Archive for June, 2010

Game 78: Rubber Match Blues

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

 

 

First Star : Brad Lincoln (.448 WPA)

Second Star: Tom Gorzelanny (.283)

Third Star: Garrett Jones (.258)

 


 

With the wind blowing in the Cubs bats just blew.   They managed four hits and no runs against Pirates pitcher Brad Lincoln  who was 0-2 coming into this slugfest.  In all fairness Lincoln is considered the Pirates top pitching prospect.  If the rookie needed a break, the Cubs hitters were just what the doctor ordered.   He went seven strong and struck out six Cubs.

The Cubs haven’t had back to back wins since June 16-17 when they got their only series win of the month against the A’s.  Tom Gorzelanny looked good through five innings giving up no runs and four hits with three walks.  This is about as positive as I can be in regards to this contest.

Yet again, I can’t decide if this game was a pitchers duel or a battle of futility at the plate.  It seems the Cubs hitters can make just about any pitcher look worthy of the Cy Young award.  Without further ado here is The Good, The Bad , and The Ugly…….

The Good

  • In the first inning Gorzelanny made a nice pick off move to first and caught the Pirate rookie Tabata running.  He was thrown out at second on Lee’s throw down to Fontenot.  While this seems small, and it is, it was a nice start to the game and made me feel like it was setting the tone. Oh how I was fooled.
  • Aramis led off the fifth with a nice hit into right field.  When Aramis starts going the other way this means good things for him at the plate. I am not about to declare him healed of his hitting woes but he is taking baby steps.
  • Starlin Castro had yet another nice at bat in the fifth tonight.  With a man on he doubled down the right field line.  The guy doesn’t light the world on fire with his bat but he shows great promise.  He has a nice approach at the plate and he goes with whatever the pitcher gives him.
  • The Pirates bullpen.  These guys are pretty automatic against us.  Makes me sort of jealous at times.  Hanrahan got the hold and Dotel shut us down as usual.  When we are down going into the seventh against these guys you can pretty much close the book.
  • A couple guys in the crowd got creative and made signs with Soriano wearing a leather jacket and the word “aaaayyyyy!” above it with Fonzie written below. I know, I am reaching for good things at this point. 
  • Here is something good.  Tom Gorzelanny pitched very well.  He only went five inning’s but was very effective and once again made me wonder, why did we move him to the pen and bring Zambrano back to the rotation?  He had 77 pitches and 51 of them were strikes.

 

 The Bad

  • Derrek Lee got on base to start off the second inning but Aramis and Koyie were robbed on two hard hit balls that didn’t leave the infield.  That being said chalk up another spoiled chance early on in the game to put up some runs.  We had a guy on second with one out and couldn’t get the ball out of the infield. 
  • The last name Schlitter.  The recent Cubs call up (Brian Schlitter) did a fine job pitching today but that name is so bad it is awesome.  As a matter of fact, it could go in the “The Good” section but for now we will keep it here.  Say it to yourself repeatedly, it’s kind of fun.
  • Tyler Colvin striking out with 2 runners in scoring position and two outs in the fifth. As a team, we do not step up in these situations.  We will never win these close games if we don’t find some clutch hitting somewhere.  A hit there would have been clutch.  
  • Aramis Ramirez made an error on what looked like a pretty simple play for a Major League third baseman.  He ranged slightly to his left and fielded the ball but then tried to spin and throw.  Mid spin he just fumbled the ball.  It set up two men in scoring position late in the game with only one out.   Garrett Jones , the new Cub Killer, made us pay with a double off the wall. 
  • Sean Marshall walked in a run later in the eighth.  In a tight game this is unacceptable and not very Sean-like.   

 

The Ugly

  • Say it with me, five hits and no runs against the Pirates.  Does it get uglier?

 

That’s about it for me.  You guys have any other thoughts?

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Book Review: My Bat Boy Days

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

The title of this book is: “My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned from The Boys of Summer”. The author is Steve Garvey, and the book was published in 2008.

