Friday, August 28, 2009

Is it football season yet?

Thursday: Nationals 5, Cubs 4

The good: Dodgers, Rockies, Phillies

The bad: Nationals, Padres

The ugly: The Cubs have lost to them all.

No matter which opponent takes the field against the Cubs right now, they're likely to be shaking hands after the last out is made. The Cubs are now 9-15 in August, and they have more problems than you can shake a bat at. Problems like:

-Milton Bradley taking the train back to Crazy Town, claiming that he faces "hatred" at Wrigley Field and that he prays each game goes only nine innings (no matter who's winning, presumably) so that he can get home. Phil Rogers says the Cubs should let him stay home, though that would mean eating the $21 million remaining on Bradley's contract.

-And his isn't the only contract the Cubs would love to shed but probably can't. Alfonso Soriano continues to be unproductive (0-for-4 Thursday to drop his average to .238), and the Cubs appear to be stuck with his indolence, inconsistency and ineptitude for five more years. I believe Hendry can fight his way out of this, but if he gets axed and someone else is charged with putting this team back together, I feel for them.

-No second baseman. The Cubs will need to address the hole in the middle of their infield this offseason, with Fontenot looking very much like a backup this season and Jeff Baker and Aaron Miles (shiver) the only other options on the current roster.

-Soto's demise. Wha' happened? From .285, 23 and 86 last year to .218, 9 and 31 this year. Koyie Hill--Koyie Freakin' Hill--is getting more and more playing time, and it's hard to argue with that decision; Soto's batting .150 in August after a .222 July.

-What to do with Rich Harden? Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster and Wells appear to be cemented in the 2010 rotation, but should the Cubs offer Harden a big deal? I think the Cubs should offer one or two years at a moderate salary, say $6-7 million/year. I'm not sure he'll get many offers bigger than that, given the economy and his long history of injuries.

-Randy Wells's Rookie of the Year chances are fading along with the Cubs. Now 9-7 with a 3.06 ERA, he has clearly ceded front-runner status to Spring Valley, Ill. native J.A. Happ (10-3, 2.63). Even the Braves' Tommy Hanson (9-2, 3.12) might have a leg up on Wells at this point. Wells has obviously had a fantastic season (and he deserves a better record to show for it), but his chances of picking up some hardware to remember it by have gotten a lot slimmer.

In fairness, the Cubs did get robbed Thursday on a bad call at the plate when Derrek Lee was called out trying to score on a wild pitch even though pitcher Sean Burnett tagged him with an empty glove. That's the way this season has gone on the North Side, as a chance to gain a game on the Cardinals was wasted perhaps in part because of the missed call, but mostly because the Cubs fell into a 5-0 hole against the worst team in the National League.

It's incredible that the Cardinals have the biggest cushion of any divisional leader (nine games). Last time they made the playoffs, in 2006, they scratched and clawed their way in with a mediocre 83-win season. No need for them to buckle up, put their seats in an upright position or put their tray tables up this September, for they appear headed for a soft landing in what has turned out to be a terrible division.

Like I said, is it football season yet?

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