More HB: The Cub Debacle

-Watching the Cubs emulate dead people in their embarrassing sweep at the hands of Joe Torre’s Dodgers reminded me a little of how flat the former Yankee skipper’s team was in losing the last two in Detroit a couple of years ago. Lou Piniella’s ballclub who had the second best record winning 97 games didn’t even compete. It was like once James Loney hit that slam off Ryan Dempster, they panicked and started thinking about all the October ghosts which have haunted Wrigley for 100 years. The defense in Game 2 when Carlos Zambrano actually gave a good account of himself was pathetic. So bad it was as if they’d never played organized baseball before.

They could’ve fought valiantly on the road like Mike Scioscia’s Angels did getting outstanding relief pitching before edging the Red Sox 5-4 at Fenway to take Game 3 extending the series. Instead, they couldn’t do anything with Dodgers’ third starter Hiroki Kuroda making life easy for a nine-game winner. Sure. He’s not bad but come on. You’re telling me they couldn’t string together one good inning before  Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton closed the door? Not buying it.

Alfonso Soriano was again dreadful finishing with just one hit in 14 at bats with four strikeouts including the series ender on three pitches. Pathetic! You can’t win when your leadoff hitter doesn’t reach base. The former Yankee hasn’t performed in October since that big swing connected off Curt Schilling as a rookie in 2001 Game Seven of the World Series versus Arizona. It was a lot easier to point to his struggles versus the Marlins in 2003 WS when he was 27. At 32, he’s still showing the same holes in his swing which make the All-Star too easy an out around this time of year. Worst of all, he looked like a beaten man. That shouldn’t be the case for the kind of dough the Cubs are paying. Just call him Sorryano.

Key contributors Aramis Ramirez and Geovany Soto weren’t much better and Kosuke Fukudome was God awful even leaving a cranky Sweet Lou speechless.

You could name the Cubs who competed on one hand. Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa even with his costly error in Game 2 along with Ryan Theriot and Mike Fontenot were three who tried their best as did Zambrano who deserved better. Even Rich Harden disappointed not even getting through the fifth allowing three earned with his team’s season on the line.

This was a total collapse for a team equipped to go far and reach their first World Series in over half a century. I still don’t get why Piniella didn’t load up and pitch his top two Harden and Zambrano in the first couple of games. I understand that Dempster had a great regular season home record going 14-3. However, October baseball is entirely a different animal. It would’ve been wiser to have Harden go in Game 1. And if he wanted to comeback with Dempster in Game 2 with Zambrano for Game 3 in LA, fine.

He definitely takes a hit here too with the Cubs losing three straight in the first round a second straight year. Last year, they got back and weren’t expected to do much against the Diamondbacks. But this year was supposed to have a different feel. Instead, the lovable Cubbies did what they do best. Folding up faster than a cheap deck of cards under Piniella’s watch.

-On the opposite end, you have Torre with his new team and money superstar Manny Ramirez, who doesn’t disappear in big moments finishing 5-for-10 with two homers, three RBI’s, five runs scored and four walks. Say what you will about Manny being Manny and his childish antics which got him traded out of Boston but the 36 year-old former George Washington High School star never seems fazed by pressure instead shining under the spotlight. Cause for all his flaws, the wacky dude with the dreadlocks donning a symbolic No.99 in royal Dodger blue is so calm under pressure. Nothing bothers him.

Does it make him perfect? Far from it as his silent media treatment and bizarre behavior would explain. However, all one has to do is take a look at the guy’s approach when he comes up. Sometimes, you can tell plenty from a player’s body language. He’s so loose up there and is going to put his best swing on the ball if it’s in his zone and let it all hang out. Not every star can block all the distractions out and step up.

It’s even more amazing the difference one player can make lifting Torre’s club to the NL West title. And while they only won 83 in a paltry division, that didn’t matter cause they entered playing great ball with a much improved lineup. Just ask Loney, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp what kinda impact Manny’s had. Not that Jeff Kent would ever tell you. The second baseman should be a lock for Cooperstown but what a baby. Wonder when he gets inducted, which hat he wears? I’d say the Giants because that’s where the former Met’s career really changed.

