View From The Bleachers

July 31, 2008

smell that? it's called swagger (some Brewer meanderings)

Filed under: General — Rob Bukowski @ 2:24 am

So  did anybody think that we would be here after the first three games of this series? Not me. And while we’re at it did anybody think that Ryan Dempster would be this effective? Not me.  And is anybody ready to talk about the Cubs being in the World Series yet? Not me. But it might be fun to begin to think about it.

I had the privilege of going to the first two games of the series at Miller Park (which I love) and I want to take some time to bring up some of the things that I noticed.

The Brewers are a fun team to watch

In case you did not notice the Brewers are a tough team to beat. With Sabathia, Sheets, and Parra at the top of the rotation they are fornidable. But their line up is dangerous. With Durham, Hardy, Braun, Fielder, and Hart you could stack those guys up against almost anybody’s top five….offensively.

The Brewers have holes

Those five guys are strong offensively and weak weak defensively. Multiple bad plays have allowed the Cubs to dominate this series the way they have. The throw away on the double play ball in the first game, misplays in the outfield in the second game, the wild pitch ball that got away from Kendall and was thrown awaying allowing the Cubs to score the first run in game three and the Cubs score big runs on all of them.

Their weaknesses vs. our strengths Creature from the Black Lagoon divx

The Brewers bullpen is noticably bad. In game one the Cubs  fans were actually cheering when Erik Gagne came into the game. You might ask how I know it was Cubs fans and not Brewers fans who were cheering him? I’m not sure, but I know it was.  The Brewers need bullpen help and we will see if they  get any before the deadline.

I feel like the Brewers have a tremendous weakness when it comes to their manager. I think Ned Yost left Sabathia in too long in game one (and definitely waited too long to warm someone up), left Sheets in too long in game two, and Parra in too long last night. With Sheets and Parra the game was almost lost once the reliever was brought in. Because the cities are so close, and because the teams have been close for a couple years I have watched a good amount of Brewer baseball and I am shocked at many of Yost’s decisions. That has been apparent in this series.

The catalyst

The last time I wrote I gave a mea culpa on my thoughts about Soriano. I was wrong. He is the catalyst or the Cubs offense. I think it is interesting that our most explosive hitter is Soriano, our most consistent hitter is probably D-Lee, and our most clutch hitter is A-Ram. That’s nice that the three are different. Since Soriano returned he has ignited the offense. I think he as also taken more pitches and walked more. He has undoubtedly been more of a threat to steal a base as well. He seems to be all healed now and this could be deadly.

The bats

I like how Lou is using DeRosa everyday and rotating Fukudome, Johnson, Edmonds, Cedeno, and Fontenot. Just another way that I think we have the best manager in baseball. Fukudome seems to be rested and is hitting smarter and better again. By the way I was surprised to hear that D Lee is among the league leaders in hits and other consistent offensive categories. Hits are hits and I guess he comes through more than I thought. People used to say that Sammy only hit home runs when it didn’t matter. I don’t know how you hit 600 meaningless home runs. Lee gets hits and they matter. Theriot continues to shine with another multi hit game- something like 45 multi hit games now.

The starters

What can you say- amazing. Except Lilly did the home run hop twice the other night. And I have never seen a pitch hang like the one he threw to Ryan Braun in the first game. Remember last year when Lilly was our number two going into the playoffs? Hello number four (if necessary).

The Pen

I think Bob Howry has given up a  solo home run in every appearance this year. How big does the addition of Chad Gaudin look? I like that Lou used Cotts to close the game last night. Now that Marmol is rested more he seems to be sharper again. How bad can a blister be? Can you believe the Samardzija love? What has he done to deserve it? He might be good, but he isn’t there yet. How bad can a blister possibly be?

The Rivalry

The first two games were playoff like but I think the crowd was quieter last night because the Cubs hit them hard the first couple games. The first two games were 45,000 plus seemingly split half and half. The rivalry is a lot of fun and it doesn’t seem as hated as others. It is just good and the toe to toe of the first game was something to behold.

