Archive for July, 2006

Good grief!

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Finally, a little quiz. What will happen first?

1. Jim Hendry will learn how to say “Izturis,” or
2. George W. Bush will learn how to pronounce the word “nuclear.”

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Okay all you Mad Dog fans

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Time to hold your breath, a little over three hours to go. Some positive mojo in the Tribune – they indicated that the Cubs brass might be reluctant to trade Greg because they envisage a role for him in the club after his playing days. Now we’re talkin’! There’s no doubt in my mind that Maddux will make a fine pitching coach and probably a good manager one day.

In other news, Houston’s owner as ordered their GM to trade Brad Lidge; ostensibly their plan is to let Dan Wheeler close. Methinks it might make sense to make a run for Lidge, I would gladly give up a Brian Dopirak or a Ryan Harvey, or a couple of Jerome Williamses and Ryan O’Malleys to get him. I’m sure some folks aren’t gonna agree with shedding Harvey or Dopirak (they’re both young) but both will have two consecutive years where they didn’t progress. I’m sorry but we don’t need any more strikeout machines, I can provide a whole list of players that were drafted after these guys that have done much better.

Update: The Cubs have traded Todd Walker for eighteen year-old Dominican reliever Jose Ceda. He is 6-4 and has 31 strikeouts in 23 IP in the Arizona Rookie League. He is a power pitcher and projects out 3-4 years if he has anything.

Rotoworld also reports that Greg Maddux has been traded to the Dodgers for Cesar Izturis. I would like to meet Jim Hendry in person so could tell him to “be fruitful and multiply.” But not in those words.

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Minor league update – West Tenn Diamond Jaxx

Monday, July 31st, 2006

This week we’ll take a brief look at the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx, the Cubs’ AA affiliate in the historic Southern League. West Tenn has traditionally been a hotbed for Cubs pitching prospects and this year is no exception – Carlos Marmol began his year in Jackson and was promoted directly to the major league franchise. Sean Marshall played all of ten games at AA West Tenn before the Cubs decided to give him a spot on the 25 man roster this year, and former Cubs Sergio Mitre and Juan Cruz also promoted directly from the Jaxx to the Cubs.

The D-Jaxx feature a dominant foursome in their starting rotation. Leading the staff is RSP Juan Mateo (2004 – free agent, pictured right.) Juan was selected by St. Louis prior to this year in the 2006 Rule 5 draft but was returned; since then Mateo has a 7-4 record and also boasts a 2.82 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP. LSP Chris Shaver (2004 – 4th round) is another tall Cubs pitching prospect, standing 6-7. Chris has a 2.64 ERA but appears to be the team’s bad luck pitcher, going 5-7 despite striking out twice as many batters as he has walked.

JR Mathes (2004 – 16th round) leads the staff in wins with an 8-5 record. He also has impressed with a 3.23 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. JR has walked 23 batters while striking out 76. Finally Cubs prospect Sean Gallagher (2004 – 12th round, pictured left) continues his upward climb to the majors. Sean has impressed at every level and was promoted from High A Daytona earlier this year after a 4-0, 2.30 start. Sean looks a lot like Rick Reuschel did – this guy needs to be kept away from deep dish pizza and Harry Caray’s when he gets to Chicago. Gallagher is currently 5-3 at West Tenn with a 3.14 ERA but must cut down on walks if he is to continue his meteoric rise.

Unfortunately Bobby Brownlie (2002 – 1st round) continues his downward descent at West Tenn, he currently is 2-8 with a 5.96 ERA after being demoted earlier in the year from Iowa. Bobby is another guy that Jim Hendry took despite having had arm surgery prior to being drafted. Best of luck to Bobby in his future endeavors, I’m sure he’s giving it his all.

The West Tenn bullpen was lead by Clay Rapada; prior to being promoted to Iowa Clay had 21 saves and an 0.82 ERA. The current stalwarts are Federico Baez (Baltimore, 2001 – free agent) who is 2-0 with a 1.79 ERA and Thomas Atlee (2002 – 19th round) who sports a 1.80 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 10 holds.

Leading the Diamond Jaxx’ offensive onslaught is speedy centerfielder Chris Walker (2002 – 6th round, pictured right.) Chris currently is batting .307 and has 35 stolen bases. Pretty soon Felix Pie is going to have competition in center field, it’s going to be hard to keep this guy down. Eric Patterson (2004 – eighth round, pictured left) is tied with Walker for the team lead in stolen bases; unlike his older brother, Eric is a slap-hitter who just wants to get to first base. E-Pat was selected as the 2005 Cubs minor league player of the year after excelling at Low A Peoria. Eric also strikes out less than 20% of his at bats – the key thing for E Pat will be to get his OBP up and the best way to do that will be to get his batting average up above the current .272. Eric appears likely to be a late 2007 callup.

Scott Moore (pictured right) is West Tenn’s power-hitting third baseman; Scott was recently named the MVP of the Southern League’s All Star game and leads West Tenn with 16 homers. Moore was acquired from Detroit along with Roberto Novoa in the Kyle Farnsworth trade and was promoted after a very good year last year at Daytona. First baseman Brian Dopirak (2003 – 2nd round) was promoted from Daytona because of connections – Brian is a graduate of Jim Hendry’s own Dunedin High School and will likely be promoted again this year to Iowa despite having just one homerun and an anemic .258 batting average. Brian missed approximately 60 games due to a foot injury after having a positive spring training in Mesa.

Jake Fox (2003 – 3rd round) was promoted to West Tenn after setting Daytona on fire with a .313 16 HR 61 RBI start. Jake, a former University of Michigan catcher has struggled offensively since being promoted to AA ball.

The Diamond Jaxx are currently 3 games behind in the Southern League’s North division. Until this year the D-Jaxx have been led by Cub roving instructor Bobby Dickinson; West Tenn’s website is unclear as to who the current manager is but it appears to be either Pat Listach or Tom Beyers.

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Sweep those redbirds!

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

The Cubs scored early and often in the sweltering heat of Wrigley Field, holding on to win 7-2 behind the strong pitching of Carlos Zambrano.

Despite playing for a second division team, Z-Man is now tied for the NL lead in victories; Zambrano walked as many as he struck out (5) and was able to pitch himself out of trouble, including a bases loaded jam. All told, the Cards stranded a total of 20 baserunners.

The Cubs’ offense was well-balanced, with no player driving in more than one run. Ronny Cedeno thrilled the crowd with a homerun into the bleachers (pictured) and went 2 for 4 on the day. Today’s win gave the Cubs a four-game sweep over the redbirds, which surely has caused an upswing in telephone calls for mental health professionals in the St. Louis area. The Cubs are now 10-3 in the season series with the Cardinals, having now taken two straight season series.

In other Cubs news, neither Sean Marshall or Derrek Lee appear anywhere near ready to return to the active roster. The Cubs might have to make a roster move to get Aardsma back up unless they can get seven innings or so out of their next two starts. After starting out very slowly for Boise, Cubs’ first round draft pick Tyler Colvin has a 12 game hitting streak going and has raised his average above .300.

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That’s as good as it will be all season

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Taking those 3 games from the Cards is the best thing that has happened in this miserable season. Regardless of what happens today, we should stop to savor the sweet taste of worming our way through 3 precarious wins against our hated red rivals. Our best chance of a 4 game sweep has come, as ace Big Z takes the hill tonight.
Looking for positives on this team is like looking for the sexy parts of Starr Jones: if they do exist at all, they’re in the eye of the beholder. All the same, here are the few kernels of corn in what is otherwise a steaming turd of a season:

1. Big Z He’s been our ace, and now he’s getting W’s to go with his marvelous pitching. 11-3, 3.27. Note to Hendry. Do what you must do to sign him to a long-term contract.
2. Our defense of Wrigley Field when the Cards come to town: 6-0 on the season! Like many dismal Bears 5-11 seasons when all you can say is “at least they beat the Packers at Soldier Field,” these are battles to remember in a disastrous war. We’re also 9-3 on the year against them!
3. Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol I expected little from these guys, but Sean’s shown some good games and is passable overall. His struggles now are an investment in the future. Marmol, too; he’s been better than expected. They’re both showing ugly K/BB ratios, but all in all they look to be servicable members of a successful rotation in the future.
4. The continuing hitting maturation of Michael Barrett His spaz attack at Pierzynski notwithstanding, Barrett’s been one of the best hitting catchers in the major leagues! I would be open to trading him; the total picture is lacking in my mind, and he’s about to get expensive. But I’ll enjoy having him on the team as long as he’s here.
5. Aramis saving his season Now sporting a .337 OBP and .528 SLG, Ramirez is an offensive force once again. I’ll say it again: TRADE HIM NOW while his value is highest. The things he doesn’t do: hustle, run, play defense (this year he’s been okay, but I think we’ve seen his best), lead, and so on, counterbalance the things he does do: make contact, hit longballs, and be 27 years old. His trade value is SUPER high; we could really rook somebody for monster prospects.
6. Murton getting on base This guy’s had his struggles this year, especially defensively, but if he can mature at the plate a little in the next year or so, this guy’s a keeper. He has a .350 OBP ‘cuz he can take a walk. Walker, Barrett, Lee, and occasionally Aramis (oh, and John Mabry) are the only guys on the team besides him who aren’t hellbent on eating up outs as quickly as they possibly can. If he can bump his SLG from .378 to .440 or so and elevates a few more ground balls and he’ll be a big contributor.
7. Cubs decide to be patient with Lee Shutting down Lee now mystified me. Not because it was the right thing to do, but that the Cubs decided to do it. Pushing your megabuck investment through a .400 season serves no purpose. If he rests the wrist now he comes back mashing next year. Kudos on a no-brainer that the no-brainers actually did right.
8. Prior’s last start So they lost. Prior was tough to hit. Maybe there’s hope. I’m not saying they should build a team around him or anything, but I’d all but given up on him until he no-hit the Mets for 100 pitches. Which, for him, means about 5 2/3 innings.
9. Howry and Eyre They’ve been good. On a contending team, they’d be extremely valuable. That part of Hendry’s plan, at least, has panned out. Trade them now; we’re not going anywhere until 2008 at the EARLIEST.

Anything I missed? Share your good memories of this season — trends, moments, games, quotes, whatever — and give us an oasis of fond reminiscence in our season-long desert of furious railing.

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And Now We Wait

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

First, I have a message for Jim Hendry. Itís from my wife. Unless you get some really really good players in return for Greg Maddux, not just a couple of prospects, you are stupid.

She really doesnít want to see him traded at all. You see, she watched the 4-2 victory over the Cardinals this afternoon. She has seen several of his victories. She saw most of the April wins when no one could touch the professor. Todayís gem was # 327 in his HOF career. Funny, before today, 327 was just the name of a road that ran near my high school. Now it means more, so much more.

Great, now the game. The first 2 Ω innings or so were absolutely weird, I thought Rod Serling was going to make a cameo appearance in the booth (I wrote that line before I saw Joe’s graphic below.) Michael Barrett gets picked off second by the Cardinal catcher, Molina to end the first.

But the fun all happened in the bottom of the second. With runners on first and second and one out, Ronny Cedeno blooped a single to left. John Mabry was held up at third until he realized that Angel Pagan wasnít looking and kept on coming to third. At this point every Cub fan thought this was another disaster unfolding with two runners at third base. But Scott Rolen was focused on the ball coming in from right field, not the runners. Mabry scampered in for the score and Pagan made it to third.

Cardinals rookie starter Anthony Reyes then appeared to pick off Cedeno, who got caught in a rundown between first and second. OK we lucked out on the Mabry play we will definitely screw it up here, right? Wrong! Pagan broke for home and David Eckstein’s throw to the plate was late. The Cubs were credited with a double steal and stole home for the first time since Ricky Gutierrez did it Aug. 10, 2001, against the Giants.

