Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Although fatalism is pretty much coded into my DNA, I refuse to look at this silly little four-game losing streak (even though it's the longest skid since late June) as a sign of the annual Cubs apocalypse.

This is baseball. It'’s a crazy game, and a long season. There are ebbs and flows. You’re not going to win every game -- or even every series, which has been Lou Piniella’s main priority all year.

A lot of teams would love to have a 4 1/2-game lead in their division, as the Cubs do after both they and the second-place Brewers fell in extra innings on Tuesday night. The NL Central is one of baseball’s less-”competitive” divisions heading into the final month of the regular season -- whatever that’s worth. And the Cubs still have more wins (85) than any other team in the majors.

Do you hear me? I’m trying to convince myself that everything is going to be OK. Do I sound convincing?

Here’'s the thing, though: It might technically still be early, but I’'d say it’s about time for the Cubs to quit fooling around.

It’'s time they start playing like the Best Team in the National League, if that'’s what they're supposed to be.

It'’s time for Derrek “DP” Lee to quit being Ryan Theriot Part Two and start driving in some runs. Lee’s got a decent average, sure. But when was the last time he corked one off into the gap with men on base, or God forbid lofted a sacrifice fly? Lately, he seems incapable of anything but ground balls up the middle (at best) and ground balls to the shortstop (ad nauseum). And by lately, I mean, this feels like it’s been going on all season.

I don’'t know if it'’s feasible to drop Lee in the batting order (Reed Johnson platoons with Jim Edmonds, and Geovany Soto is the catcher), but the Cubs need more production out of the No. 3 hole.

It'’s time for Carlos Zambrano to figure out what the hell is wrong and either get it fixed or gut it out. If he’s hurt, he’s hurt, and that will be a huge blow to what has been a solid, and most of all resilient starting rotation. But this whole Drama King thing is getting tiresome. It'’s not August anymore, so Big Z is out of metaphysical excuses. If he doesn't have a serious physical excuse (insert prayers here), he needs to cut the crap, bear down and be an ace.

It’'s time for Kosuke Fukudome to...well, I'’m not sure we know what he’'s truly capable of doing at the plate. We might have to write this season off as a really tough (but very profitable for the T-shirt vendors) transition period.

It'’s time for Alfonso Soriano to quit promising to concentrate better in left field and just catch the damn ball. No, we shouldn’t expect him to be a Gold Glove outfielder, but we shouldn’t have to endure his infuriating little game of hopscotch out there, either. The same goes for Aramis Ramirez, who racked up three errors in Tuesday’s game alone. Get in the game, guys!

If you think you’'re seeing an ugly trend, you are. The Cubs defense has committed 15 errors in the last 10 games. That’s bad when you’re struggling to score runs, and guys like Michael Wuertz and Bob Howry are threatening to take the mound at any second.)

These were the kind of cracks that winning covered up for much of the last four months. In May, June, July and August, the Cubs proved they can overcome injury and adversity and deal with the pressure of the national spotlight. A silly little four-game losing streak isn’t going to undo that.

Problem is, this is baseball. And as much as we Cub fans hate it, we have to give it more time.

-the Cubbie Chaser

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