Creeping Inexorably Toward A Worthwhile Sub-Heading.
Monday, September 22, 2003
After getting pounded for 27 runs in the first three games of a critical series against the Pirates, the Cubs turned to the ultimate pitching luxury, Mark Prior, to set things right. Boy, did he ever. Prior threw a fantastic game, striking out 14 over 7 2/3 innings and giving up only one run (of course, it took 131 pitches, but at this point in the season I'm just sick of being worried about it. I'll save my concern for the Hot Stove). Then to make the day perfect, the Astros, Marlins and Phillies all lose, allowing the Cubs to gain ground everywhere they could. The Cubs are off tonight, but the Astros and Marlins play the Giants and Braves, respectively. The Cubs need some help, and who better to provide it than the two best teams in the National League.
The whisperings from the clubhouse this weekend say that Shawn Estes is most likely to get the start on Wednesday in Cincinatti. I have mixed feelings about this. My negative feelings come from the undenyable fact that Shawn Estes sucks like (insert tasteless metaphor here), and blows like (insert more tasteless metaphor here). My positive feelings come from the realization that he may be the (shudder) best option available. Juan Cruz has been Estesian in his last two starts, posting this ugly combined line:
9IP, 18H, 4W, 7SO, 12ER, 2HR.
Neither pitcher inspires much confidence, but with Cruz looking like he wants his mommy out there, and your only other options being a couple of talented but very raw double-A pitchers, suddenly it looks like the California recall election, where if I'm given the choice between the predictably incompetent (Gray Davis) and the unpredictably incompetent (Arnold Schwarzenneger), I'm going to have to give the nod to the devil I know.
Which begs the question, whether some form of postseason glory is attained this year or not, of who gets the five spot next year. Frankly, I think the offense is a source of greater need, but that can be addressed at a later date. On Wednesday we're confronted with a bad situation involving the back of the rotation and a huge need for a win, so this is as good a time as any to look at the options for next year. The problem is, there doesn't appear to be much available on the free agent market. However, one interesting possiblity does exist. Kirk Rueter's contract in San Francisco is up at the end of the year, and as long as he's over the injury problems he's had this season, he might be what the Cubs are looking for while they wait for one of the young guns in the minors to get ready. He's likely to throw about 180 innings with an ERA around four, and while he's far from the kind of crazy hard throwing strikout machine the Cubs have in their other rotation slots, that might serve as a sort of advantage. Imagine having to face Rueter after one of the other four starters. One game the opposition can't catch up to anything, the next they have to sit back and wait for everything. It seems like it would be a difficult adjustment for hitters to make, and while I don't have any evidence that this sort of arrangement would increase Rueter's efficacy, it sure seems like it could (hmmmm, topic for research anyone?). Add in the fact the Dusty likely has a comfort zone there after managing him for 6+ seasons in San Francisco, and things start to look interesting. I don't think Rueter is a long term solution. That will be found with whoever survives among folks like Angel Guzman, Chadd Blasko, Andy Sisco, Jae-kuk Ryu, Robert Brownlie, Todd Wellemeyer, Sergio Mitre, and even Juan Cruz. But a couple years of Kirk Rueter while we wait for the next generation wouldn't be bad.