Archive for September, 2010

Cubs pitching gets rocked 18-5

Monday, September 6th, 2010

Those of you who decided to tune out the game in the 8th made the best decision as Dempster and the Cubs pitchers got destroyed as the Mets piled it on today with a vengeance.  The game wasn’t as bad as the score but Ryan turned in his second horrible start in a row and the bullpen was worse.  Dempster has pitched well all year so I’m not going to get down on him but perhaps it’s time to let a minor leaguer start in his place the next time out, he clearly looked tired at 85 pitches and he could probably use a breather.  The only “highlights” I’m going to refer to here are Cubs highlights, a complete synopsis on a poor ballgame is something that Cubs fans don’t deserve as poorly as this year has gone:

  • Today’s Cubs loss puts Mike Quade at 8-4 as the team’s interim manager;
  • Aramis Ramirez got his 16ooth career hit and later hit a homerun driving in the first three runs.
  • Colvin tripled and was driven in when Soto hit a towering sacrifice fly.

So much for the good news, I’m not going to belabor the bad.  The Northsiders have played pretty good ball since Quade took over and I’m not dreading games like I was under Tired Old Lou.  Tomorrow the Cubs will play a comparable Astros team in Wrigley at 1:20 PM, the game will be televised on WGN.

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Cubs defeat Mets 7-6

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Any win against the Mets is a good win – I still have occasional nightmares about 1969.  Today the Cubs put on a relentless hitting attack against a quality knuckleballer and defeated the Mets 7-6 on a day that was not favorable to pitchers.  Starlin Castro increased his batting average to .319 (third in the NL) with a two for four; both Soriano and DeWitt also went two for four with a three run homerun each to pace the Cubs.  Some highlights from today’s game:

  • Top 1st: Wells starts out shaky by giving up a single to Pagan and a walk to Duda; David Wright makes Soriano look clumsy with a double off the wall to plate two. 2-0 Mets. Ike Davis singles to right and Wright holds on third. Arias hits into a force out at second but breaks up the double play and Wright scores to make it 3-0 Mets.
  • Bottom 4th: Castro keeps hitting, now third in the league in batting average. Byrd and Nady single Castro scores 3-1 Mets 1 out men on first and second. Soto flies out to right Byrd tags and advances to third. Soriano hits a moonbeam three run homer to left 4-3 Cubs.
  • Top 6th: Pagan singles and Duda doubles him in 4-4 Cubs. DeWitt shows us hands of stone on the relay throw but Pagan would have scored anyway.
  • Bottom 6th:  Ramirez walks, Nady singles. Men on first and second. Soto strikesout, Soriano flies out to center. With two out DeWitt homers to right 7-4 Cubs.
  • Bottom 7th: Cashner throws a gopher ball to David Wright, 7-5 Cubs.
  • Top 8th: Luis Hernandez homers to left 7-6 Cubs. Third homerun given up by Marshall in 67 innings pitched.
  • Bottom 8th: Nady singles to reach but is thrown out on a bad baserunning decision by Nady when Soto lines to left. Soriano doubles to left with two out, that would have been a nice insurance run to have.
  • Top 9th: Marmol comes in to save the game without the usual melodrama. Cubs win 7-6.

Today’s win makes the Cubs’ record 7-3 since interim manager Mike Quade took over the team on August 23rd.  The team seems to be more upbeat and competitive now than they were under Piniella; perhaps it is coincidence but I don’t think it is.  Quade is a good baseball man and could land the 2010 job if his remaining 27 games go like his first 10 have.  This game was not without it’s share of awkward moments but the team stood fast and won the game.  In other news Ryne Sandberg has won the PCL Manager of the Year; Darwin Barney and Brad Snyder were both named PCL all stars.  The I-Cubs are tied with Memphis for the lead in the PCL North and begin a four game series with the Redbirds tonight.  AA Tennessee has clinched a playoff berth in the Southern League, having won both the first and second halves.  One assumes that we will not see much in the way of callups until both playoff hunts are decided; high A Daytona is 2 games out of first in their division in the Florida State League.  Also in the news the Texas Rangers and former Cubs employee Mark Prior have reportedly come to terms on a minor league deal.

