Archive for August, 2007

Game 121 – Rich Hill Has Returned?

Friday, August 17th, 2007


August 17th, 2007

Teams

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
St. Louis 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0   1 4 0
Chicago 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 X   2 4 0
W – R. Hill (7-7)  L  - B. Looper (10-10) S – R. Dempster (18)
Homeruns: A. Pujols (26) J. Jones (5)

Box Score


(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
Big Z Gets Paid!!!

Today was a game that I mentioned in the preview as one that would help the Cubs to begin to knock the Cardinals out of the race. They’ve been playing extremely well over the past few days, sweeping the Brewers and have had me a little nervous. We got a great performance from the pitching staff and just enough offense courtesy of Jacque Jones to get a win to start the series. Let’s get into some specifics.

New Features
Over the past few days, I’ve added a couple new things to the site. The main two that I’d like to mention are the standings on the side and the red words you’ll see from time to time in my posts. The standings widget is auto-updating at the completion of each game using the MLB.com standings page. It saves me a ton of effort and really makes the page more of a one stop shop. We’ve also added the ability to toggle it between each of the six divisions. Unfortunately, no wild card standings are available as of yet, but just know I’m working on it. As far as the red words, this is just a friendly helpful tool for you when I use words or stats that you may not be familiar with. When that’s the case, I’ll use red text. Anytime you see red text, mouse over it and a bubble should appear explaining or defining the term.

Shhhh, I’m taping the game
One of my biggest pet peeves as a sports fan comes when I am not able to watch a game live and have to set the TiVo for it. When I lived in Chicago, it was incredibly hard to go about the day and not hear something about the particular game being recorded because it’s on the radio, the TV and in the conversations of most around you. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve found it a lot more DVR friendly because most around here only care about the ACC and generally don’t follow baseball. With today being my first day back to work since summer break ended, I had no idea Zambrano had signed his extension or what the score was in the game when I called Matt. When he picked up the phone, I asked him if he could take care of the recap for Saturday, which he couldn’t, and then made some small talk. I mentioned that I was on my way home to watch the game and that I was recording it on TiVo. No more than a minute later, I was informed by Matt that the score was 0-0 and there were only a few hits in the game. Now, I don’t mean to pick on Matt. My frustration comes in the fact that this always seems to happen to me and it drives me insane. Once I was car shopping with my wife in the middle of Asheville, NC and some guy comes up to me out of nowhere, sees my Cub hat and proceeds to tell me they lost. Longtime friend and designer of the VFTB website, Andy Rut, posted something very similar on his blog awhile back. He even came up with a T-Shirt design.

Zambrano Gets Paid
This was a move that had to get done. My question to you as the reader and a fan of the team is this. Would you rather have Zambrano locked up long term beginning next year OR have a down year without Zambrano next season and then make a hard and fast run at Johan Santana for 2009? It’s a tough question and one I’m not sure where I stand on.

Our Manager is better than your manager
This series pits my two favorite managers against each other. It got me thinking about the fact this series features probably two of the five best managers in the game today. My list, with order not being important is:

  • Lou Piniella
  • Tony LaRussa
  • Jim Leyland
  • Bobby Cox
  • Ron Gardenhire

    I know I didn’t mention Joe Torre. I did it on purpose. He’s going to be in the hall of fame someday, but I think Gardenhire has done a better job with the talent he’s been given over the long haul. Torre has always had a virtual all-star lineup at his disposal with the Yankees. With Atlanta, his record was .529. With the Mets he was just .405, and with the Cardinals just .498. Sure it takes a lot to manage egos, but it takes more in my book to manage the Twins to consistently good play.

    I heart Jacque Jones
    I’m running out of ways to serve up crow for people to eat about him. He was a huge part of this win today and continues to be one of the best hitters in this lineup since the all star game. Today he hit the game winning homerun in the 6th to center and made a tremendous catch to save a run as he sprinted straight back and then bang into the brick wall. Hats off to ya, Jacque!!

