|Cubs go quickly, face uncertain offseason with tentative ownership situation|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 06 October 2007 18:41|
And this time, they can curse what happened at the plate and on the mound instead of a billy goat or a black cat.
The Cubs' ``big three'' hitters were a big disappointment, and things weren't much better on the mound as the Arizona Diamondbacks beat Chicago 5-1 on Saturday night to complete a three-game sweep in their NL division series.
Derrek Lee got two hits in the final game after going 2-for-8 in the first two, but Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez combined to go 0-for-7. Lee, Soriano and Ramirez did not drive in a run in this series.
So the Cubs' quest for their first championship since 1908 continues. Even after a $300 million offseason spending spree.
Chicago also is headed for an uncertain winter with its ownership situation in flux. Tribune Co. put the team and historic Wrigley Field on the block in April, saying it would sell the team after the season and intended to do so by the end of the year.
Soriano, who signed a $136 million, eight-year contract in December, was 0-for-4 and went 2-for-14 in the series after hitting a club-record 14 homers in September. Fittingly, he made the final out - a fly to right.
Ramirez, who agreed to a $75 million extension in the offseason, was worse. He went 0-for-12 in the series and capped it with a strikeout, double play and groundout to go with a walk.
``I think I tried to do too much here and there sometimes,'' Ramirez said.
The rest of the order wasn't much help.
``He struggled this series but we didn't do much offensively,'' manager Lou Piniella said. ``What did we score? Six runs in the three games. We had numerous opportunities tonight, numerous, and I don't know how many double plays we hit into but it was quite a few.''
That explains why fans booed Ramirez and Soriano after their final at-bats. But the blame extended beyond the big sluggers.
Piniella, in his first season in Chicago, was criticized after pulling Carlos Zambrano after just 85 pitches in Game 1. Mark Reynolds promptly hit a tiebreaking homer off Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, setting the tone for the series sweep.
Piniella, who managed the Cincinnati Reds to a title in 1990, was brought in for his passion and experience but his team looked pretty listless in its first-round flameout.
``When you don't score runs and you leave a lot of people on, it looks lackluster but it wasn't,'' Piniella said. ``These guys gave effort.''
The unsettled ownership situation aside, the Cubs believe their future is promising.
They went from worst to first in the NL Central, going 85-77 to win the weak division after a brutal start. They couldn't duplicate what St. Louis did last year in winning the World Series, and that's what some fans were expecting after that big offseason.
In fact, president John McDonough declared that the goal when he replaced Andy MacPhail last October.
Besides hiring Piniella and giving big contracts to Soriano and Ramirez, the Cubs signed pitchers Ted Lilly ($40 million, four years) and Jason Marquis ($21 million, three years). They also brought in Mark DeRosa.
But after all those big moves, Chicago was 32-39 and 8 1/2 games out of first after it lost at Texas on June 21. Eventually, Piniella and the Cubs got things turned around with some young players emerging in key roles.
Ryan Theriot became the starting shortstop. Marmol showed he may have a future as a closer, after posting a 1.43 ERA as a setup man. And catcher Geovany Soto batted .389 in 18 games, most of them after being recalled in September.
``There's no doubt this team is definitely headed in the right direction,'' veteran outfielder Cliff Floyd said. ``It's not a one-hit wonder. You hope and pray you can get everything off in one year, and if you don't make it, here we go again. This team is set up to, in my opinion, win for a long time.''