Friday, April 11, 2008
And the bullpen, with the usual exception of Tom Gordon, pitched well. Until Gordon entered the game they tossed four innings of shut-out baseball. Not too bad.
So that closes the book on the Phillies and Mets. While the Mets may have won 2 of 3, the war for the NL East rages on. Now the Phillies get to return home to match up against the Chicago Cubs, those lovable losers from the North Side of Chicago in search of their first World Series title in 100 years.
Know they enemy ... I had a great Q & A session with Byron Clarke of Goat Riders of the Apocalypse which he will be posting on his blog and then answered some questions of my own about the Cubs. Here they are:
"1. Is Kosuke Fukudome for real?"
Well, he's not a figment of our imagination, but is he .419/.526/.613 for real? Probably not. Interestingly enough, that's the first question most people want to know about the Cubs. In a fit of excitement after the first week, I told Bucs Dugout I expected a .310/.390/.600 line with 40 doubles, 20 homers, 15 steals, and 15 outfield assists. They pointed out the .600 was a tough sell with those power numbers, so maybe it will be a .500 power average, but yeah, I think he's pretty much for real. Whatever the case, he's the most dangerous bat in the lineup as of today.
"2. 2008 is the 100th Anniversary of the Cubs last World Series triumph . The Red Sox have exercised their demons. Will this be The Year for the Cubs?"
Not unless we acquire a front-line pitcher. The Cubs missed out on the World Series when Johan Santana went to the Mets. Our problem remains the same as last year. Carlos Zambrano matches up okay against other aces, Ted Lilly's not as good as the other #2s, and we have another half dozen #5 starters. Now, if Ryan Dempster keeps throwing as well as he did last night, 7 ip, 1 hit, 2 BB, 0 runs, then we might be good to go, but I put the likelihood of that up there with Fooky maintaining his current numbers.
"3. Kerry Wood: What Went Wrong? Could it still go right?"
He got injured. There are lots of things to blame it on, and everyone has their favorite. Some blame it on the two complete games he threw in a doubleheader at the Texas State High School baseball championships, some blame it on the onerous work load in 1998, still others blame Dusty Baker's taxing 2003 demands. Whatever the case may be, Woody can't stay healthy. If he ever does, and he seems to have a good chance to do so pitching out of the pen, then things could still go very right for Kid-K.
So far this year, he's having trouble adjusting to the end of the game. He's had three saves in four chances, but he surrendered a run in his other appearance, so essentially he's three for five in keeping the opponents scoreless. The good thing for Woody is that he has a tremendous pool of good-will stored up in Chicago. I was just telling my friend this morning that if Dempster was still the closer and had gotten off to the start Wood has, well there'd be some nasty columns in the papers. At this point, everyone's still giving Wood the benefit of the doubt.
"4. Who's is the Cubs MVP? (And why?)"
In his two outings, Carlos Zambrano has been masterful. In previous years, he's had very rough starts. Last year, after 5 starts, he was 1-1 with a 6.91 ERA and we were speculating that he was hiding an injury. If he avoids his horrid April and pitches like he does in the summer months, he could very likely be a top candidate for the Cy Young award.
To this point, Fukudome has been the MVP, but D-Lee, Aramis, and Soriano will all end up with better offensive numbers. But the player the Cubs need the most is Carlos.
"5. Is Lou Pinella the right guy to lead the Cubs?"
I think so. After one year, Dusty Baker was a god in Chicago, so things can change, but Lou's got a Chicago personality where Dude Dusty never did. The best thing about Piniella is he puts winning over ideology. Dusty had these notions about how winning baseball was played, and he wouldn't deviate even when we were tail-spinning into last place, or the personnel just didn't make sense. (See Lawsuit: Centerfielders hit leadoff, second basemen hit in the two-hole causing OBP blackholes Corey Patterson and Neifi Perez to hit in front of MVP-Caliber-Derrek Lee 500 times in 2005 v. Cubdom hates Dusty.)
Lou on the other hand has tried multiple times to move Soriano out of the lead-off slot, but has relented when the results don't work out. Anyhow, like all managers, Lou will continue to be loved in Chicago so long as he wins, and when he doesn't... well they fired Ditka once.
"Bonus Q: What makes the identity of being a Cubs fan so special?"
Constant re-affirmation by the people selling us things. Yes, I know it's a jaded viewpoint, but I attend the Cubs convention each January, and the line most likely to get great applause is the one where cubs fans are called "the best fans in the world" by the guys who just charged us $50 a pop to pack into a convention center. We just can't get enough of it.
In a less jaded moment, I would answer that there is a certain camaraderie that develops when a group of people are put through oppression. Cubs fans are proud to be authentic, even though that isn't a word I would use for many of us. Who joins a bandwagon for a team that hasn't won in 100 years? It's signing up for a lifetime of disappointment, but at least there's sunshine involved. So yes, Cubs fans are special... but blasphemy! so are fans of any other team that are equally as devoted, even if their teams win on occasion.
Cubs - Phillies preview later today.
Labels: Odds 'n Ends