After a deflating loss last night to the Cincinnati Reds, the Chicago Cubs are at their worst record yet this year at 17-22. While this may not a terrible record, it is still only mediocre, much like the franchise it self which has been in recent years. The Cubs have only won 90 games once in the past 12 seasons.
Up 4-0 going into the bottom of the inning, veteran pitcher Carlos Zambrano imploded against the Reds, no thanks to his defense, who gave up five earned runs. The team surrendered two more runs on a home run by Red’s outfielder Johnny Gomes, more or less sealing the loss. The lackluster effort put forth by the club prompted first-year manager Mike Quade to call a team meeting. Quade said, “You struggle you get it, but that was embarrassing, and that [stuff] has to stop…” Cubs underachieving starting outfielder Marlon Byrd responded by saying, “…we’re not playing to our capabilities…we have to start doing better, starting with myself.”
While he has a good attitude, ultimately Byrd is wrong. Even though the Cubs could be playing better, they lack the talent needed to be a winning franchise. The Cubs are a team full of aging stars, featuring sluggers Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Byrd, all of whom are on the wrong side of 30 by a few years.
The go-to arm in the rotation, Ryan Dempster, is 34 and has seen his ERA decline the last two years and hasn’t been doing any better this year. The other key starter, Zambrano, while still only 29, is terribly inconsistent and is a risk both physically and mentally. His number of innings pitched has declined significantly the past three years due to injuries, ineffective pitching and suspensions, as he has been known to start fights with his own teammates when things aren’t going so well.
The real bright spots for the Cubs are their youngsters, specifically sophomore shortstop Starlin Castro and rookie second baseman Darwin Barney. Barney, hitting .345, and Castro, hitting .330, are 2nd and 7th in batting average in the National League, respectively. Aside from these two players, the Cubs are unimpressive. The team has no particular shape, and doesn’t feature any real strengths, which is strange considering the annual $126 million payroll — good for 6th in the league. The Cubs general manager, Jim Hendry, has done a very poor job of constructing a winning team with such a large salary, evidenced by the large salaries he gave to the aging Soriano, the unreliable Zambrano and especially and the disastrous Milton Bradley fiasco. The Cubs seem to throw money away and, as a result, wins.
Until the Cubs management can get it together and make some decent decisions, the players will continue to play uninspired baseball. Even the gem called Wrigley Field isn’t going to be enough to draw fans to the park if the Cubs keep losing. I don’t see this particular club ever making the playoffs — or even coming close, especially in the central division where there is always a dogfight for a playoff berth. Although the Cubs may be historical, loveable and iconic, they aren’t very good, and they aren’t very fun to watch.