Archive for May, 2008

Farm Report

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

News & Notes Free Willy download

  • Yusuf Carter hit 2 home runs
  • Tony Thomas hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Eric Patterson was 3-for-5
  • Felix Pie hit 2 extra-base hits

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Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Won vs. Memphis (10-3)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Won vs. Carolina (8-3)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Lost vs. Jupiter (6-8)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – No Game

(SS) – Boise Hawks open their season June 17th

(RK) – Arizona Cubs open their season June 22nd

View the full organizational report courtesy of First Inning here.

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Best Record in the Majors….Does This Still Apply?

Friday, May 30th, 2008

I got this E-mail from a reader and told him I’d post it. Discuss among yourselves as we celebrate being on top of baseball.

The Chicago Cubs should sign 40-year-old veteran outfielder Kenny Lofton. The East Chicago-native hit .296 last season with 31 extra-base hits, 23 stolen bases and he walked more than he struck out.

All season, the Cubs have been looking for another left-handed bat, and Lofton may be the answer. Kenny hit .313 last season against righties with a .838 OPS. Lofton can fill the platoon with the right-handed Reed Johnson if Jim Edmonds (3-24, .125) continues to struggle.

What the Cubs are hoping Edmonds will provide that Kenny won’t, is power. Piniella has been batting Edmonds 5th and 6th in the order, and last night ahead of Geovany Soto who is amongst the team leader’s in RBI’s.

Piniella has also started Edmonds in center in every game against a right-handed starter since he joined the team, and Lou has said he needs to start hitting.

If he doesn’t start hitting, and the low-priced Edmonds is waived, Kenny Lofton should be an option the Cubs consider.

And Kenny wants to play…

“Everybody says, ‘Why doesn’t anybody sign Barry?’ I say, ‘Why doesn’t anybody sign Kenny?’”, said Kenny Lofton.

Kenny still has good speed and is a good hitter. He can still cover ground in the outfield, but doesn’t have much of an arm, in which case you can use Reed Johnson as a late-inning defensive replacement if need be. He may not still be able to steal that base in a tight spot, but he’d still be a threat to run.

He got the job done last season and in the playoffs for Cleveland, where he was easily the most popular player on the team. You would also assume the Chicago-native would be well received by Cubs fans after collecting 16 hits (.308 average) in 12 games during the Cubs magical playoff run of 2003.

And in the season where the Cubs are chasing away the ghosts of the last 99 seasons, who better than Kenny Lofton to win a Championship with?

Is there an individual player who has endured more heartbreak than Kenny Lofton?

Kenny was a part of a great Cleveland Indians team (Thome, Omar, Belle, Manny in his first full-season, Eddie Murray in his last hurrah, Sandy Alomar) that lost Game 6 of the 1995 World Series in Atlanta giving the Braves their only Championship of their non-dynasty.

In 1997 he was traded to Atlanta, but the Braves lost the NLCS in 6 to the upstart Florida Marlins who went on to shock Cleveland.

The next season he was traded back to Cleveland, and after beating Boston they lost the 1998 ALCS in 6 to the record-breaking 114-win New York Yankees.

After first round divisonal series losses in 1999 & 2001, Kenny was traded to San Francisco. In the season after Barry Bonds set the single-season home run record with 73, Barry, with his obscene 268 OPS+ (greatest single season in baseball history) carried the Giants to the 2003 World Series where they blew a 3-2 lead and lost to the Anahiem Angels in Game 7.

The next season he was traded to Chicago in July and hit .327 in 56 games for the Cubs. Chicago lead the 2003 NLCS three games to one, Kenny experienced the Game 6 Mark Prior, Alex Gonzalez, Kyle Farnsworth meltdown, and watched the Florida Marlins win three in a row and then shock New York in the World Series.

In 2004 Kenny signed with the New York Yankees…

Finally last season Kenny was the spark that got the Cleveland Indians hot and into the 2007 ALCS where they had a 3-1 lead, only to have Boston win three straight and sweep the World Series.

Seven times he’s lost to the team that won the World Series. If the Cubs are due after 100 years, maybe Kenny is too.

