The Chicago Cubs finish April at 12-14, which is not, in itself, a terrible number. But when that April featured 15 games against the Pirates, Diamondbacks, Astros and Padres, you’d like to believe the Cubs could have pulled out a few more wins. The Cubs didn’t quite lose it in April, but they certainly didn’t test anyone’s theory that you can’t win it in April.

  • I am prone to hyperbole. This, I know. But right now, as we speak, the Chicago Cubs are preparing to make the single most pathetic, inexcusable, unexplainable, unthinking decision in the last 20 years. Do I have to say it? They’re preparing to start James Russell *AGAIN* on Monday. What was a bad decision the first time, a surprisingly bad decision the second time, and an absolutely bafflingly awful decision the third time, now lives again. There remains a tiny chance that the Cubs will call up someone like Jay Jackson to take the start, but if James Russell indeed starts on Monday, this organization should be metaphorically blindfolded and shot. And I’m flexible on the blindfold.
  • Though it ceased to be an excuse two weeks ago, the Cubs seem hellbent on justifying Russell in the rotation by suggesting there isn’t anyone else available to take the spot. Even if that were true (and it isn’t) the organization should be *humiliated* that it couldn’t find a *single* pitcher to take a couple spot starts from a guy who *clearly* isn’t capable of doing so. But, as I said, it isn’t even true: Jay Jackson is now stretched out. So is Ramon Ortiz. There was always youngsters Rafael Dolis and Alberto Cabrera at AA. There are guys who’ve been terrible at AAA who might as well have gotten a shot. And then there’s Jeff Samardzija, who easily could have been stretched out by now (see how desperate I am?). If Russell goes again, this issue will become my Alamo. I will never forget.
  • Mike Quade’s ejection last night was both well-timed and, it turns out, based on a mistake. The second-base call that Quade came out to argue  – whether an errant throw pulled Diamondbacks shortstop Stephen Drew off the bag – was called correctly.
  • Alfonso Soriano now leads Major League Baseball in home runs (tied with Ryan Braun at 10). The rest of the Cubs combined have just 10.
  • Despite his struggles, Ryan Dempster emphatically denies that he’s hurt, or that there’s anything physically wrong with him. Which is… good news?
  • Gordon Wittenmyer calls the discussion of Starlin Castro at second base, which was prompted by a thoughtful and considered Dave Kaplan post, a “knee-jerk” reaction to Castro’s defensive struggles. A subtle shot at his crosstown colleague? Probably. Mike Quade denied that the Cubs are thinking about moving Castro because they believe his long-term future is as a successful shortstop (which, recall, was my conclusion on the matter). But to call such a discussion “knee-jerk,” given the fact that moving Castro to second base was the plan as recently as last year, seems a bit thoughtless.
  • Want to get hammered on a Tuesday? Starting May 10 (against the Cardinals, no less), the Cubs will be offering $3 beer in the bleachers.Try to limit your party fouls.
  • Hogie

    I got the feeling that Q was pissed that Russel was still going to be starting. Hendry is running this show folks, and Q just falls in line and tries to save face.

    • Michigan Goat

      Agreed, at least I hope so… I need to believe that Q is smarter than this. But the question remains: What benefit does Hendry or anybody get from using Russell?

  • greg

    It makes me really mad too. Actually it infuriates me that as hard as it is for this team to win games we’re basically conceding every fifth one. It must piss off all the players…and Quade too if it’s Hendry’s decision.

    Hurry back Randy…hurry back.

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  • Jeff

    If there is no one better, then Hendry isn’t doing his job and should be fired, if Quade thinks Russell is better than any other available option, he should be fired because he has absolutely no situational awareness.

    I can only assume that Quade sees the fact that Russell has an ERA that is over a run lower than the staff ace and made his decision based on that. I could list 10 guys that are already with the Cubs that I would rather see get a start, this is pathetic. I can see absolutely no reason for this when you have guys in the bullpen who are pitching effectively if not dominating, and plenty of guys in the minors who could do the job. It should scream inadequate at a gm, manager, and organization when you can’t find anyone better than Russell when it is clear to everyone else that they couldn’t pick someone who is worse suited for the job.

  • Joe

    Pondering insanity

    Austin Bidens-Dirkx, 26, AAA (19 IP, 6.63 ERA, 4.84 FIP, 1.21 WHIP, 10.42 K/9, 1.89 BB/9)

    Rafael Dolis, 23, AA (18.2 IP, 2.41 ERA, 3.15 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 7.71 K/9, 5.30 BB/9)

    Those two have just been bumped from their respective rotations

    Now granted, Dolis is likely not long for a major league rotation anyway with the lower-side K and big BB rates in the lower minors. But he is as strong of a candidate for the 5th starter spot as Russell if you honestly compare the two; and he hasn’t proven himself completely ineffective like James has

    The really strange one is Bidens-Dirkx though, as he honestly is one of the stronger candidates to temporarily fill the 5th starter hole yet, for some reason, is seemingly completely ignored. At 26 years old its not like he is a maturity risk, and he has 404 innings worth of pro experience over 6 seasons. Plus, we apparently thought enough of him 2 seasons ago to pull him out of his brief stay in the independent leagues – with Austin rewarding us with 228 innings worth of 3.48 ERA, 3.75 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 2.85 K/BB production since.

    Making it worse is the fact that Bidens-Dirkx was on the same schedule as Russell (both started the 20th while they were just a day off each other the week prior). Plus, despite having somewhat less then impressive numbers overall this season, almost all of it came in just one of his three starts – with his April 8th and April 30th games resulting in a combined 12 Innings, 4 Runs, 8 H, 15 Ks and only 3 BB.

    Now it should be noted that the two were pulled for reasons – Whitenack’s promotion to Tenn and Jackson’s arrival in Iowa. And really, neither is going to have much of a ML career in the long run anyway, if they even make it at all. But its pitiful that two true, worthy, emergency 5th starter options have been removed from minor league rotations at the same time the Cubs continue to try and force Russell to be one. And that’s despite Russell never, in his entire pro career, being much of a starter to begin with…

    I would like to add that Russell’s extreme issues are also masking the fairly questionable reliance on Coleman as well. Although he pitched well in a couple of late season games last season, he has not developed at all since we insisted on rushing him through the minors the last 2 years. He’s a ground-ball pitcher with nearly no ability to miss bats – meaning he is likely going to be a bit of a coin-flip every single time he takes the mound. And although I have heard Maddux thinks of him as a bit of a prodigy, that doesn’t mean he should be trying to develop actual skill at the big-league level.

    He isnt the horrific choice that Russell is, but there are also more intriguing options available to the club while some actual development time for Coleman would almost certainly benefit him better long-term

    • Ace

      Appreciate the thorough thoughts, but one comment: Dolis is considered a relatively solid prospect. He may not be able to stick in the rotation, but he’s got a big league arm. Obviously he’s got the control issues.

  • Mike S

    Interesting point I thought of today…If managers get blamed/praised for the failure/success of their team, then why isn’t Rudy Jaramilio getting scrutinized because of the lack of production of Carlos Pena so far. No homeruns through almost 30 games…come on! Any thoughts?

    • Jeff

      I don’t blame anyone but Jim Hendry for that one. Pena’s struggles this season is no surprise to anyone, his production has dropped dramatically the last couple of seasons, not that it was that good to begin with. The only way that this outcome could have been more obvious is if he walked into the meeting with Hendry carrying a big sign that says “I suck and I’m only going to get worse”