Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

5 Cubs questions

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So who are the real Cubs? That may be the biggest question 66 games into the season, but breaking down the highs and the lows, upside and downside of this club, here are the five questions that emerged out of Monday's opener of what appears to be a daunting road trip to four cities:

1. Is this the clutch, resilient team that won four straight games before heading to Atlanta for Monday's 2-0 loss in that makeup of the rained out game 2 1/2 weeks ago? Or the team that went 0-6 two road trips ago and .500 on the last one?

2. Do they need the last ups that home-field advantage provides to win a game? This, considering that four of their five wins on the just concluded homestand came on runs scored on walkoff plays, while all four of their losses on the 4-4 homestand immediately preceding that came on walkoff plays. Cubs PR man Peter Chase noted before Monday's game that until Sunday, the Cubs had not played a game since May 31 that finished in 8 1/2 innings -- in other words, a game that the home team won with a lead they held entering the ninth.

3. Why does Milton Bradley need a day off when he's hitting well and looking good physically? Nobody on the team has had more off days than this guy (except Aramis Ramirez, who has been out nearly two months with an injury) and yet the team seems to feel the need to coddle him enough to give him time off that other players don't need. If he's hitting well and playing well in the field, without apparent nagging physical issues, shouldn't he simply be in the lineup? He is, after all, a switch-hitter, without, supposedly, any significant matchup problems with lefty/righty pitchers. And isn't this why he's getting $30 million?

4. Will the next six days in American League parks, using the DH, benefit the Cubs -- like it should with most NL teams -- or do they have enough good hitters deep enough on their roster for it to make a significant difference? Especially against a Detroit team with a good lineup? And a White Sox team with a chip on its shoulder playing at home with its fans? And the Cubs' general road woes?

5. And, finally, what's up with Angel Guzman? This guy is probably the most underrated reliever on the club this year, and he quietly, nonchalantly, went on the DL with ``triceps'' soreness after Piniella admitted the club held out on publicly announcing his ``tenderness'' for several days. For a guy with a history of arm injuries, this is nothing to shrug off, especially considering that bullpen this year would be a shambles without his contribution this season. If this turns into something more than the 4-5 days the club says it is (now 15 because of the DL requirement), then it's cause for more than a little concern in the context of the season.

Anybody got any other questions to throw into the mix with 96 games left?

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I think first and foremost, the Cubs need a major shakeup in the clubhouse. We all know hendry made some major league blunders this past offseason. Allow me to explain. I know I am beating a dead horse, but maybe, just maybe, someone up high will see this and do something.

Here are the mistakes:
1) Trading DeRosa, huge mistake. Bring him back for starters.
2) Acquiring Gregg for a stud minor leaguer. The guy led the league with blown saves last season, how did this help us?
3) Aaron Miles - Good guy, but not high on list of people we could have gotten for about the same money and much better productivity.
4) Milton Bradley - We knew going in he was a injury prone player with a ton of baggage. The guy can flat out hit, when he plays. How did he become more of a commodity than Raul Ibanez, who wanted to be a Cub? How was the decision to get Bradley over Ibanez made. Bradley, as expected, has been hurt and his usual big baby self. Major mistake on Hendry's part.

Things to do to correct the situation:
1) Trade Soriano. Leadoff or not, after 66 games, it is not a slump, it is a problem. He is killing us every game. Send him to New York, Philly or Boston.
2) Trade for Chone Figgins or Brian Roberts. Do I really need to explain this?
3) Trade Cleveland for DeRosa. No Brainer.
4) Trade Kosuke Fukudome to whoever will give you pitching or 2 good minor leaguers. The guy hits like crazy for two months, then pretends he is a helicopter for 4 months and cannot hit his weight.
5) I still like getting Peavy, but not for nearly as much as orginally was wanted.
6) Sign Pedro, make him your closer.
7) Trade Gregg to anyone that has a couple young arms to stock our minor leagues.
8) Wish list fantasy - Try to pry Ichiro from Seattle.

Hendry, if you are listening, a major shakeup is needed to break up the funk. Try 6 of the 8 things I mentioned and the CUBS will be World Series bound. Keep the status quo and it will be another Cubbie collapse as usual. The players have grown way too comfortable. Fix your mistakes of the offseason, shake this club up before it is too late!

