Archive for September, 2010

Book Review: Parables From The Diamond

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The complete title of this book is “Parables From The Diamond – Meditations for Men on Baseball & Life”. The authors are Phil Christopher and Glenn Dromgoole. This book was published in 2009, and came to me as part of a group of books shipped to me by Joe Aiello.

Phil Christopher is described as “a preacher with a passion for baseball, played baseball in college and coached Little League. Bats right. Throws left. Writes left.”

Glenn Dromgoole is described as “an author, journalist, and lifetime baseball fan. Bats right. Throws right. Writes left.”

We are further informed that the authors live in Abilene, Texas.

When I was a little shaver, I remember being told that a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”. So I was on alert regarding the possibility of the authors reading too much into the game of baseball.

The inside front jacket cover gives us the following introduction: “Parables From The Diamond is a collection of fifty short meditations for men, using baseball as a theme….Parables From The Diamond covers such life lessons as:
- Nobody’s Perfect.
- Don’t go for the bad pitch.
- We all go through slumps.
- On a team, every position is important.
- Bad hops happen to good people.
Each piece begins with a quotation that relates both to baseball and to life, and ends with a thought-provoking question – such as “What have you learned from failure that made you stronger?” or “Do we place too much emphasis on winning in all areas of our lives?”

The top testimonial on the back cover states: “Parables From The Diamond is practical without being preachy….”

That’s kind of ironic because just before I read that, I was thinking: “Wow, this book is kind of preachy; kind of like the Church Lady on SNL.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:
- “No one likes to finish last. But there are worse things in life than that.”

- “And yet, there is something to be said for the attitude expressed by Ernie Banks. If we cannot find satisfaction and take delight in what we do for a living, perhaps we are in the wrong line of work, or maybe we have let our jobs become routine.”

- “Fundamentals are the most valuable tools a player can possess. Bunt the ball into the ground. Hit the cutoff man. Take the extra base. Learn the fundamentals.” Dick Williams

- “Do not alibi on bad hops. Anybody can field the good ones.” Tommy LaSorda

- “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Albert Einstein

The quote about “Fundamentals” (above) made me seek out and listen to “The Fundamental Things” by Bonnie Raitt from her “Fundamental” CD. “Let’s get back to the fundamental things” she sings.

This whole book, although well intentioned and well written, was a little too deep for me. At least at this time.

But I passed it along to my wife to read. She seems to be getting into heavy stuff like this lately. I’ll let you know what she says if she ever gets around to reading it.

I recommend “Parables From The Diamond” to anyone looking for “heavenly meaning” in stories about baseball.

I want to thank bright sky press of Houston, Texas, for providing me a copy of “Parables From The Diamond” to read and review.

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Book Review: We Might As Well Win!

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

The complete title of this book is: “We Might As Well Win”. It was published in 2009. It was written by Johan Bruyneel (with Bill Strickland), and includes a foreword by Lance Armstrong.

I say “it was written by Johan Bruyneel with Bill Strickland” because that’s what the cover says. But Bill Strickland says he wrote it, “with Johan Bruyneel”. In any event, it’s a very good book and I’m glad I read it.

Here is an excerpt from Johan’s bio on the back cover of the book:

- “Johan Bruyneel is a former professional cyclist and was the team director, from 1999 to 2007, of the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, which later became the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. He has guided his teams to a record twelve Grand Tour victories, making him the winningest team director in the history of the sport.”

Bill Strickland’s complete bio (also from the back cover of the book) reads as follows:

- “Bill Strickland is the executive editor of “Bicycling”, and the author of several books.”

What the title refers to, and what the book is about, is quoted on the back cover of the book: “In 1998, (Johan Bruyneel) looked Lance Armstrong in the eye and said, ‘Look, if we’re going to ride the Tour, we might as well win’.”

Lance Armstrong describes his relationship with Johan in the following quote, also from the back cover: “The first thing he did for me, the one thing that made everything else possible, was the simplest and at the same time probably the most difficult: he believed in me.”

The author sets the tone in the first chapter of the book (ie., the “Prologue”), with the observation that in the USA: “the general public considers the bicycle more of a child’s toy than a high-tech marvel of sport gear.”

