Archive for July, 2005

Thru Cub Eyes: Ryne Sandberg (part 1)

Friday, July 29th, 2005

This is such a special week-end for #23, I thought weíd offer an expanded excerpt from Carrie Muskatís compilation
Banks to Sandberg to Grace
Look for parts 2 and 3 tomorrow and Sunday and the rest of the series featuring Cub players through the years every Friday.


Nineteen-eighty-four was one of my most fun years. I was still a young player at the time. It was my third year in the major leagues and my first experience being in a pennant race and being on a winning club. That was all new to me. I just showed up at the ballpark every day, just having fun. I noticed the effect the club was having on the city of Chicago and the fans. I thought it was great. People were going crazy. It was a full house at Wrigley Field every day. It wasnít that way in í82 or í83. In í84 the fans liked the players that we had, and it worked both ways. It was just a great summer all the way around.

Right in the middle of í84, on June 23rd, we were playing the Cardinals. It was the back-up game for the NBC-TV ìGame of the Week.î The main game was rained out, so the whole country saw this game. Tony Kubek and Bob Costas were the announcers. They mention it to me every now and then when I see them that that game did a lot for them too, as announcers.

The game was just going on like any other game, a lot of hits going on. We fell behind early. Willie McGee hit for the cycle and he kind of stood out early. I just remember Bruce Sutter coming in, and Larry Bowa told me to just look down and in against this guy, thatís where his ball ends up, down and in.

Sutter was one of the best relievers at the time. He came in to get three outs and the game would be over, and then I end up hitting a home run to tie it. Then I cam up an inning later. Iíve seen a tape of the game. They had the credits going over the screen, and they named Willie McGee the player of the game. Right in the middle of the credits Bob Costas goes ìNuts, heís done it again and hit a home run again.î It was just like a fairy tale game for me. It put us in first place for the first time that year, which we didnít give up the rest of the year.

I remember walking across and doing the Cardinalsí postgame show, and I was answering these questions and in a lot of ways I was totally numb. I did that interview and then I walked back across and got a big cheer. A lot of Cub fans were still there. I thought, man, this was great. Then I went inside and I could barely get to my locker because there were so many people to talk to. That was the start of my first experience with the media.

It was pretty cool.

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Pointing out the obvious for Dusty Baker

Friday, July 29th, 2005

Just some things I’d like to point out to our fearless leader:

Jerome Williams seems to become ineffective after throwing 100 pitches. Consider taking him out before he throws 120.

I know he’s young, but I think that Matt Murton could probably handle getting 4 at-bats in one game. There’s no need to lift him for a pinch hitter at every opportunity. And feel free to bat him higher than 8th.

Down by 3 in the 6th inning is not the time to bunt a runner over and play for one run.

Gene Clines, Gary Matthews and yourself all have experience as hitting coaches in the major leagues. Between the three of you, I think somebody should be able to explain the concept of the sacrifice fly to the team.

I know Joe harped on this the other day, but if you are so anxious to bunt runners to second or third, why not take the next logical step and attempt a squeeze play?

Players sometimes do stupid things. You don’t have to publicly rip them for it, but you also don’t have to try and rationalize their stupidity to the rest of us, either.

Again with the bunting. Here’s another tip, if you keep ordering Jeromy Burnitz to bunt in front of Aramis Ramirez, opposing teams are going to keep walking Aramis.

You do not have to double switch every time you change pitchers. Really. There’s no rule that says that.

Ask your players, if it’s not too much trouble, if they could please hustle, even on what appear to be routine pop flies. Sometimes those do drop in, and this team needs to take every extra base it can.

Remember in 2003 when you buried Mark Bellhorn on the bench, essentially forcing Jim Hendry to trade him? Could you try that with Jose Macias?


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Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Last April, in the first week of the season, I implored Dusty to walk Luis Gonzales in any and all circumstances. He obliterates the Cubs and the sooner Baker realizes this the better. Would it make any difference today? Not really. That was one of the worst games in this season thus far, a 6-0 pasting by the resurging Diamondbacks. I also said way back then this club would be vastly superior to their 51 game win performance a year ago.

Luis vs the Cubs this year



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Heads up!

Thursday, July 28th, 2005

Lost in all the excitement, close games, anger, agony, and Neifi-Burnitz-inspired euphoria is the fact that somehow the bleak hopes of the Cubs winning the wildcard has turned from faint hope to reachable goal. The Cubs haven’t played like a playoff team, but as it stands, they’re 3 games back with 2 teams ahead of them. Last week they were 4.5 games out with 5 teams ahead of them.

I can’t begin to speculate on the forces behind this change. Good fortune? Regression to the mean? Good luck? Playing the Giants? Whatever it is, for me at least, stubborn faith in the face of overwhelming evidence that I should just accept a 33rd year of personal pain has changed into dim hope.

Given injuries and our manager, this is a .500 ball club that, though filled with surprises both surprising and depressing, has played like it. But even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then. Maybe this team can catch fire. Maybe Neifi Perez will get some of those Brian Roberts contacts, Matt Murton will hit in the majors like he did in the minors, Dusty will play him, Hendry will bilk an impact player for Patterson and Bobby Brownlie, and the pieces will fall in place.

As always, I’ll be living and dying by what transpires between game 111 and 162.

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How Much Longer?

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005

After last night’s loss, I have thought of a few things that I am tired of waiting for. It’s growing very frustrating to wait and wait for a few of these things to happen. So, how much longer….?

Till we see Matt Murton starting everyday? – Is there a reason Dusty has not given the everyday left field job to Matt yet? This kid just knows how to hit. After last night’s game, he is hitting .462 with an OBP of .531. He gets on more than every other at bat. Granted, he’s only had 25+ plate appearances, but his knowledge of the strike zone has been very evident thus far. In 2004, Murton was “Named by Baseball America as the best hitter for average and as having the best strike-zone discipline in the Cubs organization” (Link) At this point, the Cubs need to figure out the LF spot and they have 5 days to do it. If they are going to get a LF, then by all means, play whoever best matches up that day until he gets here. However, if you’re not able to get a LF, do you have any choice other than give Matt Murton the shot he’s earned? Dusty Baker appears to be afraid to hurt Hollandsworth’s feelings by benching him in favor of a rookie, but if you remember when Hollandsworth signed, it was knowing he’d be the 4th OF. The other day, I was listening to the Score online, which up until 2 weeks ago could not be done, and they had a caller that wanted Holly to get the everyday job in LF. He claimed that Hollandsworth had been great for the Cubs this year and has put up big numbers. Let’s take a look at those numbers:

April – .250 avg., .329 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 15 K
May – .111 avg, .179 OBP, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 3 BB, 11 K
June – .360 avg, .372 OBP, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K’s
July – .220 avg, .288 OBP, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 6 BB, 8 K’s

So basically if you take out Hollandsworth’s hot June, which appears to be the only time he has been hot all year, you get these numbers:

.208 avg, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 16 BB, 34 K’s

That seems like a marginal bench player at best. Certainly not the everyday Left Fielder for a team that is in the hunt for a wild card spot.

Till we see a suicide squeeze? – The last 2 losses the Cubs have faced, they have given up a run due to a suicide squeeze bunt. Dusty Baker has got to notice that this has worked. How long until he tries it? Granted, it’s not a move you want to use all the time, but it’s one that I have never seen Baker use since he has come to the team. It’s in baseball for a reason. It works at times and should be used. Baker seems stubborn toward it. In the 8th inning, the Cubs had tied the game on a HR by Michael Barrett to lead off the inning. Burnitz walks and gets to 2nd on a sacrifice by Perez and then reaches 3rd on a WP. At that point, it’s a tie game with runners on 1st and 3rd and only 1 out. If you lay down a suicide, there is a chance that it works and the Cubs have the lead and tons of momentum going into the 9th. If it doesn’t, you still have Murton at 2b with Macias at the plate and 2 outs. Take a chance Dusty!!!

Till we get Austin Kearns? – I’m not sure what the holdup is, but I think it’s inevitable. Kearns wants to be here and I don’t think Cincy can really afford to keep 4 guys that are capable of playing the OF when they so desperately need pitching. The Cubs have pitching to offer, so I think this deal will get done and will get done for less than Cincy is asking. Hendry has a way of talking up our junk and selling it for more than it’s worth (i.e. – Alex Gonzalez, Brendon Harris, Francis Beltran)

Till Macias is off this roster – Dusty Baker values this guy so highly and he can’t justify it other than his versatility. Last night, Dusty Baker brings in Macias in the 8th inning as a defensive replacement in CF for Hairston. At that point in the game, Hairston had been to the plate 4 times and reached base in 2 of those plate appearances. That’s a .500 OBP. Macias then proceeds to not get the job done at the plate in the bottom of the 8th. In the 11th, Macias boots a ball in the OF that is hit on the ground to him. Usually when you bring in a defensive replacement, they are supposed to play better than the guy they replace. Why not wait to replace Hairston till he had hit in the 8th? Macias must go and Dusty shouldn’t be far behind for playing him.

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