Archive for September, 2006

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Saturday, September 9th, 2006

I wasn’t able to see tonight’s game due to blackout restrictions so I’m curious as to what you readers saw tonight…

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Blacked out

Friday, September 8th, 2006

I didn’t get to see tonight’s game because of major league blackout restrictions; living in Nashville, TN I cannot view certain Atlanta games or Cincinnati games. Let it suffice to say that I hope some of the regular readers will post comments and fill us unfortunates in as to what happened in tonight’s Cubs game.

Having been blacked out I decided to catch some of the action around the league and I settled in on the Dodgers/Mets game for a spell. The Mets are generally a sore subject for me – I witnessed 1969 firsthand as a sixth grader and later saw some good Mets teams with Doc Gooden, Strawberry and Keith Hernandez. So tonight I decided to compare and contrast the evolution of their team with ours. The Mets are sort of a bastardized version of their predecessors, the Brooklyn Dodgers. There were a lot of wounded Dodgers fans when Dem Bums pulled up stakes and moved to sunny California and they sure weren’t going to become Yankees fans. Likewise with old Giants fans.

The Mets started with nothing and earned their first championship in their eighth year; since then they’ve been to the World Series twice, winning it again in 1999. They’ve done it by getting good players (Seaver, Nolan Ryan, Gary Carter, Ron Darling, Howard Johnson, David Cone, Robin Ventura, Mike Piazza, John Olerud, Ricky Henderson, Bobby Bonilla, Orel Herschiser, Al Leiter and John Franco to name a few.) They’ve also had some solid baseball guys like Frank Cashen, Casey Stengel, Joe Torre, Dallas Green, Davey Johnson and Bobby Valentine to take the helm.

Have we had that dearth of talent or management to project with? Probably not – we haven’t drafted as well, we haven’t spent as well and we haven’t traded as well. Should we blame the Cubs players for that? Of course not. When I look at the 2006 Mets and compare them with the 2006 Cubs it apears as though the talent disparity still exists today. Head to head the Mets appear to have better players at five positions (SS, 2B, LF, CF and RF,) 3B appears to be a dead heat and I’d give the Cubs an advantage at 1B. In the starting rotation you have to give the Mets a decided advantage, they’re equal in the bullpen and the Mets have a decided advantage at closer.

So we keep trucking along, making minor changes and the Mets have seen their shortcomings and have made major moves that will get them in post season play once again. The net/net on all of this is that we have to turn the ship to a different course. Sure, we need different officers to run the ship, but we need a better crew too. We should replace the Cesar Izturis’s with Derek Jeters, the Matt Murtons with Carlos Lees, the Todd Walkers/Neifis with Chase Utleys, etc. We can’t do it at every position but we must at least try to make this team better. Instead of just one or two stars (Lee and Ramirez) we need four or five. The guys we have are trying awful hard, they’re just not good enough.

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Cubs regain the cellar

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Today’s game could best be described as a “must lose” game and the North Siders made it happen, blowing a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning and going down in flames 7-5 in sparsely-attended Wrigley Field. Shawn Marshall got roughed up a bit but it was a non-error by Freddie Bynum that lead to the Pirates’ first onslaught. Had Bynum turned the double play two runs would not have plated later in the inning. Later on the Cubs again gave up a run when another double play wasn’t turned. Thusfar Freddy Bynum reminds me a lot of Neifi at the plate and Todd Walker with the glove.

The histrionics came in the ninth when Eyre gave up the winning run and Dusty did what any smart manager would do – he went to the one guy in the pen that’s been getting roughed up the most in recent games. The game was already lost, nonetheless Dusty’s continued practice of going to shell-shocked relievers in close games can only be described as intellectual onanism. What is this guy thinking, doesn’t he watch these games? I could care less if Ryan Dempster “believes in himself” and Dusty’s adamant insistence on putting Ryan in close games just shows how far detached from reality he has become.

Chris Duffy went four for four as the Pirates completed the season series, winning 9 out of 15 matchups, they clearly outclassed the Cubs in the last two series. The Chicagoans travel on next to Atlanta, where tomorrow they begin a four game series against a Braves team that will not make the playoffs for the first time in fifteen years.

