It’s time to recap April, locate those kernels of hope, drink the blue kool-aid and look forward to May! Woooooooo! May!
After a rough start, the Cardinals promenaded their way back to the top of the division, with the rest of the teams mired in the mud within a few games of the .500 Reds. The Cubs? Right about where most people expected them to be. I was hoping for better, but there are plenty of reasons why a 12-14 record in April is exciting…
- The Starting Pitching has not been good. Not good at all.
What was hoped to be a strength struggled through the monsoons of April, the injuries to Cash and Wells, and the disappearance of Dempster. The Cubs rank dead last in the NL in quality starts (it’s not even close), team ERA, and walks issued. Garza and Big Z have 7 of the 8 quality starts. The Cubs still managed to win 12 games.
- The Bullpen was a little bit Dr. Jeckyll and a little bit Mr. Hyde.
Marmol, Marshall and Wood have been very, very good. Samardzija has been shockingly useful. It’s almost as if he realized this is the last year the Cubs are going to be paying him. The rest have been up and down and up and down. Although, with even a little bit of starting pitching, the Cubs won’t depend on them nearly as much. Despite the ups and downs, and the fan-favorite All-Bullpen Days, the Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Offense has mainly consisted of Castro, Barney and Soriano.
Zambrano is tied for THIRD on the team in homeruns with 1. Soriano has almost as many homeruns as the REST OF THE TEAM COMBINED (10 of 21 total). Barney has more RBI than Ramirez (14 – 11). Pena is SOMEHOW hitting worse than last year. Unsurprisingly, the Cubs are 12th in the NL in runs scored. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Cubs do not lead the league in Antidefense, but they’re close.
Not every Cub feat of antidefense shows up in the errors column. Thankfully. There have been enough botched run-downs, missed bunt assignments, dropped fly-balls (it’s not just a south-side disease), Dunston like throws to first base, throws to the wrong base, and pigeon attacks in the outfield – to lose a few close ones. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- Quade is learning on the job.
Early in the year, I admonished Cub fans to trust in the Quade. I’ll stick to that. He IS getting better. The Quade is sticking with a struggling and/or tiring starter less often (trying to squeeze that ONE more inning out of a pitcher is almost always a big bucket of Fail when facing major league hitters). Heck, he even got thrown out of a game for the first time. And then promptly admitted being wrong for arguing (after seeing the replay). Despite some puzzling batting orders (always overplayed in the media), and lack of Tweeting from the clubhouse… the Cubs still won 12 games.
The Cubs have hit just well enough to hand off some leads to the three headed monster in the back of the bullpen. And that is enough to go 12-14. Despite a lot of room for improvement.
So I’m proudly drinking the Blue Kool-Aid out of a glass that looks half full. 3.5 games back after significantly under-performing for the month? Sign me up.
Now, bring on May. Cardinals and Reds at Wrigley? First road-trip to Fenway?
This is the Month!
Do I have your attention?
There are a few things I would change about the game of baseball – most fans probably have a list, a DIFFERENT list from mine, of course. I’m not going to complain about anything huge or complex. Getting the owners and players to agree on a major change is like planning a tea party with Republicans and Democrats, Bostonians and New Yorkers, Cats and Dogs, North-Siders and South-Siders, Big Markets and Small Markets, Disco and Rock-n-Roll…
Instead, my complaint is EASILY fixed.
Napolean had Waterloo, the Trojans had a giant wooden horse, Custer had his… uh… Last Stand.
Selig has the All-Star Game.
Seriously, Selig. Do you spend the offseason dreaming up new ways to screw an exhibition game up?
Bud Bundy, it is April 27th. And the All-Star ballots are already released? Every year, deserving players are left off the roster because more popular players are voted in. But what the hell are people supposed to base their vote on in April? Spring Training? Three weeks of games? Holy hell. But that’s not the ultimate kick in the groin… every year brings new embarrassing All-Star ballot selections.
