Chicago Sports Inside and Out – The Chicago Sports Maven

Bringing Chicago sports to the world!

Posts Tagged ‘Lou Piniella’

Chicago Cubs Should Trademark The “Wait ‘Til Next Year” Slogan

Posted by sportsmaven on October 5, 2008

It’s been over an hour since RF Alfonso Soriano took the last of his pitiful swings to end the season for the Chicago Cubs and I am still pissed off.  I, like millions of other people, am a Chicago Cubs fan and again, we have been turned into a mockery again by the very team that we live and die for.

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

WE have become a national laughingstock, a total joke.  There are hundreds and thousands of Cubs fans in the city of Chicago, as well as all over the world that are angry tonight after the Cubs were swept out of the 2008 playoffs by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Los Angeles newspapers accuse Cub fans of giving up after being down in Game 1.  TBS showed shot after shot of grieving, somber Cubs fans after both Game 1 and Game 2, heads in their hands, stunned beyond belief.

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)

Practically every person associated with Cubs management has sounded off about how there are no such things as curses caused by billy goats, that those things are the concoctions of the imaginations of over-restless fans and yet Cubs management felt the need to sneak in a Greek Orthodox priest to Wrigley Field to splash holy water over the Cubs dugout hours before the start of Game 1only to get caught by a TBS camera crew who showed up early to set up for the Game 1 telecast, thus broadcasting this absurd event to the entire baseball watching audience.

This Cubs team had brought so much pride and joy to Cub fans in a magical regular season with 97 wins, and a second consecutive, NL Central Division Championship.  In three short playoff games, this very Cubs team has brought shame and embarassment to Cubs fans all over the world.  Extinguished all the wonderful, inspiring, positive feelings about Cubs baseball in 27 innings of the worst playoff baseball played in recent memory — by ANY team.  I don’t care what Lou Piniella or any of the 25 guys in the Cubs locker room says – this season was a failure, no other word to describe the end result.

It’s not that the Cubs lost, it’s the ridiculous manner in which they lost.  It’s not that the Cubs played their hearts out and just got beat by a superior team, because that wasn’t the case at all.  The Cubs lost because they failed to show up to play.  No hitting, no pitching, and no fielding.  A pathetic, lifeless effort by every member of this Cubs team.  Not one player played good baseball in this series.  Cubs P Ryan Dempster said in tonight’s post-game interview that the Dodgers just brought more energy to the series than the Cubs.  How utterly ridiculous is that?  The Cubs just have a tendency to play appallingly bad baseball at the absolute worst possible time.

Of course, we’ll all have the offseason for the anger to diminish, the Cubs will be back next season and we’ll do this all over again for the 101st consecutive season without a World Championship.  We’ll also be entering our 64th year without making the World Series.  We may even have a new owner that will do whatever it takes to erase those indignified statistics.  If next season’s Cubs make the playoffs again, I’m sure the pressure will still be there, the statistics will still be there.  The Cubs are not the New York Yankees. They don’t make the playoffs every year.  Opportunities are few and far between and the Cubs blew this one in a disgusting, embarassing, shameful, uninspiring and lacksidasical, manner.  Wait ’til next year?

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Chicago Cubs Playoff Baseball Takes Yet Another Cruel Turn

Posted by sportsmaven on October 1, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, this series is over.  That’s it, all up in smoke in 2 hours of bad baseball.  The Chicago Cubs were on the biggest of the biggest stage tonight.  Most everything has been going their way in what has been an amazing baseball season to this point.  What was needed was a Game 1 victory in the National League Division Series, to show the world what we have seen in Chicago for the past 6 months, but the Cubs came out flat, nervous, and scared, a virtual repeat of last season’s sweep at the hands of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The Cubs suddenly have developed a severe case of the flop sweats.  From the outset of Game 1, the Cubs looked shell shocked, scared.  Looked as if they were pressing, the pressure of all the expectations, burdens of 100 years of fan expectations, on their shoulders.  The burdens of 100 years of failed Cubs teams to make up for.  They took that on the field with them tonight and played as though they wanted to wipe out 100 years of expectations in one failed swoop.

After the game, everyone looked completely stunned, in a state of shock, with no confidence.  From the tone and look on manager Lou Piniella’s face in his post-game interview, to the tentative, shaky answers the Cub players provided after tonight’s 7-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, from body language, tone of voice, not one bit of confidence oozed from anyone associated with the Cubs tonight.

This team looked defeated.  And this is why this series and the season will be over for the Cubs in 4 or 5 short days.  The Cubs have an 0-7 record in their last 7 playoff games, going back to the 2003 NLCS, and there are no discernable signs of this trend breaking any time soon.  And now, ironically, the season is in the very erratic hands of RHP Carlos Zambrano in a must win Game 2 tomorrow night.

