Archive for June, 2011

What Will It Take to Win?

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

by Katie Cernek

There is no overnight solution to the Cubs’ losing habits. The foundation of the team is old and crumbling. Literally. Jim Hendry has tried to build a winning team around players like Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez. They are both past their prime and have begun a very rapid decline into mediocrity. Both are frequently assigned to the disabled list with injuries that vary from strained quadriceps to sprained thumbs. Soriano, Ramirez, and Zambrano are three of the highest paid players on the team, yet their performance does not reflect their salaries.

Alfonso has not been anywhere near the player he was when he was with Washington in 2006. That season, he had 46 home runs and 41 stolen bases. Since he was signed by the Cubs in 2007, the closest he has come to his 2006 numbers, is 33 home runs and 19 stolen bases, and those were posted in ’07. He has been on a steady decline since then, all the while making an average of $17 million per season. Why did Hendry sign him to an 8 year deal? Has he been earning his pay?

Ramirez spends a significant amount of time on the DL. When he gets off the DL, he is a decent hitter, but he does not hustle. He has mastered the art of stretching a double into a single. His average pay is $15 million per year, and he is in the final year of his contract. He has had a good career, but it is starting to decline and it is time for him to move to greener pastures. Would it be beneficial for the Cubs to pick up the club option on his contract?

Zambrano is another highly paid, but under-producing player. He has decent career numbers, but he suffers from inconsistency, and has a history of being a controversial teammate. His average seasonal pay is $18.3 million. His bursts of greatness are frequent but short-lived.

Basically, these men are making too much money in comparison to their performance. They are not benefitting the team. If you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Another obstacle the Cubs face is their pitching, with a team ERA of 4.73, which is the worst in the MLB. That number speaks for itself. Garza has the best ERA among their starters, which is a 4.11, and he has 82 strikeouts. Zambrano leads the team with 6 wins. Not to mention, Cashner and Wells were put on the disabled list after one start. If they were healthy, the pitching probably would not be so bad. Samardzija is tied for second, with 5 wins; he is a middle reliever. He should not be second in wins to a starter. Quade relies on him too much; he is very inconsistent.

There are a couple bright spots in the Cubs’ bullpen. Marshall, Wood, and Marmol are great contributors to the team. They are a few of the strong points on the team.

Sean Marshall has a 2.27 ERA in 35 innings of work. He has 35 strikeouts and 13 holds. He has also only allowed 9 walks and one home run in 35 innings. He is an excellent reliever, maybe the only really good reliever on the team.

Kerry Wood has been a great asset this season. He has a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings of work, with 9 holds. His age could be an issue eventually, but as of right now, the Cubs need to hold on to him.

Carlos Marmol has been lights out. He has 45 strikeouts in just 34 innings pitched. He has a 2.62 ERA, with 16 saves this season. Despite a few hiccups here and there, he is an excellent closer. If he can learn to be more selective with his pitches, he should be with Cubs for a long time.

The Cubs needs to make some trades to get more quality pitching. Even though Marshall, Wood, and Marmol are spectacular, they will not be around forever, and, in the case of Wood, can get injured semi-frequently. When someone as valuable as he is out of commission, a young, inconsistent pitcher gets the call, and the outcome is uncertain.

If the Cubs want to acquire some quality pitching, they need to trade some quality players. Jeff Baker is a great player for the Cubs. However, there is not a spot for him on the team. He is used as a utility player right now; Quade puts him in where he thinks he needs him. If the Cubs can get a good player (or two) for Baker, trade him. But do not trade him just to trade him.

Another player that could be traded is Blake DeWitt. He is also tossed around the field, whether it be left field or second base. When Darwin Barney comes back, where is DeWitt going to go? It would be best to trade him somewhere that could use him. It would even be OK to trade him just to trade him, as long as we do not trade him for a player like Milton Bradley.

But even if the Cubs trade for pitching, there is still the issue of needing fielders. Soriano is not a very good left fielder. He does not hustle, and allows too many batters to get extra-base hits. Peña is OK at first base, but his batting leaves much to be desired. We have too many utility players like DeWitt and Baker, and not enough specialty players. We need guys to be committed to one position, and to be good at the position and at the plate.

As a whole, the team has the third-highest batting average (.265) in the Majors. There is one major factor as to why they are ranked so high: Starlin Castro. His batting average is currently .327. Reed Johnson is the only other player on the team with a higher average, at .349, but he has played 30 less games than Castro. There are 5 players on the Cubs that are batting over .300, but one of them is a pitcher, one is on the disabled list, and two are backup players.

Castro is an excellent player. He is great. He can hit just about anything, and he is a threat on the basepath. His fielding is the only factor working against him. He has 16 errors on the season (and it is not even half over). However, he is only 21 years old. There is no doubt that he will be a Gold Glove caliber shortstop in a few years. The Cubs need more players that are similar to Castro, preferably with a little more polish in the fielding department. He is not a power hitter, but he hits for average.

