You know, if there’s one overriding reason I would like for the Cubs to win besides the one from my last post, it’s to shut stupid sports writers up. I’m serious, I’ve had it with these boneheads. You know what really stinks? In the playoffs they add even more boneheads to cover and offer commentary on the game.
I knew I would see this junk though when I went to bed last night, just knew it in my bones. So let me clear up some facts here for everyone.
FACT: No matter what decision Piniella made with Zambrano the Cubs only scored one run. The way these nonsense columns were written you would think the Cubs had a lead and he pulled Zambrano and the bullpen blew it. That wasn’t the case.
FACT: Carlos Marmol has been the Cubs’ best reliever all year, has a miniscule ERA and an insane strikeout ratio. He’s young though, this was a great situation to put him in and if he’s going to blow something it’s a great time for him to blow it — Game 1 where there’s plenty of time left to play. It should steady his nerves, he was clearly trying to overthrow.
FACT: Zambrano has had his cramping issues past the point he was pulled last night. There is no guarnatee he was going to continue to pitch that way, it was a great performance. Pulling him with the game tied preserves his strength and his psyche. He’ll be back in Game 4 and it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s the game the Cubs close out the series. There is no doubt in my mind they can take the next three in a row.
Now that I’ve thrown those to facts out there I’ll put out some opinions.
For the D’backs this was a must win game, for the Cubs it was not. Webb is not slated to come back to pitch until Game 5, the Cubs can win this series without ever seeing him again. There is a precipitous dropoff of starting pitching talent after Webb. In fact, the remaining 3 guys are barely .500 if they are that and have high ERAs. The Cubs can bomb these kids now and it starts tonight with Ted Lilly who has playoff experience with Oakland. The Cubs put up a good showing against the stud (I should know, Webb is a keeper I’ve had for two years on my fantasy team). That was a good showing against Webb, I was disappointed they didn’t get more out of the 6th inning with the bases loaded. In fact, I was thinking to myself that Lou should have pulled Zambrano there. I would have much rather seen Daryle Ward coming up then with the bases still juiced and the Cubs ready to put Webb and the D’backs to bed. Webb was losing it in that inning, Zambrano couldn’t connect despite Webb still getting the ball up and not getting much bite on his sinker.
So despite the Cubs top of the lineup being unable to drive in Zambrano after a lead-off double in the 3rd inning this is somehow Lou’s fault according to a vast assortment of boneheads.
Mike Downey said today, “A decision that Lou Piniella made in the pressure cooker of the playoffs blew up in the manager’s face Wednesday night and cost his guys Game 1.” Horse manure. Did the Cubs have a lead when Zambrano was pulled? No they did not. Did Piniella fail to drive in runners in scoring position for three consecutive innings? No he did not. Let’s follow the great Mike Downey’s absurd logic here, the Cubs should have left Zambrano in. For how long? Another inning? The rest of the game? Let’s assume Zambrano pitches the rest of the game, doesn’t give up anything. Guess what Mike, the Cubs didn’t score another run the rest of the game. So I guess Lou should have just burned up his best pitcher in the first game when the offense clearly wasn’t clicking. Great idea Mike!
Next up we have Rick Morrissey who in the same paragraph acknowledges the Cubs had no offense going but this is Piniella’s fault for not leaving Zambrano in. Huh? Rick, again, the game was 1-1, the Cubs did not have a lead, they didn’t score another run, having Zambrano continue would have done what essentially other than assure he will not come back ready on 3 days rest for Game 4? “There might not be a Game 4” Morrissey chirps. You’re right Rick, if the Cubs continue to face Brandon Webb the next two games and can’t put any offense against him there might not be one. Oh wait, Brandon Webb isn’t coming back until Game 5 though is he Rick? I can’t fathom the stupidity of this column, it makes no sense whatsoever. Piniella saw his offense sputtering against Webb and not cashing in its chances. Maybe if the Cubs get more than one run in the 6th he pushes Zambrano more and tries to take Game 1 and deal a near death blow to the D’backs. They didn’t though and he knew he would be taking a huge risk pushing Zambrano in a game they weren’t winning and weren’t generating much offense in. That’s why he’s in the dugout and you’re behind a computer Rick.
Next up, Phil Rogers writes a column about going with a three-man rotation being dumb. I normally like Phil and agree with his columns but this one is dumb as well. The Cubs don’t have a reliable fourth starter, period. Who are the D’backs going to throw against the Cubs in Game 4 at Wrigley? The vaunted Micah Owings who pitched two good games his last two starts against two very bad teams but only lasted 2 1/3 against the mighty St. Louis Cardinals the start before that and gave up five runs in three innings against the Padres before that one. The Cubs put up three runs on seven hits in six innings on August 24th the second time seeing him. He started out 4-1 but ended up 8-8, has a 4.303 ERA and a 1.284 WHIP, I’m not scared. Rogers makes a reference to the 2003 Cubs starting a rested Kerry Wood in Game 4 against the Braves in the NLDS. The Cubs had four solid starters in 2003, they do not in 2007. I knew Kerry Wood, Phil, Jason Marquis is no Kerry Wood. Wrap fish with that column.
Let’s stop picking on the Tribune now, over at CBS Sportsline Scott Miller wrote a pretty even handed article about the move. Despite cracking some jokes about the Cubs, perpetual losers, looking ahead he covered the reasons Piniella made the move, how solid Marmol has been, etc. Good column.
Over at the Daily Herald something weird was going on. Even handed columns were being written while being tainted with stupid headlines. You can only see these in the print edition, the web headlines are different. So I encourage you to pick up today’s edition of the Daily Herald and look at the goofy blatantly stupid “No really good reason to lift Big Z” a sentiment not found anywhere in Mike Imrem’s column. I like Mike very much, I think he always writes a great column. So does Barry Rozner who I think jumped the gun as are many Cubs fans. We won’t know if Piniella came up short on the move last night until Game 5.
Even if the Cubs lose this series, it doesn’t change the fact they only scored a single run. Soriano came up in the bottom of the 9th and got the fastball he should have been looking for right over the heart of the plate — he looked at it. That pretty much sums up the Cubs offensive performance last night, guessing wrong. That is why they lost last night, not anything Piniella did.