Northside For Life

Monday, May 09, 2005

"Put that coffee down! Coffee is for closers"

In my last post I discussed the Cubs' recent losing streak. Of course a big part of that streak was due to the abysmal performance of the bullpen, including LaTroy Hawkins who took two of the losses. The most frustrating of those was Friday's game against the Phillies where Troy made that bad throw to first. Yes it was an incredibly dumb play and yes it was yet another in a long line of blown saves for Troy but I think a lot of fans tend to forget one thing:

LATROY HAWKINS IS NOT A CLOSER.

The man himself has been saying it since the day he signed with this team. He's not a closer. He's never done well in the role, doesn't like it, doesn't want it, he just plain is not the man for the job. There's a certain mentality that goes along with being a closer and Troy simply doesn't have it. Put him in the eigth inning and he's fine. Put him in the ninth in a tie game and he does reasonably well (except for last week in Milwaukee, but the Brewers just dinked him to death. They didn't really hit the ball well but they did hit it to the right spots). Put him in the ninth with any kind of lead and its a disaster waiting to happen. So do I blame LaTroy for what goes on late in Cub games? No. I did once, but now I've come to a conclusion that many others should realize as well: This man can't close. Dusty is just setting up the team for failure by continuing to put him out there in save situations. Yeah LaTroy has good stuff. Yeah he can get guys out. Just not in the ninth with a lead. He'll always make that one bad pitch that gets hammered either out of the park or off the wall. And if it doesn't go out the park, Troy falls apart and lets the guy score.

So what do the Cubs do? Dusty has put Ryan Dempster in the closer's spot for the time being, which is what I think he should have done at the begining of the season. Dempster has proven to be a servicable starter, altough he's prone to the one bad inning where the other team knocks him around for a few runs. He does get a lot of K's, but also gives up a good amount of walks. If he can cut those down, he could be good in that role. Could be.

The other option is the return of Joe Borowski. Yikes. I love JoeBo because he's a real gutsy, blue-collar guy, but who knows how he'll do coming off surgery. Plus he just took a line drive off the knee down in Iowa (I swear this guy has become a ball magnet) so who knows how long it'll be before he comes up. And when he does I'm sure Dusty's not going to thrust him into the closer's role immediately. Or so he says. I don't trusty Dusty anymore.

Michael Wuertz has said he wants to close. That's pretty ballsy and I like it. He wants the ball in that situation and wants to shut the other team down. That's half the requirement for being a closer. A good set of cojones. Unfortunately the other half involves actual pitching and Wuertz is too inconsistent to be trusted. He's still young though, he could possibly be there later on.

Billy Bob Thornton a.k.a Mike Remlinger. I don't know about him closing. Too eratic.

Kerry Wood? Dusty will make him throw his arm off as a starter before he ever gets sent to the pen.

So what's left? Go outside the organization. There's Octavio Dotel, but he's another LaTroy. Great setup guy, but when put in as a closer he's the ultimate arsonist. There's that Baez kid in Tampa, but I don't know if they're willing to trade him. They say that Affedlt (I know I screwed up the spelling) kid in KC is good, but he's hurt right now and who knows what the Royals will want in return. Another option would be to again raid the divisional AAA team otherwise known as the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Mesa. Of course we could probably send down a couple of good prospects for Mesa and then watch him turn into Antonio Alfonseca, Lord knows he's got the look down already.

By the way, Jon Leicester is starting today. That should be interesting.

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