The team does not need more power hitters. The team needs productive power hitters. Our “power” hitters strike out too often, do not hustle on potential infield hits, and barely hit home runs as it is. Ramirez is considered one of our power guys, and he only has 5 home runs this season. Given, he did spend some time on the DL, but so has Soriano, and Soriano has 14 home runs. Peña also has 14 home runs, and he hasn’t even spent  a significant amount of time on the DL. Our hitters are not hitting like they should be. That is a problem.

If the Cubs could somehow manage to find a player with similar abilities to those of Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, we would be 5 steps in the right direction. They are both first basemen, a position we need to fill, and Fielder is batting .307 with 20 home runs this season. Pujols has 17 home runs. His average is only .279, but he is on the DL right now. However, before the Cubs spend gobs of money on a player, they need to be certain that the player will live up to the contract (see Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome).

That being said, we need a general manager that is willing and able to sign consistently good players, not players that might be good for a season. Huge contracts do not guarantee good players. Jim Hendry is notorious for signing players such as Milton Bradley and Soriano, who were not helpful to the team. He also has a habit of trading good players (see Mark DeRosa) for minor leaguers that don’t even make it up to the Majors. Hendry has been the GM since 2002 and the Cubs have had four managers.  These managers work with the players that the GM signs, and when the players do not produce, the manager gets fired for the miscues of the GM. Maybe, if the manager had some players to work with, the Cubs could win. Maybe, we need a new GM.

For example, in 2007, Hendry hired Lou Piniella as the Cubs’ manager. There were many men available for the position, including Joe Girardi. Girardi had coached the Marlins from the All-Star break in 2006, and he did a bang up job. He took them from a 38-48 record in the first half, to a 40-36 record for the second half of the season. For some reason only God knows, Hendry decided to pass up on Girardi. Since then, Girardi has coached the Yankees to a World Series victory. Go figure.

In order for the Cubs to be contenders in the Central, they need to get young, fresh players on the team, and build them up. It will take a couple years, but with proper coaching, we can have a team of great young players that can take us past the first round of the playoffs (see the Cincinnati Reds). The Cubs have a lot of work to do, but with patience and a winning mindset in the front office, we will be on the road to victory in no time.

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Game 81 – Ole Fashioned Pitchers Duel

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Cubs 2, Giants 1

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Before the game, the Cubs announced that Darwin Barney had been activated. I knew that was coming so it wasn’t much of a surprise to see that pop up on my phone. The exciting part was when I actually opened the press release and saw that the corresponding move to go with it was the unconditional release of Doug Davis. He pitched really well in the Yankees series, but when you look at the whole, the guy just didn’t have anything left in the tank. Why he was still on the team, and making regular starts no less, is beyond me.
  • Aramis Ramirez had the night off because he was due for some rest, but got a chance to pinch hit in the bottom of the 9th after Marmol allowed the tying run to score in the top half of the inning and hit a two out walk off single to win it.
  • Ryan Dempster was absolutely fantastic. When I had looked to see the pitching match up and saw that it was Dempster and Lincecum, my first thought was “Nice, I don’t know that I’ve ever watched a game that Lincecum has pitched.” It turned into a straight pitchers duel with Demp being charged with a run in the 9th, but his eight innings leading up to it were marvelous. At one point he set down 20 in a row after a double in the 2nd inning. To cap it off, he threw just 83 pitches in the 8+ innings of work. It reminded me of a game Jon Leiber threw against the Reds in 2001. Here is the box score from that game.
  • The game lasted just a scant 2 hours and 22 minutes.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • No offense. If the Cubs could have just mustered two runs, we get Dempster a win in this one. They had a chance in the 5th when Blake DeWitt doubled to lead off and then advanced to third on a wild pitch, but came up empty, and then had a runner in scoring position and one out in the 8th and came up empty. One of those situations works out and Dempster gets a much deserved win.
  • Marmol blew the save. It’s a tough situation to come into the game with no outs and a man on second, but that’s what closers are paid to do. He gave up the single that allowed Pat Burrell to score. It didn’t help that Tony Campana’s throw to the plate looked like a throw a five year old would make. Go back and watch the condensed game. It was brutal.
  • Marmol is credited with the win. There is something very wrong about being able to get the blow save and then get the win. That’s Demp’s win, not Marmol’s.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Ryan Dempster (.388 WPA)

2nd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.368 WPA)

3rd Star – Manny Burriss (.278 WPA)

Cubs Hitting: +.099 WPA

Cubs Pitching: +.401 WPA

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Chet’s Corner: Fix the team, not the stadium….

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

When I heard Mike Quade announce the starting pitchers for Tuesdays double header against the Giants I began laughing hysterically.

He was being interviewed by a Comcast Sportsnet reporter before the third game of the Sox series and was asked who would start in the double header against the Giants.  His answer led me to laughter because it seemed as though he put thought into it.  It was as though he was hemming and hawing over whether Doug Davis would lead us off or Rodrigo Lopez.   At this point, Mike, does it matter?  I liken this to waffling between Bologna or Hot Dogs for lunch…it’s all a processed part of the pig no matter how you slice it.

I’m not laughing at Quade either , I think I am laughing with him.  While Tom Ricketts is playing Wal-Mart greeter to the fans at home games, trying to find out what type of hot dog they would rather eat from the concourse concession stand, the manager is trying to put a team on the field.  I mean, come on,  you have a double header and your two headed monster is a guy who couldn’t stick with a team and another veteran journeyman who was relegated to a far superior teams AAA affiliate.   Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…..our problem!

Vienna Beef for thought, when you’re entering a season and your staff ace recently had his head examined, you have problems.  While we are at it, when you don’t have a clear staff ace , you have problems. Closer by committee works a lot better then staff ace by committee.   With a preamble like this, one must come to the conclusion that your starting staff will be as smooth as an unfolding lawn chair for the bulk of the season.  It was clear in spring training, but the kool-aid was fresh and they were passing rose colored glasses out to everybody from Mesa to Wrigleyville.

I am to the point where I ponder the concept of Len and Bob popping prescription pills in the booth to make it through these games.  I know I would need something to do what they do.   From home, I can distract myself watching this vanilla, error filled, and quite frankly unintelligent band of ballplayers flip and flop about the field, but they can’t!

Then again, and I have said this before, don’t be shocked if this team looks eerily similar next season.  The selling point will be, “we just need to stay healthy.”  How many times have we heard “health” being a reason for a failed season in the Jim Hendry regime? I can count three off the top of my head……this will be four!

By the way, if you have any thoughts of ownership improving this team, keep them locked away for another day.  This owner is a business man.  He is more interested in improving the surroundings of Wrigley Field, then he is putting a winning team on it.  This leads to an interesting phone survey I received a few weeks back.  As a Wrigleyville resident I was asked, in so many questions,  if I was indeed a Cubs fan.  I was then asked if I agreed with the rumored plans for the “Triangle Building” that was proposed for the open lot outside Wrigley.  Then, and this is the kicker, I was told that the Ricketts family has $200 million of their own money set aside for the construction of this building.  The point of the survey was to find out if I was opposed to city tax dollars funding the remainder.

Tom, we don’t need any more bars or restaurants or parking around Wrigley.  We don’t need any more souvenir shops or bike racks or  parks or whatever it is you want to build.  I understand that you don’t like watching the businesses of Wrigleyville make a dollar off your product.  I get it when  you cringe at the fact that there are business opportunities in the neighborhood that are untapped in the Ricketts name.  What I don’t get is your oblivious behavior when it comes to the actual team you purchased.  You act as though we are in a slump, as though we have capable hands at the wheel.  I wonder what will happen when attendance drops below 25,000 on a regular basis.  When you can’t sell your buffalo dogs, or $7 beers, or how about those $100 tickets?

Maybe, just maybe, a winning team could pay for all of the “exterior” projects you have in mind?  Chicago backs a winner like no other! I wonder what extra revenue would be available when “World Series Champion” follows Chicago Cubs?

Start worrying about the team and its leadership Mr. Ricketts, and the rest will fall in place. Until then, the Cubs organization looks like Bologna and Hot Dogs, or as some like to call it, lips and assholes.

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Game 79 & 80 – Double Dose of Crap

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Cubs 7, Giants 13
Cubs 3, Giants 6

Box Score (Game 1Game 2) / Highlights (Game 1Game 2) / Condensed Game (Game 1)

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Carlos Pena went deep to bring the Cubs within one and then Koyie Hill hit a HR to tie it early. It was down hill from then on in game one.
  • Homeruns by Montanez and Ramirez. Neither of these guys project into the Cubs future but it was nice to see them hit long balls.
  • Nice defensive plays by Castro and Johnson. You expect good glove plays from Johnson but Castro hasn’t been up to par recently. I’ve been laying off of him because of his bat but it was nice to see him flash some leather, perhaps he will be our starting third baseman next year. I’d like to see him transition to the hot corner.
  • Samardzija put in two solid innings of relief, as did Mateo.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Poor pitching by Lopez and Grabow, both of those guys need to be released. I’ve been patient with Cubs general management for a while but Hendry needs to go now. Why are these guys with the team? Because of bad management decisions – let’s cut the head off of the snake right now. Same with Clown Kenney. But we all know our new Bozo Tom Ricketts will express total support for the management won’t he? Get a show on WGN Ricketts, I want to play the bucket game again. It’s sad to say but we have a loser team, loser management and a joker for an owner. Other than that things are just fine on the North Side, it isn’t even July and the Cubs are not even an afterthought.

ON THIS DATE IN BASEBALL HISTORY

  • 1907: The Washington Senators stole thirteen bases on Yankee catcher Branch Rickey. Apparently he was a smart fella but didn’t have much of an arm.
  • 1910: Cub infielder Joe Tinker stole home twice in the same game.
  • 1939: The New York Yankees hit 13 homeruns against the Philadelphia A’s to set a major league record for most homeruns in a doubleheader.
  • 1970: The Cubs helped the Pirates close Forbes Field by losing a doubleheader and the Pirates tied the Mets in the standings. Then the Pirates were doomed to play in Three Rivers Stadium for several years, it was like watching baseball being played at an airport.
  • 2010: The Cubs put Carlos Zambrano on the restricted list. We still don’t know the outcome.


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Billy Goat Blog: AZ Cubs Preview

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

The AZL Cubs’ season got underway last week and the team is 3-2 on the young season.  Here’s a look at some of the players to watch on this year’s roster:

Rafael Lopez, C - the Cubs’ highest (16th round) draft pick to sign so far, Lopez hit .325/.436/.514 in his Senior season for Florida State.  He was converted to catcher by Florida State and fared well, throwing out 42% of basestealers.

James Pugilese, RHP – the Cubs’ 18th round pick, the Mercer County (N.J.) CC pitcher has fared well in his first two appearances, allowing just 1 hit and striking out 6 in 4 IP.

Pete Levitt, RHP – the Cubs 32nd round pick out of Mount Olive College (N.C.), he went 10-3 with a 2.93 ERA in his last year, with 99 K’s in 101.1 IP.

Scott Weisman, RHP - a 46th round pick out of Clemson, Weisman led the Tigers with 9 wins in 2010, before struggling in 2011 and eventually moving to the pen.  He was effective as a reliever for Clemson and that could be his eventual role with the Cubs.

In addition to the Cubs 2011 draft picks, there are several players who have graduated from the Cubs Domincan Summer League this year, including pitchers Rafael Diplan, Ramon Garcia, Alvido Jimenez, Felix Pena, Starling Peralta and Jean Sandoval; catchers Johan DeJesus and Carlos Romero; infielders Gioskar Amaya, Gregori Gonzalez, Marco Hernandez and Brian Inoa; and outfielders Bieneme Vismeldy, Eduardo Gonzalez and Oliver Zapata.

Finally, the Cubs continue to show the ability to scout Korea and bring in talented players, with Dong-Yub Kim the latest Korean to join the Cubs organization, following in the footsteps of Hak-Ju Lee, Dae-Eun Rhee and Jae-Hoon Ha (among others).  With the international signing period set to begin on July 2nd, it will be interesting to see who else the Cubs bring in.

For more from Mark Sherrard, visit the Cubs Billy Goat Blog

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Game 78 – Does That Count as the First Game of A Series

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Cubs 7, Rockies 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

A-Ram and Peña – Just like it should be, the Cubs got great production out of the third and fourth holes in their line-up. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for much of the season, but the Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Peña turned it on with the wind blowing out to left-center field. The corner infielders each put two balls into the bleachers, driving in 6 of the team’s 7 runs on the day.

Good Garza – After giving up a lead-off home run to Carlos Gonzalez to start the game and then hitting Jonathan Herrera in the ankle on the next at-bat, Matt Garza settled in to pitch one of his best games of the season. Garza improved to 4-6 on the season, scattering 5 hits over 7 1/3 innings. His two biggest mistake pitches of the game ended up in the bleachers, courtesy of Gonzalez’s bat.

Starlin’s Streak – He’s nowhere near DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, in fact he’s just more than 1/3 of the way to Jerome Walton’s 30-game tear, but Stalin Castro’s bat continues to be a bright spot in an otherwise dismal Cubs season. The second-year shortstop extended his to 11-games with a first inning triple.

Chasing Chacin’ – Coming into the game, Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin hadn’t given up more than one run in any of his previous four June starts. By the end of the first inning, he’d already given up two en route to a season high six earned runs in five innings pitched.

What Went Wrong

Car-Gone – As mentioned, Matt Garza didn’t do much wrong today…but when he did, you could probably guess that Carlos Gonzalez was at the plate. The Rockies’ centerfielder led of the game with a basket shot over Soriano’s head, then followed up with another solo shot in the 8th that signaled the end of Garza’s day. Luckily for the Cubs, he wasn’t able to do damage with players on base in front of him.

Mental mistakes continue – Geovany Soto just decided not to catch a foul ball. Len and Bob tried to convince us that, perhaps, Carlos Peña was calling him off but it really looked like Geo just gave up. Luckily neither of the Cubs errors in this game came back to haunt them.

Misc. Notes

  • Nick Jonas took batting practice with the Cubs prior to the game. According to reports, he Willie May Hayes-ed seven of the first eight pitches into the top of the screen, but by the third round he was making solid contact. Jim Hendry immediately gave him a vote of confidence.
  • Miss World, aka Alexandria Mills, had the honors of singing the seventh inning stretch. Judging from her performance, singing was not her talent at the pageant. Listening to Len and Bob try to make conversation with her for ½ an inning was as uncomfortable as you would expect.
  • Can we get a round of applause for Blake DeWitt’s beard? Getting to see that thing of beauty every day is the only thing that makes me hope that Darwin Barney takes his time on his road to recovery.

The Takeaway

Listening to Mike Quade’s post-game press conference would have made you think that the Cubs had finally turned a corner on the season. The first-year skipper was down right ecstatic following the game, buying in completely to the media’s excitement over the Cubs recent penchant for winning the first games of series (never mind that this was actually the conclusion to an April series in which the Cubs got pounded in games one and two).

That’s as negative as I’m going to be about this game though, as aside from the first at-bat, this game was a joy to watch – which has been rare this season. Despite the two deep balls given up to Gonzalez, Garza did exactly what he needed to do by pitching into the 8th-inning and giving the bullpen a breather before entering a double-header tomorrow. His command was spot-on, delivering six strike outs while walking none in his most dominant performance of the season.

Despite how well Garza pitched, the Cubs still needed four or more runs to win the game, which is far from a given with this team in 2011. As the temperatures have finally started warming up, so has Aramis Ramirez who has now hit six home runs in June after hitting just one each in the months of April and May.

Mike Quade addressed the team after the game, which he claimed is notable because he usually only talks to them when things badly. Let’s hope the Cubs like the carrot more than the stick and channel the positive reinforcement into a prosperous July.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Matt Garza (.204 WPA)

2nd Star – Carlos Pena (.153 WPA)

3rd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.126 WPA)

Cubs Hitting: +.268 WPA

Cubs Pitching: +.232 WPA

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GirlieView

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Welcome to a new week where things should be sunny and bright, but where in actuality the gloom continues to follow this team day by day.

I guess I’m the ultimate optimist because for some strange reason I honestly believed the Cubs could crawl their way back into the standings and salvage the season as they began to play better ball the last couple weeks. Many of you had already written them off, but I guess I was just holding to that last thread of hope.

I hadn’t really thought about a sweep of the Royals until I read the comments and saw other people were considering it. That being said, it put the idea in my head and gave my heart something else to hold onto. Well, after they won game 1, I could only hope they would sweep because as I am visiting my brother in Kansas City, I held tickets to games 2 and 3.

Experiencing a new ballpark is always fun, especially when your team is up 1-0 in the series. But after Saturday’s loss, my family honestly debated going to Sunday’s game for close to an hour. Was it worth sitting in the sun, sweat dripping down our backs, even if they managed to win? Well, the answer was clearly no, considering Randy Wells couldn’t get it together in the first and the game was essentially over before it started.

I’m rambling, so long story short, I no longer have any hope or belief in this season. However, this brought me to the realization that I hate looking forward to the future. It’s always “Next year is here” with this team, and with all the speculation about what kind of changes are going to be made in order to make this club a contender in a few years, I can’t stand getting in the middle because I don’t want to be let down about anything else.

Anyway, on to this week’s recap put forth by you all. Not much to talk about on the field, but you always find something new to discuss.

The Wizzies

  • All I look for in a hometown announcer is that they don’t make my skin crawl (see Hawk Harrelson)….outside of that I expect them to be homers (See Len and Bob)…I like Len and Bob…..especially Bob. If you want good/unbiased/fair commentary during a game you have to hope for national coverage. You will learn a lot more about the way “your” team honestly plays baseball from a national broadcast then you will from local. Local will make it sound like they are just struggling, national will tell you they suck. At any rate, this series is personal for me, I can’t stand sox fans…even the ones I call friends.
  • Speaking of announcers, someone on Fox or ESPN this weekend explained that Dempster’s wiggling of the glove was a timing thing. My memory from when Dempster started the wiggling is that it was to prevent tipping of the pitch. Is my memory wrong or was the announcer wrong? Not a good bet either way…I do like Pat Hughes. And he has stood the test of time for me. Often I will like an announcer for a year or so (or less!), but then he (she?) will have exhausted their vocabulary and stock of stories and tips on how the game is to be played and he (she?) becomes boring and repetitious. As I have gotten older, the announcer errors are more apparent to me (or maybe today’s announcers make more mistakes?) and I usually try to just ignore them.
  • I know the Cubs aren’t playing up to par right now, but I’m sure glad I’m a Cubs fan and not a Sox fan. We payed some serious money for Pena, but he’s starting to hit homers consistently, whereas Dunn looks absolutely lost at the plate. Plus, if you add Castro and LeMaheiu’s ages together, you still don’t even equal Omar Visquel’s. Yikes.
  • I have to agree and say that Joe Buck and Tim McCarver are the worst national broadcast team in the country. The second worst broadcast team in my book is Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for the NFL on FOX. Joe Buck’s pure hatred for Chicago is so annoying I often times turn the game off and just read the highlights here on VFTB!
  • Plus, I used to think Harry Caray was my grandfather. They looked a lot alike, especially to a three-year-old, so I would see the Cubs games on television and say, “Daddy, grandpa’s on tv!”
  • I’m with Chet, this series is personal. I can’t stand the White Sox, or White Sox fans. They’re just Cubs haters who need a team to root for. Cubs Suck is the entire vocabulary of a White Sox fan. They hate the Cubs more than they love the White Sox. I really want to give them a serious ass-kicking. Let’s sweep them and get our first 3-game winning streak of the year
  • I have to admit I’m a fan of Len and Bob, sure they are homers and definitely not impartial, but they have good chemistry and always find a way to make me laugh no matter how bad the game might be going for the Cubs. Since I have the MLB package on satellite, I don’t always get to see the Cubs broadcast of games (unless they are on WGN which I also get) and there are some really boring announcers out there for some of these other teams (mostly those part of local Fox Sports broadcasts).
  • I hope you’re sitting down…Pena just homered off a lefty.
  • Yah, but you still should be throwing away, away, away from Konerko right now…..we have fed him two gopher balls inside and he has deposited each into the seats…. next pitcher to throw inside to Konerko should do push-ups on the mound.
  • Jeff Samardzija’s mullet and facial hair remind me of someone, but I can’t quite place it. Maybe someone from a pirate movie? I was even thinking Timothy Dalton’s character in the Rocketeer (Neville Sinclair) but he had short hair and no beard.
    This is really bothering me. Almost as much as his pitching
  • I just think we’ve got a much better chance hoping that Colvin becomes a lineup mainstay, than we do flushing at-bats down the Campana/Montanez toilet. I mean even if Colvin winds up being left-handed Matt Murton; isn’t that better than two more Jose Macias’?
  • I don’t know what Campana’s Walk/Strikeout ratio is in his minor league career but you can’t steal first. He is the new and not improved version of Juan Pierre. No power, rag arm, nice guy.
  • The Tribune ran an article today (Source) about how the Cubs are feeling better about their play over the last couple weeks. I’ll agree that they’ve been playing their best ball of the season over the last three series, starting with taking 3 of 4 from the Brewers. I can’t help feeling like there’s some sort of satisfaction in the quotes, though, particularly from Hill. “It’s okay that we’re losing, at least we’re making a game of it” (my words, not his). I don’t know. I know that last week I said that if I couldn’t see wins, I wanted to see effort and hard-fought games. But now that I’m only seeing that, I want the results. I think I would have an easier time accepting the losses if the team had been playing hard all year (or at least had been making a show of playing hard all year). But they didn’t, and now that they finally seem to be trying, it’s too late.
  • I have to admit I’m becoming a fan of Carlos Pena. In spite of his wretchedly slow start, he’s actually turning into the power hitter he has been in the past. The way things are going in terms of next season, I can’t say I’d be upset if they resign him to stick around at 1B as opposed to going after Fielder or Pujols (both of whom will cost way too much).
  • I have to say that I think this year Mike Quade has proven that he’s not a big league manager. Blake DeWitt and Jeff Baker should NEVER bat third in any lineup in the major leagues. Also, how is Koyie Hill still on this team?
  • Quade’s week to play scapegoat? Huh. I vote for giving next week to either “Rodrigo Lopez” or “injuries.”
  • Usually I hate days off. Today I’m good with it.
  • Letting Hill step to the plate with a runner on third a mistake. He looked bad in his other appearances. What led Quade to think he could at least hit a nice fly ball? He struck out just like we thought he would. This isn’t triple AAA ball or Spring training. These games really do count.
  • I’m not saying that Dempster has pitched well, but even if you could send him down to Iowa, who would you bring up?? Don’t know if you realize it, but starting pitching depth hasn’t been a real strength on this year’s squad.
  • Given Pena had a rotten April, his has hit 14 Hr’s since…putting up .245/.373/.548 in May/June combined. He’s been the least of the Cub concerns this season, IMO. I’d be more worried about the back of the rotation, Soto’s lack of hitting, Soriano’s contract, and whether Barney can be a starting 2B…..among other things. Also….hooray for Fukudome, but he’s a player who shouldn’t be here next season. the Cubs need to evaluate guys who can help them for the future…..which never seems to happen.
  • If Ricketts keeps Hendry into 2012 he gets what he deserves .What he will get is a ball park with a lot of vacant seats. Let’s see how many season ticket holders sign up for 2012! This August and September should have Ricketts wondering. Let’s see how many fans show up at the Cubs Convention .WGN is already started to remind us to book the overpriced room at the Hilton.
  • Breaking news: Jim Hendry turns hug at a Smorgasbord with Prince Fielder into 30 year $1.2 billion contract. Jim Hendry said of the signing “…as we left the restaurant and stood on the curb waiting for the driver, Milton…err Prince sorry…said, ‘I know it’s going to take some time, but I want to tell you I want to be a Chicago Cub if you want me.”
  • Based on these comments on the Royals (a team I admit to knowing very little about this season), I’m thinking Cubs sweep considering their decent play as of late.
  • I see no reasons to believe the first 3-game winning streak comes in KC this weekend. Cubs win 2 of 3, but please, let’s win on Sunday. It’s my birthday.
  • Some optimism from the Cubs faithful!! Want to be on board with you guys, but have this feeling the Royals will get a good old dose of Cubbie tonic to sooth their woes.
  • I say the Cubs get 1 for sure, maybe 2, but certainly won’t sweep. They’ve blown too many very winnable games for me to hope for that. To Mark in Toronto: what “decent play as of late” are you referring to? They’re playing only .500 over their last 10, managing to lose 3 1-run games.
  • Went to busch stadium last night just to verify pujols is indeed injured. Now today, time to complete the trip to kansas city to cheer on the cubs the rest of the weekend! go cubs go
  • I never remember such lousy baserunning in a game. Like Bob and Len said didn’t the Cubs know what great arms KC has in the outfield?? Who is doing the advance scouting for the Cubs? Really make ya wonder. It is a W for all purposes but a shaky victory ….
  • I feel good about any win this year, even a win against the perennial rebuilding small market Royals. They have 5 AAA pitchers in their rotation but let’s not draw the conclusion that small market teams are at a disadvantage in today’s MLB business model.
  • Can you believe the Cubs web site is pushing for All Star votes for Soriano? I have a hard time considering Soriano an All Star no matter what kind of offensive production he brings since his defense is so offensive. I have never seen an outfielder so allergic to theme run fence , the guy comes to a dead stop every time he steps on the warning track allowing fly balls to drop right next to him. An All Star outfielder has to be able to catch a fly ball up against the home run fence.
  • Bad play on both ends ….it was like the cubs were playing against themselves.

And, as requested, Wizins: (But I couldn’t decide which I liked more.)

  • Before we lambaste Quade we should look at the brushes he has at his disposal to paint the masterpiece….
  • I think the Cubs are playing hard, and have been playing hard. They’re just not very talented.

Here are those atop the standings:

Buddy-13

PackerCubBull-10

Doc Raker-9

Seymour Butts-8

jswanson-8

Doug S.-7

Aaron-7

Chet-6

Larry Sproul-6

Mark in Toronto-5

MJ-3

Mark-2

Doug Bagley-2

Deezer-2

Evan-2

Kris-2

Katie-2

Chris in Illinois-2

Rich Beckman-2

And there are 17 others with 1 point each. Keep up the good work.

Final Thoughts:

Obviously, I’m in a down mood. The only thing I could think while watching Sunday’s game was, ‘Why do we keep coming back? Honestly, what makes being a fan of this team worth the pain?’ Answer in the comments, or don’t. But if someone has a worthy answer, I would love to know because right now I need a break from this team. The only thing I am looking forward to is getting Marlon Byrd back, and even then I know it is unfair to expect him to be in full form.

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Game 77 – Cubs lose rubber game 6-3

Monday, June 27th, 2011

Cubs 3, Royals 6

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What went right:

  • The Cubs mounted two good offensive onslaughts – the first was in the third when Geovanny Soto homered to make it a 4-1 ballgame. During the fourth Reed Johnson hit a ball hard and landed on second – DeWitt doubled him home and the Cubs reduced the lead to two. Soto then doubled home DeWitt and the Cubs were back in business with a one run deficit.
  • In the sixth the Cubs had two nice defensive gems – firstly Reed Johnson made a nice shoestring catch to save a base hit. On the next at bat Starlin Castro ranged to the left and picked off a ball that was headed for left center and Pena made a nice pick at first digging a ball to complete the out.
  • Carpenter came in in the eighth and he was bringin’ it. I’ve been rather concerned about Cashner’s setback because this guy was showing us the kind of lightning that one would expect from a seventh or eighth inning set-up guy. Now Carpenter appears to fit that role and it’s nice to see someone come up from AA and fulfill a needed spot.

What went wrong:

  • Randy Wells struggled right from the get-go. The first six runners reached base and it was 4-0 before an out was even recorded. Later in the fourth Wells let two more runs in making it a 6-3 game. Wells looked good two years ago and had a poor sophomoric season that included some injury concerns. To me this is his “make or break” season – if he can’t do better than what we saw tonight then he should probably be let go or traded. His command was off and when he was in the strike zone he got hit. Starting pitching was our downfall tonight and that was what went wrong.

The Takeaway: The Cubs tried hard but they don’t have what it takes to beat a team like the Royals. Kansas City has been a whipping boy for so long that their draft picks have had no choice but to come to fruition. We are seeing the seeing the same from the erstwhile Pirate losers, a team that now finds itself eight games ahead of the Cubs. We have aging superstars like Ramirez and Soriano who are overpaid for what they do. We also have younger guys like Zambrano and Fukudome that get paid much more than what their performance merits. So I as a fan must watch the games patiently and hope for a miracle. Because that’s about what it’s going to take to turn this team around, I’m not confident that Mike Quade, Jim Hendry or Crane Kenney have what it takes to get the job done.

On this date in baseball history:

  • 1906: Baseball had it’s first death when Herbert Whitney of the Burlington Pathfinders was beaned by a pitch.
  • 1916: The Cleveland Indians became the first team to wear numbered jerseys.
  • 1938: Carl Hubbell got his 200th win against the Chicago Cubs. He was the first player to really master the screwball from what I’ve read.
  • 1960: Rookie third baseman Ron Santo made his major league debut. He went three for seven in a doubleheader and the Cubs swept the Pirates. Santo drove in five runs.
  • 1966: Ron Santo got hit in the face by Jack Fisher of the Mets. I remember reading about this as kid, he’s lucky it didn’t end his career like the ball that hit Tony Conigliaro.

Tomorrow the Cubs go home to play a makeup game against the Colorado Rockies. The game will be televised at 1:20 PM CDT on CSN.

Stars of the Game
Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Geovany Soto (.263 WPA)

2nd Star – Eric Hosmer (.112 WPA)

3rd Star – Chris Getz (.083 WPA)

Cubs Hitting: -.166 WPA

Cubs Pitching: -.334 WPA

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Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Cub Curse!

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

The complete title of this book is “Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cub Curse – And Other Stories About Sports And Gamesmanship”. The authors are James Wolfe and Mary Ann Presman. It was published in January 2010.

I have to admit, I misunderstood the concept when I first saw the cover of this book. I thought it was an entire book about “The Curse”. And actually, as it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.

This book contains eleven short stories: four by James Wolfe, and seven by Mary Ann Presman. They are all good.

Author James Wolfe is an engineer, entrepreneur, and lifelong sports fan. He has authored six books, including “Little Balls, Big Dreams”, a novel about golf.

Author Mary Ann Presman has written advertising copy, newsletters and public relations materials prior to creating the seven short stories included in this book.

The first short story, the title story, is not ABOUT the curse, but it is built around the curse, peripherally. James Wolfe wrote it, it’s 40 pages long, and it’s funny as heck.

The other 10 short stories are peripherally about gambling, bocce ball, golf, basketball, tennis, etc. As I said, they’re all good.

Reviewing briefly each story:
- “Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cubs Curse”, by James Wolfe, is built around a fantasy which I truly wish would come true. As it is, there is a lot of truth in this story.

- “Gambling 101”,by Mary Ann Presman, involves blackjack and people. It contains an ending which I didn’t see coming, and with which I do not necessarily agree. But, hey, it’s about the journey, not the destination.

- “Backyard Bocce Ball” is about people, families, and bocce ball. This one struck a little close to home, but it was entertaining. Mary Ann Presman hit a home run with “Backyard Bocce Ball”.

- I’ve only golfed twice in my life (not counting hitting balls on the driving range and hitting whiffle golf balls in my yard), but from what I’ve seen, “Wine, Women & Golf”, by James Wolfe, is an accurate depiction of the game and of the people who play it. That’s why I never allowed myself to become obsessed with golf. This one also has an ending which I didn’t see coming, and with which I don’t necessarily agree.

- “Straight Shooter”, by Mary Ann Presman, while not the funniest of the short stories in this collection, might be the most honest. My jaw was dropping as I read it, because Ms. Presman kept hitting the nail on the head. It’s all true! Oh, did I mention it takes place while shooting pool?

- “Paper Airplanes”, by Mary Ann Presman, is possibly the shortest of the short stories in this book. I do not necessarily disagree with the ending, which I did not see coming.

- “Only Three More Outs”, about Little League baseball, almost brought a tear to my eye with its depiction of the perspective of a little guy. Once again, I did not see the ending coming.

- The story in “H-O-R-S-E” unfolds as two brothers play basketball. It is a sibling relationship which I enjoyed following. Families are really something. And, no, I did not see the twist of the ending coming.

- The setting in “Scrabble Date”, (somewhere between a nursing home and a retirement villa, depending upon your personal bias), has become a little too familiar to me lately, but author Mary Ann Presman handles it deftly. I believe this one deserves the descriptor “poignant”.

- The penultimate story, “If Profanity Improved The Golf Game, There’d Be More Good Golfers”, aside from being true and profound on the surface, is about the game of golf. And born-again Christians. Once again, a little close to home. But I enjoyed it.

- Last but not least, “Double Fault” takes place on the tennis courts, but it’s really the universality of humanity we’re exploring here. Not falling down funny, but definitely satisfying.

As I said before, this book turned out to be nothing like I expected at first glance. I really enjoyed it.

I recommend “”Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cub Curse” highly to anyone with an interest in sports &/or gamesmanship. It’s the human condition we’re looking at here, the human condition and the competitive spirit.

I thank Joe Aiello and the Rensselaer Publishing Group for providing me with a copy of “Curse? There Ain’t No Stinking Chicago Cubs Curse” to read and to review.

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