Opening Day 2008: Theri0-for-5, Sorian0-for-5 and a Big Day for ‘Dome

marquis welcomes opening day 2008.jpgNot a win.  But definitely an amazing start to the season…at least when it comes to things to talk about.  Of course when you start the season and you’re looking to get out of the gates quickly, it helps to win your first game.  Especially when its against a division rival.  And especially when its the division rival you’re supposed to take down to the wire again this year in determining who wins said division.  

So in that respect, today was a huge let down seeing that the Cubs lost to the Brewers in 10 innings today 4-3.  However, what an unbelievable start to the season. 

It was cold and rainy and miserable yet nobody cared.  Fans were out to support their Cubs, old and new as many turned out to cheer Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks during the unveiling of his statue next to Wrigley before the game.  I can’t wait to see the statue in person.  Its made by the same guy that did the Harry Caray statue and it look incredible.  Henry Aaron was right, it should have been done a long time ago.  I’m glad someone who seems so down to earth and appreciative of all life has given him and all he was able to give back is known as Mr. Cub.  Here is a photo of the statue:
Picture 3.pngTwo tarps had to be taken off before today’s game.  The one on Ernie’s statue and the one on the field.  The field’s new draining system got a real test today as it was raining hard before the game causing a 40 minute delay before the game and another 52 minute delay during the game.  It was amusing to see the groundskeepers using giant squeejee’s to dump the flooded water that did remain on the field into the system.  While there is no longer a crown in the middle of the field, there are so many draining holes, I half expected Bill Murray to show up and give them a hand.
bill murray caddyshack.pngOf course, after nearly a hundred years without a title and months of offseason drama leading up to what should be a very exciting season, what was another 90 minutes of rain delay?!

Once it finally got underway, it was worth the wait to finally get to Opening Day!  Zambrano looked strong before and after the rain delay.  Ernie Banks threw out the ceremonial first pitch and for a bit it looked like they may only get to play two…innings.  After the tarps were pulled for a second time, Zambrano continued to dominate along with Sheets.   If these guys both pitch like this all year, its going to be quite a race for the Central.  Unfortunately, Zambrano went out of the game after hitting the ground and falling awkwardly in the seventh on an infield fly he caught while crashing into Lee.  Marmol came in to relieve him with 2 outs and a 2-2 count.  He successfully got the Cubs out of the inning with one pitch.  Not surprised by that at all seeing that I’d been saying all Spring he should be our closer, not Wood.  (more on that later)

Our bats were pretty pathetic today.  The Cubs were 2-for-31 today without Fukudome who had an incredible debut going 3-for-3 including a double and a three-run blast to tie the game in the ninth.  Fukudome is going to be great for the Cubs this year but we can’t rely on him to carry us and give us a chance to win like this on a regular basis.  The other guys are going to have to step up, especially in the top of the order where Theriot and Soriano were horrible going 0-for-5 each. 

Fukudome was definitely the one true bright spot as far as the offense was concerned today.  It was a blast to watch the response the right field bleacher fans gave him when he came back out to right after tying the game and even more interesting to see how the crowd welcomed him before his first at bat.  This picture to me is hilarious, all the different things I believe the fans think about Fukudome’s arrival wrapped into one photo:
fans looking at fukudome approach first at bat.jpgThe one woman with her jaw dropped in awe.  The guy with his camera ready to go as if there aren’t enough cameras pointed at Fukudome these days.  The guy in front in the red cap looking at him like he’s ‘the one’ and the answer to take us to the promised land.  The guy in the blue cap to the right of him looking absolutely giddy over his presence on the Cubs this year.  And once the moment arrived, he didn’t disappoint.  The first pitch he saw he drove to deep CF.  The ball landed at the base of the wall and Fukudome had himself a stand up double.  The place went crazy…but then seriously, why wouldn’t they?  I did…and especially in the ninth when Lee FINALLY got a hit, Ramirez got on base on a walk and Fukudome hit the shot that people will probably truly remember his debut for.  A three run shot to tie it up and clean up after Wood almost destroyed us in the top of the inning.  Great day Fukudome!  Now, let me rephrase that second to last sentence.

Wood basically did destroy it in the ninth.  I wonder if Lou is questioning his decision…I am (still).  I’m willing to chalk this one up to Opening Day jitters but we surely can’t have any more outings like that from Wood.  Especially against division rivals.  Howry ended up giving up the winning run in the tenth but if it weren’t for Wood’s ninth, we never would’ve seen Howry.  Actually, even that’s not true…it was a mixture of Wood’s collapse and Gagne’s.  Good thing Gagne’s off the HGH!  He looks horrible…not only fundamentally weak and pitching horribly, but like a total slob.  At one point the ump even had to tell him to tuck his jersey in because he looked like such a slob.  And what is he experiencing, menopause??  It’s 40-something degrees outside and he’s fanning himself like its the dead middle of August?!  Something is definitely wrong there and I think it can only mean good things for the Cubs in the long run.

I still think the Cubs have a strong bullpen, however today, the bullpen along with every hitter except Fukudome were the reason we lost.  Piniella wanted a fast start and told them it was important to do so in a very competition division along with all the potential this Cubs team has.  Apparently, they don’t quite understand what he meant by that just yet.  Let’s hope Lilly fares better come Wednesday and the point finally starts to sink in. 

Exciting start to the season..
.let’s start getting some ‘W’s!  Go Cubs Go!
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‘Z’ Day is Finally Here!

OPENING DAY AT WRIGLEY!  FINALLY!
zambrano openind day 2008.pngAbout two hours from now the Chicago Cubs will start their quest of winning the Major League Baseball championship for 2008.  After following every move the team made all offseason closely and watching every Spring Training game available, I couldn’t be more excited, or more ready.  I think Lou has the team ready to go mentally and physically and I think they’ve made all the right decisions with the roster.  Last year’s battle with the Milwaukee Brewers will probably closely resemble this year’s outcome only I believe the Cubs will win the division by five games over the Brewers this time.  Nothing of course makes this more likely then beating them head to head and today is our first shot at ‘em for ’08.

Wrigley is going to be rocking, I just know it.  I can’t wait to hear what people think of the adjustments made to the field and the stadium.  I can’t wait to hear what the players think of it.  I can’t wait to hear the right field bleacher fans’ reaction to Fukudome the first time he takes his place in the outfield wearing number 1, ready to go.  I can’t wait to see if bats that were heating up at the end of Spring continue to do so in the frigid Chicago weather.  I can’t wait to see Zambrano take the mound completely pumped to take the first game in the battle of the Cubs/Brewers and ready to win his first Opening Day.  I can’t wait to see if John Kruk is right about D Lee and that he’s going to be in NL MVP form this year out of the gate and throughout the season.  I can’t wait to see the first ‘W’ flag of the season raised above the scoreboard.  I can’t wait to watch the final out of a game and then see it actually count in the standings.  And I can’t wait to understand how this new blogging format works so I can fully communicate/take advantage of all its functions in enjoying this season with you.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about an Opening Day before and I’m not sure what exactly is making this one so different.  I’m definitely glad the wait is over though!

Let’s Play Ball…GO CUBS GO!
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Welcome to Prose and Ivy! Opening Day: TOMORROW!

With the MLBlogs update happening a couple days ago, I just wanted to welcome any new readers and let previous readers know that I will be trying to get all of the features I had on this blog before…up and running here once again.  A lot of categories are listed to the right that need to be reproduced due to the system changes and I will look to have them there asap.  Until then, enjoy the postings, I look forward to hearing your comments on any/all of it and thanks for checking out Prose and Ivy!  Monday is the day we’ve been waiting for…Zambrano and the Cubs against the Brewers…OPENING DAY for the Cubs, 2008! Excited about the line up, digging the decision to put Pignatiello on the roster and send Marshall to AAA and I feel really good about our rotation and bullpen. Matt Murton’s great but I’m looking forward to seeing Johnson get in the mix this year along with the outfield platoon of Soriano, Pie, and Fukudome! 2008 is already sizing up to be an unbelievable year and there hasn’t even been one pitch thrown in a Cubs game that counts. Awesome. Let’s follow up last year’s success with an even deeper trip through October! Go Cubs Go! First pitch less than 19 hours away!!!
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If For No One Else, For Her

Cubsfancrying2I don’t know who she is.  She’s clearly a Cubs fan.  But besides that, she apparently has somehow become the internet’s favorite depiction of the Cubs’ fan base and their struggles over the past 100 years. 

She’s everywhere.  Any time a fan of the Brewers or Cardinals or insert team name here decides to make fun of the Cubs or their fan base, 9 times out of 10 you will see this picture attached.  Are there no other recorded images of Cubs fans crying?  Not one?  Why is it that this girl has become the third most present Cubs fan on-line next to Bill Murray and Steve Bartman?  Did she ever attend a game where she had a good time?  She must’ve attended a game where the Cubs won, right?  Does anyone know who this girl is?  And if so, do you have any proof of her enjoying herself as a Cubs fan ever so that maybe these people who have been using her picture as a crutch all these years can finally stop and come up with a new way of depicting the misery Cubs fans have experienced?  I mean, it hasn’t been all bad…surely somewhere there are people who have pictures of themselves enjoying a Cubs victory.  I urge all Cubs fans who read this to post your example of this or a link to it.  Maybe then baseball fans who don’t root for the Cubs can start to realize its all its cracked up to be and that they are missing out on much more than just goat curses and black cats. 

I also urge you to post a picture or a link to you crying at a Cubs game or because of a Cubs loss.  There are so many baseball writers focusing on the 100 years the Cubs have gone without a championship, surely they don’t all want to use the same picture.  Let’s help these guys out.  At least if they are going to focus on the negatives, we can mix it up a bit and prevent ourselves from having to view this one image every time, this one moment in time and this one Cubs fan among millions of others suffering in every single article that is on-line aiming to describe the sad existence that is being a Cubs fan (yes, that was sarcasm you sensed there).

Sure, 100 years is a long time and there is plenty to write about in what’s become a history leading people to think of the Cubs everytime they hear the phrase "Wait until next year".  But come on…one of you professional baseball writers, write an article about why its so great to be a Cubs fan.  Break the mold.  And if you HAVE to please your editor and write another story about Cubs fan misery, a century in the making…AT LEAST include a different picture/fan in doing so.

Unless of course, this particular girl reads this and actually enjoys being the international symbol for Cubs fan misery.  Then by all mean, keep it up.  It has been 100 years after all where hopes and dreams of a Cubs championship have been wiped away in one way or another…it’s the least you could do in not taking this away from her too.

Looking forward to seeing the submissions. You can email them to me at proseandivy@cubsmvp.com and whatever photos I receive I will post in an album here on Prose and Ivy.  And if any current Cub happens to read this, please refer back to the title and let’s end the curse, shock the world and win it all THIS year…if for no one else, well…you know.  Go Cubs Go!
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Dear Jim,

Apparently, Cubs GM Jim Hendry doesn’t give an ‘F’ what we think about how he’s handling the team’s roster decisions.  Interesting.

I don’t quite know how to respond to this article.  I kind of fee like Hendry is justified in being annoyed with having to answer this question for the thousandth time (probably literally even after a short period of time).  But then again, when you’re in the position he’s in a) you’re the guy who should be asked, besides Piniella who is also being asked over and over again; b) see ‘a’.

There are countless (not countless, but I don’t feel like figuring out how many right now) news outlets across Illinois alone, never mind the entire sports-covering country.  All of them are putting out their 2008 Baseball Preview pull-out sections this week and each one of them is going to not only put in their two cents as to who they feel has put themselves in a position to win, but also who they think has not.  The decision regarding who would ultimately be chosen as the Cubs’ closer was one of the bigger stories in baseball this offseason.  Every preview I have read so far, on-line or printed paper, has mentioned Wood as the closer and Fukudome’s adjustment as two of the biggest keys to the Cubs’ success this year.  It is a huge factor, it was a huge decision and there of course will be a huge amount of coverage. 

I’m simply a fan when it comes to the game.  Hendry, you are being paid millions of dollars to actually make these decisions.  You and Lou together, I’m sure, decided Wood would be their guy.  When writing your 2008 preview about the Cubs, when focusing on Wood, that makes the first two guys you want to question and get quotes from you and Piniella.  Why is it that I get that, but you don’t?  Where do you get off going all Zell on the press and essentially the fans when it comes to this decision/subject?  You are one of the key faces of the organization.  An organization whose following is as loyal as any other and who’s history stands up to all others.  I don’t care what the reasons are that led you to respond this way.  It’s simply not justifiable.

Piniella has handled all pitching decision interviews with class this year, even with his apology about how he reacted to Marquis early on in the Spring.  And even then, he didn’t drop the f-bomb.  And its not even the use of the f-bomb that I have a problem with.  Its more about who its directed at.  The press: just doing their job, asking a very relevant and justified question.  And the fans: who pay for merchandise, tickets, etc to pay for a large percentage of the budget that makes it possible for the Cubs to exist, in turn making your job exist. 

I know the organization must be exceedingly frustrated with what Wood could have been and what they’ve actually received out of him/his potential/talent.  But if you’re going to name Wood the closer and believe in his ability to get the job done…he’s walked nobody this Spring…is blowing up radars all over Arizona…and you’re saying he’s healthy enough to carry us in the ninth all season after years of injuries/setbacks…wouldn’t now be the time to be the most optimistic?  Wouldn’t now be the time to be even a little cocky about where Wood’s at?  That perhaps it took longer than you’d like but now we’ll finally get what we wanted all along out of Wood?  Isn’t that what you’re saying by naming Wood our closer?  If so, then why be so defensive?  Why carry yourself in a manner that is repulsive and unprofessional at best?  I have been pushing for Marmol to be our closer all Spring.  You and Lou apparently feel Kerry is good enough to close games out and save wins throughout the season, but due to his durability issues, Marmol and Howry would be better served in the set up roles in the seventh and eighth. 

What?

I actually don’t believe this theory…if that were the case then why isn’t Rivera pitching set up for the Yankees?  Why aren’t all of baseball’s best late inning pitchers pitching in the seventh and eighth innings?  The 7th and 8th innings are incredibly important to lock down and get us to the ninth.  But the ninth is pretty important too, don’t you think?  I mean, if we have what it takes through 7-8 and then our guy in the ninth falls through and blows it…who cares what Howry and Marmol achieved in the 7th and 8th?  Why put your best guy to lock games down in the ninth, who you claim to be Wood…yet tell us that Marmol and Howry are actually more dependable and thus are in the 7th and 8th?  And if Wood is so great and you’re confident he’s the guy…then again, why not just step back, smile and say ‘Just watch, you’ll see’ when asked about why Kerry Wood as the Cubs’ closer.

As a fan, I don’t appreciate feeling lied to about the faith you have in Wood.  And just as much, I really don’t appreciate the way you handled yourself when asked about Wood.  You’re one of the key faces of the Cubs organization.  Act like it.  Or make some decisions that will allow you to, that you’re actually confident in.  That might be the best idea for all of us.

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Read about Reed?

I don’t normally simply regurgitate news on Prose and Ivy.  I try to keep this simply a place for opinion, analysis and humor with regards to baseball in general and of course the Cubs.  However, this appears to be one of the last huge moves by the club to get our 2008 club to the roster its going to be (the only other move we could possibly expect that’s been discussed up to now is the Roberts move).  So, here is the news off MLB.com about the Cubs acquiring Reed Johnson: the right handed hitter that can play all three outfield positions that Hendry wanted to add before Opening Day.  Again, I’m glad its not Jay Payton:

The Chicago Cubs today announced the club has agreed to terms with
outfielder Reed Johnson on a one-year contract. Johnson, who will wear
uniform number 13, is scheduled to be in the Cubs line-up for this
afternoon’s game against San Francisco in Scottsdale.

Johnson, 31, is a career .281 hitter (585-for-2083) with 114 doubles,
14 triples, 42 home runs, and a .342 on-base percentage in all or part
of five Major League seasons with the Toronto Blue Jays (2003-07)
covering 610 games. He has excelled in his career vs. left-handed
pitching, batting .308 (216-for-701) with a .371 on-base percentage and
a .462 slugging percentage vs. southpaws.

The right-handed batter and thrower has batted in the leadoff
spot in 394 games, batting .290 (443-for-1526) with a .353 on-base
percentage, and batted in the second spot in the order in 104 games,
posting a .273 batting average. He has seen action in 398 games in left
field, 197 games in right and 64 games in center.

In his last full Major League season with the Blue Jays in
2006, Johnson batted .319 (147-for-461) with 86 runs scored, 34
doubles, 12 home runs, a .390 on-base percentage and a .479 slugging
percentage in 134 games, all career bests. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder
missed more than three months last season due to surgery on April 17 to
correct a herniated disc in his lower back. He batted .236 in only 79
contests, though still hit .325 (25-for-77) with a .381 on-base
percentage vs. left-handed pitching.

Looking forward to getting my first look at Mr. Johnson/our fourth outfielder this afternoon against San Fran.  I admire the organizations efforts to try and get all the pieces together before opening day.  I don’t know what’s been holding up the Roberts deal, our side or theirs and only those involved know the answer to that question.  Assuming that deal doesn’t go through, I still feel good about the choices the club has made lately and minus a couple bats I’d like to see more successful at the plate this Spring, I like the way the team looks going into Opening Day.  Less than a week away!  Glad the Cubs’ first game won’t require me to get up at 5:00 in the morning.  I’d do it, but ****…that is EARLY.

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Opening Day: 5 days and counting!  Go Cubs Go!

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10 Spring Games + 10 Innings Pitched= 20 Regular Season K’s?

The above title is an example of bad, irrelevant baseball math.  It is a stat equation that does not exist, nor will it ever make sense.  However, it does serve as an excuse to post this clip of Kerry Wood’s record tying 20th strikeout from the fifth start of his career back in 1998, in honor of his pitching his way to being named the Cubs’ closer after a strong performance this Spring.

I blogged earlier today about the pitching selections and while I have not exactly been behind the idea of Wood as the Cubs’ closer, I’m rooting for him to kill it this season and have a huge year (barring any potential injuries of course).  Here is the clip.  Congratulations Kerry, have a great season full of outstanding performances like this one that will have people talking for a long, long time!

http://i3.photobucket.com:80/flash/player.swf?file=http://vid3.photobucket.com/albums/y73/THUNDERBLADE/1998May6Wood20K.flv

As for more on today’s game: couldn’t be happier about Pie’s performance today, 3-for-3 and scored the winning run after blazing around the basepaths on a triple he hit in the bottom of the ninth.  I don’t recall Hendry talking about needing a right handed hitting outfielder this offseason, all I remember is how we needed a power hitting lefthanded outfielder, aka Fukudome.  But apparently according to him, he’s been saying it for a while now and has purposefully waited until now to find someone who can play all 3 outfield positions, but especially to back up Pie where we don’t really have anyone to sub in if need be.  Sounds good to me and I love the sound of a GM who feels pressure to deliver…I just hope his idea of delivering is not Jay Payton.  I’ll take Sam Fuld over Jay Payton anyday.

Great game today, looking forward to tomorrow!  Go Cubs Go!

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