Archive for September, 2008

Interview with Cubs 2B Mark DeRosa

Thursday, September 25th, 2008


With the NL Central Division Championship in hand Thursday, the Chicago Cubs decided to give Mark DeRosa 007 Casino Royale , one of their most valuable bats and versatile defenders, a few days of rest. DeRosa suffered a strained calf in Wednesday’s 9-6, 10-inning win over the New York Mets.

The free time allowed the Cubs right fielder and second baseman to join MVN’s Joe Aiello and Brandon Rosage Thursday for a chat about Lou Piniella’s enthusiasm for studying video of opponents, his injuries through the ’08 campaign, Chicago’s stream of comeback wins and recovering from a heart procedure mid-season to correct an irregular heartbeat.

The discussion also covered DeRosa’s pre-season struggle with Cubs management over their efforts to find a new second baseman, as well as his risk assessment of blogging in the Chicago clubhouse and managing two personal websites, and

The Mark DeRosa interview was produced as part of MVN’s Major League Baseball talk podcast “The Pitch,” which is released every Monday and Thursday at Dorothy Mills movie full .

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New York Mets State Of Mind

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

ESPN introduces the Cubs as “The Best Team In The National League”. Oh, that is sweet. I’m looking forward to hearing Rick Sutcliff’s analysis of Z’s pitching tonight.

The first batter of the evening, Alfonso Soriano, is satisfied with only a single off a hit to left which Dan Murphy tries for, misses and leaves on the ground. Lotsa empty seats in Shea tonight, at least in the top of the 1st. A Theriot DP wipes Soriano off the bases. Dee Lee walks. Aramis hits two air homers on the first 2 pitches. And on the 5th pitch. K for Ramirez.

Now let’s see the Z-Man! Three up and three down. Z-Man looks good in the 1st.
Rick Sutcliff is discussing the Care and Feeding of the home plate umpire. Rick feels that the proper Care and Feeding benefitted Zambrano in the bottom of the 1st, while Perez and the Mets experienced the opposite result in the top of the 1st.

Mark DeRosa lofts a home run to left. That one was fair by at least 5 feet. Cubs lead 1-0. Cedeno takes a called third strike on a low pitch. Sutcliff calls it a “generous” call for the Mets. Zambrano will lead off the 3rd inning.

Bottom of the second. Z is throwing sinking 1 seam fastballs tonight according to Rick Sutcliff. Zambrano has the Mets 6 up and 6 down. Let me put it another way. There have been 2 hits in this game. The Cubs have 2 hits.

I enjoyed Bill Murray’s color commentary in the top of the 3rd. He’s sounding very mellow. Retired, he is. Interesting analysis of Zambrano’s trouble in his last start.

**BIG METS INNING ALERT** Argenis Reyes gets the 1st hit of the evening for the Mets. He’s put out at 2nd on Zambrano’s fielder’s choice of Oliver Perez’ poorly placed bunt. Jose Reyes draws the Mets 1st BB of the evening. Runners at 1st and 2nd with 2 out. Dan Murphy walks to load the bases.

Zambrano is throwing (or is having to throw) a lot of pitches tonight. He walks David Wright, scoring Argenis Reyes with the first Mets run. Score is tied, 1-1. Carlos Delgado takes Z to left center with a 4 run homer. Ohhhh, this is baaaaad. Score is 5-1, Mets. On the plus side, Zambrano has a 2 hitter going.

Before the game Lou said he wanted to leave Z in for a good long stretch tonight. (“We’ll let him work as long as possible.”) I think Lou will do just that, but, at this rate, the final score may end up being 15 or 20 to 3.

**BIG CUBS INNING ALERT** The bases are loaded for Mark DeRosa with 1 out in the top of the 5th. Two runs score on DeRosa’s double to left. That makes the score 5-3 with 1 out. Reed Johnson, representing the go ahead run, is up. Duaner Sanchez is pitching. Reed Johnson singles to left. Dan Murphy misjudges the ball and leaves it on the ground. Aramis and Fukudome (in for DeRosa) score, tying the game at 5. DeRosa, we are told, is out of the game with a knee injury. I don’t like the sound of that. The inning ends with the score tied 5-5.

Zambrano walks the 1st batter in the 5th, gets the next 2 out, then puts David Wright on and that’s all for Z. Neal Cotts comes in and puts out the fire. Rick Sutcliff sure called that sequence of events accutately.

