Cubs’ Random Bullpen Generator

The reasoning behind the Cubs’ bullpen/starting rotation moves is finally revealed.

Andrew Cashner is coming to the big leagues. The former #1 draft pick and ex-starting pitcher will be joining the big-boy club as the Cubs travel to their AAAA-affiliate Pittsburgh Pirates. (Yes, I know this AAAA-club has been smacking the Cubs around, they’re still awful.) Joining young Andrew in the bullpen will be everyone’s favorite line-drive-absorbing lefty, Tom Gorzelanny.

Zambrano pitched in relief yesterday and will officially, or at least practically, return to the starting rotation on Wednesday after his abbreviated, tumultuous, and downright bizarre stint in the bullpen. Randy Wells, who pitched only briefly and ineffectively on Friday, will move into Gorzelanny’s slot in the rotation.

Cashner had been effective as a starting pitcher at every level so far this year, as has the Cubs’ other promising pitching prospect, Jay Jackson. But Jackson was recently switched to the bullpen at AAA. Then Cashner was moved to the bullpen and Jackson returned to starting duty. Then they switched lockers and dated each other’s mothers.

Meanwhile, the Cubs got drubbed in two of the three of the weekend games, although they did win easily in Jolly Lord Silva’s brilliant start on Saturday. They really have been all over the place. Silva is good. Wells and Lilly are alternately dominant and dormant. Dempster’s getting pretty homer unlucky. Carlos Marmol is insanely good. The bullpen in general seems to give up either 3 runs or zero baserunners every game. To quote Ron Santo, you just never know with this team.

You never know with this organization, either. In his post-game remarks, Lou expressed his desire to keep the randomness spinning through the lineup card as well, so we should prepare for a brand new look tomorrow. Maybe Geobeepee Soto will lead off. Maybe Aramis will hit bat ninth. Maybe I’ll finally get a chance to hit cleanup.

Personally, I’ll find a change welcome, but the one I’m most interested in seeing is a team other than the Cardinals. I hate that team. They lead the league in annoying fans. Their manager is the devil. Bring on the Buccos.

And until I see some type of consistency in performance or organizational direction, I’ll hereby refer to the 2010 Cubs team as the Wrigley Randoms.

The Cubs Best Outfielder Is Ivy

I love this commercial. It features a lot of the things I loved most about my first trip to Wrigley. The things I loved back in 1981 when my idea of advanced baseball wisdom was the fact that Ivan DeJesus wasn’t pronounced I-vuhn de-JEE-zus. The scoreboard changed by hand. The brilliant colors. The flags. The ivy. Harry Caray. He was real then, not a statue, and there were no light standards protruding from the Wrigley Field rooftop. But at that time, I had no idea who the players were. Honestly, at my first Cubs game, my familiarity with the game (and our seats) was so poor, I wasn’t even sure where the infield was. It didn’t matter. Just being there was enough to make the experience, the Wrigley Field experience, a religious conversion of sorts.

I hate this commercial. Like the other facets of the Chicago Cubs 2010 marketing campaign, not a single player makes an appearance. It’s all ivy and blue skies and icons. It tells me I should love this team because of something bigger than any one person. It reminds me that the Chicago Cubs are all about feeling good and loving life and having fun. 2009 was a freak storm, an erroneous blip, a flaw in the baseball diamond. 2010 will be good again. It will be pure and Milton Bradley free. Pepin le Bref will be a messenger of joy. And the quality of the baseball being played in these hallowed halls need not factor into the equation.

Don’t manipulate me, Chicago Cubs marketing staff. I’m a fan, and that’s not changing. But don’t try to tell me the baseball itself doesn’t matter. That’s the wrong message to send. Show me Cub homers. Show me Cardinal strikeouts. Show me prospects whose stars are still rising. More importantly, show me an owner willing to pay the price of winning a World Series. I’ve had your back this offseason, Tom Ricketts. I won’t be so kind if you play this whole season on the cheap.

UPDATE: A million bonus points to Jodi for pointing out that the commercial is probably for WGN, not the Cubs specifically. What’s more, the sale leveraged transfer of the team means those two entities are no longer under the same umbrella. My fault. Mea culpa. Mia Farrow. Let’s not forget, baseball makes me stupid.

