Throw It Like a Ballplayer

providing baseball commentary and ponderings since April 2010

Good lord willin’, this post’ll work out

Posted by dannmckeegan on April 7, 2010

“I was excited[…]But I don’t like to show guys up. Hit the ball and run around the bases like you’ve done it before, shake hands and get ready for the next one.”

–Marlon Byrd, on reaching the seats in his Cubs debut (VIDEO)

“The umpires don’t have the benefit of replays.  You have to keep your chin up. You can let it fester or you can keep playing.”

–Byrd, on the double play resulting from umpire error (VIDEO)

“This matched Zambrano’s shortest start ever. On Sept. 4, 2006, he also went 1 1/3 innings, but he exited that game because of back problems. Big Z is 1-2 with a 6.99 ERA (22 earned runs over 28 1/3 innings) in his Opening Day starts.”

–MLB.com’s Cubs writer and blogger Carrie Muskat

Let’s see if we can’t break down some things to learn from the Cubs’ ugly loss in Game #1. Perhaps Carlos Zambrano is not exactly an ideal candidate to be starting on opening day, a day known to carry a heavier emotional load among a fan base and greater scrutiny from both local and national media.  Of course, it doesn’t help that today’s starter, Ryan Dempster, has only 2 wins in 11 career decisions against Atlanta.  Randy Wells, the Cubs #3 with Ted Lilly still rehabbing, faced Atlanta twice in his rookie campaign, earning a win and a no decision.  Overall, he allowed 4 runs on 9 hits in 13 innings, striking out 8 without walking a batter.

Marlon Byrd, Aramis Ramirez and Kosuke Fukudome provided strong offensive performances on Monday, but the lack of production from the bottom of the order carried over from 2009, with the sixth, seventh and eighth spots combining to go 0-for-10 with 3 strikeouts and a check-swing dribbler by Soriano, appropriately, to end the game.

The three left-handed relievers – Sean Marshall, debuting rookie James Russell, and John Grabow – provided five-and-a-third innings of 2 hit, scoreless relief with no free passes and 6 strikeouts. Marshall and Russell gave yeomen’s efforts today to keep the Cubs in a high-scoring game as long as they could, while Grabow finally stopped the late bleeding.  Righties Jeff Samardzija and Justin Berg each walked 3 and allowed 8 runs in only an inning and a third.  Samardzija has completely lost the strike zone, searching for it like a kid for his lost puppy.

The complexion of the game could have remained competitive as a slug fest had the umpiring crew not made the wrong call on Byrd’s fly ball toward McLouth. If the egregious errors magnified during last year’s postseason and the lingering specter of A.J. Pierzynski’s phantom dropped third strike in the 2005 ALCS were not yet evidence enough, this ought to swing a few more talking heads to the side of expanding instant replay beyond borderline home runs.  I myself am one of the longtime skeptics who made the switch over the winter.

Now, back to the game.  After an embarrassing loss, there isn’t much a team can say.  It’s baseball.  Over the course of the year, the numbers will even out.  For every one of these games, there will be one where the Cubs are on top and the umps will give them a call.  Players just want to put it in the past and get ready for the next game.  You know, I’m starting to speak in nothing but a string of clichés.  Why waste your time doing that when I can let the players speak for themselves?

“You can’t pitch from behind against a good-hitting team.  And you certainly can’t walk people against a good-hitting team, and that’s exactly what we did.

–Lou Piniella
Clichés #1 and #2

[Zambrano]’s certainly capable of doing a heck of a lot better.

–Piniella
Cliché #3

“Too many pitches in the middle.  They have a good lineup. Against a team like that, you can’t put the ball in the middle. You have to hit the spots and the corner.

–Carlos Zambrano
Cliché #4

I knew [Heyward] was going to be great ‘cuz he’s a Georgia boy. Everything they talked about, he’s the real deal.

–Byrd
Cliché #5

I think it was a fluke.  A couple more games in, he gets into a rhythm, his routine, and he’ll be back.

–Geovany Soto, on Zambrano’s poor outing
Clichés #6 and #7

I have the tools to pitch good in April. I just had a bad game. I’ve put it behind me. Today, it happened, I gave up eight runs and like I say, ‘I will concentrate on my next start.’

–Zambrano
Clichés #8, #9, #10, #11 and #12

It’s only the first game, and there’s still a lot of baseball to be played. I can only speak for myself — you can’t walk guys, you can’t give up free passes, you have to make them put the ball in play.

–Jeff Samardzija, managing to transition seamlessly to referring to himself in the second person, joining only basketball coach/analyst Hubie Brown as proponents of the least popular pronoun
Clichés #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18

We’ll sort this thing out. It’s only the first game of the season — somewhat of an embarrassing loss, but at the same time it’s only one game. We’ll go from there.

–Piniella
Clichés #19, #20, #21 and #22

A little message — practice is over and this starts for real now. I told them that we had a real good spring and build on the things we did in the spring and not forget to have fun. This is a business, a livelihood, but it’s a game. The more relaxed, the more fun you have, the better you can play the game.

–Piniella, on his pregame speech to his team
Clichés #23, #24, #25 and #26

You don’t want to lose Opening Day, but at the same time, it’s about winning series. If you win two out of three, nobody will remember this game.

–Byrd
Clichés #27 and #28

We’ve got a lot of young kids here, and they’re going to have their ups and downs.

–Piniella
Cliché #29

[Y]ou can’t go back and change it now. A couple of those fastballs missed, and that was the difference.

–Samardzija, sticking with the second person in another comment while also displaying a mastery of understatement one ought to expect from someone with a Notre Dame education
Cliché #30s and #31

Obviously, it’s not the way we’d like to start.  But it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

–Ryan Theriot, expressing the sort of philosophical outlook necessary to deal with the ups and downs of a 162-game season
Clichés #32 and #33

The ball club did a great job carrying the load in the post-game phase of the game.  A big loss often leads to a lot of quiet, a lot of gloom, but the Cubs avoided that after a bad day in Atlanta.  Tonight, Dempster’s
gotta remember he pitches one game at a time, not to a career stat log, and then on Thursday the Cubs need Randy Wells to give it his best shot.  It’s a long season, and things will work out.

All of the excerpts above are quoted from Carrie Muskat’s “Big Z’s off opener too much to overcome” at cubs.com or “Bumpy start for bullpen” by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.

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