A League of Her Own

Chicago Cubs Headlines for Tuesday

Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals

Fonzie ducks incoming barbs from fans, media

Let's see, it's a weekday. . . so I guess that means we pick up where we left off, which was. . . ?

Oh right. Trying to figure out what sent this team into the dumpster. Today, Fonzie takes a stab at it:

"It's everybody, it's not only one guy here," Soriano said. "I'll take the responsibility if it's only me, but it's a team. We've been struggling for one reason. We have a very good offense, but things happen. We have a lot of talent here, but we haven't put it together."

Hmmm. It would have been more enlightening if he'd told us what "the reason" was. But perhaps I expect too much. Speaking of expecting too much:

The Cubs return to Wrigley Field Tuesday night on the fringe of contention, beginning a 10-game homestand with the Nationals first up.

Among the story lines are Carlos Zambrano's first start since his back issues he blamed on "lazy" conditioning, Jim Riggleman's return as opposing manager for the first time since his firing in 1999, and the first home game since an agreement was reached to sell the team to the Ricketts family.

I'd love to think that the combination of a 10-game homestand, the Nationals, and the sale of the team is enough to vault these guys out of their stupor and into contention, but I fear it's not to be. We need to bring in the big guns. Maybe we can get Marisssa Miller to visit the dugout again.

I swear to God, Jim Hendry, Rich Harden's ass is the only thing worth watching for at this point. Take that away, and I can't be held responsible for my actions.

Consider yourself warned.

While Carlos Zambrano takes the spotlight Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, the fate of Rich Harden may be of more immediate importance to the Cubs.

Harden has been the Cubs' most consistent starter in the second half with a 3-1 record and 1.64 earned-run average, with a 4-1 strikeouts-to-walks ratio. But he could become a sought-after free agent after the season, so the Cubs have to make a decision on how much they're willing to offer him.

(snip)

"I kind of don't even want to talk about it right now," Harden said. "I still have to get through the season and pitch well here. Our focus is definitely on what we have to do this season, and not afterward. Yeah, I definitely like it here."

Issues over Harden's brittle shoulder seemed to evaporate in the second half, and he's averaging about six innings per start, on pace for eight more starts. That would give him 29 for the season, his most since making 31 with Oakland in 2004.

Signing Harden to a four-year deal for $50 million-$60 million is risky, but that's probably what they will have to pay to keep him. Harden has a career winning percentage of .645 (49-27) and 3.36 ERA, which is superior to Zambrano's .613 winning percentage (103-65) and 3.47 ERA.

Tired of the Cubs? Looking around from someplace else to invest your love, devotion, time and money? Check out the Peoria Chiefs! I think Bob Brenley may have mentioned them once or twice:

"You tip your hat to the scouting department," said farm director Oneri Fleita, who stopped at Peoria for a recent look-see. "I say that all the time. Great drafts by (scouting director) Tim Wilken. These guys have come right in. They're very polished players.

"They come from great college programs, and they fit right in. They've kind of turned this club around. This club was inching forward all year. They came in here, and it seems that this club has taken off and is having a lot of fun."

Jackson and LeMahieu aren't the only ones. The Chiefs possess an interesting mix of prospects, including second baseman Ryan Flaherty, closer Chris Huseby, starting pitcher Chris Archer and catcher Michael Brenly, son of Cubs baseball analyst Bob Brenly.

If Carol Slezak is going to insist on writing columns like this, I'm going to stop reading the Sun-Times. I know we suck, okay? Do you have to rub it in?

Tom Ricketts has been on the receiving end of a lot of unsolicited advice in the last few days. But if he really wants to build a winner, there's a readily available blueprint he can follow. All Ricketts needs to do is look across town at the White Sox.

I'm not talking about fixing the ballpark. I don't much care if Ricketts installs a JumboTron at Wrigley Field, or sells the naming rights, or improves the bathrooms. (Although I can't speak to the men's bathrooms, the women's aren't too bad.)

No, I'm talking about organizational strategy and attitude, two areas in which the Cubs lag far behind the Sox. Assuming his deal with Sam Zell and Tribune Co. clears its final hurdles, Ricketts will have the chance to live out every Cubs fan's dream, and build a winning organization. I'm talking about scouting systems, player evaluation, minor-league development. And I'm talking about a mind-set that will not tolerate losing.

For the Sox, the message is clear. And it starts at the top, with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, who hired Williams as the messenger. Manager Ozzie Guillen and his staff are on board. And the players had better be on board, or they won't last long.

Oh yeah? They won't last long? Then how do you explain Jose Contreras still being in the starting rotation? If you love the White Sox so much, why don't you marry them? And by the way, the women's bathrooms are HORRIBLE. 

Finally, over at Yahoo Sports, Lou (who is not a dragon) says he's not ready to give up just yet:

The results have been dreary even by North Side standards, given the current separation of expectation and reality. The Cubs have lost touch with the Cardinals in the Central and are a distant fifth in the wild-card race. They've achieved that lately by piling up bad at-bats and half-hearted efforts, so what Lou has left is to summon the spirit of the '07 Rockies, though he failed to identify who would be playing the part of the Mets and Padres this season.

"It can be done," he insisted.

On Sunday, Lou's door opened and the lineup sheet that came bounding out had Koyie Hill(notes) at catcher, Mike Fontenot(notes) at second, Jake Fox(notes) in left, Sam Fuld(notes) in center and Kosuke Fukudome(notes) in right. It's what a $135 million payroll will get you on an afternoon get-away day when so little could be expected from the alternative.

Asked a few minutes later if it weren't time for drastic change in his lineup, Lou grinned and pointed at the one in front of him. No Alfonso Soriano (sore knee, severely strained game), no Milton Bradley, no Aaron Miles, no Geovany Soto.

Yup, that'd be it there.

Might have needed that back in July, Lou.

7:05 game tonight, kids.

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26 Comments

gravedigger said:

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I'll just say this, a reposting of a Steve Stone tweet from earlier:

@BaseballStone If cards play .500 ball rest of way, cubs have to go 28-12 the rst of the way to tie at 90 wins. Cubs catch break-6 Met games-no santana.

Doc said:

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um...

so the cubs catch the mets without santana...

um...the way I see that, that isn't a 6 game break...since Santana would have pitched (at most) 2 of those 6 games.

Really, Stone needs to just shut up about the Cubs. He hasn't watch this team at all. Every scenario he puts out there for the cubs to win the division is so unlikely that it just makes him look foolish.

If the cardinals play .500 ball (not likely)
If the cubs play .750 ball (extremely unlikely)
If Zambrano turns it around (possible)
If Soriano learns to hit a curve ball (not happening)
If Bradley could start driving in some runs (maybe)
If Marmol actually becomes a good closer (we'll see)...

That is a lot of 'ifs'...

Honestly, the only way this team is going to make the playoffs is if I don't apply for playoff tickets this year.

berselius said:

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What Stone should have said about the Mets was

No Santana
No Wright
No Beltran
No Delgado
No Reyes
No Maine

That team has made the Cubs look lucky by comparison

Doc said:

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I don't know...

I'd be more pissed about my players being healthy and not performing than if they were all hurt.

JulieDiCaro said:

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Why does Steve Stone keep trying to cheer me up?

I'm not sure I trust him.

gravedigger said:

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I love Steve Stone, but do not trust him. Not in this, anyway.

Doc said:

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People talk about how easy the Cubs schedule is the rest of the way...

You know what?

The Cardinals schedule isn't all that much more difficult.

The cardinals play a majority of the rest of their games at home. 21 home...15 away

The cardinals have 24 more games against teams with losing records...only 12 versus teams with winning records.

So why would anyone assume that magically the Cubs would start beating the crap out of every team they play, and the Cardinals would just start sucking to no end?

jtbwriter said:

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Afternoon-
I love Stoney too..but anyone who works for the evil Sox is suspect. When he worked with Chip-he was honestly one of the best color commentators. Now...between him and the homer-ugh.
Who is this Sleazy person anyway?

thisyearcub said:

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Who is Steve Stone?

berselius said:

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Who is thisyearcub?

thisyearcub said:

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I wish Miles would have kept it up with his digs at that idiot Stone. It's truly sad the one good Cubs reporter no longer travels with the team.

gravedigger said:

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I clearly missed something. What happened with Miles and Stone? Why doesn't Miles travel with the team?

berselius said:

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The Cards play 5 or more games against teams with winning records than the Cubs do. Probably not enough

gravedigger said:

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Also not enough because the Cubs will probably play all these teams with losing records and emerge as a team with a losing record.

Doc said:

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They are treading dangerously close to that line right now too.

So, assuming the cubs doing make it to the playoffs...will they still finish ahead of the Astros and the Brewers?

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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From http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/

"Olney guesses that Rich Harden won't make more than $20MM as a free agent. Even after pitching well for nearly a full season last year, Ben Sheets wasn't seeing offers in the Oliver Perez range, so I wonder how many teams would offer Harden a multi-year deal given his injury history?"

berselius said:

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Ben Sheets was already injured last offseason though, so I don't know if it's a good comparison there. Harden's been relatively healthy in his two years for the Cubs.

Carl Heartscubs Gierhan said:

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I was thinking the same thing.

Doc said:

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Overall, I'm very curious to see how free agency goes this off season. I can't imagine we will see the same thing that we saw last year. But just how much money are clubs willing to throw around right now?

flyball said:

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I have a feeling this offseason is going to make me more than a little angry

millertime said:

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So, we should be more like the White Sox? I guess what we need is to have Lou call someone a fag on tv?

millertime said:

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Also berselius, I was randomly searching the internet for Carlos Zambrano talk, and I stumbled across you defending Zambrano as an ace. Well done.

berselius said:

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Haha, thanks I didn't do most of that work though, that was all MB21 over at ACB.

flyball said:

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oooh, linky link?

I haven't had the time to look as much as I used to

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