A Few Small Repairs

Warning WreckI’ve made a couple changes to the site. Not wholesale changes or even dramatic ones, just a few minor adjustments. And that’s not because the site doesn’t need work, it’s just . . . well, what am I gonna do? I’m not exactly chiseling rough edges off the Michelangelo. Oh, and I’m not raising payroll, either. But you know, I think these relatively small additions to life at And Counting might just help out.
The situation here isn’t all that different from where the Cubs are right now. Look, last offseason Jim Hendry made some moves that didn’t work out. You could call them great moves that went bad, or foolish risks that were doomed from the start. Actually, it’s really easy now to say that they were all ridiculously misinformed—but so is this blog, so who am I to judge?

This offseason, Hendry has subtracted just about all of last offseason’s moves (the Mark DeRosa toothpaste can’t be squeezed back into the tube). Bradley’s gone. Gregg is gone. The Aarons both Heilman and Miles. We bid farewell to Rich Harden and Jake Fox, and we’ll miss a little bit of Ted Lilly at the outset of the season. But when you look at the 2009 contributions of the dearly departed Cubs, is the absence of any of that really going to sting?

So I look at the additions, the small changes, the slightly altered logos and DISQUS comments of this 2010 Chicago Cubs team. Marlon Byrd. Xavier Nady. Clubhouse gallbladder infection, Carlos Silva. And let’s not forget new guy, other new guy, and the dude we got for Jake Fox. None of these guys are going to reconfigure the Cubbie universe. They won’t win Nobel Prizes. But the the Cubs don’t need wholesale changes. They just need to tread water.

If you want to see the statistical projections, you can check them out at ACB. The Cubs aren’t bad. They’re not as good as the Cardinals (who suck, by the way). They’re not as good on paper as last year’s paper team. They might not even be as good on paper as last year’s team was on the field.

But I like this team. I expect Soto to have better luck (let’s hope his eyebrows weren’t the source of his power). I expect Soriano to be healthier and better. I expect Zambrano to be worse and luckier. Marlon Byrd will be good. Someone I’ve never heard of will be good. The pitching staff will be the least of the Cubs’ problems. I expect the sportswriters to fade into the dingy background of the press box. I expect to be wrong about oh so much. But in the end, or at least on the way to the end, I expect to enjoy the 2010 season.

Jon Heyman thinks the Cubs struck out. I think the Cubs took two steps forward and one and a half steps back. If they can just stay afloat until June, Jim Hendry might make a real move, and this team just might kick a little ass.

Random Cubs Facts, Opinions, Fabrications, and Outright Diversions

Firing Jim Hendry is a bad idea.

Jay Leno is not as unfunny as people give him discredit for. He’s also not as funny as Conan.

1998 was the best year of my adult life. The home run race was a part (nowhere near all) of that. I wouldn’t change a thing.

If the Cubs win the World Series this year by cheating, I will celebrate until I collapse in an unethical heap of exasperation.

If the Cubs win the World Series this year through methods of interrogative torture that cross lines even Jack Bauer wouldn’t step over, I would have second thoughts.

I do not endorse cheating, torture, illegal steroid use, or the designated hitter.

Wrigley Field is unique and one of my favorite places in the world. So is the house I grew up in, but I’m glad my parents remodeled.

If Wrigley had a JumboTron that could replay controversial calls, they’d have to stop the game every other inning to rid the playing field of angrily discarded beer cups.

Everyone’s at least a little racist.

Ryan Theriot isn’t getting any better.

Put an @ before someone’s user name to make sure they read your tweet. Use @@ to attack them with a giant 4-legged robot.

Going two-sies in the Wrigley troughs is a breach of etiquette.

The best Cubs-related movie of all time is Die Hard.

Dick Stockton will be the play-by-play guy for every Cubs 1st-round playoff game from now until the end of time.

I looked up the word curse in the dictionary, and I don’t see a single definition that doesn’t apply to the Cubs.

I love the Cubs, I hate the Cardinals, but to each his or her own.

Former players are entitled to their opinions about steroids, but I expect them to be no more objective than they were when they argued with umpires.

Parking at Wrigley has the exact same cost-to-pain ratio as getting a root canal.

Just once I’d like to catch a foul ball at Wrigley Field.

Alfonso Soriano will be great again.

Carlos Zambrano is the best Cubs pitcher, and he’s worth every penny.

The Cubs will win it all in my lifetime.

I am not to be trusted.

