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

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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!

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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!

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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

Dailies

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,

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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?

Dailies

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.

If you haven’t already seen the Prose and Ivy spheroid on MLBlogosphere, click on these three pics and check it out.

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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?

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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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Two Out of Three

Dailies

All Spring I’ve been pushing for Marmol to be the Cubs’ closer and for Marquis and Dempster to get the remaining rotation spots over Lieber.

Two out of three sounds good to me.

Considering the setup roles are so important, having Marmol and Howry there will be great come the regular season.  And when a lefty is called upon, if Pignatiello is called on to replace Eyre as the lefty coming out of the bullpen, I feel confident there too.  Also, while I believe Marmol should be the guy over Wood, I feel good about having him there as in insurance in case Wood gets hurt…which history shows, there is a great chance that will happen.  Until then though, hard to argue with Wood getting the go-ahead considering he has had a great Spring, still yet to walk a batter.

So here we have it…our rotation and our closer.  I’m so glad we don’t have to worry, or wonder any longer about how Piniella wants to put this team together.  I like the way the team looks and as soon as a couple more bats can get hot, we’ll be good at the plate as well as on the mound.  Speaking of which, I wonder if Marquis’ words after his first Spring start had anything to do with him getting the fifth spot in the rotation as opposed to the third (which went to Dempster).  I’m glad Marquis will be happy with the situation as I didn’t want to see him be the reason he leaves the team by forcing/requesting a trade.  If the club thinks they can improve themselves by dealing him, so be it.  I wonder if maybe the Orioles were holding off on the Roberts trade to see what the Cubs were going to do about their rotation and then wait to see if they could get the odd man out included instead of taking someone like Marshall in a deal.  I think our bullpen will be plenty strong even if Lieber is sent to Baltimore so it will be interesting to see what happens.  (Listening to the game right now and Derosa just blasted a three run shot, his first HR of the Spring…great to see him back, healthy and crushing fastballs over the wall…4-1 Cubs!)

Before wrapping this post up, just want to thank Mark and MLBlogs for showcasing Prose and Ivy today on the MLBlogosphere in the Spheroids section.  You can read it here.  If you’re here as a result, welcome and I hope you have a good time reading my blog.  To everyone else, thanks for coming back and I look forward to hearing from all of you throughout the season!  Feel free to leave comments or chat live about Cubs baseball.

Speaking of which, I’ll be in the chat room for a bit during the game if anyone feels like talking baseball!  Go Cubs Go!
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Wood and Marquis Kick In One Door While Another Opens For Pignatiello

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Wow. What a great game today and it was a blast listening to it and chatting with the couple fans that found their way into the Prose and Ivy Chat room. Looking forward to doing that with more of you in the near future!

All of us agreed that it was about Marquis and Wood today and they both came through. Marquis was great with his bat going 2 for 2 with an RBI and after a rough first inning, locked it in and came away with the win. Marquis_on_the_moundresized In 4 1/3 innings, he allowed four hits and three runs while striking out five. The three runs came off of one errant pitch, a 3 run shot given up to AdrianGonzalez. I think Marquis must have understood what wsa at stake today as he buckled in and retired the next 11 batters! I don’t envy Lou today having to pick between Lieber, Marquis and Dempster to round out the rotation. A quick side note though, how awful must it look/feel to be the guy guaranteeing a championship this year…and then not even make the rotation? Oh boy. No worries though, I believe it will be Dempster and Marquis rounding out the starting five. If this were T-Mobile, Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Dempster and Marquis would be in Lou’s five.

Wood kicked in his door of opportunity today too by recording yet another scoreless inning, striking out two! With today’s outing, I have to expect Wood will be named the closer…for now. Good job Wood…two days in a row, scoreless dominating innings. Nice.

A door may have opened today for Pignatiello (YES) seeing that Eyre seems to be experiencing some tightness in his left elbow. Pignatiello along with Marquis, Dempster and Marmol is a guy I’ve been pulling for this Spring. Without this time Eyre may miss, Pignatiello has no shot. Now it looks like he may get the shot he most definitely deserves after the way he’s pitched this Spring.

Feel better Derosa (flu) let’s get you back out there asap. The guys looked great today on the basepaths: 3 stolen bases today (Theriot, Soriano, Patterson)…speed is so huge with this team and its great to see one of the guys we’re really counting on there apparently has his legs coming back strong! As for power: COME ON LEE…WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!? And everyone, 8 guys left on base? Way too many. Fun game to listen to but definitely a lot of polishing left to do before March 31st!

Piniella_bobblehead_resized Tomorrow should be an amazing day with all the decisions that are supposed to be being made. Busy Easter evening for Lou and the boys…looking forward to hearing what you have to say tomorrow!

Go Cubs Go!

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How Concerned About Lee Should We Be?

Dailies

As its a slow Easter Sunday for me today, I decided to crunch some numbers. I’ve been pretty hard on Lee this Spring and I was curious to see if I was justified in being as worried about him as I am going into the regular season. Lee finished in the top 20 as far as MLB batting averages were concerned at the end of the 2007 season. He finished the season batting .317, tied for 20th. As of today, he is batting .184 for the Spring. I know we all say its just Spring, it doesn’t matter…no one cares about spring training numbers and it hardly reflects the big names of Summer. Those that normally do well, will do well…don’t sweat their Spring numbers, etc.

I decided to take the top 20 MLB averages from last season and see how they are doing this Spring to see if Lee was one of a few who is doing poorly, or are they all struggling to pull it together. Here is the complete list of the 2007 top 20 batting averages in MLB:

Top_20_2007_batting_avg

And here are the same 20 players with their final average from last season compared to what they are hitting so far this Spring (with regular season games RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!):

Player 2007 Spring ’08 +/-M Ordonez .363 .306 -.057
I. Suzuki .351 .180 -.171
P. Polanco .341 .449 +.108
M. Holliday .340 .326 -.014
J. Posada .338 .241 -.197
C. Jones .337 .406 +.069
D. Ortiz .332 .267 -.065
H. Ramirez .332 .415 +.083
E. Renteria .332 .220 -.112
C. Utley .332 .233 -.099
C. Figgins .330 .341 +.011
A. Pujols .327 .400 +.073
D. Wright .325 .306 -.019
V. Guerrero .324 .293 -.031
M. Lowell .324 .237 -.087
D. Jeter .322 .222 -.100
M. Cabrera.320 .271 -.049
T. Helton .320 .415 +.095
D. Young .320 .300 -.020
D. Lee .317 .184 -.133

AVG: .331 .301 -.061

So as you can see some people have a great average in comparison, but most are way behind where they finished last year. On average in fact, players are .061 lower than what they finished with last year. And I know their numbers last year is a cumulation of an entire season of ups and downs over the course of a 6 month period and Spring numbers are not and compiled before they really get into the swing of things. However, they are AVERAGES so it should give us a good idea still as to where they are at going into the regular season and no matter the fact that the numbers will improve come the end of ’08, this is where they are at on average right now approaching games in a week in a half that DO count.

So, a few things you can say about these results: 1) All most all of the top hitters in the game are struggling this Spring making Lee no different and nothing to worry about. 2) Lee is hitting .133 lower this Spring than where he finished last year, twice as low as the average difference among the other members of the top 20 group from last year making it a big deal and definitely something to be concerned about. 3) Pujols is having a great camp hitting .073 better than he finished last year putting his BA for the Spring at .400. Yikes, possibly something that could be problem for us if it continues into the regular season.

In the end, I don’t really know what to make of all this and really, I think I may have tried to do it to comfort myself and ended up even more concerned about Lee than I was before I did this. Good thing there’s plenty of jelly beans today…see you in the chat room during the game in a bit! Go Cubs Go!

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Happy Easter for Marquis and Wood?

Dailies

Happy Easter everyone!  Today’s game against the Padres should be an interesting one!  Marquis will get the start and with the way Dempster and Lieber have been pitching lately, he best get the egg hunt out of the way early and get focused asap.  Lou’s looking to make the remaining club roster/pitching decisions by tomorrow (finally) and Marquis has a huge opportunity today to make a statement and keep himself out of the bullpen/another city.  I personally would like to see Lieber in the bullpen if that’s an option and round out the rotation with Marquis and Dempster…too bad one of the three isn’t a lefty…I’d gladly switch out for Hill.

Wood is going to get his chance to shine today as well.  While I do believe Wood is going to break down in April no matter what and Marmol will end up being the guy we go to with Howry in the set up role…until then…I’ll be rooting for Wood to do well today.  If he can prove me and any other doubter wrong, gain some momentum going into the season and continue to deliver scoreless innings including two or more strikeouts within those innings I will be first in line to apologize, say I’m wrong and thank him for getting it done when it counted.   Lou believes in Wood and I believe in Lou (no matter how much I think he’s missing something when it comes to some recent decisions in leaving people off the roster come Opening Day ie: Pignatiello).  And I surely haven’t won any World Series…so Lou wants to go with Wood?  Let’s do it.  But I can’t promise I won’t eventually write a posting with the title "I Told You So".

I hope we’re able to go with the same lineup as yesterday yet feature Theriot in the leadoff spot.  I enjoy Spring games but much more so as we get closer to Opening Day and the lineups are more true to form.

The Oriole was back again this morning (see my posting titled ‘Over and Over and Over and Over and Over’).  I know ‘Oriole’ shouldn’t be capitalized in this case really, but its more fun that way as we’ve officially begun calling the bird ‘Brian Roberts’ here.  I must say, the more this trade lingers, the less I care about it.  Spring is for tinkering not the regular season.  The longer they wait to make the trade, the more regular season time it will take for Lou to get comfortable with his lineup 2-8.  He’s already played with so many in the Spring and he wants to stick to one come the regular season as much as possible.  I realize that Roberts would leadoff, no question leaving very little to move around for Lou if it happens.  I just have a bad feeling about it taking so long to actually go through and how it may affect the beginning of the season.

I’ll be around here and there throughout the day today to chat during the game.  Feel free to use the chat room anytime you’d like and hopefully I’ll catch a couple of you on there later this afternoon!  ‘Til then…do your thing Marquis and Wood and Go Cubs Go!Blogfooter2rectangle_34

Bats and Bookends

Dailies

Today’s game against the Sox comes down to a couple key facts. One. Our bats finally showed some life! 11 hits total on the day with our 3-4-5 guys going 5-12 on the day. Ramirez and Lee both got an extra base hit and Fukudome found his way on base three out of five times. The most exciting part of this for me is two-fold…Lee hit a triple and stole a base and Fukudome came through in the five hole after Lou considered moving him out to switch things up a bit. I’m glad Lou is giving this line up a shot for a while longer. I would much rather have a 3-4-5 of Lee, Ramirez and Fukudome than Soriano, Lee, Ramirez for as long as we possibly can given the roster we currently have. If it were up to our bats alone today, we’d have won.

Two. Unfortunately, we had to pitch.

Lilly looked good early and then fell apart. His line ended up being 6IP, 7H, 4ER, 2BB, 3K. 4ER in 6IP. Not great…but he would’ve come off as the pitcher of record since we scored four runs to tie things up, bailing him out before he came out of the game. He accounted for 4 runs and our boy Eyre accounted for 3 in the 10th. Our starter and our finisher…disasters today. Somewhere I can’t help but think Pignatiello was enjoying it a little more than he should. Either that, or it was more upsetting than he’d ever let on. Pignatiello’s ERA this Spring: 0.00. Eyre’s ERA: 9.45. And again, we can’t find room for Pignatiello, why?

Wood impressed again today with 1IP, 0ER, 0H, 0BB, 2SO bringing his Spring ERA to 4.00. I’m still an advocate for Marmol as our closer come Opening Day but I must admit, it was good seeing Wood have another strong outing. Now, if he can only do it two days in a row.

Could have been a great Spring win over the White Sox today…ended up being a couple moral victories and a technical tie. Looking forward to watching this line up with Theriot up front and seeing how the rest of the Spring plays out. I’ve added a live chat option as well in the sidebar…looking forward to chatting about everything with you guys during upcoming games and into the regular season! Go Cubs Go!

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Not Exactly What We Had In Mind

Dailies

I’m watching the Cubs/Rockies game right now and seeing that only a couple regulars are playing today, I thought it might be interesting to see how our projected starting lineup is doing so far this Spring, compared to the lineup we have out there today. Here is yesterday’s lineup, very close to what opening day will look like:

320_lineup_ba_of_283 Counting only those that started the game and not including the pitcher, their accumulative batting average is .283. That is with Fukudome in CF instead of Pie (Murton in RF) and no Soto, instead its Blanco behind the plate.

Now here is today’s lineup and their averages through the second inning of today’s game as I’m doing this while the game is on, otherwise I’d wait until the end of the game. Again, only the players that started the game, not including the pitcher. This lineup features only 4 regulars (Theriot, Derosa, Soto, Pie) and doesn’t include Soriano, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome. Take a look at this lineup so far this Spring and their averages up until this point:

321_lineup_ba_of_334 Their accumulative batting average? An impressive .334. The good news: our bench is having a great Spring. The bad news: we may see some of them playing more regularly than any of us would prefer. 10 days until Opening Day. This might get really interesting, really quickly…and not necessarily in a good way. Ward just got taken out like he was hitting the corner of the end zone approaching first base. Let’s not add any further injuries to the list of things to figure out and deal with, shall we? Marshall looks good so far today…good times. GO CUBS GO!

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Spring Fling with a Pig’

Dailies

Apparently that’s what this Spring has been for Cubs fans and Lou Piniella when it comes to Carmen Pignatiello. And its another case where I don’t understand why the numbers aren’t doing the talking.

Eyre is looking to be the lone lefty in the Cubs bullpen this year. First of all, why only one? I don’t understand that. We have a ton of righties but only one lefty? I’m sure the league is GREATLY dominated by right handed hitting so having right-handed pitchers coming out of the bullpen to jam them up and give them a challenge is very important. And having more than one to choose from to cover yourself when you’d like to stay away from those who aren’t performing is always a good idea, I get that. But still. If we’re going to with one lefty, why aren’t we starting off with the one who’s had the best Spring? Why not find a place for him in the bullpen if he’s been so great…why feel like there’s no place to put him if he’s out-pitched someone you feel will have a spot??? That kind of talk coming from Lou, to me, makes no sense!

Check this out:

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Like in the case of Wood v. Marmol this Spring, for Lou to be so dedicated to having Eyre as ‘the guy’ as our one lefty in the ‘pen…WHY? Pignatiello has pitched in just as many games, one third of an inning less. Picture_2_5 HITS Pignatiello:2 Eyre:7. RUNS: Pignatiello:2. Eyre:7. ER: Pignatiello:0. Eyre:4. HR: Pignaitello:0. Eyre:1. WALKS: Pignatiello:0. Eyre:4. Ks: Pignatiello:2. Eyre:6. ERA: Pignatiello: 0.00. Eyre: 6.35. So congratulations Eyre, you won one stinking category, K’s with four more (and you pitched 1/3 more innings, so let’s say you won that by three in taking away that one extra chance to get a K). Otherwise, Pignatiello has dominated the Spring. Pignatiello should be in, Eyre out. The only reason I can see that he isn’t, is big league experience and age. Pignatiello is 10 years younger than Eyre. Clearly he’s the guy of the future in this role but when you commit as many dollars as the Cubs did last year and then again this year by signing one of the biggest names in the offseason…a guy that’s supposed to put you where you need to be to win the whole thing for the first time in 100 years…aren’t you trying to win now? Maybe somebody needs to kick some dirt on Lou’s shoes and get his attention.

Other pitching decisions so far this Spring I find questionable:

Hill_pitching_1 Hill’s guaranteed a spot on the rotation. I knew this from the beginning so all of my blogs have been trying to determine who gets the last two spots between Marquis, Lieber and Dempster. However what I didn’t know from the beginning of Spring was the extent of control problems Hill would have. The way Hill is pitching this Spring, I’d love to be able to say send him to the bullpen and keep the other three giving us a rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Marquis, Dempster, Lieber. Unfortunately, that’s one too many righthanders and when it comes to the starting rotation, if that were the case, RLRRR, we would be screwed. Hill better be thanking whoever it was that taught him how to pitch lefthanded, either them or his parents for working their DNA the way they did. Without his being left-handed, Rich Hill would be in a much different scenario come April: sitting right next Eyre, probably talking about how lucky Eyre is to be there considering Pignatiello kicked his butt all Spring.

Wood_pitching Wood over Marmol as the closer. Wood was able to come back after missing only one day with back spasms yesterday and pitch well. So, okay, maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. But I just can’t help believing inevitably, eventually it will be. This weekend we’ll see how he does on the MUCH awaited back-to-back days/multi-inning test Lou wants to put him up against. I can’t wait! And if he does go with Wood come March 31st…I can’t agree either.

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Over and Over and Over and Over and Over

Dailies

This morning I was lying in bed, motivating myself to get up and contribute to society. I had nowhere to be today and its days like today I find are hardest to motivate myself to do anything but lay in bed, blog, or watch reruns of Entourage on demand. Actually, that last one only applied to today, but you understand.

Just as I was about to reach the point where I give in to the guilt and decide which of the three I would do next, something hit my bedroom window. Actually, let me rephrase that. Something flew into and repeatedly hit my bedroom window. Not once. Not twice. Not even only a third time. Many, many times.

Now, after you reach the 20-time mark, you find yourself wondering, “What the **** is that?”

I leaned forward (not quite ready to get up at that point mind you) and I saw what it was. And it was perfect. I kept hearing it over and over and over and over again. Trying to go through and failing each time. After each time I heard it hit, I waited to hear it again. Waited to see if a different result would occur. Wondered if it was a good idea…if I might regret waiting to see what would happen or not. It couldn’t have been good for the bird and it probably wasn’t the best thing for my window. But still, I couldn’t help but enjoy the irony of it all. Over and over and over again…same result: nothng.

“So what Ryan, a bird kept running into your window, big deal”, right? Wrong. It wasn’t just ‘a bird’. It, my friend…was an Oriole.

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Wood Gets His Back Scratched

Dailies

I’ve been pushing for Marmol this entire Spring and I’ve never felt better about it than I do right now.

In the past week I’ve made a few comments about how it doesn’t make any sense for Wood to claim the closer role for the Cubs. The stats show he shouldn’t and personally, that’s all you should need to make your decision. But then Piniella more or less implies (through his BS statements of having 3 guys he’d feel comfortable with as the closer) that the gig is Wood’s if he can close out the last two weeks of Spring strong (pun intended) and if he can prove that he can get it done on consecutive days. I figured, OK, fine…let’s see.

Cut to Day One: Today. Result: Wood is scratched from the game due to back spasms.

I nearly have no words. With Marmol’s Spring and a sidelining result by Wood when first asked to pitch on consecutive days…could we please put an end to this already?

Sure, Marmol struggled today but the fact is, he got out the jam, only giving up one run. This game was beyond ‘saving’ anyway considering Hart got blown out of the water (1/3 IP, 4ER, 2H, 2BB) the inning prior. (Too bad for him too, he’s been looking good as of late). I honestly think Lou needs to simply make the decision to announce Marmol as the closer and enough already. Why have these questions linger any longer than need be?

Having the exact opposite day of Wood was Dempster who once again proved my point that it should be he and Marquis picking up the last spots on the Cubs rotation. He was lights out today going 5.1 IP, 1H, with 7K’s! Lieber’s pitching in the nightcap and the game just started so it will be interesting to see if he steps up with his own claim on the prize this evening in response to Dempster’s day. Lee finally showed some life today hitting his first home run of the spring. Having Lee hit his the day after Ramirez finally went yard is nice to see. Maybe the two of them are finally ready to get ready for ’08. But honestly, could Gallagher have looked any worse today? I’m sure he didn’t impress any Baltimore scouts adding to futher delay this ridiculously prolonged trade scenario.

I must say, besides it being a pleasure to see our offense start to get off the ground with Lee and Ramirez, it was also good to see that Fukudome had an outfield assist. The simple fact that he can make a play like that the day after getting hit in the neck is a good sign of his ability to bounce back from injuries/play with pain, etc. And keeping with the Japanese theme, apparently Zambrano had his name transcribed into Japanese and the symbols for his name translated into “to hunt”, “the road” and a few together that figuratively meant something to the effect of “ripping his clothes off and dancing on the mound”. Zambrano’s road starts could be very entertaining if all of that is true. Watch out Papelbon…this season your river dance has nothing on the Big Z Shuffle.

Great game today aside from Hart’s poor performance…all eyes on you Lieber! Go Cubs Go!

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The Next Best Thing

Dailies

While waiting for today’s first split squad game to start, I decided to fill out MLB.com’s Baseball Movie Madness bracket. Four fields: Comedy, Drama, Left Field, Old School. The winners make up the Final Four. Here’s how it came out for me. Agree/disagree?

Comedy Division

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Drama Division

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Left Field Division

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Old School

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Final Four

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Some tough competition in there for sure. I think it may have been too difficult for them to seed the films although it may have made it even harder. Regardless, baseball movies are great. But where was Air Bud: Seventh Inning Fetch? Could’a been a contender. Let’s get a couple ‘W’s today! Go Cubs Go!

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More Like It

Dailies

Anyone else enjoy watching a game with a lineup that closely resembles what opening day will look like?

Me too.

After a rough first, Marquis turned things around and looked great through five innings giving up 4 hits, 1ER and striking out four. It brought his Spring ERA to 1.93. Phenomenal. Soriano looked uncomfortable to me today going 0-3 and he looked horrendous trying to field a flyball in the third inning, letting it drop next to the warning track. Once again, Lee was a no-show, figuratively and statistically speaking that is. Another 0-3 day dropping his avg to .154.

A few great ‘firsts’ in today’s game: Ramirez hit a 3 run shot for his first HR of the Spring and Fukudome picked up his first stolen base as a Cub. I’ve made comments in the past about how Fukudome (who’s name by the way, is censored as is on the MLB chat site they have available for fans to talk during the game…how ridiculous is that?) needs to get out of the way of pitches and his HBP haven’t been so regular as of late. Unfortunately, in successfully stealing second base, he also managed to successfully take the catcher’s throw right to his neck in the process. Picture_1_10 One of his teammates joked about him being a magnet with all the roughing up he’s been experiencing. It’s funny, but it won’t be if it keeps up. Fukudome will be huge this year…especially if we need him to be our back up CF (what is that about? Pie better not be included in a Roberts deal if that’s where this might be headed…)

Speaking of Pie, he played the whole game and looked great in legging out a run from first on Cedeno’s triple in the ninth to tie it. I think the club would do a great disservice to take the Pie piece of the puzzle out to drop in the Roberts one…just as I think Lahey did a great disservice to himself with today’s outing. 1/3 of an inning pitched and managed to give up 4 H, 4ER and walked another. I believe he’s done enough to make the team this year but only if he can finish strong in these next couple weeks to make up for today.

It was a blast seeing our potential opening day team on the field (minus Zambrano) today. Going ahead 4-1 after 5 innings would normally put us in a great position especially if you figure in the regular season we keep in perhaps Eyre to pitch the sixth, then Howry, Wood and Marmol to close it out…a much better chance of getting the win over putting out Eyre, Lahey, Walrond, Ascanio and Hart. Even with those guys finishing up for Marquis, we eeked out a 6-5 win in a thrilling bottom of the ninth performance. That’s the positive. The downside is you never want to struggle against the Royals…spring training or not. I feel really good about where the team is right now. If it wasn’t for the potential Roberts deal, I’d feel really comfortable knowing everyone knows their roles, etc. And if its irritating for me, I can only imagine what its like for the guys on the team. Split squad games coming up tomorrow…one of them featuring part 1 of the ‘Can Kerry Wood Close Out a Game Effectively Two Days In a Row’ experiment. Good times. GO CUBS GO!Blogfooter2rectangle_27

I’m Sorry, Did You Say Wood?

Dailies

Apparently Wood has become the favorite to be selected as the Cubs closer.

I’m sorry, what?

Marmol_pitching

I’m still expecting Marmol to be announced as the Cubs closer. Piniella is talking as if the set up role is almost more important lately and that Marmol would take that position because Howry has barely shown anything this Spring. I have a hard time believing this decision will actually go this way (and will until it is official) and since Lou’s only been around the organization for a year, I can’t assume its to be attributed to organizational loyalty to Wood. Therefore it has to be performance based and if that’s the case, then I don’t understand. Again, here are the numbers:

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Wins: Marmol Edge. ERA: Marmol Edge. Games: Tied. Saves: Tied (1). IP: Tied (7) Hits: Marmol Edge. Runs: Marmol Edge. ER: Marmol Edge. HR: Tied (1). Walks: Wood Edge. K’s: Marmol Edge (8-4).

Does anyone have any idea why he’s leaning towards Wood? He says if Wood shows he can do it in consecutive days then he’s the guy. Why? Because he’s hitting 95-98mph on the radar? So what, so can Marmol. I wonder if Marmol is going to get the consecutive days test as well this week. If he does, and he passes, I see no reason to give the closer role to Wood. Judging by their Spring numbers listed above, Marmol has a huge edge over both Wood and Howry (Howry’s numbers are so far behind, I didn’t even bother include him in the Edge Comparisons.

As for today’s game, it’s great to see Soriano have a 3-4 day including a HR…and in the 2-hole nonetheless (guessing Lou was loving that too). Another horrible day for Lee and the best thing that happened to Pie was an 0-1 appearance for Fuld. Zambrano looks great, very excited about that…nearly perfect through five innings.

I couldn’t wait for baseball to return and Spring Training is always a great appetizer. But at this point, March 31st can’t get here fast enough!

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You Look How I Feel

Dailies

This is probably by far my favorite picture from Spring Training so far:

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Look at that face. “So I’m batting where?” “Who’s our closer?” “When’s Lee getting here?” That picture says it all and its exactly how I feel about the Spring so far. I’m willing to acknowledge the Cubs are the favorite to repeat in the Central this year simply because I’m biased…oh, and because I feel any team who won a division last year that hasn’t seen enough significant change in the offseason to make a real difference this year, SHOULD be the favorite to repeat that following year.

I’m just as willing to admit I’m a little confused. When will Soriano’s face be answered?? The season starts March 31st. That’s 2 1/2 weeks away.

2 1/2 weeks.

A quick start when the games count sure could come in handy come late September when we’re battling for a division that came down to two games last season. Things I can think of on the Cubs’ two week notice plan:

1. Need to pick a closer.

2. Need to figure out batting order.

3. Need to figure out if Brian Roberts is going to be in our batting order.

4. Need to send D-Lee a memo that he once won a batting title.

5. Need to call Dad and wish him a Happy Birthday on Sunday.

Oh, wait. That last one’s mine. You get the drift. I’m happy that Lou is getting fired up about the state they’re in. That balance of taking Spring for what it is isn’t quite where it needs to be. I believe in Lou’s philosophy that a little momentum heading out of Spring into the season wouldn’t hurt. I hope the players start feeling the same way…and seriously…if the Baltimore scout is that present at our games and things are going down sometime soon…can we please just do this trade already? Spring’s starting to give me an irregular heartbeat.

(And to follow up from my previous post: as for Billy Crystal’s performance today…0-1 with a strike out. Worked the count full and then went down swinging. Robin Williams was there and thoroughly enjoyed watching Billy Crystal DH for the American League East contenders, the New York Yankees. Those reported to have not enjoyed watching it from the unemployment line: Mike Piazza, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds.

Now that Mr. Crystal, is FUNNY. Happy Birthday Billy. Now sit down and let the professionals do their thing. And for crying out loud Lee…you got on base today as many times as Billy Crystal, and with more opportunities.

2 1/2 weeks. Time to start hitting. GO CUBS GO!

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The Dark Crystal (2008)

Dailies

Barry Bonds. Andy Petitte. Roger Clemens.

Misremembering HGH. D-Lee’s Spring. Ichiro’s streak.

Billy Crystal.

How much more can baseball possibly take?

Apparently baseball thinks it can take A LOT.

Picture_8*The Yankees have officially reported they and comedian Billy Crystal have come to terms on extending 1-day agreement into a 7-day contract and the Commissioner has approved the negotiations. In the upcoming week of Spring Training, fans can now expect Yankee line-ups to include some variation of the following additional camp invitees, resulting in possible batting orders such as:

Billy Crystal, 2B

Fernando Lamas, CF

Sammy Davis, Jr., RF

Muhummad Ali, LF

Howard Cosell, 1B

Mike Mazowski, RF

Rodriguez, 3B

Jeter, SS

Wang, P (when facing an NL opponent).

Crystal’s request to have Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg signed as well were denied. Williams was not available for comment but his representation said the news has upset their client and kept his applause barometer in an extremely inactive state. Goldberg’s media rep denies claims that Whoopi was not signed because she refused to adhere to the Yankees ‘appearance code’. Johnny Damon couldn’t get away with it and there won’t be any ‘Whoopi being Whoopi’ in Spring Training this year either.

I think inviting celebrities to play with our major league teams definitely takes something away from the game. It is Spring Training for MAJOR LEAGUE baseball…not Rock ‘n’ Jock. Or in Crystal’s case, Mock ‘n’ Jock. And honestly, with his first game against Pittsburgh, haven’t the Pirates suffered enough? They are horrible as it is. Imagine if Mr. Saturday Night embarrases them for the afternoon?

Too bad there’s no chance of it happening to the Brewers. Now THAT would be ‘Mahvelous’.

As for the Cubs, I hope Lee is in the line up tomorrow. I don’t care what he says. Lou’s right. He needs the at-bats. And he needs them fast.

GO CUBS GO! Beat those Padres tomorrow!Blogfooter2rectangle_24

Extreme-Lee Good Timing

Dailies

If I were to tell you the player Lee’s hitting most resembles this Spring is Ichiro, you’d probably be thrilled.

That is of course, unless you knew what I know.

Ichiro is a horrifying 0-for-21 this Spring.

And Lee hasn’t fared much better.

Picture_3_2Picture_4_1I don’t really know what to make of it.

I know its only Spring Training and everyone is dusting off the cobwebs and finding their groove but its not like we just started. We’re 3 weeks away from Opening Day. Against the Brewers. I’d hate to see Lee put up another oh-fer like he did today when it actually counts. Overall this Spring, Lee is hitting .125. He’s 3-for-24, 3 hits, 0 HR and 7 K’s. His slugging % is a pathetic .167. Most people would focus on the part that its only Spring Training. I get that and agree…thankfully, right now these games don’t count. However, another way to look at it is: ITS ONLY SPRING TRAINING. Translation: SOME OF LEE’S AT-BATS HAVE BEEN AGAINST SCRUB PITCHERS. HOW IS IT THEN THAT HIS BATTING AVG IS STILL ONLY .125?

That probably didn’t deserve all caps, but once I got going, I actually enjoyed it.

That’s the same thing Ichiro is saying about his streak. Hopefully its not another thing they have in common.

And while we’re in worry mode here…how about Soriano’s legs? Caught stealing today. He’s been on base 6 times and this was his only attempt. I’m glad they’re not pushing him too hard too soon. It should be interesting to see if they run him more as Spring goes on and what kind of success he has leading into the regular season.

Zambrano on the other hand: no worries. Zambrano killed it again today with a SOLID 4 innings giving up 4 hits (a home run in the second inning) and picking up 3 more K’s. His overall ERA for the Spring is at 1.00. With all that’s still up in the air about our rotation, its great to see our ace is already bringing his ‘A’ game. As for our closer candidates…Marmol continues to impress and I have to believe the role is his to lose with Wood in 2nd way ahead of Howry. Experience may be on Howry’s side, but Spring performance definitely is not. Don’t believe me, let’s let the numbers do the talking:

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Lilly tomorrow against the Rangers. Think there might be any more Marlon Byrd talks during the game? (on a related note: who wants Coco Crisp when you can have yourself some Pie?) GO CUBS GO!

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“Hot Bats? Have a Brew’ and cool ‘em down!” OR “Crystal Balls”

Dailies

Today was ridiculous for the Cubs and the game was nowhere near as close as the final score makes it look. Out of 21 Cubs who came to bat, only two of them (Theriot and Ramirez) looked any good and once again…way to many oh-fers! Cubs lost to the Brewers today (AGAIN! Opening day is coming guys!) by a score of 6-4 and its not even like we left a lot of opportunity out on the bases. They only stranded 2 runs. It never ceases to amaze me how a team can destroy one day and get destroyed the next. Rich Hill was roughed up something fierce pitching 2 2/3 innings giving up 8 hits and 4 ER’s. Hill_pitching Piniella has announced he will officially be our fourth pitcher in the rotation. I know its only one game and in the Spring nonetheless, but still. Spring lineups your pitcher is facing are not the same caliber they will be facing in the regular season. It would make much more sense to see them punishing people now and hope it continues later than seeing them flounder now and hope it turns around when the season starts given the types of players who are getting into the games right now. I don’t know. Shake it off Hill and let’s all just move on to the next game.

On a positive note Lahey (that’s right Lahey…he’s earned the right to not be called “Not Scott Kazmir” as I have been calling him with his pitching lately) looked great again pitching out of a bases loaded jam in 1 1/3 innings giving up no hits and picking up another strike out. What a great surprise this kid has been.

Pie has me a little concerned, or should I say his groin has me concerned. If this ‘minor groin surgery’ he’s coming off, resulting in him missing up to 5 days, is taking care of the twisted testicle he suffered from earlier this Spring, then fine it’s done with. But given I’d like to see Pie as our guy in CF for the entire ’08 season, I hope this isn’t something that keeps coming back. It’ll be interesting to see if Fuld takes advantage of this additional playing time.

One thing that did come back was Derosa and it was great having him back. Picture_2_2 Hearing what he’s been saying in interviews sounds like he’s in a great place mentally. He just has to get over the fear of something happening since he did just come off heart surgery. The fact that he put the ball in play in all three at-bats with his mind not quite right, I believe is a great start and sign of things to come. He may have gone 0-3, but he’ll get to where he needs to be after he gets used to seeing live pitching again and becomes more comfortable with playing after surgery. Welcome back Mark…good to see you back.

And on a more “Wait, what?” note…Billy Crystal will sign a one day contract with the Yankees on Wednesday and he will play in their game against the Pirates on Thursday. Picture_1_8 As if Clemens, Petitte and Hank Steinbrenner aren’t making the Yankees a big enough laughing stock already. Have fun Billy. 700 Sundays and one Thursday. Billy Crystal: Yankee. I look forward to hating you for the day. GO CUBS GO!Blogfooter2rectangle_22

He’s Baaa…aaaack!

Dailies

Welcome back to the leadoff spot Mr. Soriano.  Good to have you back.

Picture_1_7It was exciting to see a lineup today with what could potentially be our starting 1-4 hitters come the regular season.  I’ve been concerned about how quickly they decide to bring Soriano back because of his injuries and it will be interesting to hear if everything is still a go after playing today.  I can’t imagine his finger is 100% so soon…but then maybe a player of Soriano’s caliber doesn’t need to be 100% to serve his team well.  No errors in the field and a successful day at the plate (2 for 4 with a run and an rbi) was a great way to get back into the swing of things.  I really like what Theriot’s been doing in the lead off spot lately but he didn’t even play today so  where to bat the two didn’t really come up and since it appears Soriano isn’t moving from the leadoff spot regardless, its a moot point.  Still no sign of Derosa and I’m not sure when he’ll be back but man did Fontenot have a day.  Flashing that glove all over the place in being a part of 3 double plays on the day, he also got a hit and an rbi in today’s 4-1 (ss) win over the D-backs.  In the other game the Cubs lost, but again, just another case of the 8th and 9th innings blowing up in our face with guys who are still a couple years away more than likely from really contributing.  With Soriano back it will be fun to see the team getting closer to the true ’08 lineup as we go through spring training.

Lieber had me eating my words a bit today.  I don’t foresee him making the rotation come opening day…I truly feel it will be Marquis and Dempster rounding out the five.  However, Lieber had quite the day today throwing 4 innings with 4 strike outs and giving up 2 hits.  I have no problem being wrong with my starting rotation prediction if someone throwing like that ends up being the guy I’m wrong about.

While I’m not going to really say anything about the Wrigley name and marquee issue today (I’ve said enough lately and anyone who’s read this blog knows how I feel about it) I will say this…did anyone else expect Mr. Cub to be more traditional and passionately attached to Wrigley than what his ‘company man’ answer shows in this video when asked by the press about how he feels about the chances of Wrigley being renamed?

On a lighter note, I found some cool things while cleaning out some stuff today…a couple old Starting Lineup figures and my old electronic Talking Starting Lineup Baseball game.Talkingbaseball3292x267  That thing was awesome…even better, it still works!  National League vs. American League.  "It’s at the track…It’s at the wall…Gone, Goodbye, a home run!"

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Something about…

Dailies

It would have been great for the Cubs to be must see MLB.TV today, but unfortunately they were only available on their audio service. And it would’ve been great if I had been able to sit and listen to the game all afternoon, but unfortunately I was busy and reduced to refreshing my cell phone box score every 10 minutes throughout the day. And it would’ve been great if the Cubs won, but they didn’t. The things that were great though? A few…

I really like Marquis. Everyone says stupid things and occasionally suffers from bad timing. I think Marquis saying that he should start or he’ll look to leave town after just ONE Spring start was ridiculously bad timing. But I definitely liked WHAT he said more than WHEN he said it. And I love that he’s backing it up with strong performances. Today Marquis went three solid innings giving up four hits and collecting one strike out, keeping his spring ERA at 3.60. I’m glad to see Marquis and these other guys we know we will be counting on (like Wood and Howry today with solid innings and only giving up a hit a piece) doing really well and it really being only the guys the organization wants to ‘get a look at’ that are really blowing these games. Piniella isn’t crazy about losing EVER and I think that’s a great quality to have in a manager. I took an internet still of his bobblehead and added it to a shot of Wrigley Field in photoshop. Wrigley_fieldpiniellatextresizedIt now serves as my computer’s wallpaper. He looks like an absolute giant. Good times.

Seriously, how cool is Lou Piniella? I love the effect that Lou, Soriano, Fukudome, Ramirez, Lee and Zambrano have on this team. Merely their presence brings this electricity to the ballclub that makes them a blast to follow. Some people have it and some people don’t. These guys have it. It’s like Lebron (if I may reference basketball for a moment). I happened to be at the Garden last night when Lebron dropped 50 on the Knicks. The crowd was in an absolute frenzy. You could feel it in the building and you knew it had nothing to do with that sorry Knicks team. It was all about Lebron. Spike was there. He’s almost never there nowadays. Heck, the fact that there were people there at all and the vibe was incredible…all because of one guy. And that’s what I love about some of the guys we have on this baseball team. That energy and excitement and that feeling you get that anything is possible with these guys around. It really makes this team fun to watch and write about. (I wasn’t real sure what I wanted to write about tonight when I first sat down. But yeah, now that I got it out, that’s definitely what I wanted to write about.)

Otherwise, way too many oh-fer’s today with only five hits coming from four players out of 18 that had an at-bat. Looking forward to seeing what tomorrow’s lineup will be with Ramirez slated to make his spring debut against the Mariners.

GO CUBS GO!

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Z Past, Z Present, and Z Future

Dailies

No, I won’t be doing today’s posting in French.

After today’s follow up performance by Zambrano and what was clearly a case of no-name guys who won’t ever be pitching in the 8th and 9th innings during the season, blowing the game today, I decided it was pretty clear that was the case and thought of a few things I wanted to talk about.

The first being: my first time ever seeing a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Zambrano was pitching and it was a beautiful day for baseball. Even with quite a rain delay I realized at Wrigley, everyday is a great day for baseball. I was mesmerized instantly with all of it. I loved seeing the familiar faces hanging on the banners…stars I had seen on TV forever and legends who are already in the Hall of Fame. I hit one of the stores pretty hard for new Cubs merchandise and immediately threw on my new 2005 Cubs t-shirt looking forward to taking in the game from the field level, along the first base line. Now this was 2005 so it was nowhere near a team with the type of potential we talk about with this year’s club. One of the biggest names on the team then was Nomar Garciaparra. He hit a home run that day accounting for nearly all of the Cubs runs scored.

It was Sept 24, 2005 and I was there to celebrate my 30th birthday which was coming up a month later. As far as birthday trips go, it ranks right up there as one of the coolest, more thoughtful gifts anyone has ever given me. My girlfriend took me and even though we fought over some stupid stuff while we were there, I still had a great time and loved the fact that I was actually sitting in the sun (once the rain subsided) taking in a game at Wrigley. It was amazing to finally take everything in in person. The marquee outside the stadium, the Harry Caray statue, the scoreboard, the Hey Hey foul pole, the rooftops full of fans, the ivy on the walls. It was amazing. And while seeing Zambrano pitch was as well, his actual pitching was not.

At that point Zambrano still had a .295 BA for the season (pretty impressive) and showed signs of becoming a great pitcher. However it WAS still 2005 and things weren’t exactly good. Big Z gave up 6 runs in 6 1/3 innings and the Cubs lost 8-3. They were eliminated from postseason contention with the loss. Somehow that touch REALLY made me feel like I was experiencing the true Cubs experience. It just felt appropriate that those details should decorate my first time at Wrigley given the history of the team and all that we’ve been through together. Regardless, it was amazing and it was my first time…an event all Cubs fans I believe could tell you their version at the drop of a Lou Piniella hat in the middle of a heated exchange with an umpire. No matter how many times I go, I always look forward to the next time. Here’s the box score and hitting results from that game:

Cubs_v_astros_92405_box_score_1st_game_w

Nowadays though, Zambrano is in a whole new ballpark (not literally, unless of course you thought I meant Fitch). Zambrano is an absolute ace in a rotation that has a few quality starters yet still has a significant drop off from 1-2-3, etc. Lately he has looked great, including today’s game against the Diamondbacks. 3IP, 0 ER, 3K AND he hit a home run! Zambrano_pumping_fist_1This was the second game Big Z looked headed in the right direction for ’08, 2 for 2 so far this Spring. I have a hard time putting into words my excitement about that.

As for Z Future…who knows? But as long he keeps this up, the Cubs are going to be in a great place and baseball is going to be a lot of fun this Summer…if nothing else…at least every five days or so. Way to go Zambrano.

GO CUBS GO!Blogfooter2rectangle_19

The Face, The Brace, The Pace, The Place and The  Ace

Dailies

The Face:  We could be looking at a brand new face of the franchise.  Truly what the front office was hoping to get when they asked Mr. Fukudome to signed on the dotted line.  Picture_3The guy is showing amazing discipline with his patience at the plate, toughness with his ability to get hit by a pitch and keep on ticking, strength in poking his first HR of the spring out of the park today against the Brewers (nice touch), and an overall strength in numbers with an OBP of .600, a SLG% of .700 and a batting average so far this spring of .400. *****, that is a great start Kosuke.  Keep it up buddy.

The Brace: After today’s marathon 10-6 loss against the Brewers in 10 innings, we should all brace ourselves for what should be a very interesting division race this year between the two teams.  It was only Spring Training and there weren’t any signs of letting down on either side, both teams simply wanting to beat their rival whether it counted come Opening Day or not.  Very exciting to see the guys keep coming back…even had bases loaded when the game was over, tying run at the plate.  Considering we used some guys we never would have out of the bullpen (of course they did too), I feel real good about where we stand against them right now (especially since there was no sign of Soriano or Ramirez in the lineup).

The Pace: Now they’re talking about Soriano needing up to two weeks to come back healthy enough to hit and field without any complications.  I had a feeling their initial comment of 3-5 days wasn’t going to hold up.  Let’s hope the trainers and the coaching staff manage guys like Soriano, Ramirez and Derosa and make sure they aren’t pushed to come back during Spring Training earlier than they should.  Piniella keeps talking about how worried he is about our depth…I hope that’s taken into consideration when deciding when these guys get back on the field.

The Place: Wrigley.  Saw a report that stated the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority will be making an offer in the next couple weeks to buy Wrigley.  Their still assessing costs in fixing up the joint, but said ‘the beloved Wrigley name will almost certainly be part of the new name.’  Something to the effect of "Wrigley Field at XYZ Plaza".  OH, C’MON!  Wrigleycrocker
Where is Chris Crocker when you need him?!

The Ace: Big Z.  So far this Spring, Zambrano is off to a good start.  2.0IP, 2H, 0ER and 2K’s.  Arizona on Wednesday…keep it up big fellah.  Carlos "Numero Uno" Zambrano: our ace.  GO CUBS GO!Blogfooter2rectangle_18

The Brew Crew and The Page Crew

Dailies

Today’s game is against the Brewers, one of two teams I believe will challenge the Cubs for the Central. Now I’m certainly not stating anything new there. Lots of experts have it coming down to the Brewers and the Cubs in the NL Central. Not that I’m an expert either…although I might as well be since the minute those season preview magazines come out with all the ‘expert’ opinions 99.9% of them are wrong. You might as well have bought the 2008 Weatherman Fantasy Preview Issue of Weather Predictions Digest. Regardless, I, like many other baseball fanatics have it coming down to the Cubs and the Brewers in the Central (the other team I’d watch out for is the Cardinals).

Because of this fact, I’m very much looking forward to listening to today’s game. Dempster is making his second start of the Spring after an impressive first impression as a starter for 2008. I like Dempster and I am predicting a starting rotation of Big Z, Lil’ ly, Hill, Marquis and Dempster come Opening Day. It’ll be fun to see how he does against one of our biggest rivals. It will also be interesting to see if Fielder takes his contract dispute and uses it as a motivation tool to play for a huge contract next year (likely on another team) or if it simply becomes to much of a distraction, ultimately helping the Cubs repeat as division champs. Not sure if he’s playing today or not, but either way, I’m sure there will be lots of chatter about the situation in the broadcast.

Rivalries help make the game what it is. As does tradition and history. That’s why it bothers me so much that Wrigley could be renamed. I read that the Red Sox are adding over 400 seats to Fenway by adding a section called Coca-Cola Corner. Considering corporate ads and money are such a part of today’s game, especially when it comes to paying some of the salaries today’s players are making, I understand its a necessary evil. HOWEVER, I think the Red Sox got it right on this one. You don’t need to rename your entire stadium…sell out on the inside of the park not the outside by going corporate…and in turn, you’ll keep your fan base happy and continue to sell out the other way as well. Now of course, I realize that Cubs fans would show up no matter what, no matter whether the confines were called Wrigley Field or something horrible. But its the happy part that would be different. And I believe Mr. Zell should keep that in mind. Keep your clientelle happy…if baseball is truly such a business for you, then do what businessmen do…look to make a profit while keeping your customer happy. Come up with corporate named segments of the park if you need to like the Delta Upper Deck, the match.com first-second-third base, the tasteful ExxonMobil concession stands. You get what I mean. You can still make money off corporations without selling the NAME OF THE STADIUM! Coca Cola Corner will be in the team colors, sodas are completely associated with the baseball experience as much as beer, hot dogs, peanuts and cracker jacks so it doesn’t look like you’re selling out and it doesn’t take away from the ballpark’s atmosphere and historic vibe in a way that makes you cringe.

My point: I understand baseball is an expensive business and you want to be able to feed your family, but let’s either try doing so with the billions you already have…or find a way to do so by creatively enhancing the inside of the park as opposed to completely wiping away one of the most historic names in baseball. Thanks for reading, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter and your own solutions to this problem. And with that, thanks to The Page Crew for this hilarious video (also found in the Sites for Sore Eyes section listed in the righthand column of this blog):

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What’s the Japanese word for “MOVE”?

Dailies

The one stat I think Fukudome is leading himself in his HBP. I hope somebody starts going over ways to get out of the way with him. The Cubs can’t afford to have Fukudome getting hit once a game, let’s face it. It’s a long season and it’s becoming routine to see that Fukudome had almost as many HBP counts as he did AB this Spring. Fun to see Fukudome and the Cubs getting the best of Ichiro’s Mariners as I type this and they are heading into the ninth though, good times.

I thought Fox looked great again today as he’s impressed me this Spring. Not sure if Lou is looking to carry three catchers, but Fox is definitely showing some serious ability so far. (Oh interesting, “Not Scott Kazmir” just entered the game. Let’s see how Mr. Tim Lahey does.)

I was very pleased with how Marshall did today as well as Samardzija. (Second pitch by Lahey hit for a base hit by Cairo.) 2 innings pitched by Marshall including 3BB and 2K’s. Lieber wasn’t as fortunate but I’m sure he’s got plenty of dust to shake off still. So does Cedeno on the bases…picked off once and caught stealing another time. Theriot on the other hand looks GREAT this year. Hitting .500 so far and he added another stolen base today. I wonder who they’ll bring in to pitch the ninth. I’d like to see Marmol honestly. Saw Wood get roughed up the other day, curious to see how Marmol does in making a case for himself.

On a completely separate note, I read on another bloggers blog that they are against the blue alternate road jersey. I disagree. I like it very much and in fact, I own one. Granted, it’s not quite as slick as pinstripes or traditional like the road grey but still…I like the blues. Maybe its the giant C with the bear cub, or maybe I just like it when they mix it up a little (as long as its the team’s colors…green jerseys when you’re team colors are red, white and blue etc…come on). Anyway, just wanted to throw that out there. Oh look…more breasts. Bravo. MLB. Mesa’s Lovely Breasts.

Very much looking forward to seeing how the team looks when we start getting everyone in the game and everyone healthy. Anxious to see what our regulars are going to be like with Fukudome in the mix. And if we’re going to deal with Roberts, I hope it happens soon. The more time Piniella has to play with the lineups including Roberts, the better.

One down in the top of the ninth, 6-2 Cubs leading the Mariners. It’s great having the afternoon free to catch the game. Even if Nick Lachey is a guest commentator for an inning or two. I’m going to get back to simply watching the game, although its been fun writing my first blog while the game is in progress. I have to figure out how to become a pop star so I can afford my own minor league ballclub too. Go Cubs!Blogfooter2rectangle_16

Cotts (L, 0-1)IP: 0.2 H:3 R:5 ER:5 BB:3  ERA:27.00

Dailies

And that is pretty much what today boiled down to. Cotts. 2/3 of an inning and 5 runs…excuse me…EARNED runs that is. Good thing we have these games. I’d hate to see us give the ball to Cotts in a similar situation without having some idea of how he might perform. Actually, that’s not fair. It’s still Spring. But come on…5 ER on 8 batters faced? Not good.

Also, 10 men left on base? Not good. Always a pleasure to watch the guys, especially the unknown to see what this team is made of in a more complete sense, including the minors…but I hope this isn’t the type of team we have this year. We need clutch hitting this year so let’s hope it shows up when it counts.

Did I miss something? What did Frandsen do to deserve getting plunked by 2 pitches in a Spring game? Granted, the first one was on a lame pitch by Lilly that didn’t break, but still. Regardless, just another reason to be thankful for Spring: getting our pitch control, well, under control. I thought Lilly looked good otherwise so that was good to see and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Soto throw out a guy attempting to steal as well as Pie going yard once again.

Piniella and Marquis apparently attempted to smooth things over. I liked hearing that Piniella said he was the kind of guy who admits when he’s wrong. Nothing worse than having to perform everyday for a blow-hard who doesn’t have that voice inside of him. Let him kick dirt at the umps and let’s keep the team in check. I like Marquis’ competitive nature but its way too early to be making comments like that. I like Marquis and if he can keep his head together, I’d love having a rotation of Zambrano, Lilly, Hill, Marquis, Dempster. But the club is real high on Marshall so there’s probably a ton I don’t know about him. Looking forward to seeing what he brings to the table this Spring, and also what Marquis learns to check at the door.

Here’s to waiting to see if Soriano’s fundamentally sound yet injured finger is truly a 5-day wait to having him back in the lineup. I know Piniella said that if his regulars can get about 70 at-bats in the Spring he’s happy, but as a fan, I think the Winter was long enough. Time to get our Soriano/Ramirez fix and get those at-bats in ASAP.

Go Cubs!Blogfooter2rectangle_15

‘Spring In My Step’

Dailies

I believe I have achieved one of the cheesiest post titles in recent MLBlogs related to Spring Training.

Go me.

So yeah, a spring in my step. It was a great Saturday as I was able to catch my first Cubs game of 2008. I had to follow the first couple games by refreshing a scoreboard over and over again but today I was able to watch it on-line. It was fun to hear Piniella talk about everyone, especially how Pie and Fuld will both be getting a ton of playing time this Spring to figure out CF. So far Fuld looked decent in the field but Pie is doing well at the plate. Murton looked good too at 3 for 3. I don’t know if he may end up being more valuable as trade bait, but he looked really good today.

Wood looked far from the guy I expect him to be this year giving up 3 runs in one inning and the only real bright spot offensively was Fox’s home run. I thought Marquis looked decent for it being so early in the Spring although he apparently felt Lou will feel otherwise come the end of camp as he shot his mouth off about going elsewhere if there’s no place for him in the rotation here in Chicago. Hey Jason…shut up and pitch. I mean really…isn’t it a little early to be a headcase?6493 Is it because you have to throw strikes and learn basic Japanese phrases? Is that it? Too much to handle for you? Just pitch and everything will be fine…but if you’re set on this headcase thing…thanks, but no thanks.

Definitely looking forward to seeing Fukudome play on Sunday.

It will interesting to see our opening day lineup after Lou has a chance to play around with a few different options this month. It will also be interesting to see how many times Comcast can find attractive women Murphy_1 in the hot Arizona sun in between innings, at-bats, pitches, commercials, bases touched by a player during a home run trot, after every other word a broadcaster speaks and any other time they can possibly squeeze in another shot of cleavage. They talk about how Cubs fans should head out to Arizona and take it all in, get ahead of the other Cubs fans in seeing what the team might bring to the table this year. I believe they may also be subliminally saying, “You like baseball? You like breasts? You want to see Cubs fans with beautiful breasts? Planning on looking at breasts on-line after watching Cubs baseball? Why not do both at-the-same-time???”

And you know what? They have a point. Looking forward to enjoying tomorrow’s game. Everything about it…Fuku…and the domes.Blogfooter2rectangle_14