Johan describes briefly his career as a bicycle racer, and segues into how he came to be the Director Sportiff of the teams on which Lance Armstrong would ride into the record books.

In the chapter about recruiting talent, Johan gives his three reasons to sign “this guy” vs. “that guy”:
1. “…signing the best riders made us strong on the road….”
2. “…signing top riders to our team meant that they would be racing for us rather than against us….”, and
3. “…I knew someday the team would have to find a way to win without Lance. Though no one could ever fill those legendary shoes, I was committed to auditioning people for the role.”

In the chapter titled “Trust People – Not Products” Johan describes the development of a million dollar bike which Lance, ultimately, didn’t ride.

One big aspect of this book is Johan’s philosophy of tempering both victory and defeat.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

- “The Tour de France is like life. It’s not a game, or a series of games. It’s a two-thousand-mile, month long odyssey that creates and breaks heroes, elevates some while diminishing others.

- “The Tour de France is the only sporting event, someone once said, so long that you have to get your hair cut in the middle of it.”

- “I’ve always had this idea that if you’re going to try something, if you’re going to expend that first big block of effort and energy to participate – whether it’s riding the Tour de France or applying for a new job or coaching your daughter’s soccer team – you might as well go ahead and give whatever else it takes to win, I mean, I’m going to be there no matter what, right? Why not go ahead and get the victory?”

- “For my part, I’d always found his brash, aggressive style entertaining rather than off-putting.”

- “The point of a bike race isn’t to get to the finish and have all the other team directors gather around and tell you how polite and considerate you are as a driver. The point isn’t to make sure my passenger- whether it’s a team mechanic, or the visiting CEO of our current sponsor, or even Lance – feels safe.”

- “From its beginning, the Tour has been a showcase for dishonesty, chaos, and cheating right alongside virtues such as nobility, bravery, sacrifice, and triumph.”

- “My heart was willing. But my legs told me no.”

- “The difference with Lance was that I always knew that something would have to go horribly wrong for him not to stand atop the podium in July; in contrast, for us to get up there now, everything would have to go right.”

- “I understood that not only is it not the victor’s duty to apologize for a win, it is not even his right. A win is a win and you cannot excuse yourself from it because of circumstance. Your opponent’s condition is not your fault, nor are their strategies. Rain, heat, the good luck to not get a flat tire, a dog running across the road – none of the infinite and unpredictable conditions of competition are yours to feel bad about. To do so dishonors those you defeated.”

- “…winning – true victory – is about how you go about winning more so than the win itself.”

- “You can achieve a victory in a race, in a game, at work, at home, and still be a loser in life.”

- “No one wins alone, at least not in cycling, or life.”

I truly enjoyed reading “We Might As Well Win”, and I recommend it highly to anyone at all, but particularly to those with an interest in athletic competition.

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GirlieView (09/17/2010)

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Hi there and happy Friday everyone! Really enjoyed reading your thoughts this week, thanks for keeping the conversation up even during the waning moments of a sad season. Seems we’re all looking forward now, which is a good thing! And, is the topic of this week’s GirlieSurvey!

GirlieSurvey

Last week we talked about our early years. Today we’ll talk about next year! Earlier this morning Joe outlined why there are really only three remaining candidates for the Cubs’ manager position next year, and I agree with him. So, to that end, who’s YOUR pick? (I know there’s some question as to whether Girardi even wants the job, but for the sake of our chat here let’s pretend he does.) Which of these three do you want to see as next year’s manager?

a.) Joe Girardi
b.) Mike Quade
c.) Ryne Sandberg
d.) None of the above (please indicate your choice)

I’ll keep a tally and report back come November when the choice has officially been made. Now, on with the VFTB week in review!

Lizzies

  • I remember the day like it was yesterday.
  • Don’t put too much into September performances.
  • Funny how when the penant race is over he can control his emotions.
  • High fastballs and breaking balls in the dirt made Fukudome look like a drunken lumberjack.
  • You use the phrase “Drunken Lumberjack” like that’s a bad thing.
  • It’s only bad when you’re in the batter’s box.
  • Frankly in my world usually being a Cardinal is grounds for disqualification anyway….
  • Samardzija (thank god for copy and paste)
  • “Hey, Aramis Ramirez, would you like to stay for dinner next season? We’re serving Stove Top stuffing!” “Stove Top Stuffing? I’m stayin’!”
  • There is another book begging to be written by Rob Neyer. The title of this one would be: “The Chicago Cubs in the New Millennium (2000-2010)”. Would that constitute an entire decade of blunders? I don’t know. But I’d like to read Mr. Neyer’s analysis.
  • Look out ladies and gentlemen, hell just reported a cold front coming in!
  • Pretty sure Doc Raker’s daughter was on my lap when he hit it.
  • Are you talking about DocRakers 22 year-old daughter?
  • His attitude is a lot like his pitching, inconsistent. In the end we all know that the monster is bubbling below.
  • If we get something good in return for Z, I don’t care where he goes.
  • I’ll sit back and watch Z get chubby and insolent in red instead of blue.

Lizard

  • If Aram opts out of his contract I will personally buy everyone a drink with the Capn’ money.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (VFTB and/or GirlieView and/or Dave) and Facebook (VFTB and/or GirlieView)

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Friday Bag of Randomness: Fat Kid at Wal-Mart Edition

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Happy Friday everyone. If you’re like me, most weeks Friday means nothing because you’ve got to work on Saturday. I’ve got a lot of random junk running through my mind, so rather than focus my attention on anything in particular, I’d rather just ramble about it all a little at a time. Off we go.

Wal-Mart Escapades – Yesterday I got a text message from Mrs. VFTB late in the work day asking me to pick up a few misc. items from the grocery store. That means a trip to Wal-Mart. It’s not my ideal destination for groceries, but it’s directly on the way home. Normally I just throw my ear buds in and listen to a podcast and zone out while I walk around the store in search of the items in need. Yesterday I did not have my ear buds so I was forced to take in the full ambiance that is Wal-Mart. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, perhaps a quick trip to http://www.peopleofwalmart.com would do you well. I wish I would have had the onions to take my phone out and take a picture of the first person I saw, because I think I would have submitted it to that site. Right there in the produce aisle, walking toward the frozen ice cream section was a mom and her extremely fat child (probably about 6 years old). What made it funny, and a little sad, was that the kid had her belly hanging out of her t-shirt that read “How long until lunch?” I had no idea how to react to that, but it was definitely I could have lived without seeing.

Mini Rant on Zambrano – Yesterday I posed the question to you about bringing back Carlos Zambrano. I was encouraged by the level of answers, but one struck me as a great thought. Mark asked the question in response to those willing to deal Zambrano, and I fall into this group, “But would you be okay with him pitching for the Cards or the Reds next year?” At first my thought was no, but the more I thought about it I decided that of all the teams I’d like to see him go to, those two would be at the top of my list. Hear me out on this. If we’ve learned anything about Zambrano, it’s that he’s not a big game pitcher. He’s much more likely to implode when the situation is high than to shine. We’ve seen implosions in the Cubs / Sox series. We’ve seen them numerous opening day starts, and we’ve seen them time and time again when we’ve needed him to be the stopper on the staff. That being said, how much do you think he’d be amped up when he faced the Cubs? He would almost certainly blow a gasket. I’ve seen all I need to from Zambrano and I’m ready to turn the page. I was ready when he was looking to sign a contract, but was too afraid to give up. Now, I’m ready. I just heard the chime. That means it’s time to turn the page.

NFL Talk – Since this is a baseball blog (Wal-Mart stories are baseball related, right?) I won’t go too much into the NFL, though I’m willing if there is a want there. I came away from the Bears game on Sunday feeling about the same as I did going in. You can get discouraged that they made the game a lot closer than it needed to be and should have lost if not for a really bad rule in place, but when you look at numbers other than the score, you’ve got to be encouraged, right? Cutler looked good and the offense, for the most part, had their way with the Detroit defense. It’s a work in progress, but I think this team can compete for a playoff spot.

