What would it take to make the Cubs unstoppable?

Dailies

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!

Tro-Lou-Lou!

Dailies

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!

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First Game in Big Apple, Rotten to the Core

Dailies

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
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In the end though, Mets fans had the last laugh and had a blast wherever this guy was:
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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:
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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!
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New York, New York….It’s a Helluva Town!

Dailies

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!

Dailies

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

Dailies

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!
 

Happy Thanksgiving

Dailies

All around the country people will be celebrating by preparing food for their family and loved ones on the same thing baseball fans are talking about all over the country.  The Hot Stove.  Let’s hope that our holiday weekend is filled with hot stove results that warm us on the inside and don’t spoil the season.

The Cubs aren’t expected to be big buyers this off-season, although they are expected to have an impact and a serious presence on the trading block.  Would love to see them re-gift Milton Bradley to someone this holiday season.  It was a nice idea coming in from Texas, but you know what, it just doesn’t fit.  I’m sure someone has a headcase right fielder that can potentially deliver numbers but is more likely to get the out count wrong on their wish list.  Perfect candidate for the Cubs to re-gift Bradley.

Bradley is kind of that relative that no one really wants to have at the table but feels like they have to invite because technically, they are legally related.  Like Thanksgiving dinner is Spring Training 2010 and you walk into it hoping ‘you know who’ isn’t there.  Chances are he could be there….but man…how much better would it be if he weren’t there.  Then again, if he’s not there, what will everyone talk about?  Who is everyone supposed to gossip about and blame all of the families problems on?

And what about the hot head you love when they’re there because they are so funny but then again when they get upset they end up trashing the place and making it really awkward to be around.  Let’s call that guy Uncle Carlos.  Fun guy to be around until he loses it over nothing.  Loveable hot-headed Uncle Carlos.

And then there’s that sibling you enjoy being around but the family spoils.  They spend a little too much money on that one person in the family, a little more than they probably should and because of it, everyone else has to sacrifice.  They don’t always show up and contribute to the family the same way others do and yet they are given a lot more than the rest of the group.  You kind of always expect more from them and the family goes nuts when they actually produce. Everyone’s favorite cousin, when he does actually hop to it and do something for others, it’s generally out of left field. Can’t wait until cousin Soriano shows up.

Nothing like the holiday season and something to potentially be excited about on the Hot Stove to celebrate all that we’re thankful for.  If you’d like to add another family stereotype to the hypothetical Cubs Thanksgiving table, please feel free to choose the type of relative and the Cubs player you believe fits the Jell-O mold and include it in the comments section!

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and that the Cubs’ turkey hangover doesn’t last until the Spring.  Happy Thanksgiving!  Go Cubs Go!

Hmmm…interesting

Dailies

Cubs sign Rudy Jaramillo as their hitting coach for 2010.

His time in Texas was littered with experience guiding Soriano and Bradley through productive years at the plate.  You have to wonder if his time with them, plus the fact that Bradley trusts him so much, is a sign that regardless of whether a team out there is interested in Bradley, that perhaps Hendry is thinking of giving this Bradley experiment one more shot.

Jaramillo is known as being a guru.  Hendry says he’s the best hitting instructor in the game.  Really Jim?  You think so?  It’s a good thing he’s received such high praise from his peers as well, because really, what else is the guy that hired him supposed to say?  “Who, Jaramillo?  Yeah, he’s alright I guess”.  Not happening.  Of course Hendry is going to say he’s the best.

Jaramillo is known for being a great communicator in getting players to work hard and after seeing results, earn his trust.  The Cubs website has a story where Jaramillo speaks of a time where Sosa was in the batting cage with four other hitters.  Over 100 balls were hit and after the session, the four hitters picked up the balls and Sosa didn’t touch one.  Next round, same result.  Only this time when the hitters went to pick up the balls, Jaramillo told them to stop and let Sammy do it all.  Sammy, the diva, did just that.  Considering Sosa has selective bi-lingual ability communication resulting in Sammy Sosa doing a ball boy’s job that most major league hitters do without a second thought is definitely a great example of Jaramillo being a great communicator.  But he’s still a batting coach, not a shrink.  So, not sure how he helps in Bradley’s case.  If he’s even still around in 2010 that is.

Love the work ethic already though.  Jaramillo is planning on viewing tape of Cubs’ hitters from ’09 and then meeting with some of the younger talent in Arizona in November.  Taking this team from potential to reality is going to take someone willing to go the extra distance.  I love Piniella and think he’s a great baseball mind.  However, people think he’s sleeping a bit lately and not quite the fire plug he’s been in the past in motivating and getting results.  Maybe that’s where Jaramillo comes in to reinforce that fire and add a level of urgency and desire on the coaches’ level that’s been missing.  Jaramillo could help from his place on up in the organizational in that way potentially, as well as from 1 down to 8 in the Cubs’ order.  Wouldn’t that be nice.

