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Giving Theo and Co. the full benefit of the doubt, does this season feel like a success? I'd say no, it feels like a huge failure. Theo hasn't kept up his end of the bargain.
The bargain was that we'd accept a team that didn't win a whole lot in order to engage in an organizational housecleaning and culture shift. But we'd get a team at the major league level filled with kids who hustled and "played the game right."
Is that the team we've been watching? Resoundingly, no.
On Monday night it came to Joe Mather taking his turn on the mound to get through an ugly 15-4 mess, and while that can happen in any season to any team, the fact alone that Mather is even on this roster speaks to Theo's failure. Mather is not a prospect. He's not even a prospective utility player. He sucks.
Alfonso Soriano is not only still on this team, he's batting fourth and expected to return next year. Josh Vitters is here and deservedly sitting on the bench. Steve Clevenger's slump-proof swing is in a slump. Brett Jackson is a two-outcome hitter: home run or strikeout. And it's strikeout far more often. He doesn't even walk, which makes him one-third less productive than Adam Dunn. Starlin Castro's contract extension seems more based upon Theo's theory of trying to underpay players now instead of overpaying later than anything else; Castro will only reach $11 million a year in the deal's seventh year while being counted on to perform as a player making considerably more. If he's not being counted on to outperform that contract, he shouldn't be on the team. (Len Kasper said earlier in the year that on a good team Castro would merely be a No. 6 hitter, and that's where he's landed in the lineup. I'd prefer to see him in the leadoff spot despite his lack of grindiness, but that's another column.)
Dale Sveum said this week that Darwin Barney could be a .300 hitter, and I've always liked Barney more than our regular Cubs correspondent Marty Gangler, but the fact is that the guy's on-base percentage is .300.
Anthony Rizzo might be good, but he's not great; Baseball Prospectus'sKevin Goldstein projects him as a career .280 hitter who might make a couple All-Star games (he's hitting .289 now with a .336 OBP.) That's not bad, but he's not Mike Trout.
No one expected Theo to do it in one year, but like I said, we expected to see a certain kind of play at the major league level - remember the bunting tournament? - and despite protestations to the contrary, we haven't. Especially since the deflating trade deadline debacle, which proves most of all that Theo is now heading toward an F in his first year.
At least he's fired six scouts.
A bigger problem is that next year doesn't look any more promising because we're really waiting on years three, four and five. I mostly agree with Theo's philosophy, but that's a bridge too far. The Cubs are not just a plaything for Theo and his pals to play out a grand experiment to prove themselves superior; they are a product with paying customers and a passion with debts owed. We shouldn't be expected to occupy ourselves with something else for the next three summers only to then tune in and see if it worked.
The Week in Review: The Cubs were swept by the Brewers last week before coming home to take two of three from the Rockies, the NL West's version of the Astros. Then the Brewers returned to Wrigley and put a 15-4 hurting on the Cubs on Monday night just to remind them of their station in life.
The Week in Preview: Three more against the Brewers and then the Giants come in for three. So expect the Cubs to take a seven-game losing streak on the road to Washington and Pittsburgh after that. In fact, the only chance the Cubs may have to notch another win this season may be in their road trips to Houston and Colorado next month.
The Second Basemen Report: Darwin James Kunane Barney got every start over the last seven games. It's just not cute anymore.
In former second basemen news, DJ LeMahieu started all three games at Wrigley for the Rockies and went 4-for-11 with two walks and a run. He's hitting .288 with an OBP of .321. Meanwhile, Jeff Baker is 7-for-31 in Detroit for a measly .226 average. Making fun of Jeff Baker is missed.
The Not So Hot Corner: Vitters went 0-for-5 on Monday night with three strikeouts and four men left on base. He's hitting .093.
Weekly Bunting Report: "Tony Campana took a five-game hitting streak into Friday's game with Oklahoma City," the indianapolis Star reports. "One single in each game, and none of them got out of the infield."
The Zam Bomb: Big Z gave up four runs - two earned - on four hits in one inning on Friday night. He also issued a walk. More than anything, Zambrano is officially irrelevant. And that means this is the last you'll see of the Zam Bomb in The Cub Factor. And that means Carlos is Getting Angry.
Endorsement No-Brainer: Theo Epstein for Northwestern Memorial Hospital, because they're both counting on patience.
Sink or Sveum: 25% Analytical, 75% Emotional: Sinking. Dale is just starting to realize he's only here to babysit until the team needs a real manager. On a scale of Bat Sh#t Crazy, (Charles Manson), Not All There, (random guy with a neck tattoo), Thinking Clearly (Jordi LaForge), and Non-Emotional Robot (Data), Dale is Not All There.
And just like your thought-to-be level-headed uncle, it's just dawned on Dale that the folks at the company picnic were laughing at him, not with him. This will not do.
Over/Under: The number of September call-ups who will make the team next spring: +/- 0.
Don't Hassle LaHoffpauir: His OBP is now just two points higher than DJ LeMahieu's.
Beachwood Sabermetrics: A complex algorithm performed by The Cub Factor staff using all historical data made available by Major League Baseball has determined that the Cubs are 6-19 since the trade deadline. At least the "getting worse" part of the "getting worse to get better" plan is working.
The Cub Factor: Unlike Alfonso Soriano, you can catch 'em all!
The White Sox Report: Know the enemy.
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