Gimme an All-Star Break!

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Three and half games back at the break.  Could be a lot worse considering how often we’ve had our starting lineup in there.  Regardless…it’s really not that bad of a place to be at the break so regarding what to focus on, how about: congratulations again Ted Lilly for being selected to represent the Chicago Cubs in the All-Star game tomorrow night.  As usual nowadays, home field advantage in the Series is on the line and really, the American league has won far too many of these games lately.  Let’s go National League, let’s get that W tomorrow night!

Watching the derby now, they’re up to Pena first round.  I decided I’m taking Mauer before this thing started and I’m sticking to it.  We’ll see!  St. Louis is a great park for this event…division rivals or not, I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of damage Pujols does in front of his home crowd. 
In celebration of the All-Star break, I finally got my parade photos from last year when the Cubs had eight all-stars on the roster!  Here are the photos I was able to rip from my phone.  They are phone pics mind you, so that should explain the quality.  Enjoy the pics, enjoy the derby and let’s hopefully enjoy watching Lilly get the W in a National League win tomorrow night!
Kosuke Fukudome and “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks
fukudome and ernie parade.jpg
Ryan Dempster
ryan dempster parade.jpg
Billy Williams and Ferguson Jenkins
fergie jenkins and billy williams.jpg
Ryne Sandberg
ryne sandberg parade.jpg
Geovany Soto
geo parade.jpg
Alfonso Soriano
soriano parade.jpg
Go Cubs Go!  Let’s get that home field advantage, National League!
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How good are we?

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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LIVE (not really)…From The All-Star Game Red Carpet!

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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