Today’s trade of Ivan Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers reminds me of a missed opportunity for the Cubs. After Rodriguez’s Marlins stunned the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS and went on to win the World Series, he became a free agent. At the time I thought it would be a good idea for the Cubs to bring in Rodriguez. I felt the Cubs could use a strong, smart catcher like Rodriguez to work with the trio of young pitchers the Cubs had, Wood, Prior, and Zambrano. Rodriguez is also a winner and would quickly become a team leader the Cubs also needed to put them over the top in 2004. Well, it never happened. The Cubs went cheap and signed Michael Barrett instead. We all know how Michael Barrett worked out. Let’s just say I think it was no coincidence that the Cubs took off in 2007 after Barrett was shipped out. All this led me to think about the Cubs of the past three years. Who is the team leader or leaders? I don’t think the Cubs have any. The Cubs have a good collection of talented players, but they don’t have any leaders. You know, the kind of player that will push others, get in others’ faces when need be, driven with a passion to win. The Yankees have Derek Jeter. The Red Sox have Jason Varitek. The Cardinals have Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. The Cubs don’t have any such players. Derrek Lee is a great talent, but watch his body language after a strikeout or an 0-4 performance. Head down, walking slowly back to the dugout, dejected. Not inspiring. Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs most important offensive weapon, seems shy and doesn’t say much. Soriano and Bradley are all about themselves. Zambrano is a headcase, who admits his recent injury problems are due to his being out of shape. Great. Soto’s a mess. The Cubs should have signed Pudge this past offseason. He could have mentored Soto. Maybe then Soto wouldn’t have become the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Ivan Rodriguez to the Rangers leads me to believe we might in fact see the Rangers in the postseason. Pudge now gets to work with the young pitchers over there as well as Mike Maddux, who is quickly becoming one of the elite pitching coaches if he isn’t already. The Cubs seem to lack a team leader. Maybe that’s one reason the Cubs have disappeared in the postseason and are quickly disappearing from this years pennant race.
On the weekend of July 18th and 19th, my brother and I took my father to St. Louis as a retirement gift. We got to see a game at the new Busch Stadium on Saturday the 18th. I had a great time in St. Louis with my father and brother. New Busch Stadium is a great stadium, but very expensive. I thought I was in Chicago for most of my time there. Nine dollars for a beer. Really? Eight dollars for four chicken strips? It seemed like most people in the upper deck with us were eating at Hardees because the food prices were more manageable. It was like a fast food place in the mall that charges a little more because of the rent. O.K., a little more expensive than that.
The second game of the Cardinals/Cubs weekend series began with Lou Piniella’s modified lineup being sent out there. The new lineup was as follows:
The Cubs lost much more than a game against the Cardinals last night. Both Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Marmol had to leave the game with injuries. Ramirez left the game in the 5th when he strained his calf running to second. From what I’ve read, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a trip to the DL. Marmol had the bad luck to have an Albert Pujols line drive take his glove off of his hand in the bottom of the eighth. In doing so, Marmol twisted in such a way where he felt some kind of discomfort in his left knee. That’s what it says on Cubs.com. All I know is that when I saw Piniella and the trainer come out to the mound for Marmol, my heart and the heart of every Cubs fan sank. Ron Santo probably graoaned and asked something like, “Why does this always happen to us?” And Pat Hughes would have turned and said, “I don’t know, Ron.” I didn’t hear it on the radio, but that’s the exchange I imagine. We have to cross our fingers and hope neither of these players miss any significant time. Especially Marmol. The Cubs cannot afford to miss him. If Marmol went out, it could be curtains. Who would be the set up man, Neal Cotts?