-Torre improved to 3-0 vs Piniella in the postseason.

-WFAN’s Chris Carlin on Oct.6 says the Giants after blowing the doors off the Seahawks 44-6 improving to 4-0 despite foolish NY papers who actually took the Seahawks are “going all the way” again. The Continent might be proven right. It’s true Tom Coughlin’s team is clicking on all cylinders with a very balanced attack and excellent D which makes life miserable on opposing QBs. However, it’s a little premature to say they’re going to repeat with a tougher schedule ahead including three straight games against the Steelers, Cowboys and Eagles. If you’re asking me though about this team, I got a lot of faith in what they can do on both sides of the field. There aren’t many quarterbacks I’d take over Eli Manning with a game up for grabs late. Only so much can be said about how well they’re playing.

-The Phillies were a good team and this time are out to prove they can do more than be the team to beat in the NL East. Now, they get a great challenge from Torre’s surprising Dodgers in the NLCS which starts up this Thursday. If you’re a Met or Yankee fan, the next couple of weeks won’t be much fun.

-I called the Dolphins’ upset over the overrated Chargers, who still should pull it together and win their division. But you gotta be impressed with how Miami Chad has played the last two weeks evening the Fins’ record at 2-2. Think the Vikings couldn’t have used him?

-I don’t just want to toot my own horn because co-host Rob “Kraze” Davis had one even better nailing the Falcons’ upset of the suddenly reeling Packers, who are now finding out life after Brett Favre isn’t so easy.

-Who else had the Redskins winning back-to-back on the road against very tough NFC East rivals Dallas and Philadelphia to win four straight after how poorly they played versus Big Blue in Week 1?

-I like Jerry Manuel and think the Mets made the right call bringing back the personable manager who knows he’s got a lot more work to do. And best of all, he doesn’t believe in individualistic stats but in doing whatever it takes to win which is what the Amazin’s have lacked the past two years.

-Is there a worse team than the Lions?

-As a big Canes fan, remember when The U vs Florida State used to be the best college football Saturday in town? They made a great comeback but it would’ve been nice if they’d won. Just saying.

-I know he ran out of gas in the Game 2 loss to the Phillies but there need to be more starters like C.C. Sabathia who are willing to do whatever it takes to win.

-You know what we have discovered. That Soriano and A-Rod have plenty in common and we’re not just talking about them being traded for each other.

-This Just In…Brian Cashman claims that as a kid, he had a hand in the Yanks’ returning to glory winning back-to-back world titles.

-If the Giants are this good without a suspended Plaxico Burress, just how good can they be?

-I’ve seen a lot of headlines about O.J. Simpson finally being found guilty and facing life in prison but hell-o McFly! It’s still not justice for what he got away with against Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman. What it comes down to is he’s just an idiot. Plain and simple.

-He’s lost a lot of respect from me but pretty soon, Stephon Marbury’s going to get blamed for the gas prices.

-Any so-called “expert” who concluded that Sarah Palin won that debate against Joe Biden needs to take off the rose colored red glasses just cause she survived. Seriously. How many questions did John McCain’s running mate really answer without changing the topic?

-The Giant offense really misses Jeremy Shockey. Don’t they?!?!?!?!?!

-I thought he did a great job concentrating to save his team’s season last night with them loaded by getting Jed Lowrie to line out to right but anyone who’s watched Francisco Rodriguez in the postseason the past couple of years can’t be too confident that he’s going to be worth every penny on the free market. And that’s even if K-Rod does fill the vacant closer role at Citi Field.

-They might not have won last night but when you watch the way the Red Sox approach their ABs, it reminds you of how patient and relaxed Torre’s championship Yankee teams looked. The vibe you get is that they feel they’re gonna win.

-Body language is something that’s not in any overanalyzed statistics. But if you watched how the Cubs looked in that dugout not even standing up, that was all you really needed to know about their chances of coming back. By comparison, even down two, Scioscia’s club was on their feet into it. Having the right mentality is a big part of winning.

-If I didn’t know any better, I would’ve guessed that Sage Rosenfels was wearing a Colt uniform those last four minutes.

-Isn’t it great to see Kerry Collins still having so much success in Tennessee?

-You see how the Rays win their games? There aren’t any big hitters and only a couple of power threats like Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena. Instead, they win by doing the fundamentals well getting runners over, playing aggressive along with solid D and pitching. That’s how the old Yankees used to do it. Maybe someone ought a relay that message to Hank Steinbrennerwhiner.

-The new look Rangers played well in sweeping the two game series at Prague with a very nice scene and reward for Czech fans even if Jaromir Jagr wasn’t there. Hockey’s become a global game and European fans deserve to see some of their own comeback home and play. My question is will the NHL ever seriously consider a European division? Only time shall tell.

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More HB

-Can anyone explain that lineup Joe Girardi put out last night versus Twins lefty Glen Perkins, who previously was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA against the Yankees before becoming a new Dad and baffling them for eight scoreless on just four hits in a 4-0 win- sending the Bronx Bombers to their fourth straight defeat?!?!?!?!?! With his ballclub struggling and continuing to lose ground in the AL East race, Girardi inexplicably sat out lefty hitters Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi against the first place Twins and then helplessly watched as his lifeless team did nothing bouncing into two inning ending double plays while wasting another good outing from Sidney Ponson (7.2 IP, 4 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 2 K). They left 12 men on base and struck out seven times including the side being K’d by Minny closer Joe Nathan to end another frustrating night. To top it all off lefty Bobby Abreu had half the Yanks’ hits. What on earth convinced Girardi to start Justin Christian in left as the leadoff hitter? And why would he play Richie Sexson over Giambi? If anything, playing Christian in center over the struggling Melky Cabrera who grounded into one of the DPs would’ve made more sense. He could’ve then had Damon bat first and hit Christian ninth.

-With the first place Rays and Red Sox continuing to play well, it looks more and more like the Yanks are done. They trail Boston by five for the wild card with the White Sox ahead of them as well. Meanwhile, Tampa even with injuries to key starters Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford has a four game lead on Boston and leads the Pinstripes by nine.

Does anyone aside from WFAN’s Mike Francesa believe this bunch have it in them to make a run? It’s sure looking grim.

-While we’re on the subject, how is it that Mike Lupica can actually believe Girardi’s done a good job? Even with all the injuries to key players, his in game managing has been very lackluster. Some of his decision making has been baffling. Last night wasn’t the first time he put in a weak lineup basically giving the opponent a win. It also happened against Lupica’s Mets which allowed Oliver Perez an easy ‘W.’ From these decisions to the bullpen follies, Girardi hasn’t distinguished himself. If he really was doing such a solid job, why hasn’t he been able to get through and motivate his still talented club to perform up to capability? There are no excuses.

-Watching Michael Phelps swim is like watching someone play a video game because that’s how easy the USA Olympic gold medalist makes it look. He just glides out there and turns it on. We have to agree with record holder Mark Spitz that it’s a travesty that he wasn’t invited to Beijing. Especially if Phelps gets the elusive eight golds and breaks his record.

-Could someone please tell NBC that Americans aren’t the best at everything? There are other good countries as evidenced by China’s display in the men’s gymnastics yesterday easily taking gold while Japan got silver with the USA finishing with a bronze without both Hamms. It’s not always a disaster when our country gets beat. This is the Olympics. Where the competition aside from men’s basketball which our redeem team should win at is fairly balanced.

-Just to illustrate the big difference between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, have a gather at yahoo’s Martin Rogers’ piece on how differently each is treating their Olympic experience. It also gives you an idea of Federer’s suddenly fragile psyche while the soon to be new No.1 is having as much fun as possible.

-Serena Williams looked pretty good in her second round win this morning. It says here she’s taking gold.

-How come nobody ever criticizes Omar Minaya for not going out and getting a reliever when his pen resembles more of one filled with mud and pigs? Just wondering.

-Weezer comes to play the Garden Sept.24. Who else can’t wait?

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