Archive for August, 2011

Chet’s Corner: One more month…..

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

With football fast approaching and the final month of the season upon us, I decided to reflect on the little things that make me come back to the greatest game on earth every spring.

Earlier this year I tried to think of all the reasons I enjoy watching baseball.  I came up with a few…..

I love the subtle strategy on the field, like the way a base runner times a pitchers pick-off move and the way a pitcher tries to disguise it.

I love watching all the hitters go through their routine before stepping into the box.  A grip of the glove, a tap of the toes, a twirl of the bat, all with a precise rhythym .  Each one completely different, yet all ending with the same goal….be productive. (Nomar Garciaparra will always have the best one in my opinion.)

I love watching a pitchers wind up.  From Fernando to Nomo, like the hitters routine, none of them are identical, yet they all want the same result.  (I will never forget seeing Fernando Valenzuela pitch for the first time.  I looked back at my dad in awe, who shot back, “I better not see you try that on the mound!”)

I love the different stadiums and how they effect the games.  Of the four major sports, baseball is the only one where the actual construct of a stadium and its’ relation to the field of play, not the noise of the crowd, can effect the outcome of a game.  Hockey, basketball, and football can’t claim this.  In Boston they have the Green Monster and Pesky’s Pole, in Chicago they have the ivy and the “wells” in the right and left field corners (let’s not forget the bullpens that are practically in the field of play).  Houston has Tal’s Hill not too mention a flag pole in center field. 

I love watching the managers pace the dugout.  I try to figure out what they are thinking at any given moment.

I love a soggy hot dog wrapped in tin foil.  I eat them bare.  No condiments.

I like grass, not astro turf.

I love bad beer in a wax cup.  It only tastes good in a ballpark.  A $7 Budweiser never taste so good.  The second I get home it tastes like crap.

I love Peanuts by the bag full.  Shell on.

I HATE August baseball when my team is out of it! It lasts an eternity! (I had to throw one dislike in there)

I love September call ups, especially when there is good young talent to watch.

I love watching an umpire call a strike.  Some guys are very subtle and generic.  Some act like they want to be the show itself.

I love how a team can suck one day and look like World Series champs the next.

These are just a few, what about you?








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Game 136 – Giant Killers?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Cubs 5, Giants 2

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Matt Garza pitched another solid game tonight, going 6.2 innings and surrendering just 2 runs.  While he did give up 9 hits, he didn’t walk anyone until the 7th inning.  He even had 2 hits of his own.  And since he lives not far away in Fresno, he was pitching in front of plenty of friends and family.  Tonight they had plenty to cheer about.
  • Especially since the Cubs provided Garza with some rare (when he pitches) run support.  The suddenly hot-hitting Alfonso Soriano staked the Cubs to an early lead with a solo homer that appeared to go much deeper into the left field bleachers than the reported 445 ft.  From there they added on with a sacrifice fly from Barney, a single by Soriano, and a clutch, two-out ground rule double from Soto that should have cleared the bases (if not for the vague nuances of the fan-interference rules).
  • Our well-rested bullpen helped successfully shut the door on the Giants.  With Garza showing a little shakiness near the end of the 7th, Marshall came in and needed just one pitch to get the third out.  He and Wood split the 8th inning duties, and Marmol came on to close out the 9th and earn his 31st save.  Altogether, they held the Giants hitless after the departure of Garza in the 7th.
  • A few of the Cubs also flashed the leather in the field tonight.  Colvin dove to stop a bouncing ball that was ticketed for the right field corner and would have been an easy double.  Pena made a smooth spinning dig on a ball down the first base line and sprinted to first for the last out of the 6th.  Barney in particular had a good night.  First, he made a nice grab on a line drive and doubled off Pablo Sandoval in the 4th inning.  Then in the 9th he briefly became an outfielder to make a circus catch on a lazy fly ball in short center field for the final out.
  • In simple terms, everybody did their jobs tonight.  How many times have we been able to say that this season?

What Went Wrong

  • I’ll never understand what goes on in Mike Quade’s head, and I’m fine with that.  With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the 7th, Soto hit a liner that touched down near the third base line in shallow left field and bounced into foul territory along the wall, where a fan scooped up the live ball.  The umpire ruled (incorrectly) that Colvin had to return to third base, so we had men on second and third, still with two outs.  I thought it would be a perfect spot to bring in a pinch hitter and turn the game over to the aforementioned well-rested bullpen.  While Garza had only thrown 73 pitches up to that point, he had pitched well enough to earn the win, and deserved whatever run support the Cubs could provide.  Instead, Quade opted to let Garza (who already had two hits) bat for himself.  He struck out, threw 22 pitches in the 7th, giving up a couple singles, a double, and the Giants’ second run before he was removed with 2 out and 2 on.  It didn’t cost us anything in the long run, so maybe I’m just nitpicking here, but it seems to me like one more example of Quade and Riggins mismanaging their pitching staff.
  • Carlos Marmol was his usual, effectively-wild self tonight.  No, the walk he gave up tonight didn’t hurt the Cubs.  But we probably ought to get used to his particular brand of roller-coaster performances.  For the foreseeable future, the Cubs will be preaching patience to us fans.  At least a portion of that patience will need to go to Marmol, as it doesn’t appear that his contract is a priority to move.

The Takeaway

  • It’s hard to believe these Cubs are the same team that was getting pantsed by the Brewers just days ago.  In spurts, the casual fan might even be persuaded to think we were competitive.
  • Here’s a fun fact: as of tonight, Soriano, Pena, and Ramirez each have 24 home runs.  Think back to the early weeks of the season–did it seem like even one of them might reach that number?  If nothing else, it should be worth watching for the last month of the season to see how each of them finishes their mercurial seasons.

Stars of the Game

Based on Win Probability Added (WPA)

1st Star – Matt Garza (.168 WPA)

2nd Star – Jeff Keppinger (.158 WPA)

3rd Star – Alfonso Soriano (.123 WPA)

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Game 135 – Big Bats In The Bay

Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Cubs 7, Giants 0

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Cubs used the long ball to support Randy Wells and hang a loss on two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.  Is this the same sorry squad that got swept in Milwaukee?


  • Randy Wells turned in his first complete game. He featured an outstanding changeup and kept the Giants hitters off balance all night.
  • Starlin Castro had two impressive at bats, lining a pair of opposite-field doubles off Tim Lincecum.
  • Carlos Pena walked three times against Lincecum. Sadly, he was stranded each time.
  • Alfonso Soriano put the Cubs on the board with a solo shot in the 5th inning.
  • Geo Soto broke out of his slump and gave the Cubs a 2-0 lead with a solo homer in the 7th.
  • Three batters later, Blake DeWitt sent Lincecum to the showers with a three-run bomb down the RF line.
  • Pena greeted Giants reliever Steve Edlefsen with a home run the other way.
  • Marlon Byrd drove home a 9th-inning run to make it 7-0.


  • The Cubs defensive woes continued with a bad throw by Aramis Ramirez. Fortunately, he made up for his error with a nice diving catch in the 5th.
  • Tyler Colvin is lost at the plate. After going 0-5 on Monday, Colvin checks in at .147/.200/.311.
  • The huge Chicken McNuggets sign behind home plate made me extremely hungry for junk food.


I can’t watch a Cubs-Giants game without recalling the one-game playoff from 1998. In case you don’t remember, the Cubs hosted the Giants for a one-and-done contest to determine the N.L. wild card winner. The Giants started veteran righty Mark Gardner, and the Cubs countered with Steve Trachsel. I was already an “assume-the-worst” Cubs fan back then, so I figured Barry Bonds and the Giants would absolutely clobber Trachsel.

To my astonishment Trachsel held the Giants scoreless for six-plus innings. Meanwhile, the Cubs put five runs on the board against Gardner and reliever Jose Mesa. The Cubs took a 5-0 lead into the final frame and then decided to make us sweat.

The Giants scored three runs and had the tying run at the plate against rubber-armed closer Rod Beck. But “The Shooter” came through again, retiring Joe Carter and propelling the Cubs into the postseason. We won’t talk about what happened in the following playoff series vs. Atlanta.

A few random thoughts about that heart-stopping 1998 contest against the Giants:

  • Gary Gaetti hit a big two-run homer off Gardner.
  • Matt Karchner and Felix Heredia actually got someone out.
  • Barry Bonds went hitless and walkless.
  • The Cubs pitching staff racked up 169 pitches to the Giants 128.
  • Orlando Merced pinch hit for the Northsiders. I completely forgot that he was part of that team.
  • Do you remember the Cubs total attendance figure for the 1998 season (with an extra game tossed in)? 2.62 million. Do you know the Cubs attendance number through August 28, 2011? 2.57 million.

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

1st Star – Randy Wells (.368 WPA)

2nd Star – Starlin Castro (.126 WPA)

3rd Star – Carlos Pena  (.109 WPA)

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Roundtable: Are the Cubs a Bad Franchise?

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Recently, Fox Sports named the Cubs as “one of the 10 worst franchises in sports.” Do you agree or disagree, and why?

Jim BurwitzI’m not sure if the Cubs belong in the top 10, but they’re not even close to the worst franchise in sports. The L.A. Clippers hold that title. The Clippers have never appeared in the NBA finals. Hell, they’ve never even won their division. Since 1970, the mighy Clippers have finished above .500 only seven times. Mike Freakin’ Dunleavy leads the franchise in coaching wins, and his Clipper winning percentage is .397. If that wasn’t enough, the Clippers are legendary for screwing up drafts. Former first-round picks include Shaun Livingston (#4 overall), Darius Miles (#3 overall), Danny Ferry (#2 overall), and the great Michael Olowokandi (#1 overall).

Mark SricklerI don’t know what they’re smokin’ but I want some.  One of the most watched franchises in baseball that just sold as part of a $980 million dollar deal?  Success doesn’t always translate into profits and if you’re a business profits are a big part of the equation.  Hopefully this is not a signal that Fox Sports is going to follow the bombastic path that their so-called news channel has chosen…or have they already?

Dave Moresi – This depends entirely upon your definition of “worst” and “best”. MLB is entertainment.  Are the Cubs the “worst” entertainment there is?  Attendance figures would indicate not. I know my dad (“The World’s Greatest Living Cubs Fan”) enjoyed being taken to Wrigley by his dad &/or his uncle when he was a boy.  And that grandfather enjoyed listening to the Cubs on the radio well after his 100th birthday. My dad and I enjoyed going to Wrigley together on a regular basis during the 50s and 60s, and occasionally since then.  I’ve enjoyed following the Cubs again over the past three years.  Best show in town. My dad did actually comment last week that he’s “not sure this Ricketts guy knows what he’s doing”. I do know that Tom Ricketts is NOT (at this time) a Hall Of Fame baseball guy, so I hope he listens well and learns a lot during the GM interview process.  And I hope he ultimately makes the right choice.  This has not been a lot of fun lately.

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Game 134 – Brewing Up A Sweep

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

Cubs 2, Brewers 3

Box Score / Highlights

What Went Right

  • Casey Coleman – good outing, rather unexpected too; 7 IPs, 3ERs, 93 pitches. He should get another 5 or 6 starts before this season comes to a close. If he can string together several appearances like today, he should find himself fighting for a backend position next spring (which pretty much tells you all you need to know about your 2012 Cubs – Casey Coleman could easily be our fifth starter).

What Went Wrong

  • Zach Greinke – he’s just a great pitcher. The Brewers are better than the Cubs, Greinke is better than any pitcher we have. The next GM, whoever it is, needs to make starting pitching the priority.
  • Mike Quade – do you ever have déjà vu? Didn’t you just ask me that? So let me get this straight, we’re 20 games below .500; it’s the first inning against a great pitcher and you’re going to get the home plate umpire angry at you and your team? I’m all for arguing bad calls, but there is wisdom in keeping your mouth shut – especially in the first inning. Or maybe he’s just ultra-patriotic and couldn’t risk missing the OVLL break all those Japanese hearts.
  • 5th inning embarrassment – in a 1-0 game Zach Greinke blistered a line drive single to right field. Ok, whatever, pitchers get lucky sometime. For some inexplicable reason we elected to ignore his presence on the basepaths so he swiped second base. As everyone was having a good chuckle about it, Corey Hart battered the next strike into the LF stands. Hahaha, so funny…we allowed the pitcher to derail the inning – hilarious.

Little League World Series

August 28, 2011 – a date that will live in infamy (at least for VFTB’s own Doc Raker). The kids from the Ocean View Little League vanquished the Japanese with a thrilling walk-off win. If you’re familiar with the World War II era bandleader Spike Jones, you’ll know the overtly racist song that I dug out of my iTunes and played a few times after the OV Little League sank the Rising Sun. U-S-A! U-S-A!

The Takeaway

I’ll be in attendance on Monday night in San Franicsco – it’s the first Cubs game for my three-week old son. The Cubs are facing Tim Lincecum in the first of a three game set; this has Quade declaring that Blake DeWitt will be in the lineup. DeWitt has a total of 7 starts since July 1st, and only one in the last 20 days. He’s batting less than .230 since July 1. But he boasts an 8-for-18 history against the two-time Cy Young award winner. Fine, put him in the lineup – but can we please not have him hitting thirdor playing left field!


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

1st Star – Zach Greinke (.421 WPA)

2nd Star – Corey Hart (.200 WPA)

3rd Star – Ryan Braun (.145 WPA)

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