Tonight’s Cubs team performance, and RHP Ryan Dempster in particular, reminded me of actor Albert Brooks in the 1987 hit movie “Broadcast News”.  Brooks plays an uber intelligent reporter named Aaron Altman.  Altman is a neurotic, socially repressed reporter who is craving for a chance to dance on the big stage of network news, the anchor desk of the prime time news cast.

He wants to anchor the prime time news show.  When all the regulars are attending the White House Correspondents Dinner, Altman is given his chance to star on the prime time evening news.  Altman is beyond smart, almost overqualified in many ways, but he craves just one opportunity to shine in the limelight.

When the camera light blinks on at the most crucial moment when newscast begins, Altman suddenly realizes the enormous magnitude of the moment and his perceived inadequacy, he gets the “deer in the headlights” look in his eyes.

As the newscast contunues, he begins profusely sweating, so bad that William Hurt’s character described it as “singing in the rain”.  An utter disaster.  This is what happened to Dempster and the Chicago Cubs tonight.

The baseball gods are very fickle at this point of the season.  They don’t care about destiny nor the burdens of 100 years of baseball futility.  They have no room for perceived entitlement, fans expectations, nor do they care what you did yesterday.  They don’t care about predestinations, or history.  They certainly don’t care about curses, billy goats, or pressure.  All they care about is baseball played today, played well, and with execution.  Today’s game.

Tomorrow night’s game is the most important of the season.  It is the season.  The short divisional series is the great equalizer in the baseball playoffs.  It’s where dreams, hard work, and grandiose expectations go to die.  The Chicago Cubs are in a must-win situation tomorrow night and in Game 3 in Los Angeles on Saturday.  Carlos Zambrano, lets see what you’ve got……

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Chicago Cubs Season Turning Into A Circus

Posted by sportsmaven on July 27, 2008

The Chicago Cubs magical first half of the 2008 season has quickly turned into a circus-like  atmosphere for destiny’s team in the month of July.  The Cubs began the season with few distractions, allowing the team to concentrate on playing very solid baseball, leading to the best record in baseball for much of the first half of the season.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

As of late, a rash of off-field events have provided plenty of distraction for a team already bearing the weight of lofty explanations.  Those events include:

On the field, the Cubs have been less than stellar, posting a 9-11 record since July 1st.  The off-field issues may have played some role in that record, but on-field, the Cubs have been a different team as of late.  Some of the on-field issues include:

  • OF Kosuke Fukudome hitting .185 in July
  • IF/OF Mark DeRosa hitting .188 in July
  • IF Aramis Ramirez hitting .176 in July including an 0-28 stretch between July 12-22.
  • P Bobby Howry sports a 6.97 ERA in July, giving up earned runs in 3 of his last 5 appearances.
  • Scheduling: From June 10th, the Cubs played for 26 consecutive days, including a rained-out affair at the Hall of Fame on June 16th, their only “day off” in that span.  On June 29th, the Cubs played the ESPN Sunday Night Game of the week and then had to board a plane to fly to San Francisco to play a game the next night.
  • Since June 10th, the Cubs record is 20-21.  Coming out of the All-Star break, the Cubs play 20 game in 20 days.
  • NL loses to the AL in the All Star game for the 11th straight year, thus securing home field advantage for the AL team, not a good sign for NL contenders such as the Cubs who are substantially under .500 on the road (22-30).

The Cubs are certainly not playing with the same energy that they displayed in amassing the best record in baseball in the days leading to the All-Star break, looking game weary while grinding out a schedule with spans of 26 games in a row and now, 20 in a row.

The Cubs seem as thought they’ve forgotten that playing baseball is fun.  The hitters look less patient at the plate, swinging at pitches they took for balls earlier in the season.  The once-vaunted bullpen, considered a strength of the team, is in disarray, with the injury to Kerry Wood forcing nearly every other pitcher in the pen to new roles.  Jim Hendry is unsure whether to make any moves when considering that considering that when healthy, there could be more players than positions.  I don’t know if this is a one week slide or if it’s a longer term issue.  I don’t know the cure to what ails the Cubs.  I do know that as of today, the Cubs are tied with the Brewers for first in the NL Central and both teams appear to be moving in opposite directions.

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chicago Cubs Run Into A Mid-Season Rut

Posted by sportsmaven on June 30, 2008

No doubt, so far in the 2008 season, Chicago Cubs fans have been treated to great baseball above and beyond any fathomable expectations. The Cubs entered June with the best record in baseball and have played most of the month of June with that same label, but as June comes to a close, the Cubs are limping to a well deserved and needed break for the 2008 All-Star game at Yankee Stadium in New York.

For the first time this season, the Cubs are facing adversity. The Cubs have played so well that even fickle fans have been spoiled by the lengthy and meaningful success the Cubs have enjoyed so far this season. Their season long dominance at Wrigley Field has provided a sense of dominance in the somewhat weak National League, but injuries are starting to pile up and it’s beginning to take it’s toll on the Cubs dominant run.

