First off, thanks to Miss Fanatic for hipping me to her new line of baller bikinis. They really help brighten up our post today.
Okay, first the important stuff, Cubs lost and Sox won. The Cubs lost because a guy who had never hit a ball further than second base hit two home runs. The Sox won because Orlando Hudson made up for giving away two runs and making a scary throw to A.J. by driving in the winning run.
Yep, still liking the baller bikinis
Right now is the time of the year when teams break out their excuses. This year is no different. The Cubs, who were built to compete now and win later (what the hell does that mean?) are now admitting that they were built to be trade bait.
The Sox, who were built to be trade bait, seem to be competing and winning now which has got everyone confused.
Gordon Wittenmyer says one of the reasons the Cubs are so dismal is that Rudy Jaramillo has so little to work with.
I’ll save my comments until after the article.
The late nights are piling up for Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo.
‘‘Oh, man, no doubt about it,’’ the workaholic coach said. ‘‘A lot of lost sleep, just thinking of ways to try to make this thing better.’’
It certainly was never like this in Texas.
In 15 years as the Texas Rangers’ hitting coach, Jaramillo became the gold standard of his profession. His teams finished among the top five in the majors in on-base-plus-slugging 10 times
It made him the highest-paid hitting coach at $800,000 a year when the Cubs signed him to a three-year deal after their light-hitting 2009 season.
Now? He can’t help but laugh a little when asked how strange it must be, these last three years with the Cubs’ ever-changing, always-struggling roster of hitters.
‘‘I guess sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into,’’ he said. ‘‘But that’s why I came here to be a Cub as a coach. No doubt I made a difference in Texas, and you try to come here and do the same thing.
‘‘I’ve been in the game a long time, and good things have continued to happen to me. They always have. I just keep that attitude and the fact that things will get better. And they will.’’
They can’t get much worse.
Jaramillo didn’t exactly inherit a juggernaut. And soon after he was hired, the disastrous Milton Bradley was traded and replaced with the pedestrian Marlon Byrd. Then Derrek Lee was traded during Jaramillo’s first summer on the job.
The Cubs have yet to finish in the top half of the majors in runs, on-base percentage or OPS since his arrival.
And since the new front office allowed Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena to walk out the door as free agents without replacing either with a proven hitter, it has gone downhill fast.
‘‘You make no excuses,’’ Jaramillo said. ‘‘But the team is the team, and you go with what you have, and you keep working and you try to make adjustments and you keep trying to be supportive and keep teaching. You can’t look back.
‘‘It’s challenging every year. You just keep coming to work and trying to be upbeat and positive, and the only thing that counts is these young men.’’
Jaramillo, 61, doesn’t know whether he’ll be back next year. That’s something the organization figures to address after the season and something Jaramillo says he isn’t thinking about.
What’s certain is that he still loves what he does, he plans to keep coaching beyond this season — wherever that might be — and he expresses no regrets in coming to Chicago.
And this: ‘‘He’s the same,’’ left fielder Alfonso Soriano said of the coach he also knew from two seasons in Texas together. ‘‘It’s not on him; it’s on us. Sometimes it’s like we try too much. It’s not like we’re not doing the job or he’s not doing the job. Sometimes it’s mental, and we don’t trust ourselves.’’
Never mind the fact that Soriano was the only guy on the roster this season who’d ever hit more than 25 home runs or driven in 90 runs.
‘‘Rudy’s one of the best in the game,’’ said Ramirez, now with the Milwaukee Brewers. ‘‘But you’ve got to have talent. If you don’t have the talent, if you don’t have the personnel, you’re not going to be successful. I don’t care how good a hitting coach you are, you’ve got to have the personnel to succeed.’’
While it’s hard not to wonder if this downhill run in Chicago has damaged Jaramillo’s reputation, rival executives understand the cards he has been dealt.
‘‘No,’’ one National League team official said. ‘‘He’s a good hitting guy. He should never have a problem getting jobs.’’
‘‘I don’t think it’s going to damage anything he’s done in the past,’’ Ramirez said. ‘‘We all know him. Every single player knows he’s one of the best.’’
Said Jaramillo: ‘‘I’m not worried about that at all. That’s not important to me. What’s important to me is these young men. The team and these guys. I’ve already had 22 years in the big leagues; I’ve already had a great career. And no doubt I want to finish with a great career.
‘‘We all take it hard, but we keep grinding. You become a man, and you don’t make excuses about anything. And I’m totally accountable, believe me. I’m accountable to myself and whatever happens.’’
I’ll defer to Bob Warja, hardcore Cubs fan and writer at Bleacher Report.
