Archive for September, 2007

From Right Field – Very Superstitious

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Sports and superstition. They go hand in hand. Athletes have their pre-game rituals, meals, stretching routines. I like to get to my games an hour before hand, to stretch, do a little running, throw for a while, and more importantly, flap my gums with the fellas. A nice way to unwind before you have to get down the business between the lines. As fans, we all have our little superstitions too.

Since I’ve recently moved to new digs, I haven’t had much time to settle into any rituals for Cubs games. To me it’s throwing off the whole feng shui, karma, greek god, magical hole, balance to the universe type thing. I’m a nut for watching sports and having to do certain things in certain situations. In 2001, my wife bought me a Brian Urlacher jersey. I wore it for their first round playoff game against the Eagles. They lost. I wore it again in 2003. They lost again. I wore it last year for the Superbowl… know where this is going…..they lost. The jersey has been relegated to non-Bears game watching now. It’s obviously cursed.

Besides that particular superstition I have, at least for the Bears, I had quite a few in 2003 for the Cubs. First and foremost, I’d start each game sitting on the same side of the couch. Once the game started going poorly, I’d flip over to the other side. If that seemed to change the luck of the Cubs fortunes, I’d stay on that side. This process would continue all game long until I got to the side that seemed to be getting results. My wife blames the ultimate demise of that couch on the 2003 Cubs. The cushions couldn’t take any more of my flip flopping.

During 2003, one event that seemed to constantly change the Cubs favor during the games was my lovely wife’s visits to the bathroom. It was like clockwork. She’d get up, head down the hall and within seconds the Cubs would mount a furious rally, or bury whoever they were facing. It became more apparent against the Braves in the playoffs, as she missed both of Kerry Wood’s game altering hits. We were on to something, and whenever the Cubs were in need of a little punch of luck, I’d send her to the bathroom. Oddly, it worked every time, except for game 7. It’s become the running joke between us this year.

“Honey, it’s that time again.”
“I swear I should get a medal for doing this, especially if they win the World Series. I miss all the good stuff, just so they can win.”
“It’s a honorable sacrifice. I’ll hold a parade for you.”

I’m a little overboard, but hey, if it gets results in the Cubs favor, I say do it.

How about any of you? Strange game rituals?

Matt’s “From Right Field” appears every Monday on VFTB.

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Quick Brewers Update

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

The Cubs now sit two and one half games in front of the second place Brewers after the Braves won today’s game in extra innings 4-3.

The Brewers really blew a chance today missing some opportunities in the top of the tenth inning against the Braves. I was pretty nervous because they were in a position to win this game after taking the lead in the tenth and with Franciso Cordero having two outs in the bottom of the inning. If the Brewers beat both Hudson and Smoltz and went home it might be interesting…even more interesting that its’ already going to be.

John Smoltz had a no hitter going against Milwaukee into the sixth inning. The first hit of the game was a JJ Hardy home run following a Rickie Weeks walk to tie the game at 2. The game went into extra innings.

In the top of the tenth Corey Hart led off the inning with a home run to give the Crew the lead. The Brewers then got runners at the corners with only one out. This part gets confusing, and might really come back to hurt Milwaukee. With runners at first and third with one out Craig Counsell came to bat. They tried to bunt in the run, but not using the suicide squeeze, rather using the safety squeeze. Counsell got two strikes and instead of calling off the bunt (remember a fly ball and probably a ground ball still scores the run) Ned Yost kept the bunt on and Counsell bunted foul for strike three. The inning ended 3-2 Brewers.

Cordero came on to try to get his 45th save. He got two quick outs. Then Scott Thorman came in to pinch hit. He crushed a two out game evening home run. The ESPN radio announcers said this was only Cordero’s second surrendered homer of the year. Which, if true, means that the Ramirez home run in that amazing Friday afternoon game in June was the other one. Two pretty big shots.
In the eleventh Mark Teixeira hit the game winning single for Atlanta.

It’s really nice to be up by 2 1/2 instead of 1 1/2 going into tomorrow with Zambrano against Gorzelanny for us and the Brewers going against Braves pitcher Jo-Jo Reyes who has a 6.98 ERA. Chris Capuano will return to the rotation for the Brewers tomorrow to replace Ben Sheets. Hopefully, tomorrow’s start is just the icing on the cake of Capuano’s very bad year.

By the way the Cubs are 8-2 in their last 10. Lou said that he thought they could get hot once more. Again he was right. How about the awakening of the Cubs bats?
Today I think Len and Bob said that there was a chance that Geovanny Soto was going to replace Henry Blanco on a potential post season roster. So that might answer that question.

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Game 155 – It’s a Wild Wild Wild Wild Series

Saturday, September 22nd, 2007

September 22nd, 2007


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
Pittsburgh 0 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 1   5 8 1
Chicago 2 1 2 0 2 0 2 0 X   9 15 0
W – R. Hill (10-8) L – Z. Duke (3-8) S – None
Homeruns: A. Soriano (30 & 31) A. Ramirez (26) D. Lee (19) N. McLouth (13)

Box Score

When I was a child, my mom hyped up a movie called It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. She told me all about how good it was, despite being made seemingly forever ago when you’re a kid. I watched it reluctantly and actually enjoyed it. It reminds me about this series in a way. I watch it reluctantly, with three lefties on tap to face the Cubs. I had apprehension about the prospect of losing all three games based on the struggles we’ve had. Thankfully, like the movie, I’ve found this series very pleasing to the eyes. A sweep might be in the works tomorrow.

  • Today marked not only the 31st start by Rich Hill this season, but also his 10th win of the year. When I saw the numbers in the first inning for Hill, it got me thinking about something that Len would mention later in the game. I can’t tell you how many times that has happened this year, but it’s a lot. It seems like every time I notice something and think about expounding on it, Len mentions in later in the game and makes it look like I was just using his info. Today the topic was the fact that the Cubs have four starters in the rotation with at least 30 starts. Last year, just Zambrano made over 30. Before that, you have to go all the way back to the magical season of 2003 when Clement, Wood, Prior and Zambrano all had 30 + and Shawn Estes just missed it with 28. We all know what happened that year, so maybe we’re in for good things again this year. It’s nice to see rotation durability, especially for a team that has gone through so much disappointment in that area over the last few years. It’s nice to have five guys who take the ball every time out.
  • Alfonso Soriano continues to be on a tear this month and could be a legit candidate to win the player of the month in the NL. If he can stay hot this week and see Matt Holliday cool off a little, he’ll probably win it. It’s funny because I wondered aloud if the Cubs would get a 30 HR guy this season just a few weeks ago and now I wonder if maybe we could have a 40 HR guy. Obviously Soriano would have to go on one of the most awe inspiring tears ever, but the way he’s been hitting this season, I wouldn’t put it past him. I’d love to see 35 this year though. What amazes me is that as hot as he’s been, think about how hot Sammy Sosa was the year he hit 20 homeruns in the month of June. I don’t know that we really appreciated that number as much as we should have when it happened.
  • There were some really weird double plays today on bad baserunning. In the first inning, with Rich Hill in trouble after the first two batters reach base, he gets Freddy Sanchez to hit a lazy fly to right. For some reason, Nyjer Morgan decides it would be appropriate to advance to third before tagging. Murton makes the catch and fires a terrible short hop throw to second to double off Morgan and essentially get Hill out of trouble.In the 6th inning, with Lee on first after a single, Ramirez pops the ball up to Freddy Sanchez. Sanchez appears to fake out Lee and make him think he was going to drop the ball. He made the catch easily and doubled Lee off at first. Lee should have known better. On a play like that, you stay put and take your lumps for being thrown out at second if he drops it. Minimize the possible damage. Shame on him.

    In the 7th inning Sam Fuld, who is on the roster because of the September callups, made an electrifying leaping grab into the wall in right and turned to fire a strike to Lee for yet another double play on a popup / flyball. Gotta give the kid some love for being brave enough to go full speed into the bricks. He’s either naive or completely fearless.