Milton’s Gone, and So Are Cubs’ Playoff Hopes

There are some facts about the Cubs that don’t need to be said. I’ve rounded them up here so they can huddle together in their unspoken misery.

  • Signing Milton Bradley was a mistake.
  • Suspending him was not.
  • The Cubs aren’t going to the playoffs.
  • Even the most jaded Cubs fans still harbored a tiny vigilante voice of hope deep in their hearts that was saying, “Let’s just wait and see how we* do this weekend in St. Louis.”
  • That voice is now muttering obscenities.
  • No matter the standings, it’s always nice to beat the Cardinals, especially after watching them prematurely rush the field in jubilant, firework-lit celebration.
  • Aaron Miles has had a bad year.
  • The Chicago media don’t like Milton Bradley. (Lesson to high-school jocks: Be nice to the nerds who don’t make the team and have to settle for praising you in the school paper; they will one day have the power to torture you.)
  • Jake Fox is a man’s man.
  • Only time will tell who overpaid more absurdly: Jim Hendry for Milton ($30 million) or the Ricketts family for this team ($845 million).
  • This season has been a disaster.
  • Someday we’ll go all the way.
*Yes, the voice deep inside the heart of skeptical Cubs fans refers to the team as “we.”

Cubs Twitter All-Stars

If we can’t win it this year, might as well irritate some Cardinals.
UPDATED 9/25 (this should probably be in alphabetical order. Instead, it’s in the order that I entered names. Sue me.)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Twitter makes winning fun and losing a little bit more palatable. If you tweet, you’re familiar (perhaps to the point of contempt) with the concept of Follow Friday. You also know that Tony LaRussa tried to sue Twitter. And you probably also know that these Cubs fans (among a plethora of others) rock, but here are some reminders why:
@ehudmh This is one funny (and insightful) dude. Never met a tweet of his I didn’t like.
@cubsjunkie Fun, feisty, and full of fascinating tweets. (Do not cross this woman: the animals obey her.)
@hey_sue She’s got a dry wit and a wry sense of teeny-bopper button pushing. #lovehertodeath
@jmkobus You never know where his tweets might lead you, but that place will be awesome.
@TweetsByDina High Queen of Haiku, wordsmith extraordinaire, and purveyor of sweet tweets.
@fuzzed18 An engaging and delightful fan who really keeps the social in social media.
@trishkaa If your life needs more sass and spunk (and it does) you need more of her.
@aaronswray His tweet stream will cleanse you from boredom. I swear.
@aleagueofherown Phenomenal tweets are just the tip of her awesomeberg. Twitter can’t contain the glory.
@ggci You want tweets with class and substance, he’s your guy. Then he’ll make you laugh til you puke.
@tom_reutebuch He’s all kinds of deep-fried awesome.
@wrigleygirl Like the stadium that serves as her Twitter namesake, she’s a national treasure.
@c1t1z3nx You know what that name stands for? It stands for fun and hilarity, that’s what.
@Aisle424 I miss Mike Royko. His tweets and blog posts are reminiscent of the genius of old.
@dwag29 She might live closer to Citi Field, but her heart is lost in the ivy.
@TheCubsInHaiku The finest Cubs tweets / Seven and ten syllables / Wit, faith, fun, and hope
@MOgulnick When she’s running the world, you’re gonna wanna say you followed her when…
@wpbc If it’s relevant, original, and memorable, there’s a good chance you heard it from him.
@CubsMagicNumber If you aren’t following her, your days should be numbered. Get it together.
@nearlynextyear He’s blessed with Evanstonian Eloquence and cursed with, well, the Cubs.
@herlihy If you could plot a person’s way with words on a map, his would be the Oregon Trail.
@cubscasthosts The only Cubs podcast I listen to. Their tweets will tell you why.
@Aaliyoda If you don’t like being informed, entertained, and engaged, stay the heck away.
@onetwittedcubs Author of One-minute Cubs blog (aka best minute of your day)
@Thankphil He’s an Iowa Cubs fan with major-league talent. Quietly one of my absolute favorites.
@areyoudrunk Only took 11 characters to prove this was one tweep I couldn’t help but follow.
@SarahSpain Yes, her picture is real. She’s also a sideline reporter for the Big Ten network & the funny and insightful host of Fantasy Players Minute.
@TheCubsGuy You must prove yourself worthy to read his Cubs tweets. You should be that lucky.
@hirejimessian Even more sarcastic than the name implies, his tweets and blog will leave you rolling.
