Thursday, April 24, 2008

Cubs improve to 15-6, but with no help from Lou

I guess if your team is as good as the Cubs have been playing, you really don't need to pay attention to the in-game moves you make as a manager. At least, that must've been what Lou Piniella was thinking.

All of you know that I've had very little issues with the way Piniella has managed the ballclub, but his decisions in Wednesday's extra inning win over the Rockies brought me back to the days of Dusty Baker managing the Cubs. No, actually, even Dusty wasn't this bad...

Down by a run in the ninth inning, Derrek Lee stroked his fourth hit of the game: a one-out single into right field. But, the most shocking thing was when Pie popped out of the dugout and ran for Lee. Granted, Lee left several of the recent blowouts early because he was battling a sore neck, but taking the best player out of the game in a one-run game in the ninth is absolutely absurd, unless he physically was unable to continue playing. That wasn't the case; there was no mention of a Lee injury after the game.

Never mind the fact that Lee runs well (which he does). Never mind the fact that there was a strong possibility that the game would go into extra innings (which it did). Never mind the fact that there was a strong possibility that Lee's spot in the lineup would come up again (which it did). We needed to keep Derrek's glove on the field. Mark DeRosa played first base for the final two innings of the ballgame and played it well, but some of the incredible plays that Lee has already made earlier in the season were plays that swung games. We shouldn't have taken that risk.

Then, in the tenth inning, after Theriot singled home what would be the go-ahead run, Jason Marquis was summoned to pinch run for Daryle Ward at second base. Now, you might ask "What was wrong with that?", but the issue was that Ward was allowed to run for himself at first base after he was intentionally walked. I had theorized that perhaps Marquis, who was the next day's starter, was already back at the team hotel. That's standard practice for many teams, especially with a day game following a night game. But, that wasn't the case. Simply, Piniella waited to make a move that he was going to make anyway.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Soriano, No Problem

At the risk of setting on a jinx (we're 13-6 on the year and 13-5 since I last wrote here), I sense something coming so I have to write about it. This is for all you ignorant people out there. The people who say that it's always so easy to second guess a move, just because it turned out poorly. I've never second-guessed any move based on the result alone. In fact, the result is pretty insignificant when it comes down to it. (For example, pinch hitting Rich Hill for Derrek Lee close and late in a ballgame is a bad move, no matter what. Even if Hill drives in the winning run, it's a bad move.)

But, there are those of you that think that you haven't actually accomplished anything if you don't pre-emptively make these kinds of statements. So, here it is.

Since the injury to Alfonso Soriano, many Cubs have had different opportunities to flourish in different roles. Reed Johnson has fit very nicely into the leadoff slot for the team and Ronny Cedeno is making the most of his extra playing time. In fact, in his last three games, Cedeno has five hits and five RBI and a ton of good at-bats. He hit eighth all three games, but did well, so he should be moved up, right?


While I know this may sound a little over dramatic (but please understand, I'm intentionally doing this to make a point), this is a huge point in Ronny Cedeno's career. He was supposed to be the shortstop of the Cubs' future but has continuously struggled and saw Ryan Theriot leapfrog him on the depth chart. Cedeno had a good winter, but probably should not have made the team on his own merits. The way it turned out though, Murton had options, Cedeno didn't. So Ronny stayed.

Now, he's starting to find his groove, coming up with clutch base hits, and starting to find a rhythm. Let's not mess with that. I certainly agree that Ronny Cedeno has earned himself at least one, if not two or three, starts in the lineup, but moving him up in the lineup would be a preposterous idea! Never mind the fact that Johnson and whichever Cajun plays that day make up a good 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup, you don't want to put Cedeno in a big spot. Let him hit in the eight hole. If a big spot naturally comes to him, so be it. But, the last thing you want is the heart of your lineup rolling through late in the game and seeing Cedeno's name in the mix.

Granted, if two weeks from now, Cedeno is still seeing the ball well, it's something to consider. After three games, though? He's earned nothing more than staying in the lineup for the immediate future.

Poor umpiring: While watching our 7-1 victory over the Mets, I saw two horrible calls made by the men in blue. In the sixth inning, Mark DeRosa was called out by homeplate umpire Angel Hernandez on a check swing. I never understand when umpires do that. There's no reason to try to get a notch on your belt. Just get the call right, ask the base umpire. Besides, if you, as the plate umpire, are claiming that you did get a good look at the bat, then you didn't pay enough attention to the thing you are supposed to be watching: the pitch! Then, in the eighth inning, Mets set-up man Aaron Heilman balked twice in a span of one second, but none of the umpires caught that.

I should point out, though, that I get upset when people bitch about the umpires. Everyone's quick to blame losses or bad calls on umpires, but when your team catches a break due to a bad call, it seems to be forgotten. For that reason alone, I feel obligated to remind everyone that it took two blown calls from Adrian Johnson and ten innings for us to avoid the sweep in Philadelphia earlier in the month.