One thing has been consistent up until this year in the White Sox/Cubs series is each team played with emotion and heart in a playoff like atmosphere no matter their records. You could always count on something to steal headlines in each game of the series, but those days seem to be over with the new Cubs’ regime.
The Cubs obviously used up what little emotion they had on Friday all on one controversially call involving David DeJesus and Gordon Beckham. DeJesus was called safe at second as Beckham dove towards him to make the tag. Beckham landed on DeJesus and knocked him off the bag and was called out. Sveum came out of the dug out to argue and was ejected. DeJesus and Beckham exchanged a few words and Beckham sealed the Cubs’ fate with a solo shot in the eighth for a 3-2 White Sox winner. That was the last time the Cubs looked like they were prepared to compete against the Sox; they lost the next two games, 7-4 and 6-0, giving the Sox a sweep over the Cubs. More importantly, the Sox moved back to .500 and trail the Indians by 2-1/2 games.
The beaning of Paul Konerko probably fueled the Sox more than hurt them for the remainder of the series, but let’s be honest and say it was intentional. Jeff Samardzija did the same thing to Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves after Heyward took him deep in a game. If you want to drill a guy in the body that’s fine with me, but head hunting is inexcusable and I hope that MLB reviews Samardzija’s behavior.
Cubs traveled to Houston and were pounded by the Astros, 8-4, falling for the seventh straight game. Cubs’ fans might want to start questioning the decision making of Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein at this point; I mean how could Sveum not get this team up for the Sox series. It seems like the perfect series for the Cubs to gain some momentum, but instead the Sox gained it all. The next decision is getting Volstad for Zambrano, not that I’m suggesting Zambrano stay, but Hoyer’s judge of talent a may be a bit off. You would think that the Cubs would have held more power, since they were willing to absorb so much of Zambrano’s salary. They chose Volstad because according to Hoyer and Epstein, who would have the greatest impact on helping the team; whoops!
While Zambrano has fixed his wicked ways in Miami, Volstad looks nothing like a Major League pitcher and has been shipped off to Iowa to figure things out. However you look at it the Cubs are paying $15 million for a Triple-A pitcher or even more gut wrenching, to watch Zambrano pitch effectively for another team.
Meanwhile, they’ve held on to Alfonso Soriano probably because no one wanted him, but I find it hard to believe that if the Cubs chose to pay for most of his contract that he could not have been dealt. That begs the question, what would have been the better move? Dealing Zambrano or Soriano?
At this point, I would say Soriano would have been the better move, since who has been pretty ineffective in all aspects of the game despite his improved defense. I look at the Cubs starting pitching with Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, and Carlos Zambrano and think that team has a chance to be competitive; unfortunately that’s not the case.
And Cubs’ fans don’t expect to see Anthony Rizzo or Brett Jackson anytime soon, mainly because Hoyer and Epstein are playing the numbers game. Word around the Cubs organization is the Cubs senior brass has no interest in rushing either player to the majors for financial reasons. Those being, they do not want to be negotiating contracts when these players are truly in their prime, which makes sense from that aspect not for winning. Unless the Cubs can move Soriano for legitimate prospects the earliest you’ll see either of those two will be September.
Still, I’m not sure Hoyer is the right man for the job with his assessment of talent up to this point. Look at the San Diego Padres; they can barely compete in a fairly matched division. All anyone can judge Hoyer on at the moment is the Padres and his moves of the 2012 Cubs, not overly impressive other than getting Rizzo back under his wing. The Red Sox already had a solid nucleus when the brain trust of Theo and Jed arrived, but they did help rebuild a badly damaged farm system for the Red Sox.
Theo wasn’t hired to perform a 2012 miracle at Chewing Gum Field, but he promised the team would be competitive while the bigger plan unfolded. Based on what I’ve seen thus far he lied.