@Purpl0704 A genuinely delightful Cubs fan and all-around fun person.
@CarrieMuskat We like to give the cubs.com writer a hard time, but her tweets are first-rate & informative.
@rudym55 His Cubs tweets are so good, you’ll be tempted to carry him off the field on your shoulders.
@blicdh Quick draw Kevin McGraw cheers for all the right teams and says all the right things.
@TheBlogfines If you’re a fan of Sharapova’s Thigh(s) . . . I don’t even know how to finish this. Go here.
@thezoner The dude is a Chicago sports blog factory, with best blog title ever: Pippen Ain’t Easy
@rpringle I won’t say I’ve got the fever for his flavor. I do, but I won’t say it. He’s much too classy for that.
@talkchibaseball Baseball bipartisanship at its very best. Truly a worthwhile follow and read.
@kerrence Wry, relevant, unpredictable, and all kinds of awesome.
@dat_cubfan_dave Puts a lot of thought and meaning into his tweets, good links, great follow.
@bleedcubbieblue If you don’t know Al Yellon or his powerhouse blog, welcome to the outside of the loop.
@martisnow Cub fan and Red Sox fan. Her heart is only half healed, but her posts are wholly awesome.
@proseandivy A fine Cubs blogger, funny tweeter, and fan.
@harrypav If ever someone tells you Cubs fans are stupid, point them to cubsfx and bask in the glory of Harry Pavlidis proving them dead freaking wrong.
@GatoradeMachine This tweep capitalized on a couple dugout incidents and was catapulted to fame. The fact that he’s hilarious (and real) didn’t hurt either.
@DietRite She (not her account) is named after Jody Davis. Need I go on? I should. She’s awesome.
@terilou6983 She’s smart, funny, and worth following for all kinds of non-Cub reasons, too.
@Eukadanz Follow Eukadanz if you want to. You can leave your friends behind. Cuz your friends don’t danz and if they don’t danz then they’re no friends of mine.
@Ernesto_H Very fun and funny Cubs/Bears fan whose in-game tweets make me laugh regularly. And sometimes irregularly.
@ari_bo_bari Although her stat-loving allegiance spreads across four different baseball teams, I can only remember one . . . and the fact that every tweet is exquisite.
@TorturedFanBase There are some Twitter names that tell you everything you need to know about the genius behind them. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
@BluntChick I don’t even know if she’s sold-out as a Cubs fan, but she’s awesome enough to include regardless.(She actually is a Cubs fan and Hawks fan and growing steadily more awesome with every passing moment.)
@plamorte This dude is a deadly combination of wit, smarts, and Cub fanaticism. But don’t worry. Do not hold me accountable if you die laughing from reading his tweets.
@itsjenjen She describes herself as goofy, but I’ve found her to be elegant, delightful, and witty.
@ataccini She’s one of those people who you just know is way smarter than you, but she’s nice enough to pretend she doesn’t realize the discrepancy—and she’s way fun, too.
@acforever The name might imply he never shuts his windows, but he also never stops being edgy, funny, and bloggy: Check out the Cubbies Crib
@KariGoCubsGo She’s a nurse and a Sooner, and that’s OK with me. Bright, fun, and brimming with spunk.
@AngryHack This dude is out there in all the right ways. His avatar is green, I think, in support of Soto.
@adaveyouknow He’s Dave. You know? Nice and witty with a smooth layer of sarcasm.

There are many (seriously a whole lot) more Cubs fans I’d love to recognize, and I’ll add them as they come to mind (and as time allows). If you’d like to add anyone, please mention them in the comments, on twitter, or to your grandchildren. Just spread the love as you see fit.

More than anything, thanks to all of you who have added so much to A) the Cub game viewing experience, B) the magnificent world of Twitter, and C) my life in general.

M.V.Lee

Derrek Lee will not win the 2009 NL MVP award. Barring a completely unforeseen positive test of some kind (like discovering he’s half machine) the name Albert Pujols is already engraved on that trophy. So don’t take this as an argument that DLee deserves it over his 1B counterpart in St. Louis. However you define “MVP,” whether it’s the league’s best player, the best player on a winning team, or the most indispensible player for any team, Albert Pujols is pretty much the runaway winner in every category. Heck, Prince Albert even wins the contest of which player makes his teammates better. Look at Matt Holliday’s stats before and after joining the Cards this year, or check out Aaron Miles’ 2008 numbers.

