To: Scot Gregor
Re: Cubs/Crosstown Cup
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About a week-and-a-half ago, we were asking Cubs manager Dale Sveum about "winning series" and getting nearer to the .500 mark.
The Cubs frittered away a series to the Mets and then went to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and lost five of six, salvaging only Sunday's series finale against the Reds after falling behind.
It's going to be another long year on the North Side, and the way things are going, another 100-plus loss season is not out of the question, especially if management decides to do another midseason unloading of veteran talent.
The White Sox have had their own scouts looking at the Cubs, so they know what their cross-town rivals have and don't have. But if manager Robin Ventura has any further questions, here are a few things you can tell him:
•The Sox will never be out of any of the four games this week if they fall behind. While the starting pitchers have been mostly dependable, the bullpen has been truly miserable, and Carlos Marmol isn't even the main culprit.
On top of bad relief pitching, the Cubs can play some pretty ugly defense at times, too, with players losing their concentration at the worst times.
•Sox pitchers need only throw the ball anywhere near the plate, and most Cubs hitters will chase.
It's hard to believe sometimes that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer run this team, given the absolutely awful plate appearances too many Cubs hitters have.
At one point last week catcher Welington Castillo had 1 walk and 35 strikeouts for the season. He managed walk No. 2 of the season last Thursday in Pittsburgh, and I'm not sure if they stopped the game to give him the ball or to give the Pirates pitcher smelling salts.
Castillo hasn't had enough plate appearances to qualify for the lowest walk percentage, but Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro have held up the bottom end of that stat quite well.
Soriano is what he is as a hitter, but Castro seems to be backsliding after making such a big splash and earning spots on two all-star teams. His on-base percentage, which was .347 his rookie season in 2010, dropped under the .300 mark last week.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who just signed a nice new contract extension, can have some nice ABs, but he has endured some wild fluctuations.
Don't be alarmed when you see David DeJesus step to the plate; the Cubs are still in the house. But DeJesus' plate appearances make it look like a different game has broken out.
As for the good, Jeff Samardzija has pitched better than his record shows. Blue-collar Sox fans ought to at least appreciate the way Samardzija has worked and willed himself into a quality major-league pitcher.
Lefty Travis Wood has been an early all-star candidate, and third baseman Luis Valbuena is the most improved player on the team.
You and I have covered a bunch of these games, going all the way back to the beginning of interleague play in 1997. There used to be a big buzz heading into any Cubs-Sox series, especially at the Cell, where Cubs fans could get some good ballpark food, at least.
I haven't heard as much as a peep about this year's battle for the "Crosstown Cup."
With these two teams, let's be glad we're getting this over with in one shot.
Oh, and one more thing: Don't plan to get out of the ballpark quickly this week. The Cubs play some long, drawn-out games.
See you in the Bards Room.