Until I read this book, I thought of “The Boys of Summer” as referring to the song by Don Henley. That’s the song with the line:

“Out on the road today, I saw a deadhead sticker on a Cadillac…”

But, in the context of this book, “The Boys of Summer” refers to baseball players in general, and to the Brooklyn Dodgers of the 1950s in particular. The same ones that Tom Waits referred to in “Jitterbug Boy” (on the “Small Change” project) with the line: “I seen the Brooklyn Dodgers, playin at Ebbets Field…”

“The Boys of Summer” was the title of a 1972 book by Roger Kahn, written about how the lives of the former 1952 Brooklyn Dodgers had changed between the time he covered the team, as a reporter, and the time he tracked each of them down 20 years later.

The Garvey family was living around Tampa, Florida back then, and young Steve Garvey became a bat boy for the Dodgers (and for other teams on the Grapefruit League circuit) during Spring Training. This book is a “Back To The Future-esque” journey to the 1950’s, when Steve Garvey’s dad drove the Greyhound bus and Steve mixed with the royalty which Major League Baseball players were back then.

As the inside front jacket cover tells us:

“’My Bat Boy Days’ is his moving collection of indelible memories, fascinating profiles, and lessons learned – about the game and about life – from heroes such as Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, and Mickey Mantle.”

It was a very different time, and his stories are of that era.

I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of the people profiled in this book: “served in the Navy in World War II”.

In describing this long ago world, Steve says: “Dad emphasized the need to be respectful, to not get in the way, and most important, to say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’.”

Mr. Garvey quotes Roy Campanella, the MVP catcher, who said to him: “If you practice hard and listen to your coaches, maybe someday you’ll be a Dodger.” Then Mr. Campanella brought the discussion around to schoolwork. He advised Steve’s dad: “Joe, if Steve studies hard and practices, maybe someday he’ll be a Dodger!”

The author discusses Pee Wee Reese and his role as “Captain” of the team, saying: “They made him the ‘Captain’ because of his ability to lead the Boys of Summer like no other ever had and no one ever would again.”

It was Pee Wee Reese who told Steve Garvey: “… the key to baseball, whether you’re batting or fielding, is to never, ever take your eye off the ball from the moment it leaves the pitcher’s mitt. Sounds simple, but it’s sage advice for a kid learning the game.”

Mr. Garvey discusses the dignity of Gil Hodges, who never wound up in the Hall of Fame: “… in Brooklyn, none of the others was as popular as Hodges…. when the flight to the suburbs began to affect Brooklyn, Hodges stayed at home…. He circulated in the community, dining and shopping and running errands. He was visible. He was accessible.”

The author quotes Carl Erskine, reminiscing about one great Brooklyn Dodgers fan, Captain Joe Dowd, who had taken the Dodgers and their families around the harbors in tugboats: “Captain Dowd was nearly ready to retire and he geared his whole life around the retirement years when he could go to Ebbets Field every day, not just on his off day. The year he retired was the year we moved to Los Angeles, and it sort of typified the heartbreak of the Dodger fan for me to talk to Captain Dowd. He was broken-hearted and he never forgave the team for causing him to devote his life interest to them, and then without even asking him, they just left.”

Speaking about the passion which Jackie Robinson brought to the game, Garvey describes how Robinson: “… would analyze every aspect of the pitcher’s stance, his windup, and his delivery. He was a great student of the game. I would sit next to him and he would predict every single pitch…. by the time I was twelve he had taught me to predict pitches. It was truly one of the greatest mental baseball skills I ever learned. To this day I do it as a parlor trick while watching a game, to the amazement of those around me.”

It was Jackie Robinson who advised young Steve Garvey that baseball was “a pretty miserable way to make a buck”.

Mr. Garvey explains how he feels, rubbing elbows with his idols: “These days, when I am in Yogi Berra’s presence, like all the other greats, I pretend I belong, like I’m one of them, but to tell the truth I still feel like that bat boy honored and humbled to be in the presence of such greatness.”

The author mentions that: “…when asked what he’d want on his tombstone, (Mickey Mantle) said, ‘A great teammate’, which is what was engraved there.”

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “I have written this book to honor my heroes. They taught me about the game and how it should be played and lived. Those lessons were learned years ago, but they are timeless.”
  • “I’m looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back.”
  • “’Our roots there weren’t as deep as they were in California,’ Snider wrote, ‘but they were just as strong’.”
  • “…the Dodgers lost but Koufax won.”
  • “’It took a Hall of Famer to keep me out of the major leagues,’ Tom Lasorda likes to say when explaining why he was sent back to Triple-A Montreal when Koufax was activated.”
  • “If I have a weakness in my elbow, it is only reasonable to conclude that it is part of the same overall construction that gives me the ability to throw a ball hard…”
  • “‘A big-league ballplayer, who knows he can hit and has hit well before, must never let himself lose faith in his ability to hit well again – regardless of how long any slump may last. For me and every other major leaguer who takes his baseball life and work seriously, confidence is a secret strength’.”

I enjoyed reading “My Bat Boy Days”, even though it was written by Steve Garvey, and I recommend it very highly.

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

Game 77: Options for Dealing With Ted Lilly

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

First Star – Ted Lilly (.330 WPA)
Second Star – Ryan Doumit (.225 WPA)
Third Star – Alfonso Soriano (.202 WPA)

A very nice win last night, despite the usual Ted Lilly run support showing. He’s been a tough luck loser this year, and you have to feel bad for the guy. We’re basically a month away from the trade deadline and teams have Ted on their radar, notably the Mets. I’m not sure what the market value for a guy like Lilly is, but it’s clear that Jim Hendry has a decision to make. I’d like to give you a breakdown on his options.

The first piece of information that you have to know is that Ted Lilly is not only scheduled to be a free agent at the end of the season, but he’s projected to be a Type A free agent. If you’re not familiar with that concept, the short of it goes like this. Each year, players are ranked, free agent or not, and the top 20 % at each position are designated as Type A guys, while the next 20% are designated as Type B guys. The system is designed to compensate teams that lose these guys, provided that they were interested in keeping them in the first place. When a team loses a Type A guy, they are awarded the first round pick of the team that signed him in the June draft as well as a sandwhich pick between the 1st and second round. Essentially, it’s two prospects in return. The key statement was the fact that the team had to be interested in re-signing the player in the first place. To show that commitment, they must be willing to offer the player arbitration. Should that player accept the offer, then they will retain the player. Should he decline, the compensation kicks in.

I think the Cubs would like to keep Lilly, provided that the price is right for their budget. That being said, there is definitely the option to let Lilly ride out the season and then offer him arbitration. If he accepts, that’s great, and we’ll work out an extension with him or go to arbitration (try to avoid it if possible) and have Lilly back with the team for 2011. Should he decline, we’re awarded a couple of draft picks to continue to bolster the farm system.

The other option for the Cubs is to look seriously at the suitors for Lilly and move him before the deadline. You’d have to imagine that as the clock ticks, the value for him declines ever so slightly simply because you’re getting fewer starts for your investment if you’re the team that decides to bring him in. If it’s a move that is going to be made, it’s one that we need to make sooner rather than later. The key is to weigh the offers you’re being given and speak with guys like Oneri Fleita, Tim Wilkin and the scouts to decide if the package being offered is more valuable than guys who would be drafted in June.

Ideally, I think I’d like to see Lilly come back to pitch for us. I see him as being a Jamie Moyer type pitcher that still has plenty of good baseball left in him. I’d be willing to invest in another three years of baseball for Teddy. Thankfully, it’s not my decision, because it’s a tough one to make.

Other notes from a sleepy game of baseball:

  • Big ups to my boy, Koyie Hill, for getting me a hit in Beat the Streak. If you’re not playing with us, shame on you. What better time to start than today?
  • Guess who took the most pitches last night? Ryan Theriot. No hits for him, but a walk was present and accounted for.
  • Derrek Lee seems to be hitting the ball hard lately. It’s just not translating into many hits.
  • You have to believe that Carlos Marmol will not be available in the series finale, considering he’s appeared the last three games. Better score some runs so we don’t need him.
  • Not sure if anyone is interested or not, but I made an appearance on ESPN 1700 out of Des Moines on Monday to talk about the Zambrano situation and the team as a whole. It’s about a 20 minutes segment. If you want to listen, especially because of the fact that I defended Jim Hendry, you can download it here. I’d love some feedback or debate on what I had to say. Feel free to tear me to shreds.
Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

The Calm After the Storm

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Hurricane Carlos struck again this past Friday, blowing through the Cubs dugout and tearing apart the lackluster play of any teammate stepping in its way.  While it didn’t cause any physical damage, like the ’07 version did on the small but proud town of Michael Barrett, the mental fallout was severe.  It’s whipping winds were bad enough to flare up the tempers of a normally easy going vacation spot known as Derrek Lee; a town where the elder’s go to relax and live out their final years.  

Seriously, I laughed.  As a true fan this event shouldn’t make me laugh but it did.  The sight of a major league pitcher giving up a three run homer to start off the second chapter of a cross-town rivalry, then ripping into each of his teammates and their performance upon entering the dugout after the disastrous inning was comical.  Who was he really yelling at? 
 

Welcome to Planet Carlos!

Apparently Carlos was trying to fire up the troops with this tirade.  I think his heart was in the right place but his brain already hit the showers.  This isn’t the first time this has happened on Planet Carlos.  In the past he has shown signs of sharing the same dysfunctional solar system as Milton Bradley, Manny Ramirez, and Barry Bonds. 

Big Z’s massive meteorite of passion often collides with his stupidity and immaturity leaving a huge crater.  It happened a few years ago and the team gave him the benefit of the doubt.  Instead of shipping him out of town they traded the guy who was on the receiving end of his punches.   

Up until the last season his temper and emotions on the field were so volatile those watching sat and wondered when Mount Carlos would erupt.  Over time it became obvious that the physically durable, yet emotionally fragile Zambrano was his own worst enemy.  He would often stalk the mound after an error, shouting expletives into his glove like a man possessed, all the while staring down the guilty culprit.  Showing up a teammate after an error is typically frowned upon not to mention lacks professionalism.  After a while this became so normal it was his expected response.          
   
Until this recent incident at Cellular Field, Carlos, the human natural disaster, has been somewhat dormant.  He even seemed at times jovial and at peace letting some previous bad performances slide off his back.  I guess his cup of passion just spilled over at an inopportune time.  Will he apologize to his team and if so will it matter?

 
What is a leader?

Friday’s display was one more example of Zambrano’s inability to grasp the leadership role.  It is definitely the leader’s job to ignite a fire under his team when they are struggling but there needs to be a method to the madness. Some people just aren’t cut out for it.  Just because you give a player a massive contract and name him your ace doesn’t mean he is a natural leader of men. 

Leadership is a common commodity on championship teams.  Very few, if any, advance their play to the pinnacle lacking this quality somewhere in the clubhouse. This is true with any sport, company, or organization for that matter.

Friday’s occurrence didn’t shock me.  This team has not displayed any real leadership in years and it shows.  On a team looking desperately for direction the last thing they needed was to find out that one of there elder statesman, an eight year veteran and an assumed leader, was more of a distraction then anything else.   

Leaders lead by example not just words.  When they choose to use words timing and delivery are crucial.  Carlos failed in all of the above and has been suspended until after the All Star break.  Once again, an extremely expensive contract will ride the pine useless for a good chunk of the season, as some are predicting August as a return date.   Lou has already gone ahead and noted that Big Z will find a seat in the pen when he returns, that is, if he returns.

Is he finished?

Apparently Zambrano will get some counseling while he is away.  I am not sure if I want to watch him toil in Cubbie blue anymore.  Even if he comes back healed what’s to say he doesn’t relapse again in the future? 

While I hope the best for Carlos, I am not sure it is productive to hold a spot on this team for him any longer.  It already appears that he has a long trek back to the starting rotation and he was not much more effective as a reliever as evidenced earlier in the season. 

Last season there was talk that Carlos may want to exit baseball after his contract with the Cubs runs out. When Carlos throws his last pitch I wonder how fans and baseball will remember him?  Will it be for the no hitter in 2008, the many displays of hard nose power pitching that led this staff for a few seasons, or the two dugout fights and endless temper tantrums on the mound?  While the sand in Big Z’s hour glass seems to be running out, one has to wonder, is there enough time and opportunity left for Carlos to make his mark on something other than a teammates face?

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us:

In the News: We’re Z-Free and Lovin’ Every Minute of It, Jerry!

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Good day, fellow followers of the Chicago Cubs National League Professional Baseball Organicacion. I would like to start off today’s news broadcast post with a simple and clear statement: I will not be discussing Carlos Zambrano. For that, I suggest you mosey on over to Joe’s game recap and have at it. I am the king of the castle, the master of my doman – and I’ve decided to make this a Z-Free post. Uh, unless some shocking development takes place regarding Carlos and then I’ll probably just cross all this out and go ahead and cover it. Oh my God! He’s been traded to the Yankees for A.J. Burnett! Ha, just kidding. Let’s get on with the Z-Free News:

Grabow blows out knee, two familiar faces called back. Those of us who were foolish/unfortunate/masochistic enough to watch last night’s game witnessed the slightly cringe-inducing sight of John Grabow re-injuring the knee that’s been giving him trouble all season. It’s not like his leg exploded or anything, but it’s always a little dismaying when you see an obviously hurt pitcher essentially take himself out of the game. And if you thought that was bad, check out what could be the demise of Detroit Tigers fireballer Joel Zumaya last night. Brutal.

To replace Grabow and that other pitcher who’s been placed on the restricted list, the Cubs have called up two dudes we’ve seen before. Jeff Stevens barely got settled in his swingin’ Des Moines bachelor pad before he got the call and headed back to Chi-Town. And lefty James Russell, whom I liked in theory but put up some scary bad numbers in his 21 innings pitched this season (3.00 HR/9!!!), is back as well.

The John Grabow signing, dubious to begin with because of the large number of dineros going to an average pitcher who’s not even a starter, is looking worse and worse. The Cubs could wind up getting less than nothing out of Grabow this season – he has a negative WAR as it is – and he still has a whole season left on his deal.

Ted Lilly to the Mets? That was the rumor ignited by New York Post writer Joel Sherman yesterday. Lilly’s bounceback outing in Seattle confirmed that he remains one of the Cubs better trading chips heading into what’s becoming more and more likely to be a sell season. And the Mets – and other teams – may see Ted as a little more gettable than Roy Oswalt or Cliff Lee.

In other trade rumor news…well, there really hasn’t been any that I’ve found. Various blogs and sites, including Fangraphs, are screaming for the Cubs to trade anyone and everyone, but I honestly have no idea what Hendry is up to.

Cubs honor Ron Santo. In case you missed it, here’s the official article and vid clip of last night’s honoring of ol’ No. 10. Too bad the current players couldn’t have “honored” him with a win. I think Ron’s making a wise choice in cutting back his road broadcasts. Maybe it’s just me, but he seems a little more energetic since making the decision and, based on the team’s current road record of 15-24, he doesn’t need all that groaning in his diet.

Mark Prior attempts 4,495th comeback. Ol’ No. 22 will work out for an expected multitude of major league scouts tomorrow at the University of Southern California. Can he refashion himself as, presumably, a big league reliever? I wish I could bring myself to care.

####

Like what you see here? Never miss new content. Follow Us: