Swagger or Stagger

Beginning last fall at his press conference Lou Piniella used the word swagger to describe the attitude of this Cubs’ team. He reiterated the thought at the Cubs Convention and many times throughout Spring Training. Lou was confident his team would adopt this mindset and all things would fall into place. He glanced over questions regarding fundamentals as if it was unthinkable this team would have those issues. Lou described his coaching staff in detail, highlighting their collective accomplishments. He instilled hope and confidence in the Faithful and had the masses frothing at the mouth for the season to come.

Well the only froth I have at this point is that of regurgitated Cubbie Kool-Aid. Instead of attacking announcers, players and coaches are going after umpires. Sacrifice bunting seems to be more difficult than solving quadratic equations and getting thrown out at third is becoming routine. Aramis Ramirez homered Monday evening to put the Cubs up 4-0, but I was only focused on the fact that D. Lee had been thrown out at third minutes before and that the Cubs should be up 5-0 I had a bad feeling that could come back to haunt the Cubs and it did. I am not second guessing Sweet Lou, he has the credentials and I do not. However, I do not understand why you are trying to steal third that early in the ball game with one of your hottest hitters at the plate and only one out. Granted, one could argue the sacrifice fly, and though the strategy makes sense, it backfired.

Scott Eyre is a shell of the pitcher the Cubs signed after the ’05 season and not even Lou’s patented tirades can get him out of his funk. Bobby Howry is relying on superb defense to get out of innings and Neal Cotts evidently enjoys walking people. The Wade Miller experiment may be over and Mark Prior should never don a Cubs uniform again. Ronny Cedeno looks so lost at the plate; it’s amazing he can find his way back to the dugout.

Please do not get me wrong, I am not writing off the season, but simply taking a step back, putting down my keg of kool aid and re-evaluating this team. There have been plenty of bright spots, from the emergence of Ryan Theriot and Rich Hill to the hot hitting of Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez…. One must also take into consideration the fact that Soriano and Zambrano are not producing as they normally do. If Zambrano was 3-1, which is plausible, the Cubs record would be 9-11. Then add what Soriano has done in the past and it could be 11-9 or 12-8 and if that were the case, the mood would be much different.

Every sport has its slew of ‘what-ifs’ and ‘almosts’, but we Cubs fans seem to live for them. The sky is not falling, yet, and there is plenty of baseball left to played, just ask any fan of the Oakland A’s. However, in order to keep the attention of the fan base and the national media, the Cubs’ players must produce the way they have historically. Eyre and Howry must be reliable, Soriano must hit for power, Lee and Ramirez have to keep it up and Zambrano needs to go make his money.

With all that said, and kool-aid free, I really do think this is a good ball club. Though many things are the same as they have been, one thing is different and that is Lou. I honestly believe he will change the behavior, the fundamentals and the product on the field. He is not Dusty, nor Don, nor Jim, Tom or Rene. He is a World Series winner, a man of his word, and a demanding boss. I guarantee we will see playing time diminish when it should and increase for others who have earned it. The tirades will continue but the praise will be there as well.

I love what I have seen from Lou thus far, so if he says there will be a swagger, there will be a swagger. Let’s just hope we do not have to put up with the stagger much longer.

Feel free to contact me at brian@chicagocubsonline.com and until next time….

Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!!

Quote of the Day

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anais Nin
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