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.
Since the All-Star break, the Cubs are 9-2 and have moved into first place in the NL Central. They swept the Washington Generals…er…Nationals. A National disgrace, the Nationals have been. They’re 37 games under .500. The Cubs should have swept them. They swept the Reds, who really have the look of a team that has thrown in the towel. The Reds are falling faster than a skydiving elephant. My point is I can’t judge how good this team is playing right now. The Cubs lost two out of three from the Phillies. This current stretch of games between the Astros, Marlins, Rockies, and Phillies will go a long way in telling me how excited I should be right now.
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?
Yesterday, my wife and I went on a tour of Wrigley Field. It was a fun thing to do for our anniversary. I feel very lucky that my wife loves sports so much; she felt that going on a tour of a baseball stadium was a great way to celebrate our anniversary.
t contract is up. We’ll see. With Carlos, you never know.
I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a few days, but I’ve just been totally consumed by the Lakers. Since they clinched last Friday, I’ve been pretty much thinking and worrying day and night about how they’re going to win this title. They have to win. Well, they rewarded me tonight with their second best effort of the playoffs (the closeout of Denver was still more dominating). Apparently, the Lakers are interested again, which is good for me because I can at least sleep good the next couple of nights. I know it’s silly, but those of you that are obsessive about your teams will understand. I think. One not so humorous thing about tonight. Well, it’s something I’m sure we’ll look back and laugh about. Tonight is the eve of our fourth anniversary, the fruit anniversary. My wife went out and got her hair done. Our son was staying with my parents today, so I went to pick him up and take him home. They live 40 miles from us, so I did not get home until the player introductions for the game. My son was cute, because he knew Kobe right away (I’ve taught him well). Well, when I came in and put my son down, I became consumed with the game and did not notice my wife’s hair or make a comment about it. (She looked beautiful, but then again she always does). Finally, when the Lakers started to open it up in the second quarter, I noticed. I apologized profusely. My wife understood. She blamed Kobe. I am so sorry, honey. I did bring home a dozen roses, however. And I did plan a great outing on Saturday to celebrate. It still doesn’t excuse it, though. Why do we get so consumed by a game on TV played far away by people who don’t know us? It’s the curse of being a fan.
Yesterday I made light of the fact that Carlos Zambrano went nutso at Wrigley. It was a needed eruption to get his deflated team pumped up again. Today, I actually saw the whole footage of the outburst on TV by my parents house while picking up my son. I was at work when this game was played so I didn’t see the whole thing. What I saw put a sour feeling in my stomach. I’ve changed my tune. I still think that an eruption by a player or manager can have a positive effect on a team. However, Zambrano crossed a lot of lines yesterday. The biggest line crossed was that of the bat to the Gatorade machine. It’s scary to see how close he came to hitting Larry Rothschild in the chest. He swung the bat at the machine without any regard to the safety of his teammates on the bench. I honestly think that the Cubs themselves should suspend Zambrano. He’s out of control. He should be suspended by the team and forced to take an anger management class or get counseling. I actually saw an interview with Big Z on the news where he said with a straight face that he never got into it with an umpire before or had an out burst like that. What? No, there’s something wrong. The Cubs right now seem to be taking the stance people associated with the Red Sox took with Manny Ramirez when they would say, “It’s Manny being Manny”. However, I don’t recall Manny putting his teammates safety at risk. Would the Cubs be singing a different tune right now if Rothschild took the bat to the chest, or if the bat’s backswing caught a player on the bench in the head. Or if a piece of the Gatorade machine hit a player in the head. Or a fan, for that matter. Seeing this outburst reminded me somewhat of a scene in the Jimmy Piersall biopic “Fear Strikes Out”. If I was a Cubs player on the bench, I would have actually have been scared. We can go back to many out bursts from Zambrano. From hitting batters to the fight with Michael Barrett, Zambrano has shown time and again he is his own worst enemy. Can the Cubs really count on him? Is he really a number one starter? A stopper? I don’t know. He keeps proving that he’s a loose cannon that does more harm than good to the team at times. Why would the Cubs keep pursuing San Diego’s ace pitcher? Maybe because deep down they know that they can never know what to expect from Big Z. If Lou Piniella and the coaches are just going to look the other way, then Jim Hendry needs to step in and demand a level of professionalism. The Cubs cannot continue to apologize for Big Z’s behavior and look the other way. The need to get him help. If not, he’s only going to end up hurting the team.
I said it was going to happen. I said that it needed to happen. Someone on the Cubs exploded in rage. While it wasn’t Lou or Bradley, Big Z provided plenty of fireworks for the faithful this afternoon at Wrigley.