The Cubs Woes Continue
T.O. Whenham - www.docsports.com
There are a lot of you out there who won't want to hear this, but the Chicago Cubs are completely, utterly and irreparably terrible. Awful. This time it can't be blamed on a goat or some geek in the stands with a glove. They're just plain bad. There is really just one bright spot - Carlos Zambrano. To be 6-3 on a team that is 28-43 is incredible. Add that to a 2.83 ERA, an impressive 105 innings and 104 Ks and the guy deserves a medal. Or a trade. Greg Maddux deserves some credit, too - he's 7-7 and he is, after all, Greg Maddux.
But other than that, the Cubs are a complete bust. They are currently the third-worst money team in baseball, posting an atrocious minus-$1,562 for dollar bettors so far this season.
Is it going to get better for Chicago? No. Not this year. I don't want to kick a team when they are already down, but there are eight reasons why this team will continue to make their opposition look good and make the other guys a safe bet (there are a million, but we'll stop at eight). We need them to get at least a little bit better if only so betting against them offers some value:
Kerry Wood is broken. Again. - Stop me if you heard this one: Wood is trying to come back from shoulder surgery. He went 1-2 in four starts after missing the first six weeks of the season, went on the DL, felt pain in a simulated game, and may be on the shelf for the rest of the season. I'd say it's a huge loss for the Cubs, but Wood is so fragile that we really don't know if he's any good or not anymore.
Mark Prior. Ouch. - The Cubs other pitcher with an arm of glass finally came back last Sunday. It was incredibly ugly. Sure the Tigers are going well, but no one should allow eight runs in 3.2 innings (for an uninspiring 17.18 ERA). As has been said, the big concern is that he may have get whiplash whipping around to watch all the balls go over the fence.
Every pitcher not named Zambrano or Maddux - Take away those two and the team falls to 15-33. Glendon Rusch (2-7) is the most embarrassing starter - he lasted two outs into the second inning last time out - but there isn't another arm that Cubs backers can rely on with any confidence.
Derrek Lee - After such an incredible season last year, Lee has gone through hell. He broke his wrist in April and is just now getting ready to return. That should be a good thing, but it presents a couple of problems. First, Lee will likely take some time to get his timing and his confidence back, so by the time he is in full swing the whole season will be lost. Second, Phil Nevin has been filling in for Lee at first, and he has been one of the few players offering any power. Lee will go back to first obviously, which probably puts Nevin and his bat on the bench.
Bad, bad bats - The Cubs are 10th in the NL in batting average (.260), last in homers, they have 24 less RBIs than any other team and they are last (by a lot) in OPS. There are highlights - Jacque Jones is .296, 13, 36 and Michael Barrett is .308 - but for the most part this is a sad lineup without a lot of upside. The result has been a meager 35-37 record against the total.
They are awful at home - How bad are the Cubs at Wrigley? Put it this way - even the Royals have a better home record. They are 12-20 at home, the worst mark in the majors. A team that struggles on the road is one thing, but when a team can't win on their own field in front of their own fans then they are completely hopeless.
Dusty Baker - It may just be me, but I can't stand Baker at the best of times, and these certainly aren't them. He makes bizarre tactical decisions, doesn't handle his pitching staff particularly well, and he just does dumb things (like try to get his son killed at home plate). I don't think any manager could right this ship, but I sure know Baker can't do it.
There's no incentive to change - I'm not suggesting that sports management is all about money these days, but sports management is all about money these days. Despite being awful the team still averages just a few thousand fans short of a sellout. Their stadium is obviously long since paid for, ticket prices are the second highest in the league and they make boatloads of coin from their national broadcasts on WGN. In other words, the Chicago Tribune ownership group has no incentive to fix the team, because nothing is broken from their perspective. They bought the team 20 years ago for $20 million. If the rumors are true and they sell it this year they'll get between $450 and $550 million. Who needs to win when losing pays pretty well?