Smile Politely

Soriano Explodes; Cubs Surge Into First

Fun week

This was a really enjoyable week for most baseball fans in C-U. Cardinals held steady despite their closer being put on the DL with a non-pitching “injury.” The Reds won six in a row behind a nasty 7–1 rookie named Volquez, and the White Sox surged back to first with a sweep of the Giants.

Not bad folks.

You’ve got Lance Berkman hitting .399 and still not leading the NL in batting average (see Larry Wayne ‘Chipper’ Jones in Georgia) and how about Manny Ramirez taking time to high-five a fan after a spectacular catch and STILL having enough time to double-off the runner?

Great week…actually one of the best in thirty years. Thirty years? Yes. The Cubbies ended this week and their ten game homestand at 8–2; that’s their best stretch at Wrigley since 1978. Great week (for any fan in C-U not named Bernie Brewer).

Questioning and Second Guessing

I didn’t want to join in the racket about whether or not Soriano should be batting leadoff. When they were talking about it in Spring Training on 670 AM The Score or ESPN 1000, I flipped back to music, when the Comcast SportsNet crew brought it up in mid-April, it only annoyed me. Yet when Soriano was hitting .188 eleven days ago, I caved. Looking for someone or something to blame, I became the sports fan that I hate: the mindless Zombie dialing in from his two and a half hour lunch break, most of which he’d spent on hold, just to say “Soriano sucks! He swings at too many bad pitches!” even though the last twenty callers had barked the same thing. Yes, I blamed Lou for not considering him for the five hole. Maybe it was too many experts (like former Bears WR Tom Waddle!) spouting off about his typically average on-base percentage and his inability to work the count? I’m not sure. In the end, I agreed with the wide world of idiot armchair GM’s that I had a good understanding of Soriano’s psyche and comfort level.

Poor choice.

Piniella knew where he was comfortable. Funny, no one is saying much about Sori now. Such fickle fans we are. But hey, we just want a winner. For the record, as much as I like him, I’ll continue to question Piniella, but not about the Soriano/leadoff issue. It’s a dead horse. He’ll slump again, and it will come right back to the lips of the fans who still think we should trade half of our farm system for .272 Brian Roberts. But I’m out. No more Soriano debates.

Plus / Minus

Minus to: Jim Edmonds

Why? Because he doesn’t belong here. My readers are pretty smart, so I know they read Doug’s column — by now you know that this was just as hard for Cardinal fans to stomach. This guy was one of my least favorite players in the game. Diving in unnecessary situations then rising slowly to his feet, posing for the camera and making sure his hair wasn’t a mess. Ugh. Of course there was the oft-discussed Zambrano/Edmonds showboating/pointing incident in 2004 that earned Edmonds a Z fastball in the ear and Carlos a five game suspension.

But wait you say?

He has 363 career HRs and plays a great centerfield! He also has 1612 career strikeouts and 37-year old legs. I’m just not a fan. All this said, for $275,000, Hendry had to bring him on board. Pie was headed down for more “seasoning” (how much does he need?) anyway. He does offer a decent CF and a LH alternative to Reed Johnson, but I am still not truly sold. Look, I’m not wavering on this: I like Johnson and his grind it out .340 OBP. Edmonds will get some playing time against righties and he should, but hopefully not against every right-hander. As I’ve said a few times, I hope I’m wrong and “Jimmy Ballgame” still has something left in the tank. Maybe I’ll become a fan. But, don’t count on it.

Minus to: Rain

No rain last Tuesday and we sweep all four from the Fathers. Still you gotta like three of four and a win versus Peavy.

Minus to: Zambrano

Of course, as soon as I write about the calmer, mature Z, he tantrums, breaks a bat over his knee and lasts 4 innings in a game that also could have easily been had.

Plus to: Soriano

I wrote about him above, so I won’t labor here. When Piniella compared him to Bobby Bonds in the leadoff spot, critics scoffed. “Bonds was a prototypical three hitter, but was more comfortable in the leadoff spot, look what he did,” Piniella explained a few weeks back. What is comfort? Is it a .571 batting average and seven HR in ten days? That sounds pretty cozy to me. Three out of four games with a leadoff homerun? Raising your average over 100 points in three series? After homering twice Saturday, Soriano reminded the media to not overlook the pitchers psyche too: “When the pitcher looks up and sees the score 1–0, it changes his mindset a little.” I think we’ll leave him at the top. Traditional stats don’t always tell the whole story.

Plus to: Dempster

I haven’t said much about Dempster since the beginning of the season when I proclaimed that our former closer had excellent potential, but seemed far too inconsistent to put together a top notch season. While I’m still concerned that after 3–4 years in the bullpen his stamina will run short in August and September, his return to the starting rotation has been nothing short of spectacular. Opponents are batting .172 off Demps who’s only allowed 35 (!) hits in 57 IP. Thursday he struck out twelve Padres. 5–1 is a much better start than I predicted. Have a 2ON2OUT Plus, good sir.

Plus to: Theriot

Theriot does a lot of little things that go unnoticed. He’s completely unspectacular and rarely will you see him as the centerpiece of any feature on why the Cubs are currently ten games over .500. Yet, how many other teams wish their shortstop had a .410 OBP and played solid D? Lots. Love the guy.

The Cubbies finish the week strong again, this time two up on St. Lou and 2.5 on a fire HOT Astros team. Time to take it head to head. Northsiders off to Houston for three. Should be a great series.

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