Come To Think Of It: Defense, Close Calls Plague Cubs In Loss To Reds

Bob Warja@@bobwarjaSenior Writer IJune 7, 2009

Look, it's not as if luck has gone the Cubs way over the years. In fact, it might be fair to say that lady luck has conspired against the North Siders in the form of black cats, Gatorade-soaked gloves and Steve Bartman.

So it should be no surprise to see a couple of close, but critical umpire calls go against the Cubs in the early part of a 4-3 loss to the Reds at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Ryan Dempster, coming off of a tremendous start his last time, fell victim early on. First, it was Ryan Theriot apparently taking his hand off of second base and getting called out trying to steal, though he easily beat the throw.

Then, it was a combination of bad defense and bad luck. Mike Fontenot threw away  Jerry Hairston's grounder, though Derrek Lee didn't even make an attempt to stop it, apparently still spooked by a broken wrist suffered on a similar throw three years ago.

Fontenot and Jake Fox, starting in right field, were both playing out of position. And Alfonso Soriano is just plain bad, period.

That's where bad defense and bad luck meet again. After allowing yet another ball to bounce either past him or under his glove, Soriano make a perfect throw to Theriot, whose relay to home resulted in a very close play at the plate. But Geo Soto didn't have the plate blocked, and the runner was ruled safe, with no argument from Lou.

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By the way, is there anythjing that Soto can do at this point? Maybe that's not really him, could it be a cardboard cut-out perhaps?

Then—boom!—home run and the Cubs are losing 3-0, and they never fully recovered, though they tied the game and forced yet another extra inning ballgame.

But the Cubs are still not getting hits when it matters. They were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position Saturday night after Soriano struck out with the bases loaded in the second.

Of course, nobody is hitting.  The aforementioned Soto is batting .208; Fontenot is at .232; Soriano is hitting .247; D-Lee is climbing but still down at .261; and Bradley, when not injured, is hitting .220.

Not exactly Murderer's Row.

Unfortunately, with the sale of the team on hold, and, in fact, perhaps off altogether, it doesn't appear that Jim Hendry will have money to spend to fix this mess he created.

Meanwhile, waiting on the return of Aramis Ramirez is risky because he may not be back until after the All-Star break, and you don't know if he will be at full strength this season.

So this is it, ladies and gentlemen. Let's hope they turn it around. They have the track record to do so.

Milton Bradley is a good hitter, when he can get on the field. Mike Fontenot is better than this, though in fairness to him, he should be a utility player, not a starter. Geo Soto was the damn ROY in 2008. 

Enough has been written on this site about how misguided Hendry and Lou Piniella were in thinking that we lost in the playoffs last year because we were too right-handed, so I won't go into that again.

Well, back to the game. The bad defense continued in extra innings, as players playing out of position continued to plague the Cubs.

In the 11th, Mike Fontentot cost the Cubs the game with two bad plays. First, he failed to get back to third in time to field a throw from Sean Marshall that would have nailed the runner trying to advance on a bunt.

Then, on a chopper hit down the line, he threw the ball too high for Soto to make the tag as the winning run scored.

You just can't keep playing guys like Fontenot, Fox, Hoffpauir and others out of position, especially on a team that can't score runs.

Bad calls are one thing you really can't control. But defense and hitting is something you can control, and we had better see better control of both or it will be a long season, come to think of it.