Jaramillo is a well respected batting coach in most baseball circles. Yet if you examine closely, you’ll find that many of the players he is credited with helping are known or suspected steroid cheats. Juan Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Jeff Bagwell, Sammy Sosa, Alfonso Soriano, and Ivan Rodriguez are among those whom Jaramillo gets credit for helping. But all are known or suspected (former) steroid users.
Did Jaramillo turn a blind eye to what was going on around him or did he even help enable this stuff? No one knows, but the rumors are enough to make me wonder.
Or, to be blunt, his teams sucked before roids and they suck after roids. So, unless the new regime is predicated not on the pamphlet called “The Cubs Way” but on one known as ”How to beat a roids test” things aren’t going to get any better on his watch.
Okay, moving south.
Kenny Williams is in an odd situation. His team is in first place and attendance is in the dumper. General Managers go to special places when things like that happen. They are called “corner bars.” And in these special places General Managers drink until everything is pleasantly fuzzy and then they cry.
Joe Cowley claims to have a solution for all his woes.
Clergyman likely never came up as part of the job description for Ken Williams when he became the White Sox’ general manager.
Psychiatrist? Politician? Gambler? Those all go without saying. That’s the GM gig.
So excuse Father Kenny if he does his best to find new ways to disguise the fact he’s passing the plate around again.
“Times being what they are, I can’t even have a conversation [about possible costly trades],’’ Williams said this week. “There’s no crying about it. Some want to posture about it that way, but all I’ve ever done is answer the question. I’ve never wanted to mislead our fans.’’
Not exactly as catchy as the “I can’t spend a dollar if I only have 50 cents’’ refrain Williams used to throw around in his early years. As for misleading fans, that’s a little tougher to get away with on the South Side than it is, say, 9.88 miles north.
That’s why there are still some reservations from a fan base that’s willing to date this team, even hold its hand and give it a kiss, but marry it? Not yet. This will have to be a September wedding at the earliest.
It’s not skepticism as much as a certain reality Sox fans can see on the field.
First-place team or not, there are flaws that can’t be overlooked. Maybe it’s good enough to win the Central Division. But good enough to reach the World Series? As Hawk would say, “Stretch!’’
Williams often talks about “being creative,’’ and now it’s time for him to once again show it. That plate he’s passing isn’t filling up any time soon.
The Sox can embrace a one-two punch in the starting rotation that is as good as any in the division. Yes, every pitch thrown by Jake Peavy and Chris Sale comes with a cringe, a deep breath and an “OK, he’s not grabbing anything in pain’’ exhale, but after those two, there’s a big drop-off — and that gap’s widening each week.
Philip Humber was a great story, becoming the 21st major-league pitcher to throw a perfect game, but his next accomplishment could be the first pitcher to toss a perfect game in April and be in the bullpen by mid-June. Rookie Jose Quintana is a better pitcher than Humber now and should be treated as such.
Then there’s Gavin Floyd, who should’ve been traded yesterday. Floyd hit his ceiling two years ago and is now just a study in frustration. Hector Santiago and Floyd to the Cubs for free agent-to-be Ryan Dempster and some cash? Get it done.
John Danks hasn’t pitched like an Opening Day starter, but as a No. 3, most teams gladly would take him.
Then there’s third base. Williams dropped the ball in not signing Brandon Inge when he cleared waivers, especially because the Sox knew that Brent Morel’s back wasn’t improving, and now it looks like they’re stuck.
The hope is that when Morel returns from his rehab assignment, he hits like the guy who homered eight times last September.
Finally, the Sox want to really dazzle the fans? Win the rest of June and into early July. As good as the Sox have looked the last month, there’s really only one signature series that screams, “legit contender.’’ That was the sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Starting next week, the Sox face the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers on the road, then close out the first half with four games in New York against the Yankees and a six-game homestand with the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays.
If they’re still standing atop the Central at the All-Star break, Williams shouldn’t have to beg fans to flood the Cell.
No, the fans will have something to truly believe in. Their prayers will have been answered.
I don’t see Santiago going anywhere just because he’s a screwball pitcher and not many pitching coaches know what to do with a guy like that. But the basic idea of Humber + something for Dempster has been floating around the rumor mills for a couple of weeks and I can say that I first heard it from someone at 35th and Shields about 3 weeks ago. And I know from someone else, who inhabits office space at Clark & Addison, that such an offer would be warmly received.
Now, can it get done?
It would be a great move for both teams if you think about it. Humber +1 would be MLB vets at a reduced price but who could still compete. The Cubs would get more financial room to move without giving up completely on the season. At least not officially. And the Sox, of course, would get Dempster right when they are making a playoff run.
Like I said, good for all involved.
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