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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUDIO: Guest Appearance on I-70 Baseball Radio

Monday night, I had the pleasure of making a guest appearance on Bill Ivie’s I-70 Baseball Radio podcast on blogtalkradio.com.  It is a great compilation of Cardinals and Royals fan bloggers and always a fun listen.  This particular episode, they gathered up bloggers representing every team in the NL Central.  I took part in the panel discussion and made my case for the Chicago Cubs winning the Central in 2011. Some of you may have already heard it as it was their highest rated episode since launching in July of last year.  (For a more in detail description of what I expect out of the Cubs in 2011, check out the post below this one).

It really was fun to do and I think you’ll enjoy it.  The Cardinals fans hope they lock Pujols in before Spring Training although they don’t think it’s a hard deadline, the Pirates fans seem to believe they will once again finish in the basement of the division, the Brewers folks are confident they will contend and everyone (except me) believes either the Reds or Cardinals is the best team in the Central.  Pretty sure they thought I must be delusional to think the Cubs can pull this off in 2011, although Bill Ivie was on board with the concept that it’s not impossible for things to fall into place and make 2011 the Cubs’ year.  Hey, crazier things have happened and this division is going to be one of the tightest in all of baseball.
Go Cubs Go!
Listen to internet radio with Ivie League Prod on Blog Talk Radio

Welcoming Back Kerry Wood: Set-Up for Success

There have been some rather large events this off-season, signings that really jump off the screen at you, no?

Look familiar?

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Cliff Lee’s signing with the Phillies has significantly changed the landscape of the National League.  I don’t care how many heavy hitters you have in your line-up.  If they can’t drive through the ball on the sweet spot of the bat, or at least make contact and muscle one out of the stadium or deep to the wall for extra base hits, it doesn’t really matter.  Pitching wins championships and now with that rotation in place, Philadelphia has positioned themselves as the team to beat.  In not only the NL East, but in the National League as a whole.
In the year of the one-year contract, the Cubs managed to land Carlos Pena to man first base.  He’ll be expected to perform significantly better in the average department (.196 in 2010) and at the very least find a way to also stay on par in the power numbers department (28 HR, 84 RBI in 2010). In his time with the Cubs, Derrek Lee not only led by example in the clubhouse and delivered game changing presence at the plate, but his glove saved many errors from occurring over the years and in effect cancelled out a lot of would be runs.  The Cubs are going to need Pena to step up and play that same role.  A match of his .196 AVG in 2011 isn’t going to cut it.  The fans will have patience with the newest Cub but I can’t imagine the leeway lasting more than the first few weeks of the season.  If Pena follows ‘The Lee Way’ however, he will get off to a very slow start.  If we were able to give Lee time to get his season in gear year in and year out, we should at least afford Pena the month of April to do the same.
Think about how many one-run ballgames we lost last year.  Give us enough of those games back and we would have been playing meaningful games in a role other than spoiler, well past the middle of August.  Injuries and our record in one-run games in 2010 were two keys to the Cubs not living up to hopes/expectations.  Hopefully a new line-up featuring more Colvin in right with Fukudome as the fourth outfielder, a repeat All-Star performance by Byrd, a return to form by Soriano, sophomore success by Castro, a healthy Ramirez, another year full of quality starts by the rotation and an overall positive effect by inserting Pena into the lineup to help generate another run or two per game and we may be back, looking at the top of the standings in 2011.  I don’t expect Cincinnati go away, the Cards are always tough and Milwaukee is shoring up it’s pitching staff so it might take every single one of those things listed above happening in order for the Cubs to land on top next season in the Central.
Of course, this post was kicked off by talking about pitching making the difference.  We can add another couple runs per game (which would be great since we scored more than 80 runs less than our opponents did last year) however, if we can’t hold onto that lead late in the game, it won’t even matter.
And that…is where Kerry Wood comes in…by coming back.
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The return of Wood is the biggest headline of the Cubs off-season dealings and he’s going to be welcome with open arms, expected to carry the load late in the game.  Wood may just be the bridge we need to fill the gap from Marshall to Marmol.  Wood absolutely helps the Cubs form a powerful 7-8-9 inning tandem in Marshall, Wood and Marmol.  It will make the Cubs a scarier opponent going beyond the fifth inning with a lead.  Definitely, a lot scarier than the team was last year when we pitched so many youngsters in late inning, hold situations.
Wood’s return showcases the portion of heart that was lost on the team when Wood went to the Yankees.  He represents what could have been and now what could still possibly be. Kerry Wood isn’t the answer to all the Cubs’ problems.  I mean, just look at the list I put together three paragraphs back.  However, with two disappointing seasons behind them, the loss of their voice in Santo (whose funeral provided the opportunity for Wood and his wife to meet up with Hendry and kick off the dominoes it took to make this deal happen – and wouldn’t that be cool if while Santo can’t see the Cubs win the Series during his lifetime, his passing may be the thing that helps make the deal happen that pushes the Cubs over the hump to victory in 2011? – What a story that would be) and the great unknown ahead in what Quade can accomplish with a whole season, it will be nice to have a familiar face on the team again.  The face of a guy that never should have left in the first place, in my opinion.
The thing about Wood’s return is I can’t think of another pitcher that once served as a full-time starter, set-up man and closer for the same organization.  Can you?  Wood won Rookie of the Year and nearly led the Cubs to the World Series as a starter and tallied 34 saves in his one year as the Cubs’ closer, the same number he’ll wear back with the team as a set-up man.
Philadelphia may have landed Lee.  The second best pitcher dealt out there, Grienke, may have landed with the division rival Brewers.  However, when it comes to the Cubs making a difference with a pitching signing, it wasn’t about the big name or the big bucks.  The Cubs have a competitive, quality start-churning out five in Z, Demp, Wells, Gorzy and Silva if in fact those are the guys we go with come April.  So, it’s more so about a great pitcher with a lot left in the tank in short relieft, coming back to his home team, his home field, his home organization to carry the load, this time as the set-up man.
Hopefully this stint with the team will result in him setting up the team for ultimate success instead of let down.  Either way, it will be good to have him back and Chicago will be thrilled to once again be rooting for one of their own.  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!)


Tro-Lou-Lou!

Since Piniella made the well-spun ‘voluntary/good of the team’ Zambrano move to the bullpen last week, the Cubs’ bats woke up in the third game of the series against the Mets, swept the NL Central rival Milwaukee Brewers and are riding a four game winning streak.  I was at the game against the Mets at Citi Field when the club finally managed to win a game against the also struggling Mets (who have since also seemed to figure some of their issues out).  It felt good to finally sit amongst Cubs fans after a game at Citi with the Cubs on top in the final score, providing the opportunity to sing Go Cubs Go on the way out of the stadium! 

Here are some photos from that Cubs victory at Citi Field:

When I showed up to Citi Field it was raining pretty hard.  The rest of the day was beautiful and then of course one hour before game time…POURING!

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Which gave the baseball fans coming off the subway nothing better to do than hang out under cover and get into a yelling match…Let’s Go Cubbies…Let’s Go Mets…(repeat)

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Eventually the cops came and show was over.  Mets fan got in, Cubs fan didn’t.  After I got inside I was greeted by a giant tarp mocking the fans hoping for a quick start time.  The game eventually started at 7:45pm (not bad)

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So I waited it out in the upper level, under cover in a seat that wasn’t mine (self photography sometimes comes out blurry, what can I say)

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And after sneaking by a security guard, I eventually enjoyed watching the game from the FIELD LEVEL (another seat that wasn’t mine) and had a great view to see the Cubs blow out the Mets!  Good times had by almost all..just not the Mets fans.  

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And now back to our regularly scheduled blog about how please Lou must be with himself regarding all the quality decisions he’s made recently:

Ted Lilly returned from the DL to the starting rotation prompting the Z move and the team went on a tear against the BrewCrew.  The Cubs team we all had the opportunity to watch decimate Milwaukee over the weekend very well may be the result of Lou’s decision to mix things up a bit.  To shake up the entire clubhouse by making ONE major decision.  Take your opening day ace and put him in the bullpen.  Strengthen the bullpen, make room for what was arguably last year’s ace in the starting rotation, keep Silva’s dynamic 2010 rolling and meanwhile, mix young talent in with vets to light a fire under the overpaid ‘stars’ and push the whole ‘let’s just have fun’ mentality on the team in a pep talk that seems to have had an impact for about a week already!  I don’t think any rational Cubs fan actually thought the season was over a week ago, but MAN…we certainly didn’t look good, that’s for sure!

Soriano seems to have found his swing and his legs.  Ramirez seems to have decided the best thing for him is to not swing at all, leading to last night’s game winning walk-off walk.  Derrek Lee is still blasting the ball so hard only mother nature can keep him in the park.  Marlon Byrd shows that even husky centerfielders who look like they would be better fitted to lead block for the Bears offense can man the outfield and produce at the plate, with new lineups even featuring his hot bat in the clean up spot!  Marmol has been placing his pitches extremely well, shaping up to be one of the game’s great closers and proving that the job should have been his two years ago (when I said it should have)!  All the while, it seems like the right guy are getting playing time despite the way their paycheck reads and the appropriate selections are being made when deciding who to send down to the farm teams. 

Lou Piniella has had a hand in all of it.  The pep talks, the decisions, the private meetings, the line ups.  He’s pulling the strings and manning the man behind the curtain position extremely well right now and I hope he continues to do so.  He has a reputation of one of the great managerial minds in baseball, even if every now and then he throws a three year old style tantrum and should lay off the ballpark snacks more than he usually does.  Does his belly look like a profile causing some children to wonder if that guy is the manager or the mascot?  Perhaps.  Is he perfect?  NO!  But is he doing a great job right now?  Yes.  Do I think his moves are enough to win us the most pathetic prize in professional sports: the BP Crosstown Cup?  Sure.  Do I think he’s giving us a shot at the big prize of the World Series trophy if he keeps this kind of performance up?  Absolutely. 

Tune into a Cubs game and find them up five or six runs half way through the game with the starter reeling away at opposing batters and our late inning duo of Zambrano and Marmol waiting to squash any thoughts of late game rallies and zoom in real close to Lou Piniella’s head.  Is he still thinking strategies to win the game he’s in with the big picture on his mind?  I’m sure he is.  Is he probably feeling pretty good about the way these decisions he’s made of late have been turning out?  More than likely, if we could see inside his head, it may look a little something like this:

Keep it up guys and keep it up Lou!  Gotta give you credit while we pile up the W’s because you know how the fingers are pointed at you when the other flag gets hung up as well!  Go Cubs Go!

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2010 Cub Concerns: Head, Shoulders, Knees and ‘Tos

Head

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

Didn’t see that coming

Today’s broadcast of Prose and Ivy Cubs Blog Talk Radio went really well I must say for the first live broadcast.  I didn’t get word out nearly early enough for people to know about it, mark it on their calendars and call in.  But the technology is really cool and I think it’s going to be a blast to do in conjuction with the written aspect of Prose and Ivy.  I’ll be sure to let you all know when the next broadcast is going to be well in advance this next time so you can call in and share your thoughts.  Talk radio is a whole lot cooler when people call in…er, even listen for that matter.  Next time, more advanced notice for sure.

What I didn’t see coming, was the final score of Reds 7, Cubs 5.  Sonnufa….I swear.  I left my apartment and it was 5-5 going into the top of the ninth inning.  Marmol was in and I figured we were good.  I can’t believe he walked two in a row.  That’s the real surprise.  Sure, Marmol has a tendency to be a little wild.  But his stuff his undeniably nasty and I stand by it that he is the Cubs best option for closer and should have been the guy since Opening Day 2009.  Going into 2010 I also believe he should be the guy.  Unless he happens to be taking off guys’ heads like Rick Vaughn did to wooden displays of batsmen in Major League, honestly, he’s our guy.  So, I’m on the talk show boasting about Marmol being the guy…I hang up (the show is recorded from your phone)…I look at my email and there’s a message with the final Cubs score….Reds 7, Cubs 5…loser?  Marmol.  Sonnufa…well, whatever.  I don’t know…we didn’t deserve to be tied in the ninth anyway.  Unbelievably poor support of Wells today.  Unreal.  If it’s not inconsistent hitting, it’s poor fielding.  Our starters can’t catch a break.  Read an article on Cubs.com today that reinforced my comments on air regarding quality starts from our rotation this year and how our team’s bats have pretty much taken them and thrown them away, never to matter again.  It’s really unbelievable when you think that our starters have a 3.76 ERA and we’re on the cusp of being eliminated from playoff contention, whereas last year we won the division with the same group of guys basically, and they had an ERA of 3.75.  Two solid years from the rotation.  Two very different results. 
Whatever moves are made in the off-season, I hope they revolve around studying how clutch guys are and what they’re average is with guys in scoring position.  I hope that is taken into great consideration.  That, and speed.  Maybe if we can find a couple guys with high OBP’s with some speed and timely hitting, maybe THAT will put this team over the top.  Maybe it’s not a ‘left handed power hitter’ that we need now or really needed this past off-season.  Maybe it’s simply a couple of speedy small ball guys to jump start the offense and fill in the necessary grind in between the large bats we already had on the team who are paid to go yard.  
I don’t know.  I just know that as soon as I saw the email with the final game result with Marmol as the loser, I just said out loud “well, that figures”.  Left my apartment to do the radio show as they were entering the top of the ninth.  We had overcome an inning filled with three errors early on to tie it up and now our most reliable bullpen guy was on the mound.  I thought, hey, this looks good to me.  Went out and put out a passionate plea to anyone who would listen to make Marmol the guy from here on out and through 2010.  Bam. Two walks and a double.  Reds win.  Marmol loses.  Didn’t see that coming.
Also didn’t see this coming either…apparently a pretty cool sports blogger conference that happened in June in NYC.  Another one coming up in Vegas in October.  My wife was upset that I watched 5 innings of Cubs baseball on my honeymoon one afternoon (she got over it and was cool afterwards, but at first…not so much)….imagine if we’d been married in October and I snuck off to this?  Now that would have made for an interesting radio show.  Check it out, pretty cool concept.  Hope to catch the next one next time they do it in New York.

Cubs v. Reds again tomorrow at Wrigley.  Mr. All-Star Theodore Roosevelt Lilly on the mound for the Cubs.  Go get your W Teddy Mustwin (see a couple of posts below this).  Go Cubs Go!

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