Update: Today’s announced attendance of 27,105 was the lowest in four years, Cubs fans are voting with their dollars and that is something that the decision-makers will understand. Perhaps next year the Tribune will cut the payroll accordingly, but I think that they are smart enough executives to figure out why it is that the fans aren’t coming out to the ballpark.

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Hill deals and Lee has a birthday bash

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

Tonight’s baseball headlines belong to a young pitcher that the Marlins got in their most recent fire sale; Anibal Sanchez threw a no-no as the Florida Marlins improved to one game above .500. The Marlins’ playoff chances are very much alive.

Meanwhile, the Battle for the Basement was fought in the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field. The Cubs’ offense was again anemic until the eighth, when the Cubs loaded the bases and Derrek Lee provided the fireworks on his birth date, launching a grandslam into the left field bleachers to give the Cubs a 5-2 lead. Two additional runs put the game further out of reach and the Cubs bested the Bucs 7-2.

Rich Hill dominated yet again, making his fifth quality start in his last six outings. Hill has a 2.49 ERA during that stretch; six of the eleven earned runs he’s given up during those ballgames came in the not so friendly confines of Coors Field. When you factor out the Coors start Hill has been brilliant, pitching at a 1.61 ERA. During his last six games, Hill has walked 13 and struck out 36; his Achille’s heel has been the five homeruns he’s allowed.

Rich pitched for the Cape Cod League Chatham A’s (second picture) as a youngster, where he competed with another young Cub Matt Murton. Rich pitched in college for the Michigan Wolverines (third photo) along with Cubs AA prospect Jake Fox. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2002 draft and began to put up prodigious numbers at High A Daytona last year (last picture) and was promoted to AA West Tenn, where he began this year. Hill struck out 90 batters in 57 2/3 for West Tenn before being promoted to AAA Iowa, where he went 6-1 with a 1.80 ERA.

One note of caution – tonight’s performance puts Rich above the 240 innings pitched mark including his minor league innings. The Indians are shutting down young starter Jeremy Sowers at 233 innings (plus his next start) to keep him from throwing too many innings; the Cubs should do the same with Hill (but they won’t.) Rich received a no decision tonight but more importantly the Cubs temporarily climbed out of last place, ceding that honor back to the Pirates.

Correction: Hill has pitched 175 2/3, the innings I counted for West Tenn and Peoria were from 2005. Hill spent the entire season minor league-wise at Iowa.

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What Do You Think of This?

Wednesday, September 6th, 2006

To me, this seems to be a cheesy way to get a record. What do you think?

ALLIANCE, Neb. — Talk about extra innings.

A baseball game that began at 10 a.m. on Saturday in Alliance ended Sunday at 4:05 p.m. That’s 30 hours and five minutes between the first pitch and the final out. Game organizers are counting on the contest being long enough to break a world record.

Forty players, ranging in age from 18 to 44, rotated in and out of the 84-inning game in hopes of setting a new Guinness World Record for the longest baseball game.

The record stands at 25 hours, set in Canada nearly three years ago.

Alliance organizers tried for a record last year, but their 24-hour, 16-minute game fell short of the record by 44 minutes.

Far from a pitcher’s duel, this year’s game was won by the Alliance Times-Herald Dragons, which beat the WESTCO Knights, by a score of 120 to 114.

~ The Associated Press
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Cubs grab sole possession of last place

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

I’ve been watching Cubs games since the fall of 1968; I’ve been through some lean years and I’ve also had some reason for hope. Tonight the 2006 Cubs lost their fifth straight to the Pirates and, in doing so seized last place from the Pittsburghers. Dusty Baker again showed why it is that he should NOT be tendered another season as the Cubs’ manager, he just had to go to Dempster despite the fact that Ryan continues to pitch inconsistently. It was one of my real low points as a Cubs fan seeing them sink this low.

It just amazes me that a team can spend ninety-five million dollars and be one of the three worst teams in baseball; you have to be really incompetent to pull that one off. Think about it for a minute – any one of us could have saved the Tribune millions of dollars by taking over the jobs of president, GM or manager (pictured at right) and the team would have accomplished much more!

I’ve read that the Tribune owes Hendry $3 million for his contract extension, it cost them a lot more to walk away from Sammy’s contract. And it will cost them a lot more than three million if the Cubs continue to put 31,000 fans in the seats like they did tonight. My hope is that the Trib will come to it’s senses and make moves before the fans make theirs.

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Iowa Cubs finish strong

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

The AAA Cubs finished their season last night, defeating Omaha 4-3 behind Eric Patterson’s two-run homerun. Patterson also tripled in the game and finished at .358 for the I-Cubs after having been called up from AA West Tenn last month. The Des Moinesers won their last four straight and caught up with the first place Nashville Sounds, finishing at 76-68. However, the Brewers’ AAA affiliate won the American North Division and the playoff trip due to a tie-breaker, having bested Iowa 9-7 in the season series.

I tip my hat to Iowa manager Mike Quade (pictured at right.) Quade has a rock solid resume as a minor league manager and merits consideration for the Chicago managerial spot in 2007. During the 2006 season the I-Cubs sent a lot of their best players to the majors and managed to win despite the callups. The AAA Cubs were sixth-best in the PCL with a 3.92 ERA and their defense was fourth-best, committing only 108 errors. Quade is a hands-on guy and he’s good at development, something that the major league Cubs are sorely lacking.

Probably the best I-Cub this year was Rich Hill (pictured.) Rich has recently started to show the promise that many of us saw when we saw his minor league numbers. Recently he’s started to throw a second kind of breaking ball; his curve is offspeed, has a hump and the break is measured in feet. The new one is slider speed and falls off the table right before the plate. This year at Iowa Rich compiled a 7-1 record with a 1.80 ERA. In 100 innings pitched he struck out 135 and walked 21.

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When is it too much?

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Here is a simple question. At what point does this team officially have too many freak injuries to pitchers? I’m tired of it. it makes me question our training methods and the people implementing them. What are your thoughts?

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Cubs complete Nevin trade, say goodbye to Jerome Williams

Tuesday, September 5th, 2006

Today the Cubs announced the player to be named later in the Phil Nevin trade, they received RHP Adam Harben from the Minnesota Twins. What perplexes me in this move is that there is no consistent injury pattern; Harben appears to have been healthy in the last three seasons, throwing 142, 135 and 127 innings including this year. He is 6-5, 220# and originally hails from Little Rock, AR (Razorback!) Prior to his recent callup, he was a starter for the New Britian Rock Cats, the Twins’ AA affiliate in the Eastern League.

Adam has averaged a 1.30 WHIP and has a 3.23 ERA to go along with a 23-19 career record in the minors. He’s had 394 strikeouts in over 390 innings pitched but he’s also walked a lot of batters at 173. The 23 year-old righthander was well thought of, according to the Twins’ blog “Til You’re Blue in the Face.” Here’s some of what they had to say about him:

“Harben is a nice surprise for the Twins. They didn’t expect much when they drafted him out of a JuCo. He’s developed into a real prospect. His stuff has become pretty filthy, with a mid 90’s fastball with a slider and change complimenting it. He’s put up excellent strikeout rates everywhere he’s gone. He doesn’t allow many hits. And he’s done a very nice job of keeping the ball in the park. However, as I’ve said with probably 75 pitchers before him, this guy needs to improve his command and control…All reports indicate that he’s a good athlete and his mechanics look good. He just needs to figure out how to put the ball in the zone. If he does that, then he stands a good chance of riding the express elevator to one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.”

In order to make room for Harben the Cubs waived Jerome Williams, who was promptly claimed by Oakland. Williams was pretty much a bust for both the Chicago and Iowa Cubs, he impressed me more with his ability to throw gloves and batting helmets than he did with his ability to throw winning ballgames. His stuff is only so-so and Jerome compiled a 5-7 record and a 4.76 ERA this year for the I-Cubs. What did Hendry and Dusty see in this guy anyway? He throws marshmallows.

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