Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Friday, September 05, 2003
Well, I don't know about you, but that wore me out. Five fantastic games (well, the first game wasn't competitive after the fifth, but the results were still fantastic!), in what was truly the most intense and exciting regular season series that I've ever seen. I've seen playoff series without this level of tension. Lots of them. Kudos to both teams for fighting hard all the way, and particular congratulations to the Cubs for their very important 4-1 series victory. But besides the ground gained in the division, was there some knowledge gained that could help the Cubs in their push for October?
Lesson 1: We'll start with the easy stuff. Shawn Estes stinks. Okay, for most of us this wasn't knowledge gained in this series, but if the Cubs are going to have a chance to finish on top of the division, someone in management needs to have finally learned the lesson. He's hands down, the worst starter in the Major Leagues, and after yesterday's start, his ERA is a spectacular 6.06! The Detroit Tigers, the worst team in baseball, a team that could set the mark for most losses in a season ever, don't have a regular starter on their current roster with an ERA over 5.66 (that's Jeremy Bonderman, a 20 year old who before this season had pitched a whopping 157 minor league innings, all of them in A-ball or lower). There is no excuse for keeping a pitcher like this on your team, especially if you have the arms that the Cubs have in their system, and in particular, the arm of Juan Cruz. The problem is, Dusty Baker doesn't seem to get it. After yesterday's game, Baker was quoted as saying, "Shawn has had probably the worst luck and the weirdest things happen to him." Yeah, those 79 walks in 142.2 innings were pretty unlucky. So were those 177 hits. Oh, and those 20 home runs, too. I'd certainly call his .283/.347/.434 line against lefties (the folks he was signed to get out!) wierd. It's particularly weird since it's a worse line than that of any of the other four Cubs starters, who are all right handed! How long can this wierdness last? I'll say, the rest of Shawn Estes' career. I just hope the Cubs have learned Lesson 1 so I don't have to watch it.
Lesson 2: Moises Alou is good when he's angry. He's so good, in fact, that I think that everyone in the Cubs organization needs to step up and piss Mo off as much as possible. Bonuses could be issued to players and coaching staff alike for getting Alou's goat. I believe there has to be at least one incredibly aggrevating thing that happens to him every day, and if feasable, blamed on that game's starting opposing pitcher. A typical exchange could go something like this:
"Hi, (player's/coach's/beat writer's nickname)."
"Say, Mo, have you ever been called a @%&$* $*!@?"
"Why, that's the most offensive phrase I've ever heard. Of course, I've never been called a @%&$* $*!@."
"Well, you have now, because that guy (pointing to opposing starting pitcher) just did."
Alou would then go 5 for 5 with a double and two homers. Later, they would have a hearty laugh in the shower after another Cubs blowout victory, as the story of how, once again, Mo was duped into a fit of highly productive rage was related to all who would listen. "Oh, (player's/coach's/beat writer's nickname)," Alou would say, "you so crazy!"
Lesson 3: Prior, Zambrano and Wood: human lawnmowers. Talk about three pitchers you wouldn't want to face in a short series. In 22 combined innings, these fellas gave up 9 walks, 13 hits and only 3 earned runs. Impressive under any circumstances, but against the second best offense in the NL, downright staggering. These pitchers stepped up in three huge games against extremely stiff competition, and while it's nothing new to say that if the Cubs made the playoffs they would be very tough in a short series, these performances served notice to the rest of the league that it's not just idle talk.
So, now that we've learned something, on to Milwaukee to stave off a letdown and take the division!