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GirlieView (09/03/2010)

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Joe approved my request for vacation time last week so it’s been awhile since I wrote a GirlieView. How long? Well let’s see. Last time I wrote one:

  • It was 91 degrees on my patio thermometer
  • School was not yet back in session
  • DLee was playing his first game as an Atlanta Brave
  • Lou Piniella was still managing the Cubs

Wow. That seems like a lifetime ago! Lots of great conversation since then. Even though the season has been essentially over for Cubs fans for a long time now, we still appreciate the audience and your thought provoking commentary as we ::::gag::::: wait for next year. It keeps us going, even when we can’t think of much to write about! Thanks everyone.

Let’s get to the double-issue of Lizzies!

Lizzies

  • I’ll still watch when I can, but it oh so very much blows.
  • I’ll be freebasing Crestor and red wine in hopes of not being one of Seymour’s “lunchish” procedures.
  • Count me as a C, as in ctupid.
  • I can’t seem to understand the logic in recalling Wellington Castillo to replace Geovany Soto on the roster when he doesn’t get a lick of playing time.
  • [Hill] called out the team on a lack of fundamentals, but he displays the same lack with some frequency.
  • I’m sure many Cubs fans will remember the recent failures, but overall Lou did a good job with this team. I’ll be pleased with three straight winning seasons and two playoff appearances from whoever follows him.
  • I don’t care who you are, when your mother gets sick, you go home and take care of mom.
  • I will very much miss Lou Piniella, and it’s unsettling to see him leave under such dour circumstances.
  • I look for big things out of Hendry in the off season.
  • As much as I’m baffled by how atrocious this season has been, I don’t think anyone would have gotten results much different than Lou’s.
  • Every single player brought his bat in this one in support of their new skipper.
  • Jim Frya, Don Zimmermano, Billy Martino, Ron Gardenhiro, Leo Durochero and who can forget Gene Michaelino. So bring on Ryno or Jody Daviniti.
  • If you rank by winning percentage, Mike Quade is the winningest manager in Cubs history.
  • Man oh man, where did the summer go?
  • I had no idea anything existed West of Woodfield Shopping Mall.
  • Why do I feel like the the Cubs brass is going to screw this up? Either with timing or just plain making the wrong choice.
  • I took the L to be Like. It gives the whole thing a more lolcat feel.
  • Once the players are up in the Majors, they seem to have a sense of entitlement based on their long term Guaranteed contracts.
  • if Jim thinks we need to make one or two moves then we really need to make four or five.  If he thinks we need to make four or five then we need to make eight or nine and so on.
  • Fun fact: we have seen Howry, Grabow, a dude named Schlitter, and that moppy-headed football player come out of the pen this season.
  • Rice a Roni. The giants would be livid.
  • there is little chance on getting rid of the money eaters without eating the money.
  • Trojan, nuff said.
  • If Byrd is your fifth or sixth best hitter, you probably have a good lineup. If he is your second best hitter, then your offense probably ranks near the bottom of the league in runs scored
  • Any Cubs win helps the hated Cardinals. What’s a guy to do?
  • In an ideal world, if the Cubs can’t win the division this year, then the Pirates would win
  • Sad thought… Even if we win out, we still most likely don’t make the playoffs with 88 wins.
  • I fear she’s curled up in the fetal position with a bottle of ripple trying to find a happier place.
  • I can’t watch much more than the highlights, which are like 2 minute dentist appointments as it is…
  • It’s not about that you’re going, it’s about going with somebody and enjoying what we have left of the summer.
  • I don’t feel qualified to answer a question on your “tool-worthiness”. Ask Mrs VFTB.
  • Hi. I’m a broken record.
  • At least we get to watch Castro play everyday. Beyond that, it’s pretty ugly.
  • There are some pretty good comments on this thread. Perhaps one of the site authors should collect and publish a list of the best quotes of the week.
  • I find it refreshing, like a chilled Lemonchello appertif.
  • Hats off to any one who can use aperitif in daily conversation. It does not automatically mean you are gay.
  • Swizzard?
  • So what do we do with Carlos Zambrano?
  • I like Wrigley Field, but I wouldn’t sign me to hit clean up for the Cubs
  • If Z finishes strong enough to draw interest for a trade, then I would wonder if he should be traded. If he pitches poorly, then I would wish he could be traded, but no one would be interested.
  • I bet [Castro] could [play first]. But why would you want him too?
  • I’m still done with Zambrano.
  • Watching the Cubs this year is a lot like watching the final season of “Seinfeld.” You know it’s not very good television, but you’re emotionally invested, so you tune in anyway. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see something resembling the good old days: a Ramirez homer, a Soriano stolen base, the Bubble Boy, Crazy Joe Davola.
  • Joe should be giving raises to the recap squad…call it hazardous duty pay.
  • The concept of September callups is a little laughable this year, as the Cubs have been calling up (and sending down and calling up and sending down and …) guys since, like, May.
  • Funny thought…Harry trying to pronounce Arismendy Alcantara

Lizard

  • And now, appropos of nothing and for no particular reason, my …
    Top Five Awesomely Named Cubs Minor Leaguers
    Rebel Ridling 1B, Peoria Cubs
    Trey McNutt, RHP, Tennessee Smokies
    Austin Bibens-Dirkx, RHP, Iowa Cubs
    Cameron Greathouse, LHP, Boise Hawks
    Arismendy Alcantara, SS, Boise Hawks

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Media Release: Cubs Recall Wellington Castillo

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

CHICAGO The Chicago Cubs recalled catcher Welington Castillo from Triple-A Iowa.  Castillo joins the Cubs for his second stint in the big leagues this season and is available for this afternoon’s game against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field.

Castillo, 23, saw action in two games during his previous stay with the Cubs from August 10-22, batting .167 (1-for-6) with a double in his pair of starts.  The double represented his first big league hit in his major league debut August 11 at San Francisco.

Overall, Castillo batted .255 (61-for-239) with 17 doubles, 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 69 games with Iowa this season, his first at the Triple-A level.  He is in his sixth season in the Cubs organization, having made the climb to the big leagues after starting the 2008 campaign at Single-A Daytona.  Castillo has been to major league spring training with the Cubs each of the last three seasons.

A native of San Isidro, Dominican Republic, Castillo originally signed with the Cubs as a non-drafted free agent on December 8, 2004.  He was the starting catcher for the World Team at the 2008 Futures Game and was listed by Baseball America as the organization’s fifth-best prospect into the 2009 campaign.  In 423 minor league contests, Castillo is a career .264 hitter (379-for-1435) with 77 doubles, 40 home runs and 207 RBI.

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Book Review: Watching Baseball Smarter

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

The full title of this one is “Watching Baseball Smarter – A Professional Fan’s Guide for Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks”. The author is Zack Hample. It was published in 2007.

Since I’ve been watching a lot of baseball lately, I thought it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to watch it smarter. This book has helped me to accomplish that.

The author’s back cover bio describes Zack Hample as “an obsessed fan who regularly writes about minor league baseball. He’s collected nearly 3,000 baseballs from major league games and has appeared on dozens of TV and radio shows. His first book, ‘How to Snag Major League Baseballs’, was published in 1999.”

A back cover testimonial from Kevin Baker, author of “Sometimes You See It Coming”, opines: “Will definitely improve your baseball I.Q. Neophytes and old pros alike will find plenty here they didn’t know.”

I have to agree with the assessment of Mr. Baker. Beginners and semi-experts will find plenty here to digest. Serious geeks, (aka “Mr. Experts on Everything”) will also find things here which they either didn’t know or haven’t thought of lately. Although they might not admit it.

And for the one fan in a million who actually does already know everything in this book, that person can appreciate the writing style of Mr. Hample.

The author describes himself as a former college third baseman, so I gotta believe that the first chapter, about the major league draft, the road to the major leagues, etc. comes from personal experience.

The author also describes himself as a “four-time student at Bucky Dent’s Baseball School”. I don’t want to call him a slow learner, but along the way he obviously learned a lot about: Pitchers & Catchers, Hitting, Baserunning, Fielding, Stadiums, Umpires, Statistics, Random Stuff To Know, Random Stuff To Notice, and Baseball Slang.

The book includes “The Fair Ball Quiz”, 11 questions on which, I have to admit, I did pretty good.

In the chapter on Statistics, Mr. Hample introduces a list of stats related to relief pitching thusly: “Now, here are the stats of Ryan Dempster, a reliever whom many people – especially in Chicago – would like to forget:” Did I mention that Zack Hample is a native of New York City? No surprise there.

There is a section about keeping score and reading a box score which is very clearly stated and easy to follow.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:

- “Of his ‘62 Mets, who finished 40-120 and remain the worst team since 1900, Stengel said, ‘They have shown me ways to lose I never knew existed’.”

- “Longtime Orioles manager Earl Weaver said, ‘The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager because it won’t hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game’.”

- “Joe Torre…as an infielder with the Mets…bounced into four double plays in one game, each time wiping out Felix Millan, who batted in front of him and went 4-for-4. ‘What’s everyone blaming me for?’ Torre complained afterward. ‘Blame Felix. I wouldn’t have hit into the double plays if he hadn’t hit singles’.”

- “Bo Belinsky, a pitcher in the 1960s, once said, ‘How can a guy win a game if you don’t give him any runs?’ It was an excellent point (except for the fact that he’d just lost, 15-0).”

- “There’s one word that describes baseball: ‘You never know’.” – Joaquin Andujar, former major league pitcher

- “I remember one time going out to the mound to talk with Bob Gibson. He told me to get back behind the batter, that the only thing I knew about pitching was that it was hard to hit.” – Tim McCarver, former major league catcher

- “If a woman has to choose between catching a fly ball and saving an infant’s life, she will choose to save the infant’s life without even considering if there are men on base.” – Dave Barry, humorist

- “Ninety feet between bases is perhaps as close as man has ever come to perfection.” – Red Smith, Hall-of Fame writer

For those who are really into statistics, there is even a section at the back of the book (“Appendix A: More Statistics”) which contains way more information about hitting, pitching and fielding statistics. Lotta acronyms back here, too.

I enjoyed reading “Watching Baseball Smarter”, and I might have even learned a few things. I recommend it to everyone, including (as the title states) Beginners, Semi-experts, and Deeply Serious Geeks.

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In the News: Another Focus On The Future Post

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Good day, Cubs fans. Well, we’ve finally reached the last month of an agonizing season that has most of us focused on the future. So, if you’ll forgive my brevity, here’s a rundown of some pertinent “focus on the future” items:

Here come the callups! The concept of September callups is a little laughable this year, as the Cubs have been calling up (and sending down and calling up and sending down and …) guys since, like, May. But, nonetheless, we should soon get a look at, well, one new face: outfielder Brad Snyder. He’s expected to be called up along with Mitch Atkins (seen him), Justin Berg (seen him), Sam Fuld (seen him) and, gulp, Jeff Samardzija (oh boy, have we seen him). The reason they aren’t up for their respective cups o’ coffee yet: The Iowa Cubs are in the Pacific Coast League playoffs.

The Arizona Fall League beckons. The Cubs are sending seven players to the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where some of the better prospects in both leagues get a chance to get a little extra playing time. Representin’ for the North Siders this fall will be pitchers David Cales, Chris Carpenter, Jake Muyco and Kyle Smit as well as position players Josh Vitters (rehabbing from a hand injury earlier this season), Ryan Flaherty and Brett Jackson. They’ll be playin’ for the fightin’ Mesa Solar Sox.

And now, appropos of nothing and for no particular reason, my …

Top Five Awesomely Named Cubs Minor Leaguers

  1. Rebel Ridling 1B, Peoria Cubs
  2. Trey McNutt, RHP, Tennessee Smokies
  3. Austin Bibens-Dirkx, RHP, Iowa Cubs
  4. Cameron Greathouse, LHP, Boise Hawks
  5. Arismendy Alcantara, SS, Boise Hawks

Ahem. Back to the news …

A dark horse from the south. Most of us have dismissed Fredi Gonzalez as a viable candidate for the Cubs manager job but, in case you missed it, check out this recent Sun-Times article. It reveals that, though Gonzalez does indeed have a long-standing relationship with the Atlanta Braves, he also has one with Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Could he unseat Ryno for the top spot? If I were feeling a little more ambitious today, I’d do another “Cubs Next Manager Power Rankings” and tell you. In any case, perhaps we should not count Fredi out entirely. One thing about him I like: He speaks Spanish, which is likely a useful communication skill for any big league manager these days.

 The future for statues in general vicinity of Wrigley Field: Bright. Harry’s has been moved. Billy’s is comin’ in. So the Noodle is cursed — who cares? We shall line the streets with them. And the people will like it.

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Game 134: Serenity Now

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Watching the Cubs this year is a lot like watching the final season of “Seinfeld.” You know it’s not very good television, but you’re emotionally invested, so you tune in anyway. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see something resembling the good old days: a Ramirez homer, a Soriano stolen base, the Bubble Boy, Crazy Joe Davola.

Fortunately, Quade’s crew found a way to take the rubber game of the Pirates series. Led by Castro, Colvin, and Fukudome, the Cubs held off the Bucs and the rain for a 5-3 win. And now for a few random thoughts:

1.       Thomas Diamond has a great name, but he isn’t a very good pitcher. Here’s hoping Screech’s cousin wears another uniform in 2011.

2.      Blake DeWitt is a useful player, but he’s not lead-off (or Pensky) material. Let’s pencil him in for the eight hole and leave it alone.

3.      The Cubs absolutely have to address the backup catcher situation next year. Koyie Hill is not a reasonable insurance policy for a Geo Soto injury.

4.      Sean Marshall has exceeded my every expectation in the bullpen. Is this year’s performance a fluke?

5.      Why does anybody swing the bat against Carlos Marmol? I’m not sure he’s capable of throwing three pitches in the strike zone to the same batter. I guess the results show us how good his stuff really is. Having said that, I still can’t stand to watch him pitch.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I see enough encouraging signs to be optimistic about next year. As George Costanza once said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.”

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Good Call, Part 1

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

In the summer of 2003, new manager Dusty Baker had his team in the hunt.  Thanks to the power pitching of starters Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano, the Cubs were looking at their first playoff appearance since 1998. A one-sided trade would push them over the top.

On July 23, 2003, the Cubs acquired 3B Aramis Ramirez and CF Kenny Lofton from the Pittsburgh Pirates for RHP Matt Bruback, IF Jose Hernandez, and IF Bobby Hill. For what it’s worth, I have a clear memory of Cubs fans being upset that Jim Hendry would dare part with a prospect the caliber of Bobby Hill. We’ll discuss the true value of prospects another time.

In case your memory is slipping, the deal couldn’t have worked out better for the Cubs. At age 36, Lofton more than filled in for the injured Corey Patterson, to the tune of .327/.381/.471. Ramirez provided needed power at the hot corner, swatting 15 home runs in 232 at bats. Both players helped the Cubs clinch a playoff spot, which as we know, ended just short of the World Series.

For all the heat Jim Hendry takes, we have to give him credit for this absolute fleecing. Though Kenny Lofton moved on the next year, he was a key to the Cubs second-half success in 2003. Despite a shaky glove, Aramis Ramirez has been a solid power hitter for the last several seasons. His bat was a big part of playoff runs in 2007 and 2008.

As for the Pirates, Matt Bruback never threw a pitch in the majors. Jose Hernandez knocked around the league until 2006, never hitting more than 13 home runs. The great Bobby Hill (who Chip Caray once called “an All Star for years to come”) was out of baseball at age 27. His career numbers: .262/.343/.350.

Looking back at this lopsided deal, the one phrase that comes to mind is, “I guess you can have your cake and eat it too.” Come to think of it, that’s what the Texas Rangers said when they traded for Rafael Palmeiro in December of 1988.

We can’t blame Jim Hendry for that one.

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