Monday, June 14, 2010

Another lost season on the diamond?

Lost in the euphoria that is the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup last week has been the apparently lost seasons of the Cubs and White Sox.

Both are languishing in third place after last night's wrap-up game of the annual Crosstown series at Wrigley Field, both the Cubs and Sox 7.5 games behind leaders Cincinnati and Minnesota, respectively. Both have had chances to improve things, but life on either side of town just kept getting stranger.

For the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano, getting rocked for six runs in 1 1/3 innings in Atlanta on Opening Day and subsequent poor performances led to the $91 million man getting demoted to the bullpen by manager Lou Pinella, where he continued to stink things up as closer Carlos Marmol's setup man, and returned to the starting rotation on June 4, allowing three runs on six hits over 4 1/3 innings against Houston.

The starting rotation for the northsiders has been good to excellent, starting with Carlos Silva. Acquired in the offseason from Seattle, he was thought to be enough value to the Cubs in that they managed in the process to get rid of outfielder and all-around good guy (in his eyes) Milton Bradley after his disastrous 2009 season. But so far, he is 8-1 with a 2.89 ERA, losing his first game of the year on Saturday to the White Sox. Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster also have been fairly solid, with Lilly posting a relatively small 2.90 ERA after this weekend.

It's the Cubs' bats that have been the question mark. Hitting hasn't the Cubs' strength in a while, even during the division winning 2007 and 2008 seasons. But even the quality hitters Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez have stunk up the joint. Ramirez, an All-Star as recently as 2008, has been particularly disappointing, hitting only .168 with five home runs before a thumb injury put him on the 15-day disabled list last week. Only new outfielder Marlon Byrd has been worth getting excited about, hitting .333 this year since coming over from Texas in the offseason.

This has led to a lot of disappointing losses, and the pitching staff struggling to keep the Cubs in games without a lot of run support. On Sunday night, for example, the Cubs still managed to beat the White Sox 1-0 despite only getting three hits, all after the seventh inning. The main reason the Cubs held on at all was because Lilly no-hit the Sox until the ninth inning, when outfielder Juan Pierre singled to end the no-no bid. There was also the real disappointment on Thursday, when the Cubs lost to Milwaukee 5-4 on a throwing error in the 10th inning from first baseman Xavier Nady.

For the White Sox, there's not a lot to write about. They're in the middle of the pack again, their World Series victory five years seemingly light years ago in light of the Blackhawks' recent title, which they celebrated Sunday night at Wrigley Field with both the Cubs Sox. They've showed signs of life recently, knocking out a four-game winning streak before Sunday night.

The main thing of interest here has been manager Ozzie Guillen, who has been speaking out on everything from the Blackhawks (saying the White Sox victory parade in 2005 was better) to apparently almost coming to blows with general manager Ken Williams, according to the Sun-Times over the White Sox drafting Gullien's son Ozney in the 22nd round of the draft last Tuesday (Guillen denies the almost altercation happened).

Either way, something's gotta change on both sides of town or we're just stuck waiting for the Bears or Bulls to do something to excite us again.

Could it be the managers? Sweet Lou Pinella could be counting the days before he decides to hang it up, which could mean any numbers of options for the Cubs, including bringing Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who is now managing the AAA Iowa Cubs in his fourth season of managing in the minors. Would the Sox fire Ozzie Guillen? If they're smart, they wouldn't do that.

It should come down to the men who have run and built these teams, GMs Jim Hendry and ken Williams. They're the ones who brought in these guys, and if anyone winds up leaving, it should be them.

Long suffering teased by a championship in another sports deserve as much. There's still plenty of time for either or both teams to turn things around, but something's going to have to give.

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