    Rich Hill says “Please Score For Me!!!”
    Unfortunately the Cubs didn’t answer the plea. Rich Hill continues to be the least supported starter in all of baseball, coming into the game with an average run support of 2.91 in games he starts. The Cubs have now scored three or less in those starts 18 times. That’s just wrong. You have to wonder what his record would be if he just got more behind him. Baseball is funny like that sometimes. Someone always just seems to be the hard luck pitcher on the staff. This year it’s Rich. He pitched well enough to get his 7th win today, despite being squeezed multiple times on his curveball early and his fastball late.

    Diving back into the rule book
    Today the rule book came into play again when Jason Kendall was impeded from throwing to second base to get Albert Pujols. Kendall’s hand slammed into Rolen’s shoulder on the strikeout and the throw went wide of second. Pujols was then declared out due to interference by the batter for the third out of the inning. Later in the game, a similar play happened when Molina tried to make a throw after Derrek Lee swung and missed. No interference was called on the play. Let’s take a look at why that was the case.

    Rule 7.09d – It is interference by a batter or a runner when any batter or runner who has just been put out hinders or impedes any following play being made on a runner. Such runner shall be declared out for the interference of his teammate.

    Because Lee did not really impede Molina’s throw, seeing as it beat the runner to the base, no interference was called. LaRussa argued, but was denied.


    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Rich Hill (28.4%)
  • Second Star – Jacque Jones (25.9%)
  • Third Star – Ryan Dempster (16.8%)
  • Turd of the Game – Juan Encarnacion (-15.3%)
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  • Game 121 – Preview

    Friday, August 17th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Braden Looper – Looper’s coming off a strange start where he get very few groundouts but still pitched deep into the game and got a win. He won’t be able to pull that often, though. The right-hander needs to get the ball on the ground to be effective. He’s turned in two excellent starts against the Cubs this year, which is definitely encouraging going into a critical four-game series.

    Rich Hill – Hill pitched well through his first five innings in Colorado on Saturday, limiting the Rockies to two runs on six hits. But he became rattled in the sixth, loaded the bases and yielded a grand slam to Jamey Carroll — only his second homer of the season. Hill said he executed well but just made the one mistake to Carroll.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information.

    What To Watch For – It’s incredibly important for the Cubs to get off on the right foot and knock the Cardinals off their pedestal right now. They think they’re in the race and it’s time to end those thoughts.

    News and Notes

  • The Peoria Chiefs in conjunction with the Chicago Cubs announced that 2007 draftees Ty Wright and Marquez Smith will join the team in Cedar Rapids while Clark Hardman has been sent to Mesa.

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 4, Omaha 6
  • AA – Tennessee 5, Chattanooga 2
  • High-A – Daytona 6, St. Lucie 13
  • A – Peoria 1, Cedar Rapids 11
  • Short Season – Boise – No Game
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs – No Game
  • Dominican Summer League – Cubs 9, Giants 2

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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  • Big Z Resigns

    Friday, August 17th, 2007

    Breaking news: Carlos Zambrano has resigned with the Cubs.

    Story from the Chicago Tribune.

    I’m sure Joe will touch on this in his pre-game, or post game recap.

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    D*mn Yankees & Cards

    Friday, August 17th, 2007

    Once again the Yankees prove their offense is just too good. They have done what they had to do to get back into the American League playoff race by leading the Major Leagues in wins since the All-Star break with a 20-8 record. The Yankees find themselves closing in on the American League Wild Card, but the real test is about to begin. Seventeen of the Yankees’ next 20 games come against the Indians, Tigers, Red Sox and Angels — all teams that are in the thick of the playoff hunt. As much as I truly dislike most things Yankees, never count that team out.

