By Paul Schmidt
Nothing like an easy week or so of baseball to just get you relaxed.
The Cubs have always given their fans something of a workout, pumping them waaaayyyy up, then bringing them waaaayyyy down. I feel as though, personally, that they may actually make my head explode.
Somehow, in their last 10 games, the Cubs are 6-4. It seems ridiculous to see this in print, given how I feel about the end of their long home stand against the Dodgers and the beginning of their nine game road trip against the Braves, Reds and Astros. In fact, I had to look that record up. I assumed it would be somewhere around 3-7 or 2-8.
My own personal experience certainly shows in that, having been at Wrigley for both of the losses in the Dodgers’ series. On Thursday night I saw an absolutely lackluster performance from the offense until the ninth inning, which ended with consecutive (awful looking) strikeouts by career minor leaguers Bobby Scales and Jake Fox. Then on Sunday, on Illini Day, after schmoozing with Bruce Weber, Wayne McClain, and some short blonde guy apparently associated with the University, the Dodgers scored five runs off Cubs starter Sean Marshall before we could get to our seats in the nosebleed section.
4 of the last 6 have now gone to extras for the Cubs, which means if you’re reading this and you have some juice left in your arm, you might actually get a call from Jim Hendry to see if you want to throw in the bullpen this week. Especially if you’re a lefty.
Another career minor leaguer, Randy Wells, continued to throw well during that stretch, throwing seven innings of two run ball in the Thursday night Dodgers loss, and then throwing almost seven innings of no-hit baseball against
the Braves the following Tuesday. He ended up giving up just one run, and handing the ball over to the bullpen with a 5-1 lead. And then not factoring into the decision.
In fact, that game will forever be the game that I refer to as, “The game that caused me to consult a cardiac specialist the next day.” I can’t, on advice of said doctor, go into what happened at the end of regulation innings and then in the bottom of the 12th (the mere mention of that inning makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up), but suffice it to say it involved Aaron Heilman pitching to Larry Jones, also known as Chipper…in extras, with the winning run in scoring position…with first base open…when ol’ Larry has hit 6-of-12 in his career against Heilman, including three doubles and two home runs.
If you can’t figure out what happened in that game, well, then you really mustn’t be a Cubs fan…
At any rate, that was the game that also caused me to realize how remarkably consistent the Cubs have been this season. Usually this would be a good thing, but then, is anything ever really that good with the Cubs?
The fact is, they’ve been consistently inconsistent. From a game to game basis, I, personally, have no idea what to expect from this team. I can’t believe that I’m the only one in that respect – I currently think that Lou Piniella throws darts at photos on the wall to determine who is going to play where on a daily basis. If he’s not, it couldn’t honestly be any worse or yield any more unpredictable results than whatever method he is using.
Here’s the thing though: A Major League Baseball team can’t survive playing the way they are. You have to have consistency in some way, even if it’s just in the lineup that gets thrown out there every day. In 2007 and 2008, that wasn’t a problem. Injuries, for the most part, stayed away or were minor, so they could put their best foot forward most days.
The defense was solid on a daily basis.
There was always someone that was hot on offense, a bat that carried the team while others struggled.
Now re-read those previous three paragraphs. Do any of those three things sound like this years’ edition of the Chicago Cubs?
They really don’t. Injuries are mounting, on offense and on the pitching staff (though it seems like the rotation is finally getting healthy with Rich Harden set to throw this coming weekend). The defense has been shoddy at best (with the Cubs posting a record that is something like 2-5,302 when they commit an error this season), and the offense has disappeared for long stretches of games, with only Kosuke Fukudome and Ryan Theriot showing consistent signs of life.
It’s been maddening, and difficult to watch. And yet, every time I say I’m going to take a break for a few games, I sit down and turn it to WGN or Comcast Sports Net come game time.
I’m as consistently inconsistent with my convictions as the Cubs have been playing baseball this year.
Funnily enough, those might be the only two things you can count on.