The trade deadline

Today is the day and there is rumor that the Cubs are looking at Raul Ibanez from Seattle. I doubt it will happen. However, it might make sense because Ibanez is a better option than Ward and can play outfield positions. I guess to me it seems like Ibanez is really a replacement for Ward depending on all of the permutations of the thing. It might be interesting. I think the Cubs might look at making a run at a bullpen guy because I think they are becoming less confident in an imminent return for Woody. Everyone seems to think that Eyre will be traded today.

Hopefully the Cubs can score some runs and get Rich Harden a win and a sweep of he Crew.

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July 29, 2008

Tap the Keg

Filed under: General — Matt @ 10:43 pm

Yesterday, a co-worker came up to me and expounded on his hatred for Ryan Braun.  He hates his cockiness, to which I agreed. He comes off as smug, especially his penchant for watching his handy work when he goes yard. I recall a certain Mr. Bonds that did that, he’s not well liked to much either. Although he has a few hundred more homers than Mr. Braun, so it’s a little easier to swallow. Let’s just say, it was nice to see old Ryan get a workout in Left Field tonight. Hey Ryan, there’s two sides fo the game, and you looked silly on one side of it, tonight.

Obviously, the big story of this whole series was that first place was on the line. Notice I say was, because with tonight’s win, the Cubs cannot leave Milwaukee without it. The second are the pitching match-ups. The above mentioned co-worker also stated he felt the Cubs would do him proud if they split the series. Not the worst case scenario, but I felt they could do better. After last night’s win, which I missed due to a game of my own, I felt really good about the Cubs’ chances grabbing three, going into tonight.

Zambrano looked sharp from the get go. The Brewer’s Ben Sheets, not so much. He was effectively wild through five innings, but it looked like he was on the cusp losing control at any moment. That happened in the sixth, as the Cubs’ kept finding holes in the defensive and a missplayed ball by Ryan Braun in Left. A big crooked number of five runs, set my mind at ease. With Z cruising, this one was in the bag, and it was never in question from that point on. A three game lead. Phew.

Since I’m into bashing Ryan Braun, he was quoted earlier this week, as saying the pressure was all on the Cubs, and the Brewers just have to play good baseball. Correction, Ryan. The pressure is on the Brewers. They didn’t show they could take the heat last season, and after these two games, I’d say the same. You had your two aces up the bump, and came up empty. Now the back end of your rotation still faces Dempster and Harden. Ouch. Ouch. And more ouch. Momentum seems to be in the Cubs favor. At least in the short term. I’ll take it, and I know my co-worker will too. It’s rough talking baseball at work.  

 Come on Cubbies, let’s go get two more!

  • One Man’s Treasure rip Did anyone see all the handshakes Zambrano has with other Cubbies. It makes my head spin. I’d never remember which one to do.
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Now That Was a Game

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 10:47 am

That game lived up to the hype that has surrounded this series. I actually expected it to be moved to ESPN, but it wasn’t. It was important for us to jump all over CC Sabathia early as he was clearly the favorite in the matchup with Ted Lilly. We did just that and appeared to be off to a semi-easy win before Lilly ran out of gas in the 6th. I was leaning toward Lou pulling Lilly after the back to back homers by Hardy and Bruan, but he stuck with him. Lilly was able to get out of the inning, but not before coughing up the lead. Sometimes you have to be proactive in games like this one and I don’t think Lou took that approach. Here were some other notes.

  • Bobby Howry must go. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him, but he has no business being in the back end of a ballgame that matters at this point. You simply can’t trust him right now. Obviously I’m not calling for his release, but rather a different use for him. Last night we pulled back in front, gaining back the momentum in the 7th only to see Howry give it right back on a solo home run.
  • Derrek Lee comes away the “hero” yesterday with a double that scored the winning runs in the 9th, but I go back to the 7th when he again essentially grounded into a double play in a key situation. If it wasn’t for a great slide by Reed Johnson at second that forces a bad throw, Lee grounds into an inning killing double play. I’m tired of the DP’s by Lee. It needs to stop.
  • Big props to Chad Gaudin who came in and was lights out in the 8th, striking out the side. Between him, Samardzija, and Marmol, the end of the game is sufficient right now, but not as dominating as I’d like. Then again, at least we’re not forced to bring in Eric Gagne.
  • Mark my words right now. Alfonso Soriano is going to explode in August. Watch for him to win the player of the month. Just watch.