  • The Cubs set a single season attendance record this year. It doesn’t excite me too much, seeing that they added more seats last year and we were so bad that season. It was as if we were due for it this year by default.As I write this, the Brewers and Braves are tied in the 9th. Let’s get those Braves hats out and pull for a win.
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    Game 154 – The Aramis Ramirez Show

    Friday, September 21st, 2007

    September 21st, 2007


    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   R H E
    Pittsburgh 1 1 5 0 0 0 0 0 1   8 12 3
    Chicago 4 1 2 0 0 5 1 0 X   13 16 0
    W – S. Eyre (2-1) L – F. Osoria (0-2) S – None
    Homeruns: A. Soriano (29) A. Ramirez (24 & 25) G. Soto (3)

    Box Score

    (AP Photo/Jerry Lai)

  • Aramis Ramirez was in the zone today. Two homeruns, and just missing a third. Six RBI, bringing his total to 98 on the year. The craziest thing about it though, is the fact that it wasn’t just his bat that was hot today. Soriano had a couple of hits and scored two runs. DeRosa scored a few runs, Derrek Lee hit the ball well and scored three. Even Geovany Soto got into the mix with his third long ball of the year. You knew that after Marquis let the Pirates back in the game in the fifth that if the Cubs pen could shut the door, the bats would be able to keep it going. Kevin Hart came in and pitched extremely well to close the door and the bats did their job. The magic number is down to 8.
  • Geovany Soto showed in the first inning that it’s not just Kendall that is having trouble throwing out baserunners. We’re beginning to see very clearly now that it’s not really the catchers that are the problem. This pitching staff just doesn’t hold runners on base with any amount of effectiveness. Let’s look at some numbers of our main veteran catchers and their numbers this season with the Cubs and last season.


    2007 w/ Cubs



    Barrett 17.9 19.1 – 1.2
    Blanco 30.0 42.9 – 12.9
    Kendall 9.1 30.4 – 21.3

    Look at the major dropoff for Jason Kendall. He’s seen his ability to throw out a baserunner become almost non-existent. If we draw the Mets in the first round of the playoffs, that alone has to scare the socks right off your feet with Jose Reyes and Luis Castillo at the top of the order. For Reyes, who could be the fastest player in the game today, it would be in his best interest to run every time he reached base. We have no one who would be able to throw him out.

  • Homeruns have been coming in bunches this month and it got me wondering just where we stood in that department. We all know it’s been a year that has seen a drastic reduction in the longball, but with Soriano’s surge since returning and Cliff Floyd seeing his stroke come back for a week, the Cubs are actually becoming the beneficiary of the homerun at the best possible time in the season. Here is a list of the Cubs homeruns by month and the NL rank in parenthesis coming into today’s games.April – 19 (10)
    May – 25 (7)
    June – 30 (9)
    July – 13 (16)
    August – 19 (15)
    September – 28 (3)

    After sub par months in July and August, the Cubs have busted out in a big way with the bats. Add Soriano, Soto and two Ramirez homeruns from today into the mix and we’ve moved into 2nd place behind Milwaukee for the month of September.

  • Derrek Lee showed some hitting prowess in the first inning with a mini shift on him. With the second baseman playing virtually straight up the middle, it opened the entire right side of the infield. Lee did the perfect thing and took the ball right through that hole to reach first in a crazy first inning that produced four runs for the Cubs.
  • The 6th Inning was the game changer. After Soriano singles to lead off the inning, DeRosa lines out hard to short. With the Cubs so prone to the double play this season, you had to think that it was going to come back to bite them again. Derrek Lee hits a grounder to short and it looked to be the end of the inning due to yet another double play. Thankfully, Freddy Sanchez bobbled the ball and let it get passed him, allowing not only Soriano to reach second, but Lee to reach first on the fielders choice. Ramirez made them pay with the big homerun and later in the inning Soto did the same. It was an inning we probably should have scored none and left the field having scored five. It’s not too often that Sanchez makes a mistake, he’s was tied for first in the NL in fielding pct. for second basemen this season, but we took advantage.
  • Jack Wilson missed the game today due to the birth of a child. That’s fine with me because over the last seven days, he’s hitting .467 with a slugging percentage of 1.133. Jack, don’t you want to stay with that baby a few extra days? Come on man, do us a solid.
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    A Day at the Races

