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Game 129: A Record is Broken

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

I debated naming this, “I’m your Daddy” due to the nature of the Cubs embarrassing 3-13 record against their closest divisional opponent, but it is more enjoyable to focus on the positive.

I’ll try and get this punched out rather quickly with the impending threat of losing power at any time down here in Mississippi. The storm has slowed down a bit since it has reached me here in Jackson, but continue to pray or think of those who again have been devastated by storm damage seven years to the day of Katrina.

The Good

Darwin Barney is now your all-time leader in the National League for consecutive games without an error at 114. Barney was erroneously charged with an error on the Segura debacle scoring-play, but it was correctly reversed an inning later by the official scorer. The throw was low by Barney but Luis Valbuena should have snagged it and tagged out Segura easily. In a season that has had a lot more doom and gloom than good, it is nice that Barney can be having a banner year. Sometimes it is the little things that makes everything better.

I thought Samardzija pitched extremely well in the losing effort. He had two mistakes where he left the fastball over the heart of the plate that almost any big league hitter will take advantage of. It’s always something with this team that flounders. Shark has pitched well enough to deserve better than the 8-12 record that he sports. At this point, our starting pitchers just need to keep the team in the game and pray that the offense will come through. Unfortunately, both them and us know better than to hope for anything more.

The Bad

N. Aoki (yes I don’t feel like looking up the spelling of his first name, remember time is of the essence) continues to be a quiet Cub killer in 2012. The Japanese import has brought a stability to the top of the Brewers lineup that they really haven’t had in recent years. Here’s hoping they don’t realize it and trade him out of the division with Marcum (who was placed on waivers this week).

The fourth through sixth inning were just disgustingly awful. Thankfully they were also quick. Shark made quick work of the Brewers lineup for three straight innings, returning ten guys in a row until the error he had in the top of the seventh. Unfortunately, the Cubs offense struggled to gain any steam against a sharp Mike Fiers (not fears, but fires). The Cubs looked clueless at the plate all night, but I suppose you all know that already.

The Ugly

Social Media sites. Twitter was unbearable tonight with the Republican Convention going on tonight.  I can’t stand talking or listening to politics. I create my own opinion based on reading a variety of different things in hopes that I don’t let myself too far one way or the other. I digress; last time I looked we lived in the United States of America. It is unfortunate that it is anything but united.

Cubbies try and avoid the sweep tomorrow with the always impressive Brooks Raley on the mound. Go get ’em big fella.

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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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Game 120: Can’t Volsta(n)d to Watch Anymore

Monday, August 20th, 2012


Now before you jump me for the title, this isn’t directed at the Cubs as a whole. I was pleasantly surprised with the way the Cubs played during their four games in three day trip to Cincinnati, which thankfully didn’t end in another sweep.

I, like Jeremiah, have been hoping that Mr. Volstad would get his first win since July of last year. While he hasn’t pitched incredibly well, surrendering less than three runs only once in thirteen starts this season, Volstad has pitched well enough to keep the team in a position to win multiple times.

It’s hard to see the guy labor through his one bad inning a game, with a look on disappointment on his face as they show his slow walk back to the dugout following the inning. I’ve never been much of a Volstad guy, even during his solid rookie season for the Marlins in 2008 where he tallied a sub 3.00 ERA in 15 outings. Despite all of his talent, the guy doesn’t have ability to harness it and put it all together over the course of an entire season. I’d like to be wrong about this, but unless he has a Shark type of turnaround next season I can see the team giving up on him sooner rather than later. For now, I’d just like to see the poor guy grab a win before the end of the season.

There’s not much bad I can say about the game today to be honest.

Camp would probably be the least valuable player if I had to chose someone quickly. He got a bit unlikely with Xavier Paul hitting a triple on the second pitch of the inning that was just inside the line. The pitch wasn’t a mistake, but Paul ripped it and virtually ended the game with no outs in the ninth. The outfield played “prevent” defense with Ryan Hanigan and he hit a meatball to left-center for the walk-off win.

The rest of the bullpen pitched well in two innings of work. Michael Bowden and Jeff Beliveau gave up only one hit combined in their two innings and didn’t allow another base runner. I haven’t seen enough to decide whether these guys will have a spot in the bullpen come 2013, but I can only assume that they will decide their fate with how they pitch in their opportunities over the final 42 games.

David DeJesus finished up an impressive week with a 3-4, 2 run performance in the losing effort. DeJesus has come out and said he wants to be a part of these young team going forward. I’m not sure what kind of loyalty it takes to be committed to a rebuilding franchise, but I feel good knowing that Theo might keep an older guy or two around to mentor the  young guys. If DeJesus wants to be one of those types of players, more power to him. He plays hard, puts up respectable numbers at the plate and isn’t an liability in the outfield.


Bullpen Move

The Cubs claimed Alex Hinshaw off waivers from San Diego. He posted a 4.50 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 31 appearances for the Friars this season, but has struggled with his command. Raw talent-wise I can see the intrigue, but one has to wonder how many pitchers we can have in the bullpen that are allergic to having good command of their pitches.


Justin Germano gets the start against rookie Mark Rogers at Miller Park tomorrow for the start of a three game series.

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Game 113: A Sunday Afternoon Nap

Monday, August 13th, 2012

The story never changes from day to day. As much as these results were to be expected after the mass pitching exodus on the 31st of July, the Cubs have fallen a notch below unwatchable.

The kids weren’t supposed to carry the team to victory for the rest of the season, but they were supposed to give us something to watch and ponder leading into the off-season. The “tryouts” were supposed to give us flashes of the future, but instead have made lame mascots dancing in low level minor league stadiums a more interesting watch.

I won’t spend much time with the doom and gloom, because despite having to recap another wrong side of a shutout I do believe the future of the organization is a bright one. These first few games of the “new era” will eventually be forgotten once the team begins to compete for both a divisional and National League crown. However, I always have held the belief that professional teams who charge money to see their product should at least have a product that’s somewhat worth paying for. Right now, rebuild or not, this isn’t even close to the case.

The recaps from here on out aren’t going to have much to say, because there isn’t much to analyze on the field that warrants in-depth analysis. Maybe we’ll get lucky and win a game or two a week for the remainder of the season, but the odds of the hapless Astros catching us before the end of the season isn’t as much a crazy idea as it was before the trade deadline.

The Cubs were shutout for the third time in a week in a game where our AA pitching staff performed admirably well against one of the best offenses in the league. Only a few days after being embarrassed in his first big league start, Brooks Raley gave up three runs on five hits in six innings pitched. There is only so much you can ask from a guy that won’t be anything more than a spot starter for the remainder of his career. The team hasn’t put together a complete game effort from all aspects of the game since their July streak and likely won’t for the remainder of the year. Even wins will have their negative plays worth griping about.

As for the positives of today’s game?

I had a rough night of sleep last night and the game was a perfect remedy. Fell asleep with remote on my chest sometime during the seventh inning. I hope all of you can find some silver linings as well.

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Umpires in Revolt?

Friday, August 10th, 2012

I was watching some preseason NFL football tonight before begrudgingly switching over to the Cubs-Reds game. In case you haven’t been paying much attention to NFL news, the labor agreement with referees ended and replacements are currently doing preseason games. The NFL has come out and said they will hope to have the “pros” out there soon enough.

There was a brutal call in the Bills-Redskins game where the referees called a touch back, when the ball was downed at the three yard line. My twitter page was blowing up about the boneheaded call and it got me thinking, what would the reaction be if the umpires went in strike causing a need for replacements?

The only time in recent memory that a quasi work stoppage happened was during the 1999 season. Eventually things were smoothed out and the umpires created a new union to protect themselves in the future.  Now I realize that this couldn’t happen anytime soon because a labor agreement was signed in 2010 through the 2014 season, but let’s play pretend here for a few minutes.

Would the Showmanship Die?

I remember a few years ago listening to Mike and Mike in the Morning on my way into work and they were discussing the role of umpires in the overall entertainment value at a baseball game. Greenie said that the saying “We don’t pay to see the umpires/referees,” doesn’t always apply in baseball because ejections get people back into a game if they’ve dozed off before the seventh inning stretch. Golic disagreed emphatically stating that umpire blowups take away from the game.

I don’t have much of an opinion in this regard, especially in baseball. Ideally when I pay oodles of cash to see a live baseball game, I would rather see a well played game without any interruptions from the guys in blue. However the occasional umpire-induced manager explosion can add a different angle to a game that other sports really don’t have.

There is a love-hate relationship between umpires and teams that can’t be described in simple terms.

I’m not sure if much would change with replacement umpires, but perhaps it could. Odds are that MLB would pick hand-selected individuals from the minor league ranks, since like the players they are officiating, those guys are auditioning for The Show as well. Minor league umpires and managers have had their fair share of YouTube classics. Like this one. (Sidenote: I really need to get to a Mississippi Braves game now that I’m down here)

Would Call Quality Get Worse?

I believe that MLB umpiring has gotten better over the last few years and is trending upward with the assistance of replay. Whether or not replay expands to play a larger role in umpiring responsibilities remains to be seen, but overall they have done a good job of becoming accountable for their mistakes i.e. see Jim Joyce.

Some guys do believe in wild  Joe west justice when it comes to close calls and retaliation to players they don’t necessary like. This is something that I believe would end for awhile because of the lack of familiarity with the players and less ideas of entitlement.

From a balls and strikes perspective there would likely be growing pains, the same ones the replacement NFL referees are going through on the more subjective penalties. The players are already used to shrinking and growing strike zones from night to night already, so maybe there would be less transition than initially thought.

What say you about the idea of replacements? Would it work?

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Game 109: Womp Womp

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

My goal for this recap is to write it in the same amount of time as the Cubs have scored runs during their eight game losing streak. In case you haven’t checked the MLB schedule lately, the Cubs have scored sixteen runs during the streak, fourteen of which came in three of the eight games. The only team not to shut them out was the Dodgers and somehow a weak Padres staff did it twice.

When Joe texted me a little bit before game time asking if anyone wanted to take the recap from him because he’d likely fall asleep, I obliged. I will consider this my Christmas and birthday presents for him all wrapped into one. You are welcome Joe.

I’ll be honest though, when I saw where this game was headed — shocking I know — I quickly tuned into some other work I needed to get done by tonight. I hope you will all forgive me for such a transaction, although I’m assuming many of you decided to watch beach volleyball instead. Good choice!


Shark pitched well enough to win again, it’s really unfortunate that he’ll likely finish the year with 14 or 15 losses because the team won’t score runs. Castro also broke his hitting drought in the losing effort. Yay!


Aside from starting pitching, everything was bad. Defense wasn’t THAT sharp, but efficient enough to back up Samardzija’s strong effort. Rizzo had his first error as a pro on a ground ball.

Vitters is swinging too early in counts, which isn’t a surprise considering it is a sickness that plagues most of the Cubs’ hitters. Be patient and wait for a pitch you want. I don’t care if the kid is young and nervous, I’d rather see him take a few pitches than the weak at-bats we’ve been seeing from him. At least our strikeout average went down today with Brett Jackson on the bench. These kids are obviously going to go through growing pains, as will the team until they figure it out. Everyone’s expectations have been tempered season wise after the trade deadline and the young guys need to realize that this is their audition for the future. Wins and losses no longer matter or shouldn’t to fans, but at-bats and fielding efforts do. None of these guys should take their roster spot for granted, because I can assure you that Jed and Theo are watching closely with final record no longer being a factor.

The Cubbies returned the favor and let the Padres sweep them on their home turf after doing it to them at Wrigley. Maybe they were thinking about Christmas presents too.

Happy Birthday!

Anthony Rizzo turned 23 today on the same day my father also celebrates his date of birth. Unfortunately he is a Red Sox fan and likely will not read my shout out. He would like us to send Rizzo back to him as his birthday present. Theo has politely declined the request.

It will be interesting to see how the young Cubs respond heading back to Wrigley with the “red hot” Reds swinging into town. The two teams have been heading in very different directions over the last month, but the Cubs as mentioned by others have played good teams well at home. Chris Volstad, Justin Germano and Travis Wood get the nods in that series. If that doesn’t give you confidence that the losing streak will end then I don’t know what will.

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Game 106: The Kids Are Alright

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I was pretty excited this morning when I got the text about the Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters call-up to the big league club and that they would indeed be in uniform, with Jackson getting the start in center. I was even more excited that it coincided with my recap slot because I generally end up with one sided losses. Luck of the draw I suppose.

While the loss theme didn’t change much from the norm, the entertainment value was enjoyable in a somewhat monumental game for the team. Only the predictably leaky bullpen could ruin such an event, which of course is exactly what they did.


The Famous Brett Jackson

It might have been surprising to some that Jackson, struggling at the plate in the AAA ranks, got a big league start before the hot-hitting Vitters did. From a hitting perspective I suppose that would be true, but defensively the Jackson start in center allows the Cubs to be better. It returns David DeJesus to his more natural position and takes Bryan LaHair out of the outfield, which will ultimately render him to spot pinch hitting duty.

Jackson had a positive debut at the plate, recording two singles and a walk, crossing the plate once. In the field, he misplayed a deep fly ball initially but recovered for a routine grab on the warning track. Nothing to really harp on though. Jackson might have a few good games over the next week or so until big league clubs get a chance to see some of his at bats.

Vitters also got an unceremonious first at bat, pinch hitting for Scott Maine, which I somehow missed until looking at the box score. I’ll be looking forward to watching his likely first start against the Padres.


LaHair and the Tortoise

Bob put it bluntly well today after his pinch hit at bat, saying that the guy is just searching for something. LaHair has clearly lost the swagger or confidence he had to start the season. He’s also losing any value he had in terms of trade value with each flail at the plate. His All-Star bid feels like a light year ago and unfortunately so does the last time we’ve seen LaHair connect on a pitch. I can’t even think of any possible solutions for him other than to look for a waiver trade or to send him back to Iowa. Neither is a very comfortable circumstance for the Cubs or LaHair.


Camping Out

Did it seem to anyone else that this game was unbelievably predictable? I saw the Soriano double before it happened and the Ethier two RBI hit to retake the lead too. Cubs relievers have long backed themselves in predictable and precarious situations with no signs of letting up anytime soon. Only one reliever lasted for an inning or more, Shawn Camp, who coincidentally was the one who received the loss. Scott Maine and James Russell both blew “save” opportunities, giving up runs inherited by the previous pitchers, Manny Corpas and Alberto Cabrera. Needless to say it was a group effort to lose this game today, as often it is.

Justin Germano pitched well for five innings until a sloppy sixth knocked him from the game. I’ve liked what he’s been able to do for the most part.


Can We Leave Cali?

If I ran WGN, I would fire the guy that plays music on the way to commercial breaks. If I hear this once during the San Diego series I’m writing a letter to someone. We get that Los Angeles is in California, give it a break.


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Game 104: Shark. It’s What’s For Dinner

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Cubs 1 @ Dodgers 6

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

After a three week hiatus of Cubs baseball full of long drives, swindling moving companies and the occasional Waffle House, I was finally able to sit down and watch a game tonight at my new apartment in Jackson, Mississippi. Unfortunately for me I missed most of the streak where the Cubs were playing well and will likely not get to witness such a run again for the remainder of the season. I suppose being sellers at the trade deadline will do that to a team (bye bye Reed).

Fortunately for all of you, I now live in the Central Time Zone and was able to (barely) make it through this snoozefest and so enthusiastically report back to you.

Shark Bait – Jeff didn’t have his sharpest stuff tonight, leaving plenty of pitches over the plate. With the newly revamped Dodger lineup, they were able to tab five runs off him in 5 1/3 innings pitched. Not really much else to say other than I hope we see a more efficient Shark than we saw today the rest of the way, he may be the only pitcher worth watching this final third of the season.

As The Bullpen Turnstile Spins – With the additions of Chris Volstad and Alberto Cabrera to the ‘pen, which Nostradamus  Joe predicted a few days back, the Cubs bullpen will continue to have an amusement park theme to it. The rest of the season is going to be a tryout showcase for a bunch of the fringe AAA guys to see if there will be any keepers for the bullpen in the coming seasons. I’m assuming Theo and Co. knows that Scott Maine, Shawn Camp and Carlos Marmol surely aren’t the answers to those woes. I’ve actually liked what I’ve seen from Cabrera thus far, albeit in an extremely small sample size. But anyone that can strikeout three of the first four major league batters they face has my imaginary vote. It also helps that in a pseudo world known as my brain, A Cabrera is actually Asdrubal  and the Cubs starting shortstop/third baseman.

A Few Other Notes

  • I usually find Dale’s defensive alignments to be pretty well thought out and effective, but at times (like tonight) he can get a little cute with them. The Dodgers, lucky or not, found some holes in the Cubs shifts which turned into difference making runs, they would have been outs in a standard infield formation.
  • Nice to see LaHair grab a hit. Just looking at the box scores, he’s been really struggling to get on base. Also nice to see him look more comfortable in the outfield with that grab against the wall.
  • Dodgers are going to be tough to beat the rest of the way. Adding Joe Blanton as a number four or five starter will help too after they grabbed him for a player to be named and cash, which is considerably less than the Phillies asking the Orioles for Manny Machado.

Anyways….it’s great to be back with all of you. Hopefully my Monday post will be a little more coherent with a more rested and culturally adjusted Josh.

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Game 86: No Way Delay

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

The four hour delay may have thinned out an already slight Wrigley crowd, but the Cubs didn’t miss a beat in their first game back from the All-Star break.

In case you weren’t watching the game and didn’t hear Len mention how rare four hour delays are close to fifty times, four hour delays aren’t very common in today’s game. Some may have turned off the tv and gone about their business, checking in periodically for first pitch updates. Others may have sat there patiently awaiting whatever terrible substitute WGN had on during the rain.

Myself? I created a player the exact height, weight and skill set as Anthony Rizzo in the Road to the Show game style of PS3’s The Show. Naturally I named the player after myself because who wouldn’t actually want to be the savior of the Cubs? Early numbers aren’t promising.

Sori’s Big Day

Soriano teased Cubs fans with a 4-4 outing, all of which went for extra bases. His two doubles, two home runs and 5 RBI capped what was easily his best performance on the season. Now if only he could maintain a perfect after break pace to interest enough teams to take him for their early exit long postseason run. I know this is what many fans are hoping for, but I wouldn’t expect many to be naive enough to expect that this really does anything to his value. Not one game does a player make. That aside it is always good to see Soriano hitting.


The Cubs two All-Stars Bryan LaHair and Starlin Castro seemed to be the only guys getting on base consistently to start the season. Now they look like the only two guys that can’t get on base with any consistency. Both were batting well over .300 at the start of the twelve game losing streak and have since then seen a steady decline in their averages. With his 0-4 performance tonight, LaHair is hovering around the Mendoza line since the middle of May. I would have thought that the protection Rizzo brings to the lineup would take pressure off both Castro and LaHair, but it hasn’t. Maybe LaHair really was the overachiever some thought to start the year. His recent struggles combined with his inexperience in the outfield make him a prime candidate for trade rumors over the next two weeks. Theo might want to cash in before his value takes another hit.

Maholm Stays On Track

Maholm won his third consecutive start since his bomb job in the desert against this same Diamondbacks. Other than the first inning, where he was bailed out by the double play, Diamondbacks runners never threatened to score again. The AS break/delay rust wore off as he went through the night, as Maholm looked to get stronger with each inning he pitched. With the game likely out of reach and his pitch count high, Manny Corpas and Shawn Camp came in to finish the game without issue. Just a well pitched game throughout.

Trade Talk

The Trade Machine has taken a bit of a hiatus because all the trade related articles on here may be boring you to death. You’ve gotten to hear about all our opinions on who will and won’t be traded. So give me your five most likely player to be traded before August 1st.

My list (to be expanded upon soon):

1. Ryan Dempster

2. Matt Garza

3. Darwin Barney

4. Alfonso Soriano

5. Bryan LaHair

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