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I have to make this perfectly clear up front: I love Carlos Pena.

He’s a quote machine – and not in the Ochocinco kind of way. He says impressive things, and I like to listen. Teammates love him. He’s got a great attitude. He sometimes hits adequately, and he plays great defense. There’s sincerely a lot to like.

But this, my friend, is completely absurd:

“When you have the right kind of chemistry, it’s just magical,” Pena said of what the Cubs need to do to succeed. “That’s exactly what we’re trying to build toward. That chemistry that really just makes incredible things happen. It’s not something you can just turn on a switch. I know that for a fact. But it does happen. It’s a cultural change.”

Although I can certainly agree that the Chicago Cubs need a cultural change (like WHOA), the idea that “chemistry” leads to winning is a notion that should have died years ago.

Winning leads to chemistry. Not the other way around.

Do you think those very good Giants teams featuring Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent had “chemistry”? Do you really think the collection of high-priced Yankee superstars are best friends when they take off their jerseys?

I swear, the Boston Red Sox winning the series with that “cowboy up” business eight years ago was probably one of the worst things to happen to thinking baseball in some time. That lineup included four players with an OPS over .930, seven players with an OPS over .820, and didn’t have a single regular with an OPS below .750. They also had some guy named Pedro Martinez. Of course they had chemistry. They could have had me in the dugout, constantly taking Dusty dumps on their shoes, and they’d still have plenty to smile about.

I’m sorry, Carlos, but the Chicago Cubs do not need “chemistry.” The Cubs need “better players.”

And, based on yesterday’s non-events (which, with apologies, includes your continued presence on the Cubs), the Cubs need “better management.”

If the Cubs manage to trade Carlos Pena in August after he, presumably, clears waivers, I sincerely hope that he’s dealt to a team with good “chemistry.” And, I suspect he would be.

Because he’d be dealt to a team that’s already winning.

  • Fishin Phil

    Perhaps if Carlos would be so kind as to lead the team in a couple of choruses of Kumbayah before each game, we could get a serious win streak going.

    Or maybe, just maybe, we could try playing fundamentally smart baseball for a change.

  • RY

    Brett, I cannot say it any better than you did. Bravo! Not only do the cubs need better players, they also need more players who give a crap if they win or lose, but typically that goes hand in hand with having better players!

  • willis

    Maybe this is his way of saying there needs to be better coaching and management of the team from the top to the bottom? I don’t buy that chemistry solves the Cubs’ problems, but it surely isn’t something that is where it needs to be (ask Starlin Castro, who’s manager calls him out repeatedly and who had not a one teammate step up for him this weekend).

    This team lacks a ton. I will agree that chemistry is horrible for this bunch. But talent and leadership rule the day, and this team has neither.

  • 1060Ivy

    Agreed Cubs need better “chemistry” but would make the same comment regarding any team that’s 20+ games under 500 – regardless of the sport or portion of season played.

    Teams that suck rarely have great “chemistry” but can have good “clubhouse” guys.

  • Chris

    You know what makes good chemistry? Winning. This team doesn’t really know how to do that.

  • Jerry McClellan

    Well said. Someone needs to remind Pena of the A’s of the 70’s who hated each other but went out and won….a lot.

  • http://tricitypools.webs.com Furb

    always an excuse

  • Mike

    Strongly agree! Thanks for a great Cubs website. I found it a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoy it.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks, Mike. I appreciate that.

  • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

    The 2011 Chicago Cubs = losers.

    The 2011 Chicago Cubs + better “chemistry” = happy losers.

  • Louis

    I think the Cubs need better offense, defense, and pitching. That’s just me.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      See! Only three moves, and the Cubs have a contender!

  • Lou

    I actually think the 2004 Cubs team was solid and lacked chemistry and that led to their downfall and Baker’s exiting out of Chicago. I think Pena should stay. He brings solid components to the Cubs, good OBP, ability to work counts, LH power, and good defense. Getting Fielder is just throwing money at something in the hopes of solving a large-scale problem. How did that work? That being said, Hendry still should have stepped up and taken offers for Soto, Byrd, and Baker.

    • Chris

      In reference to the 2004 Cubs, “lacking chemistry” is the nice way of saying “holy crap, these dudes are a dysfunctional wreck.”

      The 2011 Cubs are just a bad team. I feel like Pena is a bandage until something better comes along; whether it’s a Free Agent, or someone from the system (ie – that kid they just signed who crushes the ball. Name escapes me and I’m too lazy to look it up right now.) Either way, 2012 Cubs will be a slightly better version of the 2011 Cubs, which is a slightly worse version of the 2010 Cubs… I think I just went cross eyed.

  • Toosh

    Ramirez not in the lineup tonight. Trade in the works? Another Abner (not Doubleday or even Bobby) Abreu on the way?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I wish, but probably just a day off.

  • TSB

    If a team has no power, they try and rely on “small ball”.
    If a team has sub-standard players, they try and rely on chemistry.

