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The Chat That Didn’t Happen, Part 2

Monday, August 15th, 2011

Today VFTB doesn’t visit with Cubs broadcaster Bob Brenly. We hope you enjoy this in-depth interview with “Fake Bob.”

BUDDY: Good morning, Bob. Thanks for giving us a little of your time.

FAKE BRENLY: No problem, dude. As long as I can practice my guitar scales while we chat. I’ve got a big gig coming up at the Minooka VFW Hall.

BUDDY: No problem. Let’s talk about the 2011 Cubs. What are your impressions of this team?

FAKE BRENLY: I’m a musician, man. I don’t do impressions.

BUDDY: I meant, what are your thoughts about the team’s performance? Are you disappointed?

FAKE BRENLY: A wise man once said, “All gave some, some gave all.” You know what I mean?

BUDDY: Not really. But I think that’s a Billy Ray Cyrus song from the 1990s.

FAKE BRENLY: Are you accusing me of ripping off a fellow artist? I would never do that! We bleed for our craft! Do you understand?

BUDDY: Let’s move on to Mike Quade. How would you grade his first full season as Cubs manager?

FAKE BRENLY: I don’t do the grade thing, but I love Mike’s haircut. He looks like the guy from Smashing Pumpkins.

BUDDY: So you’re pleased with the job Quade has done?

FAKE BRENLY: Have you ever spent time in an infantry unit, son? Ever served in a forward area? Ever put your life in another man’s hands? Asked him to put his life in yours?

BUDDY: Are you doing Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men?”

FAKE BRENLY: That’s twice you’ve disrespected me you rotten punk! You wanna step outside?

BUDDY: Worse than you know, but let’s try this one more time. How does it feel to be one of the voices of the Chicago Cubs? You’re in some legendary company.

FAKE BRENLY: It’s truly an honor. Every day I get to open up my soul and really connect in a meaningful and spiritual way to music fans all over the world.

BUDDY: What about baseball fans?

FAKE BRENLY: Sure. They’re allowed to listen to music, too. That’s why I give so many tips and suggestions about new bands, great albums, and can’t-miss concerts. My fans love it, and I love them. In fact, I’ve written a song about our magical bond. Do you want to hear it?

BUDDY: I’m afraid that’s all the time we have today. Thanks to Fake Bob Brenly for taking a few minutes off my life.

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The Chat That Didn’t Happen

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Recently (in my twisted mind), I sat down to interview embattled Cubs’ Manager Mike Quade. Here’s what he didn’t say to VFTB nation.

BUDDY: It’s obviously been a tough year for you. How are you feeling about this team overall?

FAKE QUADE: Every day I go to the ballpark and think, “What the hell am I doing here?” Let’s be honest. I’m in WAY over my head, and everybody knows it. I wish I was working at a Red Lobster somewhere. I really like those cheese biscuits.

BUDDY: What about your team’s recent winning streak?

FAKE QUADE: Luck, plain and simple. Look at the lineup we’re running out there. The other day I started Reed Johnson against a RHP. No manager in his right mind would do that. Well, maybe Ozzie Guillen, but you see my point.

BUDDY: How would you break down the development of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney?

FAKE QUADE: Starlin walks too much for my liking, and I’d really like to see Darwin swing for the fence more often. That guy is a future five to seven home run hitter. You can write it down.

BUDDY: Did the Cubs receive any trade offers for Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano?

FAKE QUADE: Bite your tongue! Those guys are untouchable! They’ll be part of this franchise forever if I get my way. Big Z could easily pitch into his mid 40s. And Soriano? Well, I’ll just say that elite athletes like him don’t grow on trees. He’s underpaid if you ask me.

BUDDY: Are you feeling OK? Did you hit your head recently?

FAKE QUADE: One man’s bumped head is another man’s bowl of Lucky Charms with chocolate sprinkles.  Think about it, Chuck.

BUDDY: Um, OK. Moving on to next season. Who do you see returning in 2012?

FAKE QUADE: Everybody! We have great chemistry on this team. The guys love hanging out together after games. Just last night I took the entire team to see “Captain America.” That’s guy is awesome! And that green power ring is super nifty cool!

BUDDY: I think you’re confusing him with the Green Lantern.

FAKE QUADE: Typical media. Twisting my words. You’re a hack! I’ve had enough of this crap! Don’t ever call me again, Tom!

We thank Fake Mike Quade for spending some quality time with VFTB. Stay tuned for future interviews with Fake Jim Hendry and Fake Bob Brenly.

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Game 109 – Stealing A Game In The Steel City

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Cubs 5, Pirates 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Carlos Zambrano fought through command problems and gave the Cubs six respectable innings.
  • Starlin Castro came out swinging, lining a 1st-inning single to center. In his second at bat, he poked a double down the left-field line. Castro finished the night with three hits.
  • Jeff Baker’s sacrifice fly plated the Cubs first run in the 3rd inning.
  • Zambrano picked off Pedro Alvarez to escape a 4th-inning jam.
  • Geo Soto gave the Cubs a 2-1 lead with an RBI double in the 6th. Run number three came on a fielder’s choice. Carlos Pena followed with a sac fly to make it 4-1.
  • Reed Johnson’s RBI double in the 9th inning gave the Cubs a big insurance run.
  • Carlos Marmol tossed a scoreless 9th for his 21st save.
  • Ronny Cedeno helped the Cubs on a close play by sliding head first into first base. Thanks, Ronny.
  • Marlon Byrd walked! Oh wait, it was intentional.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • The Cubs offense wasted two walks and a Paul Maholm wild pitch in the 2nd inning.
  • Derrek Lee bit the hand that once fed him by smacking a solo home run off Zambrano and a two-run shot off Kerry Wood.
  • I had to watch Tony Campana bat.
  • Apparently, Bob Brenly still hasn’t heard of the Internet. Tonight he told viewers that Pirates fans are turning out to support their team in 2011. Had Bob spent 10 seconds on line, he would have learned that the Pirates are currently 14th in N.L. attendance (13th in attendance per game). In case you’re interested, the Cubs are 4th.

OLD PALS

Much like the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles, the Pittsburgh Pirates were one of those teams I always enjoyed watching as a kid. The late 1970s Pirates boasted a strong lineup and solid pitching staff. “Old pals” for me included Bill Madlock, Dave Parker, Willie Stargell, Bert Blyleven, and John Candelaria. Plus, you had to love those ridiculous uniforms and square hats!

By the mid 1980s, the Pirates had slipped into mediocrity. That all changed with the emergence of Barry Lamar Bonds. Bonds arrived on the Major League scene in 1986, but he didn’t really hit his stride until a few years later.

Love or hate Bonds, he was a one-man wrecking crew in Pittsburgh. Clearly the best player in the game, Bonds left for San Francisco after the 1992 season and went on to an amazing but controversial career. The Bucs haven’t tasted the postseason since he moved west.

I’m not a Bonds fan (though I enjoyed watching him play, especially in Pittsburgh), and I definitely don’t want to start yet another pointless steroids debate. Instead, just for fun, here are some of the Pirates LF’s since Barry’s departure. They’re in no particular order, and I’m likely forgetting a few interesting names:

  • Al Martin
  • Dave Clark
  • Wil Cordero
  • Emil Brown
  • Turner Ward
  • Brian Giles
  • Rob Mackowiak
  • Midre Cummings
  • Jason Bay
  • Nyjer Morgan
  • Ryan Church
  • Jose Tabata
  • Ryan Ludwick

The Pirates are finally in the hunt this season, and I find myself rooting for them a little more every day. Can this overachieving bunch win the N.L. Central? Probably not. But despite some questionable bullpen moves and odd lineups, Clint Hurdle has the Bucs on the right path.

Now if somebody could just fix the Royals and Orioles.

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

1st Star – Derrek Lee (.225 WPA)

2nd Star – Carlos Zambrano (.213 WPA)

3rd Star – Geovany Soto (.187 WPA)

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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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Game 72 – Going Deep

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

Cubs 6, White Sox 3

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Soriano DH’ed! Soriano DH’ed!
  • The Cubs put together a two-out rally in the 3rd, scoring twice on a solid single by Starlin Castro. Castro then swiped second on a pitch out.
  • The Castro Show continued in the 6th with a solo shot to tie the game. A few minutes later, Carlos Pena gave the Cubs the lead with a three-run bomb.
  • Carlos Zambrano battled through eight innings for his sixth win of the season. Zambrano struck out five, including Adam Dunn three times.
  • Aramis Ramirez had his glove working tonight. He made two excellent plays on hard-hit grounders, turning one of them into a double play.
  • Carlos Marmol navigated some 9th inning trouble to notch his 15th save.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • The Cubs gave up a cheap run in the bottom of the 1st when Carlos Quentin cued a weak RBI single to RF. The next two runs certainly weren’t cheap, as Paul Konerko jacked yet another homer. That’s 20 for Konerko if you’re scoring at home.
  • The Cubs knocked out starter Gavin Floyd, but did next to nothing against the Sox bullpen.
  • D.J. LeMahieu continues to look overmatched at the plate.
  • Comcast gave us Len and Bob instead of Hawk and Steve. In the 3rd inning we were treated to a vanilla interview with GM Jim Hendry. Len and Bob tossed him a few softball questions that weren’t even worthy of a high school broadcaster.  For example: “What do general managers talk about when they get together before a game?” “Can you think of a faster player than Tony Campana?” Riveting.

DOUBLE DIPPING

The annual Cubs-Sox series usually gets me thinking about players who have suited up for both Chicago teams. We all remember the obvious two-timers (George Bell, Lance Johnson, Vance Law, Ron Santo, Sammy Sosa, Steve Stone, and Steve Trout), but here’s a quick look at a few you may have forgotten:

  • Jaime Navarro—Navarro racked up lots of innings, but most of them were bad. As a Cub in 1996, he led the NL in hits allowed. The next year he did the same thing for the Sox (in the AL of course). Navarro frequently looked like he was throwing batting practice.
  • Ron Hassey—A spare part in the Rick Sutcliffe deal, Hassey was a nice weapon off the bench in 1984, hitting .333 in limited action. The portly C/1B moved to the south side in 1986 and racked up even better numbers that season. One year later, he was straddling the Mendoza Line.
  • Tom Gordon—“Flash” was a hammer out of the Cubs 2001 bullpen, punching out 67 batters in only 45 innings. Unfortunately, an injury cut his season short. In 2003, he took his arsenal across town and logged 74 solid innings for the Sox. Did you know that Gordon hung around the Majors for 21 seasons?
  • Jay Johnstone—When we were kids, Johnstone was my neighbor’s favorite player. Looking at his career, I’m not sure why. Johnstone didn’t hit a lick for the Cubs or the Sox. For what it’s worth, he did have a couple decent seasons for the Phillies in the 1970s.
  • Matt Karchner—In 1998, the Cubs were looking for bullpen help to solidify their playoff run. They decided to acquire Karchner from the White Sox in exchange for prospect pitcher Jon Garland. As I’m sure you remember, the Cubs got the short straw in this deal. Karchner was completely rotten, and Garland has gone on to a respectable ML career. He spent eight seasons in the Sox rotation and piled up a ton of league-average innings, which isn’t too bad.
  • Steve Christmas—How can you not love that name? Too bad Luke Easter wasn’t available.

NOT MY CUP OF TEA

I have to admit, the “Crosstown Classic” does very little for me. It really brings out the worst in both fan bases, and I simply can’t stand watching Juan Pierre play baseball. Seriously, how can a Major League team play such a crappy hitter in LF? It isn’t 1963.

In case you were wondering, the Cubs were 82-80 in 1963. Ron Santo and Billy Williams tied for the team lead with 25 homers. Dick Ellsworth went 22-10 with a 2.11 ERA. I’d give my left arm for 82 wins this year.

OK, maybe not.

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

1st Star – Starlin Castro (.282 WPA)

2nd Star – Alfonso Soriano (.242 WPA)

3rd Star – Carlos Zambrano (.131 WPA)

Cubs Hitting: +.323 WPA

Cubs Pitching: +.177 WPA

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Calling The Shots

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

Last week I was having an adult beverage with a fellow Cub fan. While drowning our sorrows over this year’s squad, the conversation turned to the first days of our fandom—the early 1980s.

As we chatted about some of our favorite players from that era (Bill Buckner, Lee Smith, and Rick Reuschel to name a few), we reflected on the assembly line of managers over the last three decades. I’d honestly forgotten about a few of them (Charlie Fox and Rene Lachemann for example).

Our trip down managerial memory lane seemed like a decent idea for an article. With that in mind…

  • Preston Gomez (1980): Certainly a name I’d forgotten about. Gomez was canned after a 38-52 start. He’s probably best known as the first-ever manager of the San Diego Padres.
  • Joey Amalfitano (1980-1981): It was back to the future for Amalfitano, as he also wore the interim crown in 1979. He took over for the departed Gomez in July of 1980. The Cubs were especially bad in those days. Amalfitano’s record in his return was a dismal 64-111. His tenure included the 1981 baseball strike.
  • Lee Elia (1982-1983): Elia was hired by GM Dallas Green to turn around a team in turmoil. While he didn’t rack up wins in Chicago (127-158), Elia’s legacy includes one of the city’s best managerial meltdowns. Elia went off on Cubs fans, calling them every name in the book for booing his sorry bunch. The R-rated tirade is worth finding on line.
  • Charlie Fox (1983): It’s no surprise that Elia didn’t make it through 1983. Fox got the call as interim manager after Elia’s firing, but the results weren’t much better (17-22).
  • Jim Frey (1984-1986): The former Royals’ manager took over in 1984 and led the Cubs to a division title and the doorstep of the World Series. The stars aligned in that first season under Frey, who is given some of the credit for developing Ryne Sandberg’s power stroke. Unfortunately, Frey and company couldn’t recapture the magic of 1984. Injuries killed the Cubs that next season, and they finished in fourth place. One year later, he was unemployed. Though his Cub experience didn’t end well, Frey piloted the Cubs to their first postseason appearance since 1945. His overall record was 196-182.
  • John Vukovich (1986): “Vuk” stepped in for one whole day after Jim Frey was shown the door. He managed the Cubs for both games of a doubleheader, which they split.
  • Gene Michael (1986-1987): The former Yankee inherited an awful team in 1986. The ’86 Cubs were old, slow, and defensively challenged. John McGraw in his prime couldn’t have won with this team. Michael didn’t last long in Chicago, compiling a record of 114-124.
  • Frank Lucchesi (1987): Another place holder, Lucchesi finished up the 1987 season. The former Rangers’ and Phillies’ manager was 8-17 in Chicago.
  • Don Zimmer (1988-1991): “Popeye” was beloved by Cubs’ fans, partly for his contagious personality, partly for his unorthodox decision-making, but mostly for leading his team to the playoffs in 1989. That season saw an interesting, energetic, and extremely likable Cubs team (known as “the Boys of Zimmer). The charismatic skipper often made fans scratch their heads (I once saw him intentionally walk three batters in the same inning), but frequently his gambles would pay off.  As always, all good things must come to an end. Popeye sailed out of Chicago in 1991, finishing his term with a record of 265-258.
  • Joe Altobelli (1991): A coach under Zimmer, Altobelli wore the interim hat for one game. The Cubs lost.
  • Jim Essian (1991): Essian was a rising star in the Cubs organization, and he was tabbed to turnaround the scuffling Cubs. Things didn’t go as planned.  The Cubs continued to struggle under Essian, who was given the boot at the end of the year. The chosen one finished his Cub career at 59-63. He never managed in the Majors again.
  • Jim Lefebvre (1992-1993): The former Mariners’ manager had his hands full in 1992. That Cubs team was loaded with out-making specialists (Rey Sanchez, Steve Buechele, Derrick May, and Joe Girardi). A solid pitching staff took a big hit the next season, as Greg Maddux departed via free agency. Somehow the Cubs hung in there, finishing 1993 with 84 wins. It wasn’t good enough for management, and Lefebvre was gone the next year. His two-year record was 162-162.
  • Tom Trebelhorn (1994): I’ve heard this story more than once, so I’m assuming it’s true. During his interview, Trebelhorn was asked, “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” His reply, “A Cubs Tree!” That answer alone should have knocked him out of contention. Instead, “Cubs Tree” captained the ship right into the ground. The Cubs finished the strike-shortened season at 49-64. Trebelhorn didn’t return.
  • Jim Riggleman (1995-1999): After three losing seasons in San Diego, Jim Riggleman took over in Chicago in 1995. His up and down tenure was highlighted by a postseason appearance in 1998. That team was propelled by the long ball, combining for 212 home runs (including Sammy Sosa’s 66). The Cubs were swept out of the playoffs by Greg Maddux and the Atlanta Braves. Riggleman had some success in Chicago, but his overall record was 374-419.
  • Don Baylor (2000-2002). I met Don Baylor at a Central Illinois Cubs Convention in 2000. He was wearing the ugliest sweater I have ever seen. Enough about fashion. Baylor came to Chicago with a winning resume. He compiled three winning seasons in Colorado, including a playoff appearance in 1995. That success didn’t follow him to Wrigley Field. Baylor’s Cub teams went 322-326 and didn’t sniff the postseason. He was fired during the 2002 campaign.
  • Rene Lachemann (2002): Lachemann kept the manager’s seat warm for one game, which the Cubs lost. Baseball fans may remember that he was the first manager of the expansion Florida Marlins.
  • Bruce Kimm (2002): Already in the Cubs system as a minor league manager, Kimm took over for the rest of 2002. He fared no better than his predecessors that year, going 33-45.
  • Dusty Baker (2003-2006): Baker was an interesting choice to lead the Cubs. Many fans praised his work in San Francisco, leading the Giants to the World Series in 2002. Others frowned on the Cubs’ selection, noting how Baker tended to pile up pitch counts for his starter pitchers. In any case, the hire looked brilliant in 2003. Baker and the Cubs finished strong and made the postseason that year. They knocked off the mighty Braves and looked like a sure bet for the NL pennant.  Of course, we all remember how that turned out. Baker’s Cubs never duplicated the success of 2003. Odd excuses seemed to follow his team’s performance (the heat was my favorite). Injuries to his young pitchers began to pile up. Rightly or wrongly, Baker was often blamed. His contract was not renewed after the 2006 season, and Dusty left town with a record of 322-326.
  • Lou Piniella (2007-2010): Piniella’s track record was certainly impressive. He won a World Series with the Cincinnati Reds and led the Seattle Mariners to multiple postseason trips. The Cubs returned to the playoffs in Uncle Lou’s first season, but were swept out of the first round. 2008 was a powerhouse team that led the NL in runs scored and victories. Unfortunately, they collapsed in the Division Series vs. the LA Dodgers. Expectations were high in 2009, but Piniella’s Cubs underachieved. They finished with 83 wins and watched the playoffs on TV. The next season was a disaster. The Cubs lost early and often. Many fans blamed Piniella, saying that the game had passed him by. He resigned that summer to care for his ailing mother. Piniella’s Cub record was 316-293.
  • Mike Quade (2010-present): Already serving the Cubs as a coach, Quade took over for Piniella in August of 2010. His team finished strong that summer, and Quade was officially named manager for 2011. Injuries have plagued his first full season at the helm. As of this writing, the Cubs are 12 games under .500.

That’s quite a list, no matter how you slice it. As I review the last three decades, I’m reminded how many rotten seasons Cub fans had to endure. Fortunately, the high points were extremely high. 1984, 1989, and 2008 will always stand out for me.

Obviously, I wish Mike Quade nothing but the best of luck. He certainly has his share of challenges this year. Will he be a long-term fit in Chicago, or another blip on the radar screen?

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Game 65 – Pitchers’ Duel

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Cubs 1, Brewers 0

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • Ryan Dempster pitched around some two-out trouble to escape the 1st inning. He picked up steam as the night rolled along and finished with a solid line: 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 BB, 7 SO
  • After a Darwin Barney single in the 8th, Carlos Pena smacked a pinch-hit double to put two runners in scoring position. Aramis Ramirez grounded to 2B, but Barney beat a close play at the plate. That was the only run of the night. Thanks to Dempster, it was enough.
  • Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless 9th to record his 13th save.
  • Starlin Castro started the series off right with two hits and a stolen base.
  • The Cubs sniffed out a squeeze in the 5th. They made the play interesting with a sloppy rundown, but still recorded the out to keep the game scoreless.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • Brewers’ starter Randy Wolf had very little trouble with Mike Quade’s B-team lineup. For a minute I thought I was watching the Iowa Cubs.
  • The Cubs wasted a lead-off double in the bottom of the 1st and stranded Castro.
  • Ramirez just missed home runs in the 4th and 6th innings.
  • The impatient Cubs didn’t draw even one walk.

NOT EXACTLY THE 1927 YANKEES

Tonight’s Cub lineup was less than inspiring. In case you missed it…

Castro SS

Barney 2B

Baker RF

Ramirez 3B

Soto C

Montanez LF

LeMahieu 1B

Campana CF

Dempster P

I know that Quade isn’t blessed with many options at this point, but that’s a bad starting nine by any definition. To almost nobody’s surprise, Randy Wolf carved up the Cubs.

At the plate, Darwin Barney continues to look like a Ryan Theriot clone. Lou Montanez wouldn’t take a walk if his life depended on it. Tony Campana is certainly fast, but that’s about the only thing he contributes offensively. I’m honestly not sure what to make of D.J. LeMahieu. His name sounds like a character on “All My Children.”

I talk to a lot of Cub fans, and many of them say “play the youngsters” (even though Montanez will be 30 years old this year). Others can’t wait for Marlon Byrd, Reed Johnson, and Alfonso Soriano to return. So I ask you VFTB nation, what do you want to see the rest of the way?

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

1st Star – Randy Wolf & Ryan Dempster (.458 WPA)

2nd Star – Carlos Marmol (.172 WPA)

3rd Star – Carlos Pena (.166 WPA)

Cubs Hitting: -.241 WPA

Cubs Pitching: +.741 WPA

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Game 58 – Where Is The Offense?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Cubs 2, Reds 8

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • The Cubs started quickly for a change, scoring in the first on a Carlos Pena sacrifice fly.
  • Starlin Castro drove in the Cubs second run with a deep sacrifice fly in the fifth.
  • Matt Garza returned to the mound after a trip to the disabled list. He certainly looked rusty, but at least he appears to be healthy.
  • Kosuke Fukudome did his part with a three-hit night. His on-base percentage is now .422. Blake DeWitt picked up three hits as well.
  • Nobody was killed.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • The Reds wasted little time tying the score. Jonny Gomes singled in Jay Bruce with nobody out in the second, but Garza minimized the damage.
  • After a two-out single with two runners on base, Pena fell asleep and was nailed rounding first.
  • Drew Stubbs gave the Reds the lead with a solo shot in the third.
  • The hole got deeper in the fourth. After loading the bases, Garza gave up a run-scoring single to pitcher Mike Leake. The Reds picked up their fourth run on a fielder’s choice.
  • The Shark came in and poured some serious gas on the fire. The Reds drilled him for three runs in the fifth. James Russell wasn’t much better in the seventh, though his defense didn’t help him.
  • Tyler Colvin continues to look lost at the plate. He’s now hitting .086 for the season.
  • Len and Bob took a few more minutes off my life talking about the pros and cons of popsicles and frozen fruit bars.
  • I actually sat through this rotten excuse for a game.

A LOOK AT THE FUTURE

Enough about this year’s sorry squad. The MLB draft was tonight, and the Cubs grabbed high school SS Javier Baez in the first round. Here’s what ESPN’s Keith Law has to say about Baez:

“Baez has crazy bat speed and big future power potential, but needs to find a position and show a little more energy on the field. At the plate Baez unleashes on every pitch with a max-effort swing that, when he squares a ball up, produces loud, hard contact. He doesn’t shorten up or ever use another approach beyond swing with all you’ve got, and he can get too power-happy and start to swing uphill.”

MLB Network’s John Hart really likes Baez’s bat and says a move to 3B is probably in his future. Baseball America claims Baez has the fastest bat speed of any player in the draft. He’s been compared by some scouts to Gary Sheffield, who also started his career at SS.

An intriguing pick. What are your thoughts?

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

1st Star – Mike Leake (.133 WPA)

2nd Star – Jonny Gomes (.123 WPA)

3rd Star – Jay Bruce (.110 WPA)

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Game 52 – Another Game to Forget

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Cubs 7, Astros 12

Box Score / Highlights

WHAT WENT RIGHT

  • After spotting the Astros two runs in the first, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro came through to cut the lead in half. Carlos Pena followed with a two-out, two-run homer.
  • The Astros gave the Cubs their fourth run with a throwing error in the second inning.
  • Blake DeWitt just missed a home run, driving in the Cubs fifth tally with a triple off the wall.
  • The generous bunch from Houston handed the Cubs another run with a botched fly ball in right field by Hunter Pence.
  • The Cubs stole five bases (not a typo) in one game. Apparently hell has frozen over.
  • It didn’t rain. Maybe I can cancel my ark-building plans.

WHAT WENT WRONG

  • To almost nobody’s surprise, Rodrigo Lopez looked shaky on the mound, allowing six runs in 4.2 innings. For the record, Lopez is the ninth starting pitcher the Cubs have used this season. With Lopez and Doug Davis on the roster, the Cubs seem committed to the “washed-up-starter” plan. Can Steve Trachsel be far behind?
  • The bullpen wasn’t much better, giving up six more runs after Lopez was knocked out.
  • The Cubs defense kicked the ball around again, committing three errors.
  • Jeff Baker went to the DL, which obviously hurts the lineup vs. LHP.
  • Alfonso Soriano left the game with a leg injury.
  • Soto was hit on the hand in his first game back. Does that mean more Koyie Hill? Will this madness ever end?
  • After scoring six runs against Houston starter Aneury Rodriguez, the Cubs were shut down by the Astros bullpen.

It’s hard to stay positive about the 2011 Cubs. A rash of injuries and a mediocre offense point to big trouble for Quade’s crew. Somewhere Ryne Sandberg is thanking his lucky stars that he didn’t get the manager’s job in Chicago.

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

1st Star– Hunter Pence (.311 WPA)

2nd Star –Blake Dewitt (.157 WPA)

3rd Star–Enerui Del Rosario (.150 WPA)

Official Recap Standings

Mark 6-3 (.667)

Joe 11-10 (.524)

Buddy 3-4 (.429)

Brandon 1-5 (.167)

Chet 0-2 (.000)

 

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