    Closer to home, the dreaded Cardinals will make their way into Wrigley this weekend and certainly have a buzz about them. Just 10 days ago, St. Louis was eight games behind Milwaukee. The Cardinals have won four straight to match a season high, batting .376 while scoring 38 runs, and now seek their longest winning streak since a six-game run in July of last season. In the middle of the heated battles of first place between the Cubs and Brewers, the Cards were forgotten about. Although I am curious to know, the Cards surge has taken place through playing .500 baseball. Are they that good or are the Cubs and Brewers just that bad right now? I hate the term must win baseball because it is over-hyped and overused, but this weekend the Cubs should be playing must win baseball.

    Rick Ankiel
    Speaking of the Cards making there way to Wrigley Field, the feel good story of the month has to be Rick Ankiel. Ten years after being drafted, seven years after winning 11 games as a too-young-to-drink rookie lefthander and six years after virtually vanishing from the Major Leagues, Ankiel is close to accomplishing feat of moving from a major-league starting rotation to outfield Babe Ruth Style. Ankiel completed his comeback in dramatic fashion when he homered in his first game back last week. St. Louis Cardinal or not, as a baseball fan, this is a good story and he will be fun to watch.

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    Game 120 – Must Win = Win

    Thursday, August 16th, 2007


    August 16th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Cincinnati 0 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0   4 9 1
    Chicago 4 0 0 1 0 0 7 0 X   12 20 0
    W – J. Marquis (10-7)  L  - B. Livingston (3-3) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Dunn (32)

    Box Score

    I labeled today a “must win” and the Cubs did just that. We’re 0.5 games out and it’s time to make a statement with the Cardinals coming to town. We usually play well against them, but this time it’s essential.

    Jason Marquis
    We needed a great start today and I’m not quite sure if we got it or not. On one hand, you can look at the box score and say that Marquis did not have a good outing and almost deserved a loss. On the other hand, there are some things that a box score doesn’t show you, like what happened inning by inning. Marquis had a really good first inning and then saw the wheels fall off in the second as he coughed up the lead the Cubs built for him in the first. After that bad inning, I was worried that this was going to be the end of a very bad sweep, but Marquis came back the next four innings and didn’t allow a run. He left with the lead in the seventh after giving up a leadoff single. Scott Eyre came in to face an ugly part of the Reds order in Griffey, Phillips and Dunn. Griffey lined out to right and Eyre got Phillips to end the inning on a strike-em-out / throw-em-out double play without having to face Adam Dunn. This makes two above average starts in a row for Marquis, including one in Colorado. I’m not saying he’s the answer for the 3rd starter, but it’s encouraging to see back to back outings where he gets 6+ innings under his belt. He also picked up his 10th win and who really thought that would happen with more than a month left to play?

    Get your foot off my throat please!!!
    The Reds politely asked the Cubs to do just that and for once in this series, the Cubs declined the invitation. They erupted in the 7th inning with a huge scoring outburst of 7 runs as if to give the Reds the finger for beating them in the first two games of the series. Perhaps the offense just got sick of the pitching giving the lead back and decided to do so much scoring that it would be virtually impossible to give the lead back. The craziest thing about the scoring today was the fact that Derrek Lee was a stunning 0-5 in the heart of the order.

    Jacque Jones
    I can’t say enough about how thankful I am that Jacque is still on this team. I wasn’t one that called for his head early last year or this year. I’ve been happy he’s here since the day Hendry signed him. Was it a contract that cost a little too much and was a little too long? Sure, you could argue that, but when you look at the numbers on the whole, Jacque Jones has been exactly the player we could have been expecting when he was brought in. Sometimes I think that people confuse him with Torii Hunter. He’s not that player. His numbers last year were right with his career averages and this year, he’s see his average steadily increase since the all-star break. In the second half of this year, Jones was hitting .343 / .404 / .500 coming into this game. That kind of production is invaluable to this team, especially with Cliff Floyd dealing not only with injuries, but with the sickness and eventual death of his father. Jones has been a bright spot as a lefty in this lineup down the stretch. It’s funny how all the haters seem to have gone into hibernation now that he’s been so hot.