  • dreese

    Brett I have to disagree with you here and I think this is the first time ever. I believe chemistry is huge and by chemistry I mean liking the people you play with and you knowing everyone pretty well. If you have “chemistry” with your team you are more likely to have fun and enjoy the game which I think will improve how you play the game. Now if everyone is on that same page that will promote everyone to play better.

    I am not saying that if this terrible team had better “chemistry” they would be winning but we might not be 20ish games under .500.

    • MichiganGoat

      Winning makes you happy and hence your happier with the people around you thereby you have what is called “Chemistry”.

    • Jeff

      If this current team doesn’t have chemistry then it’s not happening in Chicago. Soriano, Zambrano, Ramirez, Wood and Dempster have all been teammates for over 5 years. Marshall, Marmol, Soto, and Fukudome were all teamed up with those guys for at least 4 seasons. This team gets along, no one wants to be traded, and they all say nothing but positive things about the franchise. If this team isn’t gelling and has chemistry problems, there is one man to blame for that and it’s Mike Quade. This is a veteran team that knows each other and should know what it needs to do to improve, but they don’t improve. It’s because they are all getting old, they are complacent, and they stinks.

  • http://calebshreves.blogspot.com Caleb

    Yeah, but his comments are often smarter and deeper than they appear at first blush. Maybe he is hinting that there are some personality problems on the team. Maybe it’s a dig on the coaching staff. Maybe a few guys are hanging their heads and bringing everybody down, so he’s subtly reminding them that they’re professionals.

    I don’t think he’s offering it as an excuse to why the team isn’t any good.

    • Ol’CharlieBrown

      I was thinking this same thing. He’s not going to flat out say that he thinks Mike Quade is a terrible manager and name off a few players that he feels are only giving 75%. There may be more than meets the eye here. Especially coming from Pena. If it was someone else I may just think it’s another fool hearted Cubs player thinking all it will take is some chemistry to turn this team around.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        I’m sure you guys are right that there’s a little more to it than a simple belief that “chemistry” is missing – that is to say, he probably has a *reason* for believing “chemistry” is missing, and that might be what you guys are hinting at.

        That said, the idea that “chemistry” creates winning, to me, is absurd.

  • CubSouth

    Winning does not make you happy in the big leagues. I can see it would for the younger players, but for those that have been around a few years, winning does not cause happiness. Winning gives the players more money because they are producing on a team that knows about winning and what it takes to get to the top. Winning leads to championships, commercials, free publicity, better contracts, notoriety, better living, prettier girls, flashier cars and bigger homes and folks, that’s what makes the players happy.

  • Coal

    I agree the Cubs need better players. And better management. And leadership. However, confidence (as individuals and as a team) has a lot to do with performance. And in baseball it’s a big deal. Maybe that’s the elusive “chemistry” – winning teams get better because they win and that breeds confidence which produces better performance and more wins….and “better” chemistry. I don’t know. It’s hard to put your finger on it, that’s why folks have trouble describing what “it” is.

    The Milton Bradley trade, if nothing else, demonstrates the effect that a jerk off can have on chemistry. I think the Cubs performance goes beyond his inabilty to produce. Guys weren’t happy, weren’t rooting for each other, were thinking about things other than winning and each other. It was a huge distraction.

    What Pena is talking about is the “anti – Bradley” – a guy (or several) who are talented yes, but also who don’t give a crap about the curse, who have a chip on their shoulders to prove somebody wrong. Who don’t wilt in front of the home crowd by walking 7 batters against the Dodgers in the playoffs, or who don’t sulk when a guy makes an error behind them with guys on base in Game 6 of a playoff game. Who don’t punch out a manager or a gatorade cooler in the dugout in a huge game, or strike out on every pitch low and away or who helicopter for no reason. Who step up big in big games.

    I think guys like Wood, guys like Derosa, guys like Reed Johnson, are part of the mix. They aren’t as talented, but they have the “attitude” of winners, and they keep things loose enough to succeed. It’s too early to tell with Pena, and his start was brutal. But maybe. Maybe Garza, heck even starlin Castro – he’s too young to be tight in big games. I think there were some folks who got away with a whole heck of a lot for years on this club – from Sosa, Alou, Wood, Z, ARam, even [ducking] Mark Grace. Maybe Fukudome. There has been a level of selfishness and entitlement among some of the stars. But then they faded when things got tough, and Hendry/Lou couldn’t really fix that overnight. They tried, but overreacted (Soriano, Bradley).

    I do think a couple of horses could really turn things around. Talented horses. And we don’t have them. But we also haven’t had chemistry in a long time due to the superstar treatment afforded the phony superstars on this team for the last 10 years.

    As they say, the difference between .250 and .300 is a hit a week. I do think chemistry can impact what’s between the ears when you step up with guys on base. It can lead to winning streaks of more than 3 games. That is what Pena is talking about, I think. Something intangible that isn’t as simple as “better players” – it’s part “better players” but part something elusive that is often correlated with “better players” but not always.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Enjoyed your thoughts, Coal. I may not agree with all of them, but – well said.

  • ScottinIL

    How did we get this far into the comments without giving Brett props on his use of “Dusty dumps”?

    Well played, sir.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha, thanks Scott. Wondered if folks caught that.

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