Spring Training: Good Place to Get Your Mind Right, Too

I like that they throw the Cubs Convention every year and I can’t wait to attend one myself one day. Living in New York City makes it rather challenging to do so but when this last one came around, I mentioned it to my wife. She said you should go to it one of the years. Agreed. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

One of the things I appreciate about the convention is that it gives the new Cubs an opportunity to taste what the club means to the people of Chicago and across the nation root-root-rooting for the Cubbies. Every baseball out there knows about the drought and they hear about it endlessly beginning with when their name is associated with coming to the team. It doesn’t even wait until they are a Cub. It starts with simply rumors. Still, it’s important for new Cubs to understand it’s a honor to be a Cub and that appreciation needs to be taught to guys like Pena and Garza by guys that have been there ie Ramirez and Silva.

The fact that they haven’t won it all in over a century guarantees that the team who does win it all will go down as one of the greatest accomplishments any team has ever reached on a baseball field. A World Series victory is not a World Series victory. They are not all the same. And when the Cubs break through and end their drought it will be talked about probably for as long as Cubs fans have been waiting for it to happen. Cubs fans will talk about it for at least that long or until they die. Whichever comes first.

I hope that the recent outburst by Silva in the Cubs dugout at Spring Training is simply a result of a pressure to win. Not merely make the rotation as he stated, but a pressure to win. I want the Cubs to realize the pressure they are under but not crumble by it’s intimidation factor, but rise up to the challenge and view it as the opportunity that it is.

Passionate ballplayers are a good thing to have on your baseball team. Quade needs to carale that enthusiasm and passion and make sure it stays focused in the right direction. Harnass that energy and emotion and make them play the game fundamentally sound and going all out, all heart, on each and every pitch.

Silva’s outburst should not be compared to Zambrano’s. Zambrano’s was during a regular season game against our crosstown rivals and the game counted. Heck, the BP Cup was on the line (kidding). Silva experienced only one year of Cubs baseball. Maybe that’s all it took for him to ‘get it’. Zambrano had been here for YEARS. We know he understands the pressure and the situation all Cubs are put in. You’ve heard other Cubs talk about it for years. However, some Cubs handle it better than others. Those guys with level heads need to help Quade keep guys focused, not motivate them to go out of control.

Ramirez was involved in the Silva skirmish and he’s another guy who has been here a while and has felt the pressure of the city and the fans. This game is a great thing. This team is a great home. The city of Chicago is a great place to live and the fans are a great group of people to want to win for.

Have there been incidents where Cubs fans haven’t exactly been put in the best light by their own actions? Absolutely. Does it happen across the country in ballparks with fans of all teams? Of course. Does that make it ok? Of course not. However, with however many bonehead moves any Cubs fans have made over the years to disgrace the rest of us, overall, the loyalty the group has shown this team outweighs any negative remark one could make against us.

The fans care. That’s all there is to it. They want the title so bad year in and year out. 103 years and counting and yet still…there the fans are rooting, supporting, praying, hoping, waiting. A great majority of league draws nowhere near what the Cubs do in attendance. Is Wrigley a big reason? Sure, tourists love it. However, many of the people through the turnstiles at Wrigley are die-hard fans who have stayed by the Cubs through thick and thin.

New and old Cubs alike need to appreciate that and play their hearts out. Care when the games don’t count and really care when they do. Only, know when to go ballistic. Know when is the right time and no when to let it go. Spring Training is the perfect time to care about your performance, but not to lose your mind over it.

I appreciate Silva and Ramirez’s passion however it needs to be focused in a positive direction. Still lots of Spring Training games left to clean up the sloppy play and get the mindset right. Quade has a tough challenge ahead of him. His words inspired a players only meeting called by two of the team’s veteran players. Hopefully I’m right in thinking he’s the right guy for the job.

I believe he is.

Go Cubs Go!

Boy, Oh Boy

I still can’t believe the Central is turning into a two team race and it’s the REDS battling the Cards for the division lead.  I felt in the beginning of the year that the Cubs are probably in a position where they are just too brittle and a little too old to really contend.  I picked them to win it all (of course) however deep down I knew it would take something more than a miracle to make it happen.  Sure, adding Castro was exciting and brought the team’s average age down a bit but in the end, he’s part of a team struggling to find a way to make it over the hump and win on a consistent basis along with the Cards and Cincinnati.

We’re not in a very good position looking up at the Reds with our star third baseman changing his batting grip because he’s too hurt to hit the way normally does and has for over a decade now.  It’s not good that that same player is openly speaking to the fact that the entire locker room is filled with guys playing through pain. Look at the calendar.  It’s only June 23rd.  We haven’t even hit the all-star break yet.  We haven’t even made any significant dent in the dog days of Summer.  We’re eight games back, too fragile, too old and too unlucky. Piniella is hoping we hit a streak leading up to the big game.  Why wouldn’t he?  Of course he does.  He’s a winner and he wants to win.  However I don’t see it happening with this squad in 2010.