And not for nothing, but in 2006, Cub fan fave Mark DeRosa hit nearly .300 with Jaramillo on the Rangers as well.  As far as working with former players goes…well, I’m just saying.  That would be a great reason to welcome Jaramillo as well.

Off-season has begun already for the Cubs regardless of the fact that game one of this year’s World Series hasn’t even kicked off yet.  And their first move comes on the coaching level.  Interesting first tweak in getting this team to the next level in 2010. 

Rudy, Rudy, Rudy!  (Great movie)  Go Cubs Go!

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Fuld, Colvin, Fukudome Left to Right in 2010

Dailies

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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Got any change?

Dailies

Hey buddy, got any change?

If you’re a Cubs fan, that’s pretty much what you’re thinking about, hoping for and expecting come this off-season.  And the Cubs have no choice.  Staying put is a recipe for disaster.  Last year they won back to back division titles and made significant moves.  This year their go to guys couldn’t get a hit in the clutch when it mattered most, the starting pitchers had no run support and many turned in sub-par seasons when the organization and fans had hopes and dreams of so much more.  This off-season therefore, should show significant action above and beyond what we saw last winter.

Zambrano has a no-trade clause and apparently he’s not budging.  Ok, fine.  You know what then?  My feeling is that it’s not time to give up on Zambrano, simply time to expect less.  He’s no longer the ace of this staff.  Well, let me rephrase that.  He is the ace of this staff, however not deservingly so.  He’s seen his last consecutive Opening Day start, his last year as the number one guy.  We had guys on this roster this year who performed more like the ace of the staff than Zambrano did, never mind the possibilities of what we may come up with in a trade or a free agent signing elsewhere across the league.  So that’s what needs to be done with Z.  Knock him down a peg.  Bring in a true ace.  The Cards are deep in the ace category which is why they are destroying us this year.  It seems like their entire staff dominated this season, two of their starters vying for the Cy Young award in the NL.  We need a guy with the right stuff literally up his sleeve, and in his head.  A leader.  A true ace.  Move Z down and find that guy.  A rotation where Z is your number 2 or 3 guy instead of your 1 is a huge upgrade right there.

So Z needs a change of spot in the rotation and change of expectations to carry on his shoulders.  Others need a change of location in the lineup.  Soriano isn’t capable of leading off any longer and Piniella has already announced those days are done.  Good.  Move him to the sixth hole where power is more of a commodity.  Where you’re practically a DH expected to field your position only slightly above average.  Come to think of it…why not experiment moving Soriano back to 2B in the Spring?  His knee is clearly a problem.  Covering the hole at second calls for a lot less hustle and grind over the course of 162 than covering a large amount of room in left.  His knee can’t take it and the final games showed that he may not be our guy out there defensively.  Sure he was in pain, but who’s to say that won’t happen again after another long season in left?  Perhaps moving Soriano to the sixth hole to take advantage of his power and to 2B to take advantage of other options in the outfield is the way to go.  Love Sori’s bat potential…his detriment to our defense is too much to have him as our regular LF though.  Sori to the 6 hole and 2B.  Something to consider.

Other guys simply need a change of scenery.  Enter, Milton Bradley.  Or should I say, Exit.  Bradley has been suspended by the Cubs organization for the remainder of the season.  Comments he’s made were determined detrimental to the team and organization and I believe we’ve seen the last of Milton Bradley in a Cubs uniform.  You can’t simply come in with a history of being a problem child, sign a three year deal which pays you 10million a year to play a game for a living, be expected to bring the power left-handed bat the team needs to put them (at least) out of the realm of being swept in the first round of the playoffs…then only produce a .257 AVG, 12 HR and put up 40 RBI.  And then on top of it all, blame everyone but yourself for your poor performance while trashing the organization that gave you a great opportunity in the first place.  Why doesn’t he get what he could potentially be a part of?  Imagine if this team won it all?  He’d get to be a part of the largest celebrated, most talked about sports championship in the history of sports.  And he’d be marked as a huge reason why.  Instead, he limps out of a game, refuses to bat and disgraces his time here in every which way.  I don’t believe Milton Bradley deserves any racist comments that may have been thrown his way by fans.  And I’m not equating taking that kind of abuse to having to read poor stats in the box scores every day…however, I believe Bradley and the fans deserve better.  As far as I can tell, it looks like both may very well get just that.

