Archive for ‘Chicago Cubs’

March 3, 2011

Carlos Silva Shows Us Why Spring Training DOES Matter

by npiller88

sending this one right at your face, Aramis

14 errors in 4 games. That’s how the Chicago Cubs’ Spring Training has started.

And out of that mess, miraculously, comes a story of real interest.

Two Cubs got into a scuffle in the clubhouse yesterday. One is on the bubble of making the team. The other is an established regular guaranteed a starting spot. Can you guess which one made the error? (Hint, its not the guy who had something to play for).

But despite not committing any errors, Silva did give up two home runs in the first inning. Not a good start for a guy trying to lock down the role of fifth starter for the Cubs. Even though he got into it with a teammate, its hard not to sympathize with Silva. He was a guy who was probably the Cubs’ best starter for the early part of 2010, and may have believed he wouldn’t have to fight for a spot this Spring.

Let’s not forget that this is the second such recent bench kerfuffle for the Cubs between a pitcher and a position player (the other being the disastrous, frightening Carlos Zambrano outburst directed at Derek Lee, among others, which eventually landed Zambrano with a suspension/anger management therapy). Apparently, as former ace Zambrano can attest, Cubs pitchers don’t seem to be fond of position players making errors behind them. New manager Mike Quade (known as a player’s manager) may have inherited a bit of a toxic environment from Sweet Lou Pinella. Or not. Maybe this means nothing.

But it does make for a fascinating case study of Spring Training baseball and player effort. Ramirez knows he’s going to make the team. Maybe that’s why he didn’t focus hard enough to catch the fly ball he dropped in the first inning, one of three errors the Cubs committed in that frame. Or maybe he just made a mistake. Silva, on the other hand, was probably giving it his all, and then some. Maybe pressing too much, or at least, enough to give up a couple of dingers. What I’m guessing happened was Silva made some noise in the dugout about his fielders not making the plays. As a veteran taking offense, Ramirez probably got in his face. An angry Silva, concerned for his job, probably lost it, or maybe he said something to make Ramirez lose it. It doesn’t really matter. What’s interesting are the unique circumstances:

If not for the errors committed behind him, Silva probably wouldn’t have had the window to give up those two home runs, or at least not both of them. Now, he may be struggling with his command or velocity or something, and you could argue that such a thing can’t be hidden from the decision-makers for an entire Spring. Or you could argue that if it was truly an aberration and not a result of command or velocity problems, the rest of his performances during the Spring will be successful and cement him as the team’s fourth or fifth starter in the rotation. But one wonders, if Ramirez and some of the others had focused a little harder in that inning, perhaps Silva wouldn’t have been exposed in such a way. He also would have avoided the frustration of having errors made behind him, which could have improved his performance as well. As immature as both players’ reactions were, it’s hard to fault Silva for getting heated, since his job is on the line, and the Cubs have played the worst defense of any team this Spring.

Silva’s resume was affected by Ramirez’ screw-up, because the errors left Silva on the mound longer, pitching from a position of weakness (with men on base where he probably had to throw more hittable pitches), and generally more vulnerable to failure.

This is not to say Silva is blameless. The entire inning sounded like a disaster. But if I was Silva, I’d be pissed too. It may be Spring, but damn man, make the plays.