Piniella recently mentioned the team is 10-16 in one-run games this year when a reporter brought it up.  26 games so far this year that the team was in and yet we fall six games under five hundred in those contests. Intangibles and luck win you one-run games and we are falling short in both cases.

Lilly started the season late and while physically present, has really shown up in the stat or win column the way we need him to.  Chances are Carlos Silva will be the team’s lone representative in the All-Star game on July 13th in Anaheim.  I’ve said it before and will say it again.  Carlos Silva?!?  If he’s the best we’ve got….the guy no one expected much from except to show up to the Cubs like aspirin and help rid us of a headache…then we are in big trouble.

Remember a couple years ago when the NL All-Star team was flooded with Cubs?  I attended the all-star parade that year here in New York and it was awesome to see our favorite Cubbies rolling down the Avenue of the Americas representing the best of the NL and the Cubs team with the most potential since the flip of the new milennium (yes I believe our 2007 and ’08 squads were better than the ’03 team).  Now we’re simply shells of our former potential.  The last names are the same but the guys in those uniforms are simply beyond their true opportunity to win it all.  It’s sad really but without significant moves or a stroke of dumb luck, once again this will not be our year.

This is that weird time of the baseball season where it’s too late to say it’s early and it’s too early to say it’s too late.  However this team needs to dig deep and make things happen quick.  Find a way to get on base and score some runs to support our rotation. Find a way to win one-run ballgames and of course when possible, enjoy being on the right side of a blow out.

Some big series are coming up and lots of baseball left to play, but boy, oh boy…it is time to dig in and start looking like contenders.  Cincy and St. Louis aren’t messing around and aren’t going to wait around for Chicago to get it’s act together.

Almost feels like it’s time to get that Cubbie swagger back that they had a couple years back, basically refusing to lose and just plowing ahead all about winning.  I went to Mets/Tigers tonight and the Mets improved on their home field advantage driving their record at home to 26-10.  They are a team that seems to have figured it out and are simply refusing to lose at home.  You can see a confidence in everything they do.  Winning breeds confidence of course, but I also believe a little bit of confidence or swagger might do the Cubs some good as well.  Going back in a couple weeks to see the Reds when they come to town.  Will be interesting to see one of baseball’s biggest surprise up close and personal.

On a personal note, things have been crazy lately as I’ve been completely baby crazy.  Found out that my wife and I are having a little BOY come October.  A BOY.  So cool.  Can’t wait to take the little guy to Citi Field and experience the great game of baseball.  Of course a trip to Wrigley is on deck as soon as possible too.  Never too early to catch a game at the greatest park in all of baseball.  A wild summer of hoping for playoff baseball and figuring out how this baby stuff is going to work come October.

This Fall is going to be exciting regardless with the little guy on the way…but throw in some playoff baseball and never mind blowing my mind.  My head might explode.   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!

New York, New York….It’s a Helluva Town!

The Cubs (5-7) roll into the big apple today, looking to kick off a four game series against the Mets (4-8).  Both clubs have struggled to provide run support to their starting pitchers, however, the Mets have had it slightly tougher in that their starters aren’t exactly providing quality starts either.  Tonight’s matchup at Citi Field:

Cubs at Mets

 

 

R. Wells
Wells ERA 2.92 REC 1-0
Last appearances:
4/14 vs MIL 6.1 IP, 4 ER ND, 7-6
4/08 at ATL 6.0 IP, 0 ER W, 2-0

 

 

J. Niese
Niese ERA 6.55 REC 0-1
Last appearances:
4/14 at COL 5.0 IP, 5 ER ND, 6-5
4/08 vs FLA 6.0 IP, 3 ER L, 3-1

Wells takes the mound tonight for the Cubs.  Last year, the rookie sensation caught fire and didn’t slow down, becoming the Cubs second most reliable pitcher behind Ted Lilly.  This year, with Lilly starting the season on the DL, Wells is expected to continue his success and not suffer a sophomore slump.  Once Lilly returns to the rotation (Saturday) there will be key decisions to be made regarding the 25-man roster and the starting rotation.  Until then, there are a week’s worth a games to be played and the current five man must keep the ship together until Ted is back to help right it.

Both the Mets and the Cubs are looking up at division leaders with 8-4 records.  As expected, those teams are the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Phillies are always a thorn in the Mets side and New York is going to have to figure things out quickly to stay in the race, even though the baseball season hasn’t even flipped the calendar page to May yet.  They will look to start figuring things out against the Cubs tonight.

The Cubs will hopefully face a tired and frustrated Mets team after their brutal series with the Cardinals this weekend which included a 20 inning marathon (the only game the Mets won over the weekend against St.L).  The Cardinals are still the team to beat in the Central so it would do us well to win the series against the same teams the Cards win series against.  I wouldn’t sweat Pittsburgh sitting above us in the standings just yet.  Like I like to say here at Prose and Ivy, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  I believe that will again ring true in 2010.  A great start is bound to fall apart for the Pirates.