    Friday, September 21st, 2007

    One hundred and sixty two games and it will all come down to the last nine. Out of the last 34 days, the Cubs have been in first or tied for first in 32 of those days. A few weeks ago I felt the Cardinals would be the team giving the Cubs the most grief, but just as it has been most of the year; it is a two-team race. So, how many wins are enough? Can the Cubs win 85 or 86 games and take the division?

    There is something special about September baseball and most, well all of it has to do with the last two weeks of the season, smack dab in the middle of the playoff hunt. It is even better when the Cubs are in the middle of that playoff hunt. It really feels like a lot of times anything can happen—anything.

    Anything can happen example A, suddenly there is a chance the Yankees will make the playoffs and the Mets won’t. If the Mets season ends badly, and by badly I mean becoming the first team since 1938 to blow a seven-game lead in September, who is going to be under fire? Enter obvious contestant number one, Mets manager Willie Randolph. Among the explicit and derogatory accusations that will be made by NY fans and NY papers, inevitably the question will be asked, was Willie Randolph getting the most out of his players?

    Although the Phillies make an art of blowing playoff chances, will this year be different? NY fans will tell you no way, Phillies pitching, starting and relieving will never be able to hold off the Mets. Philadelphia fans can counter that with a team that leads the league in hitting, runs, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, walks, slugging and on-base percentage. Stay tuned.

    Anything can happen example B, Boston’s lead in the AL East over the second-place Yankees was seven games less than three weeks ago, but has shriveled to a mere game and a half — and only one in the loss column. Of course, it is of no help to the Red Sox that Eric Gagne has had a convincing 9.00 ERA in 15 appearances or that Hideki Okajima, an eye-opener through August, has been shut down because of fatigue.

    While this is typical Yankees/Red Sox style dramatics and ESPN is drooling over it so they can devote 3/4 of their programming to the playoff hunt and the rest of the time to the New England Patriots, in reality both teams will be in the playoffs. One will be the division champ and the other the winner of the wild card.

    If the Yankees do win the East, all you will read and hear about is how the Red Sox “choked away” the division. What does that mean exactly? Will the Red Sox season hold less meaning if they only win the wild card? Or was it more important for Francona to head into the post-season with a healthy, well-rested team than forcing players to play hurt or pushing pitchers too hard in an all-out attempt to win the East?

    While all that drama is going on in the AL East, quietly a race has shaped up in the NL West too. The funny thing is the Diamondbacks are sitting in first place in the NL West, sporting the best record in all of the National League and what do we really hear about them? Despite recent struggles, the Diamondbacks still hold the reigns to their success.

    The Padres aren’t going away either. On Wednesday night, Hairston’s homer gave San Diego its sixth straight win and allowed the Padres to stay one game off the NL West lead behind Arizona and 2 1/2 games over Philadelphia, in the wild card race. Recently Mr. Padre himself Tony Gwynn predicted the Padres will win the division title and the Dodgers are going to come back and take the wild card. While that prediction may be based on sentiment rather than logic, who knows how this race will play out.

    And I didn’t even touch on the wild card. In the NL there are six teams that are in striking distance albeit some further than others. San Diego leads the group with Philadelphia 2.5 back, Colorado 4.5 back, Atlanta 5.5 back, Los Angeles 4.5 back and Milwaukee 6.0 games back. Try figuring that one out.

    The AL is easier to figure out, well besides the whole Yankees/Red Sox teeter totter we are on. It is almost safe to assume the wild card champ will come out of the East, with Detroit and Seattle being 5.5 and 6.5 games back respectively. Then again we all know what happens when one assumes.

    Like I said before, anything can happen. Anything.

    All standings are as of Thursday morning, 9/20/2007

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