View Full Version : The Moron column count '02: Flubs 12, Sox 4

04-23-2002, 09:53 AM
A surprisingly candid appraisal of the miserable 2002 Chicago Cubs, huh. I give it a solid "2" because it's got a good beat and you can dance to it.

5=Extremely positive
3=equal parts positive and negative
1=extremely negative

That makes the totals (columns/points/average points):

Flubs 12/44/3.67
Sox 4/12/3


Cold Baylor near hot seat

April 23, 2002


They look cold in the dugout, all bundled up in parkas and mittens and those cut-out facial hoods you wore as a kid. This is my basic problem with the Cubs. Sure, they've had some injuries, but they also are visibly underwhelmed about playing in Chicago weather, a sympathetic plight if not for one factor.

The other teams have to play in it, too. And they're winning the games, making the Cubbies look like shivering wimps at an average big-league salary of $2 million. ''The guys aren't used to the cold,'' explained Sammy Sosa, not convincingly.

For this trend, I must assign blame to Don Baylor, who leaves the impression he's the coldest guy out there. It's part of his job description to have his ballclub ready to play under any conditions, but the sense during this 6-11 start is that the manager is too numb to do anything but order hot chocolate. Various physical woes aside, the Cubs are committing sins like being spanked at home by Cincinnati and stumbling around against pretending Pittsburgh and Montreal. We could dismiss it as a slow start, but that would be wishy-washy, given their laughtrack of defensive lapses and a statistic that is growing like a toe wart.

Since the end of last July, the Cubs are a 32-42 team. That is underachievement by any definition. If they can't be expected to win big until everyone is healthy, the least they can provide is some fire. But the only source of spunk at Wrigley Field these days is Tribune executive Mark (Little Mac) McGuire, who continues to fight much harder for his bleachers renovation--though he's going about it the wrong way with the Windscreen Offensive--than the team is fighting for wins. ''We've got to be tired of tipping our caps to the other team,'' Kerry Wood said.

So, in a climate that already has seen two managers fired in the season's first three weeks, the buzz around this intense sports burg suggests Baylor should be placed on an employment clock. Let's not overreact and start calling for his head, but it's perfectly reasonable to begin a seasonlong analysis of whether Baylor should be the long-term manager. Why now? Maybe because (1) his four-year deal expires after next season; (2) Andy MacPhail, while voicing positives about Baylor's performance, has yet to declare if Baylor will get an extension; and (3) it's not likely the Cubs will allow Baylor to enter 2003 as a lame duck, meaning this is the year he'll be judged for a possible extension. Thus far, it's not going well.

MacPhail hates this sort of talk, having hand-picked Baylor in the latest chapter of a lengthy relationship that dates to their successful Minnesota days. Last week, he told the media not to waste ink in discussing the Baylor matter. Yet he also didn't indicate any urgency in firming up his skipper's future. What it means is Baylor is being judged with increasing scrutiny as the seasons pass. Also involved in the process is Jim Hendry, who gradually will take over general-managerial duties. Hendry has been the architect of a farm system that finally is producing dividends, but Baylor is a manager who traditionally resists youth experiments and favors the best veterans available.

Is he the right man for the future, then?

What we know is that Baylor is neither a bad manager nor a great manager. He's just OK, which isn't good enough when the payroll is an all-time-high $75 million and the Cubs have their best foundation for contention in years. He's a rock of a presence and former MVP who played the game well, but he has his flaws. Personality conflicts tend to get him into fixes. He isn't the shrewdest in-game strategist. And it's a good thing Larry Roths-child was hired as pitching coach because handling a staff isn't a Baylor strength. You wish he had certain traits of his counterpart these next three games, Dusty Baker, who has a way of touching a ballclub's soul and commanding his players' respect in San Francisco. But Baylor is no Dusty.

If he's the best Cubs manager in years, as someone claimed, it's a little like being the tallest building in Rockford. The last Cubs manager to endear himself to the masses was Don Zimmer in the late '80s, but only because the talent was too plentiful to screw up. Since then, the Tribsters have employed Jim Essian, Jim Lefebvre, Tom Trebelhorn, Jim Riggleman and Baylor--and only Riggleman won anything. Yet even Ragdoll Riggs was subjected to abuse and inevitably fired, despite his wild-card berth four years ago. If the same standards apply, shouldn't Baylor be held to similar scrutiny?

Or is MacPhail going to protect his guy?

With Moises Ow-Lou about to return from the trainer's room, the Cubs need to make a charge soon. There are too many weak teams in their division to be in last place, and St. Louis and Houston are too good to graze around .500 much longer. Even with the injury woes of Kyle Farnsworth, Todd Hundley and Bill Mueller, this team is not playing to its ability. If you had said Alex Gonzalez and Corey Patterson would get out to quick starts, I'd have said the Cubs would be in good shape. But what's the deal with Fred McGriff, who is hitting .226 with one home run and looks like he misses Tampa again? Baylor should be on his tail but instead says, ''Fred will come out of it.'' When, July?

MacPhail isn't without fault. He has placed too much faith in Mueller's medical reports, a tough blow as Eric Hinske--the third-base prospect he traded away-- settles in with the Blue Jays. The longer Hundley doesn't produce, the more he's looking like a bust. Delino DeShields should not be leading off and playing second base, but prospect Bobby Hill isn't ready.

The pitching can solve many ills. This rotation still is capable of wonderful things, especially when Mark Prior arrives in a couple of weeks. If we haven't seen much of Six Finger Alfonseca in the ninth inning, we have seen Matt Clement, the supposed throw-in who is putting up double-digit strikeouts. When the weather warms, the arms should sparkle.

Yet what will it matter if everything else isn't in sync? So begins the litmus test of Baylor, beginning tonight against the Giants, when Sosa and Barry Bonds will pretend they like each other and begin the new version of Monster Mash. Once again, it will be cold by the lake.

It's up to the manager to start bringing some heat.

04-23-2002, 10:34 AM
Originally posted by cheeses_h_rice
If he's the best Cubs manager in years, as someone claimed, it's a little like being the tallest building in Rockford.

What the...??? That almost sounds like a slam. Not like Rockford gets much respect anyways. Why the heck is he mentioning Rockford in an article about the Cubs anyways? I mean just cause we had a Cubs minor leauge team here a few years ago... BTW, I have no idea what the tallest building in Rockford is... I'm thinking it's either a hospital or a hotel.

One more thing, how did he manage to get through an entire article without once menitioning the Sox, the southside, or David Wells?

04-23-2002, 10:51 AM
Tallest building in Rockford (http://www.skyscrapers.com/english/worldmap/city/skyscrapers/detail/0.9/102634/sro0001/rpp10/ht2/bt09/)

OK, I was wrong. Five of them are tied. 15 stories! Woo-hoo!

04-23-2002, 11:14 AM
I guess the Flubs ruined his kids' visit to the "coolest place on Earth." He must be getting back at them with this column.
"At least I didn't freeze my butt off at the ballmall, with all the fighting and flashing and blue seats and serial killers lurking on every street corner"