Good questions but hard to answer. I don't think a major shake-up is necessary or advisable. The Cubs are two and a half games out of first, and no other team in their division is setting any win records. I suspect they will be fine and may even be in first place by the all-star break. All they need is another four or five game winning streak, and then Ramirez can come back an provide another spark. The second half of the season could well belong totally to the Cubs. Let's hope so.

Ron, I don't know if you watch any baseball or not but those are some pretty bad ideas you got there. Pedro as a closer is literally the worst idea I've heard in a long, long time. Check some stats. In the last two years his worst inning is always the first inning he pitches. I think you should go out and do a little research before you show the world you don't understand baseball. Also Soriano & Kosuke can't be traded, Peavy is on the DL and we dont need more starting pitching, Chone is not as good as you think he is, Brian Roberts isn't going anywhere after signing a 4 year extension, and the Ichiro thing is kind of perplexing. There are things to be done to improve this club, sadly you failed to mention any of them. Turns out fantasy baseball and Major League baseball are quite different.

It will NOT matter what the organization does ... this team is so schizophrenic it cannot and will not win in '09! Just when you think they're about to come around, they go backwards into their collective labotomized shells. And please don't say they are playing poorly due to the absence of Aramis - that is just a load of manure (poor excuse) for this whole group. This group was poorly assembled, with the anticipation that with a few more millions ($$$) any problems could be solved before the trade deadline. Sorry, but common sense, pride in the basics and whole lotta' heart are what this group needs --- not to mention some help at middle infield, all around the OF and some backup IF's --- but other than that they are looking good.
I have seen some bad Cubs teams - been a fan since '69 - but this team is hard to root for because they can't be figured out or trusted. Since last year's playoff I have been disgusted with this team/franchise. They have yet to do anything to change my mind. And I am comfortable in knowing that nothing short of getting Albert Pujols will get this team where it needs to be offensively in 2009 (and we know the likelihood of THAT...)!
It is going to be a long agonizing summer for Cubs fans - and, yes, I am a "Die-Hard" Cubs fan - so don't be too disappointed if our Cubs don't reach the playoffs. One way to look at it: If they miss, you won't have to worry about another embarassing sweep.
Sorry to sound so pessimistic (Yes, a normal Cubs fans trait) but this team is just so disappointing!

Who are the Cubs?

I'll tell you who the Cubs are.

I said it before the season began, and I'll say it again: The Cubs are a .500 team (at best).

The Cubs will be five or six games under .500 and approximately eight games out of first place by the All-Star break.

The Cardinals will win the division going away - LaRussa, Pujols and Carpenter. What else do you need? Nothing, not this year - not in the Central Division.

And here's another prediction you can take to the bank: The Dodgers and the Yankees will square off in the World Series.

Baseball needs a shot in the arm, and a throwback Series, featuring teams from the two largest markets in the country, will do the trick...Hollywood Joe Torre, battling his former team. High drama, that. And watching those juiced baseballs fly out of Yankee Stadium during the playoffs - whee! - while the suckers in the stands say, "Ooh, ah," etc., as they guzzle $9 beers and eat $12 hot dogs.

I am Bob Smith. And I have spoken.

So it shall be.

we need rameraz back in the line up. he's the key then the team will jel.the opposing teams won't be able to pitch around the middle of line up then.

If the last two years have taught us anything, it's that baseball is a weird, unpredictable game. The Cubs spent two seasons looking like one of the best, if not the best team in MLB, then subsequently being ousted in the first round of the playoffs. There's no reason to be concerned about them being a .500 team at this point. As long as they stay in shooting distance of first place in the wacky Central division (a .500 record will suffice at this point) everything is fine. I don't want to see another Cubs team that spends all of its energy holding onto the division lead all season, only to go ice cold when the playoffs start. This team needs to play it's best inspired baseball when it counts, i.e. in September and October. I don't care if Ramirez is hurt right now (they shouldn't rush him back), I don't care if Fukie is heading into the tank again, I don't care if the pitchers are having control issues (Harden, Dempster, pretty much the whole relief staff), and I especially don't care that Lou isn't kicking dirt all over the umps. It's too early to expend much energy worrying about the Cubs. Now, if all these things are still happening in late August and September then I'll simply write them off. But until then I think it's best to let baseball take its course.


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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on June 23, 2009 2:04 AM.

Harbinger or aberration? was the previous entry in this blog.

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