Yeah, we all know about the issues with the Cubs' offense and the pitching of Neal Cotts, along with others, but here are my thoughts on the overlooked issues with the Cubs this year.
Point One: Personnel Decisions
While the Cubs have been plagued with multiple injuries in the first month of play, one must question the management's personnel decisions that have been made.
So far their starting catcher, first baseman, right fielder, and third baseman have been injured and have missed a huge chunk of playing time. However, out of all these guys that have missed time only one of them, third baseman Aramis Ramirez, has been do anything while in the lineup.
The offense obviously is in need of some help, yet the guys that are actually hitting right now, namely right fielder/first baseman Micah Hoffpauir (.303/2/8), is not playing.
Another thing to look at would be Jake Fox. In 20 games (77 at-bats) at Triple A this season, Fox is currently batting .429 with 23 runs scored, 8 doubles, 1 triple, 12 home runs, 31 RBI and even one stolen base.
How does that sound for a struggling offense? It sounds like the prayers are being answered yet no one is getting up to answer the call.
Yet instead of bringing him up when the Cubs decided to drop Luis "The Viz" Vizcaino, who by the way didn't give up a run yet and only allowed two hits with no walks and struck out three in three-and-two-thirds innings pitched for the Cubs.
No, the man that was brought in was Jeff Samardzija. While this may seem to be a good move factoring in the history of each pitcher, why not bring up Fox to fill in for the injured guys and help out with his bat that is currently on fire.
That would allow let Jeff work his way to being a starter that could help us when they realize Dempster's signing a huge four-year contract for one good year, and of course, it had to be his contract year, was a even bigger mistake than signing Bradley.
Point Two: Not so Sweet Lou
Back in his days in Seattle and with the Reds, Lou Piniella (all-time managerial record of 1711-1571, which is about a 52 percent winning percentage) was if not a great manager, he was at the very least a good manager.
However, that reputation is beginning to fade pretty fast.
As the playoffs were about to begin last year, Piniella made a couple of critical mistakes with his ball club that probably cost them any chance of winning.
As many of Cub followers already know, the Dodgers and their right handed pitchers were lighting up the Cubs as if they were the worst team in the league. The Cubs, with the best regular-season record in the NL for 2008 were swept in three games.
Pinella's decision to not play Fontenot, who batted .366 in September, much and leave perhaps the hottest hitter in the lineup at the time Micah Hoffpauir off the postseason roster raised flags of his downfall.
Along with that, the No. 2 spot in the lineup in each of these games was Koske Fukudome, who could not get his bat on the ball even if he weren't spinning his body like a helicopter with ever swing.
But enough with the past and let's fast forward to 2009.
Piniella continues to throw out a left-handed pitcher named Neal Cotts whenever a left-handed hitter comes up in the late innings and the results are pretty icky.
Along with that, Piniella continuing to let Zambrano pitch even when he isn't effective or has thrown over 100 pitches is questionable at the very least. Perhaps the best example of his decline in coaching decisions comes from the game this past Thursday (Apr. 30, 2009).
The Cubs are leading 2-1 in the eight when Piniella brings in Carlos Marmol. Marmol, perhaps the best set-up man in baseball last year, was awful the night before, with obvious control issues yet he is brought in and gives up a run making the game tied at two.
With the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth going by with no real highlights for the Cubs or Marlins.
The bottom of the ninth started out pretty well for the Cubs when Ryan Theriot started things out with a single to center. Fukudome followed with a strikeout, and then steps in the previously injured Derek Lee. Lee is slumping at the plate and is 0-for-3 before the at-bat.
Yet Piniella lets him bat, even with Hoffpauir in the dugout. Theriot steals second, only to get a better look at a strikeout by Lee. The next two batters, however, were Milton Bradley and Mike Fontenot, who both went back to back with long homers earlier in the game.
Bradley was intentionally walked, and then a left-hander is brought in. Pinella decides to pinch hit for Fontenot, even though he has been on fire and use Reed Johnson who grounds out on a great diving play by the Marlins shortstop.
Now the problem here is not only that Piniella brought in a pinch hitter, he did so knowing that he was going to use the starting catcher, Koyie Hill, for the day at third to replace Fontenot. How in the world can you explain this. It's poor managing that is what it comes down to.
P.S. Another little issue with this game:
The games loosing pitcher, Heilman, was asked to get up and was sat down in the bullpen four times before the he was brought into the game.
All in all, the Cubs are just playing bad baseball right now. It is pretty hard to swallow as a fan, but what is easy when being a fan of the Chicago Cubs.
If you ask me, the Cubs are not the ones who are cursed. No, the fans have to sit and hope and pray and get their dreams of a championship for 100 years die year after year right in their faces. The managers and players of the past may or may not have cared much about this drought.
But every single true fan of this franchise would do some pretty embarrassing things just to get to watch their team play much less when a championship.
Just like Marge Simpson said about Homer on the Simpsons tonight "You gotta stick with it, even if you did pick the loser." Go Cubs!!!
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