Chicago Cubs television color analyst Bob Brenly has seen various levels of success from the North Siders in his five-plus seasons in the booth, but there has been one constant.
It's a lack of fundamentals, he said, and it frustrated him again Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
"Ever since I've been here in Chicago, even going back to the Dusty Baker days, these teams -- and you hate to lump them all together because obviously there's different personnel every year -- but the same problems keep coming up, poor baserunning, poor defense," Brenly said Wednesday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "The lack of timely hitting affects every team in the major leagues at one point or another, but it's the lack of solid fundamentals on a daily basis that really gets to me, and I think gets to a lot of fans.
"It's not playing the game the way it needs to be played to give yourself a chance to win."
Derrek Lee made two of the Cubs' four errors Tuesday as the Cubs fell 9-5 to the Oakland Athletics. It was the Cubs' 10th loss in their last 14 games, and they could fall nine games under .500 on Wednesday for the first time since 2007.
"I'm sure Derrek Lee wasn't trying to make errors last night, he's one of the best defensive first basemen in the game," Brenly said. "But the thing that was disconcerting to me was after the two errors, he didn't get in position to take a relay throw from center field from Marlon Byrd.
"And then in the next inning, there was a double hit off the wall in center field, and on that play the two middle infielders go out as a double cut-off. The first baseman is supposed to trail the batter as he goes from first to second. Derrek was just standing at first base. Those are the kinds of things that can be avoided. It takes a little focus, a little concentration, and in Derrek's case last night, he got a little distracted and forgot about what he was supposed to be doing out there."
Brenly, who managed the Arizona Diamondbacks to division championships in 2001 and '02, as well as the 2001 World Series title, also took exception to Cubs manager Lou Piniella batting pitcher Carlos Zambrano in the bottom of the sixth. There were two outs with a runner on second and the Cubs trailing 5-4. Zambrano popped to second, and then was relieved at the top of the seventh.
"No, I wasn't particularly enamored with that move," Brenly said. "I said it on the air, Zambrano is a good hitting pitcher, there's no question about that. But let's don't get carried away.
"I would much rather have the worst pinch hitter I have available off the bench up at the plate rather than any pitcher. I just don't think there's anybody in the major leagues right now -- and that includes Micah Owings, who may be the best hitting pitcher to come down the pike in a long time -- I would rather have a hitter up there. Even if it means you have to burn one of your players."
Brenly didn't blame any one person for the Cubs' struggles this season. In fact, he suggested it could be an organizational issue.
"It's hard to say without watching it on a daily basis and seeing what is being taught and what isn't being taught, but certainly I think any organization strives to have consistency in instruction," Brenly said. "If [hitting coach] Rudy Jaramillo is going to be your hitting coach at the major league level for a number of years, you would think all throughout the minor league system we would be teaching what Rudy wants the guys to know when they get to the major leagues.
"I don't know if every organization is that way. I don't know if the Cubs are that way. It seems to me that the organizations that have the steady producers from their farm systems, the guys who come up and already know what system is in place in the big leagues and can step right in and be a contributing member of the team, those are the teams that are usually at the top of the standings at the end of the season."