I won’t provide links to either set of stats, as I believe both are technically to be considered malware.

But I did want to take a moment and praise D-Lee for being the lone offensive bright spot for the Cubs this season. Without him, I genuinely shudder to think where this team would be. Here’s the stat that says it best: Derrek Lee has a very distinct shot at doubling the RBI output of the 2nd-place run producer on the 2009 Chicago Cubs.

Derrek Lee: 96 RBI
Alfonso Soriano: 55 RBI (he’s probably driven in his last run)
Aramis Ramirez: 49 RBI (the biggest threat at preventing this feat)
Ryan Theriot: 49 RBI (the pace has slowed of late)
Kosuke Fukudome: 48 RBI (always tough to double up)
Milton Bradley: 39 RBI (for the sake of parallelism, I feel the need to comment here)

I don’t want the heart of the Cubs order to stop producing runs to help Derrek make them look even more impotent than they already do. But if a player drives in twice as many runs as anyone else on the team, his value is inarguable. Derrek Lee owns 16.9% of the Cubs RBI this year, roughly one in every 6. (In case you’re wondering, Pujols has driven in 20.1% of his team’s RBI . . . without him, the whole NL Central might be in danger of retraction.)

Things are bad this year. But for Derrek Lee, at least, it’s been all good. When the Cubs return to Wrigley, he deserves a standing O (for being the Only source of Offense in ’09).

Whatcha Gonna Do When Milton Bradley Runs Wild on You?

I’m sick of it. I’ve had enough. I’m mad as Lou, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.

Not at the Cubs. Not at anyone on the Cubs. Right now, my ire, my disappointment, and my criticisms are all aimed squarely at the fans. But surprisingly enough, the best advice I can give them just may be to keep doing exactly what they’re doing.

The drop from first place on July 31 to second place (a full 9 games behind the Cardinals) here on August 27 sickens me as much as it does anyone. But the specific symptom irritating me now is that the Cub fans are (aside from Aaron Miles) focusing their slide-induced angst on one player more than any other. Here are his stats in that span of time:

G: 18 / HR: 3 / RBI: 9 / BA: .303 / OBP: .410 / SLG: .500 / OPS: .910

That’s who’s getting booed. The guy with the .910 OPS is the one getting skewered, roasted, shredded, and slathered in barbecue sauce by Cub fans while August gobbles up the Chicago Cubs. If you’re okay with that, it’s probably because you know that player is Milton Bradley. You don’t care what his stats are, you hate him, and you hate him even more for calling you out on it.

I cannot see the reason behind that. (Actually, I can. Here’s a list.) But with the right theatrics, I could be okay with it.

Before I give away anymore about the idea that will save Milton Bradley’s career in Chicago, I need to vent my frustration about my fellow fans. Here’s some of they hypocrisy flying around the Cubosphere:

Milton goes 4 for 4. Cub fans tell him to shut up and hit.

Milton says he faces hatred on a daily basis. Cub fans converge in a giant flaming ball of hate to tell him he’s wrong. And stupid.

Milton says he has a group of people to help him deal with his struggles. Cub fans tell him to deal with it.

Lou says he doesn’t understand the logic of booing. Cub fans say they have every right to say whatever they want.

Milton talks twice a month. Cub fans tell him to shut his yapper.

Cub fans call Milton a whiny douche and a petulant ass. Cub fans . . . you’ve been to Wrigley, right? If that isn’t the pot pulling the race card on the kettle, I don’t know what is.

[/vent] But look, all of that is okay. It is! The Cubs need Milton Bradley. Not just for his stats. The Cubs need a heel, someone they can boo freely, openly, lustily. They need an Andre the Giant to Jake Fox’s Hulk Hogan; a Triple-H to Derrek Lee’s The Rock; a (10) Million-Dollar Man to Ryan Dempster’s Macho Man Savage.

If Milton can just learn to enjoy the boos, thrive on the hate, and feed off the negative emotions of Cub fans (and that’s an all-you-can-eat buffet, brother) he just might hit .400 in 2010. Look at what he’s doing in this renaissance of Milton bashing? He’s hit home runs in two straight games. He’s getting hits from the left side. Add the theatrics of hand gestures to the fans, attention-getting postgame interviews, arguing with the refs, er, umps . . . it’s all there!

