Baseball Toaster Cub Town
1200 (Or So) Angry Words
2005-06-24 07:53
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.

2005-06-24 08:28:44
1.   Lefty
Hey Derek:

Without violating the anonymity of the web, I had the pleasure of sharing a Sox game with you, Scott, and Will last month. Declining my offer of a ride was pure genius. It took me an hour and forty minutes to get home.

About the Cubs, it would be fascinating to catalogue the Cubs bullpen free-agent signings and trades over the past ten years. Remlinger is just the most recent example, except for Hawkins. Who doesn't remember Mel Rojas? Matt Karchner? Alf? And yet, cheap success stories like Borowski and Rusch don't seem to have penetrated the collective brain of the organization. Why pay for a bad bullpen when you can get one for free?

2005-06-24 08:39:51
2.   rynox
Mitre's "Magic Groundball Machine"? You put me in stitches.

Seriously, the ol' Cubbies are hurting not having a true leadoff guy. Can you imaging how unbeatable they'd be if we had a .333+ OBP guy batting in front of DLee?

Opposing pitchers would be literally horrified at the top of the lineup. For now, they only dread the middle of the lineup.

Everyone would benefit from him moving orgs: I really think a change of scenery would knock him out of his slump, the drunk Cubs fans would have to find someone else to boo, and our Cubbies could have someone batting leadoff who doesn't strike out all the time.

I'm psyched about Kotsay... I hope rumors are true and that he's the answer to the leadoff riddle.

2005-06-24 12:01:50
3.   Eric S
I must need to get my head examined ... I agreed with just about everything Mike Kiley put down in his article (which is linked with the Kotsay trade rumor) notably, calling up Ronnie Cedeno from Iowa to spell Neifi on a regular basis at SS and ditching Enrique Wilson in the process. Very scary times indeed.
2005-06-24 12:31:45
4.   Derek Smart
Eric S,

Yeah, I found myself doing the same thing. Then I noticed the byline and had a sudden urge to shower.


I don't know if Patterson would be part of that deal or not - it was implied that he might just move over to left - especially since I'm not sure the A's would want him. I imagine most of the discussion going on at this point is just how much the club is willing to cough up to get a deal done, and honestly, I don't know what the answer is.

However, I can't believe that a deal between Beane and Hendry could happen without throwing another 17 teams or so into the mix, so it should be interesting, if nothing else.

Lefty (if that is your real name ;-) ),

Sorry about the commuting hell. Frankly, that was a huge part of my logic - nothing like getting out of a ballgame near rush hour to make one appreciate public transportation.

The free agent retrospective is an interesting idea. I'll have to store that away for the offseason (just not enough time at the moment), and maybe start gathering data now. That could be kinda fun.

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