The final month of the season has not begun the way most felt it would for the Cubs. After posting seven straight wins the offense became single happy in the final two games of the series with the Phillies….and then stone cold in the three games against the Astros. While the Cubs scored 7 runs in the middle game, a majority of the production came from Mark DeRosa, Geovany Soto, Jim Edmonds, Mike Fontenot and Ryan Theriot….all very important pieces to the Cubs success this season but not exactly the players that most expect to lead the team to their second consecutive Central Division crown.
Other than Mark DeRosa, Ryan Dempster, Geovany Soto and possibly Ryan Theriot, Lou Piniella is not receiving career years from any player on his roster. With Soto being a rookie and Theriot in his first full year as a starter, it is too early to tell if they will have Jody Davis and Shawon Dunston type careers or if they will be more like Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith.
The Cubs’ offense has received contributions from different sources all season. One game it might be Jim Edmonds, another day Reed Johnson or Geovany Soto and early in the year Kosuke Fukudome. But as the season comes to an end, the three players that must lead this team are Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez. Aramis Ramirez is the clutch hitter on the roster and the player most would want at the plate with the game on the line. His 11 home runs and 45 RBI’s from the 7th inning on says it all. But Ramirez, like Lee and Soriano, can be a very streaky hitter. When all three are struggling at the same time, it adds pressure to the rest of the lineup, as well as the pitching staff, to step up their game in order to compensate.
A quick look at the lines from the first three games of the month answers several questions.
- Alfonso Soriano – 3-for-13 with a home run and 1 RBI (.231/.286/.462)
- Aramis Ramirez – 1-for-12 with a double (.083/.154/.167)
- Derrek Lee – 3-for-12 with 2 walks (.250/.357/.250)
With the Cubs on the road for basically the remainder of the season, the ‘Big Three‘ must elevate their game….at the plate as well as in the field and lead this team. But they must do more than just hit solo home runs. Advance runners, hit to the opposite field, take the extra base, hustle out of the box and sacrifice flies….basically play solid fundamental baseball.
September is the time teams need their leaders to do the job they are paid to do.
The sky is not falling, the Cubs still own the best record in the National League and will start the road trip on Friday with a 5-game lead over the Brewers….with that said, it is the time of year that requires consistent contributions from the players paid to drive in runs and win ballgames.