Defining Insanity with the 5th Starter Spot

Albert Einstein is credited with saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Enter the Chicago Cubs and the fifth starter spot.

For two straight “starts” now, the Cubs have sought to fill the spot vacated by injured starter Andrew Cashner with a cadre of relievers, starting with completely-inadequate-as-a-starter James Russell. The results were predictably awful – and they came against the two worst lineups in Major League Baseball, the Astros and Padres.

You would be quite sane to assume that, when the Cubs need a fifth starter again on Tuesday against the (very good) Rockies, they’ll go with anyone – *anyone* – but Russell. But you’d be wrong. The Cubs have been defining insanity for years, and the Mike Quade regime is no different.

Quade yesterday denied that Russell was off the table as a possible starter on Tuesday.

‘‘Everything is on the table,’’ Quade explained. ‘‘I have to sit down with [general manager Jim Hendry] and [assistant GM Randy Bush]. I’ll talk to [Iowa manager] Bill Dancy and the minor-league guys. They have a better feel than I do [of their pitchers].’’

That Russell is even still a possibility at this point is an indictable offense. I can’t even let myself imagine the possibility that the Cubs will *actually* allow him to start on Tuesday. And perhaps it’s the optimist in me, but I don’t think it will be Russell. (See UPDATE below – my optimism was ill-advised.)

I understand that the Cubs were put in a tough spot, what with Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner going down at the same time – and shortly after presumptive 6th starter Carlos Silva jawboned his way out of town. But to suggest that there isn’t an actual, you know, starting pitcher available in the entire Cubs system to take the ball – as the Cubs did by throwing Russell out there *twice* – is nuts.

Obviously I’m not saying that whomever the Cubs elect to call up will be good. I’m not even saying he’ll be better than Russell has been. But we know Russell doesn’t work. It was a terrible decision the first time, and it was an inexcusable decision the second time.

A third time would be nothing short of insanity.

UPDATE: Insanity it is. Mike Quade has said today that the Cubs are “leaning” toward starting Russell again on Tuesday. There aren’t words. Well, other than insanity. Which I’ve already said. Insanity. Did I mention, insanity?

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

17 responses to “Defining Insanity with the 5th Starter Spot”

  1. TSB

    Why are thy setting J. Russell up to fail? He did OK as a one left-handed batter relief specialist last year, and the bullpen is where he belongs. By playing with his mind, M. Quade may be ruining him as a pitcher completly.

    1. Michigan Goat

      I don’t think this is Q decision… Notice how he always talks about meeting with others before these poor decisions are made

  2. Jeff

    I think Wellemeyer and Doug Davis are both going to be considered if they are ready, I think they are both pitching at extended spring training and not doing too badly. I didn’t see anything from Russell the first two times to think he’s going to do any better next time. At this point, I’d rather see what Samardzija could do with a couple of meaningful starts.

    1. necubsfan

      Why not stretch out Marshall? I’m sure he could be effective for 5 innings in short time. and I think those 5 innings would be quite a bit better than what we have seen from Russell. I know he is valuable in the bullpen, but it seems like he would be more valuable as a starter for the time being.

  3. wernert

    Baseball teams make curious decisions all the time. What’s interesting behind this one is the ‘why?’ There are other pitchers available but they have to have a reason for doing what they are doing. I agree that it’s unlikely it will be Russell the next go round and Quade may be saying what he is saying in order not to mess with whatever scrap of confidence Russell has.

  4. ramy16

    Iam watching the game and Dempster sucks…every team is teeing off this guy like little league!..definitely not worth the extension..cubs rotation sucks..iam totally surprise that our record is as good as it is…the cubs need to fire hendry and do a total rehaul..first by signing Castro to a long term..and then ramirez..draft well and restock our farm! This team totally sucks and its disappointing seeing this day in and day out!

    1. Mark Evans

      Yes Hendry needs to go along with Mark Riggans,,,he has no business as a big league pitching coach…and was Quade the best decision we could come up with?

      1. Raymond Robert Koenig

        Hendry should have made a serious run at Girardi. He shouldn’t have just gone through the motions.

