Archive for July, 2011

Northside Archives: Repeating History

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

July 19, 2011, Des Moines Register, Rick Brown interviews Cubs GM Jim Hendry.  “I’ve been on both sides of it,” Hendry said.  “I haven’t changed any[thing] since we won 97 games in 2008.  I’ve worked just as hard.”

Indeed, Jim Hendry HAS partied like it was 2008.  The 2008 Cubs had Rich Hill, Sean Gallagher, Matt Murton, Ronny Cedeno, Casey McGehee, Micah Hoffpauir, Eric Patterson, Felix Pie, Ryan Theriot, and Mike Fontenot just to name a few.

Hendry turned that stack of prospects into 1.5 years of Rich Harden and 1 season of Aaron Heilman.  Seriously, that’s it.

(Note: Since we basically forced the Dodgers to take Theriot in the Lilly deal, and they didn’t re-sign him, it’s intellectually dishonest to say that we got anything back for Theriot)

Three things strike me about that list of former Cubs.  First, of the guys that were traded, none were traded at the peak of their value.  Second, some of those guys never got a fair shake with the Cubs – a legit shot at an everyday job.  Lastly, what we received for that host of prospects is pathetic; a year and a half of a chronically injured 5-inning pitcher and a year of a mediocre reliever – not coincidently, those are two positions of excess with the 2011 Cubs.

“We’re not going to move people that we think are going to help us,” Hendry said.  “Why would I trade Sean Marshall? Why would I trade Darwin Barney? Those calls kind of stop quickly.  It makes no sense.”

As a refresher, let’s recap exactly how each player was jettisoned: Hill, Gallagher, Murton, Cedeno, Patterson, Pie, Theriot, and Fontenot were all traded.  McGehee was released.  Hoffpauir asked to be released.

Hendry traded Cedeno, Pie, and Hill mostly because they were out of options and unlikely to make the roster.  In particular, Hill’s trade value had reached an absurd high after 2007.  He had been a part of a rumored package for the Cubs to acquire Carl Crawford.  Whether the Rays were truly interested or not is of little consequence, the rumors illustrate how high Hill’s value was at that juncture.  Pie and Cedeno never had quite that buzz about them, but certainly we didn’t need to wait to dump them until their value was at its absolute lowest.  Frankly, the Orioles and Mariners did us a favor by trading for these guys, it’s very likely that they would have been waived to start the season and could’ve been picked up for nothing.

The parallel is Sean Marshall, Darwin Barney, and insert any OF that the Cubs have rotated up to the MLB roster this year.  Yes, Marshall has proven more at the MLB level than Hill ever did.  And maybe we won’t be forced to trade them because we run out of options.  But has Hendry learned NOTHING?  Barney’s sample size is incredibly limited, and I’m sure Marshall is excited that he’s part of the Cubs plan to be good again in 3 years.

McGehee and Hoffpauir weren’t given legit opportunities to stick with the MLB team.  McGehee took his act to Milwaukee where he has flourished.  Hoffpauir took his to Japan.  Hendry received a change purse full of yen in return.  Yeah, the Cubs had All-Stars at first and third – all the more reason to trade these guys EARLY when they’ve yet to realize their potential.  Or we could have moved them to the outfield since it seems to be our current philosophy that anyone can play the outfield.

To be sure, some of those guys were a hot crap to begin with and the Cubs likely didn’t have GMs blowing up the phone to pry them away.   That list has turned into 2 guys in Japan, 1 washed up pitcher, 4 utility players, 1 questionable MLB pitcher, a disgruntled veteran infielder, and Casey McGehee.  I’m thrilled that we hung on to each and every one of those players because “we thought they were going to help us” – only to realize that they weren’t and then subsequently dump them at the least valuable point of their career.

The Cubs aren’t the only team with hot prospects that never pan out – it only seems that way because we hang on to every single player until he DOESN’T pan out.  It makes our system appear more barren than it is, and it gives trade partners more reason for heavy scrutiny when assessing a Cubs prospect.

Of Brett Jackson, Hendry said, “I think he’ll be a 10-year big leaguer.”

Good to know, since Hendry is so familiar with promoting guys who turn out to play a decade in the majors.  Oh wait; we don’t have a SINGLE one under Hendry’s tenure.  Zambrano was technically promoted before Hendry took over.  IF Brett Jackson is so incredible, he better crack the roster soon; but even if that happens, we know that Hendry will never trade him at the peak (or even near the peak) of his value.