All we really need is obnoxious entrance music, a personal manager like Bobby the Brain Heenan or Jimmy “Mouth of the South” Hart, and maybe an annoying female sidekick to boot . . . Heidi Montag, maybe? We could turn Milton Bradley into a WWE-size blockbuster!

To make this work, though, I’m gonna need Cub fans to keep bringing the hate. If Milton’s slugging percentage rises and falls with the boo-meter, we can’t afford to take a day off. If y’all hate him enough, we could be talking World Series faster than you can say “Sports Entertainment.”

Now, if I can only bring in John Cena to get the baseball to stop doing that silly “you can’t see me” gesture to Fonzy all day long.

UPDATE: Today’s 0-5 stinkfest did nothing to validate my support for Milton Bradley. I sit corrected, head in my hands. But this would still be more enjoyable WWE style.

Day-Off Reflections: 2003

2003 gave us false hopes. Allow me to let it happen again.

Bring up the 2003 Cubs and three names come to mind instantly: Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Steve Bartman. Not exactly a flood stream of happy memories.

So I’m going to ask something of you that you’ve probably asked of yourself hundreds of times: forget the 2003 postseason and the 2004 SI cover jinx ever happened. If you can’t afford that much therapy, just pretend you can forget those things ever happened. Because once you set the dismal end aside, you might remember that 2003 was a dizzying, thrilling, spin-you-round-till-you-toss-your-cookies carnival ride.

The 2009 Cubs have now played 122 games. At this point in the schedule (after a 5-10 loss to the Dodgers) the Cubs were 64-58 and in 2nd place, a 1/2 game behind the Astros. Not a shock that the Cubs wound up winning the division, based on that position alone. But at a couple of points before and after the 122-game mark, the outlook was about as bleak as it is now.

Game 101. After getting swept at home in a 2-game series against the Phillies, the Cubs dropped one game under .500, putting themselves in 3rd place and 5 1/2 games out of the division lead. Things were really bad. Twenty games later, the Cubs were in 1st.

Game 135. The Cubs were shutout 2-0 by Doug Davis and Milwaukee, putting them back in 3rd place, a mere 3 games over .500, and 2 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cardinals. With only 27 games left to play, things looked really bad . . . again. Eight games later, the Cubs were in 1st.

Game 149. The Cubs dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the Reds, putting them 2 games behind the Astros and 9 games over .500. Things weren’t hopeless, but with 13 games to play, it looked bad.

Game 155. A loss to the Pirates kept the Cubs 1 1/2 games behind the Astros, who lost to the Cardinals with 7 games to play. Darkness.

Game 159. Todd Van Poppel’s Reds beats the Cubbies, bringing them into a tie with Houston. Three games to play. Totally nervous.

Games 160 and 161. A rainout forces the Cubs to play a doubleheader with the Pirates—and the Cubs sweep! The Astros lose to Milwaukee, and the Cubs clinch the National League Central! There is much rejoicing throughout Cubdom! Exclamation points are overused, and no one cares!

Are things as bad now as they were then? It’s pretty tough to answer that question objectively, since I want the answer to be, “No, they were worse then, and there’s no way the Cubs can lose!” Being 8 games behind the Cardinals right now stinks. However, I would rather be 8 games back chasing 1 team than 5 games back chasing 2.

I use this rule of thumb: to calculate how far back in the standings a team is, I combine the number of games they trail every team in that race because you need all of those teams to lose. On July 24, 2003, the Cubs were 5 1/2 games behind the Astros and 2 games behind the Cardinals. I look at that as being 7 1/2 games out of first. As I said before, it only took 20 games for the Cubs to overtake first place after that point (which they would later relinquish and reclaim multiple times).

So the big question remaining is, are the 2009 Cardinals superior to the 2003 Cardinals and Astros? No, they’re not. In fact, he 2009 Cardinals aren’t even as good as . . . the 2009 Cardinals.

Let’s be realistic: Matt Holliday is hitting .394 with a .457 OBP and .688 SLG since joining St. Louis. With Oakland, those numbers were .286 / .378 / .454. I can’t guarantee anything, but it is highly likely that Matt Holliday won’t continue to put up the numbers he’s currently posting with St. Louis. Albert Pujols makes his teammates better, but unless he’s sharing HGH, he doesn’t make them that much better.

The Cardinals will probably slow down a bit. Past Cubs teams have shown the ability to close a big gap in a short amount of time. The big question is, can this year’s Cubs team feast on the smörgåsbord of suck laid out before them in the coming weeks?

