What would it take to make the Cubs unstoppable?

Dailies

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

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

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

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

Congratulations Byrd! Reds up close and personal

Dailies
Congratulations to the Cubs lone all-star in Marlon Byrd!  Check out the hitting stats of the top 10 Cubs’ performances so far this year (in stats listed below) and you can see why it was a clear, cut and dry result, in choosing Marlon to represent the Cubs in the Summer classic.  Sometimes injuries happen and people are unable to play.  As a result, perhaps only Marmol has a shot of joining the party late, but it’s highly unlikely.  Nice to have fresh enthusiasm on the team and a great example of what Jaramillo’s hitting program can do for guys.  Now, let’s hope it catches on for the rest of the team in the second half of the season.

Our 5-8 and Fukudome helped the Cubs destroy the D’backs out West with a barrage of extra base hits.  Great spark in Fukudome leading off the game with a home run and the rest of the game followed suit.  Tomorrow night I’ll be at Citi Field for the Mets/Reds game.  Looking forward to seeing the NL Central leading Reds up close and personal.  Maybe seeing them in person will help answer some questions as to why they are having the kind of season they are because I still haven’t figured out why their 2010 is turning out the way it has been.  Anyone have any thoughts as to why in the world we are looking up at of all teams…the Reds???  Almost as bad as being brutally roughed up by the Pirates this year.  And that’s bad.

Congrats to Marlon Byrd…GO CUBS GO!

Blessing in Disguise

Dailies

When it comes to Chicago Cubs baseball, if recent events have taught us anything, it’s never say always.  One of my favorite things to say here at Prose and Ivy is, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  Given our performance in the past against the lowly Pirates, it always appeared on the year’s schedule as a gift-wrapped blessing.  A small three day break if you will where wonderful things happen like Cubs home runs flying out of the park, pitchers dominating on the mound, Cubs ending up on the right end of a blow out and W flags are hooked to the flag pole rope at the top of the first for it’s inevitable rising after the top of the ninth.  Plan to head home early folks because the Pirates are coming to town.  There won’t be any Cubs batting in the bottow of the ninth because there won’t be one.  These games are given.  The Pirates can’t handle the talent and the skill level the Cubs bring to their games.  Regardless of how the Cubs were going, if you see Pittsburgh coming up on the schedule, get ready for at least a three game turnaround and find your brooms.  The Cubs were about to seem the Pirates and all will feel right again in Wrigleyville.

That was then.  This…is now.

All of a sudden, the Cubs can’t be counted on to beat one of the worst teams in all of baseball and the cellar dweller or the NL Central.  See that .342 winning percentage and the 17 games that they currently sit behind the division leading Reds?  Don’t let that fool you!  When the Pirates have had the all-of-a-sudden priviledge of playing the Cubs, they are a surreal .800 ballclub!  In ten games against the Cubs this year, they’ve won 8 and lost 2.  What?!?  WHAT!?!  There are certain things that this blog feels it can count on:  baseball magazines and websites and blogs will have the Cubs listed as contenders in the Central, talk whether this is the year and then the Cubs will let you down come October (some seasons even earlier); Dempster will predict the Cubs will win it all; Carlos Marmol will be responsible for at least six heart attacks across the midwest throughout the course of a season; Sox fans will hate on Cubs fans and vice versa; and if nothing else is going our way, hey hey…at least ‘We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh’.  Well, that last one apparently no longer applies.  And it just may be a blessing in disguise.

Think about how this season is going.  The Reds lead the NL Central and the Cubs currently sit in fourth place looking up at the unfortunate view of Brewers behinds, hardly even keeping the Cardinals in sight, while the Reds are a ******** 10 games out in front of them.  The offense thinks it’s still the off-season.  Carlos Zambrano is seeing a shrink.  Piniella seems to be snoozing through the first half of the season.  All of our ‘all-stars’ suddenly look too old, too injured, or too apathetic.  Castro started out hot and then cooled off to an average pace.  Wells can’t seem to find the form that kept him one of the club’s most dominant pitchers in ’09.  And for some reason, we CAN’T beat the Pirates.  Fine.  If that’s the way it is…if that’s the way it’s going to be, then perhaps the rest of the things we’ve come to expect can start to make a change as well.

Perhaps the head shrink can get Zambrano under control and he can perform out of the bullpen upon possibly returning after the All-Star break.  Perhaps Wells can find his form and start to lead this club through a charge to possibly make up 10 games to the top of the division.  Our crosstown rivals just made a huge push to put themselves in the club of relevant baseball teams for this year, and if they can do it I KNOW we can do it.  Perhaps we will find a way to win one run ballgames in the 2nd half of the season.  Those eighteen losses in one run games might just be the single most frustrating aspect of 2010.  Perhaps since what has become the norm against Pittsburgh has been turned on it’s head, maybe all of these other things we’ve come to expect from this team this year can take a change of course as well.  Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.

Of course, if it does happen there is a very good chance that we may have a few different guys wearing that same disguise as there are rumors that everyone from Zambrano to Marmol to Fukudome to Lilly are on the trading block.  I’m not sure how far behind we need to be for Ricketts to consider himself a seller as opposed to a buyer.  He’s a good business man it seems, but he’s also a fan.  I wonder how hard it must be for him to make rationale decisions when analyzing at point this particular team is no longer going to make the push it needs to contend.  I wonder if Ricketts thinks Pittsburgh is just another symptom of an extremely frustrating and disappointing Cubs season.  I wonder if he can find a way out of this mess and find the blessings in all of this turmoil.  So many fans on-line if you read around the Cubsblogosphere have already said ‘please, no more’ or are very close to taking that flag and throwing it in like a towel.  I don’t like our odds against the rest of the league if we can’t even handle Pittsburgh.  However, I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to put the beating on us the way they have.  Hopefully an unexpected 180 on this season’s trajectory is around the corner as well.  If not Pittsburgh, we’ll always have fool’s hope, right? 

(Any thoughts you’d like to share can be done in the comments section, or if you’d like, you can call into tonight’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance podcast.  I’m guest hosting tonight at 11pm EST and you can find the show’s site and information here!  And since I’m hosting with WebSoulSurfer who runs a Padres blog, I’ve included a clip of the Derrek Lee/Chris Young fight.  Why not?  Enjoy.  Go Cubs Go!)


That’s the Ticket x3!

Dailies

Game On!  Let’s make these games count already!

I got my tickets for when the Cubs come to NY and I can’t wait!  Have a ticket to three out of four games as I have to see as much as I can in person this year with the Cubs’ only trip to NY coming first thing in April, only a month away!

Not expecting a lot of long ball seeing that Citi Field’s dimensions are horrendous when it comes to home runs.  So hopefully Lou’s line up table setters in Theriot and Fukudome find their way on base a bunch and Lee and Rami are able to find holes in the outfield to knock them in.  It’s not too hard to find holes in the Mets outfield.  For one, especially without Beltran, they aren’t very good.  Francoeur is a joke.  Bay hasn’t played at Citi Field so getting used to the park and its dimensions will take some time.  As for Pagan, I liked him as a Cub and was sad to see young potential get away.  All in the same, he’s no Carlos Beltran.  All that, plus the fact that the outfield is ginormous (another flaw in the designing of Citi Field) if Theriot and Fukudome can find their way on, we should be starting off those ballgames up a run or two and ready to roll.

Little concerned about Rami’s soreness and the time he is missing this Spring.  I’m watching the replay of today’s Cubs/Indians Spring game right now.  Interesting to see Baker at third.  I figure if he’s making the ballclub, it’s more so for his ability to play second base.  Having a guy who can play third and second wouldn’t hurt as it looks like Lou has wanted to see if Fontenot and Baker both are capable of playing either the left or right side of the infield.  That makes me wonder if perhaps Lou is concerned about Rami as well.

Byrd’s looked pretty solid so far this Spring which is good to see.  We need a guy that can patrol centerfield with authority but also get the job done at the plate.  Rangers fans I communicated with on Twitter were especially disappointed to see Marlon come to the Cubs. I’m starting to see why in watching him perform this Spring and hopefully it continues on into the regular season.

Got my 2010 Cubs club card, my Cubs jacket for early April games, my Cubs jersey and my Fukudome t-shirt ready to hit Citi Field with abandon no matter how warm or cold it may end up being.  Opening Day across the country is always a crapshoot when it comes to the weather and more often than not you end up freezing for at least 2/3’s of the game.  I remember catching one opening day in New York and 50% of the fans in the upper level was standing in the aisles at the corners of the stadium trying to get into the sunny spots and avoid the shade.  Hopefully my dates with the Cubs coming to town in April avoid the usual early season chill factor.

I don’t foresee Samardzija making the club as a starter this year.  We’ll need him to perform well out of the bullpen though with a huge blow to the squad with Guzman’s injury.  Guzman was a guy that made me feel real comfortable with our bullpen and now without him, not sure how this is going to play out.  And Silva?  How do you guys feel about Silva?  I’m not so sure he’s the guy we need to get us through the early part of the season either until Lilly is closer to 100% and ready to step into his usual spot in the starting rotation.

Whatever Lou decides to do, I can’t wait to find out and I can’t wait to see it perform in games that count!

I received a copy of the Maple Street Press’ 2010 Cubs Annual and it’s amazing.  Great coverage of last year with an insightful look into the 2010 season.  All of the photos are in beautiful color and the stat breakdown of each player on the roster is detailed down to the finest percentage of performance.  It’s great to read a high quality observation and analysis of what the Cubs have been lately, what they could truly potentially be in 2010 and what the future holds with a breakdown of the hottest prospects in the Cubs organization.  Two things that really jump out at me right away is that it is as up to date as you can possibly get (the rosters are up to date and accurate…nothing bothers me more than a company that tries to get an annual out to early and for instance, still has Bradley as a Cub and no mention of Marlon Byrd)….the other thing that stands out is that it is 100% Cubs.  That may sound like an obvious observation, but take a trip to Borders or Barnes and Noble or browse on line for a while.  Try to find a preview to the upcoming season that doesn’t simply feed about five pages of Cubs info (that might not be up to date) in a program that runs about 150 pages long.  Hardly worth your money as a Cubs fan.  If you are looking for a truly efficient breakdown of what to expect going into this regular season, pick up a copy of the Maple Street Press’ Cubs Annual for 2010.  You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Hopefully we can say the same thing about our Cubs’ season come Fall and the games hit a point where they could REALLY mean something!  Go Cubs Go!  

Fuld, Colvin, Fukudome Left to Right in 2010

Dailies

Hey, wait a second…that doesn’t sound half bad.  Fuld, Colvin, Fukudome with Reed Johnson as our fourth and heavily relied upon outfielder.  Three guys who aren’t afraid to hustle after a ball and own the glove where would be bloop singles go to die.  Three guys who aren’t afraid to get a face full of ivy in exchange for a much needed out.  Three guys who aren’t injury prone and beyond their prime.  Three guys who don’t have handicapping attitudes that effect themselves, their teammates and the entire organization.  Three guys Cubs fans could really get behind.

So then what do we do with Soriano and Bradley?  Well come on.  Bradley?  I don’t care what his mother says.  “My son is willing to come back to the Cubs if they are willing to have him back”. Or however she put it….give me a break.  If the Cubs DON’T trade him, of COURSE you’re coming back to the Cubs.  And you better hope that 24 other guys in Cubs uniforms, your manager, your general manager, the general public and Cubs fans (especially those who sit in the bleachers) have a really short memory.  Anyway, bottom line….Bradley?  You trade Bradley.  Get rid of him.  Apology or no apology.  I read a blog from an Orioles blogger suggesting perhaps the O’s would be willing to take a chance on Bradley.  Really?!?  Great!  How about Roberts for Bradley?  How about that?  No scratch that.  Give us a quality reliever to throw into the seventh or eighth inning to set up Marmol.  That would be a huge help and a great answer to ‘then what do we do with Bradley’.
As for Soriano, make him our 2B.  Seriously.  Trade Fontenot and see what other bullpen help we can get or package him in a deal that may land us more depth on the bench or a quality 2 or 3 starter.  Let Baker and Soriano platoon at 2B with Blanco as the key reserve off the bench.  You put Sori at 2B and we keep his bat in the line up while returning him to his defensive roots.  
If we did that, our opening day lineup 1-8 could look like:
Fukudome RF
Theriot SS
Lee 1B
Ramirez 3B
Soriano 2B
Colvin CF
Fuld LF
Soto C
It honestly doesn’t look as intimidating without Bradley’s name on paper.  But hey, we’re three and zero in games without him since his suspension.  The beginning of these few games have been filled with hit parades and tons of runs.  Maybe having something that looks good on paper shouldn’t be the goal.  Maybe it’s going to take the old faithfuls (Lee, Rami, Sori) with a good mix of reliable (Theriot, Fukudome, Soto) and a healthy mix of talented, hungry youngsters (Colvin, Fuld).  That may be what we need after all.  Maybe keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t necessarily require spending like the Joneses at all, even though we’re in a major market.  Forget spending like the Joneses and try scoring W’s and making the playoffs like them.  That’s what’s important and maybe a little mix up of the line up with some new blood is just what we need.  And what’s easier to root for than homegrown talent?  Straight out of the farm system?  Very cool and very exciting for fans regarding the organization as a whole.
So in 2010, if I were Piniella (who I believe will be given one more shot at this thing, along with Hendry) I would heavily consider an outfield of Fuld, Colvin and Fukudome left to right.  No fear and an extreme desire to succeed.  Sounds like a brilliant recipe to me.  What do you think?  Go Cubs Go!

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Good to See

Dailies

Bradley’s game saving catch followed by the stare down of the Rockies crowd and a thump of his chest on the way back to the dugout.  That sequence was fun to watch tonight.  Not only because it preserved the Cubs’ lead, but it showed some fire this team has been lacking this year.  The Cubbie Swagger.  I realize winning brings swagger but sometimes the fake it til you make it swagger can bring wins as well, I believe.  And Bradley’s attitude after that play is exactly the kind of swagger this team needs to keep momentum in the NL Central.

I enjoyed watching the replay of Lee heading back to the dugout after a strike out and telling teammate Fukudome about a breaking pitch he had just gone down on.  Fukudome, you could tell, regardless of language barrier understood what Lee was telling him about the pitch and what he was warning him to look out for.  Why?  Because it must not be an English/Japanese thing with these guys at this point.  After playing together so long, I’m sure they’ve figured out a way to simply communicate by speaking baseball.  Whatever it was Lee said sure did do the trick.  Fukudome stepped into the box and sent the first pitch he saw (fastball) straight out to the seats in right field.  Cub fan got a souvenir, Fukudome got his ninth of the year and the Cubs got the win.

Marmol was dominant once again in the eighth.  I watched the game on the MLB Network so it was the Rockies broadcast.  Interesting to hear even their broadcast team talk about how the Cubs have the guy with the nastiest stuff pitching the eighth instead of the ninth.  That’s always been my argument for having Marmol pitch the ninth, but I guess the ninth doesn’t matter with a lead….so….I don’t know.  But Marmol was dominant in striking out the side.  The broadcaster’s point about Marmol falling hard to the first base side when he pitches was interesting too.  I’m sure it doesn’t help in painting the corner against a lefty or coming inside accurately to a righty.  In fact, I could see it making so much sense that I bet if we had a total of hit batsmen by Marmol, it would favor righties for a number of reasons, but mainly that one.

Then Gregg came in in the ninth and did his thing.  Couple balls hit really well but the Cubs had the field covered perfectly and Gregg added a save and the Cubs put one more up in the W column.  Interesting to see the Cubs are 55-15 when they score 3 or more runs.  70 games with at least 3 runs.  For as much as this team has struggled and missed having their whole lineup this year, I don’t think I would’ve guessed that they would’ve hit 70 at this point. 

Anyone else thoroughly enjoy Theriot’s stop and toss to second?  One of the guys I truly enjoy watching day in and day out.  Why did we see Fuld and Baker late in the game again?  Are they that great of an upgrade defensively over the guys they replaced?  I don’t think so but the ninth worked out, so perhaps?  Anyone else impressed with how many Cubs fans were at the game?  Felt like every other person in the stadium had Cubbie blue on.  Along with the other details of tonight’s game….good to see!

Getting married in two weeks from today.  In two weeks from today I will have been married for nearly seven hours.  Wow.  Funny when I can feel it set in a little deeper.  Talking about it of course quite a bit lately but every now and then, you can just feel it set in a little deeper.  Tell you all about it in a few weeks…honeymoon in Vegas the week after.  Vegas baby. : )

In the meantime, let’s keep it up boys!  Go Cubs Go!  And Happy 21st Anniversary to night games at Wrigley!
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Bare Minimum

Dailies

Ted Lilly.

That’s it.  One All-Star for the Cubs this year.  This of course does not include injury replacements and of course the fans will get to vote in the final reserve.  I supposed there’s a chance a Cub could end up being included in either.  But for today in the offical All-Star selections by fans, by players and by managers one Cub is included and that was Ted Lilly.
Every team gets at least one representative.  A pity all-star if you will.  If you don’t think that this year’s team is far inferior to that of last year, simply look at this year’s all-star roster versus last year.  I went to the All-Star game parade in New York last year and there were over half a dozen Cubs on the team.  Felt like after the all-time legends came by, every other car had a Cub in it.  This year, no one is dominant in a Cub jersey when compared to the rest of the National League.  Marquis is even an all-star this year.  I swear, if the NL’s potential home field advantage in the Series comes down to some all-star battle between someone on the American League team (looking at the lineups, probably a Yankee or Red Sox player) versus Jason Marquis, I will be incredibly bummed.  I can’t believe this.  The only thing worse would’ve been having DeRo on the All-Star team as an Indian or Cardinal.  
Almost at the break and we’re 3 games out.  We’ll get Rami, Reed and Guzzie back on Monday.  Hopefully that helps.  Last year’s playoff sweep of a loss to LA hurts even more so looking back at where we were last October and where we are today in July.  Last year’s team was MUCH better than this year’s and the expectations were rightfully high.  If this year’s team wins the Central again I’ll be surprised, let alone make any noise in the playoffs.  Maybe it’s simply the injury bug being a little thirstier this year around the Cubs dugout?  I don’t know.  But I see, baseball people see it and overall the fans see it.  This Cubs team is not as good as last year, nobody is performing where they were at last year and as a result I feel increasingly stronger that if we had a shot at winning it all, last year was the year.  This year’s team, there’s just something off.
Way to go baseball fans, not voting in Sori or Fukudome based on name and reputation alone.  Vote in the proper guys.  Congratulations to Ted Lilly.  Having a decent season and well deserves to represent the Cubs in the All-Star game a week and a half from now.
One Cub on the NL All-Star roster versus last year’s dominant population of Cubbies.  Pathetic.  But accurate and deservedly so.  The fans got it right in their lack of Cubbies this year.  Let’s hope the second half of the season is much different than the first for the rest of the roster and that Lilly keeps it up.
Are you happy with the NL and AL rosters?  Anyone get snubbed in your opinion?  Disagree with me with regards to the Cubs?  Agree?  Let me know.  Cubs/Brewers in a few minutes from now.  Lilly on the mound.  Can’t wait.
Go Cubs Go!
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Bang for Your Buck

Dailies

I want to know if your team gives you enough bang for your buck.  And by ‘buck’ I mean it in a number of different ways.  The financial investments: tickets, merchandise and maybe some of you like myself with the Cubs, a way to watch the games like MLB.tv.  The emotional investment: the time spent watching games, the energy put into rooting for your team, the mental effort put into analyzing the decisions your manager or general manager make with your club and the amount of heart put into celebrating your team’s victories/agonizing over defeats/arguing with fans of other teams, especially rivals over whose team is better.

Take the Cubs for instance.  You arguably can’t get more bang for your buck.  The moment a new title pennant flies at Wrigley, the Cubs would be the team that give its fans more bang for their buck than any other team in baseball.  The history: huge.  The drama: unmatched.  The stadium: historic.  The reputation their fans have with other fans: lovable losers…basically bottom of the barrel, respected yet bashed with glee (especially by their rivals’ fans).  The players…just to name a few: Soriano.  Ignites Cubs games on a regular basis with leadoff home runs.  Regular representative of the team come the All-Star game.  Raises the heat on debates on where in the order he should hit.  Carries himself like a professional and makes Cubs fans proud to root for him.  Bang for your buck?  Absolutely.  

Theriot.  Awesome nickname: The Riot.  Awesome first name: Ryan.  It is my name and sounds like Sandberg’s first name.  Hard to go wrong there.  Hustles on every hit ball and is among team leaders in all hitting categories.  Helping carry this team during a very tough stretch where extremely important keys to the team’s success have been injured.  Bang for your buck?  You bet.  

Bradley.  Controversial off the bat (pun intended) which is always entertaining providing lots of bang for the buck.  A huge threat when hitting well and finally in a long term deal, first of his career.  Love hate relationship with the fans….love hate relationship with the media…love hate relationship with…I’m guessing you name it.  Bang for your buck?  Possibly only Zambrano tops Bradley for most interesting character on this team.  

Lee.  Batting champ on the resume.  Team leader.  Scapegoat.  Absolutely dangerous when he hits his stride.  Hoffpauir hot on his trail causing fan debate as to whether it’s time to let Micah take the role full-time away from Lee.  Talented, hot topic, leader in the clubhouse and proven winner.  Bang for your buck?  Please, absolutely.  

Soto.  Rookie of the Year.  Sophomore slump.  First rookie catcher to start an all-star game in forever.  Handles one of the most talented starting rotations in all of baseball and from what I’ve read on several female Cubs fan blogger sites…apparently the ladies are big fans as well.  Bang for your buck?  YUP.  

Fukudome.  Please.  From the off-season where all we could talk about as Cubs fans was will he-won’t he up through opening day against the Brewers at Wrigley to the cool headbands, through the hot first half of his rookie season to the crash of his second half and a decent start to ’09.  Plus you know the club must be thrilled with what he does for the organization in overseas merch and interest in the club.  Bang for your buck?  Tons…and bang for your yen as well for that matter.
The bench. This is where you really tell if you’ve got a team that gives you bang for your buck, or just a few over-priced stars and everyone else who happens to dress the same as them everyday.  The Cubs’ bench has managed to step up and keep our team in the thick of the NL Central race and provided fans with quality guys to root for.  This bench as a whole has become the 2009 version of DeRosa when it comes to heart, versatility and ability to step  up and fill in in a crunch when injuries happen.  Without our talented bench, the Cubs would be in a lot of trouble right now heading into the the thick of Summer.  Bang for your buck?  Over and over again (thankfully). 

Zambrano, Harden, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall.  You bring your guys and we’ll bring ours.  I like our chances, injuries, ups and downs and all.  Bang for your buck?  No matter what day it is, you got it.  Especially Zambrano.  Bananas.  Cramps.  Tantrums.  Strikeouts.  Opening day starts.  No hitter.  Team Ace.  Beating up catchers in the dugout.  And a ton of heart.  Bang for your buck?  Maybe the definition of said phrase.  
Like I said…this club could arguably be the one team in the league that provides the most bang for your buck.  And I’ll go ahead and say it flat out, I believe they do just that…and there is no argument to be had come the day they raise a new World Series title pennant.
Cubs fans…think of a reason this is true that I forgot to list?  Tell me in the comments.  And fans of other teams who disagree and believe that their team in fact gives them and their team’s fans more bang for your buck…tell me their too.  Interested to hear your thoughts.
Great run lately for the Cubs.  Love the fight we’re seeing and loving that with even with all the injuries, we are right in the thick of this thing.  Harden’s turn tomorrow in Detroit.  And since I mentioned Ryne earlier…as a side note, I completely agree Ryno.  Completely agree. 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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Fried and Tried

Dailies

Three weeks since my last post.  No excuses.  I started a new job on April 6th and I’ve never learned so much or felt like my brain had been squashed and fried to a level mush as I have in the past three weeks.  I get home and all I can do is ‘tweet’ and watch the game.  Statistical analysis and even witty retorts when I get home regarding the Cubs and the Majors are hard to come by when you feel like 90% of your brain isn’t working.  You’ve heard the term ‘leave it all out on the field’?  That’s how I feel like my brain capacity has been performing.  I get home at night and I feel like I have 10% left.  That’s basically enough for me to remember how to put the key in the door, eat dinner and log on to MLB.TV and watch the game.  A few nights I didn’t even get out of the office until 11:00pm.  I was able to log in at the office and watch the game because no one else was around but man my brain could use a little performance enhancing drugs lately.

But like I said in the above paragraph, no excuses.  I should be blogging.  It’s one of the things I enjoy most and if I’m going to hope you guys keep coming back to visit, I know how important it is to keep posting.  I kick this one off like this because of the comment Jeff left in the Prose and Ivy Chat room in the column to the right.  You’re right dude, my bad.  This baseball season has been unreal so far…lots to talk about.  Whatever I can muster up, I’m sure I can manage to unlock the door, eat dinner and log on to MLB.TV on only like 5% brain power and blog with the other 5%.  You’re right, my bad.
I’ll admit too, without going into details, I’ve been straight up bummed lately.  I’ve been performing stand up comedy for eleven and a half years now, acting for about half of that and producing tv/film projects for half of THAT, including a few pilots for my own shows that I created and have pitched to networks.  Simply to get this off my chest before diving into baseball because I really haven’t told anyone about it and it’s really effected my desire to write lately, I recently found out that an idea of mine may have been straight up stolen by a network.  I won’t say who and I won’t say what, but I will say this.  A production company I have a deal with to represent my pilot in the marketplace recently pitched the project to said network.  They loved the idea.  They thought it would be a great companion to another show they have in the same genre.  When they said what they show was, I couldn’t believe my ears.  They were basically telling the production company in the pitch that my new idea would pair up nicely to a show they have coming out and without them knowing that the production company that was pitching it to them was representing me…basically…without them knowing who they were talking to…stated that they have a show I pitched to them a year ago.  They loved it and thought it’d be perfect for their demographic yet nothing happened.  ONE year later and all of a sudden they have a show JUST like it coming out…that I CREATED.  It’s up to the lawyers to do their thing now, but I seriously can’t believe it.  I commit eleven and a half years of my life to my career in comedy and just like that, instead of enjoying what should be an amazing time in my career, successfully getting a show I created that I would write, produce and star in on the air…I have to deal with this crappy side of it where it seems to have been stolen out from under me.  Some executive at the network with no tie to the dedication and amount of time that I’ve poured into my career does something completely unethical and now here I am in this position.  It sucks.  It seriously sucks.  And it’s effected my desire to do a whole lot of anything accompanied with the exhaustion of the new job.
Anyway.  I came to the page today and while I’ve occasionally posted a comment in my chat box or a tweet on Twitter over the past few weeks, I hadn’t really blogged.  When I came on today and saw Jeff’s comment about me not blogging in a while, it bummed me out further.  I love this blog, I love following the Cubbies and love communicating with everyone on here about the season.  Can’t let frustration or exhaustion get in the way of my enjoyment on here and I’ll have to remember that going forward.  Thanks for the kick in the **** there Jeff, appreciate it.
ALL of that being said (phew) game and a half out tonight as it stands and a crazy season so far across baseball and in the NL Central.  I can’t believe we’re looking at four team race and I can’t help but wonder if it will hold up the entire season.  I can’t help but hope the Big Z comes around and the injury bugs decide to fly elsewhere for a bit.  The article on here about Fukudome and his old batting coach recovering his old stroke was really interesting.  Comparing hitting to boxing is really smart.  Have to use your legs and transfer the power properly or else you’re going nowhere.  Hopefully Fukudome will keep it going throughout the entire season this year since he’s got one year under his belt and doesn’t have to worry about things like moving his entire family over and adapting completely to a whole new environment and batch of new teammates.  
Soriano looks great, it’d be great if Lee would wake up.  Bradley for that matter. I feel like if Bradley were to come around and Lee wakes up, this is going to be a whole different race in the Central.  I can’t believe we’re only 1.5 games out with the injuries we’ve had to Z, Lee, Zambrano, Bradley, Ramirez, Soto…and on and on.  This team, healthy…very dangerous.  Can’t wait to see us heal and start tearing away in the Central.  No expectations…but come on.  This roster, healthy?  Good stuff.
I don’t know about sticking with Gregg.  Long term anyway. I understand we’re only midway through May so I wouldn’t quite jump the gun and make the switch yet either (to Marmol) but seriously, Gregg has to be on the on the edge of his seat and looking into his rearview mirror all season long knowing that there is a perfectly capable firethrower that could step in and take over in a second.  We’re lucky to have the situation we have with two capable pitchers with some teams barely competing with closers that can hardly claim to put any real fear in the opposing batters.  Just need Gregg to be more consistent and then no reason to look in the rearview and all the world to be confident, use Marmol’s gun to set him up and close out the eighth before Gregg shuts ’em down in the ninth.
I like the way Piniella has worked the rosters and obtained the most out of this bunch this year.  Can’t be easy when the middle of the lineup is mush.  I know about mush.  Not easy to work with.
Here something maybe some of you Cubs fans can answer for me…here’s Cubs.com photo of this year’s Cubs to vote for for the All-Star game.  
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Listen tonight as I guest on the United Cardinals Bloggers Radio Hour

Dailies

I’m going in.

Cardinals/Cubs series this weekend Thursday-Sunday at Wrigley.  The Cubs will have home-field on their side…I won’t be so lucky come this evening.

If you get a chance tonight, listen in to the United Cardinals Bloggers Radio Hour (link here) and hear me guest as we chat about all things baseball, including this weekend’s Cubs/Cards series.  Not so sure that there will be any other Cub fans included as guests so Cubs fans should feel free to call in and back me up!  (Actually, the guys mentioned that they’d keep it civil…but you never know when it comes to this rivalry!  I’m definitely looking forward to it so if you get a chance, dial it up on-line.  Also on tonight as a guest is fellow MLBLogger Redbird Chatter.  Should be a great time and an even better series this weekend!

Had a chance to watch today’s game on-line and man…does it hurt to get beat by Marquis!  Losing at Wrigley is always a horrible feeling…but having a cast-off and lay down the beating?  Not cool.  And Marquis and his stuff?  Please.  That was pathetic.

Opening Day on the other hand was awesome.  Cubs have opened the first week of the season up strong going 5-3, currently in second place behind the Cardinals.  Lilly was amazing through seven delivering the goods no one is to speak of until it’s over (you know what I’m saying) and it’s great to see him come out strong.  Not concerned at all about Zambrano, can’t wait to see him this weekend.  I feel bad for teams who don’t have that ace that makes you believe every five starts you are going to win.  Great fun in having that with Zambrano…wish I could make the Apr 21 game against the Reds to get the Zambrano no-hitter statue.  That thing is pretty cool and a great symbol of an amazing pitching performance.  Love Dempster and expect great things from him this year.  Harden got roughed up today but again, it’s early, not concerned.

Soriano is having one of his best Aprils so far ever, especially in the past few seasons and Fukudome seems to be in his April zone like last year.  With Bradley injured with a bum groin (surprise) it’s going to be important he performs like he’s capable of.  I love the balance in the lineup Bradley brings, but this injury is a great opportunity to see Reed play a whole lot more. Nothing wrong with that.

Hopefully Soto comes around.  Sore shoulders and catchers?  Not a good mix.  If Soto is healthy I don’t foresee a sophomore slump so hopefully his body holds it together.  Same with Ramirez and Gregg actually.  Injuries could be a huge problem for this team this year, something that could ruin plans we’d all love to make come October.  Ramirez’s bat and glove don’t have the back up Gregg does.  Marmol can step up and close I feel without a real problem…backing up Ramirez?  That’s much tougher.  Miles at 2B and Fontenot at 3B isn’t exactly the ideal.

Lee on the other hand.  Aside from today’s solo shot, it’s been a slow start and really the only weak link in the healthy part of the Cubs lineup right now.  I’m kind of hard on Lee because I expect a lot from him.  He needs to step it up and be his a Cardinal killer this weekend.  Any time we get the Cards at Wrigley, we have to take advantage of it.  Playing in St. Louis is never easy…need to get these four games this weekend while we’re inside the Friendly Confines.

We’ll see how friendly the podcast/radio hour confines are this evening.  Can’t wait to talk Cubs baseball with hard-core baseball fans.  Again, call in if you get a chance and say hey.  Come back soon for a new post recapping the experience!

Go Cubs Go!

Are we there yet? YES!!!

Dailies
Thankfully, yes…FINALLY.  Tomorrow is:
And the games finally count!!!
Huge changes this year.  No DeRo.  Milton Bradley’s bat balances the lineup.  Gregg as our closer.  A possibly recently disgruntled Marmol as our setup guy.  More playing time for Fontenot and a new guy named Miles.  Soto with a solid all-star season under his belt raring to go in an effort to avoid the sophomore slump.  All this and more equals a very interesting prospect that is the 2009 Chicago Cubs MLB season.  And I am ready.
I got my new gear:
I got my new Cubs Club card:
I got my MLB.TV:
I got my New York Chicago Cubs Fan Meetup group:
And the Opening Day roster is set:
I’m ready.
I decided at the end of 2008 I would no longer expect anything, simply enjoy the ride.  That’s exactly what I’m going to do in ’09.  I have no expectations.  Zero.  Simply go out and enjoy the season, all of it’s ups and downs and bumps and bruises and highs and lows.  Come October, we’ll see where that brought us.  It will be hard to maintain this mindset for sure, but it’s my new approach to being a Cubs fan.  I think we have a great chance and I wouldn’t devote as much time to the team if I didn’t always think this was the year.  However, after 101 years of it not, it’s time to stop expecting a change and simply enjoy the ride no matter the outcome.  That’s going to be tough like I said, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
That being said, here are my 2009 MLB Predictions.  Predictions that is.  Not expectations.
AL EAST
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Toronto Blue Jays
AL CENTRAL
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Minnesota Twins (WC)
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers
AL WEST
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland A’s
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
NL EAST
1. New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
NL CENTRAL
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
NL WEST
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants (WC)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
ALDS
Red Sox over Indians
Twins over Angels
NLDS
Cubs over Giants
Mets over Dodgers
LCS
Red Sox over Twins
Cubs over Mets
World Series
Cubs over Red Sox
And there you have it.  Your 2009 MLB World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs.  Streak dead.  AC000000.  No expectations.  Simply a prediction.  Go Cubs Go!!!

Looking Forward to Christmas

Dailies

Last year at this time I was wondering if the Cubs would deliver Fukudome for the holidays.  They did.  This year, it’s looking more and more likely that the big acquisition will be Milton Bradley (insert holiday board game joke here).

With the Cubs signing Gathright, a speedy left-handed bat with the skills to be our fourth outfielder and specialty of covering center field it looks like my favorite up and comer Felix Pie will soon be sent out to pasture (or at least to wear another team’s uni’s).  Edmonds was fun to watch while he was here and I’m glad we’re holding onto Johnson.  Soriano, Johnson and Fukudome is an unlikely threesome when it comes to our starting outfield for ’09.  More than likely the Cubs will sign Bradley, platoon Fukudome and Johnson in center and have Gathright around to sub anywhere, anytime.  This ability makes me even more nervous that DeRosa will no longer be a Cub come the 2009 season.

I don’t believe Gathright plays second base but his versatility delivers a speedy player with the same value that DeRosa delivers (veteran utility guy) and Fontenot may be getting his shot at second base.  With Furcal no longer an option at short, the idea of moving Theriot over and putting Furcal there is moot which even more so makes the idea of trading DeRosa and using Fontenot full time more realistic.

The Peavy deal seems to have died for good so it looks like the only significant difference we can expect is a power hitting lefty in the outfield…or, as I stated earlier, Milton Bradley.  (Wouldn’t it be great though if we ended up with Manny?  I know.  It’s still fun to joke about though.  Also, wouldn’t it be great if all the news from Hendry and the Padres about Peavy ended up being like when you’re parents use to pretend you weren’t getting something for Christmas that you ended up getting, just to mess with you and build the drama?  That would definitely be cool).

As I write this I’m trying to remember the last time Bradley had a meltdown or a tantrum that made headlines.  I can’t even remember when it was so maybe that’s a good thing.  I understand bringing in a quality guy that Piniella is familiar with like Gathright.  I can appreciate the desire to add a power hitting lefty.  I just hope DeRosa isn’t left out of the equation come ’09 and I’m disappointed in the signs of things to come as far as Pie is concerned.  Also, not so sure that Bradley is the way to go and enough to get us out of the first round of the playoffs (that is of course if we make it in next year).

Two division titles in a row is nothing to sneeze at.  Interested to see what tricks and gifts Hendry has hidden up his sleeve for this year’s holiday season.  With all the ads and talk on the Cubs’ site about the Caravan, can’t help but wonder who the big addition is going to be when it comes to the convention and the caravan Cub roster of representatives.

With a week of preproduction on the pilot, a couple days of shooting and a week of 14 hour edit days put in this week, I’m exhausted.  Looking forward to enjoying some fudge, getting some rest and hanging with the family over the holidays.  And of course, once again, looking forward to seeing what Hendry has in store for all us Cubs fans on the ‘Nice’ list.

Go Cubs Go!

RIGHT OFF!

Dailies

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

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

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

“CONTRACT ISSUES

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

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

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

Player options: None

Non-tender possibilities: None

CATCHERS

Geovany Soto, .285, 23 HRs, 86 RBIs

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

FIRST BASE

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

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

SECOND BASE

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

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

SHORTSTOP

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

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

THIRD BASE

Aramis Ramirez, .289, 27 HRs, 111 RBIs

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

OUTFIELD

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

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

ROTATION

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

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

BULLPEN

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

If the Cubs don’t re-sign Wood, who had 34 saves in his first season as a closer, then Marmol would likely get the job with Samardzija as the No. 1 setup man.”

PROSE AND IVY THOUGHTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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