Now a Staff Writer for Baseball Digest

In addition to covering the Cubs on Prose and Ivy, I will now also be writing about baseball in general for BaseballDigest.com.

While some of the articles will be Cubs-centric, others will not. It will really all depend on what assignments I receive from their assignment editor.
 
I’m excited to have my writing showcased under the Baseball Digest banner. I used to read the print version cover to cover, every new issue that came out when I was growing up. They are the oldest baseball publication in the country and it’s exciting to be a part of their staff.
 
You can read my first article on BaseballDigest.com by clicking here: http://www.baseballdigest.com/2011/03/13/baseball-digest-birthdays-johan-santana/
As part of their popular Baseball Digest Birthdays feature, I was assigned today’s birthday: Mets pitching ace, Johan Santana. Santana turns 32 today.
 
I hope you enjoy it!
On a separate note, I watched the Cubs battle the Dodgers today on WGN. Baseball in Vegas? Make that…Cubs baseball in Vegas??  Sounds AMAZING. Another Cubs item on my absolutely-must-do list!
 
Zambrano looked great and even though the games don’t count, always fun to see the Cubs win. I’m excited Castro looks as strong as he does. Can’t wait to see what this team is capable of this year. 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!

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

  1. Carlos Silva with the best start a Cubs pitcher has had since the beginning of time.
  2. The Braves are one of the hottest teams in baseball.
  3. The Mets are 22-9 at home.
  4. Galarraga came one out away from a perfect game and still recorded what would’ve been 28 outs in a perfect world.
  5. It would’ve been the third perfect game thrown this season.
  6. The Baltimore Orioles were the first team to fire their manager this season.
  7. Carlos Silva is 8-0!
  8. Zambrano starts a record of consecutive Cubs Opening Days, moved to pen, then back to rotation all BEFORE June.
  9. Schilling has hardly said anything controversial this season.
  10. Griffey Jr. retires during the season instead of waiting until the off-season.
  11. Jimenez of the Rockies leads the majors in wins (11) and ERA (0.93)
  12. Robinson Cano is hitting .363
  13. The Rays own the best winning percentage in the majors at .649
  14. The Reds holding strong in the NL Central at 33-25, .5 games behind the Cards and 6.5 games up on the third place Cubs.
  15. The PIRATES are 12-6 in one-run games.  The PIRATES.
  16. Dontrelle Willis is a D’back.  How is he not the Tigers’ own long time dominator he was supposed to be?
  17. I actually watched about 10 minutes worth of the MLB draft.  I guess that’s something.
  18. Ted Lilly is 1-5.  Leading the club at 8-0?  Flipping CARLOS SILVA!!!
  19. The Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup finals.  WHAT?!?
  20. Seriously.  That Carlos.  Unreal.
This season has been full of surprises. Some more unfortunate than others. Most unfortunate: Griffey. Next: Lilly. Least unfortunate: Silva leading the club in wins and being the man. Someone tell the Reds that’ll be enough out of them please. I mean, really. Go Cubs Go! Let’s start surprising some folks and move our way on up the NL Central standings!

I’ll Take Some Blame for This Streak

You just need to keep your mouth shut in this great game.  You can’t mention anything about anything going great because as soon as you do…BOOM, gone.

My last post was about Lou loving his decision to move Z to the bullpen and all the great winning that went on afterwards.  Were we on a streak to end all streaks?  No.  We weren’t even in first place.  But the team had found it’s offense for a few games, it had a new fire lit under itself with Z gone to the bullpen and we looked to be headed in the right direction.  Then I posted all about how please Lou must be with himself and it was all down hill from there.  Now we’ve been swept by the Pirates, lost two games in a row after exchanging blow outs with the Reds and have to suffer a series against a strong NL East team in the Florida Marlins (who as I write this, we are currently losing to 4-2 in the ninth.

We are six games out of first place in the Central, five games behind the wild card leading Giants and have a miserable record of 14-18, looking up at the Cards who sit pretty at 20-12 and are only three and half games above the lowly Astros at the bottom of the division.  Castro has even been called up to the bigs and after one huge, record breaking outing of a home run and six RBI in his major league debut, our team seems to have forgotten how to string hits along for offense again and have even found more ways to struggle at home at Wrigley.

Z to the bullpen.  Castro up to the bigs.  Theriot to second.  Flip flop Ramirez and Soriano in the line up.  I’ve been watching a lot of NBA playoff basketball lately and just like in those games where every team will have it’s run if given enough time, the same has gone for Lou lately.  A hot streak, a cold streak….a cold streak, a very cold streak. Hopefully he finds the right mix and the right words to light a fire under this team soon.  If wanting to win, if being paid millions isn’t enough then something else must be wrong.  We need Lou to figure it out because Hendry can only call up so many hot hitting prospects to try and make a difference.

I think Keith Hernandez would fall into a coma if he called Cubs games.  The Mets are 17-14 and two games out of first place behind the Phillies and even with all of that, here’s a clip of Keith calling a Mets game.  Go Cubs Go…let’s turn this thing around QUICKLY!

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!

rainy outside citi.JPG

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)

cub met fan arguing.JPG

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)

citi field tarp first baseline.JPG

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)

sitting at cubs mets.JPG

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.  

citi field field level.JPG

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!

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PROSE LOGO2.jpg

It IS a Way of Life. Couldn’t Agree More.

So game 2 at Citi Field tonight went JUST about as well as game 1.  Arguably, you could say the Cubs performed even worse tonight than they did last night.  Less hits, less runs and on the plus side, less errors.  All of it amounted to a decent start by our ace Zambrano (as usual the starter suffers) wasted by an inept offense incapable of stringing hits together to produce runs.  And let me tell you something, tonight was not Soriano’s fault so let’s give him a pass on this one.

Zambrano pitched an uneven game but maneuvered out of most jams he got himself into.  A few pitches he lost his handle on coupled with some of the LUCKIEST bloop singles you’ve ever seen in your life resulted in Zambrano giving up 2 runs, although he wasn’t completely dominated by the Mets, striking out nine.  Here is the box score for the game:
box score apr 20 cubs mets.png
When is Ramirez going to start hitting?  When is Lou going to find a line up that produces?  When are people going to stop blaming the pitching (outside of blown saves/bullpen weaknesses)?  YES…our bullpen IS an issue…BUT…it’s tough for a starter to earn a W when the offense doesn’t put any runs on the board and it’s tough for even the best relief man in baseball to hold the opposing team when given little to no room for error.  And lately when they’ve come in this season, maybe we’re up one run leaving NO room for error.  That’s no position to have your offense keep your pitchers in throughout an entire season.  Pelfrey dominated the Mets throwing no-hit baseball through four innings and the Cubs only had three hits in total for the game.  I like to think my request of folks to RT my tweet about jinxing Pelf’s no-hitter is the reason it fell apart after a few people did and Fontenot answered with the Cubs’ first hit of the game.  Regardless of the reason, the offense stunk up the place again tonight, for the second night in a row at Citi Field and going on over half a dozen times now in a row in total.  Something needs to be done.
It’s my tweet campaign to break up the no-hitter though that I’d like to focus on.  Cubs baseball, even on the road outside of Wrigley is a way of life.  Players come, players go.  Managers come, managers go.  Wins come, losses come, winning seasons come and go…highs and low throughout the years and new faces in the crowd to share all of this with come and go as well, just like in life and it’s all about how you deal with it and who you have to share it all with.  Tonight there were many Cubs fans in the crowd to share the agony with and also a couple of moments when it looked like the Cubs may break through and make a game of it.  I had the privilege of meeting up with three Cubs fans I tweet with on Twitter along with their friend at the game for the bottom of the eighth and top of the ninth innings.
When you’re in another team’s stadium, it’s not like at Wrigley where it’s incredibly easy to make a new Cub friend.  It makes those few that are around you sporting Cubbie blue among the heckling masses all the more important in experiencing Cubs baseball for that evening.  You’re all in it together and it’s fun to have some allies in the crowd on your side when the creepy looks and heckling starts.  And for the most part Cubs fans are great people!  Hanging out with Megan @MOgulnick, Dana @dwags29, Angeline @ataccini and Mary @mew5h was a blast tonight!  Great people to share the highs and lows with.  The agony of defeat and that late game hope of possibly turning it around and coming back in the clutch.
If you’re on Twitter, follow them, they are cool people and loyal Cubs fans.  I believe Dana said what I was trying to say above best (and in only 140 characters or less mind you):
“@dwag29 

@MOgulnick @proseandivy @ataccini awesome to experience it with you guys. A loss doesn’t feel nearly as awful when among fellow masochists!”

Anyway, my point is, Cubs baseball like life has a ton of ups and downs.  Best to be shared with fellow Cubs fans as often as possible, even in hostile territory like Citi Field, New York City.  Here are photos from tonight’s game at Citi Field:
Me on the subway on the way to the game, dreaming of a Cubs win and delicious Citi Field chicken fingers:
me on the subway to the game.JPG
The view of the stadium as you approach it from the seven train in Queens, NY:
shot from the subway.JPG
Lots of Cubs fans at the game that I didn’t know too!:
santo fan.JPG
cubs fans.JPG
The reason I believe Ron Santo always has an excuse to not make the trip to Shea/Citi:
black cat game plaque.JPG
This sign is in the subway halls.  It’s an ad for Budweiser.  It should be prefaced with “Beat the Cubs….”
its what we do.JPG
For those that have been to Shea Stadium and remember it, here are some of the pieces still around from it…the old Shea apple, the old NYC skyline lights that were on the giant scoreboard, and today’s Shea Bridge dedicated to the old stadium:
shea apple.JPG
shake shack.JPG
shea bridge.JPG
Aside from not being very good right now, here are a couple of other things the Cubs and Mets have in common:
kingman.JPG
todd hundley.JPG
This guy set the tone for the evening.  Fun with a chance of humiliation:
dog greeter.JPG
When I first met up with Megan, Dana and Angeline (L to R), Dana and Angeline blissfully in denial of the bleak situation the Cubs were in going into the bottom of the eighth.  Megan, not so much.  (Right after this photo a home run was blasted into the stands two rows in front of us…I think Megan may have known it was coming)
meg dwag ataccini.JPG
Top of the ninth, last chance…rally caps on everyone!  If we’re going down, we’re going down having fun!
rally caps.JPG
Unfortunately, the late game rally gods weren’t on our side and our first tweetup resulted in a loss for the Cubs.  The four of us sulk as Mets fans all around heckle joyfully:
post loss misery apr 20 cubs mets.jpeg
And yet the beautiful thing about baseball?  It’s only 1 of 162 and tomorrow’s another game!
smiles after loss apr 20 cubs mets.jpeg
Final score: Mets 4, Cubs 0.  More of the same.  Would love to see a change of pace and get out of my week at Citi Field with one win.  Tomorrow’s my last chance to see the Cubs win in person this year in NY.  Silva, it’s all you buddy.  Bring your A game and tell your offense to play like it’s 2008 (I’ll take 2007 for that matter, as well). (1am in NY now…rest of pics to be added in the AM)  Go Cubs Go!
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PROSE LOGO2.jpg

First Game in Big Apple, Rotten to the Core

Always a blast to see the Cubs play in my hometown of New York City.  We only get four games at Citi Field this year with Chicago only making one trip to NY in 2010.  Monday night was the first game of this week’s four game series at Citi and man…it’s great to see the Cubs in person, but it would be a lot more fun if you can see them get the win.

Two teams struggling is what you have with the Cubs and Mets playing each other.  Hard to really tell what to expect although with Wells on the mound facing Not Santana for the Mets and our roster of guys against a not-so-healthy Mets team, on paper I expected the win.  Screw paper.  Paper don’t know jack.  And whatever paper Lou wrote his new line up down on can be thrown away as well.  Tonight’s line up was the first time Lou has toyed with the new order which is supposed to generate runs and get our otherwise unproductive offense going against lefties.  Considering we see three lefty pitchers in this series alone, it’s a great time to rearrange guys to hopefully get results.  Only problem, it didn’t work.
Did we hit?  Sure, nine hits in the game.  How many did the Mets have?  Nine.  We both had nine hits and one error.  The difference maker?  The fact that the Mets timed their hits to come while runners were on base, and at times in scoring position.  Pagan’s two run shot was the game winner and the five run seventh inning did us in tonight.  Wells was strong through six innings…I would’ve left him in for a seventh.  Instead, in came James Russell and he was all over the place as was Mr. Notre Dame WR/P.  Unfortunately the timely hits weren’t there again tonight and our bullpen’s weakness proved to be too much for our measly one run to overcome.  
Byrd looked good in the field and at the plate, even pressing on to first base as if nothing happened after getting beaned in the helmet by what was thankfully a change-up.  Even Soriano had a couple of hits.  Here is the box score for the Cubs from tonight’s game:
cubs box apr 19 2010.png
Even Randy Wells got on base twice to try and help himself out.  But guys like Lee, Rami, Soto and Baker just struggled too much.  It was a pretty ugly game all around.  One team’s bullpen was going to ruin it for that team and it just happened to be the Cubs’ night tonight to do so.  
I expect Lou to go to this lineup again against the next lefty they face.  I don’t figure he’ll completely toss the option aside after one poor outing.  But this team has to generate offense. Especially in a park the size of Citi Field.  Soriano’s first blast would have been out of most parks but ended up being a double after reaching 415 feet.  We have to take advantage of the giant outfield and get extra base hits, not keep trying to hit one out and end up all or nothing.  That doesn’t bode well for us the majority of the time.
Here are some photos from my trip to Citi Field tonight:
The inside of Citi Field before the game started and the Cubs were taking BP:
citi field inside.JPG
The scoreboard announcing the night’s starting pitchers:
starters on scoreboard.JPG
Mets fans were extremely excited about Ike Davis, 1B, being called up for his MLB debut:
they like Ike.JPG
The kid did real well in his debut getting his first MLB hit and RBI.  Believe he had some help:
choir.JPG
I may have been sitting by myself, but I wasn’t there alone of course as plenty of other Cubs fans were present taking in the sights, sounds and tastes of Citi Field:
ryan at citi apr 19.JPG
other cubs fans.JPG
more cubs fans.JPG
In the end though, Mets fans had the last laugh and had a blast wherever this guy was:
PIC_0042.JPG
While Cubs fans were left wondering why no O, hops on D and a shotty bullpen seem to be the theme this year, while looking aro
und trying to find this guy:
PIC_0037.JPG
So now both clubs are holding tight at 5-8, trying to figure things out quickly while the season is still young.  Four game series so lots of baseball left to play, but we need to win the game we are supposed to win.  In order to do so, we’re going to need Lou to possibly allow our starters to go seven occasionally, timely hitting, consistency in the bullpen and continued quality from our starting rotation.  Zambrano pitching tomorrow night.  I can’t remember the last time I saw Z have a quality start in New York unfortunately, however, he’s the supposed ace of this staff.  Aces serve as stoppers and step up with W’s when the team needs it.  Well, Arizona just lost to St. Louis on the West coast which means we just lost another full game to the Cards.  Zambrano…get your best stuff ready because even though it’s early…we definitely need it.
Looking forward to going to tomorrow night’s game (and this time carrying one more layer with me…it was COLD).  April baseball in New York and the Cubs are in town.  Time for this team to make some noise and set the tone in a positive manner for the rest of 2010.  Go Cubs Go!
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for PROSE LOGO2.jpg