Around the Internet

    Hellbound: Hellraiser II video

  • Lou Piniella mentioned that Kerry Wood is still a bit of time away from returning to action for this team by saying “‘I wouldn’t say [he’s] close. I’ve been saying all along and we’ll leave it at that. When he’s ready, he’ll let us know.”
  • Jason Stark mentioned on his blog that the Cubs are looking to move Scott Eyre before the deadline. With the success of Neal Cotts and Sean Marshall being moved to the pen, the Cubs have three lefties in that pen. Eyre becomes expendable, but I’d hate to see him go.

Farm Recaps

Tennessee 7, Mobile 1 – The Tennessee Smokies (47-59, 20-17) got a gem of a start from Grant Johnson and used it to beat the Mobile Baybears (46-59, 17-18) 7-1, at Hank Aaron Stadium Monday night in front of 1,802. The win helps Tennessee stay one game behind Carolina for first place in the Southern League North.

The Smokies scored twice in the top of the first for an early lead. Doug Deeds doubled high off the rightfield wall and scored on a line drive double from Jake Fox. Tyler Colvin then followed with a two-out hit of his own and the single scored Fox.

Tennessee then plated two more in the fourth frame. After one was retired Kyle Reynolds drew a walk and moved to third on a Matt Camp single. Pitcher Grant Johnson then faked a bunt to draw in the corner infielders and then quickly took a full swing. Johnson bounced the ball into right field scoring Reynolds. Nate Spears used a bunt single with two outs to score Camp for a 4-0 lead.

Kyle Reynolds smashed a solo homerun in the sixth inning which gave Tennessee a 5-1 lead.

Mobile also scored a run in the sixth. Bryan Byrne singled home Guillermo Reyes with Gerardo Parra gunned down behind him on a throw from Fuld in centerfield.

Jake Fox slammed a solo homerun in the seventh to make it 6-1.

The Smokies then added another score in the ninth on a Colvin double making it a six run lead.

Iowa 11, Las Vegas 9

Daytona 8, Palm Beach 5

Peoria 2, Fort Wayne 4

Boise 9, Salem-Keizer 7

AZ Cubs 0, AZ Mariners 4

DSL Cubs 6, DSL Yankees 4

~ View the complete breakdown courtesy of First Inning

Minor League Player Tracker

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July 28, 2008

Cubs vs. Brewers Team Comparison

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 2:00 pm

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Welcome to Monday

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 6:26 am

As you head into work, I want to provide you with a trip around the news and offer some commentary on it.

  • Kerry Wood’s blister is going to keep him out of the Milwaukee series – This has me bummed. We could really use him in the 9th for this series, but if it means that it will be completely healed when he comes back, then by all means rest it until it’s fully healed. I just hope that after all this rest, he doesn’t try to come back to soon, irritate it, and then have to be shelved essentially for the year. It’s quotes like this that have me worried. “Woody’s the kind of guy – that if he has to – he’ll throw through it.” Let’s not do that unless we absolutely HAVE to.
  • Cubs will probably be fined $500,000 – This stems back to the violation in the draft this year. They apparently signed two players over slot, which is the recommended amount set by MLB for the particular pick in the draft, and then failed to report the signings in a timely manner. I wonder if the over the slot thing makes MLB a little more angry and less likely to be merciful to the Cubs. They seem dictatorish like that some times.
  • Jeff Samardzija could be a gift from above – Looking at him yesterday compared to his first outing, he seemed a good deal more composed and much more dominant. Could he be the answer to the bullpen need? Is he enough to curb the idea that Jim Hendry needed to go out and get another arm for the pen? I think so. He’s got great stuff if he can just harness it. Control has been the main issue for him as he’s progressed. If working with Larry Rothschild can help fix that, look out!!! Baseball America had this to say about Samardzija

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a column about the enigma that was Jeff Samardzija Premium At the time, he wasn’t doing much to distinguish himself in high Class A, where opponents batted .323 against him while he averaged a mere 3.8 strikeouts per nine innings. For a guy with mid-90s velocity and plus sink, not to mention a $10 million major league contract, this just didn’t compute.

