Friday, June 5, 2009

Lilly is Definitely NOT a Delicate Flower

The rain-induced off day has allowed me some time to reflect a bit on the season, and I've come to realize that Theodore Roosevelt Lilly is my favorite Cub right now.

I'll say that when Ted first signed his four year, $40 million deal, I was a bit apprehensive. The story of Jim Hendry signing Ted while hooked up to an EKG machine sounded too much like when Dave Wannstedt woke up from surgery and his first words were, "Did we sign [Erik] Kramer?"

I didn't really know much about Ted since he had been an American League pitcher and had never really been good enough to warrant a lot of attention in fantasy leagues at that point. He was one of those interchangeable mediocre pitchers that you streamed in and out of your roster when the matchups were right.

I went to the Cubs Convention that January where he made his debut in front of the Cubs fans. I was severely underwhelmed. Kris fell in love with him almost instantly, but I was pretty sure he was either a totally uninterested jerk or had just smoked a ton of weed.

His replies in the fan forums can not be appropriately captured in print to get the full sense of his monotonous tone. "I'm just really glad to be here and be part of such a great team. I'm really excited," is a paraphrased example of a typical comment he would make that day. Try reading that sentence with the same tone as you would imagine would be used in this one: "I just came from burying my father who just died of rectal cancer. Also, my new puppy was run over this morning as my wife was driving off to leave me for another man."

He was especially dull and morose when put next to guys like Ryan Dempster and Kerry Wood, who know how to work a room.

As the season got started, he pitched well enough and I liked him as part of the rotation, but his propensity for giving up homeruns kept me from trusting him completely. He also hardly ever smiled. If he ever showed an outward sign of happiness, it was through a smirk. Smiles are warm, friendly, and easily likable. Smirks make you look like kind of a dick.

I've since seen him more relaxed in the dugout (when its not his day to pitch), so I know he is having some fun down there and enjoying the company of at least a few of his teammates. I also know that when he is pitching, he is all business, and I love that. He is taking his job seriously and you can tell it bothers him when he doesn't do his job well.

I think that is what separates him from a guy like Zambrano in my mind. Zambrano objectively has more talent and better tools to do the job of being a starting pitcher in the major leagues than Ted. While Ted has had some meltdowns in his career, the difference between his and Carlos' is that Ted isn't out there putting on a show.

When Ted whips his glove at the ground after giving up a booming homerun to Chris Young in the 2007 playoffs, I'm fairly certain it is a reaction to failing at his job and being mad as hell about it. Carlos would have thrown his glove, stormed around the mound, kicked the rosin bag, and then try to tear the still-beating heart out of his catcher's chest if he dared try to intervene.

Carlos may have an initial reaction that is genuine, but I'll never believe his theatrics are the act of a guy who is out of control. I think Carlos knows excatly what he is doing and likes to play to the crowd, and get all the media attention afterwards.

When Ted jumped out of the dugout to scream at an umpire for tossing him out of a game while he was on the bench, he was livid. He also then calmed down fairly quickly, got in his two cents and left the playing field. Nothing Ted did in that case was for the crowd's entertainment.

I've heard rumors that it was Ted that took the bat to the pipes in Dodger Stadium last year, and while I have no way of knowing if it is true, I really want it to be. It just sounds like something Ted could have done. He was pissed as hell that his team just got swept while he was helpless to do anything about it because they couldn't get him the ball in a Game 4.

I just don't see anyone else on the team who is as likely a candidate. Carlos was the only other guy on the team with enough rage issues, and it just wasn't a public enough display for Carlos.

It seems that for the majority of his time in Chicago, Ted just keeps taking the ball and pitching really well when we need him. On Wednesday night, the Cubs needed a strong start from their pitcher both because of the psychological damage done by the implosion the night before, and because the bullpen got used pretty heavily in the course of losing in traumatic fashion. I don't think the Cubs were going to come back against Derek Lowe if they fell behind early, even by a run.

Unfortunately, Ted didn't earn the win, but he allowed the Cubs to take the first lead and get their legs back underneath them. The bullpen actually had a good night and the Cubs won to salvage what has now turned into a split of the two game series.

He is becoming the pitcher I trust the most. I know that Zambrano and Harden are more likely to totally dominate an opposing team, and even Dempster probably has better pure stuff than Lilly, but none turn in such consistently quality performances.

In a season that is increasingly unpredictable, my desire for one steady rock that I can count on has made me appreciate Ted Lilly all the more. His last name may conjure images of flowers, but he is one bad-ass motherf---er and if the Cubs make the playoffs, he needs to get a start in the series.


Sean Gill said...

Plus, anybody who walks to Wrigley right down Waveland is all right in my book. Anybody who does that walk while wearing these Vans:

is just plain down to earth.

Kris said...

I've loved Ted Lilly from the beginning, and now can finally say "I told you so". He's been smiling alot more this year (despite this team not giving him much to smile about). And I don't think he's as high as he is determined.

Tim McGinnis said...

I still think its more of a smirk, but I've been won over either way. Go Teddy Go.

Michael Castillo said...

Great post. Ted is really the rock of the pitching staff. He's consistent, fiery, and passionate. No body else is.

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