I don’t know. But I don’t feel like a total idiot for hoping they do.

Pictures courtesy of MLB, Sports Illustrated

Pujols Impressions

When I saw the situation, I knew and everybody in the world knew what was going to happen. Bases loaded. Two outs. Albert Pujols at the plate in the 10th. Cardinals leading 8-7. 0-2 count. . . . Against the Mets.

The grand slam came as a shock to absolutely no one. It wasn’t the game winner, but it was assurance to Cub fans everywhere that A) the Cubs would have to share 1st place with the Cardinals for one more day and B) Albert Pujols is ridiculous.
Now some people claim there’s no way Albert Pujols is on steroids. To me, that’s the cry of hope drowning out the voice of reason. But it doesn’t matter. Pujols is playing on a level playing field against other men who all want to win, to succeed, to put up gaudy numbers, and to be the best. And right now, those other men look like boys. In their eyes, Albert Pujols is in another league of manhood.
In the eyes of my son, however, Albert Pujols is just a funny name. At the Cubs game last week in which Randy Wells seemed to be coating his pitches with fly-ball repellent, I was trying to teach my almost-six-year-old son one of the finer points of the game. Koyie Hill was up with two outs, and even on their way to a 12-0 win, the Cubs would really like to see him reach base so that Randy Wells could bat this inning and turn the lineup over for the next. Randy Wells, I said, isn’t the best hitter in the world.
“So who is the best hitter in the world?” my son asked.
Here I faced the first of several moral dilemmas: Do I tell my son the truth, or do I let my disdain for all things Cardinal cloud my answer? Reluctantly, I blurted out the truth: “Well, I hate to say it, but he plays for the Cardinals. It’s Albert Pujols.”
Instantly, my son burst into irrepressible belly laughter. Between loud giggles and desperate gasps for air, he managed to repeat with inquisitive hilarity, “Poo holes? Poo holes?!!?”
And then came the next moral dilemma: Do I laugh with him at Albert’s unfortunate given name, or do I tell him to A) not make fun of people for their names and B) avoid the scatological humor (a lesson at which I’m a horrible example)? I did my best. After all, my wife was watching.
“Son,” I said, trying to suppress my own giggle-snorts, “I know it’s a funny sounding name, but it’s not nice to make fun of people’s names like that. Be nice, and use nice words.”
He laughed. A lot. He’s a restless little boy, and that joke kept him in his seat for three innings. (When he needs to make someone laugh, he’ll ask, “Hey, do you know who plays for the St. Louis Cardinals?” I can’t stop him.) But he did soon ask me if . . . that guy, was really the best hitter in the world.
Next dilemma: Do I tell him about steroids? Do I take advantage of my son’s impressionable mind by filling him with more anti-Cardinal prejudice? Or do I gloss over what I believe to be reasonable suspicions to protect that part of his innocence left untouched by Pujols jokes? I tried to be honest:

“Yeah, he’s the best. Some people think he cheats, but it’s pretty hard to prove either way.”
“How could he cheat?”
“Taking special medicine. Kind of like if Harry Potter took Felix Felicis before a Quidditch match.”
“Oh.” Then he paused and reflected for a moment, thoughtfully, deeply. “Poo holes! Bwah!”
That Pujols grand slam brought back this story, because I realized so much of baseball is our perspective. What are we watching? What do we hope to see? What do we fear? Our expectations and biases and viewpoints can drastically alter what we see and how we experience the game.
There are still two full months of baseball left, but Cub fans are scoreboard watching as if 101 years hang on every game. It’s probably not the best approach. It’s exacerbated by the virtual tie with our nemesis.
Even the rivalry brings out some of the worst in us: the urge to demean and deride the other team and their fans (guilty); the temptation to stick pins into our Matt Holliday voodoo dolls (I’m waiting); the tendency to equate the Cubs with good and the Cardinals with evil. Even the steroids issue often hinges on the damage a new revelation would inflict: I’d get some satisfaction seeing a using Cardinal outed, but I would instinctively defend any Cub who got named.
I guess it just helps to remember that these are people. Not gods, not devils. It’s best not to worship them or hate them. Sit back, enjoy the game for what it is, and turn your attention and passion to things that truly matter.
Like teaching your kid to stop shouting, “Poo Holes!!!” in mixed company.