At the time, the Cubs maintained their faith in Samardzija’s huge upside. He was more famous for his football exploits at Notre Dame, where he set every notable receiving record, and he didn’t become a full-time pitcher until 2007. The Cubs believed that once he refined his delivery, his slider and an offspeed pitch, hitters wouldn’t be able to sit on his fastball. Ed Wood movie

Samardzija continued to struggle with those tasks in Double-A at the start of this year. He went 3-5, 4.86 in 16 games (15 starts), and his velocity and sink still weren’t enough to miss bats. Opponents hit .252 off him, which was an improvement, but his 44-42 K-BB ratio in 76 innings wasn’t inspiring.

His secondary pitches started to click in June, earning him a promotion to Triple-A, where he suddenly took off. He had a 40-16 K-BB ratio in 37 innings over six starts, and when he allowed just six hits while fanning 18 over 12 innings in his last two outings, the Cubs summoned him to Chicago.

Though Samardzija gave up a game-tying run to the Marlins in his major league debut on Friday, he rebounded two days later to record a two-inning save. He also looked spectacular, topping out at 99 mph and pitching in the mid-90s with his fastball with ease. He also showed a mid-80s slider and mixed in a splitter, and retired 12 of the 14 batters he faced during the weekend, striking out five.

With Kerry Wood on the disabled list again and Carlos Marmol struggling, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Samardzija could emerge as the Cubs’ closer down the stretch. That formula of a rookie closer coming out of nowhere worked pretty well for the other club in Chicago three years ago. (Source)

  • Jim Hendry elects to stay – No hitting for the Cubs means no hitting for Hendry in the game of 21 down the stretch. Sorry, I just watched 21 yesterday so I had to try to work in a reference. Dave Van Dyke mentioned that Hendry doesn’t plan to add before Thursday’s deadline, but if you know anything about GM’s, what they say and what they think are always two different stories.
  • Oakland makes a switch – Eric Patterson has been recalled and Matt Murton demoted for the A’s. Murton had been royally stinking up the joint and deserves to be back in AAA.
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July 25, 2008

Cubs Recall Jeff Samardzija

Filed under: Media Releases — Joe Aiello @ 12:27 pm

CHICAGO – The Chicago Cubs today recalled right-handed pitcher Jeff Samardzija from Triple-A Iowa. He will take the roster spot of right-handed pitcher Kerry Wood, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list yesterday with a blister on his right index finger.


Samardzija, who will wear uniform No. 29, will be available to make his major league debut this afternoon against the Florida Marlins at Wrigley Field.


The 23-year-old Samardzija joins the Cubs after going 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA (13 ER/37.1 IP) in six appearances with Iowa, the lone six outings higher than Double-A in his professional career. With Iowa, Samardzija struck out 40 batters in 37.1 innings, an average of 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings, and limited opponents to a .241 batting average. He has a 2.37 ERA (5 ER/19.0 IP) in his last three starts, striking out 25 and walking only five in 19.0 innings. Overall, he has pitched at least six innings in all six of his Triple-A outings.

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Samardzija began the season with Double-A Tennessee and went 3-5 with a 4.86 ERA (41 ER/76.0 IP) in 16 appearances, all but one as a starter. The righthander has gone 7-6 with a 4.29 ERA (54 ER/113.1 IP) in 22 outings, all but one as a starter, in 2008 between Tennessee and Iowa.


The first member of Chicago’s 2006 Draft class to reach the big leagues, Samardzija signed a five-year major league contract with club options for 2012 and 2013 on January 19, 2007. Selected in the fifth round, Samardzija combined to make seven minor league appearances between Single-A Boise and Peoria in 2006 prior to signing the major league deal.


Ed Wood dvdrip

After pitching in Boise and Peoria in the summer of 2006, Samardzija returned to the University of Notre Dame for his senior football season as a wide receiver. The 6-foot-5, 218-pounder completed his Notre Dame football career with a school-record 179 receptions, 2,593 receiving yards and 27 receiving touchdowns, earning First-Team All-America honors in his final year.


Samardzija committed fully to baseball upon signing his major league deal (declining entry in the NFL Draft) and split the 2007 season between Single-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, combining to go 6-11 with a 4.57 ERA (72 ER/141.2) in 30 appearances, 26 as a starter.

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It’s About Freakin’ Time….For Jeff Samardzija?

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 7:57 am

In case you were not aware, the Cubs have had some struggles lately with the Marlins so the series opener had me a bit worried. With the lack of offense we had been seeing I worried that perhaps those struggles would carry over into our home field, where we’ve played so well all year. Instead, we get a win out of the team and a 125 pitch outing out of Carlos. I came away from the game last night with a few thoughts.

  1. Lou Piniella does not trust this bullpen right now – nor should he. Take a look at the pen of late and you are bound to get a little case of the willies. Bobby Howry can’t get outs, despite going 2/3 of an inning yesterday. People are worried that perhaps he’s insured. Kerry Wood went on the DL for the 12th time in his career with a blister that just won’t heal and Carlos Marmol is a few pitches from his right arm falling off. Those are the aces of the bullpen. Those guys struggling has Lou considering, and I believe strongly, Jeff Samardzija from AAA. To me, this is a big mistake. He hasn’t show consistency at any level. He moves up, shines, and then begins to struggle. On top of that, he’s been starting and has a future as a starter. What is this obsession with bringing guys like that into the bullpen? Let the starters come up as a starter and the relievers come up as relievers. Case closed.
  2. I’m still worried about Derrek Lee – He had another rough night at the plate. Don’t give me the crap about how he hit a home run the other day. The fact is that his bat has not been clutch at any time this year. Think of a time where he has put the team on his back and carried them. Soriano has done it. Aramis has done it. Fukudome has done it. If Lee is going to be a “star” in this league, it’s about time he does it too. I wrote earlier in the year that I felt like Lee was the most overrated Cub and I stand by that.

I’ll keep you updated when the roster move happens. Let’s get another win today.

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July 24, 2008

Cubs vs. Marlins – Series Preview

Filed under: General — Joe Aiello @ 4:25 pm

Probable Pitches for the Series

Scott Olson vs. Carlos Zambrano – 8:05pm EDT

Josh Johnson vs. Ryan Dempster – 2:20pm EDT

Chris Volstad vs. Rich Harden – 1:05pm EDT

Rick VandenHurk vs. Jason Marquis – 2:20pm EDT

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July 23, 2008

No Way to Treat a Friend

Filed under: General — Rob Bukowski @ 11:10 pm

Joe and I are friends and we have been good friends for a long time. But when he asked me to do the recap of this game I had no idea that he could be so cruel to a close friend. The game is currently in the fourth inning. It has lasted about an hour and a half already and Doug Davis and Ted Lilly are working at a snail’s pace…a lifeless dead snail. Some of you are currently watching this and are suffering through this as well. This is a boring suckfest. So I am going to write this recap during the game to keep me interested and ensure that I do not get so bored with it that I write the game off.

To make  matters worse the Cubs again have only two hits through four innings. Alfonso Soriano who has returned tonight is hitless as are almost everyone else. The Cubs do have a run on a Derrek Lee solo shot in the first. This was his first home run since June 20. I was surprised to hear the big Lee is hitting .329 in  July. The seems like a quiet .329 but that’s subjective.

Ramirez and Soto continue to be mired in 0 for 20 somethings slumps. And the bats are asleep- although Mark DeRosa just got a hit to lead off the fifth. Maybe this blogging during the game will break us out of our slump and I will be committed to doing this for the rest of the year out of superstition. As I wrote that sentence Reed Johnson  hit a ground rule double- runners at second and third nobody out for Lilly.

In the bottom of the fourth the Cubs were leading 1-0. Chris Young hit his second double to lead off an inning in the game…maybe Lilly will learn how to pitch to him some day. Following this Tony Clark clubbed a home run to give the D-Backs the lead. Have you noticed the stupid hop Ted Lilly does  after giving up a home run. I hate that hop.

Now Ted Lilly just hit a ground ball that bounced over the head of a drawn in infield to tie the game. First and third with Soriano up. “Very  superstitious…writing on the wall (blog).”

The Brewers won again today. They have not lost since the break. C.C. Sabathia threw his third complete game since joining the Brewers. Good news- Monday night I am going to see the Cubs-Brewers and Sabathia is pitching. Bad news- I want the Cubs to win and Sabathia is pitching.

Soriano hit a ground ball and the go ahead run scores. Ted Lilly just stole third base…no joke. Lilly scores on a Theriot ground ball and the Cubs lead 4-2.

In the bottom of the inning Ojeda walks and scores on a triple by Conor Jackson. Jackson is thrown out in a run down and Chris Young, who reached during the run down, is caught trying to steal third with two outs on a real pretty play by Aramis. We dodge a bullet and still lead 4-3.

While we are in a lull in the game- this game has been a giant lull – I want to comment on what was discussed yesterday and is everybody’s favorite topic…potential trades…YES!!!! So I agree with the thinking that the Cubs do not need another infielder but could use another outfielder. The Cubs have great potential to improve in center- if there is a center fielder out there. Edmonds and Johnson have been good and I am comfortable with them, but you could improve. I know the number five starter is not a gigantic issue but I wonder what the Blue Jays want for A.J. Burnett. Supposedly, the Cubs have had scouts at his past couple games. Again I know it is the fifth starter spot, but Marquis is mediocre and I don’t like Sean Marshall at all. And you don’t have to  worry about a number five starter if you have two one’s and three three’s. A reliever might be a good add especially with Kid K’s blister issues and achy tired Marmol. It might be beneficial to go out and try to get another bat off the bench that can play the field as well. Daryle Ward is a pretty good pinch hitter- or he has been in the past- but he cannot play anywhere in the field adequately and this is a problem.

We are in the top of the seventh of this epic battle and Cedeno will bat for Lilly and the lead will be entrusted to the ‘pen.  While I am at it, why are the Cubs not putting Kerry Wood on the DL? He is days away from returning and they are a guy short for as long as this lasts. I don’t get it.

In the top of the eighth A-Ram got a single to break an 0 for 26 and put Ryan Theriot at third with one out. Soto follows and breaks out of an 0 for 21 to drive in Theriot and give the Cubs a 5-3 lead. Fukudome then took his third walk of the game to load the bases with one out for Mark DeRosa. DeRosa walks and the Cubs lead is 6-3. Johnson hits a fly ball to left that keeps carrying for a slam and the  bats have finally come through 10-3. Soriano doubles and the inning ends a batter later.

While I am here I think I must do a mea culpa about Soriano. I guess it is just you have to take the bad with the good. He is what he is and there will be times that this is not good, but he is the most explosive hitter in the line up. While I have said before that I think that signing will go down as one of the worst in team history, I think this is wrong. While I don’t know that he will ever live up to the contract,  I think it will not be an embarrassment and will give us pop for at least a couple more years.

Howry and Marmol come in and pitch a shaky eighth and ninth but the Cubs win it.

They stay a game up on the Brewers and return home with Big Z pitching tomorrow. The bats come alive but they were more patient taking five walks and working into deep counts. Hopefully, they rediscover this element.

The time of the game was like 3:20. The time seemed like three days. But we get the win. And we can sleep easier tonight.

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