Soriano leads off the 6th with a long out to left. Theriot grounds out 6-3. Dee Lee walks, Ramirez singles to right. Riccardo Rincon comes in to pitch to Fuku with 2 out and runners on 1st and 2nd. Fuku pops out to short. No runs scored. We hear how weak the Mets bullpen is, but they look pretty good to me. And, according to ESPN, Mark Derosa has a right calf strain.

Cotts walks Beltran to open the bottom of the 6th. Beltran steals 2nd as Church fans. Evans fans. Beltran steals 3rd with 2 out. Argenis Reyes fans, as Cotts strikes out the side.

In the 7th, Reed Johnson beats out an infield hit. Cedeno bunts back to the pitcher who cuts down Johnson at 2nd. Well, that’s better than a DP. Hoffpauir singles to right. Daryle Ward, pinch hitting for the pitcher, pops out to SS. Soriano doubles to left, scoring Cedeno. Theriot ends the inning 1-3. Cubs take the lead, 6-5.

Ramon Martinez, hitting for the pitcher, doubles to center to lead off the Mets 7th. Reyes bunts safely. Runners at the corners. The word is Cedeno was slow covering 1st, and then dropped the throw. The word from Rick Sutcliff is that Hart “almost” balked. Dan Murphy lines into a Dee Lee unassisted DP and Dave Wright flies out to Soriano. No runs score.

Dee Lee grounds out to 1B to open the 8th. Aramis walks. Fuku hits into an inning ending DP.

Samardzija is pitching in the 8th. Delgado doubles, Beltran singles, Church fans, Beltran takes 2nd, Evans grounds out to 3rd & Chavez gets a free pass to load the bases. Ramon Martinez walks to force in the tying run. 6-6. Reyes grounds out 4-3.
Samardzija throws about 30 pitches in the inning. Rick Sutcliff points out that Koyie Hill is telegraphing what pitch is coming next by how he sets up behind the plate.

In the 9th, the Cubs go 3 up and 3 down against Luis Ayala.

Bottom of the 9th. Howry is pitching. As Rick Sutcliff predicted, Hill telegraphed a breaking ball, and Murphy slammed it into the great big right center gap for a triple. The winning run is on third with no outs. Wright fans and the Cubs intentionally walk the next 2, Delgado and Beltran. Church hits into a 4-2 fielder’s choice. #8 batter fans. We’re out of the inning. Mets strand 3.

Top of the 10th. Theriot singles with 2 out and steals 2nd. He scores on Dee Lee’s bloop double to right. That was a clutch hit! Cubs lead 7-6. Aramis lines a homer to left. Cubs lead 9-6. Fuku ends the inning for the 3rd time tonight. All 3 of Fuku’s at bats have ended innings tonight. DeRosa, batting in that same 5 hole earlier (before being taken out with an injury) was 2 for 3 with a home run and a double.

Bottom of the 10th. Kerry Wood is pitching. 3 up and 3 down. Cubs win 9-6. Schadenfreude Baby!!

Z mowed ‘em down in the 1st 2 innings tonight, but he got bombed in the 3rd. Zambrano is threatening to become a short order pitcher, ala Kerry Wood or Carlos Marmol. Or maybe the Cubs will eventually platoon him with another pitcher (ala Edmonds and Johnson in center field) so Z can start every 10th day .

Rick Sutcliff’s analysis has been spot on tonight.

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Let's Review

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

I didn’t allow myself to get worked up over the final score last night. After all, winning the game was not the object of the drill. Oh, winning was AN object alright, but it wasn’t THE object.

No, I’d say the object of last night’s drill at Shea Stadium was threefold:
1. Provide rest to those who would benefit from rest;
2. Provide playing time to those who would benefit from additional playing time;
3. Provide performance information for evaluation and improvement of performance.

Let’s review these three objectives:

1. Beneficial rest – I’m thinking of regular or semi-regular players here, like Ryan Theriot, Aramis Ramirez, Jim Edmonds, Geovany Soto, Rich Harden, Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood.

This objective was achieved. All the players listed sat out last night’s game.

2. Beneficial playing time – These are the players who Lou and his staff feel need improvement in a specific aspect of play, i.e., hitting, fielding or pitching. I’m thinking Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Ronny Cedeno, Micah Hoffpauir, Casey McGehee, Daryle Ward, Koyie Hill, Sean Marshall, Chad Gaudin, Kevin Hart, and Angel Guzman.

