Before I even begin with this article, I will state what should be obvious: The ongoing battle between Milton Bradley and the Chicago media has nothing to do with the Cubs’ four-game slide.
Sorry, Windy City press, but you play no role in determining what actually happens on the field.
And this larger, so-called “locker room split” is just the media’s way of stirring things up. Chemistry is something that’s developed throughout the season.
The Cubs have played a total of sixteen games; we won’t know what kind of chemistry this team has until June or July. It’s those long 10-12 day road trips that allow players to bond together. That’s when chemistry is developed.
Now, to the Cubs’ problems.
Walks, walks, walks.
The bullpen can’t find the strike zone, and this is a recipe for disaster. Gregg has walked five in nine innings, Cotts has walked five in four, and Patton has walked six in six.
As a whole, the ‘pen has walked 28 batters in 46 innings. Ironically, the only relief pitcher without a walk is Luis Vizcaino, who is no longer on the roster.
Offensively, the Cubs have been dreadful as of late, scoring four earned runs in the past 36 innings. It’s not as if they haven’t had chances; it’s just a matter of poor at bat after poor at bat with guys in scoring position.
It all starts with plate discipline. The Cubs have drawn a total of six walks in the past four games. That won’t get the job done. The offense has also abandoned the opposite field, becoming very pull-happy.
One of the most telling (and worst) at-bats came from Ryan Theriot last night. Down 3-2 with the bases loaded and nobody out, the typically very patient Theriot did not wait back on the Wainwright breaking ball and hit into the tailor-made 6-4-3 double play.
I don’t mean to pick on Theriot, who is off to a solid start, but he’s too smart to not understand the situation. Wainwright was trying to work the outer part of the plate and Theriot tried to pull the ball. I know it’s easier said than done to lay off, but it all starts with plate discipline.
And on to management. Lou Piniella has done a very poor job during the early going this season.
First, the Cubs decided not to disable Geovany Soto. Have they not noticed Soto isn’t healthy? We are in April, not October. It’s nonsensical to keep him active.
The case is the same for Bradley, who was injured two weeks ago; he’s started just one game since his injury. The 15-day DL made sense back when he got hurt, and it makes even more sense today. But by choosing not to disable Bradley, the Cubs have found themselves very short handed.
And besides that, the on-field decisions by Lou have really left me shaking my head.
Who is the closer?
Lou says Gregg, but he also goes to Marmol. Sounds like a “Bullpen by Committee.” Way to keep both guys guessing, Lou.
And along with his poor handling of the ‘pen, Piniella’s shuffling of the lineup is plain silly. Soriano, who has thrived in the one-hole this year, now finds himself batting third. It’s way too early for a shakeup, especially when your top two spots in the order have been your strength.
I’ve always been one to compliment Lou for making solid decisions, but I will also call him out for making poor ones. During Saturday’s game, Piniella decided to pitch to Brian Barden with one out and first base open with the pitcher on-deck.
Lou must not have seen enough of Barden last week, when he went 5-for-9 with two homers against the Cubs. He proceeded to burn Chicago again with a two-run single on Saturday.
It’s early, and the Cubs will eventually take control of this division. But they must play better. They’ve struggled defensively, offensively, and their bullpen can’t find the plate.
Lou Piniella must do a better job. There’s a reason he is one of the highest-paid managers in the game, and he must get more out of his players. This type of baseball won’t be tolerated.
-Pat De Marco