    1-2 Punch
    Ryan Theriot and Mark DeRosa provided a great spark at the top of the order today. DeRosa had five hits and Theriot continues to make his case as to why he should be the Cubs permanent choice for leadoff man down the stretch, even when Alfonso Soriano returns. He makes a strong case in my book, and I would keep him there if I were Lou. He provides the speed at the top that Soriano will be lacking a little when he returns from his quad injury, and strikes out so much less. Coming into today’s game, Ryan Theriot had a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.08, which means he strikes out just 1.08 times for every time he walks. Alfonso Soriano on the other hand has a K/BB ratio of 3.96.

    In addition to the on base ability and contact ability of Theriot, he has a much better ability to lay down a bunt and make something happen with his speed. You’d love your leadoff hitter to be able to get on base with the bunt and Theriot has that ability. As he continues to learn how to be a leadoff hitter, you’d have to imagine that his bunting ability will only improve. When you’re a feared bunter, it forces the corner infielders to respect that ability and play in a few steps. When that’s the case, it shortens their reaction time on a ball hit toward them in turn decreases not only their range, but also the likelihood that they’re going to make a play on the baseball.

    Bush League Baserunning
    I harped on Griffey in the first game of the series for his baserunning and was shouted down. Today, he showed me that his baserunning skills have either deteriorated or were never present to begin with. This series, he’s made three terrible baserunning plays that have hurt his team.

    Trying to stretch a double into a triple – He was thrown out at third by more than 20 feet on this play, and I can’t for the life of me figure out why he even thought he might have a slight chance at even thinking about third, let alone trying for it. If the play is behind you, it’s your responsibility to pick up your third base coach as you’re nearing second base to pick up the run or hold sign. Griffey either didn’t pick it up or simply ignored it. I am leaning toward the former.

    Caught in a rundown in an “attempt” to allow the runner at third to score – When I harped on this one, I was told that I was wrong and that Griffey was doing the right thing. I agree, IF that was what he was in fact doing. After today’s SNAFU, I’m not sure it was on purpose. I’m beginning to think Griffey got caught up in that rundown because he was not paying attention the play going on in front of him.

    Caught off first base trying to go to second with a runner holding (today) – This was Griffey’s mess up on the basepaths for today. After launching an apparent double off the wall in the 2nd, Griffey proceeded to watch the ball the entire way as he rounded the first base bag and headed to second. Fortunately for the Cubs and Marquis, the runner at second was not advancing and Griffey realized it after he was two-thirds of the way there. He was easily tossed out and tagged by Lee at first on his retreat.

    I’m not trying to bust on Ken Griffey. He’s one of my favorite players of all time. All I’m doing is pointing out what I see in the game. If Griffey doesn’t want to be called out by not only me, but bloggers and writers around the internet, he should start paying attention on the bases. On a positive note, he had a heck of a day at the plate.

    Diving into the rulebook
    I learned something new today. I hadn’t realized that when a batted ball hits a runner, even if it occurs with two outs in the inning, the batter is credited with a hit. It’s a combination of two different rules. I knew that the runner was called out, but I didn’t know the batter was given a hit. It came up today when Ramirez hit a grounder that Mark DeRosa tried to hurdle over on his way to third. He was struck by the ball and called out to end the inning. Ramirez was credited with a single in the box score.

    Rule 10.05a – The official scorer shall credit a batter with a base hit when a fair ball that has not been touched by a fielder touches a runner or an umpire…

    Rule 7.07f – Any runner is out when he is touched by a fair ball in fair territory before the ball has touched or passed an infielder. The ball is dead and no runner may score, nor runners advance, except runners forced to advance. EXCEPTION: If a runner is touching his base when touched by an Infield Fly, he is not out, although the batter is out

