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Wednesday, June 30

First Semester marks

As of the end of the weekend, 81 games will be played, and before the players go on to Houston or parts unknown for Christmas Break, it's time for Professor Sloth's Semester Marks!

As a Progressive bleeding heart Liberal (just ask Mike C.) Prof with Tenure!, I can judge solely on gut feel, without regard of numbers. If you don't like it, tough titties!! You can't fire me!

Manager Dusty - Effort:C Achievement:B+
Comments: The bottom line is that we are doing as well as expected, considering injuries. But it appears like he is resting on his laurels, and not doing anything new, just relying on what he has done in the past. Hey, Smooth? Win the Big One once, then you can cruise.

Co-Aces Prior & Wood - Effort:C Achievement:A-
Comments: Perhaps the freedom of choice, as to whether they felt good enough to pitch or not, was taken out of their hands. I still believe neither of them hurt so bad that they have had to miss 15 starts, between them, as we speak. When they DO pitch, of course, they're dynamite.

Studs Clement & Zambrano - Effort:A Achievement:B+
Comments: What they have done, to step up as the staff anchors, has been remarkable. Zambrano needs to focus, and Clement is never going to be more than he is right now.

Future HallOfFamers Maddux & Sosa - Effort:B- Achievement:C+
Comments: this middling average grade goes out to two guys who are clearly on the decline, with Maddux a little further on the bell curve than Sosa. A month for a sneeze? All this "resting up" for the post-season better not bite us on the ass...

Human Hamstring Pull Alou - Effort:A Achievement:B+
Comments: his efforts in Sosa's absence have been remarkable. For someone who was injured early and often from 2000-2002, he has held up very very well. In the 'what have you done for me lately?' department, he hasn't hit a lick since Sosa came back. WTF?

3B E-ramis - Effort:B+ Achievement:A-
Comments: our season's consistently best hitter, until recently has shown remarkable stability with the glove. Don't fall apart on us now, man.

Middle Infield Mangoo - Effort:B Achievement:C
Comments: With Todd Walker as the class of this bunch of circle jerks, it's hard to fault them for their lack of achievement, since few of them ever came advertised as offensive threats. Walker pretended to be a leadoff man for a few weeks, which resulted in a long winning streak. Then he hit a couple of bombs, and he started swinging from his ass, like the rest, and his OBP sped south...

1B Derrek McGriff - Effort:B Achievement:B
Comments: Miserable early, hot late, and in the end, will average out to the fantasy God he always has been. It's pleasant to see him hold down the defense at first, and once in a while breaks out the whupping stick, but overall, not an impact offensive player.

The Great Corey - Effort:C Achievement:B-
Comments: Part of effort is listening to the advice of others, and having the common sense to do what is obviously right. He FINALLY learned to bunt a few weeks ago, and what the fuck? All of a sudden, he started getting pitches to hit? How does THAT work, Corey? Huh? Jeezus.

The Todd - Effort:A Achievement:A
Comments: I've never seen better pinch hitting, period.

Catcher - Barrett - Effort:A- Achievement:B+
Comments: THE surprise of the year, in my book. I figured he would come in, stink up the position, because after all, he IS an OFFENSIVE catcher, and hit his usual .220. Can he keep it up,, it will get

Albatross Gabor Paul Bako - Effort:B Achievement:D-
Comments: someone on another site said it wasn't cool to rip Paul Bako. Because he sucks, he knows it, and thus no mis-representation has been committed. Fuck that. He many possibly be worse than the 2002 Joe Girardi. Since Maddux is the fifth pitcher, is it really worth carrying his caddy on the roster? Fifth pitchers are lucky to get the ball, let alone dictating who they throw to. What's Robert Machado up to these days?

Bullpen - Effort:A Achievement:C
Comments: I'm sure whomever gets tossed out there is TRYING to throw strikes, and get guys out. More often that not, Farnsworth, Hawkins, and Leicester manage to do that. Otherwise, there is NO stability, which is really awful considering that the bullpen (rightfully) has been a priority for Cubs management the last three years.

The Closer Role - Effort:N/A Achievement:C
Comments: one of the two gaping holes (the other being a lack of a leadoff-hitting shortstop) on the team, and the only one that could possibly be addressed via trade. THE SINGLE MOST misleading stat in the history of stats was Reg'lar Joe's "20-for-20" in save situations. At his BEST, his very best, he was a high-wire act. The margin of error for him was so paper-thin, and when he went sour this year, he vanished into a sinkhole from which he may never recover. Hawkins is a set-up man, like it or not. So is Farnsworth. Beltran may SOMEDAY be the man for the job, once he learns NOT to walk the first man he faces.

Our closer situation would be OK if we were built to be mediocre. But it wasn't enough to win a pennant last year (and does anyone here NOT think that many of the post-season pitching decisions were based on lack of confidence in the closer role?) and it isn't enough now. Closers are born, not made. We need one now.

Conclusion - in a season with enough injuries to choke a first-time direct-to-video whore, we have managed to not only tread water, but leave ourselves in decent position. If this were NASCAR, we'd be drafting the leader, with many laps ahead of us without having to top off the gas, or change any tires.

But, to carry the redneck analogy further, we're loose on the curves, and tight on the straightaways. There have been brief flashes where it appeared we were watching championship-caliber baseball. But, more often than not, the overriding feeling I have after winning games is not that of Satisfaction, but of utter Relief.

Can we count on any more dropped fly balls? Can we count on LaTroy to finish games? How many games can we win by out-slugging the opposition, rather than relying on the more robust method of getting the leadoff man on and around?

I would feel SOO much better if we could count a little bit more on our closer.