The Cubs took the lead 2-1 and never relinquished it, tho the Cards threatened in the 9th, loading the bases against Ryan Dempster, who surrendered but one run and finally got Aaron Miles for the third out to seal his 20th save in 25 tries in 2006. He is now 3 for 3 since getting yanked by Dusty Tuesday night in New York.

Two more rather strange plays. The Cubs caught a break at the top of the third when Jacque Jones made a diving catch to rob Pujols of a hit and it turned into a double play when the Cubs appealed that So Taguchi didn’t retouch second base when trying to get back to first. The expression on Taguchiís face was absolutely priceless.

The last point about the strangeness of the game came at the plate when Cedeno was thrown out after he collided with r Molina in the second inning. The ball came loose but Cedeno wasn’t able to get back up and touch the base. Had he run on the inside of the baseline he might have been able to score but in the end it didnít matter.

This was Greg Madduxí day to shine and receive a rousing ovation from the crowd at Wrigley which swelled to over 41,000 in the sweltering heat. Everyone felt this could be the second swan song for the Professor.

Nine wins. Not too shabby if you ask me. Not on this club, this year. That is nine more than Prior, eight more than Wood. In fact he has the second most wins on this staff, second only to Cy Young contender Carlos Zambrano.

Wherever he ends up, they become my favorite team to win it all this year.

Oh God, please anybody but the Yankees or Cardinals.

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You have now entered…

Friday, July 28th, 2006

The Cubs won again today despite every part of them trying to give the lead away. They are no undefeated against the red birds at Wrigley this year. Could they really get another sweep of these guys? Who are these Cubs? Where did they come from? Why couldn’t they have arrived sooner?

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A heart attack a minute

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Tonight the Cubs were down to just Scott Eyre in the bullpen as Ryan Dempster came in to close in the ninth. The rest of the bullpen had been used up in the first eight innings as the Cubs play twenty games in a row without a day off; tonight however the Cubbies were able to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a come from behind victory over the Cards.

Todd Walker and Michael Barrett had back to back jacks in the first inning to give Rich Hill a brief lead but the Cards came roaring back with four unanswered runs. Hill was pulled in the fourth inning after loading the bases with one out – Michael Wuertz came in and shut the door to get the Cubs out of the inning. The Cubs were able to come back and take the lead, thanks to a timely E5 by Rolen with the bases juiced.

Then the drama came in the ninth. Dempster got hit hard, even on the outs. Cedeno made a great play on a ball hit deep in the hole and would have thrown the ball into the St. Louis bullpen were it not for a fine dig by Neifi Perez at second. Perez also made another fine play to nail down the victory, giving the Cubs their third win in four days. Dusty, however will have to make more judicious use of his bullpen pitchers than he did tonight.

Speaking of Dusty, Jim Hendry announced that Baker will finish out the year as Cubs manager. No surprise there, he’s been saying that all year long. Jim Hendry is a “stay the course” man and I won’t be a bit surprised if the Cubs go into next year with Mark Prior and Wade Miller as two of the five Cubs’ starters. I think it’s likely that Dusty will be back with a one-year contract but at this stage it’s only a guess.

Joe’s Take – I disagree about Dusty. I have a feeling that he will not be retained. Jim Hendry is smart enough to know that Cub fans do not want him back. He’ll appease both sides in this one. By letting Dusty finish, he doesn’t stab him in the back after giving him a vote of confidence all year. Then, by not bringing him back, he satifies the fan’s request.

Update – I hope you’re right Joe, I admit that my opinion is based upon mistrust and the fact that Hendry does what he wants to do and to heck with what the rest of Cubdom thinks. In unrelated news, Carrie Muscat reports that Greg Maddux now has a no trade clause – did I miss something? My understanding is that Maddux has a gentleman’s agreement, not a no trade clause.

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Another regurgitation special

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

As I’ve said before, good managers find a way to swing ten crucial games, bad managers find a way to lose ten. My question to Cubs fans is this: Why in the Sam Hill is Glendon Rusch being used in a crucial situation when the game is on the line? That having been said, why did we not have anybody up in the tenth after Rusch put men on second and third? Each day the Cubs manager shows us new levels of personal incompetence.

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