Chicago’s Hapless Cubs

Even the most logical of Chicago Cubs fans must now believe in the “Curse of the Goat”, a fabled hex put on the team back in the 1940s by a disgruntled local tavern owner whose pet goat was kicked out of a World Series game at Wrigley Field. How else could one explain the sorry state of the Chicago Cubs, who have gone from a contender a few seasons ago to one of Major League Baseball’s biggest laughingstocks? The Chicago Cubs are suffering through a dismal 2006 with a 37-57 record, with little reason to think anything is going to change for the better soon.

Nobody can be surprised that Kerry Wood and Mark Prior have combined to start only eight times for the Chicago Cubs all season. If this surprises you, so do knock-knock jokes. Wood, who has battled injuries his whole career, made a total of four starts before being lost, most likely for the season, with a partial tear in his rotator cuff. Prior, long the brightest star in the Chicago Cubs heavens, has gone 0-4 in his outings after coming back from a strained shoulder in June. Now an oblique muscle pull has sidelined him for two weeks; Prior is scheduled to start for the Chicago Cubs on July 21st. The Chicago Cubs tried to replace these two in the rotation with the likes of washed up Glendon Rusch and .500 hurler Jerome Williams; this pair has gone 3-9 in their 11 starts. With this patchwork staff, the Chicago Cubs have given up the second most homers in the league.

The Chicago Cubs then tried to infuse some young talent into the starting five, but although’ these pitchers were young they had no talent. Five Chicago Cubs pitchers made their MLB debuts so far in 2006, but none have made a positive impact on things. Sean Marshall, Jae Kuk Ryu, Angel Guzman, Rich Hill, and Carlos Marmol have all toed the rubber for their first taste of the big leagues as a Chicago Cub, and the results have been laughable, unless you are a Cubs’ rooter. The quintet has gone 8-17 with a 5.00 plus ERA in over 30 starts. 325 game winner Greg Maddux began the campaign at 5-0 with a 1.35 ERA for the Chicago Cubs before he realized that he is a soft throwing forty year old. Maddux has gone 2-11 since and has an ERA of 4.56. Only Carlos Zambrano has distinguished himself for the Chicago Cubs as a starter, going 10-3 with more than a strikeout an inning. Carlos has given up just 95 hits in almost 140 innings, and the 25 year old right-hander has won seven of his last nine outings with a pair of no-decisions thrown in. Closer Ryan Dempster has gone 1-5 with five blown saves, but seems to have settled down after a shaky June, not that he gets many chances to close anything.

Derrek Lee was lost to the Chicago Cubs for two months after he fractured his wrist in a first base collision with the Dodgers’ Rafael Furcal. The defending NL batting champ has returned to the lineup, but has managed just one homer and two runs batted in since coming back. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez is having a somewhat decent year with a Chicago Cubs’ leading 17 homers and 56 RBI, but Jacques Jones is the only other Cubbie with more than 40 runs batted in on the entire squad. The Chicago Cubs are last in the National League in runs by a big margin, and only the Dodgers have hit fewer home runs than Chicago. The Chicago Cubs are last in the NL in bases on balls; they have more than forty fewer walks than the lowly Pirates do.

Although they rank in the middle of the pack as a team as far as fielding goes in the National League, only the Washington Nationals have turned fewer double plays than the Chicago Cubs. Somehow embattled Chicago Cubs’ skipper Dusty Baker has stayed optimistic. “I hope we can go deeper in games with our starters, cut down on walks, cut down on home runs, increase our on-base percentage, hit better with runners in scoring position and play smarter on the bases – be more aggressive and smarter.” It is unknown whether Baker kept a straight face while listing the things the Chicago Cubs need to do better, just to become an average club. One thing is certain. With the Chicago Cubs twelve games out for even a wild card in the National League, it won’t take much to get a Cubs’ fan’s goat this summer.

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