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Series Preview & Farm Report

Thursday, May 29th, 2008
Series Tale of the Tape

Scouting Today’s Starting Pitchers

Jeff Francis displayed rushed mechanics and no fastball command — which eliminated his changeup — during a five-run, 37-pitch first inning in Saturday afternoon’s loss to the Mets. Francis gave up just one run the rest of the way, and he lasted six innings. He finished by tying his season high with eight strikeouts. Still, innings like the first on Saturday are not what the Rockies need from their No. 1 pitcher, who says he feels healthy but is making mistakes in his windup and delivery.

  • Throws his low-90s fastball with pristine command. His curveball can also be nasty and he throws it all with a quick and easy motion.
  • Needs to build endurance and continue to work on the consistency of his secondary pitches.
  • Quickly filling out his ace potential.
  • 1-2, 8.47 in last 17IP

Jason Marquis had beaten the Pirates twice this season, but he couldn’t pull it off a third time. He did not get a decision in his last start against Pittsburgh, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks over 5 1/3 innings. Against the Rockies last year, Marquis was 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA. Pitching at Wrigley should be a little bit of an advantage for Marquis, who is winless in four road starts. He’s 2-2 with a 5.14 ERA in five home games.

All Scouting Info taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca

News & Notes

  • Jeff Samardzija only allowed 3 runs and 2 hits over 6.0 innings pitched
  • Jose Ceda only allowed one hit over 4.1 innings pitched yesterday
  • Marquez Smith was 3-for-4
  • Tony Thomas hit 2 extra-base hits

Got a player you’d like to see added to the player tracker? Drop us a line in the comments Young Sherlock Holmes movie

Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Lost vs. Memphis (1-6)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Lost vs. Carolina (1-8)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Lost vs. Brevard County (4-7)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Lost vs. Cedar Rapids (3-5)

(SS) – Boise Hawks open their season June 17th

(RK) – Arizona Cubs open their season June 22nd

View the full organizational report courtesy of First Inning here.

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Who Doesn’t Love Fonsie?

Thursday, May 29th, 2008


Last I left you, Gentle Cub fans, I was bashing the little league play of Soriano and the ineptitude of the umpires. Well, tonight I sing all their praises, as Fonsie, relieved of having to deal with left field bleacher hecklers, showed why he gets the big bucks by staying on a nasty slider and blooping it down the left field line to score Mike Fontenot and firing up the Steve Goodman. Go, Cubs, Go!

For 8+ innings it was a rather hard game to watch. The offense could do nothing against Derek Lowe, Zambrano was stingy but seemed to often be in trouble, and we had to listen to ESPNs Rick Sutcliffe and Chris Berman fill the air-spaces. Not too fun. But then Takashi Saito couldn’t find the plate and allowed the Cubs to manufacture a run to tie it up in the ninth. One inning later, Fontenot, the 76th man to come to the plate in this game, earned the first and only extra-base hit of the contest. Soriano was the next up, and I didn’t know what to think when he took two fastballs down the middle (don’t hold your breath to see that one again); however, he came through off of Chan Ho Park and our Cubbies completed a sweep of a good Dodger team.

Let’s go to the notes:

