about Cub fans. Here are my thoughts on that stupidity, so I won't revisit it. Earlier this season following the brawl with Michael Barrett, Z put everything aside and started pitching really well. Cub fans hope the same thing happens tonite. Z has the ability to be THE force that turns baseballs worst division in favor of the Cubs. If he pitches the way he did in August and on Monday he puts alot of pressure on starters 2 through 5.5.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Ain't gonna end well

As the Cubs limp down the home stretch in (despite what some say) the worst division in baseball, it has come to the forefront of my mind that barring 'the miracle', most of us know how this thing ends. As most of you are aware the ending to these things usually involves television shots of Cub fans crying. You see when this little joy ride ends either in the regular season or the postseason it is gonna leave a bad taste in our mouths. Coming close but knowing the reality that this team is so far away is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow. I have acknowledged that my own Cub fandom changed dramatically back in October 2003. I have not looked at this team the same since. I know many people feel the way about October 1984. It's stupid, but I feel like the boys in blue owe me one. I know that sounds really bad, but at times I really feel that way.

It has been discussed here and in other places that the 2003 NLCS was to Cub fans what the 1986 World Series was to Red Sox fans. You will get little argument from me. I hope that is the case. If it is, I applaud that change in Cub fans. I applaud the fact that the fans are holding this team to a higher standard. If you don't do it, who will? Tribune Ownership? The next owner? LMAO.

In wake of the Carlos Zambrano incident Rick Morrisey in the Chicago Tribune had an interesting take on the fact that the fans want 'it' more than the players. Here's what he wrote:

Start with this basic truth, fellas: The fans want it more than you do.

You players will disagree with that statement, probably all the way to your graves. But it's not meant as a knock or as an indictment of your desire as competitors. Cubs fans are so thirsty for a World Series title that when they talk, sand comes out their mouths.

So how can you blame them when scorpions spill out with the sand once in a while? Booing is the natural outgrowth of 98 straight seasons without a championship.

Unless you're a player who grew up in Chicago and rooted for the Cubs in the face of overwhelming evidence that you were a goof for doing so, you can't possibly know the feeling of dryness on the North Side.

Let's face it, a multimillion-dollar contract takes away a lot of the sting of not winning. Whatever your emotional investment is in the Cubs, it can't be bigger than your paycheck. Cubs fans have no such soft landing place, no escape. They can't go anywhere else. Oh, they can move out of town, but their Cubs afflictions are hitched to their cars.

Right now the fans see a mediocre division and a golden opportunity to get to the playoffs. They look in their rearview mirrors and see those 98 seasons of aridity. They see the end of their communal rope. They want to win now.

The fans know you players are trying. But they're sick of rooting for effort. They've seen decades of both effort and lack of effort. They're sick of tapping their toes, checking their watches and waiting for next year.

They want results now.

I actually think for the most part that is true. The players want to win, but for most of them this is just one stop in their playing career. For most of us, this is it. We were born into this fandom, at some point we made a conscious effort to stay with it and now we find ourselves stuck in this often abusive relationship. Many of us fear leaving because if we did we would miss 'it'.

I apologize for digressing, this brings me back to this season. 2007 has been a real improvement from 2005 and 2006 no doubt about it. The team has a group of likeable players, a manager that doesn't hide behind his son in press conferences, a President that has put the organization on notice, and on the field this team has had some exciting moments. They have a nice core of young players who have contributed throughout the season. Somewhere though, the magic that championship teams get has eluded this club. Still, without that magic they are in a race to be the best of the worst in the NL Central.

So we find ourselves at this point. The Cubs are in a race for a poor division. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figue out how this thing ends. Sometime in the next month and a half the Cubs once again are going to come up short on the ultimate goal. In the past the playoff teams of 1984, 1989, 1998 and 2003 were celebrated. Just making the playoffs was enough. Will it be this time? Remember what the new team President said last fall when he took control of the club?

"My goal is singular. The purpose of what I've been asked to do is for the Cubs to win the World Series. Not win the wild card or win the division or win the pennant. It's time to win, it's time to win the World Series. It's time to reward these tens of millions of fans who have waited for a long time."

If making the playoffs isn't good enough for the team President, it shouldn't be for us fans. So while many of you look ahead with your blue tinted glasses to the imaginary celebrations that await this team. Please allow me and other Cub fans the right to fear the inevitable collapse.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The contradiction that is Carlos Zambrano

picture from the Chicago Tribune.

I really wanted to come on here and rip Carlos Zambrano, his meltdowns/psychotic episodes on the field, the Cubs, the contract he signed, etc... But that would be waaaaay too easy. This afternoon at Wrigley Field he got what he deserved as he left the field. The chorus of boos from the faithful was a real contrast to the standing ovations he was receiving regularly in June and July. Z didn't like the faithful's response:

"I don't accept the fans were booing me," Zambrano said. "I don't understand that. I think these are great fans of baseball, but they showed me today they just care about them. That's not fair.

"When you're struggling, that's when you want to feel support from the fans," Zambrano said. "I don't accept it. I just pointed to my head because I will remember it. The great moments of my career will come."

LMAO. Another priceless episode of 'when athletes speak'. Anyways, my advice for Carlos would be to shut his fucking yap. I'm sure he's not interested in that. But he deserved to be booed off the field today. His reckless play on the bases not only cost the Cubs a potential big inning but it may have cost them the game, as he never recovered from his 'mad dash around the bases' when he returned to the mound. It was just another down in a roller coaster season for Z.

The Cub manager, who is now playing therapist to his pysch case, walked on eggshells as he addressed Z's issues:

"His stuff was plenty good today," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. "I think he's letting things bother him when things aren't going right.

"I think he's fighting himself a little bit and probably trying to overdo, like rounding third with no outs and running through a stop sign," Piniella said. "I contend he's going to get his stuff together and go on a nice streak here for us at the end of the year."

I'm going to excuse Uncle Lou. He's gotta hold his temper when it comes to Z. As hard as that may be. Z is just too important to this team.

Last fall and winter Bear fans were subject to "good Rex"/"bad Rex" every Sunday. It has reached that point with the Cubs "so-called ace". If "good Z" shows up things are fine, if "bad Z" comes to the dance forget about it. For the last month we have had nothing but "bad Z". Since his last win on July 29th "bad Z" is 0-5 with an 8.29 ERA. Yeah, whatever hopes he had for the Cy Young were lost in August. Now with the NL Central title on the line how much rope will Uncle Lou give Z?

Z's struggles early this season were well documented. They came to a head that first Friday in July June when he came to blows with Michael Barrett. At that point Z proclaimed that he was starting his season over. He did that very well. His season took off. But the last month his new season has went off the tracks.

"Bad Z's" latest episode came this afternoon, in the bottom of the third when Z led off the inning with a single. When Fonzie hit a double Z ran threw third base coach Mike Quade's stop sign and was easily thrown out at the plate. In the top of the fourth Z imploded on the mound he couldn't find the plate to save his life. He walked three and allowed two hits as the Dodgers put up a 3 spot to take a 4-2 lead. The top of the fifth was even worse for Z. His line for the day was 4.1 IP, 7 H, 8 R. 8 ER, 5 BB, 6 SO, he threw 96 pitches and only 52 were strikes.

I'd love to tell you guys that the Cubs don't need "good Carlos" to win the division, but I don't believe that. I would love to rant and rave about the Cubs need to get rid of the big idiot. The reality is he is way to valuable to this club. They are gonna sink or swim with Carlos. If Z continues his current crappiness through September the only thing that will keep the Cubs in the lead is poor play from Milwaukee and St. Louis and good starts from Lilly, Marquis, Trachs, and Hill. The Cubs find themselves in the sad situation of heading down the stretch with a very questionable number one starter.

On the other hand Z has always been a contadiction. As hard as it is for me to believe, he could easily put all of his struggles aside and go on to carry this team to the NL Central crown and more. One thing, that I am very confident in is the importance of Z to the Cubs chances this October. If they make the playoffs, Z and another starter could put this team on their back and take them far. If the Cubs get what they got today this will be another season of futility.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Huge win

"What a huge win," manager Lou Piniella said. "That's our biggest of the year. Clutch, clutch by Mr. Lee. We talked the other day about the big guys getting going in crunch time, and, boy, here in September, they've gotten to it."

Above photo and quote from Chicago Tribune.

AP Photo from