This objective was achieved. All these players got additional playing time.

3. Performance evaluation, adjustments and lessons learned – Since none of the Cubs are batting 1.000, and since the Cubs are not going to win 162 games this year, there is room for improvement. I’ve never been a prefessional athlete, baseball player or coach, so my observations and opinions should be taken with a grain of salt. But some trends appear to be obvious.

Positive trends: Had Lou pulled Sean Marshall after 4 innings as originally announced, the overall evaluation might have seemed rosier. In the 5th inning Marshall’s situation deteriorated. He hit a batsman, gave up a weird infield single, walked a batter and then allowed a 2 run single. Still, he completed 5 innings with 6 Ks, 2 BBs, 3 hits and 2 runs allowed. I’m sure Sean and his coaches learned things which will help him in the future.

I’d like to see Kosuke Fukudome get 4 hits every game with multiples for extra bases. But, as Lou says, “That ain’t gonna happen”. Last night Fuku had 2 hits in 4 at bats, including an RBI double and a single. So he batted .500 for the evening and that’s pretty good.

Historically, Reed Johnson does well against Johan Santana. Last night was no exception. He drew a walk and was 2 for 3 officially with 2 singles and 1 RBI. His successful hitting vs. Johan Santana continues unabated.

Downward trends: Chad Gaugin returned to the mound after an absence and received a rude welcome. He faced 5 batters and got 1 out. He allowed 4 consecutive hits and made one “ill-advised” throwing error (an error in judgement). I think Chad would agree that this was not the performance he had hoped for.

The most disappointing performance last night, in terms of actual or potential improvement, was, in my humble opinion, that of Alfonso Soriano. He was 0 for 4 at the plate and his fielding was lackadaisical. Maybe the lackadaisical part is just a misperception on my part. I hope so.

But if I compare the fieldwork of Alfonso to that of, say, Kosuke, for example, the difference in attitude and approach seems clear. Kosuke’s defensive play is focused, concentrated, crisp, intense and effective. Alfonso’s performance tonight seemed, in comparison, to be unfocused, disinterested, mushy and lacking in spirit.

My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that Soriano’s situation is psychological. Either he thinks he should have been given a rest with the other regulars tonight, and so his heart wasn’t in it; or his performance level is, in his mind’s eye, “good enough”, so no improvement is required. And when he bangs one of his extra base hits, or demonstrates that cannon of an arm in a crunch situation, it’s hard to argue.

Still, my perception is that Alfonso has an attitude thing which is limiting his effectiveness. I didn’t break it, and I can’t fix it.

So, to summarize, the Cubs accomplished their 3 major objectives last night.

Let’s keep our eyes on the prize.

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My Favorite Things

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

In retrospect, I guess I was a little harsh on NYC last night. I want to set the record straight.

A few years ago I had an opportunity to spend a week in New York City, a first for me. After being exposed to negative reports about NYC my whole life, I was prepared to hate it. I was expecting to hate it. I think I wanted to hate it.

I loved it!

I ran every day in Central Park. I visited Strawberry Fields. I saw the Statue of Liberty and visited Ellis Island. On Monday night I caught Les Paul live. Les Paul!! And every where I went I met good people. Really good people.

Went to a live Broadway show. Ate great food in great restaurants. Did I mention that I had a great time? So I have fond memories of NYC and I hope I get the chance to go back some day.

But that fondness does not extend to the NY Mets. I have no fond memories of the NY Mets. That might be forever. I guess that’s just the way it is. I’m a Cubs fan. Third generation Cubs fan.

Loving the Cubs. Not loving the Mets. These are a few of my favorite things.

Last night The Cubbies pulled together as a team. Jason Marquis was having trouble putting the Mets away from the mound. So he rocked a grand slam, and put the game out of reach that way instead. When Carlos Marmol had a hard time finishing the thing off, Kerry Wood leapt in and put the hammer down. What a team.

Tonight Lou is resting many of the starters. My hope is that Johan Santana wears himself out real good tonight. Whether or not the Cubs win tonight is immaterial. They’ve already won by resting the guys who need rest. And by wearing out a guy who needs to be worn out.

Dee Lee doubles but dies on 2nd. Johan Santana looks strong in the 1st.

Sean Marshall is getting hit pretty solidly in the 1st, but he gets out of the inning with no runs scored. Casey McGehee makes a good play of a shot down the 3rd base line, cutting down the lead runner at 2nd on a fielder’s choice.

McGehee and Fuku get solid back to back doubles off Santana. I like to see that. And it’s still early. Cubs lead 1-0.

I’m going out of my way to not repeat posts from the live blog here, but I will respond. Joe gets his wish. Johan will lead off the third. Good call, Joe.

Cedeno doubles in the 3rd inning. That’s 4 Cub doubles already off Santana tonight. He appears to be hittable. (Hey Joe, I said it first. Great minds think alike!) And Cedeno scores on Johnson’s single to center. Mets go 3 up and 3 down. Marshall Ks the pitcher, and 2 pop outs follow. Cubs lead 2-0 after 3 innings.

Kosuke singles to right. Lou asked us not to refer to his playing of reserves and relievers as “auditions”. So I’ll say that Lou’s tactic of getting maximum at bats for Fuku seems to be working, at least so far.

Lou said in the pregame that he plans to leave Sean Marshall in for only 4 or 5 innings tonight.

Sean walks David Wright, the 1st batter in the bottom of the 4th, and Wright dies at 1st. Cubs lead 2-0 going into the 5th.

Interesting graphic on TV. Marshall has thrown 66 pitches: 22 balls, 44 strikes.

The bags are loaded with 2 out for David Wright as Lou leaves Sean Marshall in. We got to this point by Sean: hitting Evans, giving up a weird infield single to Santana, and walking Castillo. David Wright singles to left, tying the game 2-2. Soriano’s throw to the plate was early but way off track up the 1st base side. The 5th inning ends with the score tied, 2-2.

**CHAD GAUGIN ALERT** Chad Gaudin is pitching for the Cubs in the bottom of the 6th. Delgado doubles inches fair in left. Castro singles to the pitcher. Gaudin errs on the throw, sending Delgado home (with the go-ahead run) and sending Castro to second. Back to back singles to right load the bases with no outs. Welcome back, Chad!

Johan Santana likes to jump around in the batter’s box. We’ll give him an Academy Award for acting. Santana hits into a fielder’s choice, 4-2, and that’s all for Chad Gaudin. Let’s see, a double, three singles and a fielder’s choice. Five batters faced, one out. Thanks for stopping by, Chad.

Kevin Hart is now pitching for the Cubs with 1 out, the bases loaded and speedster Jose Reyes up . Reyes hits a 3 run triple to right. Hello Kevin! Mark DeRosa makes a nice unassisted put out on Castillo at 1st base. Reyes must be winded at third, as he just stands there. David Wright fans and we’re out of the inning. Mets lead 6-2.

The lead off batter in the Cubs lineup, Alfonso Soriano, flies out to left – his fourth out of the evening. Cubs go 3 up and 3 down in the 7th. The ninth position in the Cubs lineup has struck out 3X tonight. That includes a pinch hitter.

Angel Guzman is pitching for the Cubs in the bottom of the 7th. He gives up one walk and gets 3 outs. Mets take a 6-2 lead into the 8th.

Cubs have not gotten a hit since the 4th inning. Johan Ks the 1st 2 batters in the top of the 8th. That’s 4 Ks in the last 2 innings. Reed Johnson singles to right and DeRo works Santana for a walk. And the Cubs strand both runners as McGehee grounds into a 6-4 fielder’s choice to end the inning.

Murphy walks to open the Mets’ 8th. Argenis Reyes, batting for the pitcher, fans. Jose Reyes draws a walk. Castillo fans. Wright lines to Cedeno to end the scoreless inning.

It will be up to Fuku, Blanco & a pinch hitter for the Cubs in the 9th, trailing 6-2. Pedro Feliciano is pitching for the Mets. Cubs have gotten only 1 hit since the 4th inning. Make that 2 hits as Blanco singles through the hole to left. Make it 3 hits as Micah Hoffpauir singles to right. Fuku must have softened up the pitcher, Pedro Feliciano, for these other guys. Ward pops out to end the game. Mets win 6-2.

Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to pitch tomorrow night. I wonder how that will turn out.

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Live Blogging Harden vs. Santana

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

We’ll be doing the second live blog tonight and we’ll be privileged to be joined by MVN Mets blog, Take the 7 Train, in doing a simulcast on their site. Jessica, one of their writers, and I will be covering the event live and welcome your attendance. If you’re not able to make it, feel free to go back and read what took place. See you at 7pm EDT

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