The Cubs, Like the League, Currently Sitting at .500

This morning, walking to work, I was reading the MLB headlines – my regular morning routine. Nothing makes a 40 minute walk to work fly by like reading about who came through in the clutch last night and who fell flat on their face.

I read the Cubs recap for last night’s game. I was able to follow the game on-line but I always read the recaps, regardless. Demp was great until he wasn’t. That pretty much sums it up. After six innings he had only given up only one run and was cruising along. Of course, the trick is to catch him or any pitcher before they are no longer producing in a game. It’s always a gamble and something I’m sure Quade and his pitching coach are still fine tuning only 10 games into the young season. I was happy to see Dempster land his first W of the season and to hear that at his best he struck out five consecutive Astros batters.

It was good to read about Castro’s unbelievable day in the leadoff spot. Are we a little spoiled with Castro, or what? The baseball bat is to Starlin Castro what the ping pong paddle was to Forrest Gump.

No matter what you throw in front of Castro, if he decides to swing at it he is going to make contact. Last night in the lead off spot by the fourth inning, Castro had three hits, scored three runs and stole the Cubs elusive first stolen base of the 2011 season. Second base is no longer the Hope Diamond. We finally secured our first SB of the year and I’m hardly surprised Castro is the guy that accomplished it.

Marmol finished strong with three strike outs in his four-out save. It bothers me the club didn’t go to Marmol earlier as their closer. Remember that horrible experiment with Kevin Gregg?? Ugh. Marmol is dominating in the role again this season and I am becoming more and more comfortable with him that he will finish a game successfully as well as make it entertaining to watch (if not nearly heart attack inducingly entertaining).

The win put the Cubs back at the .500 mark at 5-5. We are 2 games back in the Central in second place tied with Pittsburgh and Milwaukee. We have that in common with those two teams…but my gut told me we had something in common with the league as well.

As soon as I saw the 5-5 record, something told me that’s about exactly what the league is doing right now. .500.  And as it turns out, as of this morning, it is. Adding up the wins in the win column across the league and you end up with 145 wins. Add up the losses in the loss column across the league and guess how many you get? 145.

145-145. That’s the league’s overall record as of right now. Many teams are hovering between 4-6 and 6-3 and for every 9-1, 8-2 or 7-2 team, there are those that are sitting at 3-7 as well. The Rangers have the best winning percentage at .900 followed by the Indians at .800 and Rockies/Phillies tied at .778. Otherwise, teams are either already considering making their basement stay a permanent fixture for the season or scraping to crawl their own way back to .500 while the rest is comfortably sitting at .500 looking to get better.

The Cubs, I feel are sitting in an uncomfortable .500 position. We are down two starters. We’ve been unable to secure enough run support to swing a couple of those losses to the win column and the Reds seem to be progressing every day. It’s surprising to look around and see that you’re tied with Pittsburgh ten games into the season. However I believe that they are in an uncomfortable position, not because of the negatives, but because of the potential positives around the corner. It’s uncomfortable to know that you’re this close to improving, this close to playing better yet knowing that you’re not quite there yet.

It’s frustrating to know that you have the talent and the capability and the signs are all there that you’re about to hit that level of performance that puts you over the top…you can taste it/see it, but you haven’t quite reached it yet. I believe Quade likes what he has seen lately in Barney, Castro, Colvin, Marmol and even Soriano. I believe he believed coming out of camp that he had the right mix of guys to surprise some people this year. I also believe that after Cash and Wells went down, he felt Coleman could step in and make a difference.

I believe that at .500 after 10 games, we could clearly be a game or two better possibly rooming with the Reds at the top of the division as opposed to the mid-level standings exception we currently reside in. However, looking at the league as a whole and seeing that overall the entire league is no better than .500 with only a handful of stand outs (mostly in the American League) it makes feel even better about the Cubs chances this year.

Sure, it would be fun to blow away the league and run away with it. However, sometimes, some seasons, all you have to do is stay competitive and consistently contend with those around you to make sure you are still in it come time to make that September push for the playoffs. I like that the Cubs are at least hanging in with the rest of the league and with three teams tied for second place, clearly they are hanging in their with the rest of the division.

Ten games in and the Cubs are .500. I believe Quade has them headed in the right direction though and that we’re on the upside of what the record shows, capable of winning more series and pulling away from that .500. We’re .500 now, sure, but no need to panic.

Essentially, so is the rest of the league. Go Cubs Go!

Update: After writing this, I realized something and I’m including an update instead of editing it in an effort to stay honest with you and also to point out some humor in it all. As soon as I tweeted about this new post with the headline as the tweet, I realized – wait a second. Of course the league is .500. The league is ALWAYS .500 because when one game is played, one team wins and the other team loses. ALWAYS. Except for the called All-Star game every few decades or so, every game has a winner and a loser. Thus, a .500 record across the league. The only thing that would not have made sense was if the overall league record was anything BUT .500. Ok, fine. So, maybe it wasn’t the epiphany I thought it was…but, still. The Cubs are playing .500 ball. Exactly at the level that the league can’t be worse than. The trick is to find the right mix to hang with teams like the Rangers, Orioles, Phillies and Rockies and not pull the league down like the Red Sox, Astros and Rays. Quade still has to be frustrated that he is this close to having this team perform well on a regular basis. A week ago when we were only mere games away from the first play ball of the season, it was just flashes. Then it became signs. Now, it’s clearly potential. Injuries have already affected the 2011 Cubs season but that’s going to happen to everyone. Quade needs to find a way to get this team playing better than average ball. The league average will always be .500. Right now we are average and we are two games out. Let’s start playing above average ball and see where we sit another 10 games from now. And as I told @croquet037: Next time coffee…THEN challenge the zero-sum rule! : )

Now a Staff Writer for Baseball Digest

In addition to covering the Cubs on Prose and Ivy, I will now also be writing about baseball in general for BaseballDigest.com.

While some of the articles will be Cubs-centric, others will not. It will really all depend on what assignments I receive from their assignment editor.
 
I’m excited to have my writing showcased under the Baseball Digest banner. I used to read the print version cover to cover, every new issue that came out when I was growing up. They are the oldest baseball publication in the country and it’s exciting to be a part of their staff.
 
You can read my first article on BaseballDigest.com by clicking here: http://www.baseballdigest.com/2011/03/13/baseball-digest-birthdays-johan-santana/
As part of their popular Baseball Digest Birthdays feature, I was assigned today’s birthday: Mets pitching ace, Johan Santana. Santana turns 32 today.
 
I hope you enjoy it!
On a separate note, I watched the Cubs battle the Dodgers today on WGN. Baseball in Vegas? Make that…Cubs baseball in Vegas??  Sounds AMAZING. Another Cubs item on my absolutely-must-do list!
 
Zambrano looked great and even though the games don’t count, always fun to see the Cubs win. I’m excited Castro looks as strong as he does. Can’t wait to see what this team is capable of this year. Go Cubs Go!

Want To Make Starlin Castro Nervous?

From the folks over at The Beckett Blog, a photo of Derek Jeter, the Yankees’ pride and joy and captain…proudly featured posing in a Cubs uniform.  Hysterical.   Although it certainly would trump the Cardinals announcement that they signed Ryan Theriot to play shortstop for the next 2 years!  (How about that?  Theriot to the Cards.  2011’s Jim Edmonds.  Get ready for a bit of bizarre world Cards fans….and you better hope it’s not more like having Aaron Miles on your side again).  No need for Castro to sweat though.  Just another ‘Fun With Photoshop’ moment for bored baseball fans on the Internet.  Thank goodness for that.

jetercardcubs.jpg

Many people can’t understand why the Jeter talks are taking so long.  Many also forget that baseball is a business.  A huge, huge business.  Like all businesses, it’s all about your return on investment (ROI).  And when you are as old as Jeter is and coming off the career-worst year that Jeter is coming off of, your legacy is the only thing you have going for you in the boardroom.  And like many of the greats before him, that might not be enough for the Yankees to offer what Jeter is looking for.

It would seem wrong to see Jeter play on another team, but it happens.  The athletes that accomplish amazing things, setting them apart as the sport’s elite are few and far between.  How many of those players actually get to play for one team their whole career?  Even fewer.  Jeter wouldn’t look right in another uniform but if the numbers don’t look right to the Yankees front office, then it won’t matter.

I like Castro at short.  I love his upside and potential.  We aren’t simply a Jeter away from winning it all and to bring him on board would be silly in tampering with Castro’s development.  Still, the simple fact that they took the time to photoshop Jeter into all 29 teams uni’s is hilarious.  Perhaps fans of some of those teams who could upgrade at SS, without a true young up-coming talent, who is a Jeter away from winning it all, now have reason to dream the dream: spending the Winter daydreaming over what might be next Fall after landing one of the game’s premiere talents.  Jeter isn’t what he was in the 90’s, but still.  You could do a lot worse.

Too bad he doesn’t play first base.  Now that would be a move where the talent we currently have doesn’t stand a chance in measuring up against Jeter…’90’s or 2011 Jeter for that matter. 

Not much player news on the Cubs front.  Quade and coaching staff locked in and everyone’s looking forward to the upcoming December Winter Meetings.  Jeterless, sure.  Still, can’t wait to see what the roster looks like come Spring Training in February.

Go Cubs Go!

What would it take to make the Cubs unstoppable?

Yes, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.  Yes, I have some ideas of my own.  Yes, I wanted a lame excuse to post this hilarious SNL digital short here on the blog because it’s hilarious.  Yes, I realize I used the word hilarious twice in that last sentence.  Yes, I know what a thesaurus is.

Things I believe would make the Cubs unstoppable in 2011: a miracle, an ace starting pitcher, more Colvin/less Fukudome, a power hitting first baseman, a repeat performance by Marlon Byrd, Soriano does his impression of Cocoon 3, Quade convinces Castro he’s up for rookie of the year honors again therefore avoiding any possibility of the young one having a mental sophomore slump, Marmol reaches 96 saves, Todd Ricketts appears on Millionaire Matchmaker, Say Yes to the Dress, International House Hunters and Celebrity Apprentice, the Cardinals close their doors forever, the Reds are moved to the American League and last but not least, we sign Mike Schmidt to manage our AAA club.  That’s right, take that, Phillies.

http://www.hulu.com/embed/cERl5D-flvffA27zxg1s9g

List in the comments what you think it would take to make the Cubs unstoppable in 2011!  Go Cubs Go!

BBA Chicago Cubs Chapter Voting Results for NL Rookie of the Year (The Willie Mays Award)

The Chicago Cubs Chapter, which includes myself and other Cub bloggers signed on as members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance(see the list in the post below this one) have voted for NL rookie of the year, or as the BBA calls it, our Willie Mays Award.

After compiling our votes, here are the results.  First Place: Buster Posey.  Second Place: Starlin Castro.  Third Place: Tyler Colvin.
Looking forward to seeing how the other chapters voted when the award is announced!  Go Cubs Go!

Statues of Limitations

The Cubs will honor one of the greatest Cubs of all-time tonight when they unveil a statue of Hall of Famer, Billy Williams.

The statue will be revealed in a ceremony at Wrigley before their game against the Astros at the corner of Addison Street and Sheffield Avenue.  Lots of folks had a problem with the way they handled the Harry Caray statue situation in replacing his long-held location at that intersection with the new Williams statue.  While I don’t really understand the decision to move Caray for Williams (why not just leave Caray and Banks, the only other player to be honored with a statue at Wrigley, where they are and put Williams else where?), it doesn’t bother me outside of not understanding the logic in doing so.

Williams already has his number retired by the club and it’s a great honor to be immortalized outside the game’s greatest stadium.  I’m currently reading about Billy Williams and it’s a fascinating story.  I’m happy for him and can’t wait to see the statue next time I visit Wrigley.  (Banks too for that matter as I’ve only seen the Caray statue in person).

A team that is short on championships and long on failures, I’m glad the Ricketts have decided to find a way to keep moving forward while updating but not changing the old stadium and honoring greats of the past, highlighting the positives that Cubs fans can be proud of while many obsess over the losing seasons and loveable loser reputation (a little too much in my opinion).  I feel it’s hard to break out of the lovable loser/losing mentality when you are constantly embracing it and while it may be necessary in a laugh-instead of crying kind of way, it won’t ever help us win a title.  The more ways we can emphasize the positives and look to move this team forward in a way that makes a positive difference, the better.

In a way, it would be easy for the Ricketts to push the old Veeck mentality of come out and have fun at the ballpark, don’t worry so much about the winning.  This would be even easier for them than other potential owners considering they grew up with it all around them finding love in life and for their team in the bleachers of Wrigley and as die-hard fans, it would be easy to take that loveable loser mentality into the owner’s box.  Think about how horrible that would be if they took the ‘let’s have a sense of humor’ approach and commemorated some horrible moments/characters in Cubs history with statues outside of Wrigley.  My Cubs statues of limitations if you will.

A statue of Lou Piniella for instance.  Giant belly, raving lunatic face, maybe even yelling in the face of an umpire (this statue would take a while considering there’d be an ump as well).  Holding two giant stone tablets, one reading 2007, one reading 2008 and beneath him on the ground, two broken tablets: 2009 and 2010.  His left arm in the air in anger and his right arm reaching out, just short of a carved out stone version of the word “potential”.

A statue of Dusty Baker for instance.  This one would have to be practically a characature.  Big smile on his face commemorating his arrival in the Windy City.  A toothpick so large it’s nearly the size of the rest of the statue.  Carved out fans crying all around him at his feet and a little Sammy Sosa in the back of the statue doing whatever he feels like.

A statue of the Cubs batting glove Bill Buckner wore in game six of the World Series in 1986 for instance. Simply to commemorate the once a Cub, always a Cub feeling.  You may be able to take the player out of Chicago, but you can never take Chicago out of the player.

A statue of Sammy Sosa for instance. Biggest torso on a player’s statue ever created with a tiny head and two gigantic arms sitting upon two gigantic, powerful legs.  In his back pocket a syringe.  His right arm pointing up to the sky in celebration of a home run and his left hand behind his back with his fingers crossed to denote the honesty that each home run was bashed in while chasing down unattainable records.  Of course there would be no number on his back because next to him would be a very little Tyler Colvin wearing the number 21 just laughing and having a great time doing a respectable job representing Sosa’s old steroid infested number.  At Sosa’s feet, a Spanish to English dictionary ripped in two and set on fire in hopes that no one knew it ever existed in Sammy’s possession, ever.  And the bonus feature, for some reason after years and years of looking this way, the statue’s face will begin to fade until the face is so white it longer resembles anything that it used to be and fans will have to do a double take to make sure it’s who they think it is.

A statue of Todd Hundley if you will for instance.  Todd Hundley’s statue would be made of the most expensive metal and yet, would deliver the least amount of entertainment value.  If fans had their way, it would probably also receive the largest amount of bird excrement.  Hundley would simply be standing there with hands in his pocket offering absolutely nothing with a giant smile on his face.  No glove as he was horrible behind the plate.  No bat as he delivered nothing compared to what was expected of him.  Next to him on the ground?  A giant bag of cash with a cartoonish $ symbol.  Hundley’s would be the only statue with a sound effect…that being, the sound of a truck backing up which would commemorate the giant contract he was given.  When the truck doesn’t arrive, fans will realize that it is commemorating how long Cubs fans waited for results out of Hundley even though all of his money was on the way.

And last but not least, a statute of Will Ohman for instance.  Quite possibly the worst Cubs relief pitcher to ever demonstrate hilarious ineffectiveness right before my eyes.  Ohman’s statue would be of him on the mound looking in for the sign.  Behind him, a brick wall covered in ivy and the famous scoreboard.  Out of the scoreboard would be a kid just waiting to flip over the visitors’ run total on the scoreboard. When Ohman pitches, the other team scores a ton of runs and it will show.  Ohman’s statue, the only one with a cool interactive feature, will allow fans to step up to the plate, literally.  You can step on a home plate and right on cue a ball with be shot out of a small cannon, flying over the outfield wall.  The run the boy running the scoreboard was counting on, delivered.

Needless to say, this would be a horrible sight to see and I’m glad the Ricketts are knowledgable enough of the past and looking to celebrate it.  We need more focusing on the positives these days as our team is falling apart beyond what I expected.  2007, 2008 were a blast.  2009 was a let down.  However this year, has simply been sad.  No playoffs.  No title.  Not even having Lou for the whole season.  The bright spots need to continue getting us through and they need to continue to be celebrated.  Williams is a bright spot from the past and we need to keep those bright spots in mind while enjoying the current bright spots of today (Quade, Castro, Colvin….and that’s been about it).

You guys have any other ideas for Cub Statues of Limitations?  Congratulations Billy, you deserve it!  Go Cubs Go!

Follow this kid and tell him to be my next “Prosecard from Cubs Nation”!

I have found more Cubs fans to interact with on Twitter than in ‘real life’.  Why?  Because I live in New York City.  Many of my “Prosecards from Cubs Nation” features have featured Cub fans I found on Twitter and a few of them I’ve even had a chance to meet at Citi Field attending Cubs v. Mets games.

They were all great interviews and I appreciated everyone stepping up to the plate and participating.  I have one I’m looking to put together with Brian from popular Cubs blog “Bullpen Brian”.  We should be able to arrange in the next week or so.  Until then, I’d like your help in getting another Prosecard set up.  Follow this kid @KeenanCahill and send him a tweet telling him to do our next Prosecard from Cubs Nation.  He’s a Cubs fan and he cracks me up with his videos.  If you haven’t seen them, here are a couple.  Great to cure the 2010 Cubs blues.  (Although Quade is also helping I must say…..and come on Castro!  Get that AVG up and win the batting title man…big September is all you need!)

Check out his videos and let’s make this happen!  Silva back on the mound tonight.  These videos go out to Big Carlos Silva!  Get that W Silva!

Go Cubs Go!