Carlos Pena figures out Cubs’ problem: Intangibles
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org July 31, 2011 10:48PM
Updated: November 2, 2011 4:12PM
ST. LOUIS — A few days ago, Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano said he wanted changes made to his struggling team, refusing to specify. A day later, teammate Aramis Ramirez said he expected personnel changes.
And Sunday — after he survived the non-waiver trade deadline still in a Cubs uniform — Carlos Pena said the bigger changes needed were ‘‘intangibles,’’ including improved ‘‘chemistry.’’
‘‘I’m talking about our culture, our way of being, our way of thinking, our energy,’’ Pena said before the Cubs snapped a five-game losing streak with a 6-3 victory against the St. Louis Cardinals. ‘‘It takes a little bit of time, but with . . . the talent we have, there’s no doubt about it. It’s the other stuff — the intangibles — that needs to change. And as we go along here, they are changing.’’
It was exactly eight weeks earlier in the same St. Louis visiting clubhouse that Zambrano offered his ‘‘We stinks’’ postgame thoughts and called out Carlos Marmol after a blown save.
Whatever specifics Pena had in mind, he said the issue is chemistry.
‘‘When you have the right kind of chemistry, it’s magical, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to gravitate toward, to have that chemistry that really just makes incredible things happen,’’ he said. ‘‘I really think we can achieve that. And it’s not something you turn on with a switch.’’
Rare quality win
Ryan Dempster’s six-plus innings gave the Cubs 14 quality starts for July, the most for any month.
But it was only the team’s seventh victory in those games.
‘‘This was a good win for us. The bullpen did all the work, man,’’ said Dempster (8-8), who dueled Jake Westbrook for five scoreless innings until the teams combined for seven in the sixth. ‘‘We needed that.’’
The Cubs’ six runs — including Alfonso Soriano’s second home run in as many days — matched their number of earned runs for the first five games of the road trip combined.
Truth and falsehoods about some of the Cubs’ trade rumors, according to various sources:
The Atlanta Braves inquired about outfielder Marlon Byrd.
But without a blow-them-away offer and without knowing which outfield prospects they can count on next year, the Cubs consider Byrd a valuable and affordable part of next season at $6.5 million in his final contract year.
No truth to the rumor that the Texas Rangers called on Marmol on Sunday, and the Cubs never considered trading him, regardless of earlier interest.
The Cubs got no calls on Zambrano as contenders such as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox searched for help.
While the interest in lefty John Grabow hasn’t been strong, the Cubs expect to move him in August to create a bullpen job for a prospect.