        1. Michigan Goat

          We could have had him but we decided to go with sweet Lou… Ah hindsight a Cub fan’s worst enemy

          1. Raymond Robert Koenig

            Girardi was not only the right choice before Hendry hired Piniella, he was the right choice a second time. Before Hendry kept Quade. Not often does a person get a chance to right a wrong. Hendry had that chance. He made the same mistake twice.

    2. Michigan Goat

      Why should we sign Ram? He offers nothing to the future, his defense, hitting, and “clutch” is consistently dropping. I loved him for what he’s done and the pinnacle of Hendry’s career, but he just doesn’t work for the youthful direction this team is going. I hope he finds good contract that allows him to finish his career, it’s just not the right move for the cubs. However I fear Hendry will offer him 3/$30 instead of developing a 3B youngster… Aka Vitters.

  5. Joe

    There are 2 open 40-man spots; so its not like there is a roster crunch to bring anyone up. And currently in the minors, there are

    Austin Bibens-Dirkx – AAA – Last started 20th so would be on 5 days rest to start 26th

    Robert Coello – AAA – Also started 20th, so would be on 5 days rest to start 26th

    Chris Rusin – AA – Started on 18th, so probably in line to start tomorrow. Extended BP today and he should be able to make a 26th start though.

    Those are our realistic Minor League options as I see them. Diamond is scheduled for today, so it would be pushing it to somehow get him to Tues. Ramon Ortiz doesn’t seem to be cutting it Inn wise, and might have hurt himself his last start (hasn’t pitched for a while). The rest of the AA starters seem like they are probably a bit too young/inexperienced still.

    Now, of those three, Coello actually has at least some ML experience (6 IP with Bos last year) and has been posting impressive K rates; he’s just wild. Considering that seems to be a must for all our pitchers, I don’t see why he isn’t given a brief call for a start or two to save Russells arm and dignity.

    Rusin is an interesting candidate too though. He’s 24 Years old, and no experience over AA. But he has kept his BBs under 2/9 the last two years, while providing slightly above average K rates. He’s probably the most likely to succeed in a start or two, and honestly, is the guy you would probably most want on the 40 man for the long run.

    Bibens-Dirkx didn’t handle the jump above A ball very well at all, and is looking like AAA-fodder. That said, he seems to eat innings fine and has held a huge K/BB rate this season so far. He seems to have a lot more business staring then Russell, so he always has that going for him…

    Of course, Jay Jackson did pitch on the 21st so is in perfect line for a Tues start. The problem probably comes in it only being his first game, and his only lasting 5 innings in it. If I had to place money on what the Cubs are thinking though, its Jackson coming up in the spot if Cashner is out long-term, with Davis possibly filling in if needed in between. That, of course, ignores the obvious immediate need though – which is why we are talking about it anyway.

    As far as Davis and Wellemyer, here are their stats from last Tues (where they both last pitched)
    Doug Davis: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K, 24 pitches (20 strikes), 6/1 GO/FO
    Todd Wellemeyer: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 1 K, 13 pitches (9 strikes), 1/1 GO/FO

    Considering Davis was only at 3IP and 25 pitches; its probably unlikely he gets a call for another turn or two. Although it should be noted that it will have been 6 days rest since he last started, so he too (with Jackson) is about on track for the spot eventually. He also did well – ironically, against the Rockies extST club.

    Wellemeyer seems as though he is pitching exclusively in short relief so far, so I wouldn’t hold my breath on him.

    1. Joe

      oops, just noticed that Davis and Wellemeyer both pitched an additional simulated inning after that game; with each throwing 15 pitches. That puts Davis up to about 4 IP and 40 Pitches on the day, with Todd still on a relievers schedule at this point it seems.

  6. pfk

    They can’t really be seriously considering using Russell again! Quade can only pitch who he has, so if Hendry isn’t bringing anybody up who is a real starter, then I’m dumfounded. Not that Quade knows how to handle pitchers anyway. Dempster, if you recall, was Quade’s biggest booster in the off season – maybe that has something to do with the way he his handled.