Thursday, September 3, 2009

Analyzing the Cubs-Sox analysts

The Bald Truth

Having covered just about all of the previous 71 White Sox-Cubs games over the years, I decided to chill out Thursday and watch the game at home on my big-screen HDTV. And thanks to the wonders of the DVR - the greatest technological innovation since Al Gore's Internet - I got to hear Hawk Harrelson, Len Kasper, Steve Stone and Bob Brenly all afternoon on WGN and Comcast Sports Net.

They brought their A-games, making for a fun day in the La-Z-Boy. (A fun day for me; less fun for the Cubbies, who merely played as if they were sitting in recliners.)

Here was each announcer's take on Alfonso Soriano's cover-your-eyes gaffe that led to two eighth-inning runs and a 3-0 Sox advantage:

Hawk: "Soriano slips and misses the ball! Sox lead it 2-to-nothing!"

Steve: "That's what happens when you play a designated hitter in left field, and it's been happening all year. ... Then, after missing it, Soriano, who just plain misses it, goes after it with less than a lot of enthusiasm. In fact, he looks back (toward the infield). What does he think the runners are gonna do? Stand there?"

Len: "Soriano slipped and he couldn't make the catch."

Bob: "Nothing I see out there surprises me any more. You just wonder at what point they're gonna pull the plug on Fonzie this season. He's obviously nowhere near 100 percent with that left knee. You could live with some of the foibles in left field when he was driving the ball out of the ball park ... but offensively he's been a nonfactor for a long time, and that defense in left field is gonna end up costing a lot of ballgames."

Nicely done, guys, though I do wish Brenly hadn't made the sore-knee excuse for Soriano - who repeatedly has said the injury doesn't bother him at all at the plate.

Meanwhile, Stone's comment about having a DH in left field was the best line all day. And the Cubs had another DH, Jake Fox, at first base in place of Derrek Lee, who was with his wife as she gave birth to their second child. Oh, and Milton Bradley's basically a DH, too.

Of course, Sox LF Carlos Quentin is little more than a DH. And one could make the argument that when the South Side outfield has Quentin, Scott Podsednik and Jermaine Dye, it's like having DHs all the way across.

Chicago Baseball: We Lead the World in Designated Hitters!

A catchy slogan that helps explain why the disappointing, underachieving, overpaid, fundamentally inept Windy City ballclubs are a combined 133-134 instead of the contenders they were supposed to be.

Them's The Breaks

Unfortunately for the Cubs, Jake Peavy wasn't available to pitch for the White Sox.

It's hard to imagine the impotent Cubbies doing any worse against him than they did against rookie Carlos Torres, who was making only his third career start.

As Brenly said: "This is not at all the Carlos Torres we were led to believe was gonna be starting this game for the Chicago White Sox. We were told he had all kinds of command issues, got jumpy out there on the mound, really couldn't command anything other than his fastball. He's pitched a great game."

The Balder Truth

Here's more from Hawk, Len, Steve and Bob on Dewayne Wise's seventh-inning throw to the plate to nail Fox, who tried to score from second base on Jeff Baker's single after a whiffing Soriano failed to advance Fox to third in what was then a 1-0 game:

Len: "That's an aggressive send by (third base coach) Mike Quade, but why not take a shot with the way it's been going offensively?"

Bob: "That's where a productive out by Soriano would have been a huge benefit to the Cubs."

Hawk: "Dewayne with the throw ... he gone! Beautiful peg by Dewayne Wise! Yes! Yes!"

Steve: "And the gamble was not pinch-running for Fox."

Interesting, huh? While the obvious thing to do was second-guess Quade for sending Fox (which I did from my La-Z-Boy), Stone second-guessed Lou Piniella for leaving the plodding Fox in the game.

I happen to disagree with Steve here, because it was only the seventh, Lee wasn't available and the Cubs might have needed Fox's bat in the ninth. But I respect Stone's ability to immediately make a strong statement. It's why, despite his occasional smugness and his obvious zeal in taking shots at the North Side franchise that once employed him, he's the best analyst in Chicago sports.

And Brenly's not exactly chopped liver, either.

If Only Cubs Hit This Hard

Right behind Stone's DH comment was this from Brenly after Ozzie Guillen playfully threatened to use Dye as a pinch-hitter for Wise if Lou switched to a lefty on the mound:

"The way Dye's been swinging the bat lately, I'm not sure I wouldn't take Ozzie up on that."

Ouch. But hey, J.D. hasn't gotten a big hit in so long, it's almost hard to remember that he was MVP of the '05 Series.

Dye's a class act in every way and he has played an important role in revitalizing a franchise, but it's time for the White Sox to thank him for the memories and let him limp through his late-30s somewhere else.


Hawk is the ultimate unabashed homer. And as a guy who doesn't root for the White Sox (or any other team), sometimes that drives me nuts. But the man earns points for being more than willing to get on one of "his" guys for screwing up.

Here's what he had to say after shortstop Alexei Ramirez failed to finish off the Cubs in the ninth on what should have been a routine, game-ending DP:

"And this should be ... can't get him, as Alexei once again out of position on a double-play situation, a perfect double-play ball."

While Gordon Beckham has settled in nicely at third base, it's hard to believe he wouldn't be a major upgrade at shortstop from Ramirez - who has lousy footwork, makes mental errors and is prone to wild throws.

Guillen likes Chris Getz at second, and putting Ramirez in the outfield probably would be no better than the Soriano-in-left experiment. So Kenny Williams should trade Ramirez, right?

Really? Trade a dynamic, young hitter who is four years away from free agency and who is one of the few White Sox to consistently deliver in the clutch?

It's just one example of how difficult the offseason is going to be for Williams. For his Cubbie counterpart, Jim Hendry, too.

Clearly, both teams need more players who care as much and perform as well as their announcers do.

Final Word

White Sox fans can crow about their heroes winning the season series, but the sloppy South Siders had to work awfully hard to have an even worse record at this point than the cruddy Cubs do.

There's a month of baseball left, and both teams are done. A pox on them both. Chicago fans deserve better.


  1. Letting Steve Stone go was a terrible move by the Cubs. However, Bob Brenly has really grown into the job and constantly impresses me with his analysis and especially his honesty, which was Stone's biggest strength and possibly one of the reasons he was run out of town. Brenly and Kasper have great chemistry--good job by the front office on those hires.

    You forgot to include Santo's take on Soriano dropping the ball: "Oh, MAN! Come ON!" He called the Cubs' performance Thursday "embarrassing." Can't argue with him.

  2. Doesn't Ozzie have anyone to show Ramirez how to improve his footwork? Ozzie is going to get that kid hurt if he doesn't fix that soon.

    Having Soriano in the batting order anywhere is like having two pitcher's spots to worry about. There is nowhere to hide him at the plate or on the field.

  3. tmad here. Now Kenny has another promising pitcher to trade for a another broken down has-been. And john brown has a point. Why doesn't Ozzie teach Ramirez some ss pointers, or would that be beneath him?

  4. there is a month left in the season...oh god

  5. Cubs and Sox fans...plenty of good seats availible for the remaining Chicago Fire home games ;-)