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

Dailies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’re a Major League Baseball team.

Dailies


cubs amex commercial.jpgEverybody
: Hello. Do you know us?
[Everybody, except Zambrano, puts on their caps]
Everybody: We’re a Major League Baseball team.
Lou Piniella: But since we haven’t won a pennant in over 100 years, nobody recognizes us – not even in our own home town.
Ryan Dempster: That’s why we carry the American Express card.
Derrek Lee: No matter how far out of first we are, it’s cool. You know, it keeps us from getting shut out at our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.
Aramis Ramirez [pointing to us] So if you’re looking for some Big-League clout, apply for that little green home-run hitter.
Tyler Colvin: Look what it’s done for US. People still DON’T recognize us but…
[Tyler snaps his fingers]
Carlos Zambrano: We’re contenders now.
[Also dressed in a tuxedo, Starlin slides into home plate and holds up a green credit card]
Starlin Castro: The American Express card: Don’t steal home without it.

17.5 games out of first in the NL Central.  Go Cubs Go!


One List. Two Lou’s. Three Acceptable Options.

Dailies

I’ve often wondered what my Mom and Dad did to pass the time during the day at work.  My stepfather and stepmother were a plumber and teacher respectively so they never really had the 9-5 challenge of staying awake and being productive.  Nowadays you can practically coast through 2/3’s of a given day on Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Youtube, Foursquare (not sure why this one exists), various blogs, websites, Hulu, and on and on.  Honestly, how many times can you go to the bathroom?  How many times can you walk over to a co-worker’s desk (notice, not email or IM) and ask them to grab some coffee or visit the water cooler?  If I had to put up with that nowadays, I don’t know how I’d survive.

With the Internet we find out things instantly and we are able to communicate to others in an instant of finding out the news of the day.  Somehow it got by me yesterday that James Gammons passed away.  Now for many of you, chances are that by name alone, you don’t know who I’m talking about.  However, what if I say “None of this OH-LAY ********” or “Forget the curve ball, Ricky.  Give him the heater”.

Now do you know who I’m talking about?

Of course you do.

The actor that played Cleveland Indians manager, Lou Brown, in the film Major League passed away yesterday at the age of 70. Here is the article in the NYTimes.  In my opinion, James Gammon is responsible for giving us the best overall performance of a baseball manager in the history of film.  I loved his dry humor and the way he’d deliver his lines.  His voice could help you pick him out of a line-up all by itself, as it probably should be credited for landing him a number of roles that he played.  His performance was impeccable and unforgettable, proven by the fact that I still quote him over and over again even after a decade’s passing since the film came out.

It got me thinking about the greatest performances of all-time when it comes to depicting baseball managers.  As soon as I posted on Twitter upon hearing the news that I feel Gammon’s performance was my favorite and the best of all time, someone tweeted “Wilford Brimley is pissed at you right now”.  I know Brimley was the oatmeal guy and had a long respectable acting career.  I know he was likable and many think his performance in The Natural is the all-time best.  However, I disagree.  I respect Brimley’s performance and in fact I think it was the third best of all time.  Who comes in second?  Well, here is my list of the top five of all time starting with number 5:

