Friday, July 29, 2005

What to do with Nomar?

Last year Nomar was the talk of Chicago, a year later he finds himself working through the minors in another comeback. When the Cubs acquired Garciaparra expectations for the 2004 team skyrocketed. Nobody would have expected that young Matt Murton, also acquired in the deal, would play a more significant role for the 2005 Cubs.

Now, it looks like Nomar's stint at Peoria is complete. In his two games with the Chief's Garciaparra was 1-for-5 with two walks and a run scored. Nomar will head to Jackson, TN to play for the DiamondJaxx.

Nomar’s quick recovery from his violent injury back in April has put the Cubs in an unfamiliar situation. At shortstop the Cubs have some different options both short-term and more interestingly long-term.

In the short-term the Cubs have to figure how healthy Nomar is and how is he best suited to help the team down the stretch. Do they sit Neifi Perez who has done a fine job filling in for Garciaparra or do they platoon the two?

Looking down the road where does Nomar fit into the Cubs long term plans? Last month, when the Cubs honored Mia Hamm, it was mentioned that Nomar and Mia are building a home in Winnetka and plan on making Chicago their home. Nomar signed a one year deal with the Cubs last winter. Do the Cubs have a handshake agreement to keep Nomar? When will Ronny Cedeno be given a shot to play everyday for the Cubs. If that chance comes next season should the Cubs sign the high priced Garciaparra? Would Cedeno or Nomar be able and willing to play second base? What would happen to all of this if the Cubs deal for Soriano?

There weren’t many suitors for Nomar last winter. After this severe injury there will be few, if any. Garciaparra is a great draw and a fan favorite. With the emergence of Derrek Lee the Cubs have their superstar. If the Cubs can get Nomar at a cheap rate I’d sign him again. I hope at this point in his career, Nomar will consider a position change if it is best for the team.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Trade talks

Bruce Levine of ESPN 1000 reported this evening that Jim Hendry has had conversations with the Texas Rangers regarding their power hitting second sacker, Alfonso Soriano. Levine stated that Soriano would be moved to LF if he became a member of the Cubs and that the Rangers had Pie on their wish list. He also mentioned that Hendry asked about OF Kevin Mench.

Soriano's numbers are very impressive for a 2B and actually quite nice even when put in context with corner OFs.

.282avg, .316obp, .544slg, 25HR, 68rbi, & 14SB

Soriano is a free agent after this year and Texas seems to actively shopping him. I can't see Hendry giving Texas much for a rental player, but Hendry is the king of splashy mid-season trades.

D-Backs 6, Cubs 0

A very disappointing finish to a disappointing game.
The Cubs continually got out of jams at the mound, until it was too late, and in the end Gonzo's two-run homer was the biggest blow of all.
After it was 3-0, there was a mini-implosion.
The Cubs are struggling offensively.
Having men like Ronny Cedeno, Matt Murton, and Jody Gerut in your lineup is going to make Cub fans be very patient.
Yet, for Murton, he has been unbelievable!
The Cubs did have multiple opportunities to send runners in with less than 2 out, and runners in scoring position, and couldn't get it done.
They stay at 3 back due to the Washington loss.

Good night from the Brady house.

Innings 4-6, wet and WILD!

Getting everything ready on the board, nothing much happening. J-WO gets out of it.
1. Lee and Ramirez do nothing against the lefty. Just like Duke...when they combined to go 0-8.
2. 1,2,3. It's getting VERY VERY boring.
1. Counsell grounded out.
2. Tracy is tearing the ball...cracks a double.
3. Williams is getting up in pitches.
4. How wrong am I? Back to back strike outs.
1. Smoke break.
2. Inning over, 5 pitches. Worst day to blog.
1. How about this? Len and Bren are being joined live in a silmucast with Mark Grace and Thom Brenneman! It quickly goes to EXTREME lameness.
2. Barrett misses a foul ball.
3. Ground out, thank god.
4. Green scorches a triple.
5. Walk. GET HIM OUT! Williams has thrown 175 pitches today.
6. Another walk, bases loaded one out.
7. UH OH! Thom and Mark bring up some bad Cubs PR! They talk about the Dusty response from last nights on the booing! Len and Brean have obviously been told not to speak on these types of things. How will the robots react?
8. A safety squeeze? Odd call. They give an out to the Cubs on a 2-0 count. 2 away. bases loaded.
9. Great pitching by Wuertz to get Counsell. Best sequence of the day.
1. Jody Gerut did something AGAIN! A double!
2. A sacrifice to third. Waste of time. I don't agree with it. 1 out.
3. RONNY CEDENO HAS BEEN AWFUL TODAY. Another awful at bat from the dingo in the 2 hole.
4. 2 outs, and they intentionally walk Lee. Why not intentionally walk Ramirez too? I dont' get this. I know you don't want to put the go-ahead in scoring position, but I'd rather have them loaded with Barrett.
5. Ahhh. We get them loaded, Ramirez is HBP.
6. Barrett can't get a good swing and grounds out!

Innings 1-3, Running Wild

Well, it looks like the D-backs want to run on ole Jerome.
We'll see how it went

TOP OF 1st:
1. Quick out to Counsell.
2. Big HR hit by Tracy. Crushed. He has the redest hair of any man I've ever seen.
3. Flyout, makes it two
4. TO Clark is having a huge year. If San Diego wasn't 37-74 and leading the West, we could get him.
5. Ground out...easy does it.

1. Hairston lead off single. Where's the Klown?
2. Double play by Cedeno on an AWFUL 2-0 pitch to swing at.
3. Lee grounds out. Wonderful.

1. Single to lead it off,
2. Ground out, runner to 2nd.
3. WOW! Great throw by Barrett for the second out!
4. Walk in the 8 hole. That's baseball folks!
5. Called out on strikes.

1. Ramirez called out on strikes.
2. Barrett singles.
3. Burnitz grounds out.
4. Perez is out.

What happened? Nothing.

1. Murton, is hitting everything base hit.
2. J-WO with a fantastic bunt. Runner on 2nd. 1 out.
3. Hairston and Cedeno can't get it done.

At the end of 3, 1-0 Backs.
This game is maybe the most boring ever.

Day 2, Unemployment Circles/ Cubs vs. D-backs!

Today's game is the Arizona Diamondbacks
(49-54) Brad Halsey, 6-7, 4.00


The Chicago Cubs (52-49)
Jerome Williams 3-1, 4.15

Interesting situation last night. I thought I was going to head to the game today, but I think I'm going to wait off until tomorrow. The girl took the whole firing thing pretty well, and the job outlook looks good on its early returns.

Anywho, here's the lineups for the 1:20 start:
1. Counsell, 2B
2. Tracy, RF
3. Gonzo, LF
4. Glaus, 3B
5. TO Clark, 1B
6. Green, CF
7. Cintron, SS
8. Snyder, C
9. Halsey, P

1. Hairston, 2B
2. Cedeno, SS
3. Lee, 1B
4. Rambo, 3B
5. Barrett, C
6. Burny, RF
7. Perez, 2B
8. Murton, LF
9. JWO, P

Welp, time to get out the note-pad! We'll be back with more in just a couple of moments.

the dog days

the cubs continue to play out a huge string of games -- august 1 is the only off day for this team between the all-star break and august 18, a run of 34 games in 35 days, truly the dog days -- with what i must admit is surprising success. now 9-5 since the break, they came tantalizingly close to getting the sweep i felt they needed to have to stay relevant, falling only in the 11th of the middle game. despite that setback, they've continued to claw up the standings, now three back and having overtaken philadelphia.

has anything changed about this team since the break? only one thing i can put a finger on -- the demotion of korey the klown and sideshow dubois. dumping two players whose contributions were mostly to wear a path into the grass from the batter's box back to the mid-dugout gate for a well-earned everyday role for jerry hairston and a cup of coffee -- or is it more? -- for matt murton was plainly a step in the right direction. hairston has continued producing along the lines he has all year, hitting .280 in 89 plate appearances, scoring 10 runs in 20 games since taking over the job in center july 3, assuaging concerns about his defense as well. and murton has shocked, going 481/545/556 in his debut 13 games, feasting on lefty pitching and playing a very servicable left field, contributing an 8th-inning game-tying pinch-hit rbi just yesterday.

did the changes help lift the cubs to 5th in the NL in scoring in july and an amazing 2nd in on-base percentage? well, they sure as hell didn't hurt. i wish i could say that was a product on a changed approach and increased patience, but the team has remained 15th in pitches per plate appearance in july (ahead only of san fran). instead, it's merely a product of hot hitting -- a team .283 in july, good for third-best, with neifi at short being the only regular hitting under .270 for the month -- and therefore probably ephemeral. lee may keep slugging, but some of this crowd can't sustain this pace.

team pitching in july has picked up a bit as well -- a respectable 3.30 era, 4th in the league. two blown saves in three chances and the loss (again) of kerry wood hasn't been enough to derail it all somehow.

now, of course, fourteen games is hardly enough to make grand predictions about the next 61, especially when there's the previous 87 of pathetic, sometimes frightening mediocrity to consider. this team has problems -- and with the non-waiver deadline only four days off, the bullpen, left field, shortstop, the bench and the back of the rotation all remain issues in play to one degree or another.

however, this post-break run has all but removed any doubt that the cubs will have to be buyers at the deadline if anything, regardless of how hard it is to come back, regardless of however remote their chances may seem or have seemed. team management will not risk a white-flag trade and the public relations damage it would do -- with the worst of the schedule behind them, the bandwagon is filling up -- and, after all, crazier things have happened. however any of us might have looked forward to a youth movement on this club and a meaningful reconstruction around its core assets (prior, zambrano, lee, ramirez, barrett), it isn't going to come right now. now all there is to do is hang on, fill in the holes and hope for the best -- seven shots at the astros in the closing ten games for the final playoff spot to avenge the 2004 collapse.

birdcage lining

woe to anyone who reads this kaleidoscopic tabloid for news unless they're getting it for free because it showed up under their hotel room door -- and even then, kids, be careful -- but usa today has outdone themselves for ridiculousness, crossing the fine line that separates irrelevancy from insidiousness.

  • rooney and farmer finish tied 2nd
  • the braves pressbox disaster somehow tips in at mid-pack
  • the most entertaining laurel-and-hardy act in baseball finishes 25th of 30.
for the record, pat and ron took home the second-worst grade for "entertainment" -- defined as how well the announcers interact, the fun they have in the booth and the stories they tell, among other things -- and a lowly 6.5 for "fan" -- again, the excitement and uniqueness the announcers bring to the broadcast, as well as their ability to connect with their audience.

what? ... i mean, what? is this april 1? or does no one over at gannett actually do the work anymore, just jayson blairing us into submission? obviously, someone didn't listen.

at least they got vin scully right.

hat tip to the cub reporter for pointing out this travesty.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Here we go for the final three!

TOP OF 7TH: Looks as if the Giants are getting fooled again!
1. First two men get out, and Z is cruising.
2. Another 2 out walk. I have put a whole through a wall.
3. Big groundout! And Z has thrown 113.

1. Cubs suck. Let's go to the 8th.

1. 1st out, and Z is nearing 120.
2. A base hit, and I see trouble.
3. Yorvit F'n Torrealba hits a double. For some reason, Rammy isn't on the line. If Alfonzo is playing third, that's an out. Tie game.
4. Z looks tired. Base hit. Game over.
3-2 Giants.
(I don't want to do the rest of the blog right now. The Cubs STINK. From ill-execution. You CANT lose two of three at home to the G-men. But...they will. And guess what folks. You can follow it up with a four game split against Arizona. Anyone who thinks the Cubs are going to win that series is a MORON. The Cubs can't beat crappy teams. Bottom line.)
5. Cubs get out of a 1st and 3rd jam with a blown squeeze.
We'll see how the Cubs break our hears further in the upcoming moments.

1. Lee leads off with a single, and Hawkins is promptly taken out.
I don't understand this whole booing of Hawkins thing. I think its great to get in his head (like after the homer yesterday). BUT, the whole "Hawkins Sucks" chanting is juvenile. Let the poor guy live his life. He's a really good guy, and said two dumb things as a Cub, but let it go. I went to see the Cubs play, not to boo Hawkins.
That being said. Dusty will NOT bunt with Burnitz here, when he should. I presume Burnitz will ground into two. We'll see..
2. Burnitz lines to center. 1 out 1 on.
Jane Eyre in the game.
For all you Jane Austen fans in attendance.
3. Rami hits it to Vizquel, who boots it! Stunner. 1st and 3rd with one out.
4. Michael Tucker loses it in the sun, on a Matt "yesus" Murton pop up that would've scored him anyway. Way to go! WERE TIED!
5. 1st and 2nd with one out, and Ronny Cedeno is down 0-2 quickly, and forced to go after a borderline pitch. 2 away.
6. Barrett can't get it done. We go to the ninth.

1. 1,2,3 for Demp. Not bad. Let's see what we can do.

1. Gerut FINALLY does something as a Cub, and walks.
2. Macias as the national broadcasters say, has a bunt go foul, then fair. Are the bounces going are way????
3. Line out, 2 dead.
4. Inentional walk to Lee. Big time.
5. Jeromy Burnitz lines a double, and the CUBS WIN!!!!
WOW!!! CUBS 4, GIANTS 3!!!!!!!
We did it!

Innings 3-6. T-2hours til I call the gal to tell her the job is OFF!!

Oh boy! I just can NOT wait until I tell my girlfriend-future fiancee that I was fired yesterday! This is going to RULE! I think I'll start out by telling her that I'm going to purchase Blackhawk season tickets. Both should get her equally upset.

1. Z is moving quickly, great play by Cedeno who is becoming in integral part of this team.
2. Fly out on 1 pitch. Here we go.
3. Two straight hits, and Torrealba's got 2-0. This is not good.
4. Torrealba grounds out, and we can all breathe easier.

Just to let you know my diet for this game is coffee and Camel Lights.

1. Lead off hit to get things goin!
2. Blanco is back to his old form on the ground out double play.
3. a 4-3 ground out to end things. I'm going to check out the Hawks new sked. I'm 1 of 12 remaining Blackhawk fans in the world.

1. First out.
2. Base hit by Ellison.
3. Double by Vizquel. One of my favorite Indians of all time next to Pat Tabler.
2nd and 3rd. One out. Uh oh.
4. Base hit RBI. 2-1. JT Snow. My favorite Angel next to Win Wilfong.
6. Tucker is older and smarter. A walk. Bases loaded.

The Blackhawks open October 5th against Anaheim. This is big news. In Canada.

1. The Cubs go 1,2,3 in the 5th against the all-knowing great one Brett Tomko.
Brett Tomko vs. the Cubs so far:

1. After a lead off single, The Cubs are able to get out due to a great play by Derek Lee on the bunt, getting the force at 2nd. It's the small things.

1. Jeromy Burnitz goes to third to lead off the inning after a putrid throw by Brett Tomko. No longer that all-knowing in the throwing area.
2. Aramis Ramirez flies out to center. Not a good AB.
3. Todd No worth has his worst AB of the year striking out on three fastballs above the belt. Sickening.
4. They are walking Cedeno to get to the all-powerful Henry Blanco.
5. If Blanco gets a fastball, he can drive it. He swings a 2-2 pitch out of the zone, and the inning ends.
The Cubs can not continue to play like this. This has been the whole series, including the great Monday win.
Playoff teams don't do this!

Innings 1-3 at the Unemployment Line!

Here we go from beautiful Wrigley Field.
My brother is still spewing random quotes from Democracy in America.

No Alou, No Niekro. Wind blowing in. We've got to get Z support.
1. Walk on four pitches. Z looks like Psycho.
2. Blanco with a nice throw out on a tripple hopper!
3. Vizquel singles on 3-2
4. Base hit Snow, 1st and 3rd. Here we go.
5. Nice catch by Burnitz. I would've sent Vizquel due to the conditions of the game, just for the chance to score. Shows you how much I know.
6. Flyout to end it. THAT WAS HUGE!

1. Macias grounds out, but it takes seven pitches...good job.
2. Walker doubles.
3. Lee crushes another line out. Hopefully this doesn't continue.
4. Bernie walks.
5. Rambo on a 5-3 groundout. Fonzie plays on the line a lot, and robbed Rambo of a double.

1. The Fonz pops out. Just as a reminder, I'm 1-5 at Wrigley this year.
2. Cruz called out on strikes!
3. Torrealba gets walked. great job.
4. Line out from Tomko. Tonka. It's not a tumah.

BOTTOM of 2:
Three up, three down. I went out for a smoke, and poof! It's over.


Three up, three down, on about four pitches.
Huge for the Big Z. Hopefully he can give us 8 solid today.

Zambo bunts out. Great.
2. Base hit for Macias. Maybe he's going through that I can hit any fastball they throw me phase that he gets once a year.
3. Walker walks.
4. BIG TIME! Base hit for Lee, and the Cubs lead 1-0. My brother is broadcasting this from the living room. He's another college grad that is at home now on unemployment. We've both come back home in the last two weeks. We're in our 20's, so it's not a big deal...but still. I'm 24. This has to stop. Anywho, I digress.
5. Burnitz strikes out. No good!
6. HEY HEY! Rambo with an RBI single, and with good baserunning (first time in ages) It's 2nd and 3rd with 2 out.
7. H'no'worth strikes out and looks lost. He should've bunted.

That's it from the unemployment line! See you guys after the 6th!

Welcome to today's ballgame between the visiting Giants of San Francisco and the Cubs of Chicago. We are at my parent's house in beauuuuuuuutiful Mundelein, Illinois. My brother is reading a rather lengthy book called Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. I am reading the back label of an Old Style bottle. This pretty much details the gap in education between the two of us.

But, here's info on the game!

San Francisco Giants (43-56)
Starter Brett Tomko (7-10, 5.03 ERA)


Chicago Cubs (51-49)
Carlos Zambrano (7-4, 3.42 ERA)

I had to move into my parents house after my getting fired yesterday, since I was going to be gone August 1st anyway. I was at the game last night (since I had nowhere to be today) and spent 10 dollars to watch Maddux get his 3,000 K. Great stuff. Unfortunatley, Jody Gerut is yet to do anything positive in his life. Including being born in Elmhurst, which is another disability of his.
Anywho, here's the lineup as reads:
1. Pervis Ellison, CF
2. Omar Moreno Vizquel, SS
3. JT Snow (informer), 1B
4. Pedro Feliz Navidad, LF
5. Michael Tucker, RF
6. Edgardo Alfonzo (aka the Fonz), 3B
7. Dezi Arnez Cruz, 2B
8. Yictorealba Torrealba, C
9. Brett Tomko, P

1. Jose Macias, CF
2. Todd Walker, 2B
3. Derek Lee, 1B
4. Jeromy Burnitz, RF
5. Rambo, 3B
6. H' no' worth, LF
7. Ronny Cedeno, SS
8. Henry Jesus Blanco, C
9. The Psycho.

There you have it! We'll be back at 1:20 from the press room in Mundelein! Now to the unemployment papers!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jumping on the wagon

The wins the Cubs have recorded the last two nights were they types of games they were losing earlier this season. So I guess with one foot still on the ground, I’ll pick it up and hop hesitantly onto the Cubs “Wildcard Bandwagon”. It looks like Len Kasper is driving. I hope he stays sober and allows me to drink an Old Style or six on the back of this thing.

The Northsiders continue to battle for the NL Wildcard. John Dooley declared the Washington Nats dead. Why shouldn’t they be? There number one starter has announced he will have season ending surgery and their GM is Jim Bowden who is bound to get pantsed by a deal or two at the deadline. This puts the Cubs in a battle with Houston, Philly, the Mets and the Marlins for the final playoff spot in the NL. These 5 teams are all within 1-1/2 of each other.

The Cubs currently stand at 51-48. That’s 99 games played. My public school math tells me that the Cubs need to go 41-22 in their remaining 63 games to win 92 games. That means they need to play at a .651 clip over the last two months. Even if you lower the bar to 90 games for the Wild Card the Cubs have to play .619 winning baseball. Houston and Philly only have slight advantages over the Cubs when you look at it from this perspective. Houston would have to play .635 ball to win 92 and .603 to win 90. Whatever way you look at this a team is gonna have to finish on a tear to win 90+ games.

How many wins do you think it’ll take to win the NL Wildcard? Do you think the Nats are dead? Who do you consider the favorite at this point? Are you gonna jump on the bandwagon?

As long as Mr. Dooley is right and the Nationals are dead, we have ourselves a race. I am on the wagon! Hey Len, do we need air in the tires?

rich hill

with wood done for the year and perhaps career as a starter, cub fans will be consoled in some fashion or another by the insertion of rich hill into the cubs starting rotation for some part of the foreseeable future. this is a guy that may figure heavily in the cubs' plans, so it makes sense for them to take a long look with what remains of this season.

what to expect from the kid is hard to say, of course -- hill has featured a big curve and nice location to pile up 14 k's in his first 10.2 major-league innings. but the small sample size and the fact that he's an unknown may be helping him on both counts. so what more could we say about him? taking a look at his minor-league production might help contextualize his quality.

and it's not bad. hill's last three years:

how does this all stack up against other pitchers' records?

kerry wood, for example, posted sick numbers in hits/9, but showed nearly no control in the high minors and chalked up quite high whips and eras as a result. (as a testament to the potential usefulness of minor-league performance as a career predictor, look no further.) mark prior, on the other hand, showed a brilliant combination of better stuff (evidenced by a lower hits/9 and k/9) and better control (a lower walks/9 and hr/9) than hill in his mere 63 minor-league innings -- and that was reflected in prior's 2.26 career minor era. so we might say that hill will likely be quite a different pitcher from wood, and further is not nearly so talented as prior is.

zambrano is another story again -- but this seems a closer comparison to hill. zambrano's last two minor-league years:

as you can see, zambrano has always been less of a strikeout pitcher than prior or wood, relying more on his wonderful movement to keep the ball from being hit hard and his era reasonably low. although they didn't keep a home run tally for z in the minors, his major-league stats confirm the idea -- zambrano's notoriously hard to take deep. the counterpoint to great movement is periodic control trouble, and zambrano did walk over four per nine, although he has improved on this count somewhat at the big-league level, raising his game.

in some areas -- hits/9 and walks/9 particularly -- hill and a young zambrano seem quite similar. the difference is in their approach: where hill challenges hitters for the strikeout with his curve, z could rely on his exceptional movement and velocity to keep batters from hitting him hard even when he threw it down the middle. consequently, hill has been more susceptible to the long ball, and that will keep his era high until he learns to consistently locate low. and it may also mean that hill isn't as efficient as you'd like a starter to be, as he may react by nibbling around the corners to stay away from the home run with men on instead of relying on his stuff. in his first big-league start, taking 98 pitches to cover five complete, hill rather confirmed those suspicions in the fourth and fifth by getting quite a lot more deliberate and careful after being taken deep by pedro feliz.

all this makes hill and zambrano quite different pitchers, and it's difficult to make a really solid comparison. but the point is that the quality of hill's numbers in his last 250-odd minor league innings should be apparent by the comparison with z's late minor-league career. the only other pitcher i see in the cubs system beyond a-ball with similar potential that isn't having injury problems is reynel pinto, who really is cast in the zambrano mold. (bobby brownlie is just coming back from arm problems, and sean marshall has been sent to the dl for tests on his sore arm.) i really look forward to hill getting a chance to work for a couple months on the circuit, just to see if he can make the adjustment, keep the ball down and become a part of the 2006 rotation.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Wood will not start again for Cubs in 2005

The never ending saga of Kerry Wood's Cub career took a funny turn on Monday afternoon. Wood was placed on the 15 day DL. Now the weird part...if Wood returns at all this season he will pitch out of the Cubs bullpen. Yes, kids the bullpen. For years people have imagined Wood as a closer. Now the highest paid player on the Cubs will be a setup man. What can you say?

Although Wood's shoulder is going to need surgery at the end of the year the Cubs do not intend to shut him down at this point. I guess they think he can help throwing an inning or two out of the weak Cubs pen. At this point I have no idea. The Cubs and Wood have told us for years that Kerry is a starting pitcher.

Is this a turning point in Wood's career or just a temporary move until his shoulder is healthy? It's real hard to say. Whatever this is one thing is sure Woody never lived up to the expectations put on him.

If any of you live in Peoria or are traveling over there get over to O'Brien Field to see Nomar play Tuesday, Wednesday or Thirsty Thursday this week.

A ride down I-55

On Sunday afternoon, I took the 4-1/2 hour ride from Chicago to Saint Louis to watch the ESPN Sunday Night Cubs/Cards game. This year is the last season of baseball at Busch Stadium (actually this current model is Busch Stadium II). I have not been down to Busch for a Cubs/Cards game since the classic 13 inning contest on a hot Saturday afternoon in August of 1998 (GM can let interested parties in on the "Rest of the Story" for the remainder of that trip to St. Lou). My expectations for the Northsiders on this night were pretty low. The Cubs chances were not bad with Mark Prior on the hill.

We got to St. Louis, parked by the Arch and went to get some food. Did you know Saint Louis has a local rapid transit train? I have been there several times and never noticed. So we made our way over to the ballpark. When you get to Busch Stadium you immediately see the new ballpark which is going up right next door. The new ballpark has a beautiful dark red brick exterior which reminds me of the Budweiser Plant a few miles away. One of the really neat things about the stadium is you can walk around the outside of the old stadium and look inside the new park. The only downside I could see inside the new park is the red seats they are using. Didn't the architects take a look at the Reds ballpark? Red seats don't work.

It was too hot and humid to describe Sunday afternoon in St. Louis. By the time first pitch rolled around the scoreboard read 98 degrees. So as I took my seat along the first base line I questioned why the hell I had made the trip to sit amongst Cardinal Nation on this hot July night. What followed was the most entertaining ballgame I have been to this season--it was a classic Cubs/Cardinals game. Mark Prior was not himself in the first. Prior looked tired and he was pitching at a Sutcliffe like pace. He gave up three solo shots to left handed hitters. I was really questioning why I had made this trip.

Slowly but surely the Cubs clawed there way back into this ballgame. Henry Blanco hit a HR and added a two out RBi single. Hank had 4 hits on the night! The Cubs had pulled to within 1 at 3-2. All game long LaRussa pitched around DLee. In the 8th it backfired. Lee walked and Ray King entered to retire Burnitz. Then The Genius went to his pen for Crazy Julian Tavarez. Aramis Ramirez took Tavarez Lee to give the Cubs the lead.

In the ninth Dempster had the Redbirds down to their final strike, but David Eckstein singled to right scoring the tying run. In the tenth the Cubs had some fun. A Walker double was followed by an intentional walk to Lee. Burnitz layed down a sacrifice bunt that moved the Cub runners to second and third with one out. Ramirez was walked intentionally, the Genius and Dusty were recreating the game in this inning. LaRussa's moves almost paid off. Barrett whiffed and Neifi came to the plate. You all know what happened. Neifi went yard and the Cubs Won! It was Neifi's second career Grand Slam. At this point Busch Stadium cleared out FAST. Cub fans enjoyed the moment, there have not been many good moments for the Northsiders at Busch in recent years.

I am happy the Cards are moving next door. For some reason the Cubs never played good in these Cookie Cutter stadia. In the new Parks the Cubs have faired a little better. Hopefully the same thing will happen in St. Louis next year.

THE ATMOSPHERE: Busch Stadium is not that old of a park. They remodeled the park in 96 or 97 taking out the Astro Turf and putting in a new scoreboard. Even though Busch is a cookie cutter stadium it is in town where baseball is king. Due to that fact that atmosphere in the park is awesome. If you go to a Cub/Cardinal game you are treated to some fun jawing, but it usually does not get ugly like a Yankees/Red Sox game or a Cub/White Sox game--many families come to the game split between Cubs and Cards so maybe that limits the fights and ugliness. Still this rivalry is great fun and my favorite in baseball.

any room for optimism?

now that i'm finally recovering from neifi's shocker, which improbably defused a near-perfect late-inning cub implosion, realizing that the cubs somehow escaped their last trip to the busch concrete doughnut with two wins, i'm forced to take stock. is this the beginning of something? are they better than i thought?

sadly, probably not. folks, it's still harder than it sounds.

this is a team that is now 4.5 back, which is an improvement on six back, right?

well, yes but. examining the situation closely, the standings at the all-star break were actually only slightly worse for the cubs. less distance to cover to the top now, sure -- but, instead of having atlanta or washington, florida, new york, philadephia and houston to leapfrog, we have... atlanta or washington, florida, new york, philadephia and houston to leapfrog. the cubs have actually lost ground on philly and the mets as they've gained it on the braves, nats and marlins. somehow, i can't believe looking up at the entire NL east is a good thing for a team trying to get into the playoffs.

and it bears mentioning that the cubs have won 7 of their last 11 to jump not a single team in the wildcard standings. this may be as good as it gets.

qualitatively as well, the basic weaknesses of this cub squad are becoming glaring and nauseating with regular repetition. dusty's refusal to use the hit-and-run in the seventh to keep walker from an unsurvivable gidp or taking the bat away from his fourth and fifth hitters to bring up the pitcher's spot only to be bailed out by a lightning strike only begins to touch on his deep responsibility for what ails this club. the bullpen has been utterly horrid, posting a 6.42 era and 1.71 whip in 20 innings over the last seven games. and the offense continues to refuse to work for an advantageous count or situation, placing 15th in the NL over the last 30 games in pitches seen per plate appearance at 3.61. burnitz against suppan in tropical heat is a good example, but we could be talking about virtually any cub except derrek lee.

to make it worse, some of the players are increasingly showing signs of mailing it in. the team has chalked up 11 errors in as many games, and has played sloppily in the field throughout. aramis particularly has quit hustling or playing the field, a fact somewhat hidden by his massive output at the plate recently. maybe it's been the heat, or maybe it's just the dog days -- or maybe it's just having to stand next to overachieving cardinals like eckstein, mabry, and john rodriguez for the last three days -- but there is a listless, cavalier, undisciplined air about the team that is hardly reassuring.

looking ahead, dusty's kids get frisco for a few while four of the five teams ahead of them play each other. while that can be good news, it's also bad news. while two of the four are guaranteed to lose at least two of their next three, two others will win at least two of their next three. meanwhile, the mets are headed to denver -- which means three teams will win two of the next three. i'm not very enthused about the cubs chances to do anything in 2005 -- but, if you're still holding out hope for this lot, the cubs need a home sweep to materially make up ground on the field. we're four and a half games and five teams back, looking at august 1 with a club that's far from being the '27 yankees in camouflage. win now or give up the illusion.


I don't have much to say about last night's game, so I'll just link to this which says it all.

Just one note on tonight's game. This Cub fan hopes that Hank White is in the line up again. It's not that I think he can replicate his offensive explosion from last night. I just want the rookie, Rich Hill, to have a competent catcher behind plate. One who calls a great game and will consistently move his body to block the heavy dose of curve balls heading his way.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Phils trade Worrell to D-Backs

Why is this mentioned on a Cubs blog? Here's why, from

The addition of Tim Worrell and the subtraction of Armando Almanza gives the Arizona bullpen a unique situation. Almanza was their only left-handed pitcher in the pen. "You've just got to try to identify the guys you think have the best chance of getting left-handers out," manager Bob Melvin said. "Quality arms are more important than whether he throws right, left or ambidextrous."

The last statement is one I agree with wholeheartedly. Doubt there's anyone in the Cubs organization that feels the same way.

Friday, July 22, 2005

LaRussa vs. Dusty - Take 1

This game shows you why LaRussa is one of the best managers in the game today and why Dusty is not. I know that any armchair manager can second guess most of Dusty's asinine decisions, but Captain Toothpick got his ass handed to him tonight. This was an absolute must win game, one that could have set the tone for this three game set. Big Z came through with a dominant game on the mound and at the plate. Carpenter was good, but the Cubs managed 8 hits against him even scoring a run in the 3rd on only 1 hit. So with the game in doubt and in extra frames, who does Dusty call on from the pen...

Rusch, who's been struggling since his demotion from the starting rotation and Mitre, who's been somewhere between awful & terrible since his two sterling starts in the first half of June.

Who does "the Genius" use...

Izzy, King, & Reyes.

Here we have a game where other than the 1st inning solo HR, the Cards didn't get a runner past 1B until the leadoff 11th inning triple by Mabry. So what does "the Genius" do in this critical situation...

First he pinch runs for Mabry to get some decent wheels on 3B. Then after a ground out, he calls for the suicide squeeze, which is perfectly executed by "Mini-Me" Eckstein. Game over, Cards win.

Now the Dusty supporters can come in and make excuses, e.g. "he can't hit for the players". The sad truth is that both Dusty and LaRussa realized how important this game was, but only one of them managed it like was. This is eerily similar to 2003 NLCS when Dusty kept running out Veres and Guthrie for important innings and Jack McKeon trotted out Pavano and Beckett.

harder than it sounds

how hard is it to make up a six game deficit in the second half of the year?

the cubs have gone 5-3 since the break, outscoring their opposition 49-32 -- and they're still five and a half back.

there's a reason no NL team in the last 10 postseasons has been able to surmount a midway deficit of more than five and a half. the 1993 braves were the last to come back from more -- nine back of the giants after a terrible april, but going 54-19 thereafter. in fact, the 1993 and 1991 braves teams both came back from that deep, with the '91 squad catching fire to go 55-28 down the stretch.

prior to that, you have to go to the 1973 mets, who were 42-51 at the break only to reel off 40-28, coming up from the very bottom of the division to make up seven and a half games on saint louis and our cubs and win the old NL east.

54-19. 55-28. 40-28. anyone think the cubs can pull that rabbit out of a hat?

once again, with feeling:

  • this bullpen is bad. any pen that finds regular innings in meaningful games for this guy is b-a-d. it needs help.

  • this rotation is overrated. it just is. unless your expectation was 8th in the NL in ERA.

  • this outfield is ridiculous. (seriously -- burnitz, hollandsworth, hairston, gerut, murton and the ghost of a klown? that's a major league outfield? on a team that cost $104 million to field??)

  • this bench is a joke. how do you find this guy 200 at-bats a year?

  • this management is unspeakable. jody gerut leading off? utterly unspeakable.
but at least we have d-lee. keep that triple-crown morphine coming! it's going to be the only thing to talk about from here on out.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

AL Playoff Previews?

The Cubs afternoon loss left me with little to do on Thursday night. So I decided to checkout the ball being played in the Junior Circuit. It just so happens that this weekend the AL has a couple of great 4 game series'(both started on Thursday). On the southside of Chicago the World Champion Red Sox are visiting the team with the best record in baseball the White Sox. Out in Orange County the Yankees are in Anaheim for their annual visit.

On Thursday night I took advantage of being in a two team town and took a ride south. The World Champs are a fun team to watch. They have so many characters--Damon, Ortiz, Manny, Millar, and all the rest--plus Matty Clement was throwing. I have always liked Clement despite how up and down he was with the Cubs.

U.S. Comiscular had a playoff type atmosphere(Red Sox nation had nowhere near the presence they had at Wrigley Fd. back in June). The White Sox looked good early taking an early lead. I turned to my wife in the fourth inning and told her that I thought this might be the White Sox year. Well, it could still be their year, but it was not going to be their night. Led by Johnny Damon the World Champs clawed back and took the lead. The White Sox tied the game off of Curt Schilling(I wonder how long he'll be coming out of the pen) in the 8th. In the bottom of the 9th Joe Crede dropped a routine foul popup by Ramirez. You cannot give a player like Manny a second chance. He made the Sox pay when he hit a BOMB into the left field stands. Game over.

When I got home I turned on the tube to find the Angels trailing the Yanks in Orange County. Randy Johnson looked to be in control for the Yanks. Jason Giambi had hit two dongs and the Yanks were up 5-2. In the 7th, Vlad Guerrero came to the dish with the bases loaded. Vlad, in the midst of a 4-45 slump, got a two seam fastball from Flash Gordon and he hit a Grand Slam to give the Angels a 6-5 lead. K-Rod came in a shut the Yanks down in the ninth.

Both games were outstanding. Two of the games finest hitters Manny and Vlad had game winning homeruns. Looking at the AL on July 21st I think the Red Sox are going to be tough to beat in a short series. They are still the defending champs. I know it's only mid-July but I'm ready to start watching the better teams in baseball pursue the pennants.

Ooooohhhh, that smell...

What is that, you ask? Well that's the stench wafting from the Great American Ballpark created by the Chicago Cubs. Looking back on this four game split, the Cubs were very lucky to get just that. 5HRs from the team on Monday and 5RBI on Tuesday by the one man wrecking crew named Aramis Ramirez. The starting pitchers went from...

fairly decent on Monday evening. Williams threw just a couple bad pitches when he was running out of gas in the 7th.

To "whew, we got away with that one" on Tuesday. Prior did not have much velocity early and was extremely wild, missing outside when Blanco was set up inside and vice-versa.

To what has grown to become typical from Wood on Wednesday. Pulled after 3IP again with an injury.

To barely getting through the 5th inning today with Maddux.

Although the offense scored a wonderful 25 runs in this 4 game set, they also left a collective 33 runners on base throughout the series. When they had the opportunity to "step on the neck" of the Reds, they tripped and landed on their nose.

The bullpen did what it has done all year, shine like gold then crap down their legs. After 4 2/3 of sparkling no-run, no-hit, 1BB relief in the first two games, the pen combined to give up 12ER over 8IP in the last two (including 11BB).

As has been stated here before, the roller coaster ride continues. And just in case you were wondering, the screeching halt at the end of the ride is going to be short of the playoffs. This team is not consistent enough in any area to make a run. They have significant holes in the all three facets of the game. The Cubs can look like a championship caliber team on some days. Too bad they don't look like it on the majority of the days.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Wednesday night debacle

The Chicago Cubs had won 8 out of 9 games going into Wednesday nights game. In those games the table setters had been Jerry Hairston and Todd Walker. So what does Dumbass Dusty do? Baker benches Hairston and puts Jody Gerut in the leadoff spot. I give up boys and girls. Whatever Jerry Hairston did must be really bad. I know JH is not the long term leadoff answer. But if the alternative is Jeromy Burnitz in CF and Jody Gerut in RF leading off, I'll take Hairston misjudging a few fly balls and missing a sign or three.

Wood I?
Kerry Wood left another game early. This time it was after three innings with shoulder stiffness. Enough is enough. Shut the guy down for the year. Hope he gets healthy this off season (I said "HOPE" not "COUNT ON HIM".) In the meantime go get a couple of stud starting pitchers that will eat innings and not be fragile like Wood and Prior. If Kerry comes back next year he'll be a great fifth starter. If he's injured again it won't matter because you were not counting on him to anchor the staff.

Triple Crown?
I am 33 years old and I cannot remember a Major League Player winning the Triple Crown. That's because it has not happened in my lifetime.(the last MLB winner was Yaz in '67. The last NL winner was Joe Medwick in '37) While it is highly unlikely that DLee will finish the season leading the NL in average, homeruns and rbi. It is incredible to me that he leads all three categories on July 20th. I can remember some great individual seasons by Cub players. Dawson in '87, Sandberg in '90, Sammy in '01, and Sammy in '98. Lee's season right now is more complete than each one of those. He is a joy to watch play each day. It would really be fun to see him with a chance at the Triple Crown come September.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Our beloved analyst

In the 4th inning on a routine fly ball to CF, Brenly served up this whopper....

"That's the first time Jerry Hairston has broke the wrong way on a ball since he took over full time in CF."

Does Brenly watch the games? Jerry Jr. broke the wrong way twice in one game during the Pittsburgh series. He's done it at least once every game I've seen. If you put two Jerrys out there, they'd look like Shriners on those little motorbikes during a parade.

Excellent analysis, Bob. I mean Boob.

who the cubs should be looking at

now that 2006 is edging its way toward the stage as 2005 is slowly skulking off of it, the question that the cubs have to begin to answer is this: what holes do we need to fill to avoid a repeat nonperformance and lift this team to playoff-caliber baseball?

besides the ones in dusty baker's ekg, i mean.

i'm often a pessimist when it comes to the cubs minor league system -- for every mark prior, it seems that there are a dozen gary scotts and korey pattersons, so i've learned to politely tune out the tribco hype machine and look at the statistical performance of the kids in the system. and the cubs do, it seems to me, have some guys that are close to helping this team out of some of its trouble spots. given that this year is over in all likelihood, i'd like to see the cubs take a closer look at some of these kids in the show; it may save a lot of payroll room in 2006 for the free agent acquisitions this team would need to compete.

so here's my rundown, in most-desirable to least.

rich hill (25 y/o lhsp) -- hill's cup of coffee in 2005 thusfar was a tantalizing taste, but the university of michigan product has been one of the cubs' toughest-to-touch-up pitching prospects at the lower levels. he followed a 7.10 hits/9 performance in 2004 with an excellent show while climbing the ladder from single-a in 2005, allowing just 27 hits in 39.1 innings over six starts at iowa, while striking out 59. just as importantly, hill has gained in command, walking 34 in 110.2 innings at all levels -- 2.77 bb/9, a major improvement on his prior career 6.28 number. as this was hill's major drawback heretofore, a continued display of command would make hill a possible back-of-the-rotation starter for the cubs in 2006.

matt murton (24 y/o of -- r/r) -- murton is already platooning in left for the cubs, and perhaps with good reason. not only do the cubs sport one of the worst overall outfields in baseball, but murton seems to be showing himself to be on the verge of becoming a second-tier major league player. his decent a-ball career gave way to a wonderful 2005 in west tenn. murton isn't exceptional at any particular skill, but can hit for average, show gap power, make consistent contact, steal a base and play a reasonable outfield. is he gary sheffield? no. murton isn't a patient hitter (as some of his cub escapades thusfar have shown -- he saw a patterson-like 12 pitches in five at-bats while collecting four hits yesterday) and may never hit 25 home runs in a season. but he might be enough to play left for this team in 2006, or fill a role as a fourth outfielder better than david kelton could hope to.

jermaine van buren (25 y/o rhrp) -- van buren's career as a minor league starter was unexceptional, but his move in 2004 to the bullpen revealed a sharp reliever who quickly climbed to iowa on the back of a 4.62 hits/9 with 76 k's in 62.1 innings. 2005 has been just as stellar, with van buren allowing 22 hits in 37.1 innings (5.31 h/9), striking out 45. control is a minor issue, as he's hovered around 4 bb/9 his whole career, but not so much of an issue that van buren couldn't leap from the pcl all-star team to the cub bullpen with possibly great effect. his career as a reliever indicates a brighter talent than the crop that has seen wrigley this year, at least the equivalent potential of a mike wuertz.

russ rohlicek (25 y/o lhrp) -- a lanky reliever made the switch to the pen in 2003 and has been pretty good ever since, allowing just 136 hits in 176.1 innings (6.95 h/9). control, however, is a serious issue for rohlicek, walking an average of 5.86 per nine innings and posting a 1.48 whip this year. i doubt he'd be a reliable reliever at the big-league level because of it, but the kid is hard to hit and the cubs might want to look at him as a potential loogy.

reynel pinto (23 y/o lhsp) -- pinto has exhibited dominating stuff in recent years, compiling a 7.13 h/9 over his last 362.2 innings while striking out a man an inning, significantly bettering west tenn rotation-mates ricky nolasco and jae-kuk ryu. this year, pinto has marked a southern-league-low 2.06 era in 13 appearances for the d-jaxx. however, this all follows a demotion from iowa this may after a rough go of it in six pcl starts. and no commentary on pinto is complete without mentioning his control; while he seems to be able to command his pitches, he has walked more and more batters as he's risen higher. i suspect (sight unseen) that pinto simply needs to trust his stuff and throw the strikes he's shown himself capable of tossing.

pinto is perhaps the single most promising pitcher in the cubs farm system -- but he might need another year and some time to prove himself at iowa before making the jump to the big club.

felix pie (20 y/o cf -- l/l) -- probably the most hotly discussed minor league player in the cub system thanks to the patterson meltdown, pie nevertheless reminds me of no one so much as... korey patterson. the kid has missed some time this year and is just now coming back, so his 2005 line will begin to expand. if it continues as it's been going, there's no doubt it's a breakout year for him in the context of his career. but pie's 53 k's in 240 at-bats against only 16 walks should frighten anyone who pictures pie leading off the cub lineup in 2006, as should his nine caught stealings in 21 attempts. more plate discipline is a must, in my humble opinion, but the rumor is the cubs will bring him up after he's played a few games down in tennessee.

brandon sing (24 y/o of -- r/r) -- sing really seems to have turned a corner in plate discipline in 2004 at daytona, where his walks-per-plate appearance jumped by half from 11% to 17% and the better pitches he saw lifted his statline to career highs (.270/.399/.571). that trend has continued in 2005, where sing is walking in 16% of his trips and going a brilliant .295/.404/.577 with 18 homers in 281 at-bats. sing still strikes out quite a lot, and will probably benefit from some time in iowa this year or next. but his new eye at the plate is a ticket to right field in wrigley if he can keep it up.

david aardsma (23 y/o rhrp) -- aardsma came over in the hawkins trade, and i'll go with what i said at the time:

a two-pitch reliever with a low-to-mid-90s sinking fastball and a knucklecurve that can be great but has been inconsistent, he was seen as a first-rank prospect to contribute in 2005 for the giants. aardsma seriously struggles with control, as many younger (born in 1981) guys do, but his hits/9 and the fact that he simply doesn't give up the long ball indicate major-league quality stuff.

his 2005 hasn't done much to dispel those notions. control does continue to be an issue, with 19 walks issued in 32.1 innings at west tenn, and that may have to sharpen up before aardsma is ready for the bigs. 23-year-old andy shipman is in much the same boat, though pitching well for the d-jaxx; 22-year-old lefty starter sean marshall -- whose control is quite good -- probably hasn't pitched enough yet after a late start to justify a promotion to chicago. bobby brownlie -- one of the best young pitchers in the system before this year -- is coming back from arm trouble which has spurred the cubs to move him to the bullpen. how it goes may determine the outcome of his career, and he's certainly nowhere near chicago, but so far so good.

buck coats (23 y/o ss -- l/r) -- coats is having a nice little season at west tenn, but there's little he's done that makes me think he's a starting shortstop for 2006. his presence on this list is more to emphasize the lack of a prospect at this position in the higher minors for the cubs. while nomar is rumored to be going after 2005 and neifi is not an answer to any problem, this is a trouble spot that this team is best positioned to fix in free agency for next year. ronny cedeno has had a nice third of a year at iowa and has earned his look, but his history does not inspire confidence that he can be an improvement on neifi.

so that's the batch. feel free to complain about who i left out or underemphasized, but this is what the cubs have that's worth anything, in my opinion.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Hendry makes a move

The Cubs traded DH in training, Jason DuBois, to Cleveland for OF Jody Gerut. Gerut was a highly rated prospect for the Indians and had a pretty nice rookie season in 2003. He backslid a little in 04 and tore his ACL in Sept. He started the 05 season on the DL. He was activated on May 18th and has put up...

.267avg, .351OBP, 1HR, 11RBI

He's a lefthander and has played all over the OF in his short ML career. He has enough speed to play CF and will probably be platooned with Hairston.

Hopefully the 12th pitcher will be sent down to AAA to make room for Gerut on the 25 man roster.

Addtional Pondering

After sleeping on this trade, I wonder if this means we've seen the last of Mr. Patterson in a Cubs uniform. My intuition tells me Hendry has a deal in the making, maybe Patterson for an established reliever from a team that is falling (or has fallen) out of the playoff race.

takatsu hits the wire

while the imminent move of a.j. burnett to baltimore looms, a more important development for the cubs hit the wire today as the white sox dfa'd shingo takatsu.

takatsu is japan's career saves leader and has a major-league career line of 91 ip, 70 h, 82 k, 37 bb, 3.46 era, 1.18 whip and .211 baa. for a team that is sending roberto novoa to the mound regularly, this is an easy call. let's hope hendry makes it.

hollow pleasures

on the cusp of a four-game series against hapless cincinnati, riding a rebound that has kept the wolves at bay, you might think that things are really looking up for these cubs -- that they might be on the brink of something.

think again, folks. i enjoy winning six out of seven as much as the next guy, but the promise has gone out of it for this year, leaving only a hollow sort of transient satisfaction in any win. when taking six of seven still leaves you one over even and five out of the nearest playoff spot with 71 to play, things are not all wine and roses. the most appropriate way to see these cubs now is not with the innocent love of a child but the jaundiced eye of a coroner.

that said, the rebirth (however temporary) of the cubs offense has at least thrown light on the idiocy of dusty baker. with patterson forced out of the picture, baker finally committed to the revamped top of the order he stubbornly resisted for most of the first half in jerry hairston and todd walker -- and the cubs have looked almost a scoring juggernaut since, plating 50 runs in seven games. hairston has reached ten times in 34 plate appearances (.294 obp), but walker has sparkled in reaching 15 out of 34 (.441) and scoring 8 runs (to hairston's five). hairston's season obp has now dipped to .348; walker's stands at .356. both look all-world in comparison to neifi's horrid .292 and whatever the klown ended up with, and derrek lee even managed to drive in six in the six games he played with people now actually on base when he got to the plate.

dusty, just so that he can appear a duplicitous slimeball as well as a moron, now says he knew all along what the problem was -- even though he clearly didn't and probably doesn't still. just for the record.

but, while trading in the klown and neifi for hairston and walker is a positive step, it isn't a magical ticket to the playoffs. even yesterday's winning lineup still features three of eight regular position players with on-base percentages at or under .330, and this remains a team with a collective obp of .328 (although k-pat's permanent demotion will make that number better). and there's a whole other side of the game, where the cubs suffer from an inconsistent, fragile rotation and a weakened, unproven bullpen, which rate 8th and 7th in the NL, respectively.

and, of course, there's that pesky matter of being five back of playoff-bound atlanta.

but still -- enjoy it for what it is. maybe the braves and phillies will get on terrible losing skids and open the door for this team to back in. there's always a chance, even if it is a snowball's chance in hell. i had rather thought -- even hoped -- that the cubs could take the opportunity to take a close look at players like murton, cedeno and van buren with an eye toward 2006 and getting a good idea of what holes needed filling and which didn't.

but, should the cubs continue to win convincingly in cincy this week, false hope is likely to surge through the cubs fan base that the management is oh-so-mindful of alienating. the last thing hendry would be allowed to do is make a trade that becomes an industry-wide euphemism for ownership betrayal and part of the cubs' wikipedia entry. there's already too many of those.

The Farns with another takedown in Detroit

Images of the takedown Kyle had of Paul Wilson in 2003 raced through my mind when I saw video of Sunday's fight in Detroit. The Farns will face some form of suspension after he ran toward Royals pitcher Jeremy Affeldt picked him up carried him and slammed him to the ground. The Farns has a real future in professional wrestling!

The Farns picksup the 220 pound Affeldt.

Sunday was a hot humid day in Detroit and our old friend the Farns got a few licks in in this brewhaha.

A look back at the Farns' battle with Paul Wilson:

Don't mess with the Farns...

The Farns delivering his patented "death punch" to the back of Wilson's head.

Paul Wilson on a day he'd probably like to forget.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Korey the Klown and Sideshow Dubois take Des Moines

We are officially two games into the Klown era in Des Moines. Despite what the mothership wants you to believe. Things are not going well for our old friend Korey at Iowa.

2 G, 7 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 HR, 1 RBi, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 SB, .250 OBP, .571 SLG, .143 AVG
--Another one run homer. How surprising.

2 G, 8 AB, 2 R, 5 H, 1 2b, 2 RBi, 0 BB, 1 K, .625 OBP, .750 SLG, .625 AVG
--He has shown over the past few years that he can hit AAA pitching.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Cubs/Bucs Blogcast Friday 1:20

The Cubs will battle the .500 mark along with the Pirates today at Wrigley Fd. Kerry Wood will take the hill for his first start of the second half. The Cubs are trying to extend their winning streak to five.

Kerry Wood vs. Josh Fogg
Wrigley Fd.

TV: Comcast (DirecTV #640)
ONLINE: 1060west


M. Lawton rf .276
F. Sanchez 3b .271
J. Bay cf .295
C. Wilson lf .269
D. Ward 1b .271
J. Castillo 2b .270
R. Doumit c .197
J. Wilson ss .225
J. Fogg p .107

J. Hairston Jr. cf .272
T. Walker 2b .304
D. Lee 1b .376
J. Burnitz rf .277
A. Ramirez 3b .298
T. Hollandsworth lf .269
N. Perez ss .267
M. Barrett c .264
K. Wood p .067

1:20-Wood's first pitch is low and we are underway.
1:23-full count on Matt lawton he flies to Holly.

Conditions: 78 degrees. Sunny, Wind is blowing in.

1:24 Sanchez flies to Burnitz
1:25 Bay was 0 for 4 yesterday. He's 1 for his last 22, OUCH. Wood's throwin' hard 96 MPH. In between hop grounder eats up Ramirez. Score it E-5. Bays at first.
1:27 Craig Wilson strikesout lookin'. Here come the Bruins.
1:30 Hairston out 5-3 on a bunt attempt.
1:31 Walker swings at the first pitch and grounds to first.
1:32 Lee flies deep to RCF. I counted 4 pitches in the inning.
After 1. 0-0
Top o' the second
1:35 Ward flies to the corner in RF where Burnitz makes a good catch.
1:36 Castillo Homers to RCF. Buccos 1-Cubs 0
1:37 Doumit 6-3
1:38 Wilson pops to Neifi
Let's see if Cub hitters will start taking some pitches.
1:41 3-0 to Burnie. Fogg comes back and makes the count full. Burnitz doubles off of the vines in LCF. The wind kept that ball in the park.
1:43 Aramis grounds out 5-3
1:44 Hollandsworth's playing today. He lines to 2nd.
1:46 Two outs Neifi singles in Burnitz. It's 1-1.
1:47 Barrett lines a single down the line.
1:50 Wood drives one deep to LCF. Neifi scores, Barrett scores. It's a two out two run double for Wood. Nice.
1:51 Hairston grounds out.
after 2
Cubs 3 - Pirates 1
1:54 Fogg whiffs
1;55 Lawton k's
1:58 Sanchez makes it 3 up 3 down for Wood.
2:04 Lee singles to LF
2:07 Burnitz singles to RF. Lee to 3b
2:08 Ramirez hits his 20th into the LF bleachers. It's 6-1 northsiders.
2:09 Holly's out 4-3
2:11 Neifi lines to second
after 3
Cubs 6 - Pirates 1
2:15 Bay whiffs
2:16 Wilson grounds out 6-3
2:18 Ward flies to Jerry Junior who makes a nice running catch going back on the ball.
2:22 Barrett out 4-3, Wood 5-3
2:24 Hairston flies to RF.
after 4
Cubs 6 - Pirates 1
You hate to call any lead comfortable but this feels pretty comfy. Wood is throwing well and the Cubs are scoring some runs.

2:26 Castillo singles. that's the second hit for the Bucs
2:29 Doumit groundsout. castillo to second.
2:30 Jack Wilson hits a grounder to Neifi who throws to third to easily get Castillo. That was some really bad baserunning.
2:31 Redman pinch hits for Fogg, who only goes 4, he fans. Woody is sailing.
Meadows relieves Josh Fogg.
2:34 Ward makes a real nice play on a grounder hit down the line by Walker. He robs Todd of a double.
2:35 Lee's out 6-3
2:38 Burnitz works the count full. He lines to short.
End of 5
Cubs 6 - Pirates 1
Top of 6th. The third time through the order for Wood.
2:43 2-1 changeup to Lawton who grounds out to Walker.
2:44 Sanchez pops to Walker. To quick outs.
2:45 Bay flies to Burnie. Cubs still up pretty good. 6-1
The traffic in Chicago is getting worse. In the middle of the day on a Friday It took me 50 minutes to make a trip that usually takes 40 minutes during rush hour.

ROSTER MOVES- The Cubs put Greenberg on the DL with his concussion. Grieve was recalled.
Also the Marlins have designated Al Leiter for assignment.

2:48 Ramirez leads off with a single to shallow center. He's 2 for 3.
2:50 Hollandsworth hits a little "duck-snort" to left. Craig Wilson looks lost out in LF. Not as bad as when the Mets moved Tawd to LF. That was brilliant. Was Bobby Valentine the Met Manager that did that?
2:52 Neifi's wearing some funky sun-glasses at the plate. He lines a double over Wards head down the line. Ramirez comes home. Holly to third. The Cubs lead 7-1. Way to go Neifi.
2:53 Meadows is intentionally walking Michael Barrett. The bases are drunk for Wood.
2:56 Kerry steps in- Len just told us that Kerry has 7 career bombs- Spin Williams to the mound to talk with Meadows. C'mon Kerry. Wood flies to Bay in shallow CF. Hollandsworth holds. That was a good thing. Bay made a good throw home. The top of the order's coming up.
2:59 Walker lines a double to left center field. Wait a minute. Walker kept going. Is this an inside the parker? Remember when Ron Cey got an inside the park homer on a similar play. The umpire was signaling play it. Anyway. They call Walker back to second. It's a ground rule double.
3:01 Here's Lee. Lee bounces back to Meadows. Walker to third. McClendon has seen enough. John Grabow's comin' in. 11-1 Northsiders.
3:05 Burnitz pops up Castillo makes an awkward catch on the pitchers mound.
End o' 6
Cubs 11 - Pirates 1
That was Jerry Junior's first career grand slam.

Top of 7. Michael Wuertz is in for Wood. Here's Kerry's line: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, o BB, 5 K's. His ERA is now 4.41. Wood threw only 75 pitches. That's good stuff.

3:08 Wuertz walks Wilson.
3:10 Ward grounds into a twin killing.
3:11 Castillo doubles to left center. He has all three Pirate hits. Who is this guy?
3:12 Doumit grounds to Lee.
Mark Cuban sings the 7th Inning Stretch.

I heard yesterday that the Cubs were starting a stretch where they play 20 of 27 games versus losing teams.

3:16 Macias (pinch hitting for Ramirez) singles to center. (Comcast missed the play)
3:17 Holly popsout.
3:18 Cedeno pinch hits and gets a swinging bunt basehit. Macias to 2B.
3:19 Barrett lines into a twin killing.
End of 7
Cubs 11 - Pirates 1
Apparently Mayor Daley axed a bunch of Department Heads downtown today. Hmmm, Very interesting. Our next Mayoral election is in 2007.

Macias is in at third. Cedeno at SS. Remlinger is pitching.

3:22 Wilson grounds to second.
3:23 Machowiak grounds to Lee.
3:25 Restovich flies to CF. Hairston took two steps in and had to go back the ball
Jose Mesa in to throw for the Pirates.
3:28 Ben Grieve pinch hitting. His stats at Iowa. .250/12/29. Basehit up the middle.
3:30 Mesa throws a ball behind Jerry Hairston. Grieve to second. Both benches are warned. 3-0 to Hairston. Glendon Spahn is warming up in the Cub pen.
3:32 Strike to Jerry. He pops to Sanchez at third. Now all hell just broke lose. Mesa went after Hairston. Crazy Lloyd is on the field going nuts. Hairston was nearly in the dugout when Mesa started walking towards the Cub dugout. Mesa has been ejected. McClendon is pissed. Reading lips, Hairston said "I'm gonna get your ass". I have no idea who said something first. Hairston or Mesa. Nothing like a little bad blood between these two teams. The Pirates have to be frustrated.
3:37 Vogelsong is the Pirates 5th pitcher of the day. Walker is at the plate with Grieve on second. Walker is hitting .303. He pops to Sanchez. Walker makes his way back to the dugout with no issues.
3:39 Lee hits one up the middle it's an infield hit. Lee is 2 for 5. Grieve to third.
3:40 Murton pinch hitting for Burnitz. (Dusty's getting 'em all in) Murton should start on Saturday vs. Zach Duke. Murton whiffs.
End of 8
Cubs 11 - Pirates 1
The Cubs will be 45-44. They'll be 4-1/2 games back in the wild card.

TOP OF THE NINTH IN A LAUGHER. Murton is in left. Holly to right. Rusch is pitching.

3:44 Sanchez grounds to Rusch. One dead.
3:45 Bobby Hill with a soft line drive that drops in front of Murton. 1 on 1 out.
3:46 Craig Wilson needs to grow his hair out again. Rusch is not getting the calls on the corner he was getting as a starter. Still Wilson fans on a curve.
3:48 The fans come to their feet. Ward pops it up to Lee.


That's their fifth win in a row. Greg Maddux will face the rookie left handed pitcher Zach Duke on Saturday.

Today's 1060west's ThreeStars are:
1. Kerry Wood
2. Aramis Ramirez
3. Neifi Perez

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hendry: "We haven't yet done a great job developing positional players."

It looks to me like the Northsiders have committed themselves to a youth movement. Whether or not Baker will survive remains to be seen.


Hendry also is under pressure, in Chicago, where Cubs fans have become less patient. "We want to win today, but there has to be a steady growth with young players," says Hendry, who turned to Double-A this week and brought up outfielders Matt Murton and Adam Greenberg; had he not been hurt, Felix Pie would have been up two weeks ago. "We haven't yet done a great job developing positional players," says Hendry. "But we hope we will. Do we have a list of players we won't trade? Absolutely. I wouldn't say them publicly [Pie, Dopirak at the top]. And we can be wrong, and five years look back and think how silly we were. But that's not the way to look at it. You want young blood coming in, and in terms of business, you'd better have it or there's no way you can survive financially."

I like this statement. It's an honest assessment of the situation. As a fan I would support the Cubs going young even if it meant a few more lean years. What the hell will a few more be at this point? (The Cubs can start positioning themselves to make a run in 2008. 100 years, John McDonough will have a field day with that.)

I look at this statement along with the Hawkins trade and see a team that is moving in the direction of youth. If this is the case the next topic of conversation has to be the Manager. As far as I can find the only young position players that Dusty has ever played are Rich Aurilia and this site's favorite whipping boy Korey.

Hendry's plan back when he took over the GM job was to build with the farm system. Two things happened after that made him change lanes. First he hired Dusty and secondly the Cubs came closer than any one could expect in 2003. Now with the 2003 team blown up it seems to make sense that Hendry would get back to his plan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Lee & Ramirez at the All Star Game

Here's what the Cub corner infielders are doing in Motown at the All Star Game-This time it counts (whatever that means). Lee is playing first and hitting 4th. Ramirez has replaced Rolen as the starting third sacker, he'll hit sixth.


-Joe Buck called him Carlos Lee while giving lineups.
-DLee struck out swinging to end the first.
-Leadoff double in the 4th.
-Popped out to shallow right in 6th.


-Singled to right in the second.
-Grounds in to 4-6-3 twin killing in top of 4.
-Walks in 6th.

NL Loses 7-5, so the Cubs will have to start the World Series in the AL Park.

A bit-o-news

Caught Bruce Levine's report on MJH tonight. He spoke with our favorite demoted CF today and claimed that Corey said all the right things...

- Blaming himself and not the Cubs organization or coaching staff for his issues/demotion.
- Stating that he needs to change his approach at the plate and do things like go the other way with pitches more often.
- He also stated that need to shorten his swing and is working on this currently in AZ.

Levine followed this up with stating that he believed Corey would be back with the big club in around two weeks, no later than Aug 1st.

I was shocked and left speechless after hearing Corey comments and Levine's "prediction"!

Monday, July 11, 2005


Place: Comerica Park
Time: 7:00 CT

I know there are not any Cubs in this thing. No Sammy, no Bonds, no Griffey, not one player with 500 dongs. Very interesting. I guess I'm still watching this thing--for some reason despite Chris Berman. This thing has a new format with International vs. America. Bud's starting to market his "World Cup" Tourney Deal.

Click on comments

failure analysis

now that the cubs have rolled into the break six back of the wildcard, several orbits behind the cardinals and with about a 3% chance of making the playoffs by my reckoning, it's time to take a good look again at how this team has failed and where the repairs can be made in 2006.


prior. zambrano. wood. maddux. most had assumed this would be the anchor of the 2005 cub team as it had the 2003 incarnation. but things have not gone as hoped -- prior and wood have spent more time on the DL than the field, while maddux slowly declines into senescence with a 4.67 first-half era. having lost matt clement to free agency in the offseason, the need for effective starters pushed glendon rusch into the limelight, where he has become perhaps the unexpected cubs pitching mvp. zambrano has gone from brilliant to erratic as the season has moved on.

the combined effect has been a starting staff that ranks 10th in the NL in earned-run average -- immensely underperforming the high expectations of the preseason.

it is my opinion that many of the problems this staff is facing are a product of their use -- or rather, abuse. zambrano remains the second-most abused pitcher in baseball, and his erratic pitching of late may well be due to the accumulated overuse of his arm. i fear to think that the "tennis elbow" aches that zambrano is feeling are mirrors of the "achilles heel" that prior hid behind in 2004 to recover from an arm injury that was a result of being beaten to shreds by dusty baker in 2003. this continuing abuse has rendered the young starters fragile, and is perhaps even cutting short the future potential of some of the most promising arms in the game in prior and zambrano, sending them down a path already walked by kerry wood.

if this analysis is correct, injuries such as have limited prior and wood may continue to be a feature of the starting staff, at least for so long as dusty baker and larry rothschild handle them. i wouldn't at all be surprised if zambrano missed time later this year. one hopes that the addition of jerome williams will help mute the effect.


you have to get a bit lucky in the pen, like anything else. but bullpen construction isn't rocket science. take the example of the 2004 cardinals. a personal rule of thumb is that a good team needs at least four guys in the pen who can be legitimately expected to toss a sub-3 era -- the 2004 cards, an excellent pitching team, had six guys who threw at least 20 innings with a sub-3 era. (currently, seven of their eight leaders in relief innings pitched are sub-3.) if you looked at the names on that squad, you might be surprised by their quality. but walt jocketty wasn't, i'm pretty sure.

ray king was well established as a fine lefty reliever before 2004. eldred had been remarkable for the sox in 2000 before running out of gas, and the cards smartly moved him to the pen where he wouldn't pitch as much -- and he flourished in 2003, setting the stage for 2004. calero had been untouchable in his rookie 2003 as well, and tavarez has always been an excellent reliever who doesn't do well as a starter. kline had been very good and durable for the cards for years.

contrast that with the motley lot hendry put together, and it's plain that jocketty understands team construction a lot better than he does. who was going to fill these roles for the cubs this year? hawkins and maybe remmy is only 1.5. that's a poor bullpen -- was from the start -- and hendry's fault.

worse, at about two months in, the cubs dumped their best reliever. williams and aardsma may help this team in years to come, so it isn't up to me to say that this was a "bad trade". but i have to say i think we should deeply regret losing hawkins. he got booed? big deal. the crowd at wrigley are drunken idiots. check the board on the cubs, and one finds that hawkins still has the third-best bullpen era on the team -- and i would honestly not be surprised if that is the team-best by the end of the year.

not just that -- check the five-year totals for all cub relievers. he's one of the very best the cubs have had. even with him, we're bullpen-weak. so we trade him? that's a gaffe in the context of this year, even though i fully admit that hendry might have begun 2006 with that trade by obtaining a young starter to help offset the eventual loss of maddux and the possible dumping of kerry wood.


how much can a fan say about the blinding brilliance of derrek lee? he has been the most productive first baseman in the national league despite stiff competition, turning in one of the great half-seasons of baseball ever by a cub infielder. aramis ramirez has likewise fired to life from a moribund start to rate among the very best in the league. these two players are cornerstones that a team can build on.

the rest of the infield has done fairly well on aggregate. todd walker was spelled during injury by jerry hairston to maintain a reasonably high level of output at the position. neifi perez managed to assemble his one good month for this year in nomar's absence -- however, that isn't enough to keep neifi from having been one of the cubs' least productive everyday players, which is exactly what you'd expect of neifi perez. michael barrett remains pretty solid as an offensive catcher, especially in the context of this season at the position, despite his defensive shortcomings.

the cubs certainly have a hole to fill at shortstop, with nomar questionable to return to the cub lineup. but this is hardly the weakest point on the team. baker's ineptitude has aggravated the problem by insisting to hit neifi at the top of the order -- inexplicably -- and that can be quickly remedied with walker or hairston. whether dusty has the smarts to help his team in this way is another matter. giving ronny cedeno a roll is a start, perhaps -- but it's hard to expect oo much from a kid who has never hit particularly well prior to this year.


this is a different matter again from the infield. the outfield has lived up to its billing as one of the worst in all of baseball. burnitz has been adequate but hardly spectacular in relation to all outfielders -- and he's been the brightest spot. most of the reps in center were taken by the worst everyday player in baseball -- now thankfully in the minors (hopefully to stay), but leaving the cubs without a true centerfielder. likewise, jason dubois was mercifully dumped upon iowa, giving the recently awakened todd hollandsworth the everyday job in left. the big issue with that is that hollandsworth isn't an everyday player -- he will probably break down if asked to play outside of a platoon.

the departure of sammy sosa and moises alou hurt this team immensely -- they miss the 2004 production of both, and are financially hamstrung by the deal that sent sammy to baltimore. hendry's inability to compensate for their loss is another black spot on his record this year. the outfield is a continuing problem for the cubs with no sure solutions on the horizon. matt murton and adam greenberg are going to be given some kind of chance to contribute, as might felix pie at some point. with little left to play for, it's an excellent time to try these guys out. it would be unsurprising if the cubs had to fill all three outfield spots with new faces in 2006, so getting a reading on these kids -- especially murton, who might be ready -- is important.


this team signed enrique wilson during the season. doesn't that say everything? if it doesn't, then noting that jose macias has 79 at-bats for this team does. the bench would have been bad before neifi got pressed into the starting lineup, further thinning the ranks. the only bright spot in the year to date has been jerry hairston, who has been better than some of the starters.


hendry and dusty really deserve to lose their jobs -- dusty for his manifold failings, notably the abuse of the starting staff and his stupidity in lineups and game management; hendry, for spending $100 million on a team that had little chance of success before and certainly even less chance now.