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1200 (Or So) Angry Words
by Derek Smart
As Sergeant Schultz so aptly put it, "I see NO-THING!" But just because I wasn't a direct witness to yesterday's dreadful proceedings doesn't mean I'll remain comment free. Thanks to the wonder of the World Wide Interweb-o-tron, I was able to follow the appalling sadness live, so naturally, I have a couple things to say, but be wary: the lousy baseball we've seen of late is starting to get to me, so this could turn ugly:
Neifi! was down 1-2 to Ben Sheets in the first inning, yet he managed to buckle down and draw a walk. Damn near fainted.
Three things that drive me crazy, in no particular order:
Yellowjackets around the picnic table.
Those flat, wooden spoons that come with ballpark ice cream.
Tagging the opposition's best pitcher for two runs in the first on 19 pitches, then going down in order over the next two innings on 16 pitches.
My vote for most hilarious sequence of the game goes to the top of the seventh, when after Ben Sheets had given up a tie-breaking double to Michael Barrett, a pinch-hitter was called upon. The man brought to the plate was Jose Macias, but that's not the funny part.
What left me in stitches was when Macias sacrificed Barrett to third. This puts Barrett in a position, with one out, to score on any number of balls in play. All the next hitter needs to do is make contact. The next hitter was Corey Patterson. Who had already struck out three times. And promptly made it four. Comic. Genius.
Which brings me to the Corey Patterson Leadoff Experiment, which is going about as well as walking naked and honey-slathered into the Grizzly Bear habitat of your local zoo - which is to say, about as well as expected.
It's bad enough that the Cubs are starting to leak their theoretical interest in a deal for the A's Mark Kotsay. Whether Kotsay's the right man for the top of the order or not, it at least show's that the club understands there's a problem with men getting on base ahead of the big bats in the lineup, and that there may not be a proper solution in house (besides batting Todd Walker in the two spot, that is).
Glendon Rusch has made an excellent case in his last three starts that the best use of his skills might be as a long man out of the pen and occasional spot-starter. It helps that, even if Sergio Mitre and his Magic Groundball Machine aren't to be counted on in the long term, Jerome Williams is around to pick up the slack.
My desires at this point are likely contrary to what the team will actually do, but here's my admittedly ire-induced idea of how to arrange the staff once Wood and Prior return:
Move Rusch to the pen to mostly be the long man, but face the occasional tough group of lefties.
Move Mitre to the pen to handle some longer duty as well, but also to come in for situations where a groundball is needed. The issue here is whether he gets enough work to keep the sinker sinking, but I'm willing to experiment given the other available option.
That other option being Joe Borowski, God love him, who should be evacuated for his own safety. I fear the man is simply done, and it would be best to let him try to figure some stuff out in Iowa or go to another team rather than continue to get tagged the way he has of late.
Allow Williams to be the fifth starter. I have an irrational liking for the kid, but something tells me he's the best choice to permanently install in that spot.
Up to this point, I think the club and I might actually be on the same page - I imagine a lot depends on Mitre's start against the White Sox today - but I have a feeling that this next point is where the Cubs and I part ways:
Mike Remlinger should just go away. Not only has he been lousy of late - allowing runs in three of his last four appearances, while in the one game where he wasn't charged with a run, allowing two inherited runners to score when he gave up a double to the first man he faced - but he's been mediocre and unreliable during his entire tenure with the Cubs.
If there is a poster-child in the organization for why Jim Hendry's original approach to bullpen building was a bad idea, it's Sling Blade and the uninspiring work he's done during his time in Chicago, all while getting paid ridiculous sums for simply being old and left-handed.
What will happen instead is Rich Hill will be sent down to Iowa - perhaps as early as this Sunday when Prior's likely activated - and really, that's not such a bad thing. If he gets more time to work on his stuff - particularly learning to spot his fastball better so that hitters can't simply ignore his vicious curveball - that's a net positive for him, as I'm not sure he's ready to consistently face Major League hitters, and he may not get much work in The Show anyway.
However, at this point I'm just sick of the ache I get in the pit of my stomach every time I see Remlinger trot out from the pen. He's a constant reminder that you can't buy bullpen competence, and I've simply reached the limits of my patience for what he brings to a game.
Yes, it's probably better long term to stick Rem in the back of the pen and let Rich Hill get his work in down on the farm, but I still rankle at Remlinger being allowed to remain with the team when he so distinctly lacks the merits to stay.
The real answer is, of course, to do both - cut the staff back to a more reasonable eleven pitchers, send Hill to Iowa and Remlinger wherever, and bring up another bat - say, Ben Grieve - to bolster the bench. But not even I am delusional enough to think that would ever happen.
I've distinctly moved from writing to ranting, so I'll stop now and spare you further grief. Say your prayers, folks, because it's the Big Bad White Sox for the next three days, and much as I hate to think it, I smell a whuppin', and not the kind the Cubs would enjoy.