Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Light or Train? I'll Choose Light, Thanks
by Derek Smart
If I may be so gauche, I'd like to take a moment to quote myself.
These are heady days here in Cub Town. Winning eight out of nine and five in a row can make a fella giddy, especially when the last few games have been taken in such convincing fashion. It's important to remember, though, that these moments are fleeting. Later this season, when the Cubs have lost four of five and look listless, purposeless, helpless, take the lessons of the last week and recall again, that these moments are fleeting, that like the bliss before it, this horror too, shall pass. Then smile, and enjoy some baseball.
That was written on April 23rd. Seem like a lifetime ago? Well, that's what I was talking about, I suppose. It's an incredibly long season, and there are wonderful moments and terrible moments woven throughout. Joyful times, and sad times. Stretches of glory, and stretches of infamy. Now, after a lovely period of the former, we're immersed in the morass of the latter, which means it's time to remember, once again, that all things come to an end, and that as quickly as it all went sour, that it shall soon enough turn sweet again. I feel confident that this is a good team playing poorly, rather than a bad team showing its true colors, and that being the case, the reversal will arrive in due time.
So in that spirit, and since we're all too familiar with exactly what went wrong, I'd like to recount some positives from last night, speak a bit of things that went right, if only to remind us that even now as we slog through the mire of disappointment, it's not all bad.
Jon Lieber continues to be a rock during times of crisis, so much so that despite the fact that Rich Hill clearly needs to go somewhere else for a while and get his head on straight, I'm not sure Liebs is the guy to take his place. Apparently, neither is Lou, as his post-game noise was along the lines of putting Marshall in the rotation, especially since Scott Eyre is nearly ready to return and take over the lefty-killing duties that have thus far belonged to Sean.
If that action were taken, though, I'd expect we'd see something of a tandem start during Marshall's first few turns, since he's nowhere near being stretched out enough. Between Marshall and Lieber you'd be able to get a solid, long start's worth of work, and by the fourth turn or so Marshall would be able to handle five or six frames on his own, and Lieber could return to more normal bullpen duties, or else be stretched out enough himself to supplant what will by then likely be the all-too-horrible-to-bear work of Jason Marquis.
I think the other hope inherent in this plan is that by the All-Star Break, Hill has cured himself by taking the waters of Des Moines, and that there's a difficult decision to be made regarding which solid starter Hill's re-emerging talent forces aside. A bit pie-in-the-sky to be sure, but not so unreasonable as to be deemed utterly ridiculous.
Kudos to Bob Howry. My first thought when he entered the game was a sort of dismissive, 'there goes the neighborhood' notion, but he proved me wrong. Sure, a run scored, but since he had to get six outs in one inning to escape, he can be forgiven if a tally came to pass. Throwing as poorly as he has early on, it was nothing short of a herculean mental effort to keep his wits about him and stay focussed on the job at hand, but that he did, and in spades, following that work with yet another scoreless frame. Had the Cubs pulled out this victory, however undeserved, Howry's effort would have deserved substantial credit.
Kudos also to Chad Fox, for while he gave up the winning run, he did manage to keep the team alive during the previous frame, and for a man in his situation, that's all that can be reasonably asked, and even that's a stretch. He has, indeed, made it back to the big time, and while I'd imagine he's unlikely to be there for long, what with the likelihood that his arm could explode and take out the surrounding countryside at a moment's notice, it's difficult not to root for a guy who's gone through so much. Here's hoping he's as successful as possible in the pursuit of his dream, and that whatever the end result, his efforts contribute positively to the club's greater goals.
Another match-up I don't like today, with Kyle Lohse - who's gotten it done this year with smoke and mirrors - versus Ted Lilly, who until his last start had only wished for such theatrical efficacy. I could be wrong - and often am - but I'm not looking at this game as the beginning of the turnaround. It'll come, I just don't feel it today.