The most interesting thing about the Cubs season so far is how mad some of the fans are that this team is bad. Didn’t we all expect that? Even if this team were healthy (and it is decidedly unhealthy) it just wasn’t going to be that good. If they played to their top level they might have been an 81 or 82 win team. Wow. I’ll start cutting up the ticker tape, you chart out the parade route.
The combination of shitty weather this spring and a shitty baseball has meant lots of empty seats at Wrigley Field so far. The weather will improve, the team won’t, and so attendance will rebound, but only to an extent. You know things are bad when the Cubs have to put VP of Marketing and General Creepiness Wally Hayward on during a rain delay to remind us that we can get free t-shirts, beer or hot dogs just for showing up at a game on Mondays, Tuesdays or Wednesdays.
The average fan dumps about $60 post-ticket at a baseball game. (That seems high, but it’s an “average” for every guy who brings his own bologna sandwich and wears an adult diaper so he never has to leave his bleacher seat, there are countless others who are either going to get shitfaced on $8 beers, eat nachos out of a helmet so big that even Glenallen Hill could have gotten his head in it, or buy those fucking beads.) So even though the Cubs are selling 30,000 to 38,000 tickets for every game, every fan who doesn’t show up is still a kick to their pants. Earlier this season when 11,000 or so fans were actually in the park, even though the Cubs had a solid gate, they were probably losing more than $150,000 in money that they can reliably squeeze out of drunks, and parents trying to shut their kids up by getting them that coveted Marlon Byrd jersey t-shirt, and even better, drunk parents trying to shut their kids up by buying them James Russell jersey tees.
So the starting pitching has been decimated by injury, that has overtaxed a bullpen that is great at the end, and not so hot before that. The Cubs can hit, but they don’t ever walk, and good offenses can’t rely on stringing together four singles to get (maybe) two runs, so they’ve struggled to score.
Defensively, they are terrible, which makes no sense, considering that they have average to above average defenders in center, right, short, second and first, and the only truly awful defensive player is playing the spot where every team hides their truly awful defensive player…left field.
Add it all up and you’ve got a bad baseball team. Which, is exactly what the Cubs are.
I know some of you out there are already fed up with Mike Quade. You have a right to be. But I don’t want to hear it. Not even a peep of it. This team sucks, and it would suck if you reanimated Joe McCarthy and put him on the bench, just like it would if you moved Tom Trebelhorn’s BINGO card into the dugout and he wandered in after it.
Mostly, the criticisms you hear about Quade are one or more of these:
1. He uses too many different lineups.
He was also handed a roster that started the season with two lefthanded hitters platooning in right field and two righthanded hitters platooning at second base. His catcher got hurt and he had to use Koyie Dolan Hill for prolonged stretches (because Wellington Castillo really impressed when he got his chances), his third baseman forgot how to hit homers, his centerfielder broke his face, he lost his fourth and fifth starters on the same day after one start each, his first baseman didn’t get a hit in April (well, something like that) and when he needed a fifth starter his general manager told him, “Just use Jeff Russell’s kid…again.” So yeah, he’s used a lot of lineups. If I were him I’d carry a bottle of Wild Turkey around with me the entire game just to numb the pain of having to watch this shit.
2. He stuck with E-ramis at cleanup way too long.
Instead of who? Carlos Pena and his (now) 98 OPS-plus and .217 batting average? Alfonso Soriano and his .297 on base average? Now that Pena’s playing well he’s batting fourth. So there. Happy? Of course not. Your baseball team sucks. What do you have to be happy about?
3. He leaves his starting pitchers in too long.
Yes, he does.
4. He uses too many nicknames.
Yes, he does. But nobody really cares. He calls Starlin Castro “Cassie” which is kind of ghey, and Dempster is “Demp” and Zambrano is “Z” and DeWitt is “Blakey” or some shit, and it just doesn’t matter. So stop worrying about it. That last manager didn’t use nicknames because he didn’t know who anybody was and you didn’t like that either. Just stop complaining about everything.
5. He’s not playing “the kids”
Now you have fans who want to see “the kids” play. These fans think Brad Snyder (29 years old) is a kid. He’s not. He’s only a couple of years younger than Jason Dubois. You want to see Jason Dubois again? I didn’t think so.
They also are upset that manager Mike Quade started Blake DeWitt in left last night instead of Tyler Colvin. I’m pretty sure Quade had a reason for this. Maybe two. DeWitt’s been working on playing the outfield to give the Cubs bench more flexibility. Quade wants to see how that’s going. Given that DeWitt has fallen down chasing flyballs once in each of the last two games, not so good. But DeWitt’s potential at the plate is better than Colvin’s. He takes walks and he doesn’t strike out as much as Tyler. The simple fact is that neither of these guys are really all that good. But by any objective measure a lefty hitter who can play second, third and the outfield is worth more than a lefty hitter who can only play the outfield and maybe a little first base. Quade wants to see if he has anything in DeWitt.
And, when you hear somebody bitch that Quade’s not playing the “kid” Colvin in left, remind them that Blake DeWitt is a lot older than Colvin…if 15 days is a lot. They’re the same age.
Starlin’s 21, Barney’s 25, Quade gave Andrew Cashner the fifth spot in the rotation. Let’s just say he does not seem averse to playing young’ins.
The fact is, we knew coming into this year that this was a year we just had to get through. Some of the better prospects in the system (like Brett Jackson) aren’t quite ready, and the Cubs need to shed the salaries of hard to trade veterans like Kosuke and E-ramis. Marlon Byrd was a sure-fire bet to be traded until he broke his face in Boston. He still might be if he gets back soon enough and proves he’s healthy. Carlos Pena will almost certainly be traded at some point, and he might even bring back some actual value.
Next year the Cubs will have new starters in right, center, first, and third. That might be great. It might also be even worse than the crap they’re running out there now.
Doesn’t it still seem like we’re waiting for Larry Rothschild to just come back? It’s like that time he left for a weekend to go to his daughter’s graduation and Lester Strode got to be the pitching coach for two days. Does it even seem like Mark Riggins really has the job?
The Cubs have the worst starting pitcher ERA in the league and the 10th worst bullpen ERA. Other than that…they are awesome. The pitching rotation currently has Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez in it. Holy shit.
So what is there to look forward to? Well, we can watch Starlin come off the bench in the All-Star game. We can see if anyone will take on part of the rest of Kosuke’s deal at the trading deadline. Somebody will take E-ramis if the Cubs get him to agree to waive the right for his option year to automatically kick in for next year in the event of any trade, and if Byrd can get back on the field by early to mid July (his current target) he can get traded.
Why do we root for this team again?