NLDS: Dodgers 2, Cubs 0

Dailies
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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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And So It Is

Dailies

Three days away…Wrigley Field…Game 1, NLDS.  

Dodgers.  Cubs.  
Awesome.
161 regular season games, full of exciting drama, big hits, breakthroughs, milestones, career-best seasons and a long list of other highlights in this 2/3’s of the 2008 Cubs’ season.  
In the first third, Spring Training, the organization found itself coming off a successful run at a  division championship the year before, which was unfortunately followed up by a not so successful sweep in the first round of the playoffs by Arizona.  That wasn’t how it was supposed to go.  No one in the front office, the dugout, or the bleacher seats thought the Cubs were built to be swept in the NLDS.  But that is exactly what happened and for an organization short on opportunities to claim another World Series title, one that they’d waited for nearly a century to obtain, everyone in the front office knew that there were some serious decisions that needed to be made.  These decisions made up a huge chunk of a dramatic offseason and a Spring that included four key storylines: the rotation, the closer, the outfield and the “second baseman”.  
Come Spring Training one the key issues was figuring out who our five starters were going to be when the games counted starting March 31st.  And there was a great battle to figure out who those five would be.  Some guys came out of the gates quickly to prove themselves to Piniella and company and stayed the course.  Ohers had an up and down Spring and some were a huge disappointment.  Z and LIlly were no-brainers, but the rest were up in the air.  Would the old favorite Lieber make the squad?  What about Marquis?  Can he even bring anything worthwhile to the table this year?  Or what about Dempster?  Should we really consider our closer, Ryan Dempster as a starter this year?  It would make room for Wood to potentially become the closer if the organization so chose.  All very important question that were being bounced around the clubhouse, media and fan base.  In the end, Zambrano and Lilly were teamed up with Dempster, Marquis and Rich Hill.  
Come the regular season, Zambrano and Lilly were pretty much what you’d expect but Dempster was amazing at home.  One of the greatest home field pitchers in the game developed in Dempster as he became a guy to truly challenge Z for the ace role, especially when you’re talking consistency and reliability at Wrigley.  Hill faded fast as it became more painful for fans to watch him and thankfully, the organization found a way to land one of baseball’s greatest steals, in a trade for Rich Harden.  This group would become one of the best rotations in baseball by season’s end.
The closer situation was interesting from Spring on as well.  Simply making such a huge decision as taking your closer and bringing him into a starter role, one he hadn’t held in years is news enough.  But to have a competition in Spring to see who would replace him…and to add to it that one of the contenders is fan-favorite, uber-talented yet often-injured Kerry Wood, made it one of the biggest stories of the Spring, spilling into the regular season.  The trio of Howry, Marmol and Wood pushed each other all Spring for the job.  The organization seemed to be hoping, pulling, pushing for Wood to grab the job as they gave him many opportunities to step up and grab it, even one instance where after an injury they figured well let’s just see if he can successfully pitch two days in a row and that will pretty much seal the deal.  Two days in a row?  I was thinking we’re going to need our closer a lot more than two days in a row (hopefully).  Maybe that wasn’t the best final test to give him the job.  I always wanted Marmol to land the job as I thought he had had the best Spring.  As it turned out, the job did go to Wood and he had an All-Star season with the ninth inning all his, one of the best in the game.  And the eighth belonged to Marmol.  You couldn’t ask for a more powerful late inning duo as they proved to be a key element to the Cubs clinching the Central for a second straight season.
And of course, you need great position players to back these pitchers up, right?  So then what to do about the outfield?  Aside from Soriano, nobody was a lock to land an outfield job with the Cubs.  Ok, maybe Fukudome.  But no one had ever seen him perform in a MLB game.  Sure, the Cubs had scouted him in some of the greatest international baseball there is, but still…he hadn’t faced MLB pitching on a regular basis.  While Fukudome was a pick up that excited millions of Cubs fans at the time, including myself, he was still an unproven (and expensive) commodity.  A virtual unknown.  He ended up with the right field gig and came out with a bang, hitting a double in his first MLB at-bat and then with a game tying three-un home run in the bottom of the ninth at Wrigley against the Brewers on Opening Day.  While his regular season’s first half made him a legitimate All-Star, for some reason the second half of the season saw Fukudome struggle his way to less playing time and even some time on the bench.  Pickups like Jim Edmonds (the most unlikely I’d say…he was a CARDINAL) and Reed Johnson proved to be huge difference makers in the outfield and the Cubs were able to send young, full of potential center fielder Pie to the minors for the Summer until late season call-ups.  It gave the organization a great record of wise decisions up front and then smooth strategic dealing when it was needed.
And of course, the second baseman.  Rumors, rumors, rumors.  Brian Roberts.  Mark DeRosa.  Mark DeRosa, Brian Roberts. Uma, Oprah.  Oprah, Uma.  Letterman’s joke went over like a fart in church (don’t think I like this analogy actually…I’ve heard people fart in church and it is rather funny) and who knows how this trade would have ended up in the Cubs Win/Loss columns.  Roberts would have lead off and although Soriano struggled here and there throughout the season, he ended up being an All-Star and a huge offensive catalyst for us.  DeRosa is more valuable a player than Roberts will ever be.  The things DeRosa does on the field and the amount of positions the guy can play….this team would not be where it is right now if it wasn’t for Mark DeRosa.  Thought I’d be okay with a trade in the Spring….really glad it didn’t happen looking back.
Which brings us, to looking forward.  On Wednesday, Game 1 of the NLDS kicks off.  Ryan Dempster, closer converted to starter with 17 wins this year will be on the mound, in the stadium where he dominated all year for the Cubs.  We’ll get the Dodgers first up and I think this is going to be one amazing series.  Joe Torre’s first post season with the Dodgers, alongside his former nemesis, Manny Ramirez.  The Dodgers are going to be a huge challenge for the Cubs and it’s going to come down to more of what got them here.  Great pitching, great management, great decisions…in fact, next to all of those ‘great’s, you can also include ‘timely’.  We find a way to continue our great and timely everything that we’ve managed to come up with in the Spring and Summer, then the last third of this season, the Fall could be a classic, in more ways than one.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Made Me Think

Dailies

This video sparked the stream of conciousness that follows.  Please watch before reading.

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=3610493

Historically, aside from all the wins and losses and eliminations and playoffs and naming of a World Series champion this year…going forward the record books and baseball landscape are going to look a bit different as they are about to lose two of their East coast mainstays, Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium.  One with simply a new building and one with not only a new building but a new name.  Depending on how things go this weekend, as of end of day Sunday, Shea Stadium will cease to exist as the home of the New York Mets.  As a kid who grew up on the East Coast, this is where I’ve seen most of the baseball games I’ve gone to.  When I went to the game the other night I couldn’t help but feel sad that this place was no longer going to exist.  You could tell fans around the ballpark were already thinking about the fact that Shea would no longer be around too. Hard not to with fans taking pictures for their own favorite memory spots inside and outside of the stadium, as well as the organization’s countdown to the final home game.  

There’s a certain vibe that can be felt in a ballpark. Some don’t exactly share the same amount of history as others do.  Either they haven’t been around as long or haven’t had the same amount of successful, memorable seasons as other teams have had in their ballparks.  Wrigley and Fenway will now be the last two remaining stadiums from the OLD days.  They are classics…historical landmarks in the fabric of the baseball society.  With every new cookie-cutter stadium that is built and named after some stupid cell phone company or bank, the closer we get to losing a large part of what has made baseball what it is today.  The venues that the game has been played in.  Think about it.  Some of you may have moved with your family at some time in your life.  Left the house that you grew up in.  Left the only home you and your family have ever known.  It’s a sad thing to go through.  I know because I’ve fought my family on them doing so for a long time now.  I’m sure eventually it would be best for my parents to move out of the house that is now a little too big for them and its been a little selfish on my part to request that they stay.  People say, “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a house.  You’ll still be family no matter where your parents live and regardless of whether you’ll be able to go back to the only home you’ve ever known or not, it’s about where your family is that makes a house a home, not the actual house itself”.  That may be true, but then why does it matter so much to so many that nothing does change and that you’re able to keep the same house forever?  It’s because that’s where all your history lives and breathes.  And as baseball fans, our fellow fans become our baseball family and our stadiums our baseball family’s home.  

Root for a team long enough and you don’t even need to know the people around you at the ball game.  Just the simple fact that you wear the same team colors and have laughed and cried at the same history of the team together is all that matters.  When it comes to being a baseball fan, that’s what matters.  The memories.  And the memories will always be there.  It just doesn’t feel the same though when you think about the fact that the tangible place in which those memories took place will be gone forever.  And for baseball fans that have had to go through this around the country, it’s a very sad thing.  Shea Stadium, Yankee Stadium and every other ballpark that has been shut down over the years because it was simply to old and out of date to invest in and carry on, had fans that went through the same thing New York Yankees and New York Mets fans are going through now.  The memories live on but the tangible home of those memories soon to be lost forever.  That is a sad thing.  One of the biggest necessary evils of the game I suppose.  Let’s just hope Wrigley Field is never added to the list and that Cubs fans never have to experience this kind of loss.

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The Cubs have the best record in the National League, are playing well, have already had a magical regular season and starting next Wednesday, start their postseason quest of becoming World Series Champions for the first time in 100 years.  Given all of that, even I’m surprised I was able to post a blog that feels like a giant downer.  Fact is, some losses hurt more than others…and while any kind of series loss would be painful for Cubs fans, after watching the video included above about the fire sale of memorabilia at Shea, the thought of the loss of Wrigley entered my mind and I couldn’t help but think that in this ‘anything is possible’ world of ours…no matter how much history the stadium has and how much love for the place fans have for it, Wrigley could eventually also go away.  And to not bring a World Series championship to Wrigley before that does happen…well, that just wouldn’t be right.  It’s been nearly 100 years since the last time the Cubs won it all.  With all that Wrigley means to the Cubs and its fans, and how much it is a part of the team and the club’s identity and history, I think its waited long enough to share in a championship season. It’s time Wrigley has a stadium full of Cubs players and Cubs fans cheering inside it after the final out of the World Series is recorded and the Cubs are World Champions once again…before something awful/corporate happens and that experience is no longer a possibility.
Less than a week until the first game of the NLDS at Wrigley.  Sunday night we’ll know who we’re playing.  And it can’t get here soon enough.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Mets 7 – Hoffpauir 5

Dailies

Final score: Mets 7, Cubs 6.  Will any of what occurred in the past four days matter come October?  Who are the Cubs going to play in the NLDS?  This race has been so entertaining, I don’t even want to be able to know the answer to that until after all the games end on Sunday.

Mets are hanging in there…Marlins are up next for them and they are no slouch.  Then again, they’re no Cubs either.  
3 games left.  Mets are behind the Phillies by 1 game in the East and tied with the Brewers for the Wild Card.  Again, tied for the Wild Card…three games left.
This is one of the greatest playoff positioning battles I’ve ever seen going into the final weekend of a season.  All three teams battling to get in to the final two spots in the NL are playing at home this weekend…each with varying degrees of difficulty in their opponents.  Mets get the Marlins, again no slouch.  Phillies get the Nationals…somebody from Philly organize this year’s schedule in case it came down to the wire again like last year?  I mean, the Nationals??? Come on.  The Nationals may surprise people every now and again but let’s face it, if I’m the Brewers…I am not happy about this situation one bit.
Sure I’m at home…on the same field the Cubs borrowed and threw their nearly perfect, first no-hitter in club history in over forever ago.  Facing the team with the best record in the National League…who will show up as the away team…yet playing in a stadium often considered Wrigley North.
Forget Houston being rescheduled to play home games in Milwaukee…this hardly seems fair.
So here the Cubs are.  Already captured the NL Central, earlier than they ever have.  Best record in the National League, home field advantage through the NLCS (if they make it that far).  And as if that weren’t enough…they now get the added bonus of possibly playing spoiler for the Brewers.  
Wow.
The Mets were great this week.  If it wasn’t for their bullpen blowing leads, they may have faired better.  Considering we weren’t going full lineup in every game gives me very little concern about the Cubs in looking at these past four games.  Although I suppose Zambrano does raise some concern.  He didn’t look so hot on Wednesday and of course the start before that he got ROCKED.  Nobody is going to care about Z’s no-hitter come October, especially anyone in an opposing team uniform.  Dempster’s going to kick things off, but we are definitely going to need Z to be closer to no-hit form as opposed to ‘last two starts’ form.  As always with the Cubs, this is about to get (even more) interesting.
I love that we’re in a position to take a look at some guys in figuring out our postseason roster though, a luxury teams like the Mets, Phillies and Brewers don’t have.  Man, what an audition Hoffpauir had tonight!  5 for 5, 5 RBI’s and 2 HR’s.  I was IMPRESSED by him in Spring Training, unfortunately there just weren’t enough roster spots to fit him into for pretty much the entire regular season.  Once we had a chance to call some guys up, Hoffpauir and Pie were the two guys I hoped would get called up.  I expect them both to be on the roster for the NLDS and when called upon, while more so Hoffpauir than Pie, I expect them both to be ready and prove to be contributors in the clutch.
Three more games to the 2008 regular season.  Mets, Phillies and Brewers playing for a division …a wild card…an opportunity.  The Cubs on the other hand…playing in hopes of being champions…contributors…and quite possibly, spoilers.
159 games played.  And yet still, 3 more needed to make sense of it all.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Advantage: Cubs

Dailies

By beating the Mets in the house the Amazin’s built, the Cubs clinched home field advantage throughout the NLCS.  Now whether they make it that far remains to be seen.  However, with the home field advantage Wrigley has been so far this year for the Cubs…that is definitely more great news this club can enjoy, in addition to repeating as NL Central champs, clinching the division on Saturday against the Cardinals.

Marquis pitched a great game today going deep into the seventh inning and provided the game winning grand slam. I always find it weird to see a pitcher hit a home run, even as a national league fan. Of course, I always welcome it regardless.
 
You can tell its audition season as of late with Pie getting more playing time lately. I admire the fact that Lou is still playing everyone, keeping them ready and trying to built momentum going into the playoffs.  Pie has delivered as of late and I believe he will be a great cog to have if we need him in the postseason.  Before the season I thought he was the next great CF this league may see.  He still could be I suppose, but after watching Edmonds and Johnson take over center this year, it truly shows how much Pie still has left to develop as a player before he contributes at that level on a regular basis.  
 
One thing Fukudome will provide in the postseason for sure is his glove.  He’s a smart fielder and made another nice play tonight against the Mets.  His bat may have cooled off and the NL may have ‘figured him out’, but his glove is one thing you can’t do anything about.  He’ll be a great defensive component if nothing else in the playoffs.
 
I’m glad Lou is keeping Z in his regular spot in the rotation.  After getting hit hard last time out and having such a drastic difference in outcomes in his two appearances after being out for two weeks, Zambrano really needs to be in there on his regular rest.  Everyone else has been shuffled slightly to shape up and prepare our four man rotation for the playoffs.  That four man group of course will feature Zambrano, Lilly, Harden and Dempster.  Four great seasons right there…let’s hope it continues when the calendar flips and we hit October 1.
 
Speaking of which, still not sure who we’ll be playing which is why Lou hasn’t named a Game 1 starter for October 1. I can’t say I like the Cubs’ chances any more or less when it comes to the Mets or Dodgers.  Both teams have been hot and cold as of late, both have big time play makers in their lineups and I feel like their pitching staffs are pretty much equal performance and health-wise at this point, very late in the season.
 
55-26 at home this year.  Best overall record in the National League locked in.  Playoffs start October 1.
 
Advantage: Cubs.  
 
GO CUBS GO!!!
 
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Well, that was different!

Dailies

From this:

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To this:
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5 days ago, brilliant.  Today, horrendous.  Let’s hope it just wasn’t Z’s day today and that it’s not some sign of things to come…some kind of warning sign of the shape Z’s shoulder is headed in when we need him at his best the most.
The Brewers are currently losing.  That’s cool.  Too bad we couldn’t do our part today.  For anyone who didn’t see the game, it was nowhere near as close as the 12-6 final score reads.  No, I know…six runs isn’t close.  
That’s my point.
I couldn’t believe it when half way through the fifth I was pretty sure I’d already seen 3 or 4 Cubs pitchers in the game.  It was just that kind of day.  Soto was out of the lineup too…that can’t be anything serious either, otherwise we could be looking at a situation where injuries prove to be this year’s goat, cat, and Bartman all in one.
Was hoping today was clinching day with Zambrano on the mound.  Didn’t happen.  Definitely disappointed but let’s face it…still have an 8.5 game lead in the Central at this point and tomorrow’s another day.  Brewers lose tonight, it’s back up to nine games and it’s all in our hands tomorrow.  
Still a great situation to be in as far as the division is concerned.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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One for Me. One for Brew.

Dailies
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The magic number is down to two.  One win for the Cubs…one loss for the Brewers.  That’s it.  That’s all that is standing between the Cubs and a repeat title in the National League Central.  151 games played.  92 won. 59 lost.  And at home, a record of 53-25.  Tomorrow at Wrigley they get another opportunity to celebrate on the home field, for the 54th time this season…and if accompanied by a Brewers loss…this celebration will come with the division and another trip to the postseason…another chance to get to and win the World Series.

Zambrano is on the mound tomorrow.  Last time out we all know what happened.  Lilly and company nearly repeated the feat the next day.  The chances of that were ridiculous low.  The odds on Zambrano coming out and throwing another no-hitter are so stacked against the ace, it’s seriously ridiculous to even discuss it.  
The Cardinals are trying to make headway in the wild card race so they’ll be a team that will fight through the game and no matter what kind of lead the Cubs get on them early in the game, they won’t go away easily.  The Cubs will have to come out strong and not let up the whole game.  Exactly the way Piniella has preached for September and October to go if they’re going to finish this thing the way we all hope they do.  To get a victory like today’s and not capitalize on the opportunity it presents would be a shame.
When I lost my internet connection while watching today’s game on-line, the Cubs were down 5-2 and it wasn’t looking good.  I assumed we’d be stuck at four games at the end of the day and look to move forward with the countdown tomorrow.  When I got the text message that said the Cubs won 7-6 I couldn’t believe it.  I saw Ramirez go deep earlier in the game.  The guy has been a part of so many clutch moments this year, its a shame his stats aren’t better overall or I’d consider him someone with great chances to be the Cubs and the NL’s MVP.
soto 3 run hr game winner vs brewers sept 18.png
My favorite part aside from the simple fact that they won is the fact that a young player in Soto was the guy who stepped up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to deliver the game tying three run blast.  He was the NL’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, has handled the staff well this season and has clearly made an impact on this year’s team.  It’s good to see him keep that momentum going in clutch moments such as today.  The more the merrier and we’re going to need everybody flying on all cylinders in order to have a chance at beating the ghosts of Cubs past this October.
Of course the guy who is favored to be the NL MVP this season is Pujols and he’ll be a bat we’ll need to keep under control tomorrow if we’re going to do our part in obtaining a chance to clinch on Friday.  Another title, another win closer to retaining the best record in the National League and home field through the NLCS potentially and the chance to do it all at home is on the line tomorrow.  One more win from the Cubs…and of course one more loss from the Brewers.  Voluntarily or not…sure would be great if all parties involved would corporate tomorrow.  What do you say Brewers?  Feel like losing to the Reds tomorrow?  C’mon…you know you do…
…please?  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Brief Setback

Dailies
Column A  Column B
                                                     Zambrano       1-hitter
                                                     Lilly                9 strike out game
                                                     Dempster        Lose to the Brewers
                                                     Marquis          No-hitter
If you were to see these two columns listed above a few days back and asked to try and match up one from one column with a selection in the other, in predicting what would happen to the pitchers in column A this week, would you have guessed correctly?  I don’t know that I would have.  I may have initially thought Zambrano would throw the no-hitter but then ultimately decide against choosing him because it would seem too obvious.  I may have then figured Lilly contributed to the one-hitter and given the no-hitter to Dempster (because why not and…) seeing that I would assume out of the four of them it would be Zambrano who’s outcome was heavily strikeout based.  Even with a sore shoulder, I’d give him the benefit of the doubt against the other three when it comes to striking out opposing batters.  Which of course would then leave Marquis to lose to the Brewers.  While this game would be more fun with no losses in column B as options, after tonight’s game I would unfortunately have 2 out of 4 correct.
It didn’t take long for the Brewers to jump out in front and once they got comfortable there, they held on to the lead for the entire game.  If you think Dempster had a lot to follow with Z’s no-no and Lilly’s combined effort on with the one-hitter, how do you think Marquis must’ve felt?  Especially with the ‘magic numbers’ falling fast lately, the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone again with tonight’s game, Dempster’s outing in addition to Z’s and Lilly, PLUS the fact that Houston lost which left the Cubs to only do their part in winning all three games in order to take the division against the Brewers by the end of this series.  Unfortunately Marquis got lit up and had no support from the Cubs’ hitters..even despite the fact that Sheets left early with tightness in his forearm.  Shouldn’t be too serious so good for Sheets, but the fact that we couldn’t step up against the Crew’s bullpen?  C’mon…that’s ridiculous.
The Cubs better keep playing hard and take no game lightly even with an eight game lead.  It was like they hardly showed up tonight when it came to the bottom of each inning.  The Brewers and Cardinals are fighting for their postseason life in the Wild Card race and of course until the Cubs’ magic number does actually hit zero, there’s always the chance of some miracle finish by one of them to steal the division.  So no more messing around.  Let’s take care of the Brewers tomorrow and get it down to two.  Then, let’s do what we have to do against the Cardinals and wrap it up at home this weekend.  We make it to October and there is going to be plenty of drama to go around I’m sure.  Let’s keep the September drama to a minimum shall we?  I think that sounds like a great plan.  Harden’s up to finish off this series with the Brewers tomorrow afternoon.  Let’s hope he carves out his own multiple choice/match game answer with ‘none of the above’.  That way, even though it might end up being mighty ugly, at least it won’t result in a loss and we can get that magic number officially down to two.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Make it Four

Dailies

What an amazing game tonight.  Dempster achieved his career high win count with 16 after failing to reach the mark in his last few starts.  Soriano comes through as does Ramirez in extremely clutch situations.  Marmol duels his way to lead the Cubs into the top of the ninth holding on to the lead.  And in a classic battle of speed versus power, Wood defeats Fielder in a one-on-one battle of the NL Central titans to hold off the Brewers push and win the game 5-4 in front of an extremely excited Wrigley crowd.  

Fielder was unreal in this game but Wood proved to be too much in the end.  I could watch the off-speed pitch Wood through to Fielder over and over again.  Completely buckled Fielder and froze him into a situation where he found himself going down looking and leaving the rest of us to watching the Cubs magic number go down to four.  Here is a screen grab from the broadcast I watched on MLB.TV:
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This guy was prepared, huh?  Couple more like this and we’ll be watching the celebration of another division title for the Cubs at home, in the friendly confines of Wrigley.  No better place for the team to spray champagne and enjoy success…and this Thursday would be great.  It’s good for me.  Is it good for you?  Yeah, I thought so.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Oooh…magic

Dailies

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Magic is fun….but magic is hard to believe in unless you see the magician actually pull off the trick. The Cubs magic number to clinch is down to six.  I’ll be a lot more excited about it when I see them complete the trick officially.
Today was a beautiful step in that direction, for sure.  Ted Lilly…talk about tough acts to follow.  A day after Zambrano pulls off the first Cubs no-no since 36 years prior (no wait, let me rephrase that, just in case, and let’s say since 36 years earlier), Lilly had to take the mound and try to match the level of success Z accomplished not even 24 hours before.  And by match success, I mean simply get the ‘W’.  He did…and then some.  Lilly came out firing on all cylinders and no-hit the Astros even further, for a combined 15 innings when coupled with Z’s performance!  It started to get to the point where I felt bad for the Astros.  It didn’t quite get to that point, but it was close.
I don’t know what’s going to happen and where the Cubs will be come the end of October, when there’s no more baseball to played in ’08, but there’s no doubt that this season has been full of special moments no matter what.  Fukudome’s start, Soto’s year, Dempster’s return to the starter role, Wood’s surge to All-Star form, Theriot’s all around great play, the incredible diversity and contribution of Derosa, the surprise addition of Edmonds, the up and down year of Soriano, Zambrano’s no-hitter and today’s performance by Ted Lilly.  Lots of great moments, definitely worth the price of admission both financially and emotionally up until now.  HUGE expectations exist though for the final trick of the season.  The anticipation certainly has been exciting…have to wonder if they’ll be able to pull it off…
Great game today, unbelievable lead in the Central all things considered and the magic number sits there at six.  Let’s hope Dempster continues to saw opponents half and doesn’t begin a Cubs disappearing act with tomorrow’s start against the Brewers.  The series are just going to get bigger and bigger from here on out.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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No Stadium? No Problem. No Hitter.

Dailies

Carlos Zambrano is the man.

Sore shoulder and all, back from a little time off, Zambrano returned triumphantly to the Cubs rotation by shutting down and shutting out the red-hot Houston Astros.  It was the first Cubs no-hitter in over 36 years and it comes at a great time for the Cubs.  
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It extends the Cubs lead in the Central to 7.5 games over Milwaukee and the beauty of this beast of a performance also exists in the location it took place in…Milwaukee.  Mind if we borrow your stadium quick to play a game against the Astros?  It won’t take long…only one over the minimum batters required to get the ‘W’, thanks.  One walk away from the perfect game along with 10 strikeouts along the way.  Cooled off the Astros and pushed back the Brew Crew in their own stadium.  Good times.
Alfonso Soriano kicked things off with his 49th career leadoff home run and it was all Zambrano needed.  A huge statement was made for sure.  I panicked a little bit as to how Ike was going to affect our pitchers and the performance/mindset/quality of play of each and every Cub.  Apparently, that was unnecessary.  So far so good.  Big thanks from Big Z to Derosa and Lee for their spectacular D in the field, I’m sure.  Congrats on a great game Z…Astros up again tomorrow.  Your turn Lilly.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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PPD and Still Lost Some Ground

Dailies

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Unbelievable.  We got screwed on both counts.  The first one, well, first off let me just say I hope everyone that lives in the line of fire where Hurricane Ike is concerned stays safe and unharmed by the storm.  That being said, I really do not like Ike for other reasons.  Ok, one.  The way it could affect our Cubs.  
We can only be sure to get back on course quickly by playing.  Our rotation is set and everyone is on their own internal clock, ready to go every five days when needed.  Throwing everybody off that course is not the ideal way to proceed with the season.  The last thing we need to be doing is sitting at home, getting thrown off course where it applies, for others, sitting around drowning further in a funk that they’re in at the plate because they’re not getting the opportunity to swing their way out of it.  And if Piniella’s tirade the other day was to sink in at all and light a fire under these guys to stress the importance of finishing strong, that momentum too can be lost by taking today and tomorrow off.
The only positives I see with it is perhaps Milwaukee will do us a favor by losing in the meantime, further padding our lead without us even putting on a uniform in the meantime and also, Houston is ridiculously hot right now.  Their baseball team that is.  I’ve read many articles where Houston is being called the 2008 version of the ’07 Rockies with this run they’re putting together.  Maybe a couple days off couldn’t hurt.  Maybe it’ll cool them off a bit and throw them off enough to not be so freakishly dominating in this series as they may have been otherwise with this phenomenal run they’re on.  Stupid Ike.  Nobody needs this right now, in the great sense of how it effects people in real life…and in the baseball sense when it comes to our Cubs.  (I am glad we’re not playing in Tampa though…Lou has a point about their performance there so far this year).  Mother Nature needs to sit down and shut up.  Stop rockin’ the boat (remember those commercials? Classic) and be more like the guy in the 10 gallon hat, sitting in the crowd in another classic “The Bad News Bears Go To The Astrodome” blowing nothing but hot air and cheering the game on with a hearty “Let them play! Let them play! Let them play!”  The season’s not over.  There is still lots of work left to be done, games and divisions and pennants and championships to be won!  Where is Tanner Boyle when you need him?
As for losing ground regardless?  Stupid coin toss.  As it turns out, IF the Cubs and Brewers end up in a tie and in need of a 1 game playoff to see who goes to the post-season…that game will be played away from Wrigley, in the belly of the beast, deep in the heart of Brewerland.  
Hurricane.  Coin toss.  Sounds like a couple of great late season storylines in the on-going script of “The Bad News Cubs Go To Fukudome To Win The World Series” doesn’t?  Well, I don’t know about the movie, but this blog could use a better ending.  I’ve got a couple in mind.  I’ll flip a coin on it and get back to you.
GO CUBS GO!

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Yikes

Dailies

Why ‘yikes’?  First off, I can’t believe its been so long since I posted last.  The past month and half was extremely stressful for a number of reasons and while I made sure to watch the games, read the box scores and follow the standings, it was hard to find the opportunities to talk about it all and share my thoughts about it on here.  Things have settled down a little bit though, so it should be a bit easier to do so.  Expect more posts and pitchers of beer handed out down the stretch.  This season is turning out to be intense…

…which leads us to…
…why lead off with a ‘yikes’ headline reason number two: What is going on with our Cubs?  I mean, we are still leading in the standings, right?  We haven’t played so poorly as of late that we’ve fallen out of first place, right?  Could someone please double check that for me?
First place?  Ok, good.
How about now?
Since the All-Star break, things sure have become interesting haven’t they?  The Brewers are hanging in there but thanks to a number of teams helping out, the Cubs have managed to enter tonight’s game against the Cardinals up 4.5 games.  No complaints here, but man…this is getting a little crazy.  Fukudome’s slumping.  I’m guessing either he’s tired or National League pitching has discovered something in his at-bats that they are using against him that they weren’t previously.  Harden and Zambrano go down with injuries following Wood’s stint on the DL.  Z and Harden?  And we’re still in first place?  Huh.
Lilly pulled out a great eight inning performance last game putting him at 14-9 on the year and Marquis has pulled his weight as well.  Good thing, the rotation has enough problems.  I liked reading that Lilly survived a head on collision at the plate.  Sure he misread the play, but you have to love a guy determined enough to win to go head-on at home.  And a pitcher who doesn’t exactly intimidate with sheer presence at that.  I’m not sure how I felt about his reaction to Piniella’s tirade the other day about the results the team is getting lately.  He basically came off as if he hadn’t heard anything about it.  The reporters made it clear how loud he was in the locker room saying these things where players could clearly hear…and how does the team not talk about it?  How far out of the loop does Lilly have to be to not hear about Sweet Lou’s rant?  And if he did hear about it, why pretend you didn’t?  All he could muster was some comment about him 100 years old.  Lou is right.  Winning now is the only thing that makes up to now matter, otherwise it could all go away in an instant (see NY Mets September of 2007).  And Lilly can only mention Lou is old?  Interesting approach/dynamic there…hopefully its a good one and it gains the results Lou is looking for.  Otherwise, I suppose ignorance is bliss…so good for him?
And now that we’re late in the season it’s time for adding players to the rosters.  Happy to see Pie back up where he belongs and contributing again.  If this team does do anything special, I believe Pie should be a part of it.  I’ve always been a huge fan of Pie’s and while I agree with playing Soriano, Johnson, Edmonds, Fukudome, Derosa, nearly anyone over Pie this year with the start to the season he had, on a personal level I like the guy as a player.  I think he has a lot of potential and I’m happy for him to see him back at Wrigley, a part of the pennant race playing in games that really matter.
ESPN has a giant story about Cubs fans now that it looks like they may do something special once again (it was only a matter of time).  Have you seen it?  It’s actually pretty cool. They highlight fans from every decade throughout the past century starting with 1908 (you know why, so I won’t insult you by mentioning it).  Here is the cover picture:
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Pretty cool, right?  I think so too.  I think it’d be cooler if I was on there, but I’m a blogger and a stand up comedian…center of attention isn’t exactly a surprise desired destination for someone who fits those two descriptions.
ANYWAY.
The quote there is “If a century of unmitigated pain hasn’t killed the affection of Cubs fans from ages 7-100, nothing ever will”.  I strongly believe that is true.  Here are some of my favorites of the 10 fans featured:
RICHARD SAVAGE
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The guy was born on January 7th, 1908.  Think he has vivid memories of the Cubs winning it all at the ripe old age of 9 MONTHS?!?  Highly doubt anyone was dropping champagne in the baby bottle for Mr. Savage to enjoy or letting him shake up his formula and spray the family when the final out was recorded.  This poor guy.  100 years of watching, rooting and waiting.  And how have the Cubs repaid him?  By winning ALMOST half their games.  They have let Mr. Savage down more than they’ve made him happy and dealt him some serious emotional blows along the way.  One of my first posts ever involved a Cubs fan that the internet always seems to use a the tell-all photo of Cubs fans.  I said something to the effect of, if for no one else, for her.  I stand corrected….if for no one else…for Mr. Savage.

HELEN KEILING
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I love the fact that the woman was born in 1914 and still, after rooting for hundreds of Cubs along the way…still…we would both name Ryne Sandberg as our favorite Cub of all-time.  I hate the fact that 1) she is quickly losing her sight (nearly completely gone) and her hearing so that even if the Cubs do win soon, she may not even get to take it all in; and 2) that the Cubs have repaid her with a .491 record since the day she was born.  A lifetime Cubs fan with more L’s than W’s and more desire to see her team win than time she may have left to actually enjoy it if she does.  I must say, Mr. Savage, you’ve got some tough competition here for the “if for anyone” award.

BILLY CORGAN
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The guy has spent YEARS as a member of the Smashing P
umpkins.  A rock star.  Work hard, play harder.  Yet you know what beating and exhaustion he couldn’t take as long as his time as a rock star?  Following the Cubs on a regular hard core basis.  Oh sure, he’s still a die-hard fan, but he’s more watching the roller coaster from a far than actually sitting on it like he used to.  No wonder…a .487 winning percentage since he entered the world in 1967.  He’s not in the running for the “if for anyone” award here, but still, I love the fact that being a Cubs fan was harder on him than being a rock star.  Hilarious.

RONNIE “WOO-WOO” WICKERS
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I have a feeling that if they had done this piece next year, regardless of this year’s outcome, Woo-Woo would say 2009 was his favorite Cubs team.  The guy just exudes Cubs fan and love of the Cubs.  I remember the first time I saw Ronnie wearing his uniform and doing the ‘woo-woo’.  Loved it then, love it now.  Can’t do a piece, good or bad about Cubs fans without featuring Ronnie Woo-Woo.  I mean, he has the greatest profession ever.  “Professional Cubs fan”.  I think the man deserves a new ‘title’ if you know what I mean.
WRIGLEY FIELDS
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Wrigley’s the only one on the list with a winning percentage over .500.  ‘Give it time’ though is I’m sure what many would say to that stat.  Little guy loves his Cubs and has a great name.  Good for him for putting up with those Sox fans from across town and good for his Dad for getting that deal done way ahead of time.  I don’t think I’d get away with it with my girlfriend, I can tell you that much.  Wonder how she’d feel about the name “Woo-Woo”.  Maybe that’s the approach to take?
Excited about Harden coming back for tonight’s game and I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.  I’ll be thrilled if we can get our rotation and bullpen a little healthier for this upcoming stretch, as well as if we can get Fukudome back on track.  I must admit, I’m a little concerned about having a large majority of our games left away from Wrigley.  I guess only time will tell.  And for myself and all the Cubs fans out there…this means you, too…hopefully time will have the answer we’re all looking for sooner, rather than later.
(Thanks for the nudge to get back to the blog cubs4eva…good to be back).  GO CUBS GO!

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LIVE (not really)…From The All-Star Game Red  Carpet!

Dailies

In about 40 minutes from the time I am beginning this post, the Red Carpet All-Star Game Parade will air on FOX for the world to see.  Unlike many baseball fans who will be watching, I actually had the opportunity to attend earlier this afternoon LIVE and in person!  It was amazing.


I actually didn’t even know the parade was happening until a couple hours before so the fact that I’d get to see the parade in person was a great surprise.  Seeing that today isn’t a shoot day I decided to head down to Sixth Avenue and check it out.  

I had no idea there would be Hall of Famers kicking it all off.  To be in New York City on a beautiful Summer day, celebrating the greatest players in the game today would’ve been enough…to be in the presence of the greatest players EVER, was a whole other treat.

The fans were into it and the energy was a lot of fun.  The players were digging all the chants and cheering and of course, some booing as they went by.  I think someone may have been sick or there was a 911 call because there were a ton of firetrucks half way through just as the National League All-Stars were coming by (the whole reason I was there to begin with) and after about a 10 minute delay, finally the Cubs players started rolling by.  Dempster, Marmol, Wood, Soriano, Soto, Fukudome were all there (no sign of Big Z or Ramirez).  Soto looked all class in his suit as I found most of the Hall of Famers were and some of the most famous players in the game as well.  I figure about 75% of the players wore some form of a leisure short sleeve shirt and while it was a nice-casual…still not the level of class most took in commemorating such an event.  Soto fit right in and I look forward to seeing him play this role for many years to come.  

Marmol was the only Cub All-Star I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of because I was too busy cheering.  One, he was one of the first Cubs to finally come down so I was psyched they were finally coming out…and two, I was too busy thinking about my predictions in the preseason of how he should be our closer and how happy I am with him as our set up guy instead.  When Wood came by I made sure I got a photo but he went by so quickly I didn’t get a chance to tell him how wrong I was about him in the Spring.  So far this year, he’s totally proven me wrong.

Soriano looked all class as well and when I yelled “Yeah Soriano, Go Cubs!” he looked over at me and gave me a nod full of confidence like I’ve never seen a nod with confidence before.  I know it sounds ridiculous but I seriously believe Soriano thinks this is the year.  Awesome.

Dempster was soaking in the festivities and pointed at me when I yelled “Yeah Demp, good for you man!”  One loss at home in the entire first half of the season…maybe one of the most deserving Cubs there.

For me though, the biggest thrill of the day was having Fukudome roll by five feet away representing the future success of the Cubs while Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks, sat next to him representing the greats of the past.  I made sure I got my picture of Fukudome and yelled out “FU-KU-DO-ME!” to which he laughed and nodded, probably surprised to receive the response he got from Cubs fans around me in of all places, New York City.  

Other Cub highlights from the parade were Ryne Sandberg who spurred on loud chants of “Ryno!” as he went by; Billy Williams and Fergie Jenkins who looked like he could still go nine innings (when one guy near me told him that he should teach these youngsters how to do so, he responded those days are over) making it a real treat to see all four living Cubs Hall of Famers up close and in person!  And of course, Lou Piniella.  When Sweet Lou went by I couldn’t help but wonder if I was seeing the guy who was going to answer 100 years of waiting with the championship all Cubs fans have been waiting for, go by me before my eyes.  Then the guy next to me yelled, “Hey Lou, I love your commercial!”.  Hilarious…me too, Lou.  ‘Say hello to the Mrs.’ Lou.

Looking forward to seeing the game tonight!  Go Fukudome!  Go Soto!  Let’s represent the Cubs right away tonight in the NL starting lineup!  (By the way, Fukudome 8 and Soto 9?  This may just be the NL lineup to finally get the W!)

Other fun moments from the parade today (pictures to be posted asap):

– Mike Schmidt telling Mets fans that this year is going to end up just like last year.
– Rollie Fingers telling fans that Giambi needs to shave.
– Terry Francona responding “Mo, who?” to a fan that insisted Rivera close over Papelbon.
– Hanley Ramirez apologizing to Mets fans while they chanted the Jose Reyes ‘JO-SE’ chant.
– George Brett showing the crowd his palms were clean when fans yelled out “Pine Tar”!
– Tommy Lasorda telling the crowd to take the rest of the day off.  Who were we to argue?

Let’s go National League…get that home field advantage!!!  GO CUBS GO!

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Harden’d Criminals

Dailies

Cubs give up practically nothing and in return they steal away a great pitcher to add to their collection.  I like Murton and I liked what Patterson was starting to show…but hey, this is Harden and in response to the Brewers getting Sabathia…Harden sounds good to me.  Just come in and look around Harden and you’ll see plenty of great examples of how we do things here with the Cubs.  Seven All-Stars (ultimately eight when Marmol was voted in as a replacement), three voted to be starters…two starting pitchers voted in and our closer as well…the veterans are leading the way and the rookies are standing out as some of the best in the game as well: Fukudome and Soto headed to the big showcase in the Bronx as starters…a lot to be proud of right now as a Cubs fan.  

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And if you want to see what we expect out of our pitchers, take a look at Dempster, Wood and Zambrano.  All of them leading the way in what’s been an amazing season so far, including Zambrano’s gem this evening.  8 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, 5 strike outs.  If we weren’t being so careful with him, he would’ve finished the game.  He’s truly the ace of the team and is even getting things going with the bat adding a single to his resume tonight and is hitting over .350 on the season.  
Some of the Cubs’ players were joking about Big Z participating in the HR Derby…why not?  He’s doing everything else for us lately, why not give the derby a shot too?  Too bad Ramirez isn’t up for it, I think he’d destroy.

Rounding the first half of the season out on a strong note…nothing to complain about there.  Go Cubs Go!

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MLB Culture Shock

Dailies

I haven’t blogged in a bit mainly because I don’t fully understand what is happening in baseball.  How in the world do the Tampa Bay Rays have the highest winning percentage in all of baseball at .610? 

rays pic.pngThey are one loss better than the Cubs, who I suppose would be considered the second best team in the majors accordingly and somehow lead the AL East, 1.5 games in front of the defending W.S Champ Boston Red Sox.  I mean, we’re almost at the All-Star break and it’s amazing.


I don’t know.  There are few things we as fans can control, even with all the predictions and expectations that exist at the beginning of each season.  One thing we can control though, is the starting team of the AL and NL in the All-Star game.  Considering the games now count for a GIANT prize, should this still be?  And if so, are fans truly taking advantage of the opportunity?  I think not.  And why aren’t fans of teams in the NL, for instance, voting for no-names to start for the AL?  I mean, we want to win right?  Home field advantage in the Series is quite the prize right?  

I may add more to this later this evening.  For now though, go Cubs against the Giants…fans need to show up and vote our Cubs into the starting lineup…I’m about to do some more voting for our Cubs…and for some scrubs in the AL.  Couldn’t hurt right?

Go Cubs Go!

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Old Reliable Comes Through Again in Front of Old Faithful

Dailies

Dempster did it yet again tonight.  Crushed the Sox pushing his record to 9-2, a perfect 9-0 at home.  Lou gave him the chance to go the full nine innings but after a couple got on, including a weak infield single off the third base bag, Howry came in in relief (perhaps a bit of Marmol-aid might be called for after all…what is wrong with Carlos lately?  Even with a great Cubs win and sweep of the weekend series I can’t help but continue to wonder) and put the final few outs away in front of the greatest fans in Chicago, in the greatest ballpark in Chicago, for what is clearly the better team in Chicago.


Every time a Cub came to the plate you expected something exciting to happen after Friday night’s walk-off result.  And of course, it was Ramirez who authored that piece of drama and excitement who was center stage throughout Saturday’s and tonight’s wins against the Sox.  Ramirez went yard yet again this evening wrapping up a killer series this weekend against the crosstown rival Sox giving him a BA of .500 for the weekend series.  One of the best third basemen in the game came through again this evening and it must-see TV every time I knew he’d be up in the next inning.  

Patterson had a great weekend as well and capped off his emergence into the Cubbie Collection of Contributors for this season in meaningful games and situations where key talent has gone down with injuries by stepping up and filling in for Soriano tonight in left and hitting his first major league home run.  The seven runs the Cubs put on the board along with a dominant Dempster made this game especially fun to watch.  

When Dempster was left in by Lou to try and get the complete game, I knew he’d be on a short leash and he was.  But I gain more and more respect for Lou as a manager as the season goes on for moments like this.  The guy simply knows how to manage and get the most out of what he’s given.  As a result, the Cubs sit atop the Central by 4.5 games (Cards lost to the RED Sox earlier this afternoon) and own the best home start at Wrigley that any of us have every seen, including a fourteen game streak of hanging the W flag!  And as if that wasn’t enough…Dempster…14 in a row at home…32-8 to start the season at Wrigley…as if that weren’t enough…next up: the Orioles.  Can’t wait to see what Derosa does against the O’s considering he was rumored to be headed there all winter.  I’d love to see Brian Roberts lay a giant Oriole egg in this upcoming series while Derosa buckles down and tears it up.  Marshall up first Tuesday night looking to fill some giant Zambrano sized cleats.

Do I hear 15 in a row?  

Way to go Cubs!  SWEEP!  SWEEP!  SWEEP!!!

Go Cubs Go!

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4th and 9…Cubs Go For Two!

Dailies

Oh, this is fun.  Incredible game!  Cubs took the second game of the weekend series against the Sox today with an incredible nine run fourth inning including two home runs by Edmonds, one by Ramirez and one by Fontenot.  And I thought Lilly scored with the bail out Ramirez gave him yesterday with his two shots…that was a scratch off compared to the lottery of runs Marquis scored today.  


I must admit, when I heard Edmonds was a Cub I couldn’t believe it.  Wait, Jim Edmonds??  Former St. Louis Cardinal Jim Edmonds?  The same Jim Edmonds who had produced for the Cardinals time and time again against the Cubs making one of the 2 or 3 Cardinals we least looked forward to seeing at the plate against us in crucial situations?  This is supposed to be good for team morale?  I suppose it made sense at the time.  However, considering he’s hitting over .400 in his last 18 games with the Cubs and blasting huge shots out of Wrigley against the team’s crosstown rival, what’s there to complain about or be confused by now?  I mean fans are bowing to him like they do Fukudome. He continues to perform and produce like Fukudome we may start seeing different headbands worn around the outfield at Wrigley.  Huge day for Edmonds in shedding that Cardinal red and having us get use to him in Cub blue.  Great day today Edmonds, way to go man.

Marquis improved to an incredibly respectable 6-3 on the season and Wood got his 19th save of the year.  Even better news, Zambrano went on the DL to rest his strained shoulder and x-rays show no serious damage.  Two starts missed is fine all things considered and if the rest of the guys continue to step up during his and Soriano’s absence, we’ll look pretty good going into the end of Summer.  And who would have thought that a simple switch of our closer and a starter would make such a difference to this team?  I doubted Wood all Spring…no more.  Keep it up Kerry.  Marmol and Howry have left much to desire lately.  We’re going to need you even more while they get through this rough patch.

Tomorrow night’s game is nationally televised.  Looking forward to seeing them continue this Sox bashing.  And with recent events, I admit…I even kind of look forward to seeing Edmonds.

Go Cubs Go!

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Big Start, Huge Weekend. Big Z, Huge Loss?

Dailies

What an unbelievable season so far. I honestly think my computer was even so shocked at how well the season is going, it put its self on the DL. Back up and running now though…good times. 


29-8 at home.  3 1/2 games up in the Central.  A bunch of players up for potentially starting in the All-Star game.  Kendall who?  Fukudome’s #1 taking on a whole new meaning with the second major injury to Soriano this season.  This season just keeps getting more and more interesting with Zambrano now experiencing some pain and will miss his next start.  It’s one thing to lose Soriano for 6+ weeks, but losing him and Zambrano?? I don’t know if we can handle that honestly.  Hopefully Zambrano doesn’t miss too much time.  While Dempster is having a great year and the rest of the rotation is holding it’s own, to lose our ace and our leadoff hitter could be too much.  The last thing we need to see is the Cubs in a great place in mid-June and then struggle through the Summer because of injury.  As soon as I saw Soriano get hit by that pitch, my first thought was ‘did that hit him in the face?’  Then I couldn’t believe it ended up being 6 weeks because it broke his hand.  I’m glad he didn’t suffer a serious head injury, but this broken hand…I know I’m harping on the injuries and may be making too much of it, but come on…this isn’t good.

I love Fukudome and think he’ll be great in the leadoff spot but Soriano was finally coming around to having a great season performing like he should up top.  Hitting home runs, getting on base and adding that much needed speed to the lineup that Piniella has mentioned a few times.  In the Spring I thought it was a shame some of the guys I felt were deserving of sticking with the club had to be sent down as there only so many outfield positions to fill but getting them up here like this isn’t what I had in mind.  Edmonds, Johnson, Fukudome and Derosa when necessary.  Edmonds has a foot problem and Johnson is having back spasms.  Maybe being still interested in Coco Crisp isn’t such a bad idea.  Who would we give up for him?  Middle-tier pitching, I guess.

Big weekend this weekend taking on the White Sox.  Both teams lead their respective divisions, first time for interleague play.  The city is going to be locked in all weekend as many experts are saying it could be a preview to the ’08 Series.  That would be crazy.  What’s even crazier though…they were saying the same thing about our series with the Rays.  THE RAYS!  (How do you give up seven runs in one inning to the RAYS?!?  I don’t care how good they are…c’mon Marmol!  It’s Tampa Bay!!!  That certainly couldn’t have been the homecoming Lou was looking for…swept??  Home Sweep Home for Lou unfortunately).

Lilly’s looking strong as of late and he’ll kick off the weekend today against a guy who has never faced the Cubs before.  Let’s hope Danks’ day is as bad as Zambrano’s is good as his shoulder is being looked at today.  We definitely can’t lose Big Z for any extended period of time if we’re going to do this this year.  Just can’t.  That is of course unless…how’s Fukudome’s fastball?

Well, regardless, I suppose when something as serious as your ace’s shoulder could possibly be coming up lame on you, you can always focus on something far less serious yet, nearly as interesting: one of the most interesting articles about the Cubs’ uni’s I’ve ever read. Enjoy the game, enjoy the article.  Beat the Sox…Go Cubs Go!

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“Ker-ry! Ker-ry! Ker-ry!”/Let’s Say They’re Right part  2

Dailies

As much as I am a fan of Alyssa Milano, I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying watching my Cubs beat up on her Dodgers.  Two back-to-back 3-1 wins kicking off this three game series…good times.  The Dodgers are no slouches this year either, 3.5 games back in the West behind the Dbacks, a decent measure of how the Cubs are doing in playing such a talented squad.  And judging by the results, we are doing REALLY well.

Fukudome was amazing again this evening and on his Bobblehead Night, mind you.  Kosuke may be the most impressive signing by any ballclub in a LONG time.  Fukudome had two terrific plays in the outfield tonight and a key double in tonight’s victory, but think about what a huge impact he has had on this ballclub this year.  Unbelievable.  And between Fukudome, Ramirez and Wood tonight…the Cubs were awesome.  I was initially concerned about how signing Edmonds was going to effect the overall chemistry of the ballclub.  I must say, I’m glad to have his bat and ability in the clubhouse.  Granted, his bat has been less present than his ability lately, but I’m sure it will come around.  In the meantime, we have Johnson.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I don’t even miss Pie.  I was perhaps his biggest supporter in the land of the MLBlogs and now…well, first place in the Central at the end of May at 31-21 speaks for itself.  Edmonds better start hitting though, otherwise, I’m sure my tune will change once more.

Soriano continues to be a factor with his occasional home run leading off and seeing that he hasn’t hurt himself jumping around in left field, he’s back to helping make this lineup a big threat against all opponents once again.  I haven’t had a chance to read Derosa’s blog where he and Theriot do their teammate Q&A but I’m looking forward to it.  This team is full of a bunch of good guys who try night in and night out, day in and day out where its nearly impossible to not root for each and every one of them with all your heart. 

Chris Berman made a comment tonight about what a big story it would be if the Cubs were to do the unthinkable and end the 100 year championship drought this year with Wood, the once ‘ace starter’ as their now ‘ace closer’.  I believe that’s true and appropriate seeing that we’re in the 10 year anniversary month of his 20 K game…but the same could be said for Dempster.  What a great experiment he’s turned out to be so far this year.  I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them are playing in Yankee Stadium come July over the All-Star break.  I wonder how many Cubs will be representing Chicago on the National League team.  You could make a case for a lot of them…Lee, Zambrano, Soriano, Fukudome, Dempster, Wood.  Could be a big year for the Cubs in the off, regular, mid, and postseason this year.

Tomorrow night’s game is on ESPN 2 for all of you who only catch them when they’re on national television and it should a great pitchers’ duel between Lowe and Zambrano at Wrigley.  

Anyone else surprised our biggest competition for the Central so far has been the Cardinals and the Astros?  I am.  Before the season I figured it would be the Brewers and the Reds…so far…not so much.  Not that I’m complaining mind you, just surprised.

I haven’t been able to blog in a while as things have been pretty crazy with a number of stand up dates and a couple of television and film productions.  One thing I was starting to have some fun with was the idea of the most appealing aspect of facing any of the teams in the AL in the World Series this year and why any of them would be fun to face (and let’s face it, what would we care who we face?)  Last time I did so, I wrote the aspects of the AL East.  Since it’s been a while, here is my take on why I’d be psyched to face anyone in:

The AL Central

White Sox: Seriously.  Crosstown rivals.  What could be more fun than this matchup?  The White Sox are currently in first place in the AL Central and have put a huge push on to get there lately going 8-2 in their last 10 games.  Bring it on ChiSox.  Bring it on.

Twins:  No Santana?  No Problem.  Santana’s in NY and while he won tonight, that team is a disaster.  Meanwhile, the team he left is thriving with their young talent.  A Series featuring the young talent of the Twins in ‘Sota against the young talent here in Chicago…that definitely sounds like a good time to me.

Indians:  These fans think they’ve waited a long time since the last time they won a Championship.  Puh-lease!  It would be a big story though and only one could end the streak.  100 years.  Chicago Wins.  Better story, better team, better outcome (if you ask me that is).

Tigers: The way they started their season, the fans in Detroit are probably feeling like they’ve been waiting forever to see a winner.  If the Tigers do in fact turn this thing around and show up in the postseason at all, that momentum would be pretty scary.  Then again, if the Cubs are there as well that means they did it all year long.  Now that’s momentum and no matter how much Pudge, Cabrera and Willis you throw it at…forget the Dtrain, this team’s momentum would be too much for Detroit to handle.  A great Series though with great storylines too.  Fun, fun, fun…indeed.

Royals: 7 games back on May 27th.  If they end up in the World Series you can bet the stories won’t be about KC or the Chicago Cubs.  It will be about 80% of the AL’s managers being fired after letting the ROYALS tear up the league with their ridiculous payroll and low expectations.  Teams like this that have a magical year are normally scary to play against.  But please…low expectations…magical years…wrap it altogether and we’re talking 100 seasons of Cubbie history.  I don’t care what kind of voodoo KC has going on.  The Cubs/Royals would probably go seven games just to drive us all crazy too…now that would definitely be interesting.

Get out there and do your thing tomorrow night Zambrano and sweep these Dodgers.  It’s the least you guys can do after letting Pittsburgh steal a few from us. I guess I spoke to soon a few weeks back, huh? 

Felt good to get another posting up here again.  Will try to avoid such a delay again anytime soon.  GO CUBS GO!
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Let’s Go Marquis

Dailies

First place in the Central up for grabs tonight!  Looking forward to watching the game and blogging about it later tonight!

http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/player.swf?mediaId=3380544
Later that evening: Unbelievable.  (not my average length of blog but I think that pretty much says it all)
GO CUBS GO!
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My MLB2K8 Review for MLB.com

Dailies

Hey everyone…in between my time spent watching the Cubs and blogging about them I had the opportunity to pretend I was them.  And I suppose Lou Piniella too, for that matter, considering I was in charge of lineups, arguing with umpires, etc. 

Here is my review of MLB2K8 on Xbox 360.  I thought it would be cool to get the MLB.com by-line and a great chance to receive a free copy of the game.  It’s definitely one I recommend highly.  Here is the article, complete with reviews from Steve Dempsey and Paul Festa for the Wii and Playstation 3 respectively. 

If you don’t want to leave the site, you can read my Xbox review right here:

Bloggers take a swing at MLB 2K8
MLBlogger takes new video game for test drive

By Ryan Maloney / Special to MLB.com

A new Major League Baseball season also means a new beginning for video
gamers everywhere. Put down your Assassin’s Creed, your Halo2 and, yes,
even your Guitar Hero 3. The MLB 2K8 game from 2K Sports has just
arrived at the MLB.com Shop, and to help capture the diverse experience
we turned to three members of the MLBlogs community who reviewed the
game over the Nintendo Wii, PLAYSTATION3 and Xbox 360 systems.xbox logo.png

10 in 10…How Appropriate

Dailies

winningest MLB teams.pngTen innings of history in the making.  One of the most exciting games of the year lead to the Cubs taking a two game lead in the NL Central, a five game winning streak to the extended status of six games in a row and their record to 10,000 wins all-time!  Only the second team to reach the 10,000 win mark ever!  Wood goes down in the books as the winning pitcher, even though he blew the save (a weird consolation prize the way baseball scoring works, you’d have to admit) and Marmol got the save.  Loved seeing Marmol come in and get the save…it’s not even that Wood pitched poorly, just a couple of pitches got away from him and he paid for it.  With a ‘W’.  Again, weird.  More thoughts on this to come when its not so late…for now, let me announce the new Prose and Ivy Chat board here on the blog that you can find me in during most games.  Feel free to come by and say hey on game days.  Until I get a chance to post more, here were my in game thoughts I posted in the chat board (in case anyone happened to stumble across the chat board during this history making event:

  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: c’mon hill, let’s go!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: look at soto go…and cedeno getting some respect! (i know, its to set up the force outs, but still, Cedeno’s slam=RESPECT
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: lee and ramirez…good times for cubs fans…not so much for opposing pitchers!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: soto 3-for-3!  nice!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: theres the first blemish on hill’s night 3-1 Cubs
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: wuertz is horrible
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: this could get ugly quick
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: wow, that sixth inning was hard to watch
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: gotta love the fight in this team!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: fuku-dome!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: fuku-dome!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: they are SCARED of him!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: do it for michael johns derosa! : )
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: f*ck
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 10,000 just may have to wait another day…bot 8, 5-4 COL…
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: here we go bot9
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 1 away…
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 2 balls to Lee…
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: Lee gets on base and the lead run comes to the plate in Ramirez!!!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: pie in to run for Lee!  strike one to Aramis
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: Ramirez on a 1-2 pitch…deep to left field for the LEAD, 6-5!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: Hey Hey!  I almost called it to right….I could feel it coming and then BOOM to left!  AWESOME!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 7 8 9 coming up for the Rockies…a combined 1 for 6 on the day (and one guy hasn’t even hit yet!)
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: wood comes in and immediately 0-2, a ball and then STRIKE THREE
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 1 away
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: let’s go Wood!  let’s go!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: and again STRIKE TWO!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 2-1 count on Podsednik
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: base hit
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: damn
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: Let’s go Wood
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 6 game win streak…10,000 overall on the line..Wood v. Spilborghs!  (who saw that  coming for the history books?)
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: are you kidding me?  6-6 and it has to be a guy named Podsednik off a hit by some no-name Spilborghs???
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: and of course Barmes….strike three.
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: way to go Wood.  history class dismissed.
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: here come the cubs in extra innings again
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: ward intentionally walked
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: c’mon theriot..how about a 10th inning RIOT
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: theriot hitting .365 for the month of april…
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: And in comes Fontenot making it 7-6 Cubs….somebody get Marmol up and ready!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: after all these years leading up to win 10,000, what’s another inning?! :)
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: heading into the bottom of the ninth…did I say history class dismissed?  My bad, sit back down, that bell didn’t ring yet!!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: all kinds of wins this year…could number 10,000 all time and six in a row be of the one run, extra inning variety?  perhaps!  bot 9 up next!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: Awesome…Marmol it is.
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: Go Cubs Go!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 3 fouled off pitches, helton making marmol work for this one
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: pitch 8 to helton is hit to cf and pie puts it away…one down!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 2 strikes to holliday…how about something to celebrate this holliday?
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: annnnddd……
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: ball 1…seven pitches in to a full count…grounded to first!!!  celebrate this holliday: 2 away!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: atkins takes strike 1
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: COME ON MARMOL!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: BALL 1
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: BALL 2
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: AND MARMOL GETS THE THIRD OUT BY CATCHING THE INFIELD FLY!  ATKINS IS OUT
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: CUBS GO 15-6 ON THE SEASON!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: 6 GAME WINNING STREAK IN TACT!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: AND THE ORGANIZATION GETS ITS 10,000TH WIN!  Way to Go Cubs!  Way to go Marmol!  Go Cubs Go!!!!  What a great game to represent this milestone in the baseball history books!  Cubs Win!  Cubs Win!
  • Prose and Ivy Ryan: What a great game.

10000 win flag.png10,000 and counting.  Great time to be a Cubs fan.  Go Cubs Go!  (Can you believe the Pirates are in at number 5 all-time??  Perhaps, but not with much help in recent years!)
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Heil-Yeah! And No Need to Rename it the ‘L’illy Flag

Dailies

Ted Lilly got his first win of the year and all is well in Cubville.  zambrano_pumping_fist_1.pngMonday night Zambrano picked up another win with seven strong innings, allowing only one run and looked absolutely dominant.  Not only physically, but mentally too, the way he looked hungry for even more success and more domination after every strike thrown and out collected.  Having a warrior like Zambrano pitching for your ball club every five days is such a treat to look forward to, in between starts.  He’s the type of personality I love having on this team.  His scuffle with Barrett in the dugout last year came from his passion for winning and it ended up being one of the things that sparked the Cubs to success last year.  That fire in his eyes is the type of thing that, once contagious, can really propel a team to their best start since 1975…huh, what do you know…exactly the position the Cubs are in after 20 games into the season.

The Mets’ Heilman couldn’t keep up with Zambrano and the Cubs hit him hard over and over…a theme that continued throughout the evening.  Even one of the Cubs’ least effective bats found a way to put an exclamation point on the team’s dominance when Pie hit a 3 run shot in the eighth to put the game away.  I haven’t enjoyed a home run like that since Opening Day when Fukudome went yard to tie it up.  Sure, any Cubs home run is exciting, but these two came for guys in moments I really wanted them to come through and exceed expectations…or to some degree, meet them.  I couldn’t have been happier for Pie when the ball found its way into the cage just over the ivy in right.  A great ending to a great game.

cedeno slam.pngAnd then today…my goodness.  Not only does Lilly show signs of coming around and matching the results put up Demp and Big Z finally, but he even comes away with the win at that.  No ‘L’ flag for Ted today.  The Cubs’ bats are on a ridiculous streak and I LIKE IT.  Seriously, it’s hard to remember the last April that was this much fun to follow the Cubs.  Every single one of our starters today got a hit and six of the eight position players are hitting .300 or better.  What a rough couple games the Cubs gave Sosa there with Pie going yard after being in such a slump and then today Cedeno comes in and jacks him out of the park for a grand slam putting the game out of reach on a whole other level.  CEDENO.  Not Lee, not Ramirez…Cedeno.  Everyone is hitting.  I mean, look at this box score:

4/22/08

Chi Cubs AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Johnson, LF 4 0 1 2 1 1 3 .339
Pie, CF 5 0 2 0 0 0 4 .206
Lee, 1B 4 1 1 0 1 0 3 .353
Ramirez, 3B 4 1 1 0 1 0 3 .280
Fukudome, RF 3 2 3 0 2 0 0 .357
DeRosa, 2B 4 1 1 1 1 0 6 .309
Cedeno, SS 5 2 2 5 0 2 7 .345
Blanco, C 2 1 1 0 1 0 3 .357
  b-Ward, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .077
  c-Soto, PH-C 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 .317
Lilly, P 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200
  a-Fontenot, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .206
  Howry, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  d-Murton, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .111
  Marmol, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  e-Marquis, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250
  Hart, K, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 36 8 14 8 8 3 33

Also, great to see Marmol lock down 2 more K’s and the Cubs get out with the win without wasting innings from Wood and get a chance to let him rest today.  The more days we can do that for Wood, the better. 

And now next up, Hill on the mound in the high altitude, higher expectation environment of Coors Field.  With all the recent success the Cubs have had to start the season including this five game win streak, Hill is going to be expected to continue to show signs he deserves to be one of our starters and to keep this thing going…especially when it comes to the bigger picture: the 10,000 all-time win mark for the Chicago Cubs.  Now, does that really matter in the long run for this season?  No, but it would still be a cool milestone for the organization to hit.   With all the hitting that is going on, I don’t expect it take very long to get there. 

Tomorrow night, a six game win streak and 10,000 all-time Cub wins is certainly not out of the question.  Go Cubs Go!
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We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh

Dailies

52-24 and 2 sweeps.  That’s our record so far against Pittsburgh this season.  We’re 6-0 against the Pirates with an overall record of 12-6 on the season.  Thanks to this last win against the Pirates, we took over first place by 1/2 a game over the Cardinals.  And this weekend, it wasn’t even close.

Unbelievable.  I feel like I’m saying “I’ll take that anyday” a lot so far this season.  Well, roughly 12 times anyway.  One run wins.  Ugly wins.  Completely dominating wins.  Completely dominating wins back to back.  And even wins that come back-to-back-to-back in a sweep.  It’s been a great first month so far.  I mean look at these two box scores from the past two blowouts over the Pirates:

4/20/08
box score 4:20.png
4/19/08
box score 4:19.png

That is an amazing weekend of baseball.  With the new format here, I’m not even sure they lined up correctly honestly, but really…what’s it matter?  Both days happened regardless of whether they line up with the correct date here and the Cubs look great.  I think it’s amazing it’s happening without our All-Star outfielder and leadoff hitter but boy, signing Johnson sure does look like a really smart move now, huh?  Why do we continue to see rumors that the Cubs are looking at Coco Crisp?  Maybe, they’re just that, rumors.  With Johnson in the leadoff spot, I’d be interested to hear what the Cubs record is opposed to others leading off, besides Soriano (anyone know?).  Lee is amazing.  Even people in the message boards (my point being not just me) are talking about Lee killing it this year and predicting he finish with the triple crown.  Hey, who am I to argue?  He looks great.  And Ramirez seems to be coming around lately too, especially today with his four hits (matching Theriot’s four hits as well). 

I’m glad Fukudome’s deal isn’t more serious, just a cyst over his eye.  It does go to show again how valuable Derosa is though as he played right field today.  He’s supposed to be our starting 2B and he has since played LF and RF (could Brian Roberts do that? I don’t know that he could).  Eyre is supposively coming back, so that will be interesting.  We haven’t gained too much from those who took his place in his absence, but I certainly don’t want the Eyre of 2008 that we’ve seen so far to come back.  We don’t need that now.  We already have Weurtz.  Isn’t that bad enough?

And if Dempster was unhappy about his inning management today, well then somebody help him out with that or tell him something that he thinks will help.  Because whatever he’s doing is working as I was right.  Demp is justified as a starter starting the season at 3-0 and having one of the best starts among all Cubs starters. 

Speaking of which, Zambrano goes tomorrow against the Mets.  A much truer test of the Cubs’ abilities.  MLB.com’s story is right.  I believe the Pirates are a team you should beat.  But the Mets are another story…so…we’ll see.  Maine is on the mound for the Mets and he’s having a great season too.  Should be another pitcher’s duel Zambrano finds himself in.  Let’s hope the Cubs didn’t waste all the good offense on the Pirates.  Time to ‘meet the Mets’ all right…with a giant offensive onslaught.

Let’s keep it going…Go Cubs Go!
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Let’s Say They’re Right

Dailies

Let’s say the experts are right and the Cubs are going to represent the National League in the World Series this year.  And really, what better game to talk about this afterwards than today’s game.  Our 4-8 hitters looked great and our pitching looked strong.  Hill turned things around a bit and had a decent game giving up only 1 run on 3 hits and even erased one of those men on base by picking off a Pirate at first.  It was the first win by a Cubs lefty starter this season…a nice trend to kick off, hopefully its contagious.  Marmol was AMAZING facing six hitters striking out five.  He is quickly becoming one of my favorite Cubs to watch, right up there with Fukudome and Zambrano.  And Wood put it away for his fourth save in five opportunities.  What a great late game 1-2 punch he and Marmol are becoming.

wood soto 4:18.pngfukudome triple 4:18.pnghill 4:18.png 
As for the ‘obnoxious’ behavior exhibited by the Cubs fans against Cincinnati…shove it Brennaman.  Get a sense of humor.  One ball leaves and fifteen are thrown back.  Come on, that’s funny.  As long as no one’s pegging Fukudome or using Derosa and Reed as target practice, I’m all for the fun.   Derosa’s cocl with it too aside from the fact that its 10 minutes of his life he’ll never get back (the clean up).  Where exactly does Derosa have to go?  His Idol was eliminated so no phone calls to Fox to make.  Don’t sweat the 10 minutes Derosa.  Just keeping doing a great job backing up Hop-A-Long Cassi-D.L. 

Often, with as tight as MLB competition can be, your records in one-run games are huge come the end of the season.  Always great to see the Cubs take as many as they can get and especially against a team in the Central.  Not that the Pirates should factor in to heavily this year, but you know what I mean.  10-6, 1 game behind the Cards.  Good times.

Now, to the real business at hand.  Say the experts are right and the Cubs are in the World Series…well who’s representing the AL?  Does it matter?  No…as long as we’re there, they could all be fun!  As promised, here is my first installment of why it would be fun to play any of the teams in the American League in the World Series.  And we begin with:

The AL East

Yankees:  Two of the most historic, oldest ballparks in the Major Leagues.  One is being demolished come the end of the season and the other may never be the same if certain people get their way.  What better way to celebrate a Cubs Series after all these years than by playing every game in two of the greatest stadiums in baseball…and beating the Yankees in a four-game sweep?  Sounds like fun to me.

Red Sox:  As above, same goes for Fenway.  Red Sox Nation got their’s four years ago and then took another for good measure last year.  Cool with the Green Monster, but not with a Greed Monster.  You’ve had yours, share.  The story lines would be amazing and although I’m not positive…it may not be too late to bury a Lee jersey in the Fenway Park visitor’s dugout.  Something to check into if the time comes.  Sounds like fun to me.

Orioles: Ok, so maybe this will be the reason that oriole kept trying to fly itself into my bedroom window over and over again and not the Brian Roberts trade.  100 years since the Cubs last title and the silver anniversary of the O’s.  “Derosa, Roberts.  Roberts, Derosa”.   Nice put a face to the trade rumors.   Cubs playing in a Series involving Roberts regardless of whether the trade happened or not.  Sounds like fun to me.

Rays: Could be billed as “The No-fair Bowl”.  With the Rays being in existence since 1998, not exactly the same amount of suffering between the two teams’ organizations/fan base.  Every where in baseball people will be talking about how money doesn’t make a difference as they try to offer contracts to ballplayers whose names sound like the other cast members of ‘Desperate Housewives’.  The stories that could be written about the extra pressure the Cubs will be in to win this Series and shock the Rays would put on the baseball world.  Sounds like a lot of fun to me.

Blue Jays: First World Series victory against a team that resides in another country after signing a third country’s number one free agent back by a pitching staff made up of pitchers from all over the world.  Hardly simply a World Series title…that’s practically world domination.  Sounds like ‘waited for a 100 years to win another’ kind of fun to me.

For now though, we’ll take these things one game at a time.  AL Central to come next week (for fun, of course) and the Cubs continue their drive to make the experts look brilliant tomorrow against the Pirates.  Marquis on the mound.  GO CUBS GO!
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A New Feature on Prose and Ivy

Dailies

While I will definitely continue writing here as close to daily as possible, whenever I get a chance to add a little something extra to this space, I’m going to try throwing on this new feature as an add-on to my writing.  Of course, I’m not sure the embedding is going to be compatible with the new format.  (If so, great, if not, I guess there will be a link at the end of this to click on).  This was my first attempt so they’ll get better as we go (promise).  Those AL East comments I talked about yesterday are coming either later this evening or tomorrow at the latest.  Rough game today, huh?  I don’t know what Lilly’s waiting for.  Hill’s in danger of losing his spot in the rotation and Lieber didn’t look so hot today giving up Griffey’s #596, a 3 run shot…seriously…could someone besides Zambrano and Dempster please start showing something in the starter’s role please?
lilly pitching 4:17.pnggriffey 596 HR.png

Please?

That would be great.  In the meantime, feel free to click this link to play the first Prose and Ivy Cubcast!  Good times.  Go Cubs Go!

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They Could All Be Fun

Dailies

reds v cubs.pngAs I write this, the Cubs are up 11-3 in the middle of the 8th inning tonight against the Cincinnati Reds.  Cincinnati was down by more than Ocho by the middle of inning numero Cinco and there was no looking back.  What an unbelievable game.  Zambrano looks amazing.  7 innings and only 2 runs given up on 8 hits and 5 strike outs.  He even doubled and had an RBI.  Now if only the rest of the starters could follow suit. 

I didn’t really know what to expect with this being the first game with Soriano.  15 days.  Wow.  That is horrible.  It’s unfortunate it happens on a move (the hop) that isn’t even necessary to field his position…and odd that it happened doing something he does game in soriano swinging bat close up.png and game out, fly ball putout after flyball putout.  I like the fact that it opens up the opportunity to get the Theriot/Fontenot LSU double play combo on the field and it gives great value to Derosa’s existence on the roster.  Still though, losing Soriano is huge and it will be interesting to see how it affects us over the next couple weeks. 

Now, when I created the D Lee News and every other link list in the sidebar, I had the freedom of using them and adding to them anytime I wanted.  Since the blog format change, they haven’t been working properly always so I haven’t been able to keep the D Lee News or the Pitchers/Beer section as I’d like.  So let me say this, as for the pitcher/beer result for today’s game, it’s obvious, no?  Zambrano, this tall, ice cold, frosty mugged beer is on us.  You may be expected to stay off the soda and coffee…pull up to the bar with a bunch of bananas, a potassium pill and some pretzels my friend.  This beer’s for you…and its on us.

As for the D Lee News…if you look at the archives or have been a regular visitor to Prose and Ivy since Spring Training…you’ll know how worried I was about Lee.  He looked so amazingly bad in Spring Training, regardless of whether it counted, I really thought it mattered.  Turns
D Lee.png out…I was wrong.  Lee is having an unbelievable start to the season.  Fukudome has totally stolen the show, but Lee is probably the biggest reason the Cubs kick things off at 8-5 (about to go 9-5 as they are now up 12-3 in the top of the ninth with one out, about to put this one away).  Coming into tonight’s game Lee leads the team in AB, R, Hits, Doubles, HR, RBI, total bases, slugging %, and batting average (not counting Blanco who only has 8 AB on the season).  Are you kidding me?  No.  I did not see this coming.  And it is probably the second best surprise of the season.  Fukudome is the first.  He had another great game tonight going 2-for-3, scored twice, 2 RBI and walked twice.  He’s hitting .353 on the season and leads the team in on-base percentage.  Imagine this lineup when Soriano is healthy and hitting and Ramirez is hitting and in a timely manner and for power as expect, at that.  Incredible.

For now though, Soriano is out and we’re looking to make due.  Tonight was a great start coming away with the W.  9-5 on the season including a nice two game smackdown of Dusty in his return to Wrigley.   Hard to complain about too much so far.  A few pitchers need to pick up their game a bit and they know who they are, although I have no problem with the press harping on their struggles.  Hopefully it will motivate them to turn things around and join the rest of the team on their level of extraordinary play so far this season.

A number of publications in the beginning of the season picked the Cubs to win the Central and many picked them to win the whole thing.  I’ve been thinking about that (who hasn’t) for a while now and if that were the case…I was thinking about what it would be like to play the American League champion whoever they may be.  Lots of thoughts on facing every American League team in the Classic.  Those thoughts to be posted in the upcoming days…but let’s face it, if the Cubs are representing the National League in the World Series, bring on anyone from the American League…they could all be fun.  Tomorrow, to kick things off: the AL East.

Great game tonight!  Go Cubs Go!
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Who Cares How….right?

Dailies

Not the prettiest stretch of baseball, but definitely a successful one.  Taking one of the worst teams in baseball into extra innings and at times playing some seriously ugly baseball somehow became the formula to a successful 3-0 road series against the Pirates.  The sweep gives the Cubs a 5 game winning streak…wow.

Not exactly the way you would think a 5-game winning streak would go, is it?  But, hey, we’ll take it!  You know there will be times where other teams play horrible baseball and somehow defeat the Cubs…we might as well take ours when we can. 

Aside from Hill, Lee, Fukudome and Ramirez we played really well today.  That’s amazing that we could actually win a game by a significant margin when the players singled out as having horrible games are the number 3, 4 and 5 hitters and starting pitcher!  Yes, I believe that is the exact definition of winning ugly.  Let us be the ugliest successful team in the history of baseball.  The trophy will still be beautiful.
world series trophy.pngSoto, Fontenot and Theriot all had great days and Soriano held his own in the leadoff spot, including delivering a stolen base.   Wood was lights out  (very encouraging) bringing his ERA down to 6.00 for the season and he, Howry and Lieber pitched really well today out of the bullpen.  Good to see Howry have a good day. 

I am a little concerned about Derosa.  I don’t know where his head’s going to be at over the next few weeks after the huge event he suffered through last night in his personal life.  As if the illness, an irregular heartbeat and trade rumors weren’t enough, now Derosa’s favorite American Idol contestant has been eliminated from the show.  While Fontenot had a great game today, hopefully it won’t be long until Derosa can fully recover and get back to the place he needs to be mentally to perform on the high level that is expected of him.   Thanks Michael Johns.  Thanks a lot. 

Marquis won’t be starting the first game against the Phillies.  Instead, Zambrano will pitch in his place. 

Oh and Pignatiello…you’ve probably noticed.  That’s not heaven…it’s Iowa. 
Go Cubs Go!
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Sometimes You Don’t Have to Look Good…Just Not As Ugly As the Other Guy

Dailies

And that was the case in the last game the Cubs played.  3 errors.  12 innings of professional, major league baseball, a level where no game should look like this.  The Cubs only went 1-2-3 twice in twelve innings and yet still needed three extra frames to put away the Pirates.  I must admit, I’m a little surprised how similar this was to the Cubs home opener against the Brewers after requesting that we ruin the Pirates’ home opener in the same fashion the Brewers ruined ours.  I mean, aside from Gagne looking like he was about to pass out it was basically the same game.  Thankfully, the Pirates had a guy named Meek on their team who had the worst day of all.  I was forced to watch the game today on GameCast.  Here was the situation in the top of the 12th, or at least how I saw it:

bases loaded in T12 Ramirez at plate.jpg1 out, Top of 12, bases loaded.  Ramirez steps up.  He hits a sac fly to right to score Theriot who had walked and stole second.  Watching a game like this is quite possibly the least exciting way I can think of to watch a game (I really missed my MLBTV access today as I wasn’t able to do so on the computer I was on today), but its better than nothing I guess.  After Ramirez’s sac fly, here’s what I saw (exciting huh?):
Ramirez sac fly to right to put Cubs ahead.jpgIn a weird way, I guess it was…I mean we took the lead right?  But honestly, somebody needs to tell ESPN what kind of season Fukudome’s had so far and GET THAT MAN A PHOTO!  I can understand Meek wanting to hide his face today…but c’mon.  Let’s get Kosuke a photo, huh?  After all said and done, the Cubs won ugly but it will count just as much as any other this season.  Here’s how the entire top of the 12th played out:
the 12th inning.jpg
Theriot didn’t even start and managed a stolen base (the Cubs had FOUR on the day!)  Then Soriano managed to find his way on base.  One hit in six at bats today but this walk was key and let’s face it…while we’d love to see Soriano get some power numbers like usual, we really just want him on base to set up the other guys and see what his legs can manage to steal.  That’s what counts.  Set the table for the other guys in the lead off spot.  Johnson had himself another great day and has turned out to be a great pickup.  Glad to see that even though the Cubs made way too many errors themselves (you can’t expect to win too many games where you make 3 errors) they were able to take advantage of the Pirates’ errors and miscues, including Meek’s wild pitches.  Looking at the averages of the guys in today’s lineup, it seems like people are starting to hit.  Lee had a decent day at the plate (2-for-5, 2 walks and a run scored) and of course Fukudome lit things up again.  Sometimes you just have to simply be better than the other guy, not necessarily impressive at all yourself.

I’m glad we were able to give Wood a break today.  Any chance we can get I think we should and it would be nice if Howry could get his you-know-what together.  Marmol was lights out though (as expected) and I never had a doubt about the Cubs pulling this out once he entered the game.  Hard to watch, easy to look back and enjoy.  Here’s to winning the ugly ones!  Don’t get too used to it Lilly.  They won’t always work out in your favor like this one did.  It wouldn’t hurt for you to start turning this thing around either.  Just fyi. 

4-3…three game winning streak…let’s keep it up!  Go Cubs Go!
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.500 After 2 Series. Now Let’s Ruin the Pirates’ Home Opener!

Dailies

Great weekend!  Went back to my alma mater to do some comedy and had a great show!  Saw some friends and family I hadn’t seen a while…good times. 
Cubs Win Wrigley Field Sign.pngAnd if that wasn’t enough, the Cubs got their first series win of the season and some of our guys are looking great so far!  Fukudome has taken over Chicago.  They may call Matsui “Godzilla”, but even he couldn’t take over a city the way Fukudome has taken over Chicago.  He’s basically done exactly what I expected…brought a complete playoff atmosphere/excitement to every home game at Wrigley.  Some players just do that (like I’ve said in an earlier blog ie, Lebron James, etc) and Fukudome is definitely one of them.  How exciting it must be for him to be making such an impact in a new league, in front of new fans.  Making the decision to make such a move with his career and family couldn’t have been easy and I’m happy to see its working out for him so far.

The Cubs are in a place now where no matter who they’re playing, I feel like they’re going to win.  And not in that love-is-blind kind of way either.  No homer predictions day in and day out here…I genuinely feel like they are going to win every game they play (not literally, but you know what I mean).  They are .500 after six games, against two division rivals.  As of now the Brewers and Cardinals are 5-1 leading the NL Central up 2 games over the Cubs in the standings.  Good luck with that.  That 2 game lead is about to evaporate very quickly.  I believe the team is still coming together and shaking off some winter rust.  Lee came through huge today with his third home run of the season and even Soriano hit one out!  Fukudome looks great, Zambrano has had two strong starts and Wood looks like he’s coming into his own in the closer role.  Dempster and Marquis showed they deserve those last two spots in the rotation in the Spring and now that they’ve completed their first starts of the season and shook any nerves off about it, I’m hoping they’re ready to move forward and raise some ‘W’ flags in the process. 
soriano runs out of the box.pngD Lee.pngIt’s a long season but there is just something about this team.  I believe .500 is going to be long in the rear-view mirror come the end of the season…and in a good way.  Milwaukee spoiled our opener in an exciting fashion and tomorrow we roll into the Pirates home opener.  Here’s hoping the Cubs pull off the same thing with the Pirates that the Brewers did to us.  The schedule organizers do a great job with all the division games right up front.  This division is probably going to be tight all the way down to the wire this year, just like last year (I realize this, it’s just fun to talk a little trash every now and then).  Having these divisional games up front is an exciting way to start the season…you always want to get out of the gates quickly…but especially against teams in your own division.  Let’s keep winning these series.  Zambrano looked awesome today…must’ve had a whole bunch of bananas laid out for him in the locker room before this one!   (Hey, whatever it takes…)

Looking forward to tomorrow’s game with Lilly on the mound.  Before I sign off, just want to say thanks to Mark and MLBlogs.com for putting Prose and Ivy on the MLB.com homepage!  As always…Go Cubs Go!
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The Talented Mr. Fukudome

Dailies

Thumbnail image for fukudome and third base coach.pngAre there no limits to the talents of Kosuke Fukudome?!  People said he was fast, but he’s shown some great speed so far this season!  Today against the Brewers, Fukudome nearly became the first player in major league baseball history to get to first and third base at the exact same time.  Psyched the Cubs were successful in landing him in the offseason!  Check out these numbers:

1.  K Fukudome
OBP .667  SLG% 1.125 AVG .500

Whatever they’re whispering in Fukudome’s ear, keep it up!  Sure it’s only three games in but Prose and Ivy and Chicago are huge fans of Kosuke Fukudome!  Even if they don’t quite know how to express it.  Let’s see how Kosuke does against the Astros this weekend!  The Brewers couldn’t figure him out and I doubt the Astros will in their first series against him either!  FUKU-DOME!!  FUKU-DOME!!  Rich Hill on the mound tomorrow…let’s take this series and make it a great weekend!  Go Cubs Go!

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“Cubs Win” take three…aaaaaand ACTION!

Dailies

Put the brooms away!  Cubs Win!  Cubs Win! 

I love making a huge deal out of a win after only the third game of the regular season.  It’s ridiculous, but in a good way.  Just as I’ll freak out when they lose early on more than is probably necessary…but this is much more fun to do.  Wood came through today and so did Soriano back in the leadoff spot.  Hey if he’s happy there and can do the job, let him!  Fukudome, Theriot and Fontenot with extra base hits and Ramirez goes yard on the record for the first time this season!  Awesome.  And Dempster…big game for him!  Wood said it was good to get the first win out of the way and that it was no big deal.  I love it when players say its good to get the first win out of the way like it’s a bad thing.  Feel free to get the next 92 wins out of the way leading us to the division championship too!  One game behind the Brewers already but there’s a long way to go…plenty of baseball left to play!  Keep it up guys!

Go Cubs Go!


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You Know What It Could Be?

Dailies

Worse. 

It could be a lot worse.  So what, two games down, no wins to show for it.  Its two games.  Soriano will be leading off tomorrow and well see how that goes.  It wont be the first time Lou switches up the line up and thats to be expected.  Its not like we were going 1-8 like that for 162 games anyway.  Lets see if Soriano up first against the Brewers makes a difference.  Soriano loves the leadoff spot and Theriot says the spots where hes most hit most and is most comfortable.  It was all about Sorianos legs…protect Sorianos legs in the 2 hole…and now Piniella feels hes running just fine so he will hit him lead off.

It was great to see Lee go deep today.  He had a great day which is refreshing after his Spring…the sooner he can get going the better.  Especially with Soriano and Ramirez drawing nothing but zeroes today.  Somebody has to be counted on and hopefully with one game left against the Brewers in this opening series, we can get a W and leave only down a game kicking off the season.  Again, its one thing to lose games up front, but to lose them to a team in your division is a whole other story.

lilly pitching game 2.pngI would have liked to have seen Lilly have a good first outing.  He got batted around pretty bad.  Hopefully hes able to pull it together for his next time out.  Tomorrow, Dempster will find himself warming up in a whole different scenario.  Lets hope he has a different outcome and the bats show up to help him out.  Would love to see him get to a save situation so we can see if Woods horrible outing was just nerves or something else.  I still think Marmol should be the closer, but if were going with Wood, the sooner he can get it going (just like everyone else on this team), the better.  And Im sure he will.  Im sure everyone will and we will be just fine.  (Did I convince you?  Not even sure I convinced myself…)

Go Cubs Go…beat those Brewers tomorrow!
(And as for all those apostrophes that were left out of this post?  I left them out on purpose in honor of Mr. Cub and his new statue outside Wrigley.  I can’t believe they forgot the apostrophe!)  Here’s the story if you haven’t heard alreadyLETS PLAY TWO)
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Opening Day 2008: Theri0-for-5, Sorian0-for-5 and a Big Day for ‘Dome

Dailies

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!

Dailies

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!

Dailies

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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