    Misc. Notes

  • Ken Griffey put a Major League sized divot in the grass on a diving play in the 4th inning on a ball hit by Marquis. He politely replaced it and patted it down with his spikes, but I don’t remember seeing him use the sand in the hole. Perhaps this how to video will help him.
  • Have you ever noticed that when they show the Bud Light Fan Cam in the late innings, the camera men tend to show about 80-90% females, the majority of which are good looking? I wonder if this is designed to carry on the tradition of Harry Caray commenting on girls in the stands and even in the booth. Len and Bob never bite.
  • My 19 mo. old loved the Take Me Out To the Ballgame rendition by Peter Cetera. He was swaying from side to side and clapping his hands. All he needed was a lighter to hold up and it would have been a full blown rock concert in his mind.
  • In the 7th inning, Mike Fontenot came in as a pinch hitter. With the huge inning, Fontenot came around for a 2nd at bat in the inning. Len Kasper pointed it out and I’m glad he did because it came to my mind as I was keeping score. At that point, Mike Fontenot was nothing. He wasn’t a fielder or a pinch hitter. Next to his name in the position column was a blank. A player is only a pinch hitter the first time they hit in an inning. At that point, usually the inning ends and they are either removed from the game for another pitcher or take the field and are then given a position in the scorebook.
  • Carmen Pignatiello’s outing today was his Major League debut meaning that the Cubs have seen 11 rookies appear this season. The Cubs currently have 12 of the 25 guys on the roster with less than three years of ML experience.

    STARS OF THE GAME – All based on WPA

  • First Star – Mark DeRosa (16.7%)
  • Second Star – Ryan Theriot (12.3%)
  • Third Star – Jacque Jones (11.3%)
  • Turd of the Game – Bobby Livingston (-20.7%)
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  • Game 120 – Preview

    Thursday, August 16th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Bobby Livingston – Livingston pitched a gem on Saturday against San Diego, yielding just three earned runs on four hits in a career-best 8 1/3 innings pitched. He had two strikeouts and did not walk a batter. Through the first six innings, Livingston allowed one hit and faced the minimum number of batters. The runs he allowed came on two home runs by the Padres’ Brian Giles.

    Jason Marquis – Marquis had his sinker working on Friday in Colorado, giving up one run, which was unearned, forcing 11 groundouts and striking out five in 6 2/3 innings. Marquis had good control — walking none — until the seventh inning, when he hit Jeff Baker in the head with a pitch he tried to go down and away with.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information.

    What to watch for: I had mentioned that I was going to talk about last night, but I’ve decided to let it roll off my back because I’m confident we’ll win today. Today is a must win game. I don’t like to use that term, but it really is. Can the Cubs really afford to get swept by the Reds and see the Cardinals pick up another game before coming into Wrigley? That could be disastrous. We need to get out ahead early and have Jason Marquis bring a solid start to the mix. Let’s knock this kid out of the game and see what we can do with the Reds bullpen after the pitched a good amount yesterday.

    Today’s Lineups

    Cincinnati Chicago
    J. Hamilton – CF R. Theriot – SS
    J. Keppinger – SS M. DeRosa – 2B
    K. Griffey Jr – RF D. Lee – 1B
    B. Phillips – 2B A. Ramirez – 3B
    A. Dunn – LF J. Fox – RF
    S. Hatteberg – 1B M. Murton – LF
    J. Valentin – C J. Jones – CF
    E. Encarnacion – 3B K. Hill – C
    B. Livingston – P J. Marquis – P

    News and Notes

  • Cubs wives will prepare and serve dinner tonight at the Lincoln Park Community Shelter. Scheduled to attend: Christina Lee, Debbie Marquis, Caitlin McClellan (Rich Hill) and Megan Arnold (Michael Wuertz). It’s always nice to see the team and their wives (girlfriends?) do great things in the community.
  • Jason Kendall is now hitting .311 since coming to the Cubs from Oakland in 22 games of work.

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 6, Omaha 3
  • AA – Tennessee 14, Chattanooga 6
  • High-A – Daytona 9, St. Lucie 10
  • A – Peoria – No Game
  • Short Season – Boise 15, Yakima 11
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs 2, Brewers 7
  • Dominican Summer League – Cubs 10, Yankees 6

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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  • First Round Pick Josh Vitters Signs!!!!

