Last night felt like the glory days. A large pitcher named Carlos hurled a quality start, there were some timely hits, and Aramis Ramirez hit two home runs en route to the second Cubs win in a row and–gasp!–a series win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Naive fans everywhere, rejoice! The 2010 Cubs are finally regaining their 2008 form!
Actually, they’re not. Not by a long shot. What you see here is one of the worst teams in the National League beating up on one of the even worse teams in the National League. Nothing more. Take a look at the standings and cue the sad Price Is Right music.
Hell, even if the Cubs win another 10 games in a row, they’ll still only be at .500 on the year. And with their luck, they just might do that, ruining their chances at a top pick in next year’s First Year Player Draft, leaving them with another mediocre showing for a spectacularly bloated payroll.
It’s not just the losing that’s wrong with the Cubs. The team, which is on pace for 90-plus losses this year, preached all spring about better team chemistry following last year’s Milton Bradley fiasco, only to realize they’d had another clubhouse cancer all along in former ace Carlos Zambrano, who is currently serving a team-sanctioned suspension. The rest of the pitching, led by the massive surprise that is last night’s winning pitcher, Carlos Silva, has been oddly great for a team with a .440 winning percentage, so I guess they’ve got that going for them.
However, the defense and especially the hitting have been… suspect, to put it lightly.
Oh, the hitting. Man, are the Cubs bad at hitting a baseball. They have a lineup filled with former All Stars and they are third-to-last in the league in runs scored. Derrek Lee and particularly Aramis Ramirez, owner of a .180 batting average, look very old and very ineffective these days, despite Ramirez’s outburst last night. They’re swinging at junk out of the zone and hardly driving the ball with authority the way they did in years past. When the rookie outfielder, Tyler Colvin, is second on the team in homers despite only playing regularly for the past month, something is very wrong.
I understand this all sounds like sour grapes, but how am I supposed to have any confidence in this team when their own manager declares them trade-deadline sellers? The pitcher who has led the team in wins the last few years, Ted Lilly, is most certainly out the door at some point this month, and Lee is a possibility, too, along with right fielder Kosuke Fukudome, if any teams are willing to take their contracts.
There is a little hope for the future, however. Rookies like the aforementioned Colvin, shortstop Starlin Castro, and relief pitcher Andrew Cashner have all performed well, with a few other prospects coming soon should the big league team actually move some of their financial dead weight. These young guys can hopefully grow into productive major leaguers and form a solid core around consistent veterans like Marlon Byrd, the team’s lone All Star this year, for the future. It’s either that or the Cubs pull a miracle, ’04 Astros second half out of their asses and light the fireworks. I doubt it, though.