Monday, August 15, 2011

Walk Away, Carlos

I don't write much about the Cubs anymore. For one, this is a football blog and, while I wrote some Cubs stuff a few years ago, there are many people out there who do that job better and frankly, I just don't care enough anymore. I feel compelled to give my 2 cents on Carlos Zambrano, though, so bear with me.

I'm a Cubs fan because of my grandfather. My dad's a Cubs fan as well, but he had to spend all of his time when I was a kid working his ass off during the day and, as the father of three snot-nosed brats, he never really had much control over the television remote when he came home. So I watched the Cubs at Grandpa's house. Grandpa was long-suffering and he lived and died with his team. I admired that. I embody that to an extent, except for the last few years the Cubs have actually managed to break me. I don't watch anymore, and that bugs me. I can't enjoy them because they aren't enjoyable and they sure as hell don't seem interested in getting there any time soon. Jim Hendry's going to stay. The Ricketts just think it's swell to own a goddamn baseball team, even if the product on the field is a total abortion. So I can't just stomach it like my Grandpa could. That's fine. I'm not my Grandpa. He also lived through the Great Depression and spent a year freezing in a foxhole in the frozen hell of North Korea. I couldn't do that either.

I don't think Carlos Zambrano is built much like my grandfather, either. For what it's worth, I think people that are trying to cast Zambrano as a selfish guy who excludes himself from blame when he's ranting about playing for a shitty team are wrong. Every one of Zambrano's outbursts has been directed at himself and they generally only involved his teammate's when they've chosen to get too close to the hurricane. Sure, I get why he's easy to dislike. He's really a raving lunatic and he's immature and, despite my constant argument that Jay Cutler's personality has no impact on the field, Carlos's rage does since it clearly affects his control and allows bad games to snowball on him. He needed to handle things better, but he's not built that way. He's pissed that the team sucks. He's pissed that he sucks. I don't think Carlos sees the point of playing shitty baseball for a shitty baseball team. I've heard meatball fans for years bitching about how Aramis Ramirez or Alfonso Soriano look like they're happy just to cash a check for underachieving, yet they're now ripping into Zambrano for deciding that it just isn't worth it anymore.

I don't think what Zambrano did was right, but I'm also tired of society constantly policing the attitudes of players. How many star athletes do we get in every generation who perfectly embody all of the proper standards of performance and intangibles and behavior that we set for them? Maybe a handful? Hell, most of the ones we think "do it the right way" collapse into a heap of lies at some point like Tiger Woods or Brett Favre or Alex Rodriguez. I'm done with that. If Carlos thinks this shit sucks and he wants to walk away, I hope he does it and I hope he doesn't let anyone talk him out of it. I think this shit sucks, too. I've spent most of the last two summers not watching the Cubs and the worst part is that I don't even miss them. They've killed the part of me that just liked watching baseball because I've long since become accustomed to the idea that they care a hell of a lot less about putting a winning product on the field than I do, and the fact that they're trashing Carlos Zambrano while endorsing the man who not only signed Carlos to a massive contract but also built the shitty team around him says all I need to know. I really have a hard time caring about the Chicago Cubs these days, and they're responsible for it. I'm not surprised they've driven away Carlos Zambrano, too.

Bears-Bills Observations

I've said many times that the worst mistake you can make as a football fan is to overrate anything you see in the preseason. If you need evidence of that I can always direct you to my favorite stick-poking of Bears fandom's greatest ledge-jumper. That said, you can occasionally glean some useful information from individual matchups during preseason games, and I really had just one hope for this game, which was that the offensive line might try to be something better than a total embarrassment.

Well....

Okay, it looked bad. Raw sack totals are always misleading, though. I'm throwing out the five second-half sacks of Nathan Enderle because all of the back-ups were in at that point and trying to take anything meaningful from the second half of the first preseason game is an endeavor well beyond foolishness. The four first half sacks are certainly concerning, however. I'll say that the overall size and strength of the unit appears to be much better, since the runblocking was pretty stellar for Marion Barber and Khalil Bell, who capitalized for 120 yards at 6.0 ypc.

As for those four sacks of Cutler and Hanie, the positive that I can take away is that no one appeared to be consistently defeated. Unlike last year's Kamerion Wimbley/Chris Williams shellacking in the 2nd game of the preseason, this year the responsibility for those four sacks belongs to J'Marcus Webb, Lance Louis, Roberto Garza, and Caleb Hanie, in that order.

Webb was certainly the most egregious defender, as he allowed pressure from Shawne Merriman that forced Cutler to step into Marcell Dareus (who was forcing his way through Lance Louis after a missed double-team assignment) and he allowed Merriman to sack Hanie as well. On Merriman's second sack, Webb did his job and blocked Merriman before passing him off to Garza, but Garza faltered and allowed Hanie to go down, however, as Erik Kramer pointed out, Hanie needed to get the ball out quicker on that one, as he had an open receiver to his left and failed to pull the trigger. Lance Louis struggled one-on-one with Marcell Dareus, but he should have had help on the first sack he allowed.

I think things will get better. I'm not going to blow smoke up anyone's ass and I'm still scared as hell of this unit, but this is, for the most part, a young unit that has plenty of promise, unlike last year, where Kreutz and an injured Garza were two aging question marks and Frank Omiyale proved once more that he's beyond redemption. Lance Louis struggled Saturday night but allowed just one sack in five starts last year and has performed well in camp. Chris Williams actually played well, to the shock of all. Carimi seemed to be as good as advertised. John Mullin thinks they'll be alright as well, and notes that the team can make some lineup changes as well. I think the struggles in this first game were mostly missed assignments or technical issues, and the concern will come in the future if Webb fails to shake off this week's game or if the line appears to be physically overwhelmed, which wasn't the impression that I got, and I'd say that's supported by the rushing totals.

As for other highlights, it was good to see Amobi Okoye make an impact with 2 sacks, and I think he'll be a great situational pass-rusher at defensive tackle. As I said before, his biggest problems in Texas stemmed from weaknesses in run support and a general failure to hold up as a 3-down player. In Chicago he could simply sub in for Anthony Adams on third down and be a defensive tackle version of the 2006 Mark Anderson. The linebacking crew looked stellar as always, Johnny Knox performed well as a kick returner, and Major Wright seemed to be around the ball every time he was on the field. I was glad to see Lovie get Cutler and Forte out of there ASAP on a night where the field was sloppy and wet and the line was struggling. Hopefully things will be better this weekend, when the starters should get a few more reps that may give us something more hopeful.

Go Bears.