    Thursday, August 16th, 2007

    This comes from the Cubs Media Department:

    CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today announced that the club has agreed to terms with the third selection of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Vitters, who turns 18 on August 27, graduated from Cypress (Calif.) High School this past June.

    The top-ranked position player out of high school by Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus, Vitters was named the Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year for California in 2007. In his senior season, Vitters batted .390 with nine homers and 29 RBI in 24 games with Cypress, boasting an .890 slugging percentage.

    Among all draft-eligible high school players, Baseball America selected Vitters as the best pure hitter in the 2007 Draft and also rated him as the second-best power hitter and owner of the second-best strike-zone judgment. Among all high school pitchers and position players nationwide, Baseball America listed Vitters as the player closest to playing in the major leagues.

    As a junior in 2006, Vitters batted .352 with nine homers and 32 RBI, and was a 2006 Aflac All-American and a First-Team All-State selection. Last summer, Vitters was named the Most Valuable Player of the Baseball Express Cape Cod High School Classic held in Wareham, Mass.

    His older brother, Christian, was drafted by Oakland in the 10th round of last year’s draft and currently plays for the Single-A Kane County Cougars.

    Overall, Chicago has signed 33 of its 50 picks from the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, including 19 of its first 20 and 23 of its first 25 picks.

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    Game 119 – Nothing to Say

    Thursday, August 16th, 2007


    August 15th, 2007

    Teams

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Cincinnati 0 2 4 0 0 3 0 2 0   11 12 0
    Chicago 0 3 3 1 2 0 0 0 0   9 11 0
    W – B. Bray (1-1)  L  - B. Howry (5-7) S – D. Weathers (24)
    Homeruns: J. Kendall (3) A. Ramirez (18) A. Dunn (31) J. Conine (6) R. Jorgenson (1) J. Hamilton (15)

    Box Score

    I’ll be honest with you. Not only did I fall asleep with the Cubs leading the game 9-6, but I woke up expecting to see that we had won. We’ve not gotten beat with our ace on the mound and with our number two on the mound. This all comes at the hands of a team below us in the standings. It’s unacceptable. Milwaukee lost again and now it’s suddenly looking like of our sorry teams are going to be watching the Cardinals in October. I’m sick of this garbage. It’s time to start winning and it needs to start now.

    I’ll have more thoughts once I have some time to put them together in the game preview. For now, just let this picture offer you some fright for the morning:

    Jose Offerman charges the mound on Tuesday night. He’s been charged with assault!!!

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    Game 119 – Preview

    Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

    Scouting Report on todays starters from MLB.com
    Phil Dumatrait – Coming off a poor 3 1/3-inning, six-run Major League debut vs. the Nationals, Dumatrait fared better Thursday vs. the Dodgers. The rookie lefty allowed two earned runs and seven hits over six innings with two walks and three strikeouts in a no-decision. The Reds lost the game, 5-4, in 11 innings. Dumatrait displayed command problems and fell behind often the first two innings when he was pumping one fastball after another. He began mixing his pitches better in later innings and fared better.

    Ted Lilly – Lilly struggled with his fastball and curveball command Thursday in Denver, walking five and throwing a season-high 127 pitches. But he made pitches when he needed to and held the Rockies to two runs on five hits in six innings. He’s won seven of his last eight starts.

    View the game preview from Baseball Reference for all sorts of useful information.

    Tracked Players Results

    Team Results

  • AAA – Iowa 0, Omaha 2
  • AA – Tennessee 5, Chattanooga 9
  • High-A – Daytona 1, St. Lucie 9
  • A – Peoria 5, Kane County 1
  • Short Season – Boise 11, Yakima 0
  • Arizona Rookie – Cubs – No Game
  • Dominican Summer League – Cubs 4, Rockies 2

    View the full organizational report from First Inning

    Don’t see someone listed in the tracked players report? Leave us a comment and we’ll be sure to add that name to the regular rotation.

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