Here are the Chicago Cubs on the 2011 All-Star Ballot
C – Soto
1B – Pena
2B – DEWITT
3B – Ramirez
SS – Castro
OF – Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome
Wait, what? For those who (thankfully) have not watched a lot of Cubs baseball this year: DeWitt has started 1 game for the Cubs this year. Darwin Barney has started 18 games at 2B. Are you KIDDING me? This means the list was compiled before the START of the season, considering Barney won the job before Opening Day.
Here are some other fun and exciting names on the ballot:
– Chase Utley – 0 games played.
– Kendry Morales – 0 games played.
– Brandon Belt – already optioned to the minors (I’m sure he’ll be back, but still…)
– Ivan Rodriguez – who has lost the starting job to Wilson Ramos
– Brad Emaus – a rule V pick who has been sent from the Mets back to his former team the Blue Jays who have traded him to the Rockies – but is listed as a Met
I’m sure there are more, feel free to chime in with any moronic ballot picks from other teams.
No matter what method is chosen, some player will be injured or traded after the release – but this is ridiculous. It’s very simple, Budrick. Here are two improvements that should be implemented post-haste. But since you are likely a Lame-Duck Commish, you couldn’t care less – which is a pity.
Start All-Star voting on June 1st. Release ballots ON June 1st. Finalize ballots a week before – ideally using players who are actually playing the position for the team, and haven’t been injured for the entire season – revolutionary, I know. And please don’t give me any crap about printing paper ballots for fans at games requiring more lead time. This is 2011, Mr Bud. If 95% of the voting isn’t already done online I would be extraordinarily shocked. Oh, and this won’t solve everything, but it might help with fewer Fukudome’s being voted in. A few more fans might actually look at a couple months worth of performance before voting.
Allow any all-star starter (you know – those guys voted in by the fans) to come back into the game once, if the game goes into extra innings. Currently the manager can designate one position player to reenter (plus a catcher if a catcher is injured). If a guy like Ortiz gets a hit in the ninth: I think the fans, the manager, the players, the media, the announcers and even God himself would prefer a pinch runner – instead of saving a future hall of famer (ARod) on the bench just in case he’s needed in extra innings. Give the managers a bit more flexibility. And who wouldn’t like to see an extra inning game with Hanley Ramirez or Evan Longoria coming back in to pinch hit. This is not a normal game. You’ve already bent the rules a bit. Don’t make the managers hold players back, just in case. It also may allow a few more extra innings to be played without having to punt and call a tie game.
Pretty simple fixes Bud. Fix it. Your legacy, fair or not, to the average fan will forever be dominated by your personal Waterloo Trojan Horse Last Stand: the annual All-Star Debacle.
I have an extremely low tolerance for stupidity. Usually however, my response is to simply roll my eyes. This required a bit of therapeutic ranting.
It almost made me forget the Cub and Blackhawk losses from yesterday. Almost.
I think it was Moreland in the booth last night that mentioned 1984’s Daily Double of Dernier and Sandberg at the top of the order. Castro was 3 for 5 with 3 runs scored… Barney was 2 for 3, 2 walks, 2 runs, 1 rbi.
I’m not going to confuse Barney for Sandberg any time soon… but that was fun to watch. Lots of energy, and plenty of chances for the big guns to drive in runs… which they did. 4 for 9 with RISP. They boys did a good job of making the most of their chances.
Which brings us to the pitching. Great start by Dempster. Which we really really needed.
Is that enough ‘Glass Half Full’? Can I put down the koolaid for a minute to complain, even though the Cubs won?
I trust you Quade. I really do. I know Demp is the ace, and you’re going to need him to battle through some innings this year, help you rest the bullpen… especially with two men down in the rotation already. But… If he’s over 100 pitches, the game is close, it’s in the 7th inning or later, and the FAA calls to demand a flight plan be filed for the last two balls hit… it’s time to go to the bullpen. Great night Demp, we’ve got it from here.