Talking Managers – On the way to the game the other day, I was having a conversation with my friend Rob about who the next manager should be. The way both of us figured, there really are only three choices that Jim Hendry has that won’t cause a PR nightmare. Ryne Sandberg, Joe Girardi, and Mike Quade (assuming he continues to have the team play well down the stretch) are really the only names. At this point, it’s hard to see the Cubs waiting around to see if we can get Girardi and risk someone swooping in on Sandberg. Tom Ricketts came out and said that the next manager is going to be a guy that has the potential to be in the position for a long time. People have speculated that the statement eliminates Quade from the discussion, but I can’t see why. He’s not that much older than Sandberg or Girardi. In my opinion, those three are the only ones in contention. Am I wrong?

Finally, a look at the best mustache in Chicago, behind Coach Ditka.

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Joe’s Big Important Question of the Day

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

We’ll make this very simple for everyone. With another nice start last night to complete the sweep of the Cardinals, Zambrano appears to be showing the ability to be the guy the Cubs need in the rotation. Do you still look to trade him this off-season or should Jim Hendry pencil him into the rotation for 2011?

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Hump Day Heaven!

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

So, as many of you know, I have been doing this five questions thing for the past few weeks.

For the most part, I just like to see what others are thinking.  Throughout the week I keep an eye on the Cubs and questions pop into my little brain.  As this happens, I jot them down somewhere and save them for this little slice of “Hump Day” heaven.

This week, with football getting back into gear, and a bevy of other odd sports news I decided to stray a little from the Cubs (don’t worry, there is enough Cub related material to stay relevant) and hit some other topics.

Without further ado….

1) Has Aramis Ramirez ever been worth $14.6 million?

Aramis has said he will be exercising his option for 2011.  Or “leaning” towards it or “staying here” or whatever that means…..

I can’t stand the fact that he is getting this money.  He wasn’t worth it in his best season and he surely isn’t worth it now……Precisely why he would be insane not to take the option!!!!

Go ahead and pick his best season ever!  Throw some stats at me if you want.  I can’t think of one season when he was worth 14.6 million.

That money should get you a top of the line third baseman.  A slick fielding, hot-corner stud!!!

Don’t get me wrong, Aramis had some nice seasons in Cubbie blue, but a season worth $14.6 million?  I can’t think of one!

The problem is, I would reserve that type of money for complete players. Players who field and hit well.  Players who are consistent at the plate and in the field.  Aramis is anything but the above.

Here is the best part, he is actually going to get $16.6 million.  Yup, he has yet another option for 2012, a team option.  If the Cubs don’t pick it up they still owe him another $2 million for the buyout!!!!

(Just threw up in my mouth)

2) Could Darwin Barney be a full time third baseman?

Because of the above, I consider this more for the future.

A few weeks ago I didn’t think this kid was ready for the bigs at all, but lately? Last I checked he toted a .300 average and was holding his own defensively.

I am not saying he should be, as there may be better places for him up the middle, but I can bet you my Kevin Orie Rookie Card that he would be better then some of our “younger” options.

He kind of creeps up on the position a little.  I mean lets face it, Aramis will take a vaca-….I mean trip to the DL next year, likely more then one, and we will need somebody at the corner.  I would rather see youth served then pick up some over-the-hill rental for the season to the tune of $3 million or more.

For those who feel Vitters is the heir apparent, check again, something tells me he doesn’t make it out of the minors.

3) Should the proven steroid users give up their awards?

In the 75 year history of the Heisman Trophy the award has never been returned by a recipient or repossessed by the Heisman committee……until this week.

Because of the “benefits” illegally obtained by Reggie Bush during the 2005 season, USC has been taken to the woodshed by the NCAA and slapped with a myriad of penalties.

Reggie, in a move probably as much about PR as it is conscience, returned his Heisman award from that season.

While Reggie voluntarily gave back his award, I began to wonder if we should just start stripping awards from Major Leaguers who used steroids?

Make them ineligible for the Hall of Fame.  Don’t even let the writers or players vote them in! Remove them from the ballot!

While we are at it, strip them of their MVP awards, Silver Sluggers, Gold Gloves, etc……

In a final blow, strip the teams and cities they played for of their World Series trophies and League Pennants!

Okay , maybe the last one was a bit crazy, but I bet players would think a little longer in the future about enhancing themselves through a pill or substance.

4) Which team would you least like to play for if you were a major leaguer?

So a lot of players put a “no trade” clause in their contracts and some just list teams they won’t play for.

If you had this power, who would be the first team listed under your “I will not accept a trade to this team under any circumstances” list?

It can be because of the geographic location, the ownership, the current players, any of the above.

5)  Have you been to a Cubs game at Wrigley Field in the last decade? How many have never been?

I want to get a good idea of those who have been and those who have not.

Some of you seem very indifferent regarding the shrine at Addison and Clark.  I am also starting to realize that the reason for such ambivalence is because many of you are from the middle of nowhere and could care less where the Cubs play because you have watched every game on TV or in another stadium (an away game).

Personally, I go to a dozen games per year or more. I love the place.

Okay, so all but two of the questions dealt with the Cubs.  I just can’t leave them alone…..addiction is a terrible thing to waste…..or something like that.

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Rob Neyer’s Big Book Of Baseball Blunders

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

The complete title of this book is: “Rob Neyer’s Big Book Of Baseball Blunders – A Complete Guide To The Worst Decisions And Stupidest Moments In Baseball History”. That‘s a long title. The author is Rob Neyer (ESPN Baseball Analyst and author of “Rob Neyer’s Big Book of Baseball Lineups”). It was published in 2006.

So, what’s the definition of a blunder? For the purposes of this book, there are three requirements:
1. The blunder must be premeditated. Someone must have actually thought: “Hey THIS would be a good idea.”
2. A reasonable person might, AT THE TIME, have made a reasonable case for doing something else, and,
3. Ideally, the blunder must have led to some reasonably ill outcome.

There we have it: Premeditation. Contemporary questionability. Ill effects.

The author further explains: “…many of the blunders within were committed by GOOD teams and GOOD managers and GOOD general managers.”

This book is arranged chronologically, with the oldest stories first (1917), and the most recent stories last (2003).

In discussing the 1919 Black Sox aftermath, Neyer states: “…shortly after the Series ended in Cincinnati’s favor, Gandil was seen ‘with a new automobile, diamonds, and other marks of sudden affluence’.”

And I ask: These days, what professional athlete DOESN’T display that bling?

The further along I got in reading this book, the more I came to appreciate Rob Neyer’s knowledge and insight. Even allowing for 20/20 hindsight, and keeping in mind that many of the names mentioned in the book were, to me, only of the “I think I’ve heard that name somewhere before” degree of familiarity, I enjoyed reading the stories.

It’s amazing how little I followed baseball from 1969 until 2008.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

- “I’ve never seen morale so low on any club I’ve ever been on – majors or minors.”

- “It seems like a lot of ballplayers end their careers as Cubs.”

- “If there’s one rule by which every baseball executive should live, it’s this: ‘Don’t pay any attention to the wild-eyed advice offered by your local sports columnist’.”

- “Phil Wrigley wasn’t a great baseball man. But he did have some good ideas.”

- “A chief is a man who assumes responsibility. He says, ‘I was beaten.’ He does not say, ‘My men were beaten.’ Thus speaks a real man.”

- “The truth is that Lane didn’t know what the hell he was doing. He just wanted to do SOMETHING. Had to do something.”

- “…today most teams draft for ‘talent’ rather than ‘need’.”

- “There are any number of lessons that may be learned from studying the draft, and one of the most important is: ‘Don’t base draft decisions on the current state of your major-league roster’.”

- “Even if your draft pick doesn’t work out, you’ll often be able to find a trading partner who places a high value on the potential that you once saw.”

- “It’s not smart to sign long-term contracts.”

- “The only thing that kept this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major league level.”

There is another book begging to be written by Rob Neyer. The title of this one would be: “The Chicago Cubs in the New Millennium (2000-2010)”. Would that constitute an entire decade of blunders? I don’t know. But I’d like to read Mr. Neyer’s analysis.

Maybe the Cubs should hire Rob Neyer to help with their current “reinvention” efforts. It would be similar to the Red Sox enlisting the help of Bill James to provide guidance on their new course. The Cubs could do a lot worse than Rob Neyer.

I enjoyed reading Rob Neyer’s Big Book Of Baseball Blunders. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in baseball or in big business.

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In the News: We’ve got Aramis!

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Good day to you, Cubs fans. And I don’t mean that in a snide way. Well, we haven’t had much to cheer about as of late, but the win last night (Monday) at least put the St. Louis Cardinals a full seven games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds and it gave us at least some modicum of hope for Mr. Jeffrey Alan Samardzija.

I managed to catch some of his innings pitched on TV and, well, there’s something there. (♪♫ What it is ain’t exactly clear. ♪♫) He still gave up some walks, though four isn’t too bad and, with Pujols and Holiday in the lineup, perhaps a base on balls isn’t the worst result. His breaking stuff did look a little better than I remember it being — especially a pitch he kept landing on the outside corner to left-handed hitters. And he’s still got the mid- to upper-90s fastball. So, though I’m far from completely sold, I’d say he made a nice first step toward respectability. The Shark will pitch again this weekend against the Marlins.

And now on with the rest of today’s news:

“Hey, Aramis Ramirez, would you like to stay for dinner next season? We’re serving Stove Top stuffing!”

“Stove Top Stuffing? I’m stayin’!”

Or so the conversation went, sorta, between the Cubs’ third baseman and Sun-Times beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer. Aramis mumbled something over the weekend (or maybe it was late last week) about perhaps testing the free agent market after this season, citing the fact that, despite his many problems at the plate, he’s hit 20 home runs and 70-some RBI this year. Granted. In fact, to be exact, he’s hit 22 home runs and driven in 73 runs as of this writing.

But that conveniently ignores his ghastly .295 OBP (.322 wOBA) and 18.8% strikeout rate — both the worst in his Cubs career. And I’m not sure whether WAR has made it into contract negotiations yet, but Aramis is currently a 0.9 WAR player with just a couple weeks left to go. That’s just flat-out embarassing for a player of his caliber. He’ll be putting up his lowest WAR since his 2002 campaign with the Pirates. (Was he injured or something that year? He got 570 plate appearances. Clearly, I need to brush up on my Aramis Ramirez history.)

Long story short, given his value as a player this season and the economy in general, he and his agent probably don’t want to spend the off-season getting low-balled by various big league GMs. So expect to see Aramis back at the hot corner next year. This may not be a bad thing if he’s fully healthy and can somehow get back to the player he was from 2004-2008. Those were all 4+ WAR seasons (i.e., good ones).

Chris Archer: A name to remember. The news came down yesterday that Chris Archer was named the Cubs minor league pitcher of the year. And that’s a name to file in your mental rolodex and expect to hear mentioned a lot during spring training next year, much as Tyler Colvin was last year.

I’ve heard from a couple of credible sources that Archer is being fast-tracked through the Cubs system and could be a surprise addition to the rotation in 2011. Of course with Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells, Carlos Silva, Tom Gorzelanny, Casey Coleman, and Jeff Samardzija already either claiming or vying for a rotation spot, it’s hard to see how Archer could find a toe-hold. But there’s a whole off-season to go, and we don’t know who might be traded.

Also, let us not ignore the Cubs 2010 minor league player of the year, Brandon Guyer. A fifth round draft pick in 2007, Guyer put up a .986 OPS (.398 OBP, .588 slugging) in 410 plate appearances for the Double-A Smokies this season. Sadly, he appears to be a dedicated outfielder and the Cubs currently have plenty of those. I can’t help wondering whether the Cubs would shock the world and convert him to a first baseman for next season. Seems highly doubtful, but it would make a great story, would it not?

Oh, and in case you haven’t heard, the aforementioned Tennessee Smokies are facing the Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League Championship Series. Game one is tonight (Tuesday)! You can listen in here. Go Smokies!

Speaking of Tyler Colvin … He got nailed by a Jaime Garcia pitch in last night’s Cubs-Cards game and is day-to-day with an elbow contusion. I really hope he can play through the pain and make it to an even 20 home runs. Just because. It seems unlikely he’ll be able to tie or break Billy Williams’ record of 25 bombs for a Cubs rookie. But I guess you never know.

In “Aw, Isn’t That Sweet?” News … The Portland Tribune is doing an occasional “DARWIN BARNEY WATCH” feature to track their hometown boy’s triumphs and travails with the Cubs. I love stuff like this.

Hendry interviews Bob Melvin. This was the “big” news today. Mr. Melvin shall have a place in my next “Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings,” assuming I find the energy to resurrect that feature at some point.

And, last but not least …

The Boston Red Sox have called up former Cub Rich Hill. He’s a bullpen guy now who struck out 55 batters in 53 innings pitched for the Pawtucket Red Sox this year. His walk rate was still pretty high.

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It’s all good

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

As we wind down the 2010 season all I want now is hope (and a winning record under our new interim manager.)  Tonight the Cubs took it to the Cards early and often and won the opening game 5-1.   The new Busch Stadium was generally quiet as a tomb and the Cards announcers were particularly sonorous so I made an emergency pot of double strength coffee in the first inning; for what it’s worth the Dunkin’ Donuts brand of coffee that one can get in the neighborhood grocery is actually quite good.  Samardzija put in six innings of no run pitching but struggled most of the way; I’m still not convinced that this guy’s future is in baseball but I’m not ready to give up on him either.  I can distinctly remember giving up on former Cubs pitcher Dennis Eckersley.  Moral of the story:  Don’t give up early on a young pitcher who can bring it, the same thing can be said for Cashner who has not had the season he probably dreamed about when he got called up.  My concerns with both of these guys is that early in their careers both seem to throw frozen ropes; wonder if they could benefit from some time with roving coach Greg Maddux in this respect, I think they could.

Some highlights from tonight’s game:

  • Top 2nd: Ramirez doubles and limps to second. Nady singles men on first and third. Soto singles scoring Ramirez men on first and second nobody out Cubs lead 1-0. Samardzija singles to right Cubs lead 2-0.
  • Top 3rd: Barney singles, Byrd reaches on a force that failed (E4 for Schumacher.) Soto walks to load the bases, Soriano singles scoring two Cubs lead 4-0. Colvin loads the bases again with a walk for Samardzija who grounds out leaving the bases juiced.
  • Bottom 3rd: Brendan Ryan walks and makes it to third on two gound outs. Pujols walks men on first and third. Samardzija walks Holliday to load the bases for Rasmus. Samardzija gets away with a hanger as Rasmus flies out to right to end the inning.
  • Bottom 4th: Colvin replaced by Fukudome due to an elbow contusion.
  • Bottom 7th: Randy Winn hits a ground rule double to left; Cashner comes in to face Holliday and gives up a single which scores Winn 4-1 Cubs.
  • Top 8th: Base hit by Nady to lead off the inning, base hit to center by Soto men on first and second nobody out. Soriano advances the runners with a grounder one out men on second and third. Fukudome singles Cubs lead 5-1.
  • Bottom 8th: Cashner walks the leadoff hitter, Ryan singles and Cashner is gone when Quade brings in Marshall. Sean does his usual job and the Cubs are out of the inning.

Tonight the Cards announcers speculated on what the Cubs would do about their corner infielders, they specifically mentioned Colvin moving to first as have others.  I don’t like this idea because Colvin’s best attribute is his versatility in the outfield and, besides that I’d like to see him focus more on getting his average up instead of learning a new defensive position.  Assuming the Cubs use a top draft pick on a quality first base prospect there are a number of journeyman first basemen available this year including Berkman, Branyan, Glaus, Huff, Nick Johnson, Konerko, Overbay and Wigginton.  I like this approach as opposed to another four to six year contract, let’s see if we can get one of these guys to sign for one or two years.  Also I’d like to see the Cubs get a guy who can play 60 games a year at third base – if I’m not mistaken Blum, Pedro Feliz, Inge and Wigginton will all be available for this position as well.  Wigginton makes a lot of sense because he can play both positions; while none of these guys have the kind of pizzazz that a Adam Dunn or Jorge Cantu would bring they might make sense for a rebuilding Cubs team.  Tonight’s loss drops the Cards to seven back, as Ann Richards once said:  “Stick a fork in ‘em, they’re done.”

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