Monday, June 29, 2009

Let's just stick to the NL from now on

Sunday: White Sox 6, Cubs 0

The Cubs have reached a new low point. I don't say that just because they lost two in a row to the hated White Sox, but rather because they're two games under .500 for the first time this season. On top of that, they came within a Brandon Inge two out, 9th-inning home run of falling into 5th place in the NL Central. They're just 1 1/2 games ahead of last place Pittsburgh.

But the Cubs may have reached a mental low point as well. If you can recall them playing a game in this disinterested a fashion in the last three years, let me know. Sunday's game--which was apparently sponsored by Barnum & Bailey--featured consecutive fly balls that the Cubs refused to catch, a suicide squeeze that was successful due to a wild pitch by Zambrano, and two hit batsmen by Big Z as well. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: the Cubs have absolutely no focus or fundamentals this season, and they are much, much closer to first place than they deserve to be (the baseball gods bestowed yet another round of Cardinals and Brewers losses upon the Cubs, keeping them within 3 1/2 games of first).

The offense once again turned John Danks into Cy Young, tallying just three hits in seven innings and scoring nary a run. Danks's total line in two games against the Cubs this season:

14 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 4 BB (0.64 ERA)

Consistency is not exactly the Cubs' calling card this season--they scored five runs Friday, all via the home run; seven runs Saturday without the benefit of a long ball; and zero runs Sunday, looking pretty pathetic in doing so.

Zambrano has pitched very well since returning from the DL, but couldn't get out of the 6th on this day. He loves to hit so much, I honestly wonder if he struggles more in AL ballparks because he gets bored sitting in the dugout during the top half of each inning. He won't have to worry about that any more in '09, as the Cubs are finished with road interleague games.

There was one good moment in the game. When Danks threw a retaliation pitch and hit Ryan Freel in the arm, Freel brushed off his arm as if to say, "I barely felt it." Freel reached base three times and stole a base.

The Cubs will throw Harden, Lilly and Wells against Zach Duke (third lefty in a row), Ross Ohlendorf, and Virgil Vaszuez, who has started one game since 2005.

Quote of the week

"If he's not 100 percent to help the team to win, we don't need him."

-Alfonso Soriano, on Milton Bradley

Are you kidding me? If there's one player on this team who gives less than 100 percent (and unfortunately, I think there's more than one), it's Alfonso Soriano. There are examples galore, but I can think of three just from Sunday's game. First, he turned a gapper that was fielded near the warning track into a single (leadoff man my ass). Then, he was unable to cut off a ball hit by Paul Konerko that the vast majority of left fielders would get to, allowing the tortoise-like Konerko to get a double. Later, he broke back on a shallow pop-up, then jogged in and was unable to get to the ball before it dropped.

Don't get me wrong, Soriano's right: if Bradley isn't giving 100 percent, that's a problem. But Soriano calling out Bradley is like the charred, burnt pot calling the kettle black. There's nothing that drives me more crazy than our $136 million man moseying around the basepaths and meandering around the outfield as if he'd rather be doing anything but playing baseball. Wait, there's one thing that drives me more crazy--that same player calling out teammates for being lazy.

Random link

Great column from Tim Kurkjian on the increase in strikeouts in baseball. Teaser: last season, 90 players struck out 100 or more times. In 1960, just seven did.

Samardzija watch

Jeff has been locked in in his last two starts. He notched a win with a seven inning, three-run performance Friday after throwing eight shutout innings in his previous start. He's now 5-3 with a 3.72 ERA at Iowa, and we may see him in the big league bullpen soon.

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