So tonight the Cubs must win a game they are expected to win once again.  They let us down over the weekend dropping a series to the lowly Houston Astros.  We can’t scoreboard watch this week and be disappointed time and again.  These are games we need to win so the offense needs to be there against a Mets rotation that is struggling to figure things out thus far.  And in order to do so, Lou has devised a brand new line up for three of the games this week where the Cubs face lefties.  A test drive if you will of a line up against opposing left handed pitchers that Lou thinks may result in greater production.  If that holds true, then tonight I could potentially be watching, firsthand, this Cubs line up take on New York at Citi Field:

Byrd CF

Baker 2B

Lee 1B

Nady RF

Ramirez 3B

Soriano LF

Soto C

Theriot SS

Wells P

So far this season, Theriot is 1-for-11 against lefties which forces Lou to move Theriot to the eighth spot in the lineup.  Although is production is down against lefties at the top of the lineup, considering he’s a guy who can get on base and is counted on to set the table for the bigs, for a number 8 hitter, even one who is struggling, we could do a lot worse.  Nady hitting clean up isn’t something I’m thrilled with.  I much prefer Ramirez in the clean up spot considering he’s a stronger power numbers guy and is healthier than Nady right now.  Nady can’t do this every time they play lefties since he is still recovering from elbow surgery.  However, considering they face a lefty pitcher three times this week against the Mets, you can figure I’ll see Nady in the line up in the 4 hold at least once.

I don’t know much about Byrd’s record in the leadoff spot.  He’s a level headed guy with a lot of potential and a quick start to the season so you don’t lose much productivity by replacing Theriot with Byrd there.  If you have Nady hitting clean up, you don’t have Fukudome playing so he’s not an option there.  Soriano is out and no one else makes sense.  That might be more the reason why Byrd hits lead off in this line up.  More of a process of elimination than anything really.  When Sori’s not playing and Colvin is in the line up I’m not sure that he fits in the no. 6 hole quite as easily.  He has shown great patience at the plate though and an ability to go deep so perhaps all Lou would have to do is write in Colvin’s name that day as opposed to Soriano and his line up is still good to go.  I have a feeling I may see the answer to that scenario at some point this week too with the Cubs playing the Mets here in New York for what should shape up to be an evenly matched, intense, equally important to both teams, four game series.

Likely pitching matchups for the next few games are as follows: Wells v. Niese tonight, Zambrano v. Pelfrey tomorrow and then Silva v. Perez on Wednesday evening.  On paper, I like our odds and I can’t wait to see Silva in person.  I’m surprised by his quick start to 2010.

citi-field-hot-water-new-york[1].jpgLooking forward to seeing the Cubs this week at Citi Field…I feel like the circus has come to town.  Go Cubs Go!

A Fair Warning To All Cub Fans’ Attics and Basements! Time To Get Out Those Packed Up W Flags!

Thanks to an outstanding pitching performance by Randy Wells and two timely home runs by Tyler Colvin and Marlon Byrd (and by timely I mean even thought it’s only game three, it was about time a HR led to a victory) the Cubs finally put up a 1 in the W column for 2010!!!

It’s a shame Colvin is buried behind Soriano and Fukudome’s giant sacks of cash in the Cubs dugout.  The kid has a ton of potential that could help the team win now and only bad contracts keeping him from playing on a regular basis.  I’m happy Lou thought to put him out there though last night and here’s to hoping he’s not shy about it in the future.  You want to talk about a gut to trust?  Lou’s your guy.

Thing is I think a lot of Cubs fans forgot with all the excitement of the new season starting is that, the Braves are a tougher team than most give them credit for and now that they have this new kid Heyward lighting fires under the vets and their fan base, Atlanta isn’t exactly an easy place to play.  At least we got out without being swept and now will go into a less challenging opponent setting in Cincinnati. 

I like the club they’ve put together.  I think they are headed in the right direction.  But now is not their time.  They aren’t quite at the caliber of competitiveness or talent that the Cubs or Cards are for that matter.  We honestly should sweep this series, although it will be interesting to see how Zambrano reacts to being moved up in the rotation to pitch on Saturday.  This was done in order to lineup our righties against the Brewers next week.  I guess the quicker we can get him out there to forget the horrible outing on Monday, the better.  Then again, after watching him stink up the joint, who is really in any rush to seehim on the mound again?  We’ll see how this plan works out.

Tonight, we’ll also get to see what we ended up getting back for good ‘ol Milty in the Seattle trade when “Other Carlos” takes the mound.  Hopefully Silva delivers and we even up the record at 2-2 instead of ending our opening week with two sad carLosses.

And I wouldn’t have any problem seeing Colvin in left field again tonight either.  Just saying.

Go Cubs Go!

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