  • Before I bash him, I do want to say that I was always a big Sutcliffe fan, and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. He was a very good pitcher, of course, and it was touching to hear him come back from his time off for treatment for colon cancer. He sounded like a man truly appreciating what was in front of him, and it was great to see him get a warm ovation while singing the seventh inning stretch.
  • That out of the way, I really don’t like him as an announcer (don’t get me started on Berman, who is awful beyond words). I was specifically worried when Steve Stone left that we were going to be stuck with either Sutcliffe or Joe Carter as the color commentator. I’m not the biggest Bob Brenly fan in the world, but he’s light years ahead of those two guys.
  • At the beginning of the game, he stated the Cubs “really aren’t a good defensive team” with a derisive tone that suggested they were really bad. This is demonstrably false. Going into tonight’s game, the Cubs ranked 6th in MLB in Defensive Efficiency, which is simply a measure of what percentage of balls in play they convert to outs; and they are closer to 1st place than 7th. This is the best measure of team defense, and they are clearly near the head of the class. If you like more traditional stats, they rank right smack in the middle of the pack in MLB in errors and fielding percentage, hardly bad. And if nothing else, Sutcliffe should believe his eyes and what he saw the previous night (which he called as well) when the Cubs made numerous solid and spectacular defensive plays. Tonight they responded by turning several double plays behind big Z.
  • For two straight nights he has proclaimed how the league has now figured out Dodger centerfielder Matt Kemp, a prospect who has gotten significant at bats each of the past three seasons. In his first at bat tonight, exactly the time Sutcliffe was saying this, the graphics crew threw up his line for the year – he’s batting .310 with a .358 OBP (and is slugging .450). Boy, if that is “figured out”, whenever he makes any adjustments he’s going straight to the Hall of Fame.
  • Speaking of Hall of Fame, when Jeff Kent’s name came up, Sutcliffe quickly dismissed him as worthy of the Hall. I’m not saying he should be a shoe-in, but he is clearly one of the 10 best offensive second baseman of all time, and probably in the top 15 all around. He has a career OPS+ of 123 while playing a demanding defensive position, won an MVP award in 2000, is the all time lead for home runs from his position, and he does very well on some tests for HOF worthiness. He’s in, or, at least, should be.
  • The dramatic comeback was necessary only because Big Z seemed to lose it momentarily in the top of the 4th. After getting the first two men up in the inning, two hits and a HBP were followed by a Blake DeWitt 3-2 walk. Zambrano would pull a similar stunt in the 8th except that he escaped without giving up a run (but did run his pitch count up to 130! – what was he doing still in there?) Berman and Sutcliffe kept talking like he didn’t have anything tonight; he clearly did not have his best stuff, but he was far from bad, obviously, going 8 innings and giving up only the one run. He did give up eleven baserunners and did benefit from three double plays – but there are few guys who do as well with their so-so stuff than Carlos.
  • I love ESPNs dead-center camera and K-Zone. I remember when they experimented several years ago with doing the whole game with those features. If I remember correctly, they quickly did away with that as I seemed to be the only one who liked it. I just enjoy seeing an undistorted view, and I like knowing how the umps are doing on every pitch. Am I alone here?
  • Speaking of the umps, great call by the first base umpire on Fukudome’s single in the ninth that loaded the bases. I was sure he was out in real time, but it was revealed the ump got it right only after several angles. The reason I think it was so good is that the ump seemed to be in the worst position to make that particular call correctly, and yet he still got it right. It really is amazing how often those guys get the call at first base right.
  • ESPN broke into the Red Sox-Mariners tilt while Cubs were batting in the 8th. Manny Ramirez was going for his 500th home run, and proceeded to be at bat for over six minutes! I was annoyed at the time, but no worse for the wear as Jonathan Broxton struck out the side on 13 pitches. But still, 6+ minutes?
  • Finally, in other baseball news, Bret Boone announced his retirement today. Which is good to know, since he hasn’t played baseball since, you know, 2005. Thanks for letting us all in on the secret, Bret. (Actually, Boone attempted a short comeback this spring.)
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Daily Roundup – 5/28

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
Scouting Today’s Starting Pitchers

Derek Lowe’s winless streak hit the one-month mark, but he showed significant signs of improvement in a 2-0 loss to the Cardinals. He allowed five hits over seven innings, stung by a two-run homer from Ryan Ludwick, but otherwise effectively implemented a slower delivery that ensured a better arm angle and release point and kept his sinker sinking.

  • Is among the best in MLB at getting hitters to beat the ball into the ground and rarely over the fence, thanks to one of the top sinkers in the game.
  • Has a lot of trouble keeping runners honest and is a little weaker from the stretch position. Hitters can pound his first pitch.
  • A strong mid-rotation starter.
  • 0-4, 7.62 in last 28.1IP

Carlos Zambrano set a career high with four hits in his last start — that’s four by himself. He already had a three-hit game this season, and is batting .343. But let’s talk about his pitching. Big Z held the Pirates to two runs on six hits over seven innings and struck out six. He’s off to the best start in his career and has reduced the number of walks issued. As Lou Piniella said, when Zambrano has confidence in his pitches and is aggressive, he’s effective.