Mathematically, we’re still in (blah, blah).  However, with reality comes the expectation that our season will end come the final game of the regular season.  The thing that makes these remaining games fun to watch is simply Cubs baseball, rivalries, playing spoiler and watching the young guys get their shot.  Think about how you feel just weeks after the final out is recorded in a Cubs game.  Think about how much you can’t wait for Spring to come around again so that the Cubs are back.  That feeling is right around the corner, so enjoy watching the remaining games while you can.  Sure, it’s not always pretty, but at least it’s there.  And the rivalries…good times.  Who doesn’t love watching Cubs/Brewers, Cubs/Cardinals no matter the time of year?  Those are always entertaining.  I don’t care if all are eliminated, simply fun to root for the Cubs to beat those teams and we got a week of the Brewers coming up.  Let’s go out strong and make a statement to take with us into the winter and into the Spring that we don’t just lay down and die.  The players, management, or the fans.  And let’s enjoy watching the young guns get their shot at the grand stage.  I’m excited about Tyler Colvin coming up.  I can’t wait to see what he may have to contribute as a potential future Cub great.  He’s a coveted Cub prospect, his season is over and now is his time to shine.  Shining in Spring training only means so much.  Shining against division rivals when the games still matter is something else.  Our outfield is depleted.  Our team is hurting and so are our chances of making the playoffs.  So let’s get out there, change our outlook on the ending of this season starting today and enjoy the remaining games and the FEW positive things we have left to root for in ’09 Cubs fans.

I mean really, what’s the alternative?  Cry about it?  Not this year.  Besides…if you cry about the Cubs into the Fall and Winter this year, when will you have time to do so about the ’09 Bears?  Pace yourself.  Expect change.  Enjoy this ’09 team while you can.  Gorzelanny on the mound tonight (see that, change already).  Colvin on the grand stage up from AA ball.  Let’s beat Milwaukee…get that W Gorzelanny!  Go Cubs Go!

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If only…

Dailies

If only Lee didn’t wait so long to turn it on this season.

If only Bradley wasn’t turning out to be what we were warned about as fans.
If only Soriano had a healthy knee.
If only Ramirez spent more time on the field and less time on the DL.
If only Soto hadn’t had the munchies this year.
If only Z was performing like a real ace.
If only Lilly and Wells had more run support.
If only Dempster wasn’t screwed over by a lame offense as well.
If only Reed Johnson hadn’t followed it off his foot.
If only Lou had gone away from Gregg as the closer sooner.
If only we’d kept DeRosa.
If only we had room on the roster for Hoffpauir and/or Fox.
If only Miles wasn’t occupying a spot.
If only the Rockies hadn’t found that hot streak.
If only Pujols didn’t have another killer year (and by killer I mean Cub killer).
If only it wasn’t 11:40pm on the East Coast.  I’d go on and on.  But it is.  And overall, it is, what it is.  All of these things have happened this year and we are where we are.  Incredible win over the Brewers tonight only by far a perfect or strong outing overall.  Zambrano nearly gave up way too much before he left.  Milwaukee couldn’t throw a strike if their life depended on it walking in and hitting people to give up more runs than the Cubs actually earned.  We’ll take it, sure…especially with the Cards losing tonight and the Giants (also fighting for their Wild Card life) on top of the Rockies as I write this…which means…the Cubs could gain ground in the Central and the WC race.  Nothing to complain about there, but still, it is what it is.
Fourteen games left.  Need to keep winning.  St. Louis and Colorado are very strong and are not going down without a fight.  We need to keep winning and let the chips fall where they may.  Soriano had successful surgery today which is great to hear.  We need him ready for the Spring so sooner the better with regards to the surgery.  And of course, Lee needs to keep his hot streak up.  He hit the 100 RBI mark tonight which is incredible that he could have a .300 30+HR and 100RBI season this year considering the way the season started for him.  Love seeing him do well…just need to continue for another 14 games and then we’ll see.
Continues tomorrow against the crew….Harden vs. Looper.  No one has the obvious nod between the two of them as far as I’m concerned.  Do your thing Harden and get that W!  Go Cubs Go!

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Three Men and a Baby

Dailies

Zambrano earned some clout.  Soriano’s out.  And Lee missed another game on paternity leave for the birth of his second child.

Congratulations D-Lee, hope baby Lee and Mama Lee are doing well!  Adding one baby to your 2009 stat line after writing this, just because, why not!

