What would it take to make the Cubs unstoppable?

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

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

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

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

Congratulations Byrd! Reds up close and personal

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

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!

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

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

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

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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