Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Yesterday’s News: RF Bleachers are open, bullpen looking solid

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

RIGHT FIELD BLEACHERS OPEN

After over two months of the 2015 season without them, the right field bleachers are finally done, completing the renovation process to the Wrigley Field bleachers that started almost as soon as last season ended. I’ll be honest and say that I had a really hard time with the fact that the Cubs played so many weeks without bleachers at all, so it was very nice to watch last night’s game and see the bleachers whole again. The videoboards look great, in my opinion, and especially so in person. I was there for a game against the Brewers on May 3 and was immediately a fan of the left field jumbotron. I tend to strive to sit in the bleachers whenever I go to a game, so I’m looking forward to getting out there sometime later this summer.

THE BULLPEN

I touched on it in yesterday’s post, but our bullpen is showing signs of life again, posting a collective 0.51 ERA in the past 5 games. On Thursday, in particular, they put together 6 innings of brilliant work, giving up just 2 hits and not allowing a single run after starter Tsuyoshi Wada gave up 3 runs in the first 3 innings.

GAME NOTES

Friday’s starter, Jason Hammel, had the 4th best ERA in in baseball  (2.03) since April 27, but the Reds struck early, scoring in the first inning off of doubles from Iván De Jesus and Todd Frazier followed by an RBI single from Brayan Pena. A very nice running catch in deep center field by Dexter Fowler and a truly impressive “catch and tag” play by Addison Russell kept the Reds off of the board in the second inning.

I was impressed at how Hammel battled in spite of just not having it. He ultimately gave up just 4 runs and stuck in there for 5 innings, which was extremely important after the heavy use that our bullpen saw on Thursday. And, speaking of that bullpen, they did a phenomenal job for the second day in a row. Sure, the end result was an extra inning loss, but any time your bullpen can put together 10 innings of scoreless pitching across two days, that’s a good thing. The trouble was that Hector Rondon gave up that final run in the 10th, which will probably only fuel the speculation that his job as the Cubs closer is just about over. If you’re trying to figure out what might happen, Joe Maddon‘s post game comments will probably only confuse you.


 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1905: New York hurler Christy Mathewson pitches his second career no-hitter, defeating the Cubs, 1-0. In 1901, 20 year-old ‘Matty’ became the first rookie in the modern era to throw a no-no, holding the Cardinals hitless in the Giants’ 5-0 victory at Robison Field.

1913: In the top of the ninth inning with no outs at New York’s Polo Grounds, Christy Mathewson strands a runner on third base to record his 300th victory when the Giants edge the Cubs, 3-2. During his 17-year major league career, ‘Big Six’ will compile a 373-188 record.

1940: In the inaugural Hall of Fame game, the Red Sox beat the Cubs at Doubleday Field, 10-9. Future Hall of Famer Ted Williams hits two home runs during the six-inning rain-shortened exhibition.

1994: At the age of 34, Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg suddenly retires, walking away from $16 million. ‘Ryno’ will return to the Chicago line-up in 1996 to play for two more seasons before completing his 16-year Hall of Fame career.

2006: The first wireless bullpen communication system in baseball history is used at Wrigley Field when a cell phone, which will be sent to the Hall of Fame, is used for the first time in major league history to call the bullpen. From the dugout, Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild calls the bullpen during the third inning to start warming up reliever Angel Guzman.

2010: In game against their cross-town rivals at Wrigley Field, the Cubs get out of a bases loaded jam in the final frame for a 1-0 victory over the White Sox. Juan Pierre‘s leadoff single in the top of the ninth spoils Ted Lilly‘s bid for a no-hitter, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished at the ‘Friendly Confines’ since Milt Pappas threw a no-no in 1972.

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Morning News: Papelbon, Soriano, Wada Concerns?

Friday, June 12th, 2015

PAPELBON RUMORS CONTINUE

As Joe wrote yesterday, the rumors of Jonathan Papelbon becoming a part of the Cubs bullpen have only grown stronger in the last 24 hours. The latest indications are that Papelbon has a real interest in the Cubs and would be open the the idea of a trade to Chicago, but the main roadblock could be that Philadelphia’s asking price is too high. Whether that is because of who they would want in return or how much of his remaining contract that his new team would be expected to pick up would have to be seen. Keep a close eye on this, as it could develop quickly in the next couple of days. As Phil Rogers tweeted yesterday, the Phillies had a scout at last night’s Cubs game, likely looking at possible trade targets.

SORIANO TO JOIN TEAM AFTER ALL STAR BREAK

Rafael Soriano signed a minor league contract just a few days ago, and yesterday news came out that he is not likely to join the major league team for at least another month. Presumably, this is so he can have a series of good outings in the farm system before he reports to Chicago. The Cubs will want to see that he can pitch well before he’s called up. That, and if they do trade for Papelbon successfully, the back part of the bullpen will start to get crowded.

WORRIED ABOUT WADA?

After an impressive first start or two, I am feeling much less confident in Tsuyoshi Wada. He lasted a measly 3 innings last night while giving up 3 runs on 4 hits and walking 2 batters. By comparison, in his May 25 and May 31 starts, he at least made it into the 6th inning and gave up just 1 earned run in both games. His very first start of the year, on May 20, he struck out 9 batters in 4.2 innings. In his last start before last night’s game, on June 5, he didn’t make it out of the 4th inning and gave up 5 runs. I don’t want to jump to conclusions based on his last two starts (the June 5 start was against the Nationals, so I’ll give him some grace there), but you can call me attentively concerned at this point. On the upside, our bullpen did a phenomenal job last night, especially one Travis Wood, who put togther 2.1 scoreless innings while giving up just 1 hit.


 

THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1839: Due to an erroneous eye-witness account, Abner Doubleday is given credit for establishing the first baseball game is played in America. The Hall of Fame, which opens a century later in Cooperstown, celebrates the origin of our national pastime in this small upstate New York town although it is doubtful the West Point cadet was ever there or ever watched a baseball game.

1939: With much of its funding provided by the Clark Foundation, a charitable organization established by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, the Baseball Hall of Fame is dedicated in Cooperstown, the site selected due to an erroneous report made that claimed Abner Doubleday had invented the game in the small town located in upstate New York. Players selected from the first four Hall of Fame induction elections are enshrined as its first members.

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GirlieView (06/11/2015)

Thursday, June 11th, 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 feel good about Hendricks going tonight after the last outing hopefully he does not disappoint.
  • Dork, no!! Don’t feel good. Somebody here felt good about beating the Brewers. You know what happened.
  • The ball never came down.
  • It’s in Wisconsin.
  • I will start looking for it now.
  • If this team is going to have success, they are going to have to shore up this defense and quit making these miscues.
  • The Cubs ran into a buzzsaw last night in Max Scherzer. No shame in losing to that guy. He is chopping right through the National League.
  • I will paraphrase “Dear Fan, yes we blackout games. Here is the link to tell you which ones.”
  • Lizzie’s were a little thin this time around, not to be confused with Thin Lizzie which is a favorite of Len Kasper’s, seems to me I got to get some Lizzie mojo going.
  • We have all had too much Lizzie Lassitude lately. I agree with the raucous ramp up.
  • speaking of which, I REALLY wish Soler would stand closer to the plate)
  • To me, the only mildly persuasive argument for a Jumbotron was always the ability to show replays. And even then, I didn’t believe that one improvement was worth breaking up the picturesque outfield skyline. I was wrong.
  • I have come to like Instant replay. But it is pointless if they still get it wrong. Seems like they still get it wrong way too often.
  • My only question is: how has your wife integrated the Cubs into her life? The last time we chatted you were unsure of her ability to become a devout follower thus the possibility of matrimonial turbulence.
  • You’ll be happy to know there hasn’t been a hint of pushback from her. It probably helps that I took her to Wrigley Field on our honeymoon.
  • Then everything will be fine.
  • The only inanimate objects that would get any notice before the Jumbotron were the umpires, now they have to do a better job.
  • The Royals…damned if you get their starter out early, damned if you don’t.
  • The Royals are a great hitting team and have a real bullpen. The Royals line up will feast on our bull pen, sorry to say. The good thing is that Len won’t notice since he will be giving his review of the new Thin Lizzy box set in innings 7-9.
  • We got a problem with Wood, you don’t like him in the pen and I don’t like him as a starter and no magic blue pill to make this Wood any better.
  • Took a little blue pill once, ended up with splinters.
  • Jeff Loria-run teams have always been a circus, but his current South Beach squad is contending for his biggest disaster yet (aside from Montreal’s loss of the Expos, that is).
  • Math is hard.
  • The Baltimore Orioles franchise (est 1901 as the Milwaukee Brewers), as of today, has 8445 wins. If they had won their 3,000th in 1989, as claimed above, that means they have averaged 209 1/2 wins every year since.
  • So what you’re saying is that math isn’t all that hard.
  • QED
  • If Lester is the pitcher and Schwarber is the catcher, a walk is basically a triple…
  • Who said we were going to sweep the marlins just like we swept the brewers
  • You can’t assume you are going to beat anyone. Ever. You always need to respect your opponents and the game unless your opponent is a 65 year old M.D. who can’t hit off a pitching machine.
  • Now if you could only put that lineup on the field!
  • That would be a terrible lineup. Most of those guys are really old or dead. Hey hey!
  • David “I’m taking up an extra space on” the Ross-ster?
  • I’ll enjoy the ‘KB to left’ respite.
  • Cubs sign Soriano. No word on if he’ll play third.

Lizard

  • They are who we thought they were…Streaky, young, still learning, and a year away.

Shout Outs

  • No one had their very first 2015 Season Lizzie this time so let’s have a shout out for everyone! Thanks for being here!

MVL

  • Congratulations to Eddie von White, our Most Valuable Lizzie-er this time! Way to go EVW!

Top 10 of the 2015 Season (one point for each Lizzie, three points for the Lizard)

1. Eddie von White
2. Seymour Butts
3. Doc Raker
3. Joe Aiello
5. Jedi
6. Dork
7. Doug S.
7. jswanson
9. Buddy
10. Bryan
10. Jerry in Wisconsin
10. Katie

Chit Chat

  • It’s hard to believe interleague play has been around for almost 20 years now (18, to be exact.) I still hate it. It’s not so much that I hate that the teams play against each other, I just hate the way it’s scheduled, what with the rotating divisions in rotating years … I think either everyone should play everyone (a scheduling nightmare of course) or no one should play anyone, with the latter being my preference. Does anyone else have an opinion, pro or con, on interleague play?
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The Cubs Are Kicking Papelbon’s Tires

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

After a lot of debate, I’ve decided to scrap the game recap concept. In 12+ years of writing on the blog, it’s my least favorite post to write. I’ve always looked at them as talking about the game and commenting on it because most of you have already watched it. As a result, a lot of nights it’s tough to really find anything meaningful to talk about. That said, we’re going to a Morning News post in the AM.

CUBS SELECT IAN HAPP IN THE 1ST ROUND – I watched the MLB Network coverage on Monday to see who the Cubs would select. It’s crazy to think how far the MLB draft has come that it’s now televised nationally considering it used to be done as a conference call for the 30 clubs. I was amused at how the analysts were genuinely surprised to see the Cubs take another hitter. If you’re going to be a draft “expert”, you should have at least researched the Cubs a little. The theme they have gone with is to take a hitter, stockpile hitters, and load up on pitchers later in the draft in an effort to play the lottery of arms. The result has been Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant. That’s a pretty nice haul right there. I don’t consider myself to be a draft expert, but everything I’ve read says that Happ is a great bat, especially considering where he was picked, and he should move quickly since he’s a college hitter. I like the pick.

WELCOME TO THE CUBS RAFAEL SORIANO – I was a little nervous when rumors surfaced earlier this year that the Cubs were kicking the tires on Rafael Soriano because I felt they would end up overpaying dramatically. The deal ends up being a minor league deal with a $4.1 million big league deal should he get called up. It has another $4 million in performance incentives available. If he is what we hope he is, a guy that can come in and make a huge difference in the late innings, it’s the going rate for a closer and probably even less than the going rate. If not, he’s a $4 mil lottery ticket for a big market club that can afford it given the low amount of team payroll and new revenue streams. I like the move.

ARE THE CUBS KICKING THE TIRES ON JONATHAN PAPELBON? – There are rumors that the Cubs and Blue Jays have had conversations with the Phillies about trading for Jonathan Papelbon and that the Phillies are willing to eat money to get  a better prospect. If I’m the Cubs, I’m eating the money and giving up a few lesser prospects instead. Papelbon would be a great improvement to the pen as well and, when Neil Ramirez comes back, would make this pen really lethal. I like the rumor.

RIGHT FIELD BLEACHERS ARE OPENING TONIGHT – I have to praise the team for giving us two accurate timelines on the bleachers once they realized they were behind scheduled and wouldn’t be done for opening day. I mocked them and predicted that they would miss the projected timeline for June, but all systems are a go and the right field bleachers will be open tonight for the series with the Reds. That should make ‘ol Marty Brennaman quite happy. We all know he loves Cub fans, especially those that hang out in the bleachers. It will be nice to finally have a full crowd, especially at a time where the Cubs are playing good baseball and are in the wild card hunt. I like the progress.

JOE WAS ON THE RADIO - From time to time I’m a contributor to various ESPN radio stations. On Tuesday I was a guest on the Marty and Miller show on AM 1700 in Iowa. You can listen to the audio here.


THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

www.NationalPastime.com

1904 – After pitching nine and a third innings of no-hit baseball, Cubs’ hurler Bob Wicker settles for a 1-0, twelve inning one-hit victory over the Giants. Light-hitting outfielder Sam Mertes, for the second time in career, breaks up an extra-inning no-hitter, having also spoiled Indians right-hander Earl Moore‘s 1901 bid for a no-no when he started the game-winning rally for the White Sox with a one-out single in the top inning.

1911 – At Chicago’s West Side Grounds, Heinie Zimmerman of the Cubs drives in nine runs to set a team record. The Windy City infielder, whose record will be tied by Sammy Sosa in 2002, hits two home runs, a triple, and two singles in the 20-2 rout of the Braves.

1957 – The Dodgers’ Roy Campanella surpasses former Cub and Giant backstop Gabby Hayes to establish a new National League mark when he hits his 237th career round-tripper as a catcher. Campy’s historic home run comes off Ray Crone in the seventh inning of Brooklyn’s 7-2 loss to the Braves at Ebbets Field.

1963 – After Brock Davis is intentionally walked to load the bases, third baseman Bob Aspromonte blasts a tenth-inning walk-off grand slam off Lindy McDaniel, lifting the Colt .45s to a 6–2 victory over the Cubs. Chicago had tied the Colt Stadium contest in the top of the ninth on a triple by Dick Bertell, a walk to Bob’s brother Ken, and Don Landrum‘s RBI single.

1969 – The Cubs trade Adolfo Phillips and right-hander Jack Lamabe to the Expos for Paul Popovich, acquired today by Montreal, along with Ron Fairly, from the Dodgers in exchange for Maury Wills and Manny Mota. Chicago’s latest infielder, a solid switch-hitting utility player, will play a large role for his new team filling in for injured second baseman Glenn Beckert and batting .312 overall in 60 games.

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Hottest MLB bets on the board

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Baseball is nearly two months into the schedule and sports handicappers have a much clearer picture of who the contenders – and pretenders – are going to be. But for right now, these three MLB clubs are tearing up the diamond and cashing in at the sportsbook.

Texas Rangers

The Rangers are surging up the standings in the American League West, winning eight of their last 10 outings – all of which as moneyline underdogs. That’s put Texas among the most profitable bets in baseball, despite a sub-.500 record as of Thursday. The Rangers’ bats are the biggest catalysts for this turnaround, hitting .283 BA over the past week. Will the return of shamed slugger Josh Hamilton add to that pop? The Arlington faithful will find out with Texas back home for six games versus the Red Sox and White Sox starting Thursday.

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Bucs are producing just that – big bucks – for their loyal bettors. Pittsburgh rides a six-game winning streak into Thursday, with back-to-back series sweeps of the Marlins and Mets. The Pirates were moneyline favorites for each of those victories and have taken seven of their past 10 outings but head out on a cross-country trip to play San Diego and San Francisco, then back East to Atlanta. Pittsburgh is just 9-13 away from home – despite having the second-lowest road ERA – with blame pointing to the bats, hitting only .241 BA and averaging just 3.7 runs per road game.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins were supposed to finish at the bottom of the American League Central again in 2015. Seems like Minnesota’s clubhouse failed to get that memo. The Twins have exploded to the top of the division with a current five-game winning streak and have taken the “W” in nine of their previous 11 contests. That drastic turnaround has made Minnesota very popular with sports handicappers, having earned MLB bettors almost 16.00 units on the season. So what’s behind this complete about-face from the Twinkies? Minnesota is becoming one of the most clutch hitting teams in the bigs, with a .296 BA and .441 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position.

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Cubs sign Soriano, pick Happ first in the draft

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

 

I resist the urge to devote 500 words to lamenting the loss of Javier Baez for 4-8 weeks (at least it wasn’t his wrist, everybody) and focus on something that’s a bit more encouraging, and that’s the addition of Rafael Soriano to the Cubs roster via a minor league deal yesterday. He signed for a base salary of $4.1 million with contract incentives that offer the possibility for him to earn quite a bit more. I appreciate the signing because it represents an effort to bolster a bullpen that has struggled pretty mightily at times during the 6th and 7th innings, particularly. Not only that, but there have been some rumblings that Hector Rondon may not have such a firm grasp on the closer’s role. So Soriano may be coming as a possible backup option in the closer’s role.

Soriano pitched last season for the Washington Nationals, earning 32 saves in 39 chances, but the second half of his season was pretty rough. He recently fired his agent (Scott Boras) because of the belief that Boras may have been a large part of the reason that he was unsigned this late into the season.

Additionally, the Cubs picked 9th overall in Monday’s MLB draft and took infielder Ian Happ from the University of Cincinnati. He looks to be either at potential middle infielder (probably second base), or he could possibly play the outfield as well. In three seasons at Cincinnati, the switch hitter Happ has a career OPS of 1.015 and 25 HR in 163 total games.

In the second round, the Cubs took outfielder Donnie Dewees from the University of North Florida. In 128 career games there across 3 seasons, Dewees has hit 24 HRs to go with an overall OPS of 1.083. He also struck out a grand total of 42 times in 511 career at bats.

The Cubs took a left handed pitcher in the third round, Bryan Hudson of Alton High School in Illinois. He’s very big (6’7″, 215) and holds significant potential for a future with the Cubs at some point a few years from now. Coming out of high school, my bet would be that he’ll need some time to develop in the minor leagues, so we may not see him for a while. The first two picks stand a better chance of making an impact much sooner. You can take a look at the rest of the picks from this year’s draft here.

Finally, the short season Eugene Emeralds start their season in a little over a week, and it will be important (and fun) to keep an eye on Eloy Jimenez. He’s just 18, but the potential here is huge. At 6’4″, 205, he is a man-child, and can absolutely punish a ball.

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Looking Back at Week 9 of MLB

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Tal’s Hill is no more, Carlos Correa will make his long awaited debut and the Cubs are gaining momentum heading into next week. The Marlins have decided to stay publicly drama free for the most part (sadly), but let’s recap anyways:

Correa Arriving in Houston

The Astros announced on Sunday that they would be bringing top prospect Carlos Correa up to the big league club. The top prospect in the Astros system, Correa has hit .266 this season at Triple-A Fresno. The offensive numbers might not have made the transition from Double-A yet, but the first place Astros are giving him a shot. It is not immediately apparent how much playing time the stud shortstop will get, but the Astros wouldn’t have called him up to make him ride the bench. He is expected to be a key piece to the Astros rapidly ascending core. Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar have been manning shortstop thus far in the season, though neither has been setting the world on fire of late.

Royals and Tigers Slumping

Two of the preseason World Series favorites started out well…and have faded considerably. Over the last ten games, the Kansas City Royals are an ugly 3-7. Mean while, the Detroit Tigers are an even worse 2-8. The Royals are still eight games over .500, but the Tigers are nearing the .500 mark, with a 30-28 record. The strange part is that neither team has been suffering injuries to key players. Neither team has faced elite competition over the last 10 games, either. While Detroit was swept in consecutive series against sub .500 Oakland and Anaheim, Kansas City struggled against Cleveland and Texas. The Twins, at 33-23, hold a one game lead over the Royals for the American League Central lead.

Tal’s Hill is No More

The Astros have decided to change up Minute Maid Park, and will be removing the infamous Tal’s Hill from centerfield. The plan is shorten the distance to the centerfield wall, making the distance 409 feet instead of 436. The extra 27 feet will be used as a concourse area for fans, as well as an area for concessions. As Astros owner Jim Crane pointed out in an interview, the move is in the interest of player safety, among other things. Still, Tal’s Hill provided a very interesting twist, and it’s removal will take something away from Minute Maid Park.

Rookie of the Year Watch 

Kris Bryant and Joc Pederson have essentially run away with the National League Rookie of the Year race, and few rookie pitchers have been overly impressive through the early going. Carlos Rodon is one of those pitchers that may take a run at the American League Rookie of the Year, though. The recent White Sox call up has allowed 12 earned runs over his first 34 Major League innings, and has fanned 35 hitters. Rodon was considered one of the most polished players in last years draft class, and that is certainly showing on the south side of Chicago. Rodon’s biggest competitors in the American League are Blue Jays second baseman Devon Travis and Rays outfielder Steven Souza Jr., though Rodon is considerably outplaying both of them.

Cubs Upend Nationals

After dropping two of three to the tail-spinning Marlins, the Cubs managed to catch most people off guard and take three of four from the Washington Nationals. Now five games over .500, the Cubs have dropped to third in the NL Central standings, half a game behind Pittsburgh and seven games behind Saint Louis. News came out on Sunday that Javier Baez will be out one-to-two months with a broken finger. The timing of this is extremely unfortunate, considering how well Baez had been playing and how near he appeared to be to a call up. The club should receive a boost with Chris Denorfia coming off of the disabled list, as they take on the ice cold Tigers in a two game series starting Tuesday. The Reds are on the schedule for next week, as well.


 

MPV of the Week: Joc Pederson gets the nod this week, after leading all hitters in runs batted in, total bases and home runs over the last seven days. The Dodgers’ centerfielder went nine for 31, though managed a .389 on base percentage over that stretch.Houstn

Cy Young: Chris Sale is the easy choice this week, after throwing seven scoreless innings against Texas and striking out 13. Over Sale’s last 22.2 innings, Sale has allowed three earned runs and struck out 35.

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Javier Baez Breaks His Finger, Out 4-8 Weeks

Monday, June 8th, 2015

In case you missed it, Javier Baez broke his finger on Sunday. The doctors have placed the timetable at 4-8 weeks. For Baez, it’s almost a lost year at this point. With him missing the first month due to the passing of his sister and now this, it has to be hard to feel confident if you’re him, especially tonight watching the MLB draft and knowing that back in 2011, that was him on that stage being picked in the 1st round.

It’s got to be even more frustrating for the Cubs front office as there was big talk that he was coming up to DH with several games in AL parks coming up in the next two weeks. He had been hitting very well in Iowa and really deserved the call up. and now this.

At this point, you hope he can get healed up quickly, get some at bats in in the month of August down the stretch for Iowa and then maybe see time with the big club in September. I would think the Cubs and Javy would think strongly about also having him play somewhere this winter as well to get those missed at bats in. We’ll see. It’s just very disappointing news for him.

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Game 54 Notes – Hammel is Masterful and We May Have a Closer Problem

Sunday, June 7th, 2015

Cubs (4) @ Nationals (2)

W: Jason Hammel (5-2)
L: Joe Ross (0-1)
S: Pedro Strop (2)

I was at the game on Saturday, thanks to my wife who got me two tickets for my birthday. It was a fun trip. I left Raleigh on Friday afternoon and spent the evening with Tom C, a loyal reader of the blog for many years. We hung out on a Friday night and played Strat-O-Matic baseball. If you’ve never played it (it was my first time), it’s a total nerd game. It’s baseball played out through dice and it’s amazingly accurate and in depth. I was stuck using the 2012 Cubs, which was not a good year. In case you have forgotten, take a look at their page that season. It’s hard to believe that we saw that team on the field just a short time ago. As you might expect, I lost the game, especially considering my starter was Chris Volstad.

GOOD

  • Jason Hammel continues to be really good when he is wearing a Cubs uniform. It’s odd, but I’ll take it. I remarked to my friend Shaun, who I attended the game with, that Hammel had been pitching well this year and that I expected another good outing. He promptly gave up a home run on the first pitch to Wilson Ramos in the 2nd inning to make me look silly, but settled down from then on to earn his fifth win of the season (I mention it because we all know wins are the most important pitcher metric out there right now). After the game, Joe Maddon made the case that he deserved a spot on the All Star team, and I think you could make a case. I don’t think he’ll earn a spot (it would be his 1st), but a case could be made. In a normal year where the Cubs stink, you could just give him the nod as the sole rep and be OK with it, but this year is a little different.I liked the move by Joe Maddon to let Hammel come out and work the 9th, but I was pleased to see the short hook. As soon as Bryce Harper hit a home run to lead off the inning, I remarked on Twitter that it was time to pull him, Joe checked his Twitter feed, and promptly obeyed.
  • Addison Russell got his first start at shortstop, giving Starlin Castro a day off. Russell has a higher ceiling as a fielder at the shortstop position, and I would love to see him take that spot and have Castro shifted to 2B. If it happens, and I believe it will, I think it will be at the start of next year or if Castro is traded. Russell didn’t wow at short yesterday, but there wasn’t much of an opportunity for him to do anything spectacular.
  • Anthony Rizzo extended his hitting streak to 11 games, which is a career high for him.

BAD

  • The ballpark food choices that I found at Nats park were less than awesome. I walked down the concourse before the game looking for somewhere unique to try and came up empty. My search resulted in over priced chicken strips that came with fries and a cashier that said there was no way to upsell me a thing of nacho cheese to dip my fries in. If I wanted cheese for my fries, I had to order cheese fries. Honestly, the dumbing down of our society and our workers never seems to amaze me. No one can problem solve anymore. If the computer doesn’t have an option for it, it can’t be done.
  • We have a closer controversy now, apparently. After lifting Hammel in the 9th, Maddon brought in Hector Rondon to close it out. After the first batter reached, Rondon was pulled and Pedro Strop came in to close the game out. I’ll be honest and say that I can’t figure out this move at all. I understand that Rondon has three blown saves this year, but lately he’s been fine. He wasn’t suddenly in trouble in the inning. The move makes no sense and it can only be a bad thing. When you make a move like that, it tells Rondon that you don’t trust him. When you make a move to replace him for Strop, a guy who has really struggled of late, it tells him that you really don’t trust him. It will be interesting to see what happens going forward. Maddon has said that he made the move because he didn’t like the looks of the walk and that Rondon is still the closer. We will see what happens.

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THIS DAY IN CUBS HISTORY

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1906Christy Mathewson and Joe McGinnity give up 11 first inning runs, allowing the Cubs to rout the Giants, 19-0. Matty, who is probably still suffering the effects of diphtheria contracted in the spring, retires only one batter while issuing six bases-on-balls in the West Side Grounds contest.

1998 – After going 6-0 against Atlanta and Florida, the Cubs complete their third consecutive three-game sweep by beating the White Sox, 13-7. The last time Chicago put together a similar streak occurred in 1918.

2012 – Starlin Castro becomes the 28th player to collect 500 hits before the age of 23 when he singles off A.J. Burnett with two outs in the fifth inning in the Cubs’ 12-2 victory over the Bucs at PNC Park. The 22-year, 167 day old Chicago shortstop reaches the milestone in his 421st major league game.

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