Searching For A Spark.

The San Francisco Giants lead the NL Wild Card by a half a game. Not since the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa has an event been so mysterious. Equally mysterious are the underachieving Chicago Cubs, a half game out of the wild card lead. Righty Grove has already posted an excellent analysis of the Cubs pitching, which I recommend to those of you who have any doubts about the Cubs Starting rotation. To put it simply, the Giants pitching is roughly as good as a AA team without Jason Schmidt. The Giants staff is 12th in the NL in ERA, and boasts two pitchers with an ERA under 4.00. If I was to choose one player to embody the Giants staff as a whole it would be former closer Matt Herges. Anyone who can save 23 games with an ERA of 5.23 is nothing short of a magician. With apologies to Jason Schmidt and Barry Bonds, the Giants are a team featuring mostly Journeymen players and AL Central castoffs. How have the Giants managed to craft a lineup that has scored the most runs in the NL with Bonds only hitting once? Manager Felipe Alou has been brilliant at shuffling the Giants lineup, always putting his hottest hitter behind Barry Bonds.

The Cubs have displayed an complete lack of focus, involving themselves in pointless verbal feuds with TV broadcasters, the local media and opponents. Some feuding is only natural but the Cubs have become a textbook case of overindulgence of temper tantrums. Dusty Baker needs to step up the plate and show that he will not tolerate the kind of whining which the Cubs have all too frequently indulged in. Baker, unbelievably, told reporters that "My dad didn't like no whining. He didn't like no excuses, either. I'm the same way." Yet when asked about Moises Alou's complaints about TV broadcasters being "too negative" he responded that "There could be merit to some of it." I know that Dusty has always been a players' manager, but this rises to the level of sticking his head in the sand. Last season it took an all out brawl to give the Cubs the drive they needed to make the postseason. Last year it took Kyle Farnsworth tackling Paul Wilson when he charged the mound to spark the Cubs. This year requires something more subtle, for Baker put the mantle of players' manager on the shelf for a few weeks and just be a manager. After all, Paul Wilson probably won't make the same mistake twice.

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