Had fun at the Cubs game tonight at Citi Field…until about the eighth inning that is.  Zambrano, who has struggled in the two games he had prior to this one since coming off the DL had a strong outing.  His control seemed to be a bit off but he still got results.  He gave up a solo shot to New York’s up and coming left fielder Cory Sullivan in the second inning but aside from that he was effective getting out of any self made jams and keeping the Mets off the board.  From my seat in the second row of the front section of the upper deck behind home plate, I had a great view of pitches as they crossed home plate.  The point of view up there (section 514 for the record) is amazing and makes it real easy to agree or disagree accurately with the ump’s balls and strikes calls.  I think Zambrano got robbed a bunch, but then again, was the recipient of a few gifts as well.  Parnell benefited the same for the Mets so all is fair in love and strike zones. 

Parnell has had a rough go of it for the Mets but he was strong through his seven innings as well.  Not as strong as Zambrano though.  The Cubs managed to load the bases three times in the game and unfortunately only came away with a run during the eighth inning.  Timely hits was not this team’s strong suit tonight and I’m sure it didn’t help having Soriano on the bench and Lee’s bat home by the crib.

Soriano is out indefinitely and I must say…I think we’re looking at 2010.  I hate saying that before we are mathematically eliminated and I love our bench guys, I just don’t think we have enough to do what it takes this year.  When I left Citi to the pumping fist of K-Rod and the smiling faces of Mets fans, the Rockies were up 2-0.  Currently as I type this, the D-backs are up 4-2 in the bottom of the sixth.  If the Rockies come back and win, putting us seven games out, I think that’s exactly what we’ll be, figuratively.  Out.  Seven is too much to over come without some ground-breaking miracle that MLB Network will talk about for ages.  Without some kind of miraculous finish to the season, I think we’re done.  I didn’t think that before I left today for the ballpark and I won’t think it until we are officially seven out.  But if it comes to that, I believe we’re done.

I got to the stadium in time for batting practice.  I don’t normally get to the stadium that early and it was great.  I was standing right by the outfield wall where all of the Cubs pitchers (most) were stretching and warming up their arms.  Marmol looked great (too bad we didn’t see him tonight).  Lilly was there and I took the opp to shout some praises.  Berg was having a blast with kids asking him for baseballs, you could just tell he was digging it.  And Grabow was being harassed by two 10 year old kids for a baseball.  The same baseball he was currently warming up with.  Funny what kids don’t get.  Even after he said to them point blank, “I’ll give it to you when I’m done with it”, they still pestered him for it, asked why he needed it, and then began harassing another pitcher for the ball at his feet that he wasn’t using.  This guy was warming up right next to Grabow, the guy who promised them his ball.  Ah, the New York City public school system.

One kid next to me during BP was pretty cool.  Little Mets fan but clearly a baseball fan in general.  He had asked me if I could help him point out where the Cubs were on the field during warm-ups that he had in his stack of baseball cards.  Of course I could.  He was very excited to see Ted Lilly in person and was hoping to get an autograph.  I don’t know that that happened, but it was fun taking in BP with someone who still sees the game like an eleven year old kid.  Baseball the way it should be.

Once again Cubs Nation turned out and there were more Cubs fans around me than Mets fans in my immediately portion of the section.  One Cubs fan who had never been to Citi before was surprised that there aren’t any bleachers.  ‘That’s just not right’, he said.  Funny how bleachers are such a part of Cubs baseball.  He was floored that the stadium had no bleachers.  As if it made the game of baseball impossible to be played without them…like the Mets’ new ball field had no place for shortstop.  Funny.  Good guy to watch the game with.  Unfortunately after we celebrated the Cubs tying it up in eighth, I was correct when I told him the Mets would take the lead again once Gregg came out to pitch in the bottom of the same inning.  I really dislike Gregg.  He needs to be off this team in 2010.  He has done nothing but hurt this team in the greater picture and he needs to go. 

Mets played great defense tonight aside from their couple of mishaps in the field.  One easy pop up that should have been an out dropped in for Bradley and I believe it was Bradley again who benefited from an error at first.  To make up for it all was Parnell who had bases loaded at one point and got out of it with two strike outs and then a brilliant defensive play on the mound when a shot up the middle fired at him and he was able to stop it and get the out at first.  Unreal.  Mets win 6-2…scoreboard watching time.  Let’s hope we don’t let the GB mark reach seven.

Tomorrow’s another day at Citi and I believe Lee will be back.  No Soriano, but we’ll see if Fuld can make something happen.  And while Zambrano did his thing today, he deserved a win he didn’t get.  That’s to the fault of the Cubs inability to score guy in position and keep the stranded total down.  Hopefully that changes tomorrow and Marmol gets to show his stuff successfully in more than just the warm ups.  Get the W tomorrow boys….Go Cubs Go!
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Crunch Time

Dailies

This was the big news yesterday in Cub land.  We’re keeping Harden and Heilman.  Apparently we had received some interest in a few players but these were the only two that we came close to losing.  I have a hard time feeling sad about the thought of potentially losing Heilman.  I don’t really think he’s good for much more than a stop inning here and there, nothing special, nothing more nothing less.  If we were to lose Heilman, I don’t think it’d affect our chances down the stretch very much at all.

