New Approach

First off, is there a more appropriate picture for MLBlogs than this one, titled “Fans Shed Light on the Game?”

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Perfect, right?  
Ok, now second…the main thought behind this post.  After watching the Cubs this postseason and just now, watching the final out of the NLCS, I have decided that going forward I have no expectations.  From now on, every game, every season…no expectations.  None.
Other than enjoying myself as a fan, I have no expectations.  I may like our chances, but nothing above that.  The reasons are two-fold: Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.
Potential 2008 World Series matchup: The Rays versus The Phillies.
Now sure, the Rays haven’t locked anything up as of yet, but chances are those two teams are facing off in this year’s Fall Classic.  Not that I expect it mind you…I just like the chances.  
This year especially goes to show that it’s either your year, or its not.  I mean it has to be that way…it’s the only way it makes sense.  The Phillies barely took the East and they’ve been competitive for a while now…only its been 15 years since they’ve been in a World Series.  It wasn’t their time and they’re about to find out if their time has come.  
The Rays?  Are you kidding me?  Talk about taking advantage of this very simple theory…it could absolutely be their time.  They’re one game away from hitting the ultimate seven game series to find out.  
For 100 years now it has not been the Cubs year.  It could go on for a long time.  The odds that its your year are so slim…1 in 30 to be exact.  That leaves 29 other teams whose year it could be.  You can’t like those odds as an investor.  And that’s what we are…financial, emotional and vast amount of time investors.  You have to love something a great amount to devote such a strong investment in something with odds so great…and you’d be a fool to expect anything from that kind of investment. 
I believe we feel let down season after season because of expectations.  Not because of goats, cats or overall zealous fans in unscheduled meetings with at best average-skilled outfielders at key moments in playoff games.  Because of expectations.  We know the team is good.  Especially recently.  NL Central title after title, back to back years.  Sure they lost last year, but didn’t we expect better once in October?  Yes.  Did we get it?  No.  So we were disappointed.  
This year: best record in the National League.  Did we expect great things in the post-season? Yes.  Did we get it?  No.  So we are disappointed.  Maybe its time to simply go into season after season devoting all that we choose to simply because we choose to, to enjoy it…not because we expect to get anything in return.  Not because we think we may see something special happen that day, like a no-hitter.  Not because we expect the team will improve upon last year’s performance and take it’s level of success up a notch.  Not because we think ‘this is the year’.  Not because we expect the end of the drought.  Just simply without expectation and for simple enjoyment and love of the game.  
That way, we remain the greatest fans in the world…with a great history, a great ballpark, a great GM not afraid to spend money and put talent on the field for the fans in the seats…yet accepting of the fact that year in and year out it remains simply, 1 in 30.  
Is this possible?  Is this something I can do?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I’m going to try.  No expectations…simply invest and enjoy.  To achieve a World Series title would be the ultimate accomplishment for the franchise (and I say that because the Cubs have the longest drought in sports, not that it wouldn’t be a great achievement for any team).  People say that with achieving goals, it shouldn’t be about the destination, but the journey.  This journey could be LONG for Cubs fans.  It might be about time we really start enjoying it.  I hear it makes the destination all the sweeter in the end.
No expectations.  But what about the desire?  No doubt about it…this is going to be tough.
Go Cubs Go (and of course in case you’re reading this, hello Joe the Plumber!)
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RIGHT OFF!

“JERRY: You should just do it like a Band-Aid. One motion! Right off!”

As a fan of the Seinfeld series for years, this is one of my favorite quotes from the show.  If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll recognize it as Jerry’s suggested method of breaking up with someone in comparison to the best way to taking off a band-aid…one motion…RIGHT OFF!  Sure, it’s uncomfortable and hurts a bit, but it’s going to hurt anyway so just get it over with and move on already.

That’s how, after using a week of blogging absence to serve as a proverbial band-aid to the wound that was the Cubs sweeping effort in the NLDS by the victorious Dodgers, I have decided to now handle my getting over this brutal defeat.  RIGHT OFF!
And so it goes.
So now we’re looking at the off-season (sooner than expected…oh, right…RIGHT OFF!).  What are the Cubs going to do to fix this 100 year flop?  In recent years, we’ve been close to setting the clock back to zero…just didn’t have quite enough in the tank to do so.  Although I thought this particular group of guys was just what we needed.  Apparently not.  So.  Here is what we’re looking at for the offseason.  The roster, the free agents, the decisions.  The following is from a recent MLB.com article written by Cubs reporter, Carrie Muskat:  

“CONTRACT ISSUES

Free agents: RHP Ryan Dempster, OF Jim Edmonds, RHP Chad Fox, RHP Bob Howry, RHP Jon Lieber, 1B Daryle Ward, RHP Kerry Wood.

Eligible for arbitration: IF Ronny Cedeno, LHP Neal Cotts, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Reed Johnson, RHP Michael Wuertz.

Club options: RHP Rich Harden ($7 million; picked up Oct. 8), C Henry Blanco, $3 million ($300,000 buyout).

Player options: None

Non-tender possibilities: None

CATCHERS

Geovany Soto, .285, 23 HRs, 86 RBIs

The Cubs expect Soto to follow up his sensational rookie season with another solid year. Henry Blanco was a mentor to Soto, but whether that’s worth the $3 million option owed him will have to be determined. Blanco started 45 games.

FIRST BASE

Derrek Lee, .291, 20 HRs, 90 RBIs
Micah Hoffpauir, .362, 25 HRs, 100 RBIs (Triple-A)

Hoffpauir is a solid left-handed bat with no place to play. He could be a better-than-average backup, but Lee never likes to take a day off.

SECOND BASE

Mark DeRosa, .285, 21 HRs, 87 RBIs
Mike Fontenot, .305, 9 HRs, 40 RBIs

DeRosa did seem to play more right field than second base in the final month because of Kosuke Fukudome’s struggles. Fontenot is a solid left-handed option.

SHORTSTOP

Ryan Theriot, .307, 1 HR, 38 RBIs, 22 SBs
Ronny Cedeno, .269, 2 HRs, 28 RBIs

Theriot improved from a year ago, although his numbers did go down again in the final month of play. Cedeno hit .378 in the first month but didn’t maintain that pace.

THIRD BASE

Aramis Ramirez, .289, 27 HRs, 111 RBIs

DeRosa is the backup at third to Ramirez, who notched his sixth 100-RBI season in the last eight years and set career highs with 44 doubles and a .380 on-base percentage.

OUTFIELD

Alfonso Soriano, .280, 29 HRs, 75 RBIs
Kosuke Fukudome, .257, 10 HRs, 58 RBIs
Reed Johnson, .303, 6 HRs, 50 RBIs
Felix Pie, .287, 10 HRs, 55 RBIs (Triple-A)

The Cubs head into the offseason again unsure about center field. Johnson made a positive impact and Jim Edmonds (19 homers, 49 RBIs with Cubs) did better than expected. Pie starred in the Minors but hasn’t been able to make the transition. He is still young. Soriano is signed through 2014, Fukudome through 2011. Fukudome batted .217 after the All-Star break, and one option the team may consider is adding a Japanese hitting coach.

ROTATION

RHP Carlos Zambrano, 14-6, 3.91 ERA, 188 2/3 IP, 130 K’s
LHP Ted Lilly, 17-9, 4.09 ERA, 204 2/3 IP, 184 K’s
RHP Rich Harden, 5-1, 1.77 ERA, 71 IP, 89 K’s (Cubs)
RHP Jason Marquis, 11-9, 4.53 ERA, 167 IP, 91 K’s
LHP Sean Marshall, 3-5, 3.86 ERA, 65 1/3 IP, 58 K’s

Dempster earned the Game 1 start in the NLDS after winning a career-high 17 games. A wild card in the mix is lefty Rich Hill, who won 11 games and led the team in strikeouts in 2007. Hill struggled with his control and back problems in ’08. Another option to be considered is right-hander Angel Guzman.

BULLPEN

RHP Carlos Marmol, 2-4, 2.68 ERA, 82 Gs, 114 K’s
LHP Neal Cotts, 0-2, 4.29 ERA, 50 Gs
RHP Michael Wuertz, 1-1, 3.63 ERA, 45 Gs (Triple-A)
RHP Jeff Samardzija, 1-0, 2.28 ERA, 26 Gs (Cubs)
RHP Chad Gaudin, 9-5, 4.40 ERA, 50 Gs (Cubs/A’s)
RHP Kevin Hart, 2-2, 6.51 ERA, 21 Gs (Cubs)

PROSE AND IVY THOUGHTS:

As for the free-agents:  How do you not figure out a way to keep Ryan Dempster?  As far as I’m concerned he’s one of the most valuable pitchers in the game right now.  17 wins in his first year back in a starting rotation, which could have been higher if the Cubs didn’t blow a couple of those games for him late…and I guy who is comfortable pitching late in a game if need be in the postseason.  Some may feel Dempster jinxed us this year with his predictions in the Spring, but I’d rather have a confident pitcher who can follow it up and performs well in Wrigley, than some unknown Wrigley-untested potential bum with a big name.  I say keep Dempster…and Wood.  Sure he’s a heart attack across the board for Cubs fans and is extremely injury prone.  But, with Marmol in the set up role, its hard to find a better 1-2 punch late in the game.  Unless of course they feel like spending for K-Rod.  Then Marmol K-Rod may send us to 161-1 next year (I don’t want to get ridiculous of course).

As for those eligible for arbitration: Goodbye everyone!  Except Reed Johnson.  I say keep Johnson, lose Edmonds and try to find a strong left-handed swinging center-fielder to start for us, keeping Soriano in left and Fukudome in right.  Fukudome went South come the second half of the season, but I have a feeling that was just first year exhaustion and will get better as we go on.  His defense is impeccable too.  Having him on the team as a first option RF and Derosa around to back him up when the lumber goes silent is a situation I’m okay with.

Club options:  Harden is going to be our leader in wins next year.  That’s how I feel about Harden’s potential in a full season as a Cub so I’m thrilled the Cubs picked up his option.  Blanco?  I don’t know.  He’s fine as a back up.  $3M isn’t that much for a back up catcher so I suppose I’m fine with keeping him.  Not sure who else we’d get to back up the extremely talented Soto.  Thoughts anyone?  I’d pick up the option unless anyone has any better ideas?

The rotation: I would leave our rotation as is however I would switch out Marquis for Marshall as our fifth starter.  This of course would require re-signing Demp.

The bullpen: Get rid of Cotts, Weurtz and Gaudin.  See what that money can get us elsewhere.  Love Marmol in the set up role of course and is the perfect go to guy if Wood can’t handle the closing job or gets injured.  If that’s the case, I agree with Muskat: give Samardzija a shot in the setup role and see what happens.

Clearly a left-handed heavy swinging bat is needed.  Maybe that requires signing a rightfielder who’s a lefty and moving Fukudome to center with Reed Johnson as the fourth fielder and Pie close on everyone’s heels again?  I’m a huge Pie fan and like the kid’s potential, but I have a feeling we’re looking at 2010 for his first complete season as a starting CF for the Cubs.  Hendry might end up having $118 million dollars to play with this off-season.  That’s the same number he had last winter and he followed that up with a repeat title in the Central.  

Same spending amount sounds great.  How about greater results?  (RIGHT OFF!)  Wait ’til next year!  Go Cubs Go!  

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100 And Counting

It’s official. Cubs Baseball 2008, R.I.P.
The Cubs lost in LA tonight to the Dodgers and were swept out of the NLDS for the second straight year.  More or less it boils down to this: if you can’t handle the RISP, you have to deal with the R.I.P.
The whole thing blows my mind honestly.  This was not the Cubs team I wrote about all season.  This was some other team, right?  Come on, perhaps some other group of guys? Had to be.  These guys had some fake on the mound in Game 1 wearing a Dempster costume who couldn’t find the strike zone at Wrigley.  Had four impostors in the infield who couldn’t field a ground ball for an out cleanly.  Had a leadoff hitter who forgot about the ‘hitter’ part.  Had an All-Star right fielder who couldn’t do anything.  Led the league in rolling their eyes at the umps as opposed to celebrating wins in front of them.  Had the nerve to leave Wrigley Field with an ‘L’ flag flying and the baseball season as a whole with a loss.  No, this couldn’t have been the same group of guys, right?  And if it was, what a horrible time to choose to stink up the joint.
And while I thought these guys had what it takes, apparently I was wrong and now who knows how many of them will be back next year for sure?
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Even career years such as these…now…really don’t matter, do they?
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An unbelievable season followed up by an even more unbelievable ending.
We have no choice though.  It’s happened.  We lost…again.  Believe it.  Nine straight post season losses.
Like the Cubs season, no more to come here tomorrow.  This one stung and is going to take a week or so to get over.  100 and counting…
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NLDS: Dodgers 2, Cubs 0

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Oh, come on…not again.  Marmol and Wood pitching innings that hardly matter.  Constant booing raining down at Wrigley.  Sure handed fielders botching plays left and right.  Four errors, tying an LDS record, one contributed by each of our infielders.  Giving up 10 runs in one game.  Going to L.A. down 2-0.  
This is NOT what I had in mind.  Enough of this nonsense, no more goats…time for some heroics.  Go Cubs Go!!!  Get some momentum and bring this thing back to Wrigley!!!

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