Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for Aug. 1

Saturday, August 1st, 2015

1. Haren joins the rotation

The back of the rotation has become a glaring weak spot for the Cubs, so before yesterday’s non-waiver trade deadline passed, the Cubs made a trade with the Marlins for Dan Haren, in an attempt to solidify that last part of the rotation. The move came as a bit of a surprise, as the Cubs had been heavily linked to Tyson Ross and even Carlos Carrasco, but neither of those deals materialized. The Cubs had been rumored to be likely trade partners with San Diego for several days leading up to the deadline, but a trade never happened. It sounds as though the asking price from San Diego was just too high.

Haren, who is in his 13th major league season, should provide a nice veteran presence to the roster and he has been pitching well for Miami this season since being traded from the Dodgers during the offseason. In 21 starts this year, Haren has a 3.42 ERA, a WHIP of 1.093, and 88 strikeouts to 25 walks. He does not throw hard, but is effective in missing bats and getting outs.

Initially, I was not terribly excited about this trade, but the Cubs were able to get him for cheap, and he should solve what has been the Cubs biggest problem. In exchange for Haren, the Cubs sent minor leaguers Ivan Pineyro and Elliot Soto to the minors. Pineyro is a potential fill in starting pitcher one day, and maybe even back of the rotation pitcher, and Soto seems likely to be just organizational depth. He is excellent defensively, but has never hit well.

2. Hunter added to the ‘pen

The other move that the Cubs made at yesterday’s deadline was to bring Tommy Hunter over from the Orioles to help bolster the bullpen. Hunter is also an experienced veteran and should help keep runs off the board in the late innings. Hunter has spent his whole career with the Rangers and Orioles, and after dabbling as a starter for several seasons, he seems to have found his niche in the bullpen for the last 3 years. This year, he has 44.2 innings in 39 appearances. In those innings, he has 32 strikeouts to 11 walks, but has also given up 41 hits. His WHIP is a little high at 1.164, but his ERA is relatively low (3.63), so the hope is that he can contribute a solid inning in relief as needed.

The Cubs were also able to get Hunter for relatively little, as they sent OF Junior Lake to the Orioles for him. Lake is a familiar player to most Cubs fans, I would think, but while he is someone I have rooted for in the past few seasons, I have the suspicion that he may be a “AAAA” type of player. Fine for brief call ups as needed, but not likely to be a hitter to regularly contribute in the majors. I wish him well and hope that I am wrong, but I think the Orioles just added some depth to the 40 man here, and that’s about it.

3. Trades not necessarily over

The non-waiver deadline of July 31 always gets the most attention, but it is important to remember that it is not the end of trading for the season. This deadline is simpler, in that teams can work one-on-one with each other to make a deal, but plenty of swaps can still happen between now and August 31, which is the waiver trade deadline, and the final end to trades for the 2015 season. From now until the end of the month, teams can place players on waivers, and wait to see if another team puts a claim on them. If that happens, the two teams can discuss a deal for that player. If no one claims the player, or the two teams do not agree on a deal when a player is claimed, then no trade happens. Often, a team will use this deadline to gauge interest in a player in advance of the offseason, and it is very common for teams to put several of their players on waivers. So don’t be surprised (and don’t read too much into it), when you hear that the Cubs have put quite a few of their players on waivers. You may even here that other teams have put a claim on one or two of these players. It is still very possible that no trades whatsoever result from this. This is not to say that significant moves aren’t made at this deadline, but they are less common than the July 31 deadline. After the 31st, the rosters expand from 25-40 as September starts, and those are the players they work with as the season comes to a close.

4. Trade deadline thoughts and reaction

I think it is tempting to let the trade deadline get to you, and when you see other teams making big trades like acquiring Troy Tulowitzki, David Price, or Yoenis Cespedes it is can make it looks as though your team hasn’t done anything. The big trades like those make all the news, but often a team can do the best for itself when it sticks to its primary needs and doesn’t get caught up in making a big splash. The best thing the Cubs did at this trade deadline is not get swept up in pursuit of players like Ross or Craig Kimbrel and lose important pieces of their future in the process. So if you’re feeling as though the Cubs “lost” this trade deadline, the consensus does not really agree, and keep in mind that the Cubs front office has made clear from the beginning that if they were adding rental players (as Haren could very well be), then they were nto going to let the cost get too high. I respect the fact that the stuck to that plan and didn’t let a team like the Padres or Indians steal away valuable pieces of our farm system or young talents who have yet to establish themselves in the majors.

Many, and possibly myself among them, were probably hoping to see Starlin Castro get moved yesterday, but it just didn’t happen. He was in discussions with the Padres, but I think they asked about Javier Baez instead (or in addition?) and that could be part of where things fell through. I had hoped that the Cubs could add an offensive presence coming off of the bench like Wil Venable, but it didn’t work out. This means we are likely to be trusting our very young offense to carry us to that last wild card spot. Realistically, this is a team that is building for much greater success than just the wild card in 2016 and beyond, so I think the approach to this deadline was smart.

5. Game Notes (Cubs win, 4-1)

Ordinarily I put this first, but the trade deadline was the biggest news of the day, so this gets the last spot for this morning. Jason Hammel got his 6th win last night against the Brewers, going 5.2 innings and giving up just the one run in the first inning on a Ryan Braun homerun. From the end of the 6th inning, the bullpen came in and locked things down, and Hector Rondon took the save in the 9th for his 15th of the year.

At the plate, the biggest contribution came from Anthony Rizzo, who hit his 19th of the season off of Neal Cotts in the 7th inning, and also added another hit and scored a run last night. Addison Russell went 2 for 4 and drove in a run, and Jorge Soler  was also 2 for 4 and has been showing a lot of signs of more life at the plate lately. Castro added a 2 RBI single as well. The Cubs will send Kyle Hendricks to the mound tonight against former Cub Matt Garza at 6:10, which means that the spot in the rotation that Haren could take comes up in the last game of this series on Sunday afternoon, but after just pitching Thursday, this is unlikely, so we may not see him until later next week.


 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1924: Dazzy Vance strikes out seven consecutive batters to establish a major league record when the Brooklyn Robins defeat the Cubs at Ebbets Field, 4-0. The future Hall of Famer, who will compile a 28-6 record for the Brooks this season, will lead the National League in strikeouts with 262.

1933: Carl Hubbell‘s 45.1 consecutive scoreless innings streak ends when Randy Moore strokes a two-run single in the sixth inning of Giants’ 3-1 loss to Boston at the Polo Grounds. By blanking Boston for the first five frames, the future Hall of Fame southpaw surpasses Ed Ruelbach’s National League mark of 44 innings established in 1908 with the Cubs.

1957: In a 12-3 win over the Cubs, Gil Hodges hits his 13th and last career grand slam in Brooklyn Dodger history. The first baseman’s bases-loaded shot off Dick Littlefield establishes a new National League record previously shared by Rogers Hornsby and Ralph Kiner.

2011: After popping out in a pinch-hitting appearance, Craig Counsell remains without a hit in his last 45 at-bats, tying the longest single-season hitless streak by a position player in history, established by Brooklyn backstop Bill Bergen in 1909. The major league record is 0-for-70 established in 1970 by Bob Buhl, a pitcher who toiled with the Braves and Cubs that season.

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Trade Deadline Open Thread

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Rather than writing about “news”, which is nothing more than rumors about what could and probably won’t happen, let’s use this post to talk about the deadline today which is at 4pm EDT.

While you do that, enjoy this photo of Cap’n Obvious.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for July 30

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 3-2)

It was a bit of a relief to see the Cubs win with relative ease yesterday afternoon after the mild embarrassment that was Tuesday night’s game. Jon Lester was absolutely the highlight of yesterday afternoon’s game, recording 14 strikeouts in 8 innings and giving up just 2 runs. It is worth noting that after pushing many Cubs fans to the brink of frustration, Lester has put together a very nice string of starts lately. In his last 7 outings, he has pitched an average of 7 innings each game and has 55 strikeouts in those 47.1 innings. He also has had a 0.87 WHIP during that span. Lester’s next start will likely come in game 1 of a very important series against the Pirates next Monday. After Lester left the game following 8 full innings, Hector Rondon pitched a very nice 9th inning to get his 13th save of the season.

On the offensive side of things, Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo combined to drive in the 3 runs the Cubs needed to win the game, and Addison Russell had an excellent day at the plate, going 2 for 3. Russell has hit safely in his last 4 games. He got the start at shortstop yesterday, giving Starlin Castro a day off. After Castro was pulled early on Tuesday night and then wasn’t in the lineup on Wednesday, this fueled some obligatory speculation about a trade. It was clear before the game started, however, that his day off was not because of a trade.

It was also worth noting that Kyle Schwarber got his first career start in LF yesterday, and his first start in the outfield since A ball in 2014. It was good to see the effort in keeping him in the lineup, even on a day when David Ross was a given behind the plate with Lester pitching. Schwarber had an excellent day at the plate, going 1 for 2 and drawing 2 walks.

2. Trade Updates

Another top pitcher is off the market, as Cole Hamels is heading to the Texas Rangers. I had somewhat high hopes that the Cubs might be able to put together the right offer to get him, but the Cubs front office has made it clear that they are looking to build for more than just 2015 at this trade deadline, so I would assume that that placed a cap on what they were willing to offer the Phillies.

After the Padres had expressed interest in a trade involving Castro earlier this week, it appears that Javier Baez is also in the discussion. This obviously, would mean that Castro would be staying here, which is probably not the popular outcome these days. In either case, a trade that brings Tyson Ross to the Cubs and sends the Padres one of our middle infielders seems very possible.

With just today and tomorrow left of the trade deadline, the Cubs have stood pat so far. I still don’t expect them to do nothing, but as more of the bigger names on the market head to other teams, it seems less likely that the Cubs are going to make a big splash. David Price is still out there, but the Cubs have not been considered favorites lately.

3. Roster Moves

Mike Baxter was designated for assignment yesterday to make room for the call up of Ben Rowen, who was brought up to add a fresh arm to the bullpen. Baxter will have time to decide to either accept the assignment or pursue free agency. Yoervis Medina and Dallas Beeler were also optioned back to AAA Iowa.

4. Injury Updates

No major news here, other than the disappointment of learning that Neil Ramirez is headed back to the DL after experiencing soreness in his abdomen. This is not long after returning from being gone for 2 months because of shoulder issues. This is a frustrating development, and a surprise even to Ramirez, because the bullpen has been used heavily lately, and his arm is much needed as the season heads into its last 2 months.

Otherwise, Tommy La Stella is headed to AA Tennessee to begin his rehab again. He had barely made it into the second week of the season, going down with an oblique injury on April 8. If he can return soon, he would provide some much needed help off of the bench and would provide better flexibility with the middle infield.

5. Down on the Farm

The excitement and attention is focused on Baez right now, not only because he could be a trade piece, but also because he has done so well since returning to game action in Arizona and then to AAA Iowa. Baez did go 0-4 with 3 strikeouts last night, but he was able to draw a walk and score a run.

In Eugene, a surprise early exit from the game for Eloy Jimenez fueled a great deal of speculation that he was a part of a trade yesterday morning, but so far no news has come to that effect. The Emeralds shared that he was pulled because of shoulder discomfort, thus killing (for now) rampant speculation that he is a part of a trade package.


 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1933: Dizzy Dean sets a modern major league record, striking out 17 Cubs. Cardinal teammate Jimmie Wilson, the club’s catcher, also sets a new mark by recording 18 putouts.

2003: The Cubs obtain center fielder Doug Glanville from the Rangers in exchange for cash and outfielder/first baseman prospect Jason Fransz, who will not appear in a major league game. The Chicago flychaser will play in only 28 games, hitting just .235 for his new ball club.

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Yesterday’s News: Cubs get trounced, trade market heating up

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Game Notes (Cubs lose, 7-2)

It was only fitting that after the excitement of Monday night’s game that the Cubs would turn around and go absolutely flat as an offense last night. Scoring extra runs was going to be essential with Dallas Beeler on the mound, but the fact that the Cubs eked out just 1 run against Yohan Flande was a little embarrassing. To be fair, Beeler did put them in a tough spot, not even lasting through the 2nd inning, but after Travis Wood came in and settled things down through the 5th inning, the Cubs really needed to score some runs and with a pitcher like Flande on the mound, there’s no reason that shouldn’t have happened. They pushed one across in the first on a Jorge Soler double, and then Chris Coghlan chipped in a solo homerun in the 7th. Briefly, it looked like a Starlin Castro hug watch was in order, as he was replaced in an odd double switch that put Coghlan at 2B and moved Addison Russell to SS. I thought for a while last night that it meant a Castro trade announcement was coming, but it turned out just to be a move to keep Coghlan’s bat in the lineup. It looks more like Joe Maddon was maneuvering to try and keep his offense going, and these days that means moving Castro to the bench. In all, last night’s game was a good reminder that an offense consisting almost entirely of rookies is going to go absolutely flat sometimes, and even against subpar pitchers (sorry, Yohan, it’s true).

This afternoon the Cubs have a good chance at winning the series as Jon Lester goes up against Eddie Butler at 1:20. From here, the Cubs will head to Milwaukee for a 4 game set against the Brewers that starts tomorrow night.

Minor League Update

I am going to follow up the somewhat depressing game notes with a word of encouragement: Javier Baez is back in Iowa with the AAA Cubs, and he wasted no time getting back to what has been the best season of his career so far. He hit 2 homeruns last night to help the Iowa Cubs to a 9-0 win over the Nashville Sounds. Also in that game, Junior Lake went 2 for 5 with 2 RBI and Mike Olt went 2 for 5 and scored 2 runs. Along with the performance Baez put forward, I was most intrigued to see that recently optioned Clayton Richard threw 7 scoreless innings in which he struck out 4 batters and didn’t walk anyone.

It seems very likely that a trade will happen very soon (I was a little surprised that it didn’t happen yesterday), so we will probably see Baez either brought up to the majors to take over at 2B because Castro has been moved, or we might be saying goodbye to Baez himself. I think at this point most of us would rather see Castro be the one to go.

News from the trade market

Like I said, I was really expecting the Cubs to be a part of a move yesterday, but it didn’t happen. The rumor mill was running pretty strongly that Castro was possibly headed to San Diego on Monday, so it seemed like a deal might get completed yesterday. It didn’t happen, which does not necessarily mean that it still won’t. I really think we are watching the last days of Castro as a member of the Cubs.

Two players I had hopes for the Cubs to nab both went to other teams yesterday though, as Ben Zobrist is headed to the Royals and Jonathan Papelbon is going to the Nationals. So far it looks like the Royals are winning the trade deadline after also acquiring Johnny Cueto just a few days ago.

The Cubs may have their last shot at probably the most appealing piece of the trade market, as the Phillies made it known that they wanted teams’ “best offers” for Cole Hamels by today. Though the Dodgers are thought of as front runners in that market right now, I still think the Cubs could offer the most appealing package in a Hamels trade.


 

 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1989: The White Sox trade Harold Baines, their all-time home run leader, and left-fielder Fred Manrique to the Rangers for outfielders Scott Fletcher and Sammy Sosa, along with southpaw Wilson Alvarez. Three seasons later, the Pale Hose will send Slammin’ Sammy to the Cubs where the Dominican slugger will hit 545 home runs during his 13-year stay with their cross-town rivals.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for July 28

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs win, 9-8)

Not to be hyperbolic, but last night’s game was one of the more exciting Cubs games I have seen in a long time. From the beginning, this season has had a different feel to it, and one that we probably haven’t felt since about 2008. Even after a very dismal weekend against the Phillies, a single win against the Rockies last night has dramatically lifted the spirits of Cubs fans everywhere and should be taken as an indication of the character of this team. They easily could have given this one up, especially after they lost the lead for the second time. The game looked all but over after the Rockies had 4 runs going into the bottom of the 4th inning anyway, let along another comeback from them in the top of the 9th. A Carlos Gonzalez homerun in the third inning had given the Rockies 2 runs, and then they tacked on 2 more in the 4th.

Then the bottom of the 4th inning happened. I can’t say the last time I saw the Cubs look as good as they did in the bottom half of that inning. 6 runs later, they are on top of the game, and the the whole feel of the game has completely changed. Seeing the tide turn in the Cubs’ favor like that is also something I don’t think that I have seen in a while. Nearly everyone contributed in that inning, but timely hits from Addison Russell and Starlin Castro played a large role (both of whom are sporting what looked like slightly altered batting stances – keep an eye on that).

We added another run in the 6th, and it seemed like smooth sailing to the finish until Jason Motte and Rafael Soriano combined to give up 4 runs in the top of the 9th. Gonzalez launched his second homerun of the night off of Soriano, and Motte gave one up to Daniel Descalso. So the Cubs are down a run going into the bottom of the 9th. In other parts of the season, hope would still have been alive, but after the last few games, I have to admit that I was bracing myself for an embarrassing loss. Not going to happen. Kris Bryant proved to be the savior, blasting a walk off 2 run bomb to win the game. Again, probably one of the most exciting Cubs games I have watched in a long time. Dallas Beeler will take the mound tonight against Yohan Flande at 7:05 for game 2 of this series.

2. Trade rumors heating up

As I am writing this, a trade may even be in the works, but right now it is just being strongly rumored that the Cubs (and Astros) are in on Tyson Ross of the Padres. Several other teams have also shown interest in Ross, but for now the Cubs and Astros are viewed as the front runners. Even more tantalizing is the rumor that Castro may be a part of a deal with San Diego. I have long been a Castro apologist, but he has really, really soured on me this year. I want him to do well, I want him to succeed, and I would love for it to be in a Cubs uniform, but something has gone terribly wrong with him this year. In spite of his poor season, interest in Castro may spike after Troy Tulowitzki was traded to the Blue Jays late last night, thus narrowing the shortstop market for teams looking considerably. However you feel about him, be prepared to bid farewell to Castro, and probably very soon.

3. Soriano? Meh.

I did not have strong feelings about Soriano coming on as help for the bullpen when the Cubs first signed him, but I warmed to the idea after seeing how well he performed in his minor league outings before joining the big league club. In stops in both AA Tennessee and AAA Iowa, he did not allow a run in 7 innings, posted a WHIP of 1.000, and struck out 7 batters without giving up a single walk. But he’s been like a different pitcher since joining the Cubs. In 3 appearances so far, he has a 7.57 ERA and a WHIP of 1.500 (prior to last night’s appearance). I by no means think the Cubs should cut ties with him, but he’s not throwing hard at all (and he was only throwing in the low 90s in the minors), so I am concerned about how well he can get guys out in the majors. I think the leash will be short here, especially if the Cubs do pull off a trade with the Phillies that involves Jonathan Papelbon.

4. E-Jax released

Last week, Edwin Jackson was designated for assignment, which meant he could have elected to stay with the Cubs and head to the minors, or to cut bait altogether and head to the free agent market. He was officially released yesterday, and the Cubs will have to eat the $15 million that they still owe him. I do hope he lands somewhere else, and I imagine that he probably will, as long as it’s not the Cardinals, simply because that’s a virtual guarantee that he’ll suddenly and inexplicably turn into Cy Jackson and pitch a shutout to win the World Series for them or something. Either way, happy trails to E-Jax, and I hope you find success elsewhere.

5. Down on the farm

With the excitement of the trade deadline and a comeback win, it is easy to overlook the fact that good things are happening in our minor league system as well. Javier Baez has done extremely well in the Arizona instructional league since returning to game action. Most notably, in 15 plate appearances he has not had a single strikeout. Granted, the level of pitching competition is not nearly the same as the majors or even AAA, but this is still noteworthy. Baez will very likely head back to Iowa soon, and possibly to the Cubs not long after that. His is a name oft mentioned in trade rumors and speculation as well, however.

Meanwhile, in AAA, Mike Olt has put together a nice string of games since returning from his injury. Hard to guess at whether he’ll get a look with the Cubs again, given the fact that he saw his starts with the team prior to Bryant’s call up. He could be a small part in a multi-player trade if a team is looking for organizational depth, but his name has not come up much in trade rumors so far.

Ian Happ, who was recently promoted to South Bend, has handled the advanced level just fine so far. He has 3 hits in his first 2 games with South Bend, one of which was a double. I am excited to see what he and Gleyber Torres can do together in South Bend.


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

 1963: Dick Ellsworth strikes out Cardinals’ left fielder Stan Musial three times in the Cubs’ 5-1 victory at Wrigley Field. It will be the only time ‘Stan the Man’ is whiffed three times in a game during his 22-year career, a span of 3026 contests.

1978: At Candlestick Park, the Giants beat the Cubs 9-8 in a game that began at Wrigley Field. The contest was suspended with two outs in the top of the eighth and resumed in San Francisco eight days later.

1979: Cubs’ slugger Dave Kingman, who hit a pair of round-trippers yesterday, becomes the sixth player in major league history to hit three home runs in one game twice in a season. ”Sky King’s’ trio of long flies isn’t enough when Chicago drops the Shea Stadium contest to the Mets, 6-4.

1998: After setting the record yesterday for hitting the most home runs before getting a grand slam, Sammy Sosa hits another today in the Cubs’ 7-5 loss to Arizona at Bank One Ballpark. The Chicago slugger becomes the 18th major leaguer to hit a bases-loaded homer on consecutive days.

2012: Ike Davis drives in all of the runs in the Mets’ 6-3 loss in Arizona when he becomes the ninth player in franchise history to hit three home runs in a game. The New York first baseman joins Steve Finley (2004, Diamondbacks), Eddie Murray (1980, Orioles), and Clyde McCullough (1942. Cubs) as only the fourth player in baseball history to account for all three of his team’s runs with solo homers in a defeat.

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5 Things a Cub Fans Needs To Know on July 26th

Sunday, July 26th, 2015

Hamels Threw A No Hitter

My guess is that if you didn’t already know this one happened and you came here to find out the things you should know for today, you probably are a very fringe fan. That’s OK, we welcome you anyway, but try to pay better attention. Yesterday Cole Hamels, who has been on the trade block since 1987, or so it seems, got the chance to pitch right in front of the Cubs brass in an attempt to woo them and took full advantage of them by throwing a pretty dominant no hitter, the first against the Cubs since September 9, 1965. It was as if the Phillies dressed Cole up all sexy in a skimpy outfit and told him to go out there and do a striptease for Jed and Theo and get them to give their money and prospects for his services. I’m not sure if it worked, but you can bet that his price tag just inflated a little bit.

The sad thing about the game is that I “missed it”. I use quotes because this time it was my fault. I had an appointment with a client at 5p EDT so I had plans to come back and watch the archived game and stay away from the score and news so I could watch it as if it had just started. I fired it up at 8 and had fallen asleep by 8:45p. When I woke up, the game was over and my iPad was off. I’ve mentioned on here before that I have a no hitter streak of my own that has been going now since I was born. I’ve never seen a no hitter from start to finish without already knowing it was going to happen. Sure, I’ve turned to watch in the 7th or 8th innings before and have watched archived great games, but I’ve never seen one live. I’ve now had three chances and missed them all. It’s a shame.

Also, if you’re into the whole cardboard pizza thing, because Hamels threw a no hitter (aka – a Dominono), the first 20,000 MLB.com accounts can win a free pizza. Check it out here.

Trade Winds Are Blowing

We’re quickly approaching the July 31st non-waiver deadline and things are starting to blow pretty strong. Ken Rosenthal mentioned yesterday that the Royals were this close to acquiring the services of Johnny Cueto, but that something fell through with the medicals of one of the players the Reds were receiving in return and the deal was shelved. The Cubs continue to be linked to Hamels, but you have to wonder if the start yesterday causes Theo and Jed to be priced out of the market there, considering they don’t have to make a move. The Yankees, Dodgers, Rangers, and Giants have also expressed interest and even the Astros have kicked the tires. Personally, I think I would stay away from Hamels unless the prices was right. I’m not overpaying for him unless I think we can win this year and I’m not sure that’s the case.

The Cubs have also been linked to Jonathan Papelbon and I think there is a real chance he could be coming here. He’s not happy with the Phillies and wants out. He was seen talking to the Cubs brass before the game yesterday and obviously has a history with the Red Sox, which makes him the type of player Theo and Jed like to acquire.

We’re # 3

It’s been getting closer and closing since the All Star Break and this weekend  we dropped out of the last wild card spot. Currently we’re number three in the wild card standings, a game and a half behind the Giants and four and a half behind the Pirates. If this team is going to get to the one game playoff, they are going to need to start playing better against teams they need to beat. The Cubs have a soft schedule down the stretch, but it doesn’t really matter when you can’t beat the bad teams. When you play down to the competition, you don’t deserve to be in the runnings. I am beginning to fear that this team is not ready to be there this year. Look at the run differential in the NL for the teams currently in playoff spots. Washington (+32), St. Louis (+108), Los Angeles (+61), Pittsburgh (+50), and San Francisco (+49). Then there is the Cubs sitting at +7. We’re not in the same league. If we’re going somewhere, that has to change and change quickly.

We Need Offense

This team can’t score runs consistently. It’s not just the fact that we faced Hamels yesterday. It’s an offense that has struggled to be consistent all year long. Kris Bryant wants to swing at any pitch low in the zone and rarely makes any kind of contact on them. Starlin Castro can’t seem to hit at all. Jorge Soler hasn’t been the offensive force I was counting on, and Dexter Fowler, while playing better of late, has been an offensive disappointment. The one guy that is hitting, Kyle Schwarber, has been on the bench both games of the series against the Phillies because God forbid a star pitcher has to throw to a rookie catcher. When offense is your problem, fix it. Schwarber needs to be in the lineup.

At this point, I think you need to look seriously at moving Castro, shifting Russell to SS and calling up Javier Baez as soon as he’s ready. We need runs.

Closer By Committee To Continue

I got a text from a friend of mine who plays fantasy baseball and he asked me who I felt was going to be the closer for the Cubs down the stretch and I didn’t know what to tell him. There doesn’t appear to be a front runner and Joe Maddon has said that the committee approach will continue. I’m fine with that. It gives guys a chance to just shine when they get the call. If I had to guess, I think Jason Motte has the edge right now, but anything can happen.


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1951 – In a 9-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, Jim Russell becomes the first player in major league history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in a game in two different games. The Dodger outfielder’s accomplishment will be surpassed in 1956 when Yankee slugger Mickey Mantle goes deep both right and left-handed in the same game for a third time.

1975 – At Wrigley Field, Bill Madlock collects six hits in a game when he singles five times and triples in the Cubs’ 9-8 ten-inning loss to New York. ‘Mad Dog’, finishing with a .354 average, will win the first of his four batting titles (1975, ’76, ’81, ’83) this season.

2013 – The Cubs trade Alfonso Soriano, along with cash, to the Yankees in exchange for minor-leaguer Corey Black, a 21 year-old right-handed pitching prospect. The 37 year-old Dominican left fielder made his major league debut with the Bronx Bombers in 1999, developing into an All-star second baseman, before being traded to Texas four seasons later as part of a blockbuster deal that brought Alex Rodriguez to New York.

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5 Things Cubs Fans Need to Know for July 25

Saturday, July 25th, 2015

1. Game Notes (Cubs lose, 5-3)

All is not lost, though it can sometimes feel like it when the Cubs lose a game like they did yesterday afternoon. At first glance, it looks like just another frustrating loss in which the Cubs let a lead slip away from them and then did not capitalize on scoring opportunities when they had them in the 9th and 10th innings, which is true. Amidst all of that frustration, however, there are some good things to pull from yesterday’s game. After all, though I can’t speak for all Cubs fans, I survive my Cub fandom by choosing optimism. So, even in a loss like yesterday’s, I look for the good things that happened.

First of all, Jon Lester was just flat out solid. Much of the fanbase was ready to write him off not that long ago, but he’s done well, especially lately. He cannot help a lack of run support or a blown save. He pitched 7 innings with 6 strikeouts while allowing just 2 runs. Not bad, on a day when the sun was shining and the wind was blowing out. At the plate, Kris Bryant broke a long homerless streak, and Chris Coghlan added a bomb of his own (and he also stole a base). Not only that, Jorge Soler had a nice 3 for 5 day to pull his average to .261 after it had dropped to .254 on July 22.

Sadly, the game was lost at the hands of our bullpen, which has done a truly great job lately, so sometimes you are just bound to have a bad outing. Jason Motte gave up the game tying run in the 9th, and then James Russell and Rafael Soriano gave up a run each to push the final score to 5-3.

This afternoon we’ll see a great pitching matchup, with Jake Arrieta going up against Cole Hamels in possibly his last start for the Phillies.

2. Check in on the standings

After yesterday’s games, the Cubs are now a half game behind the Giants for the NL wild card spot. The Giants are 4 games back from the Pirates, and 3.5 games ahead of the Mets. New York is on a bit of a slide, losing their last 3 games in a row, and I would imagine their total lack of an offense will keep them out of this race eventually. They have probably one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, but if you think the Cubs can’t score runs, browse through some box scores from Mets games. Mark August 6-9 on your calendars, as the Cubs will host the Giants that Thursday through Sunday for a 4 game series that could ultimately be very crucial. The Cubs will play the Giants again in August when they go to San Francisco on the 25-27. The Cubs don’t play the Mets again, but they will see the Pirates twice in September.

3. Trade Rumors

The Cubs have yet to make a move, but former Cub (and a favorite of mine) Aramis Ramirez is headed back to Pittsburgh where his career started. The traded actually happened exactly 12 years to the day after the Pirates traded him to the Cubs.

In the rumor mill, the Cubs are still being linked to Hamels and David Price, but Mike Leake‘s name popped up as another of interest yesterday as well. The Cubs have some openness to a deal that would involve Starlin Castro or Javier Baez for Hamels or maybe Price, but probably not both, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

I am a bit surprised to see pitching targeted so much, but it could be that the right options on offense just aren’t there. I would like to see a hitter like Ben Zobrist or Gerardo Parra added, if possible, but that trade market just might not be there yet. These things always tend to pick up a lot of steam as the July 31 deadline gets closer, however.

4. Reporters quarrel at Wrigley

I mostly just found this amusing, and a testament to Joe Maddon‘s character, but apparently two reporters “fought” at Wrigley yesterday before the game. Though I scoured the internet and Twittersphere for who it was (bets on Gordon Wittenmeyer), I was unsuccessful. It ultimately didn’t sound like much of anything, but it was enough for Maddon to don a catcher’s mask during his pre-game interview. Sometimes you have to laugh through the pain, people.

5. Down on the farm

The biggest news to come out of the minor league system is that 2015 first rounder Ian Happ was promoted from short season Eugene to single A South Bend. If you’re keeping track, this means both Happ and Gleyber Torres are in South Bend right now. I may or may not have checked, but South Bend will be on the road a bit lately in the next few weeks, including a series in Beloit, WI in the second week of August, which is any easier trek for me coming from the northwest suburbs and trying to make it around the lake to South Bend. Who’s up for a road trip?

Not only that, but Baez made his return to game action in Arizona on Wednesday, and I would imagine that he could be heading back to Iowa very soon. It’s hard to predict from there what will happen with him, but if he is able to perform nearly as well as he was prior to his injury, a call up to the majors could happen pretty quickly. Assuming no trade involving him or Castro happens, this would raise some interesting questions in the middle infield. Before being injured, Baez was hitting .314 with a .922 OPS in 37 games for Iowa. He had also hit 8 homeruns, and his strikeouts were down just a bit.


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

 1972: Cubs general manager John Holland announces Whitey Lockman will manage the Cubs, replacing Leo Durocher, who ‘stepped down’ as the team’s skipper after posting a 535-526 (.504) record during his seven years at the helm. ‘Leo the Lip’ will be hired by the Astros to replace Harry Walker at the end of next month.

1988: The Cubs test their $5 million lighting system prior to their historic first night game at Wrigley Field scheduled for August 8th against the Phillies. Six banks of lights on 33-foot steel towers along the first-base and third-base baselines illuminate the field during the charity event in which players take batting practice and participate in a home run derby.

1996: Rockies right-hander Bruce Ruffin strikes out four batters in one inning, a feat accomplished only 25 times in major league history. The opportunity for the rare occurrence happens when Cubs’ catcher Scott Servais strikes out swinging, but reaches first base safely after whiffing on the wild pitch.

2010: Andre Dawson, an outfielder with the Expos and Cubs, becomes the 203rd player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Joining ‘Hawk’ in Cooperstown are former manager Whitey Herzog, major league ump Doug Harvey, broadcaster Jon Miller and baseball writer Bill Madden.

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5 Things a Cub Fan Needs To Know for July 24

Friday, July 24th, 2015

by Nate Head

Fresh from a day-off

Coming off four games in three days in Cincinnati, it’s safe to say the Cubs needed a day off. They got one yesterday, hopefully recharging the depleted bullpen, as virtually every reliever on the 25-man was used at some point in the series. Signs of fatigue are popping up at the plate, too. Cubs’ hitters are expanding the zone, taking good pitches, over swinging—the whole nine.

Cubs’ players aren’t the only ones who needed a break. Nail-biting fans of the north siders likely have nothing left on their fingers after riding the turbulent waves throughout this series that produced three games decided by one run. Chicago salvaged a split with the Reds, highlighted by dramatic comeback wins on Tuesday and Wednesday night.

More Schwarber, Please

I’m satisfied with what catcher Miguel Montero has done this year, but rookie Kyle Schwarber is exactly what the Cubs need right now. While Montero has been on the disabled list (thumb) this past week, Schwarber has been one of the few consistent hitters in the lineup. In 13 games this year, the 22-year-old slugger’s stat line is impressive: .409/.447/.705. Schwarber’s defense behind the plate draws plenty of skepticism, and while he’s performed modestly behind the dish so far,the doubt isn’t necessarily unwarranted. A play in the early game on Wednesday comes to mind, where Schwarber took absolutely the worst route possible to an infield fly, which forced Anthony Rizzo to sprint in 90 feet from his position to make the catch. But, like many things in baseball, I assume it will come with experience—or at least hope. Manager Joe Maddon has shown that he is a firm believer in experimenting with lineups and using his whole team, and I expect him to find a way to effectively utilize Schwarber.

Bullpen, keep it up

A dark horse candidate for team MVP right now, the Cubs’ bullpen has been stellar. Believe it or not, Chicago’s relievers rank 4th in the NL in ERA with their collective mark of 3.20 (8th overall), and 2nd in opponent’s batting average (7th). Yes, that includes Edwin Jackson and Pedro Strop’s efforts this season. The bullpen put on a clinic in game two on Wednesday, as the combination of Wood-Strop-Soriano-Rondon-Motte went 7 innings behind starting pitcher Dallas Beeler’s disastrous start, striking out 11 Reds hitters and not allowing a single run. Jason Motte looks like Maddon’s most popular choice to close out games right now, and he has done well in those situations. A new addition to the crew, league veteran Rafael Soriano, is showing he could be a quality addition, pitching a scoreless inning in each of his two appearances with the team.

Castro needs to claw out of slump

Shortstop Starlin Castro’s hitting drought has been hard to watch for me, personally. Castro’s body language after making an out is nearly depressing at this point, as it looks like he wants to split his bat over his knee every time he makes an out. Maddon has stuck by his slumping shortstop, spewing encouraging words to the media when the topic is mentioned. When he’s at his best, Castro is a relaxed free-swinger at the plate. Right now, it looks like he is over-analyzing every pitch and is actually trying too hard to return from his hitting hiatus. Whether it is to attract more teams (maybe just the Phillies) at the deadline or to simply help out the lineup, Castro needs to start hitting. In his career, Starlin has faced just one of Philadelphia’s probables for this weekend’s series, Cole Hamels, and has fared well, going 3 for 6 against the left-hander, and possible future Cub.

Series pitching probables

On the surface, this three game set against the Phillies at Wrigley may not seem very important. However, Chicago is literally clinging to their second spot in the NL wild card race with a mere .5 lead over San Francisco. Philadelphia has the worst overall record in the league at 34-63 and should help bolster the Cubs’ win column. Naturally, the Cubs encounter them on their hottest stretch of the season as they have won five of six games after the All-Star break. Let’s take a look at the expected pitching matchups:

Friday: Jon Lester vs. Jerome Williams

Saturday: Jake Arrieta vs. Cole Hamels

Sunday: Jason Hammel vs. Aaron Nola

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GirlieView (07/23/2015)

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

GirlieView Definitions

  • Lizzie = A funny, timely quote made on the VFTB site by our writers or commenters.
  • Lizard = The best Lizzie.
  • MVL = Most Valuable Lizzie’er: The person with the most Lizzies in the period under review (usually the past two weeks.)
  • Top 10 of the 2015 Season = The folks with the most aggregate Lizzie points YTD (1 point for every Lizzie, 3 points for every Lizard.)

As you already know, this is all completely subjective and according to my whims.

Lizzies

  • I think a story for 2015 is the unusual high quantity of impact rookies in the league.
  • Good teams win games like this
  • I was a little surprised that Jake Arrieta did not make the National League roster
  • The schedule for the month of July (barring St. Louis) looks pretty Cubs-friendly, but they need to score more than they have been lately.
  • Fun game to watch…this Rizzo kid has some pretty legit power.
  • Don’t forget moxie!
  • Some folks that were not paying attention last year (can you blame them?) might think that last night was Beeler’s Major League debut, but it was not. He came up last year and made two starts.
  • Why would somebody name their kid Dallas?
  • …maybe hoping that all girls named Debbie would be attracted to him.
  • I know a person named Dallas, Cheyenne, Austin, Houston, Sierra, Phoenix, Savannah, Rocky, Mountain, Blue ,Ocean, and I even know a kid with a last name of Rivers with a first name Hudson and he has a sister named Mississippi.
  • The Rivers should name their next kid Susquehanna, then we would know they are serious about their rivers.
  • Every time they show Molina, he looks like that stray dog in the neighborhood that nobody wants.
  • Maybe the Cardinals should stop feeding him.
  • Where instant replay really has future value is balls and strikes. It is simply unfair to be wrung up on a 3rd strike that was well off the plate and low as happened at the end of Sunday’s game.
  • This just in – Fowler still stinks from the left side. His job was to get on base so that Rizzo had a SHOT at tying or winning the game, and he’s swinging like Dave Kingman (a lot like Dave Kingman, in that he keeps missing the ball.)
  • Swung at 3 pitches out of the zone, good morning, good afternoon and good night.
  • and was trying to hit them to the moon. Best hitter on the team is on deck and he could not have cared less. Now, all that said, if Joe Maddon is a great manager, as reported, he needs to address that, or this will never be a great team.
  • Dare I say it, but Strop is starting to remind me a little of our old friend Carlos Marmol (with the exception of lacking the ability to put his hat on straight). I seem to get that same feeling in my stomach everytime they bring him on late in a close game.
  • I’ll watch (and try not to listen to) the HR derby.
  • Recap- Rockies (not the baseball kind) – backpacking- 4000 ft elevation change. If my heart explodes you guys might never hear from me again (after tomorrow).
  • Talk to Seymour about exploding hearts. He might be able to help you prevent one.
  • …and talk to Doc Raker if you need some Maui Jims to cut down on some glare.
  • Hearts really don’t explode. I do enjoy hearing people speak of their or their relatives heart attack as being “massive”. I’ve come to view it as bragging about the results of their poor lifestyle choices.
  • The 4000 ft elevation change is start of trip to the finish. I live here along the great lakes at 700 ft and will be starting the backpacking at 10,000.
  • Bit of a different wicket.
  • We are getting wonderful pitching but my Lord you can’t win if you don’t score.
  • If I’m pitching against the Cubs, and I see Fowler leadoff, Montera 4 or 5, and the pitcher 8th? I’m thinking “GREAT – I have strategic outs all over this lineup. I don’t have to GIVE IN to anyone.”
  • He spoke after the game and had the message that the team needs to “figure it out”. At this point, I need Lester to figure it out. I need him to get a win.
  • If we lose the wildcard spot because of bad defense at catcher so be it, we need to score some runs and take the chance, the upside is to big to pass up.
  • I would love to see the Futures Game better showcased. It’s an excellent way to draw in younger fans that just gets ignored. MLB does a really poor job at promoting itself in general, so I guess this shouldn’t be a surprise.
  • I hope Lester is watching Jake kill it out there. Great game.
  • Wild turn of events. We go from having too many catchers (Montero, Beef, Ross) to a guy named Teagarden and talking about Schwarber.
  • I have been impressed with Teagarden – he calls and catches a pretty good game. And I think I saw him get a hit, which is more than I can say for Ross.
  • Speaking of Ross – does anyone believe the concussion story? I think they just sat him down. Maybe the magician was also a hypnotist (“David – you’re getting sleepy…you have a headache…”)
  • Maybe they’re trying to wean Lester.
  • Does that make Teagarden a “weanee” or a “weaner”?
  • That would be easier to answer if his name was Teatgarden.
  • I was in a Teatgarden once. Oh, wait, that was a Hooters. Nevermind.
  • Weiner. With an I.
  • Weiner with an eye? (I really have to stop asking Siri to read my emails to me.)
  • It’s on the end.
  • I miss Beef. This FO has made many great moves but I don’t understand the Ross for Beef moves.
  • Agreed, at least there was some offensive production from the Beef, unlike Ross who is starting to remind me of an older version of Koyie Hill.
  • A lower cholesterol option?
  • It’s official – I’d rather listen to Len Kasper for an hour than Chris Berman for a minute.
  • The move to a timed round had an immediate effect. I saw far fewer pitches being passed on, as the hitters were much more concerned about capitalizing while they had the time.
  • Looks like the Cubs will not have home field advantage in the World Series, we need to win it in 5 games so we can celebrate in Wrigley with Ernie and Ron.
  • If Ernie and Ron are at Wrigley, there’s a funeral home out there not doing their job.
  • Lester did a great job yesterday. I’m very happy to type that.
  • We No Longer Have Roach(es)
  • Lot of knees jerking around here.
  • the competition seemed to exhaust certain players (Prince Fielder)
  • Schwarber’s bat is impressive even when he makes an out…that being said, he looks stiff and tall behind the plate.
  • If “fairly well” doesn’t work for you, then how would you suggest describing it?
  • not good. Simple as that.
  • I would say he looks stiff.
  • So did Wood last night.

Lizard

  • It’s fun again, people. It’s fun to be a Cubs fan.

Shout Outs

  • Big shout outs to cap’n realist, and Mark from Toronto for their first 2015 Season Lizzies!!!! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Sherm, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go!

Top 10 of the 2015 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard) – Since we’re just past half way, I’ll post the full results!

1. Eddie von White
2. Seymour Butts
3. Doc Raker
4. Joe Aiello
5. Jedi
5. jswanson
7. Dork
7. Doug S.
9. Jared Wyllys
10. Katie
10. Sherm
12. Buddy
13. Bryan
13. Jerry in Wisconsin
15. Sean Powell
16. Alex Botts
16. Chet
18. Jeremiah
19. cap’n realist
19. Mark from Toronto
19. Noah
22. Douglas Bath
22. Gaz
22. painhertz
22. RC
22. Tom

Chit Chat

  • Ok, pretend you’re the GM. What would you do to ensure a competitive remainder of the season for our Cubs? Do you trade for more pitching? Trade for more hitting? Do nothing and go with what you’ve got? Rent a catcher? Take your chances with Schwarber? Go with Teagarden? Call Ross your main man? Rearrange your lineup (we’ve already heard some great ideas on that front.) Let’s hear your best plans!
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