On Saturday, in front of a fan base whose hobby of obsessing over them is exceeded only by their penchant for hurling racial epithets at minorities who walk in front of their bungalows as they sit on their stoop and drink gin made in their bathtub, the Cubs will play their eighty-first game of the 2008 campaign, the literal half-way point of the season. If the gods are continuing to shine down on Ryan Dempster and his career year later today, the Cubs will take the field tomorrow having become the first team in the majors this year to have won fifty games. They have been hovering at around twenty games over .500 for about two weeks now. They have gone to bed possessing the best record in all of baseball every night this month (June Swoon my ass). They have not been out of first place since May 10th and currently enjoy their biggest lead of the season–and currently the biggest lead in all of baseball– at 4 1/2 games (thank you, Detroit)
So, yeah. Things are good. The Cubs haven’t looked this strong this early since 1984. But enough of this joy-popping. God knows I’ve done plenty of that. The way the Cubs have played makes it easy to write glowing stuff. But on the heels of a flat series performance against Baltimore, we are reminded that this team is not without a question mark here and there. Let’s be honest–making the playoffs is old hat by now anyway. In 1984 and 1989 (and even 1998) it was a novelty, but not anymore. I’m reminded of the incredibly embarrassing celebration on Clark Street last year when the Cubs clinched the division. When they clinch the division this year (HUBRIS!) anybody found celebrating in the streets of Wrigleyville will deserve to be pelted by rocks dipped in acid. Nothing less than a pennant will be acceptable.
So let’s take a look at some guys who need to step up or get the hell out of the way.
Jason Marquis Man, do you suck. Badly. You’ve been getting an assload of runs to make your record look better than it should be, but make no mistake about it–if the Cubs rotation were an art museum, you would be “Dogs Playing Poker.” Frankly, you’re lucky to be in the big leagues, let alone a highly-compensated starter on the best team in baseball. Why can’t you get injured?
Ronny Cedeno You had many us fooled for a bit with your hot start. Not me, though; I remained unconvinced. You got a lot of mileage out of those 7 RBI you picked up in that two-game series against the Mets, but I would point out to anybody that cared that those hits didn’t win games; they merely sewed them up. Your abortion of an at-bat Tuesday night in the 9th inning says more about your ability to be trusted in a game situation than any garbage RBI’s you’ve picked up. Your suckiness actually validated that sweatervest-wearing fop Andy MacPhail, who sat in his seat at Wrigley, sipped his chardonnay, and thanked his fairy godmother that he didn’t get suckered into trading for your worthless turtle-neck in the offseason.
Matt Murton Jesus what the hell happened to you, dude? I understand that Lou’s never been a big fan of yours, but you led the team in hitting in 2006. You were a rookie that actually performed for Dusty Baker! So I ain’t buying the excuse that Lou is some sort of bully that has shrunk your confidence. All I see is some guy who’s apparent objective during an at-bat is to hit the ball as softly as possible. A Matt Murton at-bat is about as intimidating as the Snuggle Fabric Softener Bear. Your three true outcomes are: popfly, groundout, infield single. Go play intramurals; you’ve become as useful as a typewriter.
Michael Wuertz The poster child for why referring to a middle reliever’s ERA is about as specious as saying a player performs well when I eat an omelet instead of oatmeal for breakfast. You have only “allowed” 10 earned runs this season, and your ERA is 2.62. How selfish of a prick you must be then, that you’ve come into games with a combined total of 24 runners inherited, and you’ve allowed seven of them to score. Way to drive up the ERA’s of your teammates while thinking you’re flying under the radar. You ain’t fooling me, pal. Can we give Jose Ascanio another look, please?
I was going to make this list a nice round “5″ and add Mike Fontenot, but decided against it. Yes, Fontenot can only play second base and, while his recent increased playing time due to the injuries of some of his teammates has exposed him as an inadequate everyday player, he’s actually proven to be a decent left-handed bat off the bench. So Lil’ Mikey is spared our wrath.