If you were in a new job, would you expect to be given more than one month to prove your worth? The Cubs are a little over 1/12th of the way through their season, and there are obviously 12 months in a year, so if you started a job April 1st, and had “a bad April” would you expect to be canned?
That is a tough question, as a month is a fair amount of time in which to draw conclusions, I believe. A hard worker should be able to produce enough presentations/analysis/results to get noticed in just his first month on the clock. Likewise, a mediocre worker should be able to build up enough excuses for his lack of production (still learning the ropes, learning new systems, etc….) to keep from getting the axe after 30 short days. What about a lousy worker, though? Do you really believe the new guy could fall asleep in his first meeting (or two), admit on a conference call that he hadn’t been paying attention to a word anyone has said the last 20 minutes, or even start showing up a few hours late without giving a reason at all, and still hold on to his job? You know better…. So What is Your Point?!
My point is that I am not sure what kind of an employee the Cubs have been so far this year. Obviously they don’t fall under the heading of “good worker” and certainly not “great worker”, so the only question remaining is whether the Cubs are simply “mediocre” or are they just plain “lousy”? I am siding with mediocre for now, but they can’t keep saying it is early in the season, or that the bats will heat up when the weather heats up….they need to start winning right now!
Last time I checked, the division winner was the team with the most victories, and they do count your April record towards your wins and losses, so I would say these April games are extremely meaningful. Don’t misunderstand, I am not falling off the bandwagon, but rather I am making it known that I have higher expectations for the talent level of this club then they have shown thus far, and we have been led to believe the Cubs new manager, Lou Piniella, feels the same way.
I don’t want to see tirades from Lou all the time….that doesn’t inspire confidence in me, or really even make me laugh. Epic blowups, like Lee Elia’s famous rant, are only humorous because there are no real expectations that the team will be any good. So if the team is horrid, then the hotheaded manager throwing bases and kicking dirt is actually a bit of welcome comic relief but this team is supposed to be good. If you believe John McDonough….the team is supposed to be World-Series-good. So I would rather the players already have a “win or die trying” attitude, and not a “we will come around eventually” attitude, which is the vibe I have been feeling so far this year. These players, and this team, are one year removed from an absolutely abysmal season, and therefore they are entitled to absolutely nothing. They need to go out and earn every hit, every 3rd out, and every win, and they should approach every at-bat and every inning pitched as if they are auditioning to keep their job. I was hoping this was the attitude that Piniella was going to instill in the Cubs….which would constitute a complete about-face from the lack of accountability that defined the Dusty Baker era. Instead, it seems as if the club is over-confident, and borderline arrogant. In spring, much was made about a new “swagger” the Cubs players were displaying. At the time, I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it gave me a bit of a pause, and now I know why: you don’t just start swaggering when you haven’t accomplished anything….the right to swagger is a bit like respect….it is something you earn!
There, I feel better now. I needed to vent. The Cubs are, in my mind, a bit like my 2 year-old son. My son thinks he can watch cartoons without putting his toys away, or that he can avoid his dinner and still get dessert. My wife and I explain and teach him, as best as we can, that he has to earn the treats, and that he can’t just show up and have the treats given to him. The Cubs haven’t started whining like a 2 year-old yet, unlike the 2004 team that ran Steve Stone and Chip Carey out of town, but they do exhibit similar traits in that they seem to think just showing up is all they need to do. Hopefully, like a toddler shown the light, the Cubs will soon realize the benefits of not watching a called third strike, and of staying focused on the mound for each and every pitch….doing those little things will help them win games. The more games they win, they more they earn the right, in my opinion, to have a bit of a swagger.
I have to say I am still very pleased, with the exception of Wade Miller, at the results our starting staff has put forth so far. Zambrano has been below average, but he was last April as well, and I fully expect he will snap out of it in the months to come. The bigger question marks in the rotation were if the new guys (Jason Marquis and Ted Lilly) would earn their rich new pay raises, and if Rich Hill could continue his high-level of success from the end of 2006. So far those three have given the Cubs great reason for optimism, and have helped us further forget those two often-injured phenoms of days gone by. Until next time, CCO Readers, let’s hope for a sustained hitting streak from Felix Pie, and a resulting trade of Jacque Jones for a new 5th starter, and let’s go Cubs!