Archive for August, 2012

Prospect Spotlight: Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

At the start of August, the Cubs called up 2007 first round pick Josh Vitters and 2009 first round pick Brett Jackson. This was actually something of a surprise. Vitters appeared to be turning a corner this year at Triple A Iowa, but he was only a few months in to seeming to potentially have figured out how to be a bit more patient at the plate. On top of that, he continued to be not particularly impressive at third base.

Jackson was having his worst year as a professional, largely a result of a 33.8% strikeout rate. It’s just really hard to see a lot of success in the future of a prospect who walks back to the bench without making prospect more than 3 times out of every 10 plate appearances.

My wife and I went to the game on Saturday, and I was able to get my first live look at the players.  I was down the left field line, so I was not able to judge pitch location at all, but it was fun to see them for the first time.

Vitters went 0-4, but absolutely smoked the ball three times, twice to left and once to center. He just had problems hitting it where they weren’t. He was only challenged once defensively early in the game, where he had to dive for a hard hit ball and it bounced off his glove. I could not tell, however, if it was a sign of lack of range or the sort of play that was difficult for anyone.

Jackson went 2-3 with a double, home run and walk. The home run was wind aided, with a right to left wind pushing the ball just far enough left of center for it to get out, but it wasn’t one of those hit a long pop up and let the wind take it out types. The sole disappointment was that Jackson wasn’t sent on attempt to steal second after the walk. Instead, for some unknowable and apparently insane reason, the coaching staff waited for Joe Mather to walk behind Jackson and then sent them on a double steal. Mather was caught at second for the final out of the inning.

Unfortunately, they both also showed signs of their reported worst habits in their final plate appearances of the game. In the eighth inning, Vitters weakly popped out to the first baseman on the first pitch he saw. And Jackson struck out looking on four pitches for the final out of the game.

With that said, both of them showed some promise, and it was good to see them live. I still think the promotions were more aggressive than necessary, but I did enjoy the benefit of the fact that seeing Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters is more exciting than seeing Adrian Cardenas and Dave Sappelt.

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Game 127: The Horror

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Brewers 15 @ Cubs 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

There are explosive stomach viruses that are more enjoyable than last night’s Cubs game. I’m talking about the kind of illness that necessitates a trip to the hospital and the purchase of a new couch. Seriously–I’d rather be curled up in the fetal position on the shower floor, softly crying in a shallow pool of my own sick than watch another game like that.

The suspense is terrible… I hope it’ll last. For starters, the evening was interminable. Start to finish, the colonoscopy game lasted a bloated three hours and forty-three minutes. That’s enough time to watch Lawrence of Arabia–which would have been a much better use of the time. I haven’t been as annoyed with Justin Germano as some of you have been, but he seemed to work a little extra-slow last night. The Brewers’ starter Marco Estrada didn’t help anything. I must have missed it last week, but he’s got an incredibly annoying habit of dipping way down into a crouch before every pitch, almost like he’s picking the ball up off the ground to begin his windup. When the game is dragging on, it gets more and more frustrating. For the rest of the year, I’ll be rooting for him to take a liner off his shin or quad–not enough to take him out of the game, but just to give him something to think about every time he takes another dip.

Thank you, Sir, may I have another? Of course, it didn’t help the speed of the game that the Brewers pounded out twenty-one hits on the Cubs tonight. Twenty-one hits–right now that would constitute a good week for the Cubs. Every starter in the Brewers’ lineup had a hit, and two of them–Ryan Braun and Carlos Gomez–each had four.

Boy, that escalated quickly. In spite of that, this was a close game for most of the evening. The Cubs actually enjoyed a lead for a while on the back of some clutch hitting in the third. With two outs in the inning, Anthony Rizzo, Alfonso Soriano, and Starlin Castro drove in three consecutive runs, and the Brewers briefly looked like they might give this one away. That feeling and the Cubs’ lead didn’t last long. It would come back briefly in the sixth (the feeling, not the lead), after Brett Jackson hit a solo homerun and the Cubs loaded the bases, but that’s the last time they’d come close to posing a threat to Milwaukee.

No matter where you go, there you are. The 32,541 fans in attendance got a good reminder of the damage Aramis Ramirez can do when he’s hot. He hit two homers and a double to drive in four runs. Monday’s game was one of those nights when Ramirez could impose his will on opposing pitchers. Bob Brenly called his second homer–it came in the ninth inning off the first pitch he saw, in the middle of back-to-back-to-back bombs from Braun, Ramirez, and Corey Hart.

Oh, I hated the Colonel, with his wee beady eyes and that smug look on his face! The only Brewer who had a more productive evening was Mr. Superhuman Testosterone Levels himself, Ryan Braun. He drove in five runs on four hits, including a bomb that appeared to land in the tree at the corner of Waveland and Kenmore. That’s far. Like Barry Bonds-, Mark McGwire-, Manny Ramirez-, Ken Caminiti-, and Jose Canseco-far.

What would you say… ya do here? It probably goes without saying that the Cubs pitchers were at their lousiest Monday night. Germano was bad–giving up five runs on ten hits–but his was a minor contribution to the collective dumpster fire. Lendy Castillo was the final rotten cherry on top of this misshapen, curdled sundae–he was brought into the apocalyptic ninth to stop the bleeding after the Brewers had already scored five runs on the inning, and proceeded to give up another four while recording only two outs. But the winner of Monday night’s Billy Madison Award (for the most utterly useless performance) goes to Alex Hinshaw. He was the Mrs. O’Leary’s cow of the evening. Here’s how his brief appearance went: walk, single, homerun, homerun, homerun. If I hadn’t been so blindingly furious with him, I probably would have felt sorry for Alex.

Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element! After the performances of Hinshaw and Castillo, Dale decided to turn the game over to Joe Mather. With two outs and two runners on base, Mather became the first position player to take the mound for the Cubs since Garry Gaetti did it in 1999. He gave up a run on one hit before recording the final out of the game, making him one of the better Cubs relievers to take the mound Monday night.

Where’s the Tylenol? So let’s try to end this on a slightly more upbeat note. I have a couple bleacher seats for Wednesday night’s debacle game, and I’d like to give them away to a VFTB reader. I’m not interested in groveling or anything like that–simply state the clearest, cleverest, or heart-warmingest case for why you should get to go to the game in the comments section of this post and I’ll pick a winner before tonight’s game starts.

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Brewers Series Preview

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of MLB.com

Monday at 7:05 pm CT – Marco Estrada vs. Justin Germano

It took 16 starts, but Estrada finally earned his first win of the year on Tuesday against the Cubs. It was arguably his best outing of the season, as he tossed six shutout innings, surrendered two hits and struck out nine. Germano will face the Brewers for the second straight game. In his last start, he gave up seven runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings and took the loss. He’s done better at Wrigley, posting a 3.18 ERA in four games.

Tuesday at 7:05 pm CT – Yovani Gallardo vs. Travis Wood

Gallardo threw seven innings for the fifth straight game on Wednesday, when he allowed just two solo home runs against the Cubs. The 26-year-old righty is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA since Zack Greinke was traded at the end of July. Wood lost to the Brewers in his last start, but drew praise from Ryan Braun, who said the lefty threw a cutter “that’s tough to differentiate.” Braun did hit an RBI double and home run off Wood, so he figured him out.

Wednesday at 7:05 pm CT – Mike Fiers vs. Jeff Samardzija

Fiers 6 2/3 inning, three-run effort in Pittsburgh was a bounce-back after he allowed 12 runs over seven innings in his previous two starts. He also logged his first Major League hit, a bunt single that snapped an 0-for-22. Samardzija looks to extend his string of deep outings after going seven more innings in three of his last four outings. In his last start against Colorado, Samardzija burned through 60 pitches in three innings but made it through seven.

Thursday at 1:20 pm CT – Shaun Marcum vs. Brooks Raley

Marcum looked sharp in his return from a two-month stint on the disabled list before coming unraveled after an error in the fifth inning at Pittsburgh. The Brewers would like to trade him before Aug. 31 if they can. This will be Raley’s fifth big league start, and the Cubs are going to monitor his innings. Don’t expect him to go more than five. In his last start, he gave up two runs on five hits against the Rockies. He has a 4.09 ERA in two home games.

Our Take

I know you’re probably still cleaning up from your “Chris Volstad Won a Game” parties from last night, so I’ll be brief.

Prior to yesterday’s game, Jedi and I were talking about what the rest of the season might look like. With another month and some change, we tried to gauge where this Cubs season might land on the spectrum between Awful and Historically Awful. We never did land on a final number–we were stopped short by the fact that they’d only won 5 (now 6) games all month. It was no surprise they had been bad, but all the losses start to bleed together after a while, and it was a jolt to look back at the schedule and be reminded of just how bad they’ve been.

Now, will the end of Volstad’s winless streak propell them to greater things for the rest of the year? Not likely. But the Brewers are a beatable team. And after this series, we still have 3 more games against Colorado and 6 more against Houston to look forward to–that should be at least 6 more wins right there. Anything we can do against Pittsburgh (7 games), Cincinnati (3), St. Louis (3), Washington (3), Arizona (3), and San Francisco (3) is gravy.

Basically at this point I’m rooting for whatever it takes to keep St. Louis out of the postseason–if that means laying down for the Pirates and the Reds, so be it. The rest of the season is about small victories, but if we can help keep the Cardinals out of the playoffs, that would be huge.

Series Prediction: A 2-2 split is an improvement, albeit an unfulfilling one.

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Game 126: Starlin Catalyst To Volstad’s Win

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Rockies 0 @ Cubs 5 (Final in 8)

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Chris Volstad
Vying to become the No. 2 starter for the Cubs (at least for the rest of the season), Volstad tamed the Rockies lineup for 6 innings. When Dale trotted him back out for the 7th, Jeremiah and I were skeptical of his ability to maintain the slim 2-0 lead. Volstad was yanked with two on and two out, but Corpas made quick work of his one batter – getting a forceout at second to finish the 7th. Volstad’s final line; 6.2 IPs, 3 hits, 0 runs, 3 BBs, 3 Ks, 101 pitches. It was his best outing as a Cub – by a lot.

Starlin Castro
It wasn’t Alfonso Soriano’s day at the plate – he made the final out in four different innings. But that meant that Castro led the Cubs’ attack in four different innings. His line; 2-for-3, 2B, BB, K, 3 runs scored. Starlin had a lot of help scoring those runs from ‘useless’ productive outs.

After a double in the 2nd, he advanced on a flyout and scored on a groundout. After a walk in the 6th, he advanced to second and then to third on back-to-back groundouts, ultimately scoring on a single. And after an infield single in the 8th, he advanced to third on successive walks that loaded the bases, scoring on Mather’s pinch-hit sacfly. The Cubs scored Castro 3 different times with just one hit while he was on base (and 2 walks to go with 5 ‘productive’ outs).

Eighth Inning
After Castro scored the third run of the game in the 8th, William Harris uncorked a wild pitch that scored Brett Jackson (sliding head first into home) and surrendered a single to David DeJesus that scored Barney. When we took a series from the Astros in the middle of the month I declared us #29! After the 8th inning today, I’m going to revise that…We’re 28! We’re 28!

Volstad’s Drought
The win was Volstad’s first since July 10, 2011 as a member of the Florida Marlins – a team that no longer exists!  On that day:

  • Gas was $3.62/gallon (now $3.76)
  • First Class Postage was $0.44 (now $0.45)
  • NASA was flying manned missions into space
  • Muammar Gaddafi and his blonde lady-bodyguards ruled Libya
  • Amy Winehouse was alive
  • So was Kim Jong-il
  • Jerry Sandusky was just some guy you’d never heard of
  • And the Cubs lost on 7/10/11 to then future and now former Cub Paul Maholm and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Jeff Baker hit fourth that day. The Cubs used 14 players in that loss and only Castro, Barney, Soriano, and Russell are still with the MLB team.
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Game 125: You Know the Outcome

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

Rockies 4 @ Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights Condensed Game

The Good

Brett Jackson – There were certainly some negatives to BJax’s day today, but there were a couple big positives as well. Jackson gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the fourth with a wind-aided, two-run basket shot. Jackson pushed the ball to the opposite field and let the wind do the rest – either a sign that he is starting to get more comfortable on the plate or that he was slow on a fastball and got lucky with the conditions at Wrigley. The homer, his second in as many games, along with his second inning double are encouraging signs of success to come for Jackson. Of course, then there was the strike out to end the game – his 31st in 61 at-bats. We’ll keep this in the good category though be reminding ourselves that it was the second straight day that he only k’d once.

Brooks Raley – This would probably go in the “average” column if there were one, but on a day like today, we’ll label Raley’s performance as “good”.  Maybe I’m not being fair – Raley really made one big mistake in his five innings on the mound, allowing a home run by pinch-hitter Josh Rutledge in the fifth. Dale Sveum decided five innings and 80 pitches was enough for Raley though and sent him to the showers after that inning with a 3-2 lead.

The Bad

Sorry to be pessimistic today, but there was nothing “bad” today. How is that pessimism, you ask? Because I’ve dropped all of the notable negatives from this one all the way to “ugly”.

The Ugly

Double Play Balls – The Cubs entered the seventh inning tied with the Rockies 3-3, and the inning very easily could have (should have?) ended the same way. The Cubs had two opportunities to turn double plays, the first went awry when Castro’s throw pulled Anthony Rizzo off the bag on a DJ LaMahieu grounder. The Rockies scored the game winning run on another would-be twin-killing that saw Castro loft the ball towards first, hoping either Darwin Barney or Alex Hinshaw would get to first in time to receive the ball on an attempted 3-6-1or2 double play.

Caught Stealing – Starlin Castro’s pursuit for the Major League lead in times caught stealing took a step forward when he was gunned down trying to swipe second in the third inning with a runner on third and nobody out. The truly ugly CS happened much later in the game when, the seventh inning the Cubs looked to be in a position to get a couple runs back. Jackson led off with a walk, then Joe Mather singled a couple batters later to put two on with one out. One out later, Jackson and Mather decided to attempt a double steal and the potential rally was killed as Mather was out by a mile at second. I say they decided to attempt a double steal because that’s basically what Dale Sveum said after the game – of course, he followed that up by saying he wouldn’t have sent them because he liked the match-up they had with Josh Vitters at the plate (and since when is that a good match for any one but the opposing pitcher), so who knows what actually happened.

The Cubs have now lost 19 of their last 24 games and need to go 11-26 in their final 37 games to avoid eclipsing 103 wins and going down in history as the single worst team in franchise history. I’m revising my prediction downward to a final record of 57-105…I believe we’ll witness history in the final month of the season.

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Game 124: Jackson Goes Deep

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

    

Box Score  / Highlights / Condensed

Sorry no “punny” headlines tonight folks. After watching, covering, writing about cross-country and women’s soccer events all day, I’m trying to transition myself back to blog Josh. He does exist, don’t make fun.

The scores rolled across the iPhone screen as I was keeping stats for the afternoon soccer kickoff, so I missed the game live. When I saw the 3-0 deficit early, I jotted down a few general notes to check on once I got to sit down to watch the game tonight. The plan was to do some variation of a normal (Good, Bad, Ugly) post, with few more negative descriptions obviously because I am a resident pessimist here at VFTB.

However I was pleasantly surprised that at halftime when I flipped my phone over, a furious 8th inning rally was displayed on my screen. Quickly, I jotted a few more notes of things to remember to look for when watching the game and alas I am bringing them to you here.

The Great

Brett Jackson has had his well-documented struggles at the plate since arriving on the scene a few short weeks ago. His sub .200 batting average is a clear indication of that. His patience at the plate is at times his undoing, as his looking at strike ratio combined with his missed bat ratio is a large reason for his struggles. In a big spot down one run, Jackson hit his first bomb at Wrigley to right center field to tie the game and get the rally going that would ultimately win the game. I doubt a hit like this gives Jackson a turn for the best to finish out the season. I also doubt he finishes above the .200 average mark, but the flashes once every few games are enough to get a little excited for the coming seasons.

It was nice to see Soriano hit another ball out too. The guy is overpaid, if you haven’t read that enough around here, but he’s playing at a respectable level this season. His huge contract likely isn’t going anywhere this season, especially with the Dodgers/Red Sox rumors floating about, so let’s enjoy the play while it lasts I guess.

The Good

Samardzija, a week late to his own dedicated seven day extravaganza in August (yes I’m sorry CAPS and I have worn out the Shark Week jokes, consider this my last one), was solid but unspectacular. He gave up a few more home runs, something that has become a troubling trend in recent weeks, which has be a struggle of his over the last two seasons as a relief pitcher. Even still he pitched well enough to win giving up only two earned runs on the two solo shots, striking out seven guys along the way. The only player he seemingly couldn’t get out was former Cub D.J. LeMahieu, who “punished” his former club with three hits in four attempts.

Marmol got another save, but not without his mandatory free pass to second to make things interesting. I feel bad for putting him on my most hated Cubs list earlier this morning. That was a lie.

The Bad

Anthony Rizzo continues his recent downward trend. A once promising .330 start  has dipped 17 points below the .300 mark, tanking miserably over the past two weeks. Rizzo was probably over-producing when he first came up, but I expect him to snap out of his funk sooner rather than later. I’m not going to bore you with my career projections for Rizzo, but I expect him to hover .300 for a career average. He is one of the few players I enjoy watching right now and when he isn’t producing, the game can get a little boring.

Two of the three worst teams in the league get to duke it out again tomorrow in a doozie between rookies Alex White and Brooks Raley. All I know is I’m glad others get the final two games in the series because there might be some un-watchable baseball mixed in.

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Quitting on Your Legacy

Friday, August 24th, 2012

I had originally intended to write a Random Thoughts post today. But since that would be at least the fourth one of the week and the second one of the day, my guess is you probably already random thought-ed out. (That’s what I get for taking the last slot of the week.)

Instead, I want to offer some brief thoughts and pose a couple questions to you surrounding the biggest new story of the day. After more than a decade of defending himself from blood doping allegations, Lance Armstrong has decided to withdraw from the fight. For a guy who routinely beat the Alps and a field of the world’s best cyclists all eager to take him down, it seems like a strange move.

His whole reputation is built around a “never give up” spirit. He’s revered for his athletic prowess, but he’s famous because of the adversity he has overcome. As a cancer survivor in a grueling sport, he’s an unlikely champion. That he was the greatest champion his sport had ever known made him a living legend.

Which makes his announcement yesterday that he’s rolling over and giving up all the more surprising.

Personally, I enjoyed the Armstrong story. I don’t normally watch cycling competitions, but over the years I would occasionally tune in to see the last few stages as he separated from the pack and sealed another Tour de France victory.

And while surviving cancer and his unparallelled success made him easy to root for, you have to also factor in his unique place in American sports. Most casual sports fans, or even Armstrong followers can’t name his biggest racing rivals. In a sport of unknowns, he became a household name.

I don’t remember ever owning or wearing a Livestrong bracelet, but that would put me in the minority. Armstrong didn’t represent a team, and he wasn’t subject to the kind of rivalry partisanship most other marquee athletes face. He represented all of America, and in turn, seemingly all of America rooted him on. He was a living, breathing Wheaties box–a symbol of personal triumph and an object of national pride. He dated singers and actresses, appeared in movies, and was the name and face of several high-profile marketing campaigns. He became the face of cancer charities everywhere, and he embodied the nationwide hope for a cure. In simple terms, he was as beloved an American athlete as we’ve seen in over a decade–maybe since Michael Jordan.

I can’t help but wonder how that will change in the days and weeks to come. Will there be a backlash, and what will it entail? Certainly he’ll always have his hardcore defenders. But his announcement last night had to be a heart-breaking shock to much of his considerable fan base.

Of course cynics will view the end of his self-defense as an admission of guilt. In fact, the USADA  has already made that leap and begun the process of stripping him of his awards.

But if you’re a guy whose got the Lance Armstrong bicycle in your garage, the Lance Armstrong spandex suit and helmet, the Lance Armstrong stationary bike, and a permanent tan-line from your Livestrong bracelet, what is today like for you?

It’s one thing to see a relative nobody like Bartolo Colon, or even standoffish superstars and confirmed villains like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens get nailed for using PEDs. It’s another thing to see a beloved hero’s image tarnished–or even worse, to watch him stop fighting to protect it.

One other thing to consider: we’ve lowered the bar for how we expect athletes–especially superstar athletes–to behave. We can talk ourselves into forgiving pretty outrageous behavior as long as they keep performing on the field. Armstrong doesn’t have that luxury. In fact, his personal reputation wasn’t stellar even before his announcement last night. But whether he cheated or not, he’ll have to live with this disgrace for the rest of his life. He won’t be getting back on his bike and riding to further glory. He must know that he’s permanently crippled his popularity, right? Is that a position you’d put yourself in if you weren’t guilty in the first place?

Me neither.

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Rockies Series Preview

Friday, August 24th, 2012

Probable Pitchers

Courtesy of MLB.com

Friday at 1:20pm CT – Drew Pomeranz vs. Jeff Samardzija

Pomeranz battled through four innings and 76 pitches without good command Sunday, his fifth straight start of four innings or more. He allowed just two runs (one earned) on three hits and four walks (one intentional) while striking out three. Samardzija is coming off a loss to the Reds in which he gave up four runs over five innings. He will be happy to be back at Wrigley, where he’s 4-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 10 starts. This has been a tough month: He’s 1-3 with a 4.07 ERA in August.

Saturday at 12:05pm CT – Alex White vs. Brooks Raley

White gave up one run on just three hits to the Mets on Monday, but a 29-pitch first inning led to his departure after just four innings and 83 pitches. White has lowered his season ERA by nearly a point since rejoining the Rockies on Aug. 2. LHP Brooks Raley was expected to be recalled to make his fourth start. In his last outing, he picked up his first MLB win, holding the Reds to four runs over 5 1/3 innings. He posted a quality start in his only outing at Wrigley Field, Aug. 12.

Sunday at 1:20pm CT – Jhoulys Chacin vs. Chris Volstad

Chacin gave up just one run against the Mets on Tuesday in his return from the DL, his first start since May 1. He demonstrated total control over his fastball — which he lacked earlier in the year — and gave up just four hits over six innings. Volstad’s winless streak now has reached 24 straight starts. The right-hander has a career 2-3 record and 5.64 ERA against the Rockies. This month, he’s posted his lowest ERA at 4.88, giving up 13 earned runs over 24 innings.

Our Take

Today we get our first look at the Rockies’ unusual starting rotation. Playing at Cubs-esque levels of ineffectiveness earlier in the season, Colorado made the switch to a four-man rotation, limited all their starters to 75 pitches, and paired them up with relievers. In effect, they go into every game knowing at least two pitchers will see significant time on the mound. And by flipping the order they throw in, you basically have two starters for every game.

It’s very similar to an idea Jedi has privately preached for a couple seasons now–if your starters can’t consistently get you late in the games, alter the system so that a short start is part of the plan. Specifically with guys like Volstad, you’d have a chance to get him off the mound before his scheduled implosion, and you could pair him up with someone in the bullpen who compliments his style–you know, if we had anyone like that in the bullpen.

So far the new rotation seems to be working for the Rockies. I’d like to say the Cubs could smoke their fellow bottom-dwellers, but they’ve shown some life recently that has me a little scared about this series. The Cubs are trying to string together a couple wins, but might actually serve as easy prey for the other side. I’m not at all confident about how this weekend will go.

Series Prediction: A sweep? Getting swept? Nothing’s off the table here, including a mid-game melee straight out of The Naked Gun.

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They’re Still S#&@ty

Friday, August 24th, 2012

A mere five weeks ago, I referenced the major motion picture Major League in my recap of game number 88, a game that saw the Cubs win their fourth straight and 12th out of 16. Boy, that seems like a long, long time ago. That was, almost literally, a completely different team than we are watching now.  So, with that, the Major League reference comes full circle. They’re still s#&@ty.

You all know that though. We’ve told ourselves it’s fine, we’ve sold ourselves on all of the talking points.

“We expected this!”

“Theo has a plan!”

“Rebuilding takes time!”

“We’re on the right track!”

I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid. I truly believe all of the above statements. Optimism runs high. But guess what…IT STILL SUCKS! Watching your favorite teams lose 100 games (and trust me folks, 100 losses is a foregone conclusion) is not fun, no matter how long you’ve seen it coming. IT STILL SUCKS!

Today isn’t a day for dwelling on the negatives though. Nope, today was a red-letter day – one of three days remaining in the season that the Cubs were guaranteed not to lose. So, in honor of the off day we’ll push the bad thoughts aside. However, with few good thoughts to fill the void, we have only random thoughts to keep our otherwise idle minds racing:

  • What’s in Castro’s contract? We learned over the weekend that Starlin Castro and the Cubs had reached an agreement on a contract extension, worth a reported $60 million over seven years. According to ESPNChicago.com’s Doug Padilla, the deal will be announced as soon as the contract is written. So…what’s taking so long? Player contracts are written all of the time. Professional sports team lawyers can write them in their sleep. Yet, this one has taken almost a week. I can only believe this is because there are some truly crazy things being included. What do we think the Castro requests are? Here are my first two guesses: 1) Castro will not sign the contract until Sammy Sosa’s boombox is restored to mint condition, 2) Starlin was jealous of the Miami Marlin’s aquarium and has demanded a salt water tank with “extremely pretty fish” installed in his locker.
  • I’m mostly tired of hearing about Stephen Strasburg’s inning limit. All I know is this: imagine if the Cubs had put an arbitrary limit on Mark Prior’s innings in 2003. We would have all been robbed of a decade of complaining about Dusty Baker being called a no good, dirty pitcher-killer. (I know, the circumstances are different…Prior wasn’t coming off Tommy John surgery in 2003. Play along folks.)
  • When I look at the names currently populating the Cubs’ bullpen, I can’t help but think of this scene from Major League:

Board Member 1: I’ve never heard of half of these guys and the ones I do know are way past their prime.
Charlie Donovan: Most of these guys never had a prime.
Rachel Phelps: The fact is we lost our two best players to free agency. We haven’t won a pennant in over thirty-five years, we haven’t placed higher than fourth in the last fifteen. Obviously it’s time for some changes.
Board Member 2: This guy here is dead!
Rachel Phelps: Cross him off, then!

  • There are two players on the current roster that are older than me. We’re either rebuilding or I’m old. I refuse to believe that both can be true.
  • In an ongoing effort to recruit more Iowa football fans, I offer you this nugget: the Hawkeyes currently have a running back named Andre Dawson.
  • Breaking news from tonight: Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned for life. Armstrong will not appeal, saying he’s tired of fighting. Here’s what I believe; Armstrong doped. I know he passed hundreds of drug tests, but he doped. Here’s what else I believe: so did every single other high caliber person in his sport. If it is the case that 50% of major league baseball players were using PEDs during the height of the steroid era, I would surmise that 135% of professional cyclists were doping during Armstrong’s run. I’m not making a judgement one way or the other, simply stating what I believe to be true.

Friday is game day again, which by my math means we have about a 3 in 10 chance of not being disappointed by our favorite baseball team. Enjoy your weekend!

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