The Chicago Cubs are out of contention, as is usual this time of year. With that and the last few seasons in mind, it appears that their will to win is permanently on the disabled list.
Since before the All-Star Break, fans in Wrigleyville have been talking about who to trade, who to cut, who to fire.
"How exactly" doesn't so much matter anymore.
But it's pretty clear that if the Cubs want to get any better, certain members of the clubhouse and the business office will need to go.
Big Z spouts like Piniella
Carlos Zambrano has been a pivotal player for the Chicago Cubs for the better part of a decade. And even when he's not pitching or hitting well, he's not half bad.
He's a 3-time All-Star with a good career to speak of with over 1500 strikeouts and 120 plus wins. Big Z is prone to frustration, and even when he has flared up publicly his pitching and hitting usually made up for it.
But ever since his altercation with Derrick Lee during 2010's first game against the White Sox at The Cell, Zambrano's fleeting leadership and role as a team player has gone downhill.
This one's a case of "attitude is everything" and El Toro has an attitude that no longer promotes winning or positive spirit of any kind.
Yelling at himself
I'm not picking on the Carloses. But Carlos Mármol is a Cubs player with a lot of potential, and has a variety of pitching weapons in his arsenal from your choice of sliders, curveballs and breaking balls that gain the strikeout.
Still, as a reliever that has 85 saves in a half dozen seasons, it seems that Mármol has come up short one too many times when the Cubs have needed a bailout.
That said, Mármol is a player that does well when the Cubs do well. But he's never been a world class pitcher, and likely never will be.
Okay, okay. I guess I am picking on Carloses, but it's not without good reason.
The problem with Carlos Peña more than anything is the size of his pay scale and his tepid production since he's taken on the Cubs uniform. The frustrating part about Peña for Wrigley fans is that he was such a top player before he put on the Cubs pinstripes.
In '07 Peña was second in home runs only behind A-Rod, and he was previously an All-Star, an MVP candidate and in the running for a batting title.
At $5 million a year, it would be nice if this Player's Choice AL Comeback Player of the Year came back for Chicago in 2012.
Soriano was a star and the Cubs best player when he came on board. Also, he's a class act and a good guy.
But Soriano has seen his star fade and it isn't likely he'll have a huge second wind in the years to come.
The fact remains that he's past his prime, and barring some sort of late epiphany, Soriano won't be getting the Cubs to the top of the standings with his batting.
Jeff Samardzija should be in the prime of his career. But he's been up and down between the pros and minors, posting both inspiring wins and embarrasingly high ERA games that suggests his erratic nature is largely mental.
Samardzija has got a decent fastball and a lot of athleticism to spare, and my Notre Dame fan friends keep telling me (and other Cubs fans) to cut him some slack and give Samardzija time to bloom. He's had time—plenty of it—and it could be that Samardzija might find better momentum and better performance somewhere else.
With a no trade clause that will likely keep him on the Cubs roster forever, Cubs fans hope and pray that he will bloom and level out his pitching.
I hate to beat up on a guy who just started in 2011, but if the rumors are true, then it seems that Mike Quade hasn't held onto the confidence of the players in the club house.
On pitching he's both left guys on the mound too long and pulled others too early. Once-great hitters are not hitting, while the team in general is stacked with reasonably good players playing their worst-ever baseball.
Several players can't be traded easily because of big pay and contracts technicalities. And others, like Aramis Ramirez, just don't want to go. So if the coach can't garner the players' respect and lead the team the maybe it's time for a change already.
If it's just not working from Day 1, then it's just not working. Managers must inspire and bring the best out of players, not just manage the team.
Yes, the animal rights people will probably have a cow about this one.
But if there’s any chance that the presence of a goat anywhere in Wrigleyville might have a negative effect on the Cubs, then get ‘em outta town.
There isn’t much for a goat to do anyway up around The Friendly Confines. Besides, White Sox fans would tell you that North Side’s alleged oversupply of bree lovers and gourmet restaurants pose a huge safety risk for goats anyhow.
But between the Bartman Incident and 2008's 97-win season that went nowhere, baseball experts and Cubs fans alike might say it's the Cubs who get their own goat time and time again.
Still, I'll try anything to end this curse.
Some say getting a hitter like Albert Pujols is the answer to the Cubs' problems. Some say Ryne Sandberg being appointed to manage the Cubs will do it. Others say the Cubs just need better relief pitching.
Milk cartons have served throughout American history as a billboard to help identify the lost. Since we have no crystal ball in Chicago and clearly no magic wand, it might not be a bad thing to see a few faces disappear from the dugout and debut as “Have You Seen Me?” Or maybe, just maybe, it will find the Cubs their Babe Ruth. Who knows.
I’ve always hated drinking milk, but if the Cubs could make it to the World Series, I’d drink milk every day, 3 times a day, for a whole year.
Think I’m not serious? Hell, make it goat milk.
Andy Frye writes about sports obsession in Chicago, and does goat calls all day long on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.