Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Rich Hill  (53) is pulled out ...

(Piniella, about to literally yank Hill out of baseball)

A few thoughts on the first Cards-Cubs series of the year. First, going by GN’s fan shots, Cardinal fans are some of the fattest fans in the nation. I pity you people if Marty Brenneman gets a look at you. Secondly, despite decades of Cub suckage from WW II on, the Cubs and Cardinal rivalry currently stands at Cubs 1138, Cards 1073. 100 years since a Cub World Series, and the Cards still can’t catch up?
Everybody’s talking about Eight Belles put to sleep on the track at the Derby. How about Rich Hill on the field at Busch? Lou Piniella yanked him off the mound so hard in the 1st Friday that Hill landed in AAA Iowa ball. The most notable news out of St. Louis this weekend is Hill’s disastrous 27 tosses in Friday’s opener, in which he loaded the bases and walked in the first run. The Cubs never recovered the lead all night and lost in the 11th, 5-3. Hill’s main problem was location, like the fact that he was on the mound and not on the bench. I was struck by the ice in Lou’s veins to pull him, but The Bleacher Report disagrees:

All the talk that Sweet Lou has turned, well, sweet, seems to have been premature.

Piniella seems to have jumped the gun concerning starting pitcher Rich Hill. Hill, one of the most consistent performers in last year’s Cubs’ rotation, is rumored to be out after another sub par performance on Friday resulting in a 5-3 Cub loss.

After the game Piniella said, “Hill can’t start like this in the big leagues. C’mon. Every time he pitches it’s an adventure. He’s doing his best, but we have no bullpen. I don’t know what the solution is, but I can’t start him any more until this thing gets taken care of.”

Okay. So Hill lasted a feeble two-thirds of an inning on Friday. Yes. He has 18 walks in 19.2 innings this year. Sure. He has contributed to increased innings for an already taxed bullpen.

But to take him out of the starting rotation after a month of the season? This doesn’t seem right.

Last year, in his first full season, Hill pitched 195 innings in 32 starts. He accumulated 183 strikeouts and a 3.92 ERA. He ended up with an 11-8 record despite being one of the pitchers with the worst run support in the league …

Why would Lou simply desert Hill so early in the season?

Could it be because he has two starters in the bullpen who have both performed fairly well? Or has Lou begun to pick favorites in his clubhouse?

If so, both of his admirable managerial qualities aren’t as true as previously thought.

Either way, the Cubs will need Hill down the stretch this season.

The real question is whether the Cubs have a calm older Piniella, or a fiery manager hiding his true feelings.

Fiery is a question? What, seeing Lou throw Gatorade around the dugout as Kerry Wood blew a 9th inning lead to the Brewers last week wasn’t a tip off? Of course he has a temper. The question is Hill and whether Lou was right or not “ and he is right. Hill’s position is too important to risk another game, especially against the Cards for first place. Patience? Lou’s been watching Hill lose it since spring training. He’s gotta go. You want patience? Try Piniella’s Case Closed backing of Kerry Wood, no matter what. The argument for Pinieilla’s impatience is Soriano playing at all, no matter how badly he misjudges the outfield. His bat comes through, but he’s been so notably bad on defense that even Cubscaster Bob Brenly said on the air Soriano jas no business playing ball yet. What speaks to me about Lou’s temper is the way he casually said “we have no bullpen.” I dunno, they held the Cards off quite a while post-Hill, into extra innings. Lou’s brutal assessment of the bullpen undercuts The Bleacher Report‘s feeling that Lou wants to rely on his bullpen to cure him of his Rich Hill problem.

Yesterday, behind Theodore Roosevelt “Ted” Lilly, the Cubs came back today 9-3 with no Soriano disasters. As the Cubs go into the third and deciding game of this opening series tomorrow, they could still go home in first place.