Swept or be swept (7/28/11)

It’s a dog-eat-dog time in baseball right now. Translation: Bring the heat or crumble in the face of real opposition. Today the Cubs showed that while they’re good enough to outplay the worst team in baseball (yay!), they’re still not quite good enough to keep up with the big boys. The Cubs were swept by the Milwaukee Brewers, who currently lead the NL Central by one game. The thing that gets me was that the cumulative score total for the three-game series was 9-4, in favor of Milwaukee. The common trend in all three games was simple: both Chicago and Milwaukee starting pitchers gave up runs in the first or second inning, then settled down, and not much happened after that.

According to Wikipedia (the single most reliable source out there for any good budding journalist. Duh.) the Cubs and Brewers have met at Miller Park 211 times before this week’s head-to-head series. In the ten years since Miller Park opened, the Cubs maintain an 111-100 advantage. Add one game in Chicago’s favor for the shut-out win against the Astros in ’08, and then give Milwaukee three games (since I doubt Wikipedia has updated the site in the last two hours), and the Cubs have enjoyed a pretty successful run north of the state line with the Brew Crew spoiling the fun often enough to keep a steady, friendly rivalry going.

That being said, it’s interesting that neither team was able to gain a real advantage during the series. Both teams certainly had golden opportunities to blow things wide open, yet neither could capitalize. The Cubs will see the Brewers six more times this season: three games in August and three in September. Should the stalemate of the offenses continue, which team prevails will come down to the starting pitching. Cubs pitchers absolutely must stop giving up multiple runs in the first two or three innings if the team is going to have a chance to make a run at .500.

But that’s not all going on in the Cubs Universe!

Trade Rumors/Transactions
A few hours after the fact, Kosuke Fukudome’s departure to Cleveland is old news. The trade was not a huge surprise, nor was the fact that the Cubs ate approximately 3.9 million of the remaining $4.7 million that Fukudome was (is?) owed. The trade works out well for Cleveland, a team still with a chance of making the post-season, as two of their top infielders are currently on the disabled list. According to Cubs.com, the Cubs obtained outfielder Abner Abreu and RHP Carlton Smith for the former All Star. Neither has numbers that are particularly potent, but who knows. Maybe this is a trade that will pan out? It would have been nice to see the Cubs hold out for a starting pitching prospect rather than a relief-type pitcher (Smith is 25 years old with a 2-3 reocrd and 4.50 ERA in 34 Triple-A games. Doesn’t scream “Starting Pitcher” to me…), but this may have been a situation where the Cubs just needed to move somebody to get the proverbial ball rolling.

If the random stories floating around the web are to be believed right now, everybody from Carlos Zambrano to Aramis Ramirez could be finding a new home between now and Monday. Yes, you read that correctly. In a post-game conference today, Ramirez reportedly said “We’ll see” if the Cubs were to approach him with a potential trade. Huh. That’s certainly a different tune than the one he’s been singing all month long.

Brett over at Bleacher Nation supposes that Blake DeWitt could also be on the selling block. Personally I find it hard to believe that Chicago would want to let DeWitt go if they’re trying to dump Ramirez on somebody else. As Brett points out, third base is DeWitt’s natural position, so it doesn’t really make sense to me to dangle your two third basemen out in front of everyone. Not unless you’re planning on getting one heck of a prospect who can jump into a starting role right away.

Finally, new rumors abound from multiple sources that Carlos Zambrano is the next to be traded. Interesting. According to a Cubs.com story, the perennial hot-head is open to a trade, something that could be good long-term for the Cubs organization. Sure Zambrano’s fire is appreciated by most fans, but the exaggerated scrutiny that has been placed on his every move and word the last year or two is ridiculous. Let Zambrano go pitch somewhere where the local media isn’t going to over analyze everything he does, both on and off the field.

That’s about it for right now. With the Cubs checking into St. Louis this weekend for a three-game series against the Dirty Red Birds, the starting line-ups have the potential to change rapidly. While I doubt the roster will be drastically different come Monday night, there certainly is the potential for some big changes to happen over the weekend.

And to be perfectly honest, nothing would make me happier than to see the Cubs go in and stomp on the Cardinals’ post-season hopes. As they say, when St. Louis and Chicago meet, all bets are off.