All Scouting Info taken from MLB.com and TSN.ca

News & Notes

  • Sean Gallagher only allowed one run in 7.0 innings pitched

Got a player you’d like to see added to the player tracker? Drop us a line in the comments

Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Won vs. Memphis (10-8)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Won vs. Carolina (8-7)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – No Game

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – No Game

(SS) – Boise Hawks open their season June 17th

(RK) – Arizona Cubs open their season June 22nd

View the full organizational report courtesy of First Inning here.

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We Get A Win, but You Miss out on My Headline

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008


(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)


For the second time in two days, the Cubs picked up a 3-1 victory, and while I’m thankful for the win, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed at the fact that I couldn’t use my nifty headline had the Cubs lost. Instead, I’ll have to just try it out on you here. “Cubs can’t break wind, which stinks.” That’s gold Jerry, Gold!!! Instead, I’ll just sleep happy and know we got a series win.

More Starts on the Horizon – A few days ago it was reported that Lou promised Sean Gallagher at least two more starts, with tonight being the first. I think it’s safe to say that if he can do anything positive in the second start, he should be the beneficiary of at least another two while Rich Hill continues to try to work his way back to the Majors. Tonight he pitched really well, getting outs and getting through seven innings of work. He pitched to the weather and kept the pitch count low enough to get himself deep into the game, despite getting hit in the pitching hand in the 1st inning that I thought would be the end of the night. Any time you can get seven out of what many would deem your 5th starter, you’ve received a treat. Get through those innings and get a win as well, even better. I’m excited about what Gallagher can do for this rotation. I’d even be willing to go out on a limb right now and make the prediction that he won’t see AAA again this year. Agree? Disagree?

Time to work on our bunting – Our sacrificing was atrocious tonight, with two sac bunt attempts yielding the lead runner being thrown out at 2nd. It happened to Gallagher in the 5th and then to Theriot in the 7th. Is it a terrible problem? No, overall, we came into the game 6th in the NL in Sac hits. Tonight it didn’t come back to bite us, but it’s still frustrating to have it happen twice in the same game.

What’s a Synonym for Clutch? – Ramirez. It happened again tonight as Ramirez picked up another hit in the clutch to give the team the lead in the 7th. It’s gotten to the point that when he comes up with the runners on base, I expect him to come through. Coming into the game his numbers with runners on were .325 / .424 / .627. So the numbers support the case. Oddly enough, he’s only had two plate appearances this year with the bases loaded. That’s surprising to me, and I can only credit the fact that Lee has been hitting the ball just as well and driving in runners ahead of Ramirez. I was shot down yesterday by Sour Bob who made the argument that Wright has more errors because he’s had nearly a third more chances. Doesn’t that mean he should only have roughly a third more errors? He’s more than doubled the number of errors that Ramirez has. Judging fielding has always been, and I believe always will be, a hard thing to judge. With that being said, who knows what the voters are using as the basis for their vote. Something’s in the system don’t make sense and fielding awards are one of them. All I was doing was stating a case for why Ramirez has an argument over Wright at this point.

Leather turns me on. – I love great defense. The Cubs flashed some leather in the 4th inning and probably kept a run off the board by doing so. Lee got it started with a great play to save a double off the bat of Luis Maza. Eithier singled in the next at bat, which would have drove in Maza had he reached, but was held to only a single on a great play to cut the ball off by Fukudome, who also flashed the leather later in the game with a diving grab. Eithier, feeling slighted at the single, decided to try to steal on Soto and was promptly introduced to Geo’s arm. Unfortunately, later in the inning, the defense came up on the negative side with a wild pitch (is that considered defense) by Gallagher and a throwing error, that probably would have been an out at the plate had the ball not hit the runner, by Soriano.