(Note: Yes, Castro will almost surely be a 10-year vet, but there’s the rub – between Zambrano and Castro has there been one?  Nope!)

I fear for the future of Tony Campana, DJ LeMahieu, Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney, Chris Carpenter, Brett Jackson, Sean Marshall, and the host of other Cubs’ prospects who will be forced to rot on the Cubs roster until they are so old and so unproven that their trade value is completely exhausted and they’re sent to play for the Orioles or Pirates (although that’s an enticing offer at the moment).

To answer Hendry’s rhetorical question: you’d trade Marshall or Barney because it’s in the BEST interests of the Cubs to get the most of our prospects possible.  Sometimes that means trading Sean Marshall, a left-handed setup man, when capable left-handed setup men are at a premium (i.e. the trade deadline) and the Cubs current roster lacks the requisite talent to compete.  Marshall boasts a current WAR (wins above replacement player) of 1.0 – fantastic.  Glad we’re hanging onto that single win because we MIGHT be good in 3 years, when Sean Marshall MIGHT be good, and we MIGHT need him then!

Hendry wanted his record checked against 2008.  He’s right to compare the two years.  Unfortunately for him, his performance that year didn’t mirror the on-field product.

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Game 99 – Worley Whirls a Gem

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Phillies 9, Cubs 1

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Wrong

  • Ryan Dempster struggled from the start and lasted only three innings.  He hurt himself by walking three and surrendered six earned runs.
  • Vance Worley helped himself with a two out double in the second with nobody on base.  The Phillies ended up scoring three runs in the inning, which should have been over with two down and the pitcher batting.
  • The Cubs scratched out just one hit in the first six innings against Worley, failing to take advantage of a hitter’s day. It was the first time Worley ever faced the Cubs.
  • Carlos Pena was charged with two errors on a very sloppy play in the sixth inning which led to a Phillies run.
  • Alfonso Soriano bounced into a double play to end the seventh, the only frame in which the Cubs scratched out a run.
  • Jimmy Rollins homered from both sides of the plate to lead the charge.  His longball against Grabow in the eighth immediately made it an eight run game again, just after the Cubs had picked up a run.

What Went Right

  • Ramon Ortiz ate up three innings and did a decent job, allowing two runs, only one of which was earned.
  • Geovany Soto broke up Worley’s no-hitter in the fifth inning.  Later in the game, Geo picked up the team’s only RBI.
  • The Cubs put together a string of baserunners in the seventh and were able to pick up a run.
  • Darwin Barney lashed a double to lead-off the eighth.
  • Kerry Wood worked a shutout inning.

The Takeaway

I know the conditions were difficult for pitching, but I was really disappointed with Dempster’s outing today.  He needs to cut down on the walks and start keeping the Cubs in games with more consistency.   Today was the type of game you expect to see when the best team in the league meets up with one of the worst. 

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

1st Star – Vance Worley (.146 WPA)

2nd Star – Ryan Howard (.098 WPA)

3rd Star – Michael Martinez (.097 WPA)

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Game 98 – Phils Phight to the Phinish

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Cubs 2, Phillies 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Baseball Gods just couldn’t allow a team as bad as the Cubs to beat both Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in consecutive games.

What went right:

  • Cubs came out swinging in the first against Cliff Lee. Reed Johnson started things off with a line drive double to right. Starlin Castro followed that up with his 3rd home run of the season; a rocket into the left field basket. Aramis Ramirez stayed hot with a double of his own, but Lee would get out of the inning by retiring the next three batters. All in all, the first five men hit the ball hard.
  • Matt Garza was excellent. He didn’t give up a hit until the 5th inning and finished with a line of 7 innings, 4 hits, 5 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 earned run……and a no decision. He is single handedly making the case that ‘wins’ for pitchers is a meaningless statistic.

What went wrong:

  • The first two Cub batters of the game scored. The next 36 batters did not.
  • Alfonso Soriano was 0-4 and prior to the game was hitting .188/.220/.229 for the month of July in 48 at bats.
  • I was hoping I wouldn’t have to rip Quade, but, 2-0 game, bottom of the 7th, the pitcher spot leading off with a new right handed relief pitcher on the mound for the Phillies. Seeing as how Garza had 113 pitches at that point, sounds like a great pinch hitting spot for Kosuke Fukudome, does it not? Well not if you’re Mike Quade. Garza strikes out and would throw four more pitches before being replaced. Those four pitches must have been pretty darn important.
  • Sean Marshall. After Quade pulled Garza, Marshall gave up a single and then a two run double, tying the game up. He’d later give up a few bloop hits and two more runs and take the loss. At least he was kind enough to get the game over with so I could go to bed.

 Miscellaneous:

  • Ryan Howard was signed to a five year contract extension on 4/26/10 even though he was already locked up for two more seasons. He’ll get five years (age 32-36) at $125 million guaranteed. That would be like the Cubs signing Derrek Lee to a contract after his 2005 MVP caliber season that went from 2008 through 2012. How would we feel about THAT right now? Howard’s contract is one of the worst in baseball and it doesn’t even start until next season.
  • Bob Brenly noticed the Phillies Carlos Ruiz flashing multiple signs to Cliff Lee, even with no one on base. Do the Phillies think the Cubs are stealing signs?
  • Tweet seen from Yahoo Sports Jeff Passan: Reed Johnson has 17 doubles in 132 at-bats. The next-highest doubles total with so few ABs is Casper Wells with 10 in 113. I’d think Reed would make some decent trade bait to a team needing some extra outfielder.

Takeaway:

  • Sign Garza NOW. Get this guy signed to a three or four year extension, buying out a free agent season or two. He IS the best pitcher on the staff and one of the top 10 or so in the National League. Mark my words, the trade will prove to have been a good one!
  • Bring on the trades. We desperately need something else to talk about.

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

1st Star – Michael Martinez (.586 WPA)

2nd Star – Matt Garza (.352 WPA)

3rd Star – Chase Utley (.279 WPA)

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Midseason Top 10 Prospect List

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

With Baseball America releasing its Midseason Top 50 Prospects on July 7th (Brett Jackson was ranked 32nd and Matt Szczur was ranked 48th), I thought it was time to update the Cubs Top 10 prospects.  For those of you who may have missed it, in the pre-season I put together my own Top 10 list as well as a composite Top 10 list.

This list will give you an idea on who’s rising and who’s falling (based primarily on their 2011 performances):

  1. Brett Jackson - He didn’t hit for a high average in his half season at AA Tennessee, but he still earned a promotion to AAA Iowa.  He will probably get a September callup to Chicago and will battle for the center field job next Spring.
  2. Matthew Szczur – after signing a baseball only contract prior to the season, Szczur has proved to everyone that he made the right choice.  He is the fastest riser amongst the Cubs prospects, ranking 10th on the preseason composite list.
  3. Javier Baez – the Cubs top pick in the 2011 draft has yet to sign, but the Cubs will do everything in their power to get him into the fold before the August 15th deadline.  He has a quick bat, but scouts do not like his makeup.  He could be the next Alex Rodriguez or the next Milton Bradley.
  4. Trey McNutt – blister issues have hampered him this year and his 4.80 ERA is nothing to write home about.  But he is still the Cubs top pitching prospect.
  5. Ryan Flaherty – another riser, Flaherty has shown more power this year, with 15 homers in 317 AB’s.  He is on pace to more than double last year’s output and his .305/.384/.523 line at Tennessee recently earned him a promotion to Iowa.  He could be an option at third for the Cubs next year.
  6. D.J. LeMahieu – the Cubs best pure hitter earned a cup of coffee with the Cubs when Darwin Barney was on the DL.  He is hitting .353/.381/.462 between Tennessee and Iowa and could also be an integral part of the Cubs plans for the future.
  7. Jae-Hoon Ha – he may not have any plus skills, but Ha seems to do everything at least above average.  He has some pop, runs the bases well (despite average speed) and has a strong arm (as a former catcher).  He was recently promoted to Tennessee after hitting .276/.311/.422 at Daytona.
  8. Robert Whitenack – Whitenack was well on his way to having a breakout season between Daytona and Tennessee before Tommy John surgery cut his season short.  His season ended with a 7-0 record and 1.93 ERA, making him the highest rising pitcher.  Its a shame that we will have to wait at least a year before seeing him pitch again.
  9. Josh Vitters – although he has bounced back from a sub-par 2010 season to hit for a decent average this year (.281 in 83 games), Vitters has apparently been passed up by both Ryan Flaherty and D. J. LeMahieu on the organization’s depth chart. His stock is slipping and he is at risk of dropping out of the Cubs top 10 for the first time since being drafted.
  10. Welington Castillo – although he has split the catching duties at AAA Iowa with fellow prospect Chris Robinson, Castillo has hit well with a .301/.361/.534 line in 176 AB’s.  He has the best arm and release of the Cubs catching prospect, throwing out 37% of base stealers in his 6 seasons and could at least make the Cubs forget about Koyie Hill for 2012.

Honorable MentionNicholas Struck, Austin Kirk, Reggie Golden

Risers – Matt Szczur, Ryan Flaherty, D.J. LeMahieu, Robert Whitenack, Welington Castillo, Nicholas Struck, Austin Kirk

FallersHayden Simpson, Christopher Carpenter, Jay Jackson, Rafael Dolis

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The Roundtable: MVP & LVP

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Who has been the Cubs most and least valuable player in 2011? Why?


MVP: On a team that’s been consistently flirting with a sub-.400 winning percentage is it possible to have an MVP?  I mean has anyone been “valuable” when we’re losing 60% of our games?  But since I’m supposed to pick someone, I’d say Castro.  He at least brings a level of interest to the Cubs that would otherwise be lacking.  He obviously the most valuable player for the franchise at this point as well.  I could also be talked into Matt Garza, mainly because he seems like he actually wants to go and pitch every fifth day – and that’s a rarity on our staff right now.  But I’ll settle with Castro.

LVP: Doesn’t it have to be Carlos Silva?  The man to whom we’ll pay $7.75mil to NOT play (and some of that doesn’t get paid until 2012).  Especially considering how many starts have been claimed by Russell, Coleman, Davis, Ortiz, Lopez, etc. – Silva has to be the LVP of the 2011 Cubs.  I’m supposed to pick someone who has been on the roster?  Most everyone on the current roster could make a case for it, Dempster’s April; Soriano & Soto’s inconsistency; Ramirez, Pena, and Zambrano’s streakiness just to name a few.  Everyone in the bullpen has had bouts of ineffectiveness.  Can this be a team award?  I want to give it to the manager, but I know some of you would protest and absolve him of all guilt (except picking that nag in the fifth at Santa Anita over the weekend, he’s owned up to that pick).  Alright, I’ll take John Grabow from the current roster, because when he’s called to the mound I throw up a little in my mouth. ~ Jedi Johnson

MVP: Aramis Ramirez is the best baseball player on the Cubs this season. Ridicule him for the effort, but the fact is that his bat has been the best on the team, and Starlin Castro’s erratic defense is enough to drop him behind Ramirez. But Castro is the only glimmer of hope for the future and that’s important enough to make him the most *valuable* player. Watching him play and progress seems to be the only reason to watch the big league team these days. We look forward to the trade deadline, then the signing of draft picks, and then the waiver trade deadline…but the only reason to watch the Cubs is for Starlin Castro.

LVP:  Tyler Colvin has a stat line of .105/.175/.211 for a .386 OPS in 104 plate app’s. He had a solid rookie year that (unrealistically) blew up the expectations, but even the most pessimistic couldn’t foresee a season like this. Of anyone with 100 PA, Colvin’s .105 average is last by a landslide. Mike Cameron came next at .144. He’s even sucking in Iowa and sports a 40/4 K/BB ratio with a .284 OBP. ~ Norm Bothwell

MVP: Deciding on the Most Valuable Player for the first half of the season required little thought.  I am sure most of us agree that 21 year old shortstop Starlin Castro is the only deserving candidate.  His .307 batting average leads the team among players with enough at bats to qualify.  His 117 hits also rates first on the club.  The lone Cubs All-Star is also deserving of MVP honors because he provides the team with a player to potentially build around for its next resurgence into the top of the standings.  The only knock on Castro is his inconsistent defense.  He is known for making dazzling plays but struggling with those that are routine.  However, every indication is that he will improve with experience.  Starlin is the only young player that Cubs fans have to be excited about watching develop during the second half.

LVP: While naming an MVP was simple, nominating a Least Valuable Player is much more difficult because there are so many candidates!  The one player that has been disappointing enough to earn this nod is starting pitcher Randy Wells.  He was placed on the disabled list after his first start of the year.  It is possible that something is still wrong with Randy, because his stuff has significantly dropped off from the prior years.  In nine starts, he is 1-3 with an ERA of 6.80.  He is winless in eight tries since being activated from the DL.  Wells has surrendered four or more earned runs in six of the eight outings.  The only hope is that he is still being nagged by the injury and will soon return to form.  If he does not get back on track, Wells could be another Rich Hill. ~ Brandon Vickrey

MVP:  Aramis Ramirez. Despite a slow power start, Ramirez finished the first half with an OPS of .847. He’s still a suspect defender, but on a team starved for offense, his bat makes up for his glove.

LVP:  So many contenders! Dempster, Wells, Coleman, Davis, and Soto to name a few. If you put a gun to my head, I guess I’d pick Dempster. He’s racked up 111 innings of a 5.00 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. This is a pitcher who was supposed to lead a “deep” pitching staff. Of course, a funny thing happened along the way. OK, maybe not so funny. ~ Buddy

MVP: I initially wanted to say Sean Marshall, since he’s maybe our most consistent player, and often his job is to save this self-destructive team from itself.  But I think it has to go to Starlin Castro, especially if you consider what he brings to the team in addition to his bat and glove.  While there are other guys on the team who still overshadow him when it comes to name-recognition, their careers are winding down.  He’s the future of the franchise, and someday soon, he’ll be the face of it, too.  And as the team slides further out of contention, he’s fast-becoming the only reason to tune in every day.  Whoever replaces Jim Hendry this offseason—because I have to assume that Ricketts isn’t stupid enough to keep him around, or I’ll just completely lose it—will have the privilege of rebuilding around one of the brightest young talents in baseball, and one of the most valuable players the Cubs have had in many years.

LVP:  As a further indictment on Jim Hendry, I’m tempted to put down the rest of the team.  Really very few of the Cubs have played up to their contracts this year—other have set new career-lows for their individual performance.  But that defies the spirit of the question, so instead I’ll say it’s a photo finish between Jeff Samardzija and John Grabow. At most you can tolerate one ineffective relief pitcher in your bullpen.  The Cubs have two, and their high salaries will keep them around until their contracts run out at the end of the season.  It’s hard to be the worst players on a team this bad—Samardzija and Grabow make it look easy. ~ Jeremiah Johnson

MVP: Since Jeremiah isn’t going to go with Sean Marshall, I will. It’s hard to accurately assess just how good he’s been because the Cubs just haven’t seen the amount of games with a lead to really make him as valuable as he should be. He’s seen his k/9 ratio go up and his walks / 9 ratio go down. He continues to be on my top three favorite Cubs list, a list he shares with Kerry Wood and Matt Garza. I’d love to see what his value is on the trade market because of the fact that he’s been great in the late innings, throws lefty, and is cheap.

LVP: I don’t like Geovany Soto. Never have, and never will. I think he’s an overrated offensive catcher. He had a nice year last year, but that was hitting out of the 7th and 8th spots in the order. There is no pressure in those spots. He hit 23 homeruns in 2003, a total he will never again reach in his career. I’d love to see him shopped as well. – ~ Joe Aiello

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Game 97 – He’s Not A Machine!

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Cubs 6, Phillies 1

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Rodrigo Lopez looked sharp early, retiring the first nine batters he faced. He even managed to scratch out a single against Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay. Lopez beat the heat and turned in a solid outing: 6.2 IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 3 K’s, NO WALKS.
  • Aramis Ramirez kept his power bat going with a solo shot in the bottom of the 1st.
  • Kosuke Fukudome had a text-book at bat in the 3rd inning, working a walk against Halladay. Fukudome saw 28 pitches in tonight’s game.
  • Ramirez knocked in the Cubs second run with a sac fly in the 3rd. Carlos Pena followed with an RBI single to make it 3-0 good guys.
  • Starlin Castro chipped in with two hits. His second hit in the 5th inning knocked out Halladay, who looked completely whipped by the hot, muggy weather.
  • Alfonso Soriano actually made a nice running catch in LF.
  • If that isn’t strange enough, Koyie Hill walked and swiped a base. It truly was a weird night at Wrigley Field.
  • Darwin Barney drove home the Cubs fourth run with an RBI double in the 6th. Fukudome drilled a double down the line to plate Barney and make it 5-1.
  • Pena crushed his 20th homer, an absolute bomb to center.
  • James Russell retired a righty! James Russell retired a righty!
  • Carlos Marmol tossed a scoreless 9th. Of course he walked two batters. It’s never easy for Marmol, or those who have to watch him pitch.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Not much, for a change.
  • Castro was cut down trying to steal third in the 5th. Naturally, Marlon Byrd followed the caught stealing with a single.
  • The Cubs defensive woes continue. Two more errors tonight.
  • Jim Belushi ended up on my television.

PEAKS & VALLEYS

Recently I was chatting with a friend who I would describe as a casual baseball fan. He brought up the Phillies and said something like “It must be nice to win every year.” Of course no team wins every year, and all franchises have ugly stretches that sometimes last for a decade or more.

Let’s take Philadelphia. After reaching the World Series in 1993, the fighting Phillies didn’t sniff the post season again until 2007. From 1994 to 2006, Philly fans endured eight losing seasons, including three campaigns of 90+ losses.

By no means am I comparing the Cubs legendary misfortune to a 12-year blip on the Phillies’ radar screen. However, it’s a decent reminder that all franchises have down periods. Even the mighty Yankees missed the playoffs from 1982 to 1993.

How quickly will the Cubs turn it around? I wish I knew. You don’t have to be Nostradamus to see that it won’t be next year. Maybe 2013 will be the beginning of better days. By that time a lot of dead weight should be trimmed off the roster.

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

1st Star – Rodrigo Lopez (.287 WPA)

2nd Star – Carlos Pena (.083 WPA)

3rd Star – Aramis Ramirez (.070 WPA)

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GirlieView

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Let’s start this week off on the right foot, much like the Cubs did not after the All-Star break.

I certainly plan on it, as I sit here in my hotel room in Orlando, Florida on my first day of a week and a half family vacation. My family is notoriously opinionated, which makes planning our days a little bit of a challenge. However, family discussions have become half the fun. Maybe this is what runs through Jim Hendry’s mind while he tries to wheel and deal in order to put the best team out on the field. It seems as if he has no plan. Right now he takes his own considerations into account, and no matter what other opinions are thrown out there, he enjoys hemming and hawing over the options so as to defy all logical moves.

I’ll keep it short and sweet. We need a drastic change. Getting rid of Hendry would be a more than welcome step. Obviously, I’m not the only one with this opinion.

More of your views follow.

Wizzies:

  • Baseball is the one true religion in the world.
  • I used to play Strat-o-matic baseball when I was a kid. My brothers and me had our own league – stats, standings the whole deal. Went cold on the Cubs but never turned my back on them – just didn’t watch them as much. For whatever reason, now I’m back – worse than ever – just like the Cubs.
  • I would like to suggest multi-tasking. It works very well at the Swanson place. Evening game? No problem. Stream audio through my Droid as I make dinner. After dinner, you better believe I am going to do the dishes. Ever notice how Sex and the City is on all day? Hit the listing menu on your DVR; navigate to where that is showing. You just bought yourself an hour while those old bags cackle about shoes. By that point, you are looking like the best husband in the world and can tune into the remainder of the game as you please. Don’t work hard…work smart.
  • Conversation between my wife and me during the Derby last night (I only switched over during the last round, when Cano was mounting his comeback):
    My Wife: “Who’s Robinson Cano?” Me: “The Yankees’ second baseman.” Wife: “Who’s throwing the pitches?” Me: “Cano’s dad.” Wife: “Awwww, that’s cute! What does the winner get?” Me: “Money. And probably a slump during the second half of the season.” Wife: “Did any of the Cubs compete?” Me: “No. But it wouldn’t really have mattered if they had.”
  • Despite people’s hate for Aramis, he most likely will be the most productive option at 3B next year. If Hendry is still in charge of the team I see him picking up the option simply because Hendry will try and put the best team out there that he can for next season (maybe not best in the long term). And really, I’m sure Ricketts will want the most productive team as well. He sees those empty seats, if the club were near .500 they would be a lot more people at the games. It may not be best for the future, but I think he can’t help but look at those seats and see dollar bills. I think Ramirez’s hot streak over the past month or so may push them to pick it up if he continues it the rest of the way.
  • In 2008 we had 8 all-stars. The last 2 years just 1 because we needed a rep. Let’s get back to winning not only so we can get more all-stars, but if we finally make the Fall Classic we can stack the team with our guys.
  • Castro needs to quit hot dogging and make the play. He needs to field the ball and throw to first. Period. Cut out the double pumping, showing off the arm etc. He has a long way to go to prove himslef in the MLB. We have enough hot dogs on the team already. Castro stole two bases? I didn’t know he had that kind of speed. Why isn’t Quade running him? The NL manager apparently knows more about our All-Star than his own manager.  I felt the same way when I saw Quade in the dugout – he looked so out of place. That’s an abuse of the word All-Star.•    84 All Stars, who were these guys? It seems a bit diluted and just doesn’t seem to have the same status as it did in the 70′s. Back then it seemed like it was a game of Hall of Famer’s.
  • I’m actually thinking exactly the same way, Chet, although I’m not sure I’d be surprised one way or the other with Ramirez. I guess the only way I’d be surprised would be if he agreed to restructure the last year of his deal so we wouldn’t have to pay him as much.
  • As for expectations, “Soup” Campbell predicted on ESPN radio yesterday that, not only would the Cubs have a three game winning streak during the second half of the season, the streak would hit seven games. Personally, I think he’s been getting a little too close to the billy goat and the fumes are messing with his head, but it’s nice to have hope.
  • Most of the time.
  • I’ve enjoyed the wins and Starlin and Barney and Campana (I know no one here likes Barney and Campana, and maybe they do suck, but they are a lot of fun to watch when surrounded by the extreme suckage that is most of the team). If they pick up Ramirez’s option, I am going to be a little pissed. As Jedi points out, that’s just throwing the money away even if Ramirez plays at a level that money should normally buy. I look forward to the trade deadline (18 days!) and to the September call-ups. I look forward to one (or more!) win every three games and to Starlin, Barney and Campana. Who knows, maybe they will even improve!
  • Great stuff again Brandon. If Jim Hendry does even ONE of the things on your list I will be shocked and elated. My fearless prediction is that he’ll manage to do precisely nothing. Or at the very most, something that defies all logic and good sense. Prove me wrong Jimmy! Please!
  • If I put my GM’s hat on and look forward, I keep Castro and Barney and am OK with Pena and Ramirez returning next year. I’d also take Byrd and Fukudome in the OF, but sadly can’t move Soriano.
    Wait a minute…….I just returned 7 of our starting 7 fielders/key hitters.
    I think I have to fire myself.
    Brandon, you’re hired.
  • I honestly keep forgetting about Colvin. Poor guy. Impaled and forgotten.
  • Am I the only one that thinks the 2012 ship has already sailed and that instead we should be gearing up for 2013? I don’t see the roster flexibility or available free agents that make me think a significant upgrade can happen in a single off-season. We’re 18 months from contending within the NL Central.
  • It’s amazing what 3 days off can do.
    My Cubs cynical and sarcastic side has chilled a bit in that time. Consider this.
    What takes longer, digging a hole or filling it up?
    Cubs dug an 18 game hole pre ASB.
    Why can’t they fill it up post ASB and finish around .500?
    Drinking the Cubbie kool-aid right now.
    Bring on the Fish.
    Let’s keep my cyn and sar chilled.
  • Well looks like the 2nd half is off to a lovely start.
    Was that 2003 all over again?
  • Yah, nice write up Jeremiah, but I was sold after the first post of the series. I was actually sold after 2004.  Players seem to rank in two different categories…..”Jim Hendry guys” and “not Jim Hendry guys” regardless of ability.
  • Sometimes, you take a look down the bench and the only one left to go take some hacks is a 70 y/o tax accountant from Yuma. If there is a runner on second with less than two outs, you have to hope he knows enough baseball to try and take it to right. That is the game.
  • The Cubs pitching has been awful, but not quite Baltimore Orioles awful.
  • This was no more a gift win for the Cubs than game #93 was a gift win for the Marlins.
  • White sox sign Doug Davis. I can’t believe a playoff contender would sign an old pitcher for depth purposes.
    Letting Marmol pitch to a lefty and then bringing in a lefty to face a righty that strikes out as much as anyone in the game? Weird.
  • Happy with the win.
    I’ll admit I was sweating when Dempst was 110+ pitches and there were 2 men on in the 8th. Yes I was questioning Q leaving him in that long, but thankfully they got out of it. Then (gulp) Marmol comes in to remind us Cubs fans there’s no such thing as an easy win.
  • Andre Dawson is a class act and was when he played here. I almost get a little sad thinking that we don’t have a player on this team that would be worthy of holding his jock.
  • It’s also turning into a good thing that we didn’t trade for Peavy. The guy is falling apart with the White Sox. I hope he continues to suck for them.
  • When I saw the topic title I thought of the Simpsons episode where Grimes dies and Homer sleepily yells at the funeral: “Change the channel, Marge!” That would make a good headline for Sunday’s blowout loss
  • TINY not just my spam word, but my expectations.
  • Anti-spam word for me: pitch. The relievers ought to try that   Tough way to start the second half, and does anyone else get a vibe of the ‘Cliff Hangers’ game from The Price is Right when looking at the WPA graph? I think it’s safe to say Marmol (and/or Quade) got the price wrong on that one.
  • There are more clowns on the Cubs roster than there are on the Ringling Brother’s roster.

 

Updated Standings

Buddy-21

Doc Raker-20

jswanson-18

Doug S.-17

PackerCubBull-16

Aaron-12

Seymour Butts-11

Chet-9

Larry Sproul-8

Rich Beckman-6

Poll

It’s a long shot, but realistically do you think the Cubs will win three games in a row this season?

A)    Yes, within the next 2 weeks

B)    Yes, sometime in August

C)    Yes, hopefully before the last week of September

D)    Not a chance

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VFTB Radio – Episode 1

Monday, July 18th, 2011

This week we navigated a new ocean here on the site. It’s the introduction of VFTB Radio, designed to be a weekly podcast discussing the team.  The topics discussed by Brandon, Jeremiah and me in the inaugural edition were:

1. Carlos Marmol’s recent struggles- how should the Cubs handle this?  Will he return to form by the end of the season?

2. Did Mike Quade handle Marmol properly on Friday and Saturday?

3. Dave Bush Signing- Is it a good idea for the Cubs to take a chance on guys like Davis, Lopez, Ortiz & Bush?

4. Chris Carpenter Sent Back to AAA, Ortiz Stays in the Pen

5. Reaction to Ken Rosenthal’s Cubs trade deadline update (Link) & other pre-deadline thoughts

Enjoy and be sure to let us know your thoughts.

Download the show (13.5 mb / 29 min 30 sec)

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Game 96 – Twenty Games Under .500

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

Cubs 5, Marlins 7

Box Score / Highlights

What went right:

  • The first two innings were great for the offense. 3 consecutive doubles and an RBI single by DeWitt made up for Wells’ bad first inning.
  • Wells got the only stroke of good luck today in the 5th when he got out of the bases loaded jam.
  • Castro took a walk.
  • Soriano didn’t start.

What went wrong:

  • Wells was really bad in the first inning. He walked the leadoff man and then gave up a 2-run HR to Dobbs, then Hanley hit a home run to put the Marlins up 3-0. Thankfully it didn’t get any worse until the 8th inning.
  • DeWitt played left field. He didn’t do terribly, but he is not an outfielder.
  • As much as I like Tony Campana, he can’t put the ball in play. He needs to do that before they bring him in for close situations.
  • The umpires made some very bad calls. Wood had Hayes picked off at 2nd and the ump missed the call. It would have ended the inning and Wood would not have walked Dobbs and the game would have stayed tied. But no. Bad luck had to come our way AGAIN. Good grief.
  • Castro took the only walk.
  • Soriano came up to pinch hit.

Notes:

  • Castro blew through the stop sign by DeJesus on Ramirez’s double and scored without a problem. Why was he trying to stop one of our quickest players? If it would have been Soto, he would have sent him.
  • Riggins’ mustache is phenomenal. Maybe the rest of the team should try to grow one, but then Castro and Campana would feel bad.
  • My Dad: “Oh no, Kerry Wood.” The beginning of the 8th was not good for Wood. But, after the missed call at 2nd, you can’t really blame him for the runs. They should have been out of the inning at that point.
  • Bob Brenly was more fired up after the missed call at 2nd than Quade was. Bob’s inner manager really came out today, and the corny jokes were kept to a minimum on his part.
  • Strikeout or foul ball? That was the strangest play I’ve seen. Personally, it looked like a foul ball and the ball boy thought so too. Thankfully, it didn’t come back to bite us. It would be nice if some of the ball boy’s hustle would rub off on to the rest of the team.

The Takeaway:

The game started out fast paced but then it turned into a real snoozer. Innings 5-7 were uneventful. If the Cubs could pace themselves and get runs in the middle of the game instead of at the beginning and the end, and if the pitchers can figure out how to get through the first inning without giving up a bunch of runs, the games might have better outcomes. If we can figure out how to have more runs than our opponent at the end of the game, we might win a couple. Maybe.

Granted, there were a couple bad calls by the umps today, but the Cubs still can’t figure out how to win.

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

1st Star – Greg Dobbs (.370 WPA)

2nd Star – Burke Badenhop (.208 WPA)

3rd Star – John Buck (.178 WPA)

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