Baby Bears: Chicago Cubs the Biggest Whiners in MLB
Break out the pacifiers, Cubs fans.
No, not for yourselves. After 101 years of seemingly infinite disappointment, crying over this team would be a severe overreaction. Instead, take them out and toss them into the Cubbies' dugout; they need some sort of soother.
When looking at the Cubs' struggles this first half of the season, it's tough to figure out what went from from 2008-2009. Is it the absence of Aramis Ramierz? Could it be a failed offseason? Is it just a slump with an inevitable end?
It may be a combination of all those things, but the real answer stands out so painfully obvious that it's a shock nobody has thrown this out into the realm of discussion.
The '09 Cubs are a bunch of babies.
Just as their team name denotes, this team has an awful lot of growing up to do before it can do any real form of intimidating.
Uncle Lou Piniella has gone from the fiery, brash, get-the-job-done uncle to the uncle that tries so hard to please those around him that he'll do anything for them.
Instead of a new Huffy, this uncle is making sure everyone is comfy.
He allows Carlos Zambrano to dictate what color jersey he wears, because he is "comfortable" in the alternate blue uniforms.
He refuses to move Alfonso Soriano, a sub-.230 hitter, from the coveted leadoff spot, because he is "comfortable" in that spot.
The whole team is obsessed with something you usually wouldn't expect when standing just inches away from a 90 MPH fastball, wearing cleats, and standing around in 88 degree weather with 90 percent humidity.
Outfielder Milton Bradley has been disastrous from the start of the season. A pair of injuries and a weak bat have forced Bradley's numbers to a dismal level. Apparently, he may just be hitting from the wrong side.
"In spring training, my home runs were from the right except one. It depends on how you get your at-bats and how you get comfortable," said Bradley last month.
Despite their need of being comfortable, the team has played anything but.
After losing their second-straight game to the Detroit Tigers and their third-straight game overall, the Cubs have gone from a team that simply could not hit to a team that can't get their runners around the horn.
Chicago has left 32 runners on base in their three-game skid.
But it gets worse.
In Wednesday's game alone, the Cubs had runners at first and second base with no outs six times, loading the bases in that situation once. I lost count in Tuesday's game.
The result of those specific chances was one run—a near-double-play ground ball with one out that Mike Fontenot beat out, securing their second run of the game.
That's some bad baseball. Surely, a great manager of Pieniella's status would recognize that.
"I don't want to talk about missed opportunities," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said in the midst of this 0-32 slump.
What do you want to talk about? The great performance of Kevin Gregg on Tuesday? Milton Bradley's temper tantrum in the dugout after striking out in that sixth aforementioned opportunity?
If there were any time to publicly call out your players, like you have in year's past, it would be now. If your team had converted on one of those chances, it's at least a tied series.
If, by some divine intervention, you convert on half of those chances, you have a chance to break out the brooms on the road against a division leader.
Instead, you take the route of babying your players.
If you call out Bradley's .200 average with runners in scoring position and two outs, will the next bat he tomahawks into the dugout be at your head?
If you look at your leadoff hitter's laughable 70:24 strikeout-walk ratio and decide to move him down a few spots, will he hop his way out of Chicago?
If you happen to wear white jerseys in a game Zambrano pitches, would the Gatorade machine be replaced with your midsection?
When Piniella took over as Cubs manager in 2007, he made it clear that the team was going to be running his way. Two years later, he sits on the bench with his hands tied as his prima donna players have run a mutiny over the clubhouse.
The "Sweet Lou" act worked when things were going their way last year, but this Cubs team, thanks largley to the acquistion of MLB's version of Terrell Owens in Bradley, can't keep the fire going on their own.
It was understandable to be stubborn on Soriano in 2008, as his numbers were usually on the better side of things. This year, as his numbers have stayed consistently low for two months, Piniella said he would "consider" moving him out of the leadoff spot.
As of June 25, a leadoff hitter he remains.
Last year, when Japanese import Kosuke Fukudome fell off the wagon and the honeymoon was over, Piniella sent him a message to wise up by benching him. This year, he has watched Fukudome bat .150 in June, a far cry from his .338 average in April.
His biggest punishment this year has been a move from the third to sixth spot in the lineup.
It's time to get tough with these players. After all, if you never ween them off of thumb sucking, research shows they will suck forever.
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