Jim Edmonds Watch – Where is he? Jim, can you hear me? Are you alive? I think we need to get a pulse on him if there is one left. Another wonderful game at the plate by Cardinal Jim. A big fat 0-4 has me clamoring for Andres Torres. Don’t like that option? Let me throw out another one. What about moving Fukudome to CF and finally giving Murton a full time chance to play RF?

Ronny Cedeno for president – The Cubs are now 6-0 with Ronny in the starting lineup. Get this guy in there more. I know he made the error tonight, but you can’t deny that he deserves a chance to get in there and produce a little more.

Ratings Ratings, Everywhere Ratings – Just in case you have been living under a rock over the past two or three days, we added a rating system to the site. The way it’s set up, it’s designed to recommend other posts the readership may like based on the ratings. What I really like about it, though, is that it gives me a chance to get your feedback on posts without having to leave a comment. Please take the quick two seconds to rate the posts after you finish reading them, and don’t feel like you have to rate every one high. Give us honest feedback to help us improve.


News & Notes from games played on 5/26

  • Donald Veal only allowed 1 ER over 7.0 innings pitched
  • Ryan Dempster only allowed one run in 7.0 innings pitched
  • Brandon Guyer hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Welington Castillo hit 2 extra-base hits
  • Russell Canzler was 3-for-4

Got a player you’d like to see added to the player tracker? Drop us a line in the comments

Organizational Roundup

(AAA) – Iowa Cubs – Won vs. Oklahoma (6-4)

(AA) – Tennessee Smokies – Won vs. Carolina (6-5)

(High A) – Daytona Cubs – Won vs. Brevard County (9-3)

(A) – Peoria Chiefs – Won vs Wisconsin (5-2)

(SS) – Boise Hawks open their season June 17th

(RK) – Arizona Cubs open their season June 22nd

View the full organizational report courtesy of First Inning here.

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5/26 – The Pitch (Podcast)

Monday, May 26th, 2008

Memorial Day is a day for remembering fallen heroes, getting a sun burn, barbecuing and talking baseball. And “The Pitch” checks off one of them for you in its Monday edition, taking issue with the absence of Carlos Quentin’s name on the All-Star ballot despite his leading the AL in home runs and carrying the White Sox on his back.

The show also covers the over-hyped saga of Willie Randolph in New York following a week of speculation, meetings and near-application submissions from former Mets.

Along with the latest round of “The Pick-Off,” hosts Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage review DL stints by Fausto Carmona and Andruw Jones. And Ichiro shares another gem through his interpreter regarding his favorite pastime had he not signed with the Mariners.

Listener e-mails, phone calls and more are all fair game in the Monday edition of The Pitch’s Week 9 coverage of the 2008 MLB season. Enjoy and interact via e-mail at thepitch@mvn.com or via phone at 360-450-MVN3.

Download the MP3 (16.6 MB)

Subscribe via iTunes Here 

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Ryan Dempster an All Star?

Monday, May 26th, 2008


(AP Photo/Paul Beaty)


What’s It Going to Take? – Dempster is now 6-2 with an ERA of in the mid 2′s. In the month of May, he’s 2-2 with a 1.89 ERA. So I ask you. What’s it going to take for you as a Ryan Dempster skeptic to get on the bandwagon. I’m not saying that you’re wrong for being skeptical of his success based on the past results for him as a starter for the Reds. All I want to know is what will he need to show you to ease your fears and win you over to his side. For me, I’m not there yet, but I’m close. If I can see another quality start or so in a row out of him, I think I may convert to Dempsterism. I may need to worship at the alter and pledge my allegiance to his skills. What about you? What do you need? Does today’s seven inning, one run job do the trick for you?

Regardless of where you stand on if he’s legit or not, the fact remains that what he’s done to this point has been way more than I would have ever anticipated from him, and I don’t think I’m alone on that. Is it out of the question for him to win 18 games? Is it out of the question for him to make the All Star game with Zambrano? Man, this stuff has me excited.

