I really hope Festivus is coming soon, because I could really use some airing of the grievances.
Rich Harden must not trust anyone in the Cubs' clubhouse but himself. If I debuted with a team and in my first two games struck out 10 batters in each game giving up only 1 earned run and received a loss and a no-decision, I wouldn't trust anyone either. The first time it was the entire bullpen that was gracious enough to screw him over and this time it was those two spectacular hits total from the offense.
My questions, is what good is getting a guy like Rich Harden if you can't use his talents to win games? It's so insulting to Harden, to GM Jim Hendry and to the fans.
Lou Piniella says there won't be any batting practice tonight. I'm not sure how that helps, but if the Cubs win, I'll give it the benefit of the doubt.
So how do the Cubs turn this around and fan the flames of the hot Brewers and Cardinals, who if they weren't beating each other up the next three days would be breathing down the Cubs' necks? It's simple: it all revolves around the middle of the line up.
Since the break, Derrek Lee has been 3-for-17. Lee also has just 2 home runs in his last 165 at-bats (That's all of June and July so far). That's not good for a 3-hitter.
Aramis Ramirez? I wish I hadn't praised him so much after the White Sox series at Wrigley. Since then his average has gone from .299 to .271. Ramirez is hitless since the all-star break and including the all-star game is 1 for his last 25. Don't forget that 0-for-22 streak that plagued him at U.S Cellular before the break either. If he just spread those numbers out instead of doing it all in a row, people wouldn't be that angry with him. Instead, his fantasy owners must be livid.
Geovany Soto also has one hit since the break and is 3 for his last 21. At least he can say he's just a rookie. Kosuke Fukudome, Mr. Patience, has just 3 walks this month with a .220 average.
These guys have all spent a lot of time in the middle of the order and they are basically the Cubs' "all-stars." You cannot depend on guys like Ryan Theriot, Jim Edmonds, Mark DeRosa and Mike Fontenot and expect to have a winning record. Add in the bullpen issues of pre-break and that's why the Cubs are 8-8 in July and 23-20 since June 1. If the Cubs don't get hot soon, they're going to prove they just had an above average April and May and simply tried to ride it out before fizzling in either September or the playoffs.
Right now, I firmly believe that at its worst, Chicago is a .500 team, which means I would contend the Cubs have played their worst baseball lately. If that's true, and they turn things around these last two weeks, they should finish at least 5 games over for July. What will then happen is either in August or September the Cubs will be due to get hot. If they never do, they truly are at worst a .500 team. If they don't, they really are just a .500 team and will do no better than last year in the playoffs.
The bottom line of all this is that the Cubs cannot be that team without the middle of the lineup producing, regardless any bullpen issues. As with any baseball team, 3,4 and 5 hitters are essential. They must stop this streaky behavior. If that order rights itself and Soriano comes back without any asterisks, this team will have only itself to blame for not winning the pennant. The pieces are all here in Chicago, in my opinion (though I'm not close-minded to anymore deals), and if that's the truth, they should be able to converge to go on another deadly win streak. Otherwise, that's a major disappointment.