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

It's a way of life

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A few notes and musings left in the rubble of the Cubs' post-Derrek Lee loss to the Padres today - most of it falling under the category of ``here we go again.''

Anyone notice the new guy hitting for Carlos Zambrano in the sixth inning wasn't Micah Hoffpauir, but Sam Fuld?

The Cubs planned to call up Hoffpauir to take the traded Lee's place on the roster today and even sent him to the airport with bags packed Wednesday - before somebody realized he wasn't eligible to return to the big leagues after getting sent back down to AAA for only a week. An optioned player must spend a minimum 10 days before his next recall except in the case of an injury on the big-league roster.

Not sure how many management guys - from Jim Hendry down to AAA manager Ryne Sandberg -- this got past before it was caught, but Hoffpauir had to be called back from the airport, with Fuld getting a surprise call to hurry to Chicago, via redeye flight from San Francisco (after driving from nearby Sacramento, where Iowa was playing).

Fuld's arrival at least provided a pregame laugh when Alfonso Soriano noticed him occupying Lee's vacated locker space.

``Look who we get for D-Lee,'' Soriano said, with a huge smile. ``Sammy Fuld. That's good. He's faster. Left-hand hitter. ... And 5-10.''

Soriano also had fun with a suggestion in the Tribune that he and Aramis Ramirez would be a viable option at first base for the Cubs next year.

``Whoa,'' he said, smiling, shaking his head in disbelief and then shrugging. ``Well, I don't like playing second base, and I played there five years.''

Said Ramirez: ``I don't think so.''

But it was what happened near Ramirez's corner at third in the sixth inning today that underscored the way this summer has gone for the tailspinning Cubs.

After the Cubs' best reliever this season, Sean Marshall, got a rare blown save on Will Venable's one-out, two-run single (the runners going to second and third on the throw home), rookie Justin Berg took over.

Berg quickly induced a grounder to Ramirez, who threw home to Koyie Hill, who ran Chase Headley back to third, where Venable had arrived from second, and tagged out Headley for the second out.

Hill then gestured with one hand toward the umpire to call time, but didn't get the call. Assuming time was called, Hill turned his back and started walking toward the mound and Berg, who was also walking there. And with Padres third-base coach Glenn Hoffman telling Venable, ``No timeout, no timeout,'' Venable bolted toward the unmanned plate.

First baseman Xavier Nady then rushed to cover, taking a throw from Hill, but Venable slid just under the tag.

``Credit X for getting to home plate,'' said Hill, who took responsibility even though he said he felt he'd called time, with the similar gesture he'd used countless other times. ``Berg was on the same page with me, thinking the play is dead. I probably need to be more careful there, but I thought we had the play taken care of.

``What's frustrating was it wasn't a lack of concentration. It wasn't cluelessness. It just happened. I felt like I'd asked for timeout. Ultimately, it's the player's responsibility, and I'll be accountable for it. That play's on me. ... But I guarantee it won't happen again.''

Undoubtedly, it'll be something else. With 10 rookies on the roster and two more who have yet to complete a full year in the big-leagues - and more promised over the final 40 games - anything's possible.

Derrek Lee hasn't even had his first at-bat against the Cubs' bullpen yet.

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The Cub's "way of life" sucks! If i was Tom Rickets, I'd fire everyone in the front office, including the secretaries and janitors. A new broom should sweep very clean!

While I can empathize with the Cubs' 'way of life' sentiment (as a life-long fan), it isn't exactly fair to paint "Cubdom" with one broad stroke. Since Mr. Hendry has taken the helm at GM, the team has been to the play-offs 3 times (and was close again in 2004). In that time, the front office has improved the scouting department, improved the farm system's overall depth, and has hired on fine quality coaches for both the Baker and Pinella (now Quade) regimes. I would hesitate to call the "Cubdom" of the last 8 years or so an abject failure... it just hasn't produced a champion.

In the coming off-season, the organization must look to hire a manager that is both capable of building a winning atmosphere and developing young players. As many baseball pundits have already stated, Joe Girardi seems the #1 choice, but he has absolutely no reason to leave the Yankees (unless there was crazy money as an incentive). That said, I would be surprised to see someone other than Bobby Valentine or Ryne Sandberg with the job.

The crux will be payroll and the team's commitment to winning (v.s. using 2011-2012 as developmental play with no delusion of competing). "Cubdom" of regimes past have shown that choosing "both" is the recipe for failure (the 1990-1997 & 1999-2002 seasons are prime examples). The team needs strong leadership from the Ricketts clan and the guts to ride out a plan. A "new broom" is not shrewd management... it's more akin to scapegoating... and irresponsibility.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on August 19, 2010 6:05 PM.

Cubs' Gorzelanny: `I've been successful this year' was the previous entry in this blog.

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