Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
by Derek Smart
The headline refers more to me as I return here and to my place of work from vacation than the Cubs - although this nice little run of acceptable baseball from the club might make those of you impossibly inclined toward optimism start bubbling forth with anticipatory glee, buying bottles of champagne and priming industrial strength insults to sling at any Astro or Marlins fans you might meet on the street after overtaking them with a victory in Houston on the season's final day.
Sure, that's an appealing scenario, and I wouldn't refuse it if offered, but thinking the Cubs are about to get back in the Wild Card chase is pie in the sky at its pie in the face best. I'd love to be proven wrong, but I won't be, and you won't see me jumping on the bandwagon until it's already run past me and into the postseason. Again, not that it isn't possible, just that this team isn't the one to make it happen. Hopefully, that's what next year is for.
I see in the Daily Herald that both Glendon Rusch and Neifi! would like to come back next year. Somewhat conditionally, that is:
Rusch: "I'd love to come back here, yeah," said Rusch, who has a $2 million player option next year with incentives for games started. "I'd love an opportunity to start. I don't know if that's a possibility here or not. It's something we'll have to research when the year's over. I really like starting."
Neifi!:"My body tells me I can play every day," Perez said. "I might be looking for a starting job for somebody. I feel happy here to play for a manager like Dusty Baker. I want to come back. I don't only play shortstop. I can play second base."
I think Rusch is gone. I'm fairly certain the Cubs won't guarantee him a starting slot, and really, they shouldn't be using him out of the bullpen anyway, as he's simply been less effective there during his time as a Cub. Besides, he's done well enough in the rotation that another team will give him a little more cash and assurances of the fourth or fifth slot to coax him away.
As for Neifi!, perhaps he should get an opinion from his skillset and leave his body out of it. After all, my body tells me lots of things too, but if I took its opinions to heart I'd end up in jail or the hospital.
I'll say this now at risk of having it thrown back in my face in 2006: Neifi! will not start for the Cubs next year. He might be on the team, particularly since I doubt even the most idiotic of clubs would promise him more than one or two starts a week, but he won't be the primary guy unless there's an injury situation similar to this year.
I was sad to see Ronny Cedeno go down the other day. There's still no word on his status, but he'll be seeing a hand specialist today here in Chicago. I won't make any guesses until we hear something definitive, but I'd love to see him play again this season. It's particularly bad luck since I get the distinct feeling that Jim Hendry is trying to convince Dusty Baker that Cedeno deserves to start on one side or the other of next year's middle infield.
Not that Hendry should have to convince a man who theoretically works for him to do something, but I think we've all seen that Dusty needs to buy into an idea completely if it's to be properly implemented, and seeing Cedeno have success right now would give him a much better shot at getting a solid chance to start next season.
Assuming the Cubs stay at least this close the rest of the way, we're all going to look back at the thumping they took at the hands of the NL East and ask, "What if?". Sure, the Cubs went 6-9 during interleague play (no shame in that, with the schedule they drew), but they're four games over even against the West and ten games over versus the Central.
It's that twelve games under against the East that's killed them, and had they been able to simply break even, they'd find themselves at the top of the Wild Card standings this morning. Of course, the issue there is that the East is the best top to bottom division in the NL, and the main reason they're so tightly bunched and mediocre looking is that they're evenly matched and beating each other up.
It may not be realistic to think this Cub team could have held serve against the five solid teams of the East, but they'll have to be able to consistently beat them next year if they hope to have a shot.
Speaking of teams the Cubs need to consistently beat, the Reds come to town tonight, and for some inexplicable reason the Cubs have had trouble hitting them lately. That's kind of like Stephen Hawking waking up one morning and being unable to balance his checkbook. Here's to the Cubs being able to do some simple math tonight.