Archive for July, 2010

Game 103: A joke that’s not funny

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Tonight the Cubs showed why they are not qualified to compete in this year’s postseason race, losing the game 17-2 to the Rockies. The offense was noticeably absent once again and Dempster clearly didn’t have his best stuff. The Rocks did their damage in the third, fifth, sixth and eighth innings and the Cubs have now lost four out of their last five games. Here are the game’s highlights, if you can call them that:

  • Bottom 3rd: Francis singles with one out. Then Fowler hits a ground rule double men on second and third one out. Seth Smith doubles to right center scoring two. 2-0 Rocks. Dempster walks Tulowitzki, men on first and second two out. The third consecutive walk in the inning plates a run 3-0 Rockies.
  • Bottom 5th: Carlos Gonzalez hits one about 430 ft. 4-0 Rockies. Tulowitzki singles to center. Hawpe walks Larry Rothschild comes out for a visit men on first and second no one out. Base hit by Stewart – 5-0 Colorado.
  • Top 6th: Base hit to lead off the inning by Baker. Triple by Tyler Colvin Baker scores 5-1 Rockies. Lee with his 45th RBI as he grounds to short to score Colvin – 5-2 Colorado.
  • Bottom 8th: Barmes doubles to left center, Melvin Mora pinch hits and singles Barmes to third with no one out. Gonzalez singles to right scoring Barmes, 6-2 Rockies. Tulowitzki then doubles home Mora making it 7-2 Colorado. Then Hawpe doubled making it 9-2 Rockies.  Further abuse followed, Cashner looked pitiful and should proceed directly to Des Moines.  He’s looked bad this week and needs to learn what happens when you pitch poorly at the major league level.  Send him down now.   Marshall didn’t have it tonight, he gave up four runs and the Colorado team made it a laugher.

I was able to watch the Cubs win in Houston on Monday night – that game marked their third win in four games and gave many of us pause for relief and narrow hopes for postseason play. But the teams’ performance since then makes it virtually a cinch that the 2010 Cubs will not make the playoffs for the second year in a row.

In other news Houston has made some serious trades and the Cards have not. Roy Oswalt was shipped to the Phillies and he promptly gave up four earned runs in a loss to the Nats. On paper this was a good trade for Philadelphia, particularly given Happ’s injury this year and slow comeback. I’m wondering whether or not the Phils have the mojo it will take to get the job done against the Braves. Also in National League Central Division news the Astros traded Lance Berkman to the Yankees – I’d like to see Berkman finish out the year there and possibly land in Chicago next year – his team option has converted into a mutual option so this could very well happen. So who do you want, Lee or Berkman or somebody else? Both players are 34 years old coming off of bad years.

Also Teddy Ballgame has still not been moved, my conclusion is that Hendry won’t trade Lilly for chump change. I’d like to see the Cubs hold on to Lilly if they can’t get good value – let’s offer him arbitration and see what happens.

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GirlieView (07/30/2010)

Friday, July 30th, 2010

So I’ve been following the trade rumors all day long hoping to bring you some breaking news about all the wheeling and dealing Jim Hendry’s been doing. Are you excited to hear it? Hold your breath! Here it comes!!! Get ready!

: : : : : : : : : : insert crickets here : : : : : : : : :

Big bunch of nothing. Which is how I expect the deadline to pass. Hope I’m wrong!

Meanwhile, let’s recap the really great conversation around here this week (quantity AND quality!) We’ve got a great group of Lizzies thanks to plenty of our regulars plus a hearty dose of new faces (and returnees!).What’s a Lizzie, you ask? It’s recognition given to certain VFTB quotes throughout the week that particularly strike my fancy. Totally subjective, but I have a great time picking these out each week. It’s a good gig. Especially this week. The Lizard is the best of the Lizzies. Enjoy!

Lizzies

  • there are exactly two reasons to watch the Cubs these days: Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro.
  • A very special congratulations to Andre Dawson
  • Three straight years above .500 = miracle.
  • [Hendry]’s great at making big moves with his less valuable chips, but he’s terrible at knowing when to cash in his more valuable ones.
  • You have to give Jim credit for the altered expectations.
  • I’ve never felt like the Cubs have been leaders in the market. They have always had a reactionary and old fashioned business model, and never had the ingenuity to be a leader
  • he did turn Milton Bradley into Carlos Silva.
  • How do you think Milton Bradley will not be Milton Bradley?
  • All this improved play of late is really throwing a kink in the trade plans.
  • Personally–I think the “apology” on ESPN was a typical attention-getting move from Zambrano. Have some class–shut up, do your job, and talk to your teammates quietly in the clubhouse.
  • I like Theriot in the 8-spot, but Hendry could ship him out and bring up Scales for all I care.
  • Unless Colvin and Castro change their names to Strasburg, they have no chance at ROY.
  • [Colvin]’s just a good-looking (and I mean that in a manly way) athlete with a bit of the rock star in him.
  • Personally, I like him because his last name rhymes with the word “moustache.”
  • Tango and Cash have nothing on Ryno and ‘Stache.
  • Although it was VERY nice to watch a Sunday Night game and not have to endure Joe Morgan (also nice not to hear that Miller guy), Bobby V still should not even be on this list.
  • I still can’t believe Howry occupies a MLB roster spot.
  • As we got to the front of Wrigley under the Marquee he stopped in the midst of a solid cantor and squatted!
  • If you know pugs then you know they have personalities like people and he shot back a look that was like “if you gotta go?”
  • Nerd power.
  • I have a BS in Middle Grades Math Education
  • I have Eular’s identity tatted on my left arm…top that.
  • I’m beginning to see why that goofy chart is omnipresent on the daily recaps.
  • I just have a lot of BS
  • @jim: Please go on. Your keen insights are clearly what this blog is lacking.
  • Anybody wanna bet we get very little if anything decent for Ted Lilly?
  • I wish I could text Jim Hendry or send him a message on facebook or something…
  • Despite the painful ending, it was the best year of baseball I have ever experienced.
  • In 1984, I did not care about their salaries, their agents, their late-night antics, their dugout ravings. In 1984, the Cubs in this 13yr old eyes were titans, gods, pure magic…

Lizard

  • Unfortunately anything that draws a connection to this season and dog shit, is spot on.

Hope you have a great weekend!

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1984: My Favorite Year

Friday, July 30th, 2010

When my friends and I talk about the 1980s, it’s usually to remind ourselves what a lame decade it was. Bad music (except for maybe Pink Floyd’s “The Final Cut”). Bad television (yes folks, “Miami Vice” and “The A Team” were unwatchable). Bad movies (remember Paulie’s robot in “Rocky IV”).

The one bright spot from a truly forgettable decade was the 1984 Chicago Cubs. At age 14, I was at my baseball-watching peak. Cable television had finally come to town, which meant plenty of afternoon action on the 13-inch black and white in my bedroom. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t expecting much from Jim Frey’s Cubs. They were coming off a 71-91 campaign that featured a terrible pitching staff. But, it was a new year, and at least Harry and Steve were calling the games.

A few offseason acquisitions would be instant difference makers in 1984: Bob Dernier, Gary Matthews, and Scott Sanderson. That threesome helped the Cubs get off to a fast start, going 12-8 in April. The next two months energized Cubs fans even more as Ryne Sandberg emerged as an elite talent. By June, Ryno was mashing at a .345/.392/.582 clip and playing Gold Glove 2B. His two-homer performance against the St. Louis Cardinals gained national attention (after the game, Whitey Herzog called him “the best player I have ever seen”). Batting second behind Dernier, Sandberg formed half of what Harry Caray called “the Daily Double.”

May and June also meant the arrival of pitching reinforcements. GM Dallas Green worked some magic to bring in AL starters Dennis Eckersley (traded for Bill Buckner, who had been reduced to a reserve role) and Rick Sutcliffe (acquired with Ron Hassey and George Frazier for Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Don Schulze, and Darryl Banks). What happened next would amaze even the most optimistic Cubs supporter.

Chicago rolled through the month of July, bringing their record to 60-44. Right-hander Rick Sutcliffe was dominating the National League like no Cubs pitcher I had ever seen. Cy Young talk began to circulate. Sandberg continued to lead the senior circuit’s best offense, which included breakout seasons by 1B Leon Durham and RF Keith Moreland, and a rebirth for veteran LF Gary Matthews. The Northsiders were leading the league in runs scored and racking up quality starts in the process. My friends and I began tempting fate with playoff talk. After all, Harry told us “the Good Lord wants the Cubs to win!”

Win they did, and on September 24th it was official. After shutting down the Pirates and running his record to 16-1, Sutcliff and the Cubs were NL East champions (there were only two divisions back then). They finished “my favorite year” at 96-65, 6.5 games ahead of Dwight Gooden and the New York Mets. For the first time in my life the Chicago Cubs were in the playoffs. Next would be the San Diego Padres in a best-of-five NLCS.

The 1984 Padres were an odd team in an odd division. Their 92 wins were enough for an easy title, as second-place Atlanta and Houston (80-82) finished 12 games back. On paper, the Cubs were easy favorites. San Diego’s top home run hitters were former Cub Carmelo Martinez (traded in the Sanderson deal) and rookie Kevin McReynolds, each with 20. No other Padre hit more than 14. Steve Garvey only mustered eight long balls in 617 at bats.

San Diego’s pitching was certainly respectable, but a rotation with Eric Show, Tim Lollar, Ed Whitson, and Mark Thurmond didn’t match up very well with Sutcliffe, Eckersley, Trout, and Sanderson. Experts were predicting a Cubs-Tigers World Series (the Tigers were far and away the best team in the American League with 104 wins). My friends and I couldn’t have been more confident. But a funny thing happened on the way to Detroit…

Opening the NLCS at Wrigley Field, the Cubs came out swinging. Rick Sutcliffe pitched and slugged the Cubs to a 13-0 blowout win. Lefty Steve Trout threw 8.1 solid innings in a 4-2 victory in game two. Frey’s squad only needed to win one of three road games to advance to the Fall Classic. For the first time in my life, I was talking smack about the Cubs. Bad move.

The Padres knocked around a stunned Dennis Eckersley in game three. The Eck gave up nine hits and five runs without striking out one batter. Ed Whitson shut down Sandberg and company in a 7-1 lopsided loss. Game four saw Jim Frey roll the dice. Instead of bringing Sutcliffe back on short rest, he elected to start Scott Sanderson against Tim Lollar. Sanderson was shelled, but the offense responded with two runs off Padre closer Goose Gossage. It was 5-5 in the 9th when Lee Smith faced Steve Garvey with one man on. “Mr. Clean” had already driven in three runs. Smith delivered a 1-0 fastball that Garvey crushed the other way for a game-winning homer. To this day I can’t accurately describe how I felt after Garvey’s blast. It never even crossed my mind that he might take Smith out of the park. Even though the series was tied 2-2, I felt completely defeated. Maybe the Cubs did too.

Game five was an afternoon affair, and ace Rick Sutcliffe was on the hill. Sutcliffe hadn’t lost a game since June 29th. The Padres were throwing Eric Show, who was drilled for three homers in game one. I was feeling much better that day, and apparently so were the Cubs hitters. Two early home runs sent Show to the showers. Through five innings, the Cubs were cruising at 3-0.  As I look back at the last four innings of that unforgettable game, a few things stand out. First, the Padres bullpen slammed the door on the Cubs offense. Andy Hawkins, Dave Dravecky, Craig Lefferts, and Goose Gossage combined for 7.2 shut-out innings, allowing only two hits and one walk. Next, Ron Cey went 0-4 in game five, which was consistent with his entire playoff performance (.158 for the series). Third, the Cubs defense really let them down that afternoon (I still have nightmares about the Leon Durham grounder).

There’s really no point in reliving the classic meltdown that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We remember all too well the Padres postgame celebration (fortunately the Tigers beat them like a drum in the 1984 World Series). Even now the thought of Steve Garvey rounding the bases with his fist in the air after game four makes me want to break something. Yes, it’s 26 years later, and the memories are still fresh. Despite the painful ending, it was the best year of baseball I have ever experienced. Cubs playoff appearances in 1989, 1998, 2003, and so on haven’t even come close. I just hope that every young fan gets to experience at least one similar season. So what if Harry was wrong? Like my Dad said that summer, “the man upstairs has more important things to worry about than your favorite baseball team.”

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More Cubs Trade Possibilities

Friday, July 30th, 2010

I got this e-mail earlier in the week. It was well thought out so I asked him if I could post it. I don’t agree with a lot of it, mainly because teams are pretty reluctant to trade top prospect type guys like Dominic Brown, but it’s a fun piece to read regardless of what you think. I’d particularly like your feedback on the shape of the roster he includes at the end. Thanks to Ben for taking the time to write. (Note: The e-mail came in before the Phillies made a deal with Houston to bring in Roy Oswalt)

Here are some ideas I have been tossing around:

1. Big Z, Lee, Baker to the Mets, Oliver Perez, Castillo, and Ike Davis to the Cubs.

The Cubs would love to dump Big Z.  They aren’t going to offer Lee arbitration, so sending him away now makes sense.  I think the Mets would love to get rid of those 2 contracts, and get actual talent in return.  Davis is a decent young 1B, and a left handed hitter at that.  Getting him, plus getting out of Big Z 2012 salary, makes the deal worth it for the Cubs.  We aren’t going to be good in 2011 anyway, so holding some dead money doesn’t hurt us.

2.  Kouske and Marshall to the Red Sox for Lowell.

Getting out of Kouske’s contract for next year should be a priority.  This is one option.  I have seen the rumors for Scott Downs, and the asking price.  Given that Marshall is younger and cheaper, and possibly better, I think the Sox would be willing to take on 13 million next year.  I hate to give away players, but by the time the Cubs are good, Marshall will be arb eligible, and making way more money.  Lowell could play against tough lefties at 1B for this year, and back up Aram.

3.  Byrd to the Braves for Kris Medlen and Jordan Schafer.

Braves need a good CF, and Byrd fits the bill.  Schafer is not usable for the Braves, and still might be a good 4th OF.  Medlen would slot right into the 2011 rotation for the Cubs.

4.  Lilly, Marmol, and Fontenont to the Phillies for Dominic Brown and a low level prospect.

Not sure if the Phillies give him up, but this would at least make them think about it.  This gives them a good 3rd starter behind Hamels and Halladay, and an 8th inning guy or closer to fill in for Lidge.  Font can play 3rd with Polanco and 2nd till Utley comes back, and is better than what the Phils have on the bench.

5. Silva and Theriot to the Tigers for Casey Crosby.

If the Tigers view themselves as out of it, then they won’t deal.  However, for both teams, this deal makes sense.  Cubs get out of 2011 salary for both Theriot and Silva, and get a decent pitching prospect.

So for 2011, Cubs lineup:

C    Soto
1B  Davis
2B  Castillo
SS  Castro
3B  Aram
LF  Soriano
CF  Brown
RF  Colvin

Not a bad lineup.  Clearly some holes, but some decent speed, good power, and L/R balance.

Starting Rotation

Dempster
Gorzelanny
Wells
Medlen
Cashner

No ace, but good young talent, and no real terrible starter.  Lots of upside.

Given the Cubs farm system, plus players coming back in trades, and the expiring contracts of Castillo, Perez, and Aram after 2011, the Cubs could be a top team in 2012.

Thanks for reading,

Ben

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In the News: DLee’s Decision Divides Cubs Fans

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Hey, everybody. It’s that time again. Well, sorta. To be honest, with the trade deadline looming, there’s not a ton going on with the Cubs right now. It’s sort of like there may or may not be a storm gathering that will bring thunder, lightning and torrents of rain comments when ____________ is traded. In fact, probably the biggest story over the last 24 hours or so is about who almost certainly will not be traded. I refer of course to:

Derrek Lee’s decision to reject Angels trade offer.  As widely reported yesterday, DLee decided to invoke his 10-and-5 rights and stay with the Cubs after, apparently, Jim Hendry spoke to him about a proposed deal with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. And it’s here that I’d like to point out that any hand-wringing over Jim Hendry giving Derrek a no-trade clause is a waste of time and energy because, under a collective bargaining agreement with the players, any guy who has been in the league for 10 years and spent at least five years with his current team has the right to reject a trade. Having said that, I would agree that Hendry deserves some criticism for giving NTCs to guys such as Kosuke Fukudome (who was never a sure bet to succeed spectacularly in America) and Jeff Samardzija (who’s … well … Jeff Samardzija).

DLee’s decision has provoked a wide array of, shall we say, interesting reactions from Cubs fans – including a few right here on VFTB in Daniel’s post yesterday. Although I’ll admit it would have been nice to add something to the farm system for Derrek, who may be gone after this season and will almost certainly be out of the picture within the next two or three, I don’t quite understand the violent reaction some people are having. It’s unlikely any of the prospects that the Cubs picked up for DLee would’ve been difference makers in the next couple of seasons –  if ever. The Angels are a good baseball organization, but their farm system is generally ranked in the middle of the pack. Now if the Rangers really had been interested (which they weren’t), that’s another story. But, in any case, Derrek will be 35 this year and is having a down season (as we all know). How much trade value do you really think he has?

And as for those of you who think his decision is somehow an indictment on his willingness to win, I’d say, “Win where?” With the Angels? They’re in third place right now – 8.5 games out. And, yeah, they make the playoffs a lot but haven’t made it to the World Series since they won it in 2002. Obviously if he went there he’d have a chance at playing in the postseason – a 4.1% chance, according to coolstandings.com. This isn’t the Yankees were talking about here.

Derrek told reporters yesterday that he “agonized” over this decision, and I believe him. He’s got his reasons and none of us fans know what they are. His decision probably does involve his family, which, as far as I can tell, does live here in the Chicago area most of the year. And we should all bear in mind the tragic situation with his daughter. Or perhaps he simply wants to finish the contract with the Cubs that he agreed to. I’m OK with that, too. He’s been one of the greatest Cubs first basemen in the team’s history. And his bat wasn’t a problem in the ’07 and ’08 playoffs. So let’s say our goodbyes while we can  – and respect the man’s choice.

Ted Lilly update: Still here.  Wait, wait … let me check Twitter. OK, yeah, Ted Lilly is still here. But, as I type this, it appears the Oswalt-to-the-Phillies is mere minutes from going through. Once that happens, we could soon be deluged with renewed Lilly rumors.

According to Joel Sherman, the Mets are out. And, presumably, the Phillies would be, too. But other teams, including the Twins and Dodgers, could still be in play. I suggested a while back that LA could be a landing spot for Ted because, well, they need starting pitching depth desperately. But I’d also reiterate that Randy Wolf, a very similiar pitcher to Ted, threw well for the Dodgers last season. He’s been straight-up awful for the Brew Crew this season. Mwahahahaha. All in all, my gut still says Ted will be traded, but I wouldn’t mind watching him finish out his Cubs contract either. 

On Jim Hendry: Just sayin’.  I know it’s fashionable to bash Jimbo these days. And I know there’s a lengthy discussion on His Hendryness here. But just a passing thought that’s fluttered through my head in the last couple days: Jim made a couple non-moves in the last year that have turned out well:

Exhibit A: One Rich Harden, who’s currently on the DL (shocking!) and made on 13 starts for the division-leading Rangers this season. His numbers are also horrific: 5.68 ERA (6.31 FIP 5.72 xFIP). Oh, and his strikeouts are down.

Exhibit B: One Reed Johnson, who many fans clamored for Jimbo to bring back and perhaps platoon with Sam Fuld in center field. (Not a bad, low-cost idea on its face, but I think we can all agree Marlon Byrd has been fun to watch at least.) Well, he’s on the DL with back spasms (second time this season). RJ is also hitting .291/.316/.386 (.303 wOBA) in only 135 plate appearances. I know, I know … Xavier Nady hasn’t been much better. In fact, he’s been worse. But, hey, Tyler Colvin has been awesome!

Well, that’s really all I’ve got for today. I could mention that, as noted last time, Big Z is expected to join the team in Denver tomorrow and offer a full and heartfelt apology –  which still should’ve happened before the ESPN interview, Carlos! It’s not like they couldn’t have set up a camera in your hotel room over the weekend! Four freakin’ days to show your teammates some respect, my man! Four freakin’ days!

Ahem. Good luck and God bless.

####

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