This week Rich Harden told the Cubs that he doesn’t want to pitch any more this year. I don’t believe any reason was given, meaning it’s not an injury issue. I guess he just doesn’t want to waste the energy for a team not going to the playoffs and go out there and earn the money the team is paying him. When Harden made his request, the Cubs just said, “O.K.” While Milton Bradley made some idiotic comments recently, he was right when he said that there are reasons why this team hasn’t won in so long. What a joke. Being a teacher I can only imagine what would happen if I went into my principal’s office in May and said “I don’t want to teach for the rest of the month, the school years just about over anyway. Oh, and by the way, keep my job for me in September.” I’m sure someone else would be in my classroom come September. I wonder if Rich Harden is giving back his salary for the last two starts or so that he will miss. Somehow I doubt it. If the Cubs wanted to grant his request, fine, but they should have also told him where the door was, take Milton with you, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. If he’s back next year, it will be 102 years and counting for the Cubs.
Congratulations, Dad. You’ve been spared the embarrassment of wearing Cubs gear down at Wrigley Field. And to think, you actually did not want to take this bet out of fear the Cubs would actually win the season series against the Cards. You had nothing to worry about. I’d like to make this photo op of me in Cardinals gear happen sooner than later. Let’s get it over with.
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.
It’s only August 11th, but the Cubs are well on their way to being C.U.B.S. (Completely Useless by September). Sure, the guys that tow the corporate line on TV will say the Cubs are only three games behind St. Louis and they have the best NL record since the All-Star break (well they did before this weekend; they may not have that distinction anymore), but anyone watching the games can’t be fooled. I feel a need to debunk five common myths about the Cubs right now.
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.
I’m resigned to the fact that I will not win the Cubs/Cardinals wager with my Father. I’m already looking a the calendar to see when I can get over to Wrigley Field to be photographed in Cardinals attire. After yesterday’s 8-3 beating of the Cubs, the Cardinals now own a 7-3 head to head advantage. Since the teams only play 16 games head to head, if the Cardinals win one more game against the Cubs, I cannot win the bet. The best I could do is a draw. That’s if the Cubs would win the remaining five games. Yeah, that’s not happening. Have you seen the Cubs lately?
A huge series against our biggest division rival and all we can muster is two stinkin’ runs? No one to my knowledge as figured out a way to win a baseball game without scoring a run, so it really doesn’t matter how good your pitching is. The Cubs wasted three very strong outings by Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Sean Marshall. If you give up only eight runs over three games, you should expect to at least win one of them. A maddening thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs over the past five years or so is that they are prone to long streaks when absolutely no one is hitting. Sometimes one or two guys are slumping, but a couple of other guys will step up and pick up the slack. With the Cubs, the whole team slumps together. I did notice a few other things about the Cubs while watching this painful three game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.