Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Sunday, August 24, 2003
That's gonna leave a mark
I've really reached the end of my rope with Shawn Estes. Okay, that probably happened in May, but the point remains the same. Yet again, we see Estes get his hat handed to him, and coincidentally, see Antonio Alfonseca get spanked even worse in the same game, thus cementing my opinion that both of these guys need to be nowhere near the postseason roster (that is if the Cubs don't obviate the need for a postseason roster in the first place). Of course, both of these guys need to go now so they don't find a way make the last 34 games a waste of time, but I don't have the confidence that the Cubs brain trust understands this. Dusty Baker was quoted in the Tribune this morning as saying "He threw the ball as good as he's thrown the ball. They found some holes there." Now, admittedly, during the first three innings, Estes actually looked pretty good. He was locating his curve, and was able to hit the outside corner with pretty much everything. However, attributing the six runs scored on six hits and a walk during his last inning and a third to luck seems a little silly. Especially when 4 of those hits were doubles. I'll grant that if Alfonseca does his job in the fourth (he's got men on first and second with one out, not the best situation, but still something that can be kept under control), Estes' outing doesn't look so bad, but 5 runs (4 earned) in 4 1/3 is still a rotten outing.
I wish I could have some confidence that the Cubs will realize what they have to do, and get it done. However, this is a team managed by a man who thinks that the insertion of Tony Womack and his .255 OBP into the two spot in the order (hell, ANY spot in the order) is a positive move. Don't get me wrong. I can actually see the short-term logic of bringing Womack on board. With Grudz being out until sometime in early September, and the only other option for a back up infielder begin Augie Ojeda, acquiring Womack as a backup for Ramon Martinez and Alex Gonzalez makes at least a modicum of sense. The problem is that Dusty doesn't seem to understand that Womack shouldn't be starting for anyone, let alone a team that has a chance to win its division.
For this team to retain a shot at the division, and thus a shot at the postseason, Juan Cruz needs to take Estes spot in the rotation. Ideally, Alfonseca is released as well. He's only being used as a mop-up guy anyway, so why not release him, bring up Cruz to start, and send Estes to the back of the bullpen. The Cubs don't have anyone who resembles a swing-man in the bullpen right now anyway, so it could be an ideal situation. Someone has a two inning outing, giving up six runs to start the game, and you need someone to come in and take the rest of the beating and save the bullpen for another day. Enter Estes, who probably gives up four runs himself, but he pitches five or six innings and keeps the rest of the bullpen from having to get involved.
The Cubs offense isn't going to get any better. It will be the pitching staff that carries the day, and if they get to the postseason, they've got a great shot at shutting the other team down in a short series. But they need to give themselves every opportunity to win in the 34 games that remain, and they can't afford to effectively hand over the six or so games that Estes would be starting the rest of the year. The division is too tight, and winning the division is their chance to play in October. Let's hope someone in the front offense figures this out.