Aramis Ramirez is my MVP – If the season ended right now, Ramirez has my vote for the team MVP. I can’t even begin to recount all the times he’s come up huge for this team in the clutch. Today was yet another example. Even though his home run didn’t “win the game”, I really feel like it did a lot to help the Cubs win the game. Insurance runs, especially those that come on home runs, go a long way toward deflating the trailing team. It knocks the wind out of their sails and the Cubs couldn’t afford to go into the ninth with the Dodgers having any wind. They nearly tied the game in the 8th, so you have to assume that they would have had a chance to tie it in the 9th. They had the momentum on there side until Ramirez hit his home run to put it out of reach. In addition, his home run probably did a little ease the worries of some fans as Wood trotted in to close it out. There are Wood haters out there that panic each and every time he comes in. Ramirez helped them out as well today.

In addition to the play at the plate, I mentioned about a week ago that I felt like Ramirez had been throwing the ball better to first. Little did I know that today marks the 32nd straight game without an error for him. He started out a little rough in the first few weeks of the year and has since righted the ship and appears to be ready to once again make a run at a gold glove award. I felt like he had a legit case for winning last season, but lost out to David Wright, who had double the amount of errors. This year Wright has already got 9 errors. I think it’s Aramis’s time.

What’s a Losing Streak? – With today’s win, we kept from losing our third straight. Did you know that the Cubs are the only team in the Majors that have still not lost three games in a row all year? If you’re going to be a quality team, you consistently stay away from long losing streaks. We’ve done just that. We’ve had chances to lose three in a row, but each time we’ve taken care of business and rallied to get the win. On the flip side, last year’s squad had a nice four game streak by the 13th of April, and another three game slide later in the month.

Let’s not get excited over this. – Len and Bob were discussing Joe Torre and his playoff success. They made a big deal about the fact that Torre had the most playoff wins in MLB history. What they failed to mention, and most fail to mention when discussing playoff records, is that they’re useless, unless you look as rate stats. By explaining the playoff rounds, most counting stats have been rendered useless and outdated, including wins. It’s not fair to make such a big deal that someone has X number of this or that in the playoffs when they’ve had a ton more chances than some of the older players and managers had in the past. It used to be that the playoffs consisted only of the World Series for cryin’ out loud. How can we compare those?

I can feel a change – Here are the first five lines to the song by the Boomers:

I feel a change coming
I feel it in my bones
I feel a change coming and I’m not alone

I can feel it in the air I breathe
I see it on my TV

What does this have to do with the Cubs? It has to do with Jim Edmonds. He’s now hitting .150 on the year with an on base % under .200. He’s not hit well for the Cubs, which isn’t too big a deal because of the small amount we risked on him. He got the start today, and I’m being honest when I say that I forgot he was in the game at one point. He really hasn’t made much of an impact since being here, aside from the tremendous catch in Houston. With Reed Johnson making most say “eh”, is it time to dip into the farm for…..not Felix Pie, but ….wait for it…..Andres Torres? Who? Andres Torres is a 30 year only CF in Iowa. With Pie down in Iowa, Torres has seen his playing time cut, despite the fact that he’s hit over. 300 with an OPS over .900. Why not release Edmonds, add Torres to the 40 man roster and recall him, and let Pie continue to figure things out in Iowa. The next time Pie comes up, he needs to stay up for good and play every day. To have that happen, we need to be absolutely certain we can give him that chance. With him struggling even in Iowa, now is not that time. Why not give Torres a chance to make a name for himself? He’s 30, so it’s not like it’s going to ruin his development. Give the guy a chance, which is something he hasn’t had since 2005 with Texas.

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Geremi Gonzalez Killed at 33

Monday, May 26th, 2008

From the Cubs Media Dept:

CHICAGO

– Chicago Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry today issued the following statement upon learning of the passing of right-handed pitcher Geremi Gonzalez.

“The Chicago Cubs are very saddened today to learn of Geremi Gonzalez’s sudden passing.  Geremi began his career as a Cub, leading our pitching staff with 11 wins as a rookie in 1997 and, despite an arm injury, helping the club early in the season a year later to an eventual post-season appearance.  The organization sends its heartfelt condolences to his family.”

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