Alfonso’s Oil

In Paul Sullivan’s latest bout of actual news, he writes that Alfonso Soriano’s knee might be in for some serious treatment. Or it might not. The Cubs are considering subjecting the most tragically expensive knee in the Chicagoverse to arthroscopic surgery that would sideline him for *gasp* two weeks.

Or they won’t. For now, Soriano’s just getting the continued therapy and workout sessions that have worked such wonderful magic thus far.

Not that it matters. The playoff picture doesn’t have the Cubs in it right now. I believe in divine intervention, so I’m not ruling out anything. But surgery seems like the best option . . . for Soriano or just about anybody who thinks extra stretching and ice baths are gonna fix this multi-million-dollar problem.

You Can Schedule a Make-Up Game, But You Can’t Make Them Play

In a display of passive-aggressive nonviolence, the Cubs staged a sit-in at Wrigley Field today.

Said Alfonso Soriano, “We were promised a day off on September 3, and a day off we shall have.”

The Cubs adamantly refused to raise a glove in defense or a bat in anger. Seen pacing placidly in the dugout, Lou Piniella seemed to understand the protest, even if he didn’t agree with the tenets of the players’ beliefs.

“Look, I’m not the Dalai Lama.You gotta talk to the players about that. We’ve seen our fair share of good baseball this year, and we’ve had some bad baseball. That . . . I don’t know what that was, but it wasn’t baseball.”

The White Sox seemed just as confused as anyone. At first, they didn’t realize they were allowed to score while the Cubs weren’t playing. But by the middle innings, a few White Sox leisurely circled the bases, some of them with their wives, children, and pets. Ozzie Guillen was, predictably, the only South Sider who wasn’t left speechless.

“I don’t know what they were doing, but I figure, why not win a game if they’re gonna let you? It was like that scene outta Bad News Bears when the coach’s kid hangs on to the ball and the fat catcher runs around the bases, you know? Hey, we tried to give up some runs just to make it look real, but I don’t think Lou wanted to let that happen. He put Aaron Miles at the plate. I don’t know how to let Aaron Miles score a run. We’re not allowed to put a tee out there and he’s too small to try to hit with a pitch. It’s not my problem. Let the Ricketts family sort that out.”

It is not yet known whether Aaron Miles was in on the civil disobedience or if he was simply doing his best to reach base. As for the rest of the team, they plan to return to their baseball playing duties tomorrow after the team travels to New York to play the Mets.

Informed Hoplessness: Just How ‘Out of It’ Are the Cubs?

Reason for joy or just time to root for the Bears?

Now that Ted Lilly has finished his dissection of yet another team (just relax, Astros, and let the ether do its work) the Cubs are 10 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals, pending their discovery of yet another way to send the Brewers to their demoralizing defeat. The Cubs will be either 10.5 or 9.5 games out of first place in the National League Central, a climb few dreamers believe they can make.

Yes, even the incurable optimists are relegated to Wild Card wishes, and the 5.5 games by which the Cubbies currently trail the Rockies certainly seem more feasibly scaled than Mt. Pujols. But is the Wild Card picture really any less bleak than the layout of the NL Central?

Not much.

As far as I know, there is no official way to quantify the additional hurdle(s) facing a team that is 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc., in a playoff race. While the Cubs are 5.5 games back of the Rockies, they’re also .5 behind the Marlins, 2.5 behind the Braves, and 4.5 behind the Giants—the Cubs are a distant 5th place in the Wild Card standings. That definitely doesn’t seem a lot cheerier than being a very distant 2nd. So how do you know which position is worse?

Here’s the system I use: I take the total number of games the Cubs trail the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th teams, divide by 2 and add that total to the number of games behind the leader. Say wha? Here’s a little explanation.

Every team’s game result is worth one half game in the standings. In today’s game, the Cubs win was only half the story. The Astros also lost, completing the other half. The Cubs gained a half game; the Astros lost a half game, thus moving the Cubs and Astros one full game farther apart. For the Cubs to make up a full game on the Rockies, they need the Rockies to lose (to the Mets). In the economy of the standings, a Cub win and a Rockie loss are each worth one half game.

Prior to tonight’s games, the Cubs need 5 wins and 6 Rockie losses (11 total results or half-games) to catch Colorado. But to gain the Wild Card lead, they also need 1 Marlin loss, 3 Atlanta losses, and 5 Giant losses (9 half-games). That’s why I divide the other margins in half: a Cub win gains a half-game on everyone, but every other team’s result is independent of the Cubs’ performance. Clear as tobacco spit? Awesome. So the Cubs are, at this moment, 5.5 games behind the Rockies and a total of 7.5 games (adjusted to 3.75) behind everyone else.

The long and short of it: The Cubs are 9.25 games out of the Wild Card lead.

Since the Marlins and Braves play each other, one team will gain on them and one will lose, which will leave that number unchanged. If the Rockies and Giants both lose, it will drop to 8.5. If they both win, it’s back up to 10. Things can shift pretty fast in the Wild Card race, which can be both awesome and devastating.

Until I see the Cubs in 2nd place within 2 or 3 games, my money’s on devastating.

Ten Things Cub Fans Can Still Look Forward to in 2009

It ain’t over ’til it’s over. You can take that truthism as a blessing or a curse, depending on your state of perpetual hope or interminable anguish. On the positive side, here are 10 things we still have to look forward to in a season most of us wish would just die already:

10. The return of Bobby Scales. It’s hard to remember the adrenaline shot the substitute teacher gave the Cubbies in his last fill-in stint in the majors, but I seem to recall feeling happy for a few days. I’d welcome another dose right now.

9. The unconditional release of Aaron Miles. I hope life treats him kind, and I hope he has all he dreams of. I wish him joy and happiness, but above all this, I wish . . . he was gone. And I-yee-I-ee-I will always *deep breath* loathe you-whooooo, and I will always . . . sing it, Whitney.

8. The sale of the team. It’s still not over. It won’t guarantee success. It won’t become final final until after the season is done. But I can’t wait to put the biggest distraction of the season (yes, even bigger than Milton Bradley) behind us.

7. One more game against the White Sox. Losing will be fuel on the depressing fire. Winning will do little to lift my spirits. But when the game goes down on Thursday . . . aw heck, never mind. I’m not looking forward to this at all. I hate it when we play the Sox pre-October.

6. The Wild Card. Will the Cubs win the wild card? Probably not. But the wild card race should be fun to watch. The National League is really just not very good this year, which makes that last playoff spot all the easier to grab. I’m not so much of a purist that I don’t enjoy a whole scrum of teams battling over a playoff spot they don’t deserve.

5. The eruption of Mt. Lou. You. Know. It’s. Going. To. Happen. I’ll bring the popcorn.

4. Randy Wells. I’m genuinely excited to see how Randy Wells finishes out this year. He may have seen his Rookie of the Year chances sail into the left-field bleachers, but he still has a chance to reach the teens in wins.

3. Aaron Milesless baseball. Even if he doesn’t get released, the expanded September roster now gives Lou no excuse whatsoever to ever put Aaron Miles on the playing field. If I see him so much as lift the Hello Kitty backpack, I’m launching an investigation into Lou’s sanity.

2. Da Bearsssss. Bearss. Ditka. Cutler. Bearss.

1. That guy. Somebody always has a good September. A lot of times it’s Soriano. Soto had some good moments in last year’s last month. In case you forgot, many people were ready to write off Zambrano’s 2008 until his no-no on September 14. It might not save the Cubs. It might not add to the wild card drama. But there will be somebody who makes September memorable.

It’s reason enough for me to keep watching.