5. William Devane in “The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training”

While he can’t live up to Matthau’s performance and really, who can?..(not Billy Bob Thornton, that’s for sure)…he is responsible for coming through in the end for his son, Kelly Leak, and for his Bad News team against the mighty Houston Toros.  Watching Tanner run away from the umpires is my all-time favorite Bears moment, however, it’s the moment that happens right after Tanner starts yelling “The game’s not over, we’re not finished!” that really tugs at the heart strings.  The old guy with money to burn and a ten gallon hat jumps on board, then we as the audience do as the rest of the fans in the Astrodome do when the Bears’ manager, Kelly’s dad, runs on the field to support Tanner’s efforts in giving his guys a chance to win it all with a heartfelt “LET THEM PLAY!  LET THEM PLAY!”  TRY to watch that scene and not feel the absolute yanks on the heart strings while he convinces everyone in that stadium, the Astros included (in their old ugly uni’s, although to their credit they are the inspiration for the chant) to let the game go on.  A great moment and simply for that, he gets number 5 on the list.  Here is that moment:
4. Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”
It goes to show you how I feel about the other performances if Mr. Oscar himself is sitting in at number 4.  Hanks’ comedic chops and timing deliver a memorable performance of a washed up, alcoholic, has-been who is stuck managing in the lady bigs.  A guy’s guy, managing a bunch of women was probably the last thing Jimmy ever thought he’d be doing.  However once he comes around and realizes the heart his players have and decides to work along side his star player in Geena Davis, his story hits it’s arc and it’s a performance worthy of number 5 on this list.  And honestly, we all remember there’s no crying in baseball.  Why?  Because Tom Hanks said so.
3. Wilford Brimley in “The Natural”
The old guy just wanted to win.  He had nothing left for BS.  He had nothing left for politics.  He certainly didn’t have anything left to battle gambling that was starting to play an effect in outcomes of games.  When he found out his ‘new’ talent was an old outfielder and that he was expected to do something with what he viewed as never-was garbage, he was irate.  Yet it was this same talent, Roy Hobbs and his Wonderboy bat that saved the day and the pennant.  Brimley’s mustache helps him get the edge over Hanks in addition to the film itself being a classic.  Movies can’t achieve that status without it’s actors providing incredible performances like Wilford’s.
2. Walter Matthau in “The Bad News Bears”
Matthau starred in one of the raciest baseball scripts of it’s time as a little league baseball manager.  Although they way these kids talked and the way Matthau’s character behaved it easily could’ve been the Majors.  This was basically South Park before there was South Park.  All we needed was Lupus running around going “Oh My God, they killed Tanner!”  Matthau hates his life but has to continue his role as manager of this sorry group of kids.  As their season goes horribly and the kids are ready to give up, he’s afraid of seeing that part of him coming through in his kids and he gets under their skin to finally get them performing.  Swiggin beers and working with his new female pitcher (another role of a movie manager having a problem with a female player, interesting) and his new star outfielder in Kelly Leak, along with building a comraderie with Engelbert, the two kids who could only speak Engl
ish and his useless in the field, great at keeping score/taking a pitch team geek made Matthau and this team a bunch of guys you loved to root for.  A drunk little league manager doesn’t exactly sound like the kind of guy you’d like to root for, but in Matthau’s hands it was a lot of fun and one of the best ever.
1.  James Gammon as Lou Brown in “Major League”
The great thing about Lou Brown as a manager was the way he used the information he had on the owner’s wish of throwing the season to move to Miami as motivation to get his guys angry and play beyond expectations.  That’s something that a big league club needs.  A common goal and common enemy at times to get your team going as a team and picking up ground in the standings.  Gammon showed absolutely no interest in joining the club at first and then in the end of course, they get it done.  The rest of my thoughts on his performance are included above.  Thanks for all the quotes, James.  You da’ man buddy. Of course, not a lot of his quotes aren’t NSFW so here is a fun behind the scenes video for the film:
That aspect of being able to rally your team for a common goal is something I feel Piniella was always missing (and still is) with the Cubs.  Division titles in 07 and 08 were great, but you could tell he couldn’t get this team over the hump in being swept in the playoffs and not returning in ’09.  Lou announced he’ll retire after the 2010 season and I’d love to see him go out a winner.  I just don’t know that a cardboard cut out of Jim Hendry with removable pieces revealing more and more of his body is going to cut it with this squad.  (Maybe the Ricketts sister?  Or what about Sarah Spain perhaps?)  I appreciate what Lou has done with this team as it’s been one of the best tenures in Cubs history.  Just would’ve been great to see him win the big one with the Cubs knowing what it’d mean to him, the city and the organization and it’s fans.
Seeing that he’s out soon, here are the three possible replacements that I would actually be OK with:  Ryne Sandberg, Bobby Valentine and Alan Trammell.  More on that in another post.  For now, here is some information on the career Lou has compiled.
Going to watch the rest of the game now without typing through the whole thing.  Cubs down 6-0 in the fourth to the Astros currently.  Dempster on the mound.
Forget the curveball Ryan, give him the heater.
Go Cubs Go!

Opening at Home With a W

Dailies

Incredible game today as we defeated the Brewers 9-5.  Great start to our home schedule and the home crowd was loving the turn around the team showed at home as opposed to the flop our  opening road trip turned into thanks to an ineffective bullpen and non-existent run production.  Starting pitching proved to be a strength today with Dempster’s performance, masterfully handling the Brew Crew, fully taking advantage of the power surge the Cubs offense displayed in  hitting three home runs today at Wrigley.

Good thing we didn’t stop hitting them while they looked like they were going to go down.  We had them on the ropes and kept going after strong with the head shots and body blows.  Good thing.  The Brewers managed to come back into the game, scoring five runs over all and if we hadn’t kept pushing and getting as many runs as we did, this one could’ve easily gone the other way and there would be no singing in Cubville this afternoon.

Mighty Casey…a small word of advice to our Cubs.  Stop waiting for and relying on Might Casey.  The home run is not always going to be there.  Games of multiple home runs certainly won’t always be there.  A large majority of our runs so far this year has come from the long ball and today was the only time we had such an outburst of hits.  This outburst of men on base needs to happen far more often.  How often is Soriano going to have a multi-hit game after all?  He’s so afraid of running into the brick wall (all of a sudden) it seems to be effecting his whole game.  Lou has to find away to put a lineup together that not only features power capability, but also the skill to manufacture runs.  Right now, we look more like the pep squad firing off t-shirts to the masses at an NBA basketball game the way we’re scoring runs with the ball jumping off the bat, as opposed to a team of skilled, strategic baseball players who can be patient at the plate, get their pitches and work their way on base.  Now, of course I’m not complaining about home runs.  It’s just, we need to get on-base more often like we did today, work the bases wisely and rack up the hits working our guys on base around to home.  Jeff Baker, Xavier Nady and Aramis Ramirez all went deep today and we won.  Great.  No complaints.  Since there were guys on base, those home runs counted for more than just solo shots.  But it’s not always going to be that way just as no other game this year has been that way.  Most of the time we are simply going to need well-placed, timely hitting to get the job done.  We have a couple guys that tend to be all or nothing style hitters.  We can’t have our guys 1-8, game in and game out playing that same way as one cohesive offensive unit.  Lou needs to fix this and fix it fast.  Today was a nice change, sure, but we need this more often than not.

Love beating the Brewers and love a win on Opening Day at home.  Hang your ugly pictures on the building for the week.  Discuss putting up a horrendous Toyota sign in left field.  As long as we keep winning, those things are going to get a lot less attention and all anyone will really be talking about is how good it feels to watch our Cubs win game after game and prove to be true contenders in 2010.
Dempster was really good today.  Let’s hope that continues with his next outing.  You fans with tickets to tomorrow’s game, get your singing voices ready.  I’m hoping you’ll have a chance to showcase them like today’s crowd did after a great Opening Day performance by the Cubs.
Go Cubs Go!
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2010 Cub Concerns: Head, Shoulders, Knees and ‘Tos

Dailies

Head

Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol.  A couple of Carloses (Carlosi?)  that we need to worry about in the head category, the mental game.  Zambrano had an awful ’09 by Big Z standards.  Every from Hendry down to Ronnie Woo Woo thinks this year is going to be potentially the biggest of his career. Piniella’s gone as far as saying that Z could hit the 20 win mark in 2010.  Zambrano’s going to have to keep his head straight and lay off the meltdowns if 20 wins is going to be anywhere near Z’s future this season.  He’s projected to once again start Opening Day for the Cubs, a position he’s been horribly unsuccesful in when it comes to which flag ends up flying for the Cubs at Wrigley after doing so.  From Opening Day right on through September, if we’re going to have a chance of picking up the games necessary to catch the Cards and make the postseason, Zambrano has to keep his head on straight and lead the way.  Be the ace we pay you to be Z.  Lead the way.
 
And set the example for another guy in the head/mental concern category for 2010.  This is finally what Marmol has been waiting for.  After spending years proving himself out of the bullpen as the set up guy, this year, he’s the man.  The owner of the job of Cubs’ closer.  After losing out two years ago in an audition and then only being given the chance to take over for an ineffective, season poisoning pitcher in Kevin Gregg he has now been given the role he’s coveted.  Let’s hope his head stays where we need it to be.  Focused on the task at hand day in and day out and not overwhelmed by achieving a goal he’s had his sights on for years.  Sometimes when we get where we want to be, it’s hard to maintain that momentum and it isn’t always what we thought it would be.  I have no doubt being the Cubs closer will be all Marmol feels it’s cracked up to be…I just hope he kicks off the season right in roughly a month from now and keeps up that momentum through all of 2010.
 
Shoulders
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I’m a Lil’ worried about Ted Lilly.  He’s saying all the right things as is the organization.  He’s taking his time in getting back and no one expects him to be available come Opening Day.  Not only am I concerned about what we get in Ted when he does return, I’m concerned about what his absence does to our rotation.  Without Lilly as part of the Cubs’ five, we’re looking at Zambrano, Dempster, Wells and then two guys currently sharing the same name on the back of their jersey: TBD.  That doesn’t exactly bode well no matter how much Muskat wants to report that this is Samardzija’s year or that Gorzellany or Marshall or Silva may have enough to do their fair share while we wait for our most consistent pitcher to get back in pinstripes.  Ted Lilly’s shoulder needs to show up in 2010 at 100% because without Ted healthy, we have no shot at the playoffs this year.
 
Angel Guzman is another guy who has seen some down time recently due to soreness in his shoulder and the Cubs are going to look to him as potentially a strong part of the bullpen this year.  With Nady’s elbow working it’s way back through possibly new throwing mechanics from the outfield, you have to acknowledge that once you start throwing different than your body is used to, it could have a negative effect on other parts.  IE: his shoulder.  These three shoulders need to get healthy and be ready come Opening Day.
 
Knees
Really, the only knees I am extremely concerned about are those of our left fielder, Alfonso Soriano.  One day he is saying that he doesn’t feel his knee is where it needs to be considering how much time has passed since his surgery late last year.  Then the next day, suddenly, it’s not feeling so bad.  Well, which is it Sori?  Good?  Not so good?  Hopefully Piniella and the team doctors keep a real close eye on Alfonso this Spring.  The appropriate number of plate appearances to shake off that Winter dust is one thing.  Let’s not push him beyond that though.  He needs to be as healthy as possible to hold his own in the six hole this year and getting to any fly balls he can’t hop too or anything too far left of Byrd’s range in center.  Soriano’s contract is already putting a damper on financial flexibility.  His knees can’t suffer from any sort of damper in the flexibility category as well.
 
Tos
Our man Geo behind plate represents the ‘Tos for this rundown of concerns for ’10 heading into Spring Training.  If the Cubs were the cast of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Soto’s off-season efforts would’ve taken home the grand prize.  40 pounds lighter and the desire to prove his sophomore slump was nothing but a fluke could spell an amazing 2010 for Soto!  A more serious attitude towards winning and staying in shape, less weed and perhaps less snacks led to Soto’s weight loss.  We need him in shape and turning that bat around on opposing pitchers’ fastballs quick like an athletic catcher and not our fat friend who we like so much we can’t tell him he can’t play, we just stick him behind the plate to play catcher so he doesn’t have to move too much.  From the time Soto saw folks at the Cubs Convention right through reports coming in from Spring Training, the word has been that Soto looks amazing and is going to bring it this year.  With the first games of Spring around the corner, I can’t wait to see what he looks like in action.
 
Lots of competition on the ball club this year in rounding out the bench and guys coming back from injuries and off years should make for a thrilling Spring Training.  Can’t wait to see Sori, Millar, Zambrano, Nady, Soto and what happens in the battle for second base.  
 
Spring Training is here as guys have started to report even earlier than necessary.  You have to love the ambition and commitment.  Add some health to the mix this year, and we could be talking Cubs baseball right into October in the present tense, not looking back like last year.
 
Wells to start the Cubs opener this Thursday against the A’s…Go Cubs Go!
 

Uno!

Dailies

And not in a good “family game night” kind of way either.

Cubs lost to the Giants today and the Rockies defeated the St. Louis Cardinals.  At the start of the day our elimination number was holding strong at three.  After these two events, our elimination number is down to one.  And unless a miracle happens, this will be the last day of the season that I post while we’re still in contention for a playoff spot.
Wells was unsuccessful in his bid for win number 12 as San Francisco proved to be too much for him and held strong at five games out of the wild card spot.  Here now is what the American League and National League wild card standings look like:
wild card as of 9:27.pngUnbelievably the American League is down to only two teams left vying for the final playoff spot.  The rest of the league is out.  National League proved to be a little more competitive this year as five teams are still left competing.  Surprisingly, Atlanta has jumped up to second place, only two and a half games behind the Rockies after their recent six game win streak.  Their elimination number is five so the rest of this week should prove to be interesting for both the Braves and Rockies.  It’s only a matter of time (barring miracles of course) for the rest of the teams listed that are still in contention.
This is why it’s important to kick the season off fast, stay strong and finish strong.  Every game counts when you tally it all up and look at the big picture.  Those one run losses early on may not have seemed like a big deal then.  Now, you’d love to have those turn around into one run wins.  Would make a huge difference.  Play the episode of today’s Prose and Ivy Cubs Blog Talk Radio show I recorded earlier today, listed in the side bar on the right.  My take on Bradley, next year’s line up and rotation, use of the young talent, Fukudome’s worth and what it all means looking at 2010 is discussed on the show.  
Enjoy the talk now and leave a comment or two while we’re technically still in it.  One loss or one Rockies win and our ’09 will officially wrap come the final regular season game.  The rest of the way we play at Wrigley where we are much better than we are on the road.  Maybe that will matter and maybe it won’t.  Unfortunately that’s the stressful and depressing part of losing control of your own destiny.  One to go.  Will it come Tuesday?  Will it come at all?  Hope not.  We’ll see.  On top of playing at home, we’ve got Pittsburgh coming to town.  We know how I feel about Pittsburgh…wish we could play them all 162 games.  The Rockies on the other hand have Monday off as well and then face the Brewers.  Can’t imagine the Brewers would like to do us any favors.  Doesn’t look good.  But again, we’ll see.
Dempster at home against the Pirates on Tuesday.  All we can do is our part and hope for the best.  Go Cubs Go!
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Straight out of Central Casting

Dailies

’07.

’08.
Oh no.  Two years of division titles in the Central for the Cubs and that is where it stops.  Cubs are hot lately but it’s too little, too late if you were hoping for a three-peat.  Cardinals beat the Rockies tonight in the ‘I really don’t want to root for either of these teams Bowl’ and clinched the NL Central.  They had the better season.  Their superstars had the better year.  Their pitchers stepped up and outperformed us.  Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for taking the Central.
Now we’re looking at the Wild Card.  Granted, we’re looking at it with horrible seats but at least we got tickets.  A few teams are standing in our way of claiming the Wild Card and our down in front chants aren’t doing much in making a difference.  It hasn’t seemed to work in our favor this last month of the season no matter what we do.  It seems any time we pick up a game on the Rockies, so does everyone else.  And if we lose a game, well, they do too.  And the Rockies have pulled a ton of comeback wins out making our late season heroics attempts moot.  We’re not out of it yet and it’s becoming quite the final couple weeks of the season.  Don’t know that I’d use the word ‘wild’ to describe it, but at least the games still mean something anyway.  For three more games that is anyway, possibly less.
Our elimination number is down to 3.  Any combination of Rockies wins and Cub losses that add up to three and we’re done.  These few games against the Giants have been a blast.  I must admit, when I saw Zambrano v. Lincecum as the opposing pitchers the other night, I thought we were toast.  Figures that’s when Z steps up and delivers his best pitching performance since his no-hitter a year ago.  Also figures that while Lee has been on a tear, he just happens to be the guy on base in front of Baker, who just happens to hit a 2 run shot to win a ballgame in the ninth, who just happens to drive in Lee, who just happens to be the victim of an overzealous Guzman celebration, who just happens to hit Lee (not Baker, who actually hit the home run) and who just so happens to injure Lee’s neck while doing so causing him to miss a couple games.  And that my friends is what we call the Chicago Cubs.
I wish this team would continue to play all out while we aren’t mathematically eliminated but it has been nice seeing the young talent shine.  I understand being careful with guys for next year, but since we’re still in it…I guess since we’re still in it, it does bother me a little shutting down guys like Harden and being so careful with Lilly who’s been our star all year on the mound.  And in total contrast, if you’re giving up on the season and looking to next year and giving guys a bit of lighter workload, why are we allowing Dempster to push to try and reach 200 innings?  Who cares if Demp wants to hit 200?  You want to save him and make sure his arm doesn’t throw any unnecessary pitches in 2009 we could use in 2010…then allowing this push to 200 is something I just don’t get.  Gorzellany has been great and the lineups and results have been working in our favor, but really who would’ve thought that’d be the case.  I kind of feel like the organization gave up on the season too soon and have simply been lucky that the make shift line ups have come through the way they have.  
So here we are three games away from elimination.  Let’s just keep playing hard and see where the chips fall.  Central is no longer a possibility…but let’s keep pushing and see if we can somehow make our way down front and capture the wild card.  Never know.  Right Yogi?  
Wells up again tomorrow.  Do your thing Wells and get that W.  Go Cubs Go!

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Is This too Matchy-Matchy?

Dailies

YES.

We have no shot at making up ground in any race if we decide to match those above us win for win, loss for loss.  The Cubs just wrapped up a pathetic 5-0 shutout effort against the crosstown Chicago White Sox.  And the whole game was a horror to watch, aside from Dempster that is.

Another strong pitching outing by a Cubs starter thrown away by the team’s hitting and defense.  Like Lilly as of late, Dempster controlled the Sox for a majority of the game until a couple errors put the Sox up 3-0, all three runs unearned.  No run support for Demp and no quality defense either.  One error on Soriano was ridiculous.  He slipped running over to catch a fly ball.  We all know what was coming next…the hop.  Now is the hop the reason for the slip?  I don’t know.  The Heckler recently had a headline about the Cubs initiated a prayer section in left to help out Soriano’s defense.  Wouldn’t be a bad idea honestly.  Yesterday I applauded the decision to replace Soriano with Fuld as a defensive replacement and that should’ve happened today.  I believe Sori should only be playing through seven innings.  Give him his at bats to see what kind of damage he can do with the bat, then, late in the game, prevent him from doing damage with his glove in the field.  I like having him on the team, he’s a vital cog to the Cubs success.  Unfortunately lately he’s also a huge reason why we get the L’s that we do…whether it’s his slump, his hop or his glove…we can’t afford anything but perfection right now. Oh, and honestly, if this cortisone thing isn’t working out, pull him all together.  He may be in so much pain right now it’s effecting his play.  Anyone else notice how pathetic those three swings were when Sori struck out to end the game?  It’s like he wasn’t even trying and just wanted to get it over with.  If he’s not able to do the job, sit him.  The few games we have left are too valuable to take a chance on a guy who may or not be feeling good enough to do what it takes.  Especially when there are no signs that he is healthy enough to do so.  Think Lou, be smart when putting that lineup card together man.  If he can’t go, put in someone else.  (sigh)

The Rockies are currently down against the Mets in the seventh inning 6-2.  Chances are they will lose.  The Cardinals are losing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth.  As we all know, with the Cards this year, anything is possible.  But if they lose, yet again we’ve successfully combined our outcome with the Rockies and Cards and matched them result for result.  Forget the division, no threepeat, I get it.  But the Wild Card is not impossible.  Not if we win and they lose.  Will they lose?  Yes.  SO…WE HAVE TO WIN.  A pathetic 5-5 showing in the homestand and now off to New York to take on the Mets.  The Mets, who could only potentially take one of three against the Rockies, not helping the Cubs at all.  The Mets, who could possibly find a way to turn it on against the Cubs this weekend and do some more black cat voo-doo by sweeping the series while the Rockies blow up, not guaranteed or likely, but it wouldn’t be surprising the way things are going.

And to the Sox!  Vomit.  I said yesterday, no one better to play spoiler against than your crosstown rival.  Unfortunately the Cubs ended up on the wrong side of the final score and the fans in black left Wrigley happy today.  With the Rockies losing we lose a chance to make up ground but at least if the Mets hold and close this thing out, we won’t lose any ground.  Just such a shame to see the scoreboard and see the Rockies losing and know that we blew a chance to make up valuable ground in the WC race.  Have to take advantage of these opportunities.  The match game won’t do us any good at all.

Heading to Citi tomorrow to watch Zambrano take on the Mets.  Let’s hope the bananas and fluids are on the menu this evening and the mechanics come out to shine.  Need Z to dominate tomorrow and for the first time this season, Go Arizona (they’ll be playing the Rockies).  Tick tock boys.  Let’s get some runs and make up some ground!  Go Cubs Go!
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Marmol Aida

Dailies

I don’t know that it came down from Mitch and Murray, maybe just Hendry…but finally Piniella took a stand and made the switch to Marmol as the Cubs’ closer.  Grabow and Guzman were considered but this round goes to Marmol.  Just like anything else, I’m sure it could play out to a situation by situation component of the Cubs pitching staff.  Lou was quoted as saying that Grabow and Guzman will get opportunities to close games as well and that there is no timetable for how long Marmol closes. 

But now what.  How will Marmol respond?  Will he step up and be the guy I’ve seen him as in the closer role in my mind?  Or will he let the pressure go to his head as he’s had some mental toughness issues this year?  29 opportunities and six blown saves by Gregg.  Finally Lou admitted it was time to go after these close ballgames different and secure some tough wins as opposed to constantly sweating tough losses.  The Cards are real strong right now and are considering bringing on Smoltz.  Out of the bullpen that will only make them stronger.  Why the Cubs didn’t make another pitching move to bolster their own pitching (you can never have enough) I don’t know.  At least if the pieces don’t change, we can rearrange and maybe finally figure out how to successfully put his puzzle together.

It’s good too to hear Lou admit they’ve been headed in the wrong direction with Gregg.  A lot of admittance going on in the Cubs clubhouse with Lou speaking up and Z finally admitting that perhaps he’s not exactly the spokesperson for 7 minute abs.  Now if only we can get him to admit he’s not paid to hit home runs during batting practice.  That would be a real accomplishment.

I actually thought we were in decent shape last night until we were defeated by of all things, an inside the park home run.  Is there any other way to lose a ball game that we haven’t seen already this year?  Have we seen them all?  Anyone else notice that whomever is at the plate, whichever team it may be, always scores or does something positive when MLB Network checks in on a game?  It says it’s live, but I feel like any time I’ve seen them check in on a game, like last night’s Cubs game for instance…they score.  I was watching MLB and they checked in on the Cubs game.  Soriano was up, Cubs down 3-2.  And it kind of took the drama away because I just knew they were going to tie it up with the way the check-in’s work.  Sure enough, bloop single by Soriano, RBI, tie game.  Just saying…anyone else notice this?

Good to see Dempster putting up 10 K’s.  Would be better to see him get the W as well.  A lot of that of course comes down to the bullpen taking better care of leads.  Let’s hope Marmol and the newly organized bullpen do just that.  Second place may be a set of steak knives, but as Gregg found out…third place is you’re fired. 

On a more amusing note…I’ve never been to San Diego.  However, if ever there were a time I wished I was, it would be seeing Piniella get stopped for jaywalking.  How he restrained himself from firing his hat down and kicking dirt on the traffic cops shoes would have been a hilarious sight to see.

Harden up tonight.  Here’s to him getting over the .500 mark.  Go Cubs Go!

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May I Have a Minute of Your Time?

Dailies
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Hey, hey there Cubs fans, it’s me your friendly neighborhood Gatorade dispenser.
 
Make that, your not so friendly Cubs dugout Gatorade dispenser.
  
Gone are the days when pitchers would beat up catchers to take out their frustrations.  I’ve never missed Barrett more than I have recently, that’s for sure.  A quick message to the Cubs: I am not the reason you are a hot mess right now.  Not one bit and I’d appreciate it if you would please STOP beating the crap out of me to make yourselves feel better.
 
Eight losses in a row and then two W’s.  Probably six more to follow to match the previous eight that’s how unpredictable and consistently inconsistent you guys have been.  And now Z get’s suspended six games…for bumping the umpire.
  
Um, excuse me…didn’t anyone happen to catch what he did to me?!?!  Hello?
  
And how about you Demp…how’s that pitching hand feel after punching the CRAP out of me, huh?  Feel better now?  Think busting up your hand on my lightning rod logo is going to help things?  Is that listed in your book o’ tricks “How to get out of a horrible rut”?  Don’t think so.
Maybe a little less time getting suspended and losing your crap and a little more time getting timely hits, knocking in some runs and striking some opposing batters out.  
 
I mean, I’m not one to throw folks under the bus, but how about we look around and suggest a few other potential punching bags in the dugout to take your frustrations out on?  How about Soto, maybe a backhand upside the head will knock some sense into his sophomore slump of a season.  How about a quick right to Lee…maybe be Hoffpauir even…take Lee’s spot and in receiving your first sign from Sweet Lou, your first action is smacking Lee upside his head to maybe rattle something inside that head of his in a place that makes hitting for power and average happen?
 
Speaking of Sweet Lou, how about since June is coming up, somebody rough up Lou a bit and shake out one of his famous quarter of the way through the season tantrums that always seems to light a fire under your behinds and get those W’s piling up?  We’ve seen it before and we win with a bench coach filling in for Lou’s managing….hard to win with our team relying on tantrums from Z, Lilly and potential injury causing moves by Dempster to try and light a fire.  C’mon Lou, you and I say hi at least a dozen times a game…slug down some ‘ade, cleanse that pallet and get out there and light a fire, man!
 
I love being in the Cubs dugout.  I dream of a day where I get poured out on someone in celebration of a Cubs World Series.  I’ve already been repaired once this season and this beating Z gave me was WAY over the top.  I want to be here for you guys, but I can’t continue like this.  I’m happy to do my part, but please go back to beating up each other and leave me out of it.  In fact, run around the bases so many times we’re destroying teams like the Cardinals and Brewers or please, stick to destroying each other to light that fire and then come see me for a cold beverage after you’ve both come to and the team is on a tear, ripping up the Central.
 
This team is better than this.  We couldn’t have been held together by Rami and DeRo last year, right?  It’s time you guys step it up and use that energy in a productive way.  Let’s start with the Dodgers.  And most importantly, please stop hitting me.  Hit the Dodgers, hit the Dodgers pitching, hit each other, hit the bars in Wrigleyville.  Whatever it takes.  But please, more W’s and less bats and fists to me.  I’m not the reason you’re losing.  Figure it out fast though because if I have to listen to the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates dispensers gloat about how awful we are one more time…I’m going to grab one of those bats myself and there’s no telling what might happen then.
 
In tribute to the NBA playoffs…get the W’s this weekend and beat L.A.!  (And it’s hit parade.  Not hit gatorade, for crying out loud).  Go Cubs Go!
 
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How good are we?

Dailies

Today on Twitter I put it out there that the Cubs would sweep this series from the Cardinals.  So much for that.

Forget should be, could be, would be.  How good ARE we?  Honestly, maybe not that good.
Sure, healthy I think we could be unstoppable.  But this is the major leagues, who wouldn’t be unbelievable at full strength?
It is what it is.  Here’s what it is:
HITTING Cubs ranking across the entire National League:
Batting Avg .252 tied for 11th
SLG Avg .427 ranked 5th
OBP .339 ranked 7th
SO 268 ranked 7th
BB 144 ranked 7th
HR 46 ranked 4th
Hits 312 ranked 13th
Stolen bases 20 ranked 11th
Games 37 (fewest in the NL)
So what are we looking at here.  We’ve played the fewest games in the NL so we don’t have the at-bats the other teams have.  Yet, the at-bats we have had have only been so productive.  Two-thirds of the National League has a better batting average than we do.  About 80% of the league has more hits than we do.  Yet, our walks are up there in the top ten putting our OBP up there in the top ten as well. We’re getting on base and showing above average patience.  Not quite enough in the results category though and somehow while our patience has been rewarded at times with plenty of walks, over half the NL is either more patient than we are overall or are swinging at better pitches than we are as we rank 7th in the NL in strikeouts.  Soriano and Lee of course may step forward, they surely help in that category (Soriano leads the team with 36), but overall, this is an issue.  The key problem with the team so far as far as I can tell by just taking a quick look at the numbers is well displayed in using Soriano as an example in that Soriano also leads the team in home runs, hits, doubles (tied with Fukudome), runs, RBI’s and total bases.  
Can he be amazing some nights? Yeah.  Is he sometimes awful?  Well, yeah.  Does that make him good?  Um…at times?  But certainly no better than that.  And that’s pretty much where the team is performing as a whole.  Lots of moments where we look brilliant and then plenty of examples of ‘wait, what?’  Injuries happen to everyone…every team.  No single player ever won the World Series.  This is a team sport.  So let’s just forget about injury bugs for a while…our bench and back up guys are just as important as the starters.  Their at-bats count just as equally.  They cross home plate, it counts as a run just as it does a starter.  If they fly out, no breaks there.  No half outs.  No mercy rule for bench/support guys.  It is what it is.  And right now, this team…from marquis starter to last guy on the roster, this team isn’t very good. Not often enough anyway.
Thirty seven games in.  21-16, three games behind the Milwaukee Brewers.  That’s what happens when you have a stat sheet that looks like the one listed above.  Starters or supporting players, this team has to get more consistent.  Tonight’s three hit display was pathetic and I agree with a lot of Cubs fans in that we could be sitting pretty right now 20% of the way through the season if we had that fire night in and night out.  I don’t think it’s there right now.  I do believe what I said in my last post that Piniella has done a great job keeping us in the thick of things considering that we’re not at full strength.  Problem is, those that do get to play must get more consistent.  Otherwise, we’re not that good of a ballclub.  At best, we’re ok.  And when was the last time a team that was just ok did anything special?  
Season’s still young but it can get away from you in a hurry.  Let’s hope the guys start hitting their stride, finding that patience at the plate and those that are struggling shake off the rust finally and really start contributing.  Otherwise, maybe it’s time to give some other guys a shot who make a difference on a consistent basis.  
Before I sign off here, let’s take a look at the pitching stats:
PITCHING Cubs ranking across the entire National League:
ERA 4.50 ranked 10th
Wins 21 ranked 4th (behind two others in our own division, Cards and Brewers)
Saves 9 tied for 8th
Hits 293 ranked 15th
ER 163 ranked 8th
HR 45 ranked 2nd most
BB 151 ranked 6th
SO 308 ranked 1st
And yet again, there you go.  For every one thing we’re doing well, there’s something bringing us down to mediocrity.  Should, could, would…paper…forget it all.  This team is going to have to find a way to be much more consistent and develop in the areas they are lagging behind.  It’s up to Lou and the coaches to figure this thing out.  As far as I can tell, more patience at the plate, smarter pitch/swing selection, more control on the mound, keeping the ball down (when the opposition hits it, they are apparently hitting it a LONG way) and perhaps a change at closer is in order to bring this thing up to par.  
Should we be good?  Yes.  Could we be good?  Sure.  Love our roster on paper?  Me too.  Are we all that good?  Right now?  Not really.  Lucky to be three games out.  Let’s see how the rest of this series against the division rival Cardinals goes.  Would be a great time to really start throwing this thing in gear.  Go get ‘em Demp. (oh, and as for which of these guys I think deserves an all-star vote as I promised in my last post?  Just one…Fukudome.  The rest, I’d have a hard time justifying so far).  Go Cubs Go!
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Dempster v. Peavy and…Curt Schilling?

Dailies

Arguably the Cubs MVP of last season, Ryan Dempster takes the mound today against San Diego and coveted starting Padres pitcher, Jake Peavy.  Talk about a game that has something for everyone.  Padres fans get to see how their team is doing and shaping up, Cubs fans get to see how their ballclub looks as they hope to extend their Spring winning streak to five and baseball fans get to see presumably two innings of Spring pitchers’ duel between two of the strongest starting pitchers in the NL Central.

Watching what Dempster offers up is always fun to watch and it will be interesting to see Peavy up close and personal. The guy many of us Cubs fans were hoping would be added to the starting rotation by Opening Day, displaying why we hope the young pitching we obtained in trades for Pie and DeRosa magically morph into ‘Peavy’ on the Opening Day roster. Chances of that trade happening are slim at this point, but still it will be fun to check out.

Apparently there is another pitcher on the Cubs’ radar that could be a much more likely solution when it comes to the fifth spot in the rotation this year.  That recent development?  Curt Schilling.

Mr. Clutch.  Mr. Literal Red Sox.  Mr. Need a Championship?  I’m Your Guy, Curt Schilling.  

Is it still possible for him to deliver as he has in the past after missing last season?  Who knows.  Would I prefer Peavy?  Of course.  But if Peavy isn’t coming…who would you rather?  Heilman, Marshall…or take a chance on Schilling?  I’d take my chances on Schilling.  Reports have it that if he were to join the team, he’d probably be ready to contribute come mid-season on out, no sooner.  He wouldn’t cost too much either…which combined with his resume and playoff experience sounds like a bargain to me.  Tampa Bay is the other team Schilling is considering offering his services to if said team were to be interested.  They haven’t won the big one either, but come on.  If you’re going to make a last ditch statement in your already Hall of Fame credential career by helping a team end their championship drought, where better to do it than in Chicago with the Cubs?  Nowhere.  Chicago Cubs is the no-brainer choice between the two.  

Now it’s just a matter of whether Hendry and company feel like he’s worth a chance.  I know I think he is.  Until then, looking forward to enjoying another Spring outing by Dempster and seeing what may still be in a Cubs uniform this season in Jake Peavy.

Curt Schilling…possibly in a Cubs uniform this season, huh?  Didn’t see that coming…you?

Do your thing today Demp…Go Cubs Go!

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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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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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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“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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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?
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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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“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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