So I believe that’s why all the focus in the media ends up being on Harden.  And I agree.  If the Cubs were to let Harden get away, despite how Wells is pitching this year, it would signal that the organization thinks ’09 is a lost cause.  We all know it’s not.  We all know it doesn’t look good.  But we all know we’re not out of it.  Not yet.

Many teams have used September to make the playoff push a success and woke up in October as contenders.  Recent years included teams like the Astros, the Rockies going on a tear down the stretch and surprising everyone…that NL Wild Card seems to be up for grabs every year and this year is no different.  Sitting six games back after losing yesterday with the top two teams in the wild card race idle is not a good place to be, for sure.  However the Cubs have about 30 games left.  Six games to make up and we play A LOT of sub-par teams within those thirty left to play.  We’re keeping our guys and we’re making the push.  And that’s all we can ask for as fans. 

I’ve expected nothing this year except just that out of this team.  No exact result did I expect…just simply a fighting attitude from a group of talented guys and a no-quit approach from a team that on paper stacks up as one of the best in the bigs. 

I love the game of baseball but clearly I follow the Cubs closer than any other team out there so I guess that’s why their inconsistent play stands out to me.  Injuries we hear about everyday, regarding every team on MLB.com and other news sources.  However, when you watch, read about and write about a team day in and day out, you see the little things that make the difference.  The things that make the difference between a stellar rookie season and a stumbling sophomore campaign.  That make the difference between back-to-back-to-back division titles and being 10.5 games behind the division leading Cards.  The things that make the difference between controlling your own destiny and having to closely participate in scoreboard watching to see how four or five other teams are doing on any given day because your post-season hopes depend on it.

This team has been inconsistent all year long.  If you follow the Cubs you know this and it messes with your head, your emotions and it’s hard to not be frustrated by it daily.  It’s now time for this ballclub to get it together.  We kept Harden for the push.  He needs to get his stuff under control and fast.  Wells needs to step up and finish the season strong.  His off-speed pitches need to come back and dominate, separating themselves from his fastball.  It’s a lot to ask of a rook but if you’re out there, we need you to perform.  Hill needs to continue his successful ’09 as Soto’s backup with hot numbers as the starter throughout September.  Zambrano needs to step up and finally be our ace this year.  His inconsistency and injuries are a big part of why we are where we are.  Piniella needs to figure out who gives us the best chance to win and play those guys into the ground right down to the final out of the regular season.  Soriano’s cortisone shots need to be as effective as his bat, and Bradley’s as well.  His bat was to be the difference that puts us into the NLCS, not leave us on the outside looking in come October.  Lee needs to keep it up heading towards a .300, 30HR, 100 RBI season and continue to hush Cubs fans thoughts, comments and feelings of perhaps its time to look to Hoffpauir as we all were discussing earlier in the season.

Now is the time for everyone to shut up and play.  Play every fly ball, ground ball, pop up and bunt laid down like its their last.  Look at every ball close to the strike zone and hustle on every ball put in play like they never have before.  Run out ground balls.  Turn double plays.  Focus on defense and the basics.  Make your pitches.  Do your job scouting the opponent and beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. 

We do all of that and I like our odds.  Chances are, we’ll continue to be inconsistent and come up just short.  Point is though, that as of today we still have a shot at this thing.  Let’s settle in, pile up the W’s and take control of the Wild Card.  That’s our way in this year.  Let’s do what we need to do to accomplish that and then turn up the heat even further in October. 

Can’t wait to see how this all plays out.  Happy to see Harden and Heilman are still with the club.  Happy to see that wherever Hendry keeps his towels, that’s exactly right where they have stayed.  No towels being thrown in on ’09 just yet.  Not yet.  Little time left.  But what’s left in extremely valuable.  Cubs v. Astros this evening.  Wells on the mound.  Let’s get this push off to a great start tonight.  Go Cubs Go!

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Bare Minimum

Dailies

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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Bang for Your Buck

Dailies

I want to know if your team gives you enough bang for your buck.  And by ‘buck’ I mean it in a number of different ways.  The financial investments: tickets, merchandise and maybe some of you like myself with the Cubs, a way to watch the games like MLB.tv.  The emotional investment: the time spent watching games, the energy put into rooting for your team, the mental effort put into analyzing the decisions your manager or general manager make with your club and the amount of heart put into celebrating your team’s victories/agonizing over defeats/arguing with fans of other teams, especially rivals over whose team is better.

Take the Cubs for instance.  You arguably can’t get more bang for your buck.  The moment a new title pennant flies at Wrigley, the Cubs would be the team that give its fans more bang for their buck than any other team in baseball.  The history: huge.  The drama: unmatched.  The stadium: historic.  The reputation their fans have with other fans: lovable losers…basically bottom of the barrel, respected yet bashed with glee (especially by their rivals’ fans).  The players…just to name a few: Soriano.  Ignites Cubs games on a regular basis with leadoff home runs.  Regular representative of the team come the All-Star game.  Raises the heat on debates on where in the order he should hit.  Carries himself like a professional and makes Cubs fans proud to root for him.  Bang for your buck?  Absolutely.  

Theriot.  Awesome nickname: The Riot.  Awesome first name: Ryan.  It is my name and sounds like Sandberg’s first name.  Hard to go wrong there.  Hustles on every hit ball and is among team leaders in all hitting categories.  Helping carry this team during a very tough stretch where extremely important keys to the team’s success have been injured.  Bang for your buck?  You bet.  

Bradley.  Controversial off the bat (pun intended) which is always entertaining providing lots of bang for the buck.  A huge threat when hitting well and finally in a long term deal, first of his career.  Love hate relationship with the fans….love hate relationship with the media…love hate relationship with…I’m guessing you name it.  Bang for your buck?  Possibly only Zambrano tops Bradley for most interesting character on this team.  

Lee.  Batting champ on the resume.  Team leader.  Scapegoat.  Absolutely dangerous when he hits his stride.  Hoffpauir hot on his trail causing fan debate as to whether it’s time to let Micah take the role full-time away from Lee.  Talented, hot topic, leader in the clubhouse and proven winner.  Bang for your buck?  Please, absolutely.  

Soto.  Rookie of the Year.  Sophomore slump.  First rookie catcher to start an all-star game in forever.  Handles one of the most talented starting rotations in all of baseball and from what I’ve read on several female Cubs fan blogger sites…apparently the ladies are big fans as well.  Bang for your buck?  YUP.  

Fukudome.  Please.  From the off-season where all we could talk about as Cubs fans was will he-won’t he up through opening day against the Brewers at Wrigley to the cool headbands, through the hot first half of his rookie season to the crash of his second half and a decent start to ’09.  Plus you know the club must be thrilled with what he does for the organization in overseas merch and interest in the club.  Bang for your buck?  Tons…and bang for your yen as well for that matter.
The bench. This is where you really tell if you’ve got a team that gives you bang for your buck, or just a few over-priced stars and everyone else who happens to dress the same as them everyday.  The Cubs’ bench has managed to step up and keep our team in the thick of the NL Central race and provided fans with quality guys to root for.  This bench as a whole has become the 2009 version of DeRosa when it comes to heart, versatility and ability to step  up and fill in in a crunch when injuries happen.  Without our talented bench, the Cubs would be in a lot of trouble right now heading into the the thick of Summer.  Bang for your buck?  Over and over again (thankfully). 

Zambrano, Harden, Lilly, Dempster, Marshall.  You bring your guys and we’ll bring ours.  I like our chances, injuries, ups and downs and all.  Bang for your buck?  No matter what day it is, you got it.  Especially Zambrano.  Bananas.  Cramps.  Tantrums.  Strikeouts.  Opening day starts.  No hitter.  Team Ace.  Beating up catchers in the dugout.  And a ton of heart.  Bang for your buck?  Maybe the definition of said phrase.  
Like I said…this club could arguably be the one team in the league that provides the most bang for your buck.  And I’ll go ahead and say it flat out, I believe they do just that…and there is no argument to be had come the day they raise a new World Series title pennant.
Cubs fans…think of a reason this is true that I forgot to list?  Tell me in the comments.  And fans of other teams who disagree and believe that their team in fact gives them and their team’s fans more bang for your buck…tell me their too.  Interested to hear your thoughts.
Great run lately for the Cubs.  Love the fight we’re seeing and loving that with even with all the injuries, we are right in the thick of this thing.  Harden’s turn tomorrow in Detroit.  And since I mentioned Ryne earlier…as a side note, I completely agree Ryno.  Completely agree. Go Cubs Go!
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How good are we?

Dailies

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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One City, Two Teams, Three Home Runs

Dailies

One City.  New York City.  The city that never sleeps.  

I can attest that while the city never sleeps, I for one am again looking forward to doing so this evening.  The new job is seriously a TON of stuff to learn: procedures, issues, tactics, strategies, training staff, outreach in the freezing cold, planning meetings and on and on.  It’s one of the most fascinating ways to spend 60 hours a week though I must say.  I really do feel like I’m making a difference and doing something that truly matters, which is a cool feeling.  I’d love to be in front of the computer all day to watch Cubs games on-line, or listening to games on the radio.  A lot of these Spring Training games are obviously during the day so I’ve been checking out box scores, watching highlights and reading up on all the latest news and updates.  I can’t wait for the city to warm up and regular season games to back again.  I already have it marked down when the Cubs come to town to play the Mets at Citi Field and am hoping to check out an exhibition game at the new Yankee Stadium when the Cubs are in town as well.  That would be awesome.

Within this massive city however, depending on where you live, hang out, frequent, the baseball population is strongly divided between the Yankees and Mets.  It’s rare to find a fan who roots for both teams as it is extremely looked down upon and hardly anyone takes you seriously if you claim to do so.  Much like trying to sell someone in Chicago that you are both a White Sox and Cubs fan.  Yeah, right.

Now every now and then you come across a Red Sox fan.  Many have joined the bandwagon for sure since their recent success starting in 2004 but considering we’re on the East coast, it’s really not surprising.  People move (like a lot of the transplanted fans with blogs in this community), people rebel against family, friends and ex’s to be different, people get attached to players that lead them to root for certain teams regardless of their zip code and again others simply climb aboard the band wagon.  A lot Sox fans populate New York as well and it’s hard to tell who the Yankee fans hate more.  I’m guessing it’s the Sox, but a crosstown rivalry is exactly that and there’s a lot to be said for it.  Considering the Sox have the upper-hand as of late though, you don’t hear a lot of trash talking (or as much anyway) between Yankee fans and Sox fans, although they still enjoy picking on Mets fans.  Calling them the JV team, saying their old stadium was a dumpster or simply enjoying watching their fans get amped up over projected success just to see their hopes crushed with two consecutive seasons of late season meltdown.  This is essentially the baseball landscape in New York.  A few Sox fans scattered throughout…but mainly a hard, loyal divide between Yankee fans and Mets fans.  I’m sure it’s no surprise that those two teams get the most attention considering they both play here, but still, between the two of them I don’t really envy either.  The ones I look at with a bit of green under the collar and for no reason related to my new job, are the Red Sox fans.

Red Sox fans walk among Yankee fans and Mets fans, nowadays, with their heads held high.  Between years of AL East beatings and Buckner, both sides had something to say to them to give them a hard time if spotted walking down the street displaying their team loyalty be it a cap or jacket, t-shirt, etc.  This is no longer a problem for them.  Now, they basically walk around and get the same response as Cubs fans.

There aren’t a whole lot of us in comparison to the Yankee and Mets fans understandably.  However, there are more than you’d expect.  I’d say on average, at least once a day I see someone walking around with a Cubs hat on.  Like Jeep drivers are known for honking at a fellow Jeep driver on the road to salute the car they have in common, so do Cubs fans acknowledge each other as we pass on the streets of New York.  We have to.  We’re all in this together and in a foreign land at that.  I’ve walked down the street wearing my Cubs gear and constantly here it from construction workers who want to talk about last night’s game.  From kids who love the Cubs and shout out “Go Cubs” as their parent proudly smiles and waves as they go by.  From baseball fans at gatherings (bars, ESPN sports zone, etc) with just the utmost respect for the dedication we show as Cubs fans, or the most absolute confusion that we’ve hung in there for so long.  Some laugh at the belief that every year is THE year and others completely respect it as they know there’s no other reason to be a ‘fan’. From the word fanatic, as a fanatic, you have to belief, simply by definition if for no other reason.

And it’s that respect that Cubs fans are shown in New York City.  Abracadabra, a loyal reader of this blog asked me what it was like being a Cubs fan in New York recently and I decided I would post about it.  This is pretty much what it’s like.  Surrounded in one of the biggest cities in the world by millions who root for one of two other teams, with the occasional yet more frequent than expected encounter of a fellow Cubs fan with similar, friendly, Cubs logo-bearing fan gear who also can’t wait to see how the Cubs do this year, believe this is the year and tune in however we can (on-line mostly, or the occasional ESPN game) to follow every moment of the season.  I recently joined a Cubs meetup group in the city and I can’t wait to experience ’09 with the Cubs fans I’ll meet as a result.  Always fun to meet fellow Cubs fans and enjoy the season together, especially when we’re all in this together.  And we might as well be together, we’re outnumbered for sure…and one day, when the sign reads AC000000, the disbelief and rare teasing will cease to exist from New York baseball fans.  They will all look at us with the respect that a championship ballclub’s fans deserve, the same way they now look at Red Sox fans.  Aside from being in Chicago, I honestly wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the country experiencing Cubs baseball and enjoying the baseball community as diverse, fun, exciting, humiliating, frustrating and fascinating as it is in New York.  Not sure if that was detailed enough, but that’s basically what it’s like being a Cubs fan in New York.  In a word?  I’d say it’s actually pretty ‘awesome’.

Today’s game was amazing.  Three home runs by the Cubs…Soriano, Fox, and Ramirez going deep.  Always great to see the bats warming up during the Spring, getting ready for the pitches to count come Opening Day.  Marshall had a great day with three perfect innings and Gregg looked great too.  Piniella says Marmol pitching in the WBC won’t effect the closer competition.  I hope he’s right.  Gregg was great and I’d love him in the set up role, but I’m still a big fan of having Marmol as our closer.  Time will tell, but it was great checking the box score and seeing the three of them going yard and having Marshall and Gregg step up with outstanding performances.

Hope everyone in New York, Chicago, Boston and really everywhere else is enjoying the excitement of Spring Training.  I know I am…I just can’t wait for these games to count for real!  Go Cubs Go!

Make it Four

Dailies

What an amazing game tonight.  Dempster achieved his career high win count with 16 after failing to reach the mark in his last few starts.  Soriano comes through as does Ramirez in extremely clutch situations.  Marmol duels his way to lead the Cubs into the top of the ninth holding on to the lead.  And in a classic battle of speed versus power, Wood defeats Fielder in a one-on-one battle of the NL Central titans to hold off the Brewers push and win the game 5-4 in front of an extremely excited Wrigley crowd.  

Fielder was unreal in this game but Wood proved to be too much in the end.  I could watch the off-speed pitch Wood through to Fielder over and over again.  Completely buckled Fielder and froze him into a situation where he found himself going down looking and leaving the rest of us to watching the Cubs magic number go down to four.  Here is a screen grab from the broadcast I watched on MLB.TV:
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This guy was prepared, huh?  Couple more like this and we’ll be watching the celebration of another division title for the Cubs at home, in the friendly confines of Wrigley.  No better place for the team to spray champagne and enjoy success…and this Thursday would be great.  It’s good for me.  Is it good for you?  Yeah, I thought so.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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LIVE (not really)…From The All-Star Game Red  Carpet!

Dailies

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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4th and 9…Cubs Go For Two!

Dailies

Oh, this is fun.  Incredible game!  Cubs took the second game of the weekend series against the Sox today with an incredible nine run fourth inning including two home runs by Edmonds, one by Ramirez and one by Fontenot.  And I thought Lilly scored with the bail out Ramirez gave him yesterday with his two shots…that was a scratch off compared to the lottery of runs Marquis scored today.  


I must admit, when I heard Edmonds was a Cub I couldn’t believe it.  Wait, Jim Edmonds??  Former St. Louis Cardinal Jim Edmonds?  The same Jim Edmonds who had produced for the Cardinals time and time again against the Cubs making one of the 2 or 3 Cardinals we least looked forward to seeing at the plate against us in crucial situations?  This is supposed to be good for team morale?  I suppose it made sense at the time.  However, considering he’s hitting over .400 in his last 18 games with the Cubs and blasting huge shots out of Wrigley against the team’s crosstown rival, what’s there to complain about or be confused by now?  I mean fans are bowing to him like they do Fukudome. He continues to perform and produce like Fukudome we may start seeing different headbands worn around the outfield at Wrigley.  Huge day for Edmonds in shedding that Cardinal red and having us get use to him in Cub blue.  Great day today Edmonds, way to go man.

Marquis improved to an incredibly respectable 6-3 on the season and Wood got his 19th save of the year.  Even better news, Zambrano went on the DL to rest his strained shoulder and x-rays show no serious damage.  Two starts missed is fine all things considered and if the rest of the guys continue to step up during his and Soriano’s absence, we’ll look pretty good going into the end of Summer.  And who would have thought that a simple switch of our closer and a starter would make such a difference to this team?  I doubted Wood all Spring…no more.  Keep it up Kerry.  Marmol and Howry have left much to desire lately.  We’re going to need you even more while they get through this rough patch.

Tomorrow night’s game is nationally televised.  Looking forward to seeing them continue this Sox bashing.  And with recent events, I admit…I even kind of look forward to seeing Edmonds.

Go Cubs Go!

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Big Start, Huge Weekend. Big Z, Huge Loss?

Dailies

What an unbelievable season so far. I honestly think my computer was even so shocked at how well the season is going, it put its self on the DL. Back up and running now though…good times. 


29-8 at home.  3 1/2 games up in the Central.  A bunch of players up for potentially starