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Game 130: Slugfest

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • The Cubs anemic offense (currently 15th in runs scored) did some serious damage. David DeJesus reached base five times, Luis Valbuena collected three hits (not a typo), Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo picked up two hits each, and Brett Jackson added two doubles and two walks.
  • Believe it or not, Cub batters walked 11 times. I’m playing the lottery tomorrow!
  • K-Rod took the hill for the Brewers in the final frame (thank you). In case you missed it, he and his fellow mound mates racked up 205 pitches.
  • Anthony Rizzo came through with a double in the 9th to tie the game. Alfonso Soriano followed with the winning knock.
  • James Russell and Carlos Marmol didn’t allow an earned run.
  • No errors for the defense.

What Went Wrong

  • Four Cub pitchers basically threw batting practice today. The Brewers pounded out 17 hits, seven for extra bases. Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, Jonathan Lucroy and the great Cody Ransom were especially lethal.
  • Darwin Barney went 0-5, dropping his on-base percentage to .295.
  • I didn’t get to see the first six innings. Bummer.

Not Exactly Nostradamus

Every March I get together with a group of fellow baseball freaks to make our official predictions for the upcoming season. Now that September is upon us, I thought it might be fun (or maybe embarrassing) to look back at my spring training random thoughts, gut feelings, crystal ball interpretations, etc. Here’s how I saw it a few months ago…

NL Central: Milwaukee, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Houston

For some strange reason I believed in the Brewers pitching staff. As of this writing, Milwaukee is 13th in ERA. Good call!

NL East: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Washington, Miami, NY Mets

The Nationals were a trendy pick, but I wasn’t drinking the Kool-Aid. Wrong again. At least I got the Marlins implosion right.

NL West: SF, Arizona, LA, Colorado, SD

Who would have guessed that Tim Lincecum would post a 5+ ERA? Can the Giants hold off the new-look Dodgers?

NL Wild Cards: Atlanta & Cincinnati

Looks like Dusty’s Reds will make the playoffs one way or the other, which still isn’t fun to say/type. Here’s hoping they get knocked out early.

AL Central: Detroit, Cleveland, Kansas City, Chicago, Minnesota

I couldn’t have been more wrong here. Cleveland was my “out of nowhere” contending team for 2012, and I thought the White Sox would be completely awful. Kudos to Chris from Illinois, who picked the White Sox to win the AL Central way back in March. Detroit may still bring home the division crown, but Robin’s crew isn’t going away.

AL East: NY Yankees, Boston, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Baltimore

I doubt even Buck Schowalter’s wife picked the Orioles to be competitive in 2012. Meanwhile, the Yankees keep rolling along.

AL West: Texas, LA/Anaheim, Oakland, Seattle

If the Angels can straighten out their bullpen, I may actually get this division right!

Wild Cards: Boston & LA/Anaheim

I really thought the Red Sox had too much talent for even Bobby Valentine to screw up. That’s what I get for thinking. By the way, the Angels were my pre-season pick to win it all. That prediction doesn’t look great right now, but of course anything can happen in the playoffs. If they make it.

Who was your World Series champ before the season began? Who would you pick now?

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Game 91: Down Go The Marlins

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Paul Maholm threw eight innings of one run baseball. Only one walk as well. It’s amazing what happens when a pitcher throws strikes.
  • Alfonso Soriano swatted home run number 18. I still don’t think he’s tradable, but I’d love to be wrong about that.
  • Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Lil’ Darwin Barney each added two hits.
  • The Cubs are 14-5 in their last 19 games.
  • No errors for the good guys.

What Went Wrong

  • Carlos Marmol gave up a run in the ninth, and yes he walked a batter.
  • Starlin Castro didn’t get a hit or draw a walk. That lowers his 2012 on-base percentage to .308.
  • The Cubs didn’t win 24-0.

Is It Just Me?

I’ll say it again…I really dislike the Miami Marlins. Their uniforms are hideous. The new ballpark is worse.  I can’t stand Ozzie Guillen. And then there’s Carlos Zambrano. The Marlins subpar 2012 has been enjoyable to watch, especially after they flushed millions of dollars down the toilet in the offseason.

Now all we need is a major Ozzie Guillen meltdown to complete the set. I’m talking about a tantrum that would make the “Real Housewives of Orange County” turn the channel in disgust. If history has taught us anything, it’s only a matter of time.

In case I offended any “Fighting Fish” fans, here’s a little Florida/Miami trivia: Who is the Marlins’ career leader in doubles?

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Game 82: Over Before It Started

Friday, July 6th, 2012

What Went Right

  • The Cubs were good a few years ago? Seriously, there wasn’t much to write home about tonight.
  • Geo Soto connected for his sixth homer (crickets chirping).

What Went Wrong

  • Matt Garza was completely awful tonight. There really isn’t much more to say, but I’ll give it a shot. I was drinking an adult beverage with some friends right before the game started, and I found myself defending Garza to a room full of Garza detractors. A few minutes later, it was 4-0 Atlanta. The Buddy curse continues.
  • Castro went 0-4, lowering his on-base percentage to .312.
  • The Cubs walked twice tonight. Twice. How did they even score three runs?

Mound Memories

OK, Matt Garza got his brains beat in tonight. Life goes on. If you really think about it, the last 15 years have seen some pretty impressive arms in Chicago. Of course we all cheered for the likes of Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Carlos Zambrano (early in his career anyway), Matt Clement, and Jon Lieber, but let’s go farther back and look at a few less-celebrated names:

  • Frank Castillo—Castillo’s Cub career wasn’t that exciting, but he did mix in a solid season or two. In 1992 he tossed 205.1 innings and racked up an ERA of 3.46. Not bad for a 23-year-old pitcher in his second year. Things went downhill from there, but Castillo bounced back in 1995 with 188 innings and a 3.21 ERA.
  • Mike Morgan—Signed by the Cubs in 1991, Morgan was a workhorse for two years. His first season in Chicago produced 236.1 innings and a 2.78 ERA. He followed that up with 240 innings and a 2.55 ERA. He came back to Earth in 1993 and 1994, and moved on to one of his many teams the following year. I had completely forgotten this fact, but Morgan pitched until he was 42, compiling 2,772.1 career innings.
  • Mike Bielecki—After battling injuries and generally underachieving in Pittsburgh, the Cubs caught lightning in a bottle with Bielecki in 1989. The former first-rounder made 33 starts and helped lead the Cubs to a division title. Predictably, he never duplicated that success in Chicago again. A little trivia…Who did the Cubs trade to the Pirates for Bielecki? The one and only Mike Curtis.
  • Jeff Pico—Just kidding. I couldn’t stand watching Jeff Pico.

While the pitching cupboard looks a little bare in 2012, I remain optimistic for next year and beyond. After all, you never know when lightning will strike again.

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Game 63: What Can You Do?

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Tigers 5 @ Cubs 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Not much, but here goes…
  • Lil’ Darwin Barney collected two hits in a losing effort.
  • Travis Wood didn’t crap the bed, allowing three runs in 6.2 IP.
  • I had a great lunch today. Of course, even the worst meal I ever had was pretty good.

What Went Wrong

  • Justin Verlander didn’t get lost or abducted by aliens on his way to the ballpark.
  • I didn’t expect the Cubs to score many runs today, but they walked ZERO times against Verlander and Jose Valverde.
  • It’s frustrating to lose to the Tigers when their 2-3-4 hitters go 2 for 12, but that’s what happened.
  • Austin Jackson was a wrecking machine, picking up three hits and three RBIs.
  • Little elves didn’t come over and restock my fridge with beer. I keep waiting and waiting. Not sure what the problem is.

He’s Not Human

This just in…that Justin Verlander guy is pretty good. Many of you know that my wife is a lifelong Detroit fan, so we catch a lot of Tigers baseball via the MLB Package. I’m not sure how many of Verlander’s 213 career starts I’ve seen, but it’s a bunch. For me, he’s the most enjoyable player to watch in all of baseball.

Verlander’s stuff is undeniable, but the way he competes every single time he takes the mound is always a sight to see. My only fear is that Jim Leyland will break the seemingly unbreakable Verlander.

Hopefully Verlander is this generation’s Nolan Ryan, because the Tigers ride him like a mule.  For those of you who care about the Hall of Fame, here are some of Verlander’s comps at age 29:

  • Mike Mussina
  • Ramon Martinez
  • Barry Zito
  • Jack McDowell
  • Mark Mulder

If he stays healthy, Verlander should pile up career numbers better than anybody on that list, even the very underrated Mussina.

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Game 57: Close Doesn’t Cut It

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Cubs 3 @ Brewers 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

What Went Right

  • Bryan LaHair went deep again. His 12th homer of the season gave the Cubs a 3-2 lead in the 8th.  His current line is .311/.390/.598. Is he heading to the All Star Game?
  • Matt Garza turned in six solid innings, allowing only two runs and punching out six Brewers.
  • Koyie Hill actually got a hit and drove in a run. What are the odds?

What Went Wrong

  • The 8th inning lead didn’t last long. The Brewers tied it up in their half and then won it in the 10th.
  • Casey Coleman is still on the roster. In case you missed it, he served up the losing homer to Norichika Aoki. I know Coleman has been decent this year, but his mediocre stuff belongs in the minors, preferably for another organization.
  • Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro were a combined 0-10. Both are sporting rotten on-base percentages these days, which makes them a perfect fit for the 2012 Cubs (team on-base percentage of .304 coming into today).
  • I’m staining my deck, and it really sucks. Why didn’t I hire somebody to do this miserable job?
  • I got invited to a party in L.A., and a bunch of terrorists crashed it. They took us hostage on the 30th floor and even shot my boss, Mr. Takagi. Luckily the guy from “Moonlighting” showed up and kicked some ass. Not sure why he wasn’t wearing shoes.                          

And The Chicago Cubs Select…

With the amateur draft taking place earlier this week, I thought it might be fun (or extremely depressing) to look back at a few of the Cubs former first-rounders. Read ΄em and weep…

  • Don Schulze, 1980: Not much to get excited about during Schulze’s six-year career. However, he was a spare part in the Rick Sutcliffe deal, so I guess that counts for something.
  • Drew Hall, 1984: Selected number three overall, Drew was a huge bust. He only lasted five seasons and put up a career ERA of 5.21. And here are a few players the Cubs said “no thank you” to that year—Cory Snyder, Jay Bell, Norm Charlton, and some guy named Mark McGwire.
  • Ty Griffin, 1988: Griffin was the “can’t miss” kid who missed big time. He never appeared in the Majors and was out of the game at age 29. I still wake up with a tear in my eye over this one.
  • Derek Wallace, 1992: Wallace knocked around the Minors for eight seasons and threw only 33 career innings as a big leaguer. In 1995 the Cubs pedaled him to Kansas City in the Brian McRae trade. One for the good guys!
  • Jon Garland, 1997: Certainly not a super star, but Garland’s career has been pretty respectable—12 seasons, 330 GS, 2,083 IP, 4.32 ERA. Of course none of that work was for the Cubs, as they dealt him to the White Sox in 1998 for the great Matt Karchner.
  • Lou Montanez, 2000: How is this guy still in baseball? He must have incriminating pictures of the commissioner. Or maybe he’s mastered the Jedi Mind Trick (not that Jedi).
  • Bobby Brownlie, 2002: Another bust, Brownlie racked up 817 mediocre Minor League innings and never sniffed Chicago. He retired from baseball in 2010.
  • Mark Pawelek, 2005: I saw him throw in A ball, and he didn’t look good. He was shut down with an injury soon after. Last I heard he was pitching in an Independent League, but I don’t know if that’s actually true. Hard to believe he’s only 25.

Now don’t you feel better about this year’s haul? Here’s wishing good health to the new draft class.

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