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Game 155: 100 “L”s Loom on the Horizon

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights

Cubs 0 @ Rockies 6

Usually when I write a recap, I like to divide it into good/bad/ugly sections, trying to find a glimmer of hope amongst the dingy, less than lovely baseball that the Cubs have been bringing to the table lately.

With 96 losses on the season, it’s hard to believe that people still watch games, read blogs, and tweet about this team with such enthusiasm! Some of it is sarcasm, but it is enthusiastic nonetheless.

Now, with the hope of a top first-round pick, losing 6-0 in a rain-delayed game at Coors Field seems like a decent strategy. Unfortunately for the commentators that have had to broadcast most of these redundant games, they have run out of material to discuss. Even the team’s reporters are having a hard time finding content for their writing!

The Cubs squeaked out 5 hits tonight. Zero runs. An error. Mather got thrown out at third to prevent Sappelt from scoring. Joe, the man who has become the object of many a fans’ ire, added more fuel to their fires with that boneheaded play.

Playing to lose is tough to swallow. Even if it means getting a high draft pick, it is such an unknown whether the pick will be successful or not. I think it is a bit foolish to play to lose, but when you’re 4 losses away from 100 losses, at least playing to lose is playing for something, right?

To close with a high note, Soriano did flash some leather out there in left field. He made a slightly awkward sliding catch to rob Colvin hit number 3 on the evening. Darwin Barney is also 2 games away from owning the errorless streak record.

On another high note, Ed Hochuli will be donning the zebras this weekend.

Closing Questions:

With Darwin and Brandon Phillips in the running for the Gold Glove, who do you think will win? Obviously, we want Barney to win, but does he make big enough plays to garner the votes he needs?

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Game 149: Corpas Can’t Handle Gregorious

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Boxscore / Highlights / Condensed

The Good:

Jason Berken pitched a pretty decent game, giving up only 2 hits in 6 innings pitched.  He held the Reds to zero runs. Pretty darn good if you ask me! Especially for it being so late in the season and the Reds contending for a playoff spot, Berken was phenomenal. Jaye Chapman also pitched extremely well: no hits, no runs, no walks, and a strikeout. These young pitchers are showing glimpses of good things to come! I’m looking forward to their development. And possible trades.

Our top 3 of the lineup each had two hits! David DeJesus is turning out to be a solid, average player. He puts together quality at-bats and plays some pretty great defense. Barney is almost batting .270. Rizzo is batting almost .300. Castro and Castillo also had two hits apiece. Nice show of individuals, but not a good team effort, as evidenced by the runners left in scoring position.

The Bad:

The Cubs lost, therefore the Reds clinched the very first playoff spot of this postseason. Boo.

The Cubs were 1-10 with runners in scoring position. We could not get a man home before the seventh inning, and even then we left a lot of men on.

Manny Corpas surrendered all five of the Reds runs in the seventh inning. All five. In one inning. Seems like Corpas was channeling his inner Chris Volstad.

Summary:

The Reds managed to win even without their trusty manager. He’s in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. Maybe he staying away from the team is good. Their pitchers might actually have arms 20 years from now if he did that.

Because the Reds won tonight, they clinched the first playoff spot of the year, and the Nationals followed up shortly thereafter, clinching the second playoff spot for the 2012 postseason. Because the Cubs are not contending, it is safe to say I will be pulling for any American League team that is not from Chicago, Boston, or New York. Who is your pick?

Side note: The entire time I was writing this recap, I kept wondering to myself: “Does Berken wear Birkenstock sandals?”

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Game 141: Volstad Gets the W

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Recap:

Tonight’s recap will be short and sweet; the complete opposite of the game.

In what seemed like the longest game of the season, the Cubs managed to squeak out a W. Volstad managed to pitch 5 innings of one-run ball, our relievers only surrendered two hits, and Marmol didn’t blow it!

Dave Sappelt was 2 for 5 with 3 RBIs, bringing his average up to .200. Vitters is batting .093, Rizzo was 0 for 4, and Soriano and Castillo both managed to draw two walks!

Darwin Barney continued his NL-record errorless streak, managing some pretty impressive defensive plays to help hold the Astros to one run.

 

Summary:

By the end of the game, Minute Maid Park was nearly empty. This late in the season, nobody wants to watch two of the worst teams duke it out in a battle of the losers. Personally, I would like to see some NFL players out there on the baseball diamond. Maybe have Clay Matthews as catcher?

If there was one football player you would like to see as a position in player in baseball, who would it be, and why?

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Game 136: Boys to Men, or Boys vs. Men?

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Boxscore  / Highlights

The Bad:

Hitting: The Cubs managed to let themselves be dominated by Gio Gonzalez for five whole innings. It wasn’t until the sixth inning that we managed to squeak a single out of the infield. Barney got the first hit of the game for the Cubs, keeping the no-hit streak alive at 7,475 games. The last time the Cubs were no-hit was on September 9, 1965, against Sandy Koufax. It was a perfect game.

The Cubs had three more hits, only one run. Thank goodness for Anthony Rizzo, or else this game would have been even more embarrassing than it already was. He hit what Len described as a “majestic” home run in the 9th to put us on the board.

Pitching: The pitching tonight was horrendous.We gave up 6 home runs altogether. We gave the Nationals more home runs than we had total hits. The pitching is always bad, though, so nothing new here!

The Ugly: Dale. Dale, Dale, Dale. What is the point in getting ejected in the fifth inning of a game against the best team in baseball? Planning on firing up the players? The fans, perhaps? You’re about 4 1/2 months too late.

Also, calling this series a “men vs. boys” series is accurate. Four of tonight’s starters have spent a reasonable amount of time in the Minors at some point this season. The Nationals are the best team in the league. The rest of the season is going to be quite rough.

Summary: The Nationals are pretty good. This beating should not come as a surprise to anyone. It is late in the season, young players are being tried out, and good teams are surging toward the playoffs. If you haven’t grown a thick skin/picked your AL favorite for the postseason yet, I suggest you get moving.

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Game 133: Good Wood, Bad Marmol

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

The Good: Hopefully these words don’t come back to haunt me, but Alfonso Soriano is playing like the player we signed to that huge deal prior to the 2007 season. Although it was his only hit yesterday, he hit his 25th home run of the season to put the Cubs up by 2 runs during the fifth inning. He even made a leaping catch against the ivy to rob Matt Cain of a double. Yes, he leaped. Against the ivy.

David DeJesus is turning out to be a nearly-elite player. Yesterday he was 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored. He is only batting .271, but considering that Rizzo and Castro are the only two starters whose averages are higher, he’s doing pretty well! It’s also safe to say a person can find him making at least one finesse defensive play on any given day. I hope to see him stick around for a couple more years. He’s not flashy, but he is solid.

Travis Wood did not get an at-bat yesterday, but his average is .216. Maybe Dale should have let him bat for himself, considering he’s batting about the same as most of our bench players.

The Bad: Not one single starter is batting near .300. Rizzo is the closest, at .287, while Jackson is the farthest at .190. Ouch. We did get 6 hits off Cain yesterday, which is fantastic and slightly surprising, but maybe we should try hitting average pitchers as well.

Travis Wood is winless since the All Star Break. Thankfully yesterday he got a no-decision rather than a loss, but the bullpen should be able to hold the lead for him. Unfortunately, The Marmol reared its ugly head once again, giving up two runs in the ninth and earned the loss.

Summary: The end of the season is always hard on fans. Some people even go so far as to disown the Cubs for the final month. It is too bad that folks do that, because they miss out on some exciting young players and $20 bleacher seat tickets.

Regardless, the team still stinks. However, I think things are looking up for next season. We have some potential for decent pitching and good hitting. Call me optimistic, but next year is looking tolerable.

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Nailed!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

“Don’t take candy from a stranger.”

“Don’t eat the brownies from that strange hippie kid that sits outside the dorms at 3 AM.”

“Don’t answer the door unless you know who is knocking.”

4 out of 5 children surveyed have had these statements pounded into their brains by their mothers since they were small children. Doctors instruct their patients to avoid operating heavy machinery after taking certain medicines. Even farmers have to be careful of what they give their cows to avoid contaminated milk (i.e. Lawsuits).

So, with all these “common people” taking careful measures to avoid putting harmful substances into their bodies, why do professional athletes turn a blind eye to the possibility of jeopardizing their careers? Since 2009, 11 MLB players have been suspended for banned substances, two of them were suspended twice (Bonus points if you can name them both!).

“Oh, wait! You have a random pill for me to add to my supplements? I don’t need to know what it is, it can’t be anything bad, right?” Wrong.

Hello, 50-game suspension!

At this point, the player appeals the suspension, issuing a statement that he was “unaware” that the banned substance was in the pain-relieving cream he was using. Riiiiiight.

The next player to get suspended argues that he and his wife were attempting to start a family, so the doctor prescribed him a drug to help get things going. But the player didn’t know that the medicine would cause his testosterone levels to jump an ungodly amount. Of course he didn’t!

And then you have the player with a cold: sore throat, stuffy nose, the whole nine yards. He digs through the medicine cabinet at home and takes some of his kid’s cough syrup. Wait, you mean to tell him that children’s cough medicine has “trace amounts” of a drug he’s been suspended for in the past? You don’t say!

Are these players really that naive, or are they just stupid? Are they just careless, as Marlon Byrd claims is the reason for his failed test?

Or maybe they know exactly what they are doing, and to cover it up they hire a friend to create an advertisement to make the product look like the real thing.

The disconnect between these players’ brains and reality is really unfortunate. Sure, there may be ways to get around a drug test or two, maybe even three! But what about the tenth? The fifteenth? These players cannot outwit the professionals in the lab any more than the lab professionals can outplay the players on the field! Do they really think they can find loopholes forever? People live for those positive drug tests.

It’s like my dad told me when I got my first speeding ticket: “What do you mean it was the first time you’ve sped?! Nobody ever gets caught the first time!!”

If a teenaged girl, who has her dad wrapped around her little finger, could not sweet talk her way out of getting grounded for a speeding ticket, how do these ugly mugs think they can get away with cheating at a game that millions of people love?

They can’t. They may have stolen our hearts early on, but we’re not for sale now.

I’ll take the light-hitting, base stealing, Chevy Camaro driving certain center-fielder over those other “hulking heroes” any day. At least the little guy plays the game the right way.

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Game 112: If Only DeJesus Could Walk On Water… Or Just Pitch

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

 

 

Box Score  / Highlights / Condensed

The Good: Travis Wood. Wood pitched an excellent game, tying his career-high with eight strike outs and only one walk. He gave up an RBI single to Todd Frazier in the fourth but after that he cruised all the way through til the 7th inning and ended his five-game losing streak.

Because Wood was pitching so well for most of the game, the offense was mostly quiet. Dave DeJesus singled home Valbuena and LaHair, who reached on a double and a walk, respectively. Dave accounted for all our offense today and Valbuena brought his average up to .208! The wind was blowing in, so Arroyo can’t take too much credit for the Cubs quiet bats.

There were zero errors. That’s right, zero. Zilch. Nada. That is a large improvement from the five errors yesterday. And to top it off, Soriano doubled Ludwick off second in the eighth! Mr. Soriano has been playing some pretty good ball lately, and it almost makes me feel bad for so harshly criticizing him. Almost.

The Bad: The offense was much too quiet. Generally, the leadoff man should not provide most of the offense for a team. But maybe after the flurry of runs yesterday, everyone was worn out and the team was too tired. Or maybe they were busy admiring Wood’s outing.

They must have been busy admiring Wood’s outing and forgot that sometimes James Russell ruins quality starts. Russell entered the game in the eighth and promptly gave up a leadoff double. Then a single. Then another double. Right before our very eyes, the Cubs were losing. Then the beautiful Soriano/Barney double-play took place, then a double, stolen base, and RBI single. The damage was done. Not even Rizzo could give us any offense, went 0 for 4, and his average dropped to .298 on the season.

Summary: The Cubs have lost 10 out of their last 11 games. Honestly, I’m not surprised by the stinkiness of the team. Not only have we been stinky for the past few years, we traded away a few foundational pieces and are trying to replace them with inexperienced youth. Hopefully Theo and Jed prove themselves to be geniuses with their actions, otherwise I fear for their well-being if they end up looking like fools.

If they can pawn Soriano off on somebody, they will forever be geniuses in my eyes. Here’s to hoping!

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Game 98: Let The Games Begin

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Box Score / Highlights  / Condensed 

The Game: Where to begin? There were so many things that were great and so many things that were terrible. Each inning had unexpected twists and turns that cannot be divided into “good” and “bad” because they were all mixed together. The game had some promise through the first four innings. The Cardinals would take the lead, then the Cubs would come back to tie it, but by the 7th inning it was over.

Pitching: Travis Wood pitched a doozie. He gave up 5 home runs – one per inning – and 8 ER while taking the loss. He was done after 5 innings. Jeff Beliveau made his Wrigley Field debut, striking out 2 and walking one in a scoreless frame. Manny Corpas had the only hiccup, giving up a run, while Russell and Camp finished the game with no problems. Camp did have a great pickoff at first base, catching Jon Jay off guard. It was great. 

If Wood hadn’t dished up those 5 home runs, the pitching would have been good. If only…

Batting: The offense was great. DeJesus started off the bottom half of the first with a triple. Castro hit an RBI single to drive him in. Rizzo hit a two-run blast. It was beautiful and exciting. Lance Lynn had held the Cubs to 2 runs in his previous starts against them, but gave up 3 runs in the first inning of today’s game. 

The Cubs had 2 doubles, 2 triples, and a home run. With all the hitting that was happening, you would think the wind was blowing out. But no. It was blowing in.

Summary: The game had some promise early on, but the home runs killed us. Thankfully the game wasn’t a blow out. The score easily could have been much higher with the hit parade that was happening out there.

I actually got to witness this game in-person, thanks to Mastercard. Nearly everyone who has access to a television has seen their “Priceless” commercials. Well, they are bringing the Priceless experience to Chicago. Anyone who is a Mastercard cardholder has the opportunity to experience the greatest opportunities Chicago has to offer. The experiences range from exclusive dining privileges to meeting iconic Chicago sports figures, and multiple other events.

If you are a Mastercard cardholder and would like more information, or if you don’t have a Mastercard but are curious about the perks of being a cardholder, check out: www.priceless.com/Chicago.

They gave a short presentation about the Priceless program, and had representatives from the Chicago Bears, the Cubs, the American Girl Doll Place, the Magnificent Mile, and the Gilt Groupe all share a bit about their organizations’ involvement in the program. It made me want to go open an account with them just for the possibility of doing all the fun things they talked about!

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Pulling For The Underdog

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

 

 

Everybody loves the Cubs; The underdogs, the Lovable Losers. What’s not to love? The Cubs have team history that is filled with iconic players like Ernie Banks and Ron Santo, and announcers like Harry Caray – it doesn’t matter where you go or who you talk to, people recognize those names. Wrigley Field is a travel destination of baseball fans around the world. There is only one thing that Cubs are missing: A World Series championship in the Modern Era.

To some, it’s a joke. To others, it’s a dream. Regardless of their lot in life, people want to see the Cubs win. Even Cardinals’ fans, in the deepest recesses of their rotten hearts, would like to see the Cubs win one just once.

Everybody pulls for the underdog at some point. The Cubs just happen to be the perennial underdog that is just out of reach of the goal, regardless of the talent of the players on the field or the reputation of the coaches in the dugout. Even the strongest fan base in baseball cannot pull them out of the mire of perpetual losing.

Baseball fans, regardless of the team, respect the Cubs’ fan base and its unconditional loyalty to the team and the players. It is a fan base that allows Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and Carlos Zambrano grace the backs of fans from all walks of life. It is fan base in which kids still dream of being Sammy Sosa, hitting a home run off the Budweiser rooftop across Waveland. It is fan base that seems to remember and love everybody, except for their own underdogs.

Even to this day, everybody loves Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, even though Wood is newly retired and Prior is attempting a comeback with the Red Sox organization. Sammy Sosa is a household name, even after the corked bat episode and the strange skin-lightening incident. Mark DeRosa won the hearts of the lady Cub fans, and they were livid when he was let go.

But what about the underdogs of the Cubs? The men that epitomize who the Cubs are? These are the guys that work hard to help pull the team together behind the All Star players. A few of them are recognized, but the rest become punchlines in jokes or float off into oblivion.

Most fans remember the likes of Moises Alou and Corey Patterson, Sosa’s supporting cast in the outfield in ’03 and ’04. Patterson, the up-and-coming prospect and Alou, the veteran left fielder. But who remembers Kenny Lofton?

Lofton batted .327 in 2003. In the NLCS he batted .323. Kenny was great for the Cubs, and a few people can be seen sporting his jersey around Wrigley Field any given afternoon.

The Cubs finished the 2004 season at 89-73. By then, Patterson and Lofton were beginning to fade into the background. Todd Hollandsworth was the new name in the outfield. In one of his first games as a Cubbie, he made a leaping catch against the ivy, expecting the wall to absorb some impact. Little did he know that under the ivy is solid brick. He came away bloodied and bruised, with a .318 average that year. Unfortunately, now he is pounding his head against the metaphorical brick wall as his less than stellar announcing abilities are scrutinized by Cubs fans across the nation.

Midway through 2004 and into 2005, the infield was graced with Nomar “Nomar Curse” Garciaparra. With all the excitement over Nomar, Todd Walker got overlooked. Most people seem to forget about him, yet he hit .305 that year.

And let us not forget Adam Greenberg, the aspiring young ballplayer that embodied the spirit and desire to win that every Cubs player has. And, much like the Cubs organization, he experienced an ill-fated, unforeseen turn of events that ended his season in an instant.

The underdogs. The guys that make the Lovable Losers so lovable are forgotten more than they are remembered. Even the underdogs, the mediocre players, have bursts of greatness that rival those of the star players. But once the burst dies down, their efforts and contributions are forgotten like leftovers that are left in the fridge too long: the good moments are forgotten, and the not-so-good moments are fresh in everyone’s memories.

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