After dropping both ends of a doubleheader to the Dodgers on Sunday, the Cubs wound up 3-6 on their homestand. Just wonderful.
Then they lost their second game on the road to the Padres after a Fred McGriff error that was called a hit by an official scorer who apparently fell asleep on the play. That was five losses in a row for the Cubs. They haven’t won since I went to the game last Wednesday. On the bright side, Sosa hit two home runs.
But they finally won today, 6-1. Offense, simply, is the difference. Yesterday the Cubs could muster only three. The Cubs have this special ability to make even the most mediocre pitchers look like Cy Young Award winners.
Alou hit a home run today, and that’s a start. Sosa, with two home runs for the second game in a row, looks like he’s getting into one of his patented hot streaks. It’s funny, because he hit eight home runs in April, and that’s not considered a really good month for him. So if the middle of the order can drive in some runners, maybe things can turn around. Patterson has an eight-game hitting streak going.
The starting pitching, certainly, has never been in doubt, with a solid 3.61 ERA, sixth in the National League.
It’s the relievers who have been a problem. Cub relievers collectively have an ERA of 4.90, 14th in the National League. Only the Phillies and Astros are worse. The bullpen was a strong suit for the Cubs last year. But aside from Joe Borowski‘s 2.08 ERA, the bullpen has been spottier than a leopard.
Alfonseca‘s been fine, but has only had four save opportunities. And as ballyhooed as closers are, they are not really the most important people in the bullpen. Much more important are the middle relievers who come in to keep the game close, hold the lead or match up with leftys or rightys.
The most spectacular failure thus far has been Jeff Fassero, continuing his disastrous second half of last year. Fassero pitched a scoreless inning today, but has an 8.49 ERA so far, and left-handed batters have an on-base average of .455 against him.
But he’s not the only one. Osborne, Zambrano and Sanchez have also fallen down on the job, and obviously the Farnsworth and Gordon injuries have hurt.
It’s a long, long season in baseball. It’s hard to extrapolate from one month how the rest of the season will go. The Cubs are now 9-17, eight games out of first place in the Central Division. This much is true. We will probably know before I leave for Washington, D.C., in the second week of June whether the Cubs will be contending throughout the summer or preparing for a rebuilding job.
There have been rumors that Baylor’s job is in jeopardy. While I think he’s a terrible manager and the wrong man to lead a roster of young players who will have the potential to make the Cubs a perennial winner, I don’t think firing him now will accomplish much. That said, I do think the Cubs should bring up Bobby Hill to lead off and play second base as soon as possible. DeShields is a giant black hole in the lineup, and has zero range defensively.