When RF Alfonso Soriano went down with a broken hand in the Braves series, all was not lost, as the Cubs lost Soriano earlier in the season and responded as though he was never missed in the lineup. But with this injury plus injuries to RHP Carlos Zambrano, CF Reed Johnson, LHP Scott Eyre, and nagging injuries to CF Jim Edmonds and RF Kosuke Fukudome, the Cubs are finding that all is not well on the “It’s Gonna Happen” bandwagon.

During this weekend’s Sox series, the Cubs started an OF of a mis-cast RF Eric Patterson, injured CF Jim Edmonds, and just returned from injured RF Daryle Ward. The White Sox ran on Patterson all day on Friday and he has yet to see the lineup since. RHP Ryan Dempster also picked a bad time for his worst outing of the season, and P’s Sean Gallagher and Sean Marshall couldn’t stop the bleeding.

The Cubs can’t seem to shake the pesky, smoke and mirrors miracle of the St. Louis Cardinals, now only 2.5 games ahead in the standings. The Milwaukee Brewers are also sneaking up, moving to 4.5 games back. The Cubs played the Sunday night prime time game on ESPN tonight and now have to fly all night to San Francisco to start a 4 game series with the improving Giants (fortunately missing on all world Giants starter RHP Tim Lincecum) and a July 4th weekend series in St. Louis with the Cardinals.

I though Cubs manager Lou Piniella actually did a great job of reminding the Cubs and the fans that although the Sox series has serious emotional hooks in a north/south divide, that this series was one of many series over the course of a full season. Piniella elected to juggle his starting rotation a little, but rested key players such as 2B Mark DeRosa, Kosuke Fukudome, and C Geovanny Soto over the weekend, with the implicit message that the season isn’t won in June by overextending regulars in an interleague matchup that is more glitter than substance.

With Reed Johnson and Carlos Zambrano due to come back this week, and Alfonso Soriano healing very quickly, reinforcements are on the way. With the All-Star break in less than two weeks, much needed rest will soon follow. Once the Cubs are back to full strength, the cream should rise to the top again in the National League. Lets not panic just yet…..

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Top 5 Moves To Improve The Chicago Cubs

Posted by sportsmaven on May 2, 2008

After yesterday’s tough to swallow loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago Cubs sit 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals after setting a team record for wins in April (17 wins).   The Cubs offense has been way ahead of their pitching with the exception of Carlos Zambrano, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot and both performed very well in that role.  The Cubs surged to the top of the league in virtually all offensive categories in Soriano’s absence.  Both Johnson and Theriot bring a fiery presence to the top of the order.  The Cubs would be unbelievably formidable in the middle of their order with Soriano batting in the 5th or 6th spot. The Cubs should make this move immediately.

2.  Send LHP Rich Hill to Iowa, move RHP Jon Lieber into the rotation – Rich Hill has been a disaster this season, with tonight’s start the latest gaffe.  Hill’s inability to consistently find the strike zone with any pitch has taxed the Cubs bullpen.  Tonight’s 2/3 of an inning, 27 pitch outing where he walked 4 of the first 6 batters he faced has literally handcuffed Manager Lou Piniella for tonight’s game and possibly for the rest of a very key series against the Cardinals.  Hill needs to work out whatever issues he has in AAA and come back ready to pitch every time out.

3.  Send Of Felix Pie to Iowa and install Reed Johnson as the starting CF – Felix Pie is struggling big time against major league pitching.  He looks clueless at the plate and is hitting just above .200.  Pie needs playing time and not in Chicago.  Reed Johnson was one of the best spring training pickups of the season for the Cubs and provides exactly what the Cubs need – a gritty, hard nosed, all out effort performance every game he plays.

4.  Move Carlos Marmol to the closer role, Kerry Wood to long relief or setup – need I say more after yesterday’s game?  Wood has almost as many blown saves (3) as saves converted (4).  I love Kerry Wood, he is a competitor, a gamer, never complains, takes the ball in any situation.  He’s a man, but not a closer when you have Carlos Marmol and his repetoire of nasty stuff on your roster.  Marmol has been virtually unhittable this season.  He has come into games this season in pressure packed situations and has been completely dominant.  Give this guy the 9th inning and we have at least 3 more wins this season (and 3 less losses).

5.  Continue hydrating Carlos Zambrano – or continue limiting/restricting his caffeine intake.  Whatever the Cubs are doing to keep Carlos Zambrano healthy, focused and dedicated, continue to do it.  Zambrano has been fantastic this season, a true top of the rotation starter since Opening Day.  He’s 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA this season, by far, his best start to a season.  He would have been 5-1 but for yesterday’s 9th inning implosion.  Zambrano needs to have a big year for the Cubs to dominate.  He is well on his way going into May.

This Cubs started the 2008 season virtually the way they wanted to start, with a 17-10 record in April.  Their early season success (and at times, dominant play) have raised expectations even further for the remainder of the season.  With these suggested moves, the Cubs can position themselves to continue their hot start into the meat of their season.

Posted in Chicago Cubs | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »