Archive for June, 2010

Game 73: The Zambrano Situation

Saturday, June 26th, 2010

First Star – Jake Peavy (.225 WPA)
Second Star – Carlos Quentin (.168 WPA)
Third Star – Alex Rios (.084 WPA)

It’s hard to know where to go from here with Carlos Zambrano. I was actually looking forward to his start against Peavy. I felt like it was one we could win if he could pitch the way he had in his last outing against the Angels. Safe to say that he didn’t quite reach those heights on Friday. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a look at the video before MLB takes it down:

Let’s start with the obvious. It’s unacceptable to act this way, despite the fact that Bob Brenly (who I typically really like) said it was good to see someone have a little fire on this team. No Bob, there is a difference between having a fire for winning and acting like my 4 year old son during an anger induced temper tantrum. Zambrano didn’t show fire. That was rage and it’s not appropriate under any circumstances on this team, especially not directed at Derrek Lee for a ball that even Juan Pierre said he could not have gotten to.

Now the question becomes what to do with Zambrano. Jim Hendry suspended Zambrano indefinitely after the gane and said they were fine playing with 24 guys. There really isn’t a way of handling a player like they do in the NFL where you can “Keyshaun” them and just not dress them. I did find this nugget in the Collective Bargaining Agreement:

Physical abuse or threats directed to members of the media (and/or official scorers) by baseball personnel will not be tolerated. Disciplinary action, including fines and suspensions, will be considered in any cases that arise.

When Zambrano left the Cell, it was reported that he was verbally abusive to camera crews covering the game. That should be enough for some sort of discipline from the league. But the issue still remains as you move forward.

Phil Rogers says “It’s hard to imagine the Cubs would release Zambrano, swallowing all of his contract. But they really should put him through waivers and see if any team would touch him for the waiver price.”

If you think Hendry has never put every member of this team on waivers only to pull them back or see them go unclaimed, you’re nieve. Rogers is better than that and I’m surprised he doesn’t know how the system works. The fact is, why would anyone want to take a player like Zambrano, who has more issues than anger, for the price he’s at? They will simply wait for the Cubs to get desperate enough to release him and then swoop in at league minimum to take a chance.

Al Yellon took the opinion:

Tom Ricketts and Jim Hendry, the ball is squarely in your court. Jim Hendry has been a players’ GM and has often gone way beyond where most managers of workers would go with bad behavior. He finally stood up to Bradley’s bad act last September. It’s time for him to stand up to Z. Thanks for the no-hitter, Z, and a few years of fine pitching which are way in the rear-view mirror. But it is time for you to play baseball elsewhere.

What Al doesn’t provide is a way to make that last sentence happen. It’s all fine and good to say that Z has to go, but how is it going to happen? There is going to come a time, sooner rather than later, where Zambrano is going to do something so ridiculous that the Cubs can’t help but release him. Every day that passes, the amount owed to him decreases. I’m just not sure we’re there just yet.

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Series Preview: Cubs / Sox (Battle of Suckage – Part II)

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Misc. Notes from

  • The Cubs have dropped their last eight series-opening games dating to May 28
  • Saturday’s game will mark the Cubs’ 20,000th regular season contest since the franchise’s inception in 1876. Chicago is slated to become the first major league club to reach 20,000 major league regular season games.
  • Chicago hurlers yesterday struck out 14 Mariners hitters, tying the pitching staff’s season high
  • The Cubs bullpen has a 2.77 ERA (16 ER/52.0 IP) in June, and is looking to lower its mark in each of the first three months of the season. Chicago’s relievers posted a 3.96 ERA (34 ER/77.1 IP) in May after producing a 4.80 ERA (35 ER/65.2 IP) in April.
  • Marlon Byrd has hit safely in his last 10 road games dating to June 4 (Might be a good play for Beat the Streak)
  • The Cubs have played 38 games decided by two or fewer runs, fifth-most in baseball – the club is 14-24 (.368) in games decided by two or fewer runs. Moreover, Chicago has played in 27 one-run games, most in the majors – the Cubs are 11-16 in one-run games. The 16 setbacks are tied for most in the majors with Kansas City.

Probable Pitchers for the Series

Carlos Zambrano (3-5, 5.10 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (6-5, 5.07 ERA)

Zambrano did not face the White Sox in the team’s first Interleague series at Wrigley Field. The right-hander is coming off his best outing since returning to the rotation June 4. Against the Angels, he gave up one run on eight hits over seven innings and struck out seven. The seven innings were a season high, and he picked up his first win at Wrigley since July 12, 2009. The right-hander will miss hitting at the American League ballpark. He had two singles and drove in a run in his last start.

Peavy is set to take on the Cubs again. In his last outing against the Nationals, he was the Peavy who won the 2007 NL Cy Young Award, pitching a shutout. More impressively, he yielded just three hits and two walks for the duration of the game. Before the game, such an output would have been unexpected, considering he had a fluid buildup in his right shoulder. On Tuesday, Peavy said, “There’s not tears or any significant injuries in there that you can make worse by pitching. That was the biggest thing with me, knowing we’re structurally sound. Certainly I want to get out there and I want to be healthy enough to throw bullpens in between, really throw a baseball to work on things and not have to take the mound like we have the last couple times.” Two starts ago, Peavy took on the Cubs, going seven innings and giving up two runs in a 10-5 White Sox win.

Strength – Has a lethal arsenal of pitches that leads to strikeouts by the bushel. Is a work horse and a great leader of a pitching staff. Can dominate on the mound, but is also a pretty good control artist.

Weakness – Injuries are a concern, especially because of his taxing workload. Left-handed hitters have more success than righties, relatively speaking.

Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01 ERA) vs. Freddy Garcia (8-3, 4.85 ERA)

Silva was supposed to start Thursday against his former team, the Mariners, but the right hamstring tweak that got him pulled from his last start after 69 pitches forced the Cubs to juggle the rotation, so now Silva will pitch against the White Sox. Silva is coming off his second straight loss, but it was his team-leading 10th quality start. He won his first eight decisions with the Cubs and has dropped two in a row, although he has pitched well enough to win both. If he goes deep, he’s tough. Silva has a 2.07 ERA when he throws at least six innings.

Garcia got another win in his last start, going seven innings and allowing three runs against the Nationals. Washington scored all three runs in a big third inning. In the frame, Cristian Guzman led off the inning with a triple, followed by Adam Dunn’s RBI fielder’s choice. After the game, Dunn admitted it was hard to pick up the ball out of Garcia’s hand. “He had a lot of movement on all of his pitches,” Dunn said. “He is really deceptive being a big guy. He hides the ball very well. He was tough to pick up. He was just tough today.” Lifetime against the Cubs, Garcia is 4-0 in five starts with an anemic 1.25 ERA.

Strength – Keeps hitters off balance with a smooth but explosive delivery and natural movement. Is confident in throwing his change-up. Doesn’t get rattled, even when he doesn’t have good stuff.

Weakness – Health has always been a massive issue, so these days he’s anything but durable or reliable. Has some command problems against left-handed hitters, and he pays for it usually.

Ryan Dempster (5-6, 3.56 ERA) vs. John Danks (7-5, 3.23 ERA)

Danks struggled early in his last start against the Braves, but he settled down quite nicely, at one point getting 10 consecutive batters out en route to putting up his third consecutive win. He did not allow another run, and only two singles after those rough first two innings. “My job tonight was to keep it at three,” Danks said. “It was fortunate that these guys gave us nine. It made it a little bit easier on us.” Lifetime against the Cubs, Danks is 2-0 in three starts, with a sparkling 0.90 ERA over those 20 innings.

Strength – His change-up is great and his curve isn’t far behind, both complementing his low-90s fastball. Has a good mind for the game and knows how to pitch.

Weakness – Tends to leave his fastball up a little too often, leading to too many home runs allowed. Command and control can be an issue from time to time.

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GirlieView (06/25/2010)

Friday, June 25th, 2010

I don’t want to talk about the Cubs today. No, I’m not being a fair-weather fan (love you anyway jswanson!) The fair-weather fans in these parts flew the coop a long time ago. That’s why our posts each garner only a handful of comments from the 10 faithfuls who still visit us regularly despite the carnage. Thank you, by the way, to those faithfuls, for sticking with us even when times are tough! In any event, I just don’t think there are many new and exciting ways to talk about things. We’ve analyzed them to death. Would rather not rehash it again, and you probably don’t want to read the rehashing either. Even when they win, it seems to be almost by accident.

So I’ll tell you a little story. Most exciting thing to happen around these parts all week long. It has a happy ending too, unlike our recent Cubs adventures. :-)

Tuesday early evening. Grass cutting night at the homestead. I can’t be trusted with power tools but I like to at least pretend I am helping by hanging around, providing a cool refreshing drink now and then, and my occasional sparkling conversation. At the time I was in the garage getting the battery off the charger for the leaf blower to clear the grass off the sidewalk. I must say I do enjoy operating the blower from time to time (cough). Anyway, had I not been fetching the battery, the garage door would have been closed for the exact reason I’m about to describe.

Lawn mowing is in progress near the side garden bed. Baby bunny gets spooked. Runs around the front of the garage. I see this happening but can’t tell whether the bunny actually came into the garage, or under the bush in front of the garage. So I start moving things around where I thought he may have come in, thinking I’d scare him right back out again. Nothing. No bunny to be found. So I figured he indeed went under the bush and out the other side into our front garden beds. Everyone gave a few more cursory looks around but found nothing.

That was Tuesday. In and out of the attached garage plenty of times on Wednesday. Even the dog goes through the garage to the back yard occasionally. Nothing amiss. Storms arrive Wednesday night around 7. Power goes out. Bored-to-death, everyone goes to bed early. Power comes screaming back on at 1:00am, and of course everyone wakes up since all the lights/TVs/etc. that were on at 7:00 are back on now at 1:00. Dog thinks it’s morning and needs to do his business. I take him through the garage. Upon our return, we see the telltale signs of bunny presence. Little baby bunny poop all over the place. Suspiciously located near the lawn mower which always has some extraneous grass sticking to it (smart bunny). So, about 1:08 in the morning we start an all out search for this bunny. Moving every single thing in the garage, every nook and cranny. We realize the bunny may already be deceased. There’s very little food other than the grass stuck to the lawn mower, and certainly no water except maybe what drips from our cars’ air conditioning units, and it’s been well over 24 hours by now. We search for a full hour and give up. So discouraged. Just about to close the garage door and give up, when we spot a small frog that has jumped in while we’ve had all the doors wide open. It’s like a wildlife preserve around here. While we’re working on leading the frog back outside we spot the bunny! All tucked up behind a folding chair against the wall. So we rig up this elaborate barricade before we move the folding chair so that the bunny can’t move deeper into the garage-full-o-crap (no pun intended. I’m talking about our storage-type crap here, not bunny crap). He’s got about 10 feet to go to get to freedom! We move the chair when we’re ready, he’s not moving. Give him a little poke while I’m holding a push broom, an old log, and the full sized tray from the back of my car as a barricade.

OUT HE GOES!!!! Freedom for the little bunny! Bedtime for us, at 2:30. Didn’t fall asleep til 3:30 from the adrenaline of bunny hunting I guess! Up at 5. Felt fine … guess it’s the satisfaction of a job well done.

Ok, ok, I will include at least something Cubs related, especially since our own Seymour Butts sent us a picture from before Tuesday night’s game in Seattle.

We’ve actually got a few VFTB regulars in Seattle this week, thanks Seymour and also Doug S. for your in-person reports. I’ve enjoyed reading about your visit and I was really happy for you both yesterday because you at least got to see one win!!! Before yesterday’s game, Seymour told us what he was wearing and where he’d be sitting. I have never seen his face, only his backside so I am not sure but I think this may have been him (picture taken of my paused TV screen, pardon the blurry):

That you, Sey? If not, my apologies to this stranger. :-)

Probably took you all weekend to finally get this far in the article, but here are the Lizzies! You can judge the nature of the Cubs’ play this week by the tone of them. Enjoy the White Sox games!!


  • If all goes well, I’ll only be alive for 50 or so of the next soul-free hundred year drought.
  • My biggest fear right now is that this team is afraid to make a change.
  • We also lack what seems to be consistency in fundamentals throughout the organization.
  • Its hard to go an entire season knowing that you have to throw a gem every time out in order to get a W.
  • The weird part is that you can assemble talented individuals into a team that just does not get it done.
  • Defense so important. Its too bad Hendry & Lou haven’t got the memo.
  • Graybowdry
  • Well, I saw it all from the 3rd row and it all sucked.
  • For the love of God, MILTON BRADLEY!
  • “root, root, root for the Cubbies, If they don’t win it’s the same”
  • Safeco is the best. Great field, stands, concourses, concessions, reasonable walking distance from many hotels.
  • At Least I only have a 4hour drive home after today’s game, poor Doug has to leave the country
  • So what stage of grief are you at? Still anger? Depression? Acceptance?


  • Uninspiring.

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Game 72: Avoiding a Sweep

Friday, June 25th, 2010

First Star – Marlon Byrd (.276 WPA)
Second Star – Felix Hernandez (.262 WPA)
Third Star – John Grabow (.251 WPA) (Watch out when you leave the house, there may be flying pigs attacking)

Can I start out by saying that Felix Hernandez is one of the most under appreciated and probably under known star SP in this game today. Here are my notes from the win:

  • Xavier Nady had a throw in the second from LF that held Franklin Gutierrez to a single. It surprised me a little because I figured it would be an easy double and my guess is so did the Mariners after reading the scouting report on Nady’s arm. That’s a good sign that he’s feeling more confident in his throwing ability and that the arm is feeling good. That, to me, only increases his trade value. (Sad that that’s how I look at it these days)
  • I was surprised to see Mike Fontenot playing SS, despite the fact that Ryan Theriot was in the lineup. Starlin Castro needs a day off every now and then, but it was curious to see Theriot not back at SS for the one game with Fontenot playing his more natural 2B spot. Mini Mike did a good job there though and it worked out just fine. The only reason I could think of for the move was that Lou just figured it would be better to keep Theriot in a spot he’d been playing regularly.
  • While somewhere in the middle of the game on the Mariners telecast, the broadcasters were talking about the wonderful performance of Cliff Lee the day before. Part of their conversation turned to a stat that made my jaw drop. In Wednesday’s game, Lee had our hitters in 19, count em, 19 counts of 0-2. That’s disgustingly unacceptable. It’s a lack of patience and is a reason why this team doesn’t win. You have to try to work the count in your favor a little. You can’t tell me all of those pitches were good pitches to hit. If that was the case, then we need to be scolded for our hitting ability instead. When you’ve got a pitcher like Lee or Hernandez on the mound, your goal as a team should be to do whatever it takes to get their butt out of the game as soon as possible. Whatever it takes to make that happen is what needs to be done. One of the most effective ways, aside from hitting tar out of the ball, is to see a lot of pitches and run that pitch count up early. Falling behind 0-2 is not doing that.
  • Andrew Cashner blew the hold for Ted Lilly’s well pitched game and I found myself asking the question “do you think that relief pitchers, or even hitters in the lineup, apologize to the starting pitcher when they do something to prevent them from a well deserved win?” I ask that it all seriousness. It’s common practice in other walks of life to apologize to someone when you mess up something of theirs, so it would seem to hold true with the SP / MR relationship as well, don’t ya think?
  • Mike Sweeney hit a foul ball straight back at the camera that looked so realistic that I actually jumped out of the way so as to not get hit. I immediately felt like a complete tool for moving away from the ball as if it was going to come out of the TV. I can only imagine how crazy that would have looked in high def (don’t have it) or even 3D. Scared the piss out of me.
  • I was a little confused by the move to bring in Carlos Marmol to face Ichiro in the 9th. Marshall is a lefty and hadn’t been pitching terrible. Seemed like a curious move at the time, but it worked.

We get a win, despite the fact that both Bobby Howry and John Grabow pitched in the game in key situations and avoid the sweep. I hate everything about cheering for a team to lose, so I’m still hoping for a dramatic turn around. Aramis comes back today for the White Sox game and it’s my guess that Chad Tracy will be designated for assignment, though there is a possibility we could see Starlin go back to AAA and Baker and Tracy be kept on the roster. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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No Love for Lou?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I’m a fan of Lou Piniella. I’ve been a fan of Sweet Lou and his hiring from day one.  That fiery attitude, Santa Clause gut, and his sometimes dreadfully honest assessments about his teams level of play bring a smile to my face.

I don’t feel like Lou would feed me a line of Bull.  Sometimes when I am frustrated with the current state of affairs I think of Lou’s predecessors like Dusty Baker or Don Baylor.  I think about the BS and the finger pointing or excuses they gave for downfalls or mishaps.  During postgame news conferences, I used to wonder if every reporter in that room was wearing boots up to their knees so they can trek through the cow dung that Dusty was peddling.

I have to say, we have come a long way since then.  However,  with the realtive success of the  2007 & 2008 seasons well in the rearview mirrors of Cub fans, we are starting to wonder what has gone amiss.  We have started to throw blame in new directions.  The manager has come under fire recently. I sense that hipshot reaction of the typical sports fan, especially us Cubs fans, and our hankering for the silver bullet cure….Fire the manager! But would that even make a difference?

I know, I know…..

Yes, I know what you are thinking…..sometimes, when a reporter asks that inevitable question after a loss regarding the teams inability to score runs or hit when the game is on the line, Lou gives that blank “I don’t know, I just don’t know” response and we are left to gnaw on that explanation. But what other answer would you expect?  First of all, they ask that same question after every loss and most of our losses are essentially for the same reason….run production.  Lou has tried a billion different lineups and recently has benched veterans making millions to start rookies making much less.  He has the horses, they just aren’t pulling the apple cart (remember that old Dustyism, “If you get me the horses I will win, I just don’t have the horses”……how annoying was he!!!).

At any rate, no team will win when their big hitters are stinking up the stage. You could bring in Casey Stengel as manager and he won’t change this team’s fortune.  A manager can’t play a position on the field.  When your team is losing 2-0, 1-0, 3-1 as this team has done all year, it has less to do with the decisions being made in the dugout and more to do with the play on the field, which in many cases is a result of the decisions that have been made in the front office.

I don’t want the best players Craig, I want the right ones!”

-Herb Brooks (from the movie Miracle about the 1980 Gold Medal USA Hockey Team)

Now, I don’t want to rail on Mr. Hendry anymore.  It is well documented and understood that he has made some good deals and some bad ones.  My major concern overall is that we seem to lack the right players to get over the hump. I see a lot of auto-pilot lights on in the cockpit. We seem to have a lot of guys waiting for their contract to end.  We seem to have a lot of guys fed up with being a Cub.  A lot of blasé attitudes with performance.

As the manager, what can you do about this? You have to build the house with the tools provided.  You could bench Lee and A-Ram until they start hitting, but if you bench them, where will they get at bats in order to get back on track? Will they take some hacks at Grant Park on their off days or the batting cages at Sluggers?  No, they need to keep plugging away at major league pitching.  They need to work with Rudy Jaramillo (AKA The Swing Jesus) to get back on track.

But there’s one problem….. Actually not just one…..

Until recently, Aramis Ramirez has stated that he’s his own best hitting coach.  Finally, now that he has made two trips to the DL in this young season to “heal” a bad thumb, he says he will succumb to working with Rudy. There is nothing like paying a player millions and then watching them throw away a third of the season only to finally come to this decision.  Is this the type of player that is good for this team?  Wouldn’t you go a little crazy if you were Lou?  Standing there watching your only viable option at third base act like a reluctant child who won’t ask for help when the going gets bad.  It sounds like Aramis is perfecting the definition of stupid.

The bad part is you can say ditto for Derrek Lee too.  He has the same reluctance to getting tips from somebody who has helped many.  He feels his way is best, even when it hurts the team. Once again I ask, Is this a team player or just a good one who selfishly goes through massive slumps and would rather hurt the team while he “works” out of it?

So your three and four hitters are reluctant to ask for help from one of the best hitting coaches in the game and they are also your cornerstone veteran infielders and making millions.  Do you bench them and hope that the hitting woes pass like the flu, not to mention alienate them in the process and possibly damage the relationship, or ride it out with them and hope they come around before it is too late?

The point I am trying to make is this, what is Lou going to do when the heart of his order has all of the sudden started playing without heart.  Add in the streaky but not quite reliable Soriano and you have a recipe for a headache.

Oh and for those of you complaining because Baker or Nady get too much playing time, I feel your pain. The only problem is these guys were brought in to do a job and that job is to “fill in” where needed and pinch hit.  They are paid to do this and it is their job.  It behooves Lou to use them and try to get some sort of production out of them seeing as the Cubs already put down the money.  The typical fan won’t see this but this is as much a business decision as it is a professional one.

While Lou’s decision making has not been unflawed, I highly doubt we can accuse him of losing us more then a game or two since the start of the season. When it comes down to it, the manager fills out a lineup card and makes pitching changes. It is up to the players to play the game.  Lou has to use the players he is given when making these decisions……I am just wondering if he has the right players.

Everything being what it is, has Lou really been given a fair rap this season? Has he been given the right tools to build a champion?

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