Friday, October 3, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Your 2008 NL Frontrunners!!

Game 2 of the Chicago Cubs vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the most painful experiences of my life, and as a kid I faced daily ridicule because of my infatuation with sweatpants hiked up to my sternum. That look on Jim Edmonds's face was my expression from the 2nd inning onward. In fact, my visage was so consistently frozen in extreme pain that it actually stuck. I can't undo my pain face. I'm actually sitting in my Cubbie-blue boxers and sobbing like a neglected baby, if you can picture it. Simon and Garfunkel is playing in the background, and my immediate surroundings smell of lilacs and despair.

Ok, so I'm exaggerating a bit. But good lord, what HAPPENED last night? The team that I saw was not the team that went 55-26 at home. If we discount Carlos Zambrano, every member of the team looked either confused, petrified, or both. Kosuke Fukudome might as well have gone up to the plate with chopsticks. 4 errors were made, one by each infielder. Ummm...what? Yes, even though I saw it happen, I still can't believe it. The errors were committed by Mark DeRosa, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Ryan Theriot.

Let's imagine for a second that the league champion in the regular season is anyone other than the Cubs. The team lost Game 1 at home, and it desperately needs to salvage a split before it goes on the road. The crowd has worked itself into a pregame frenzy, desperate to do whatever they can to help their team win. On the mound is the team's emotional barometer and almost certainly the man that would take the ball in a 1-game, do-or-die situation. The top of the 1st concludes quickly and feverishly, with a swinging strikeout of the opposing team's best hitter. The crowd is rabid and smelling blood. The leadoff man ropes a single to left in the bottom of the 1st, and advances to 2nd on a wild pitch. Batting 2nd in the order is the team's best contact hitter.

There is no way that run doesn't score, right? The contact hitter finds a way to advance the leadoff man to 3rd, and the 3rd and 4th hitters in the lineup each get a shot at bringing the leadoff man that last 90 feet. The run scores, momentum shifts, and there is no way on God's green earth the lead will be relinquished.

But this is the Cubs. Theriot struck out, Lee and Ramirez squandered their at-bats, and Soriano was stranded on 2nd. On to the 2nd inning meltdown.

As an example of what SHOULD happen when the league's best team finds itself unexpectedly against the wall, watch what the Angels do tonight against the Red Sox. The BoSox have Dice-K and a 10 game postseason win streak against Anaheim on their side, but this is irrelevant. Ervin Santana will feed off of his crowd, his fielders' gloves will be true, and Anaheim will find a way to win Game 2. The best team on the field, shockingly, plays like the best team on the field when it really matters. Unless that team is the Chicago Cubs.

Last Night's LVPs:

1. Kosuke Fukudome - 0-for-4 with 3 K's and 4 men left on base. This guy currently looks more lost than Jack, Kate, and Sawyer combined. He'll give a nice breeze to any offspeed pitch that's low and out of the strike zone.
2. Mark DeRosa - I hate to do this because he had some fantastic late ABs, but you absolutely HAVE to turn that double play in the 2nd. Tailor-made is an understatement. That ball's destiny was to be gobbled up and turned into two. Had that actually taken place, the Cubs would have escaped from the inning unscathed with Mr. Momentum back in their pocket. But Wrigley Field is the devil, and something caused DeRosa, arguably the team's MVP, to botch it.
3. Dick Stockton - Ok Dick, I'm generally a good guy with a soft spot for geezers who really need to retire but won't because they think having a job wards off the Reaper, but if you don't learn how to pronounce the word "error"(lord knows you had to say it often enough last night), I am going to find you and rip your beloved Cialis out of your decomposing hands.
4. Lou Piniella - It's a manager's job, especially in the postseason, to put the best lineup on the field each night. Some Cubs are staples and will never be benched in a crucial game, regardless of past performance. These people are currently Lee, Ramirez, Soriano, Geovany Soto, and DeRosa. You'll notice that Kosuke Fukudome did not make that list. He looked just as bad in Game 1 as he did in Game 2, if not more so. I'm certain that Sweet Lou entertained the idea of benching Kosuke, throwing DeRosa in RF, and putting Mike "Pocket Rocket" Fontenot at 2B, especially after Fontenot's beautiful at-bat in Game 1. Well, instead of entertaining the idea, Lou really should have made that happen. Am I saying that Fontenot would have turned that double play in the 2nd? Not really. There's no way to predict how a different fielder might have handled that ball. All I'm saying is that most 12-year-olds in Williamsport will turn that grounder into two.

On a side note, this game really is a bonafide biatch. After a never-ending 162 game season, can you believe the Cubs are essentially cooked after 2 measley games? It's such a small sample size; playoff teams really need a good amount of luck to advance. For example, if James Loney doesn't catch that one little seam on the baseball to foul off a great pitch from Dempster and stay alive in Game 1, then he never hits that grand slam and the Cubs go on to win. If that double play in the 2nd is turned, the Cubs play the game differently and possibly go to LA up 2-0. Instead, they got smoked in both games. The combined score so far is LA 17, Chicago 5.

Last Night's MVP:

Carlos Zambrano - This one is a no-brainer. He was the only Cub out there who was unafraid and absolutely, 100% prepared to pitch 12 innings of lights-out baseball if necessary. His at-bats were about 87 million times more impressive than Fukudome's. He unbelievably kept his composure as the walls were caving in around him in the 2nd inning. He made one bad pitch all night, the heater to Manny which only resulted in a solo home run. The standing ovation he got when he was removed last night was completely appropriate, and a testament to the knowledge of Cubs fans. They knew they saw a great game from Z, even if the scoreboard didn't reflect it.

So now what? Well, the Cubs have work to do. It needs to happen one game at a time. Rich Harden is throwing against Hiroki Kuroda in Game 3, a matchup similiar to Jason McElwain vs. LeBron James in a 3-point shooting contest. In case it's unclear, this means that Harden has filthy stuff, Kuroda is garbage, and J-Mac would smoke LeBron.

I'm actually glad that the Cubs are thousands of miles from Wrigley Field for these next 2 games. I'll write more on this later, but a while back I decided that the Cubs' friendly confines are actually all that is evil in this world, and the stadium needs to be demolished, brick by treacherous brick. While I was met with criticism and death threats when I first wrote about it, somehow I feel that Cubs fans will be more receptive to the idea this time around. You just let that idea simmer, and I'll be back later to discuss it.


  1. Luke- you have so many great points as usual and say it with such POW.

    I was JUST telling mom the same thing about Wrigley. Screw LA! Given a well-timed, natural disaster in southern California, I say they pack up and play in freaking Japan for the next games! Get as far away from Wrigley as possible! And maybe, just maybe, Fukadome would get his head out of his butt!

    AHHH. I didn't bag on the Diamondbacks all season while living in Arizona just to see my team finish like this!!

  2. It's probably a little late to comment, since it turns out that:

    1. "It's Gonna Happen!" (NOT!)
    2. "This is the year!" (NOT!)
    3. W (NOT!)

    but, your piece is insightful & right-on. The Cubs are a bunch of pansies (apparently) afraid of their own shadows moving across the infield to field a grounder. They are afraid of pitches that don't come in big & fat & they are afraid of losing, so much so, that they lose to prove the counterpoint.

    Wow, the Cubs looked awful. How did this team win 97 games this year? What happened to the 8th inning rally? Has it gone by way of the dinosaur? And, will I EVER live long enough to see the Cubs win it all? I'm no spring chicken & it doesn't look good.

    Now that it's over, which does our fearless (!) GM do:
    1. Blow this team up & start over
    2. Keep everyone intact, resign the Jim Edmonds & Reed Johnson's of the team & hope to catch lightening in a bottle twice, or
    3. So measure of both?

    Wow, Luke, and others', your thoughts & wisdom would be much appreciated to this grieving fan,