Bottom, Then Up
Monday’s loss felt like the nadir, as predictable as it all was. There’s always a loss — at least in the last three and now four seasons where no one thought the Cubs would be in it and they never were — that comes early in the season that drops the bottom out from the fanbase. You see it on Twitter and FB and everywhere else, as if that one loss was the final straw and they’d never believe in anything again. Obviously, one game out 162 is never defining, but sometimes it’s hard to see that when you’re getting a severe kick to the balls from a Dusty Baker-managed team.
In this week’s Ivy Drip weekly, I mused about how much we don’t know about Dale Sveum and how at slow of a pace we’re learning anything. We don’t know if he’s a teacher, tactician, motivator, hard ass, and whatever else a baseball manager can be. Some things he does seem awfully rote, some seem awfully transparent, some seem to lack imagination.
But what I will say is that his players don’t ever seem to quit. After that awful loss on Monday and coughing up another lead in the 9th last night, it would have not been surprising to hear a giant whoopi cushion sound and the players finish out that game as deflated as one that has just been sat on by Typhoon and Earthquake. And I’m sure some of us just wanted to take their euthanizing quickly.
But they don’t ever do that. Darwin Barney muscled out a homer on a pitch he really didn’t have any business hitting out of the park, and they ground out another run. Even on Monday, after wasting yet another beautifully pitched game, they still dug deep to get it to 13 where Luis Valbuena made his solid contact of the month.
Is that enough? I don’t know. It would seem to be the minimum requirement that a manager can keep his team playing hard no matter what. After all, when they stop doing that it’s an automatic firing. But this is probably where Sveum will earn the respect of players who are going to matter. If he can keep Castro and Rizzo and Shark and all the others who could be here past 2014 locked in even when the Earth is caving in around them, he’ll probably demand respect from those arrive either through the system or from outside at that time. If the residents revere him after what these two seasons will be, then the new arrivals will have no choice
Other thoughts floating around in the cranium:
-While the numbers suggest, and I firmly believe, that Anthony Rizzo should snap out of it at any time, I’d prefer if he would stop swinging at pitches that otherwise would have hit him in the jugular.
-Carlos Villanueva’s success has been awesome, but there are two caveats here. 1) he’s had big Aprils before only to fall apart later in the year (his career ERA goes up at least a run after the season’s first month). 2) While he’s getting credit from some circles for mixing his pitches , and he’s doing that better than anyone else on the staff, he’s actually throwing his fastball more than at anytime in his career. Now maybe that’s an adjustment from previous years, and he does get a lot of movement on it which makes it so effective. But he’s also averaging 3 MPH less than last year on it. Is that because of the more movement? We’d better hope so.