Baker not enough for Cubs

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 29, 2003

Dusty Baker is a great manager and I'd love to see him hold the World Series trophy high above his head at home plate while J.T. Snow babysits his son.

Baker, however, needs help if the Chicago Cubs are going to make it to the World Series much less win it this season.

The Cubbies are in first place in the National League Central, but they have not looked impressive this season. Recently, the Cubs' bullpen has made the team look like a Bad News Bears' reunion.

The Cubs are in first place in the Central with a 29-23 record. Yes, they are six games over .500, but that is not impressive in the weak NL Central. In fact, the Cubs have gone 4-6 in the last 10 games losing three times to the Pittsburgh Pirates (22-30).

The Cubs are in first place because they play in a weak division. They have the fifth best record in the National League. The reason the Cubs are in first is because they are not playing in the NL East or the NL West.

Atlanta, Montreal, San Francisco and Los Angeles all have better records than the Cubs. In other words, if the Cubs want to play a postseason game Baker better guide them to a Central Division crown because the Wildcard team will come from the East or West.

Cubs fans will argue that Baker has had to deal with the absence of Sammy Sosa due to an injury and a struggling bullpen.

Yes, Sosa has been sidelined but

even his return will not be enough to power the Cubs to a World Series victory. Remember, Baker had Barry Bonds last season and was unable to win a championship.

The Cubs have tremendous starting pitchers in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior. Carlos Zambrano has overachieved so far this season and Shawn Estes is off to a great start.

The bullpen, however, will stop the Cubs instead of opposing batters this season.

Joe Borowski has been a pleasant surprise at closer for the Cubs, but his job is not safe.

Baker just recently said he is willing to let Antonio Alfonseca return to the closer spot when he proves he is ready.

Don't hold your breath. Alfonseca has been a big disappointment so far for Cubs fans this season.

What the Cubs need to do is start looking around the league for some protection for Sosa in the batting order and a proven closer.

Otherwise, Cubs fans will have another disappointing season which is OK because they are used to it.

The Boston Red Sox also have fans who have become accustomed to losing seasons or heartbreaking endings.

This season could be different for the club haunted by the ghost of the Babe and the replay of Bill Buckner's error against the New York Mets.

This season Red Sox fans might have something to cheer about when it is all said and done.

The Red Sox battled back from a 5-1 deficit to the New York Yankees against one of the best closers in the history of the sport on Wednesday to tie the game at 5-5. The Red Sox, however, lost the game in the bottom of the ninth.

The loss hurts, especially since it came against the Yankees, but the Red Sox are still in first place in the American League East with a record of 31-21.

The Red Sox have one of the three best records in the American League and should make the playoffs.

The Atlanta Braves have the best record in baseball right now and should definitely be in the playoffs.

It's too early to make any predictions on who will make it to the World Series much less win it, but right now it doesn't look good for Dusty Baker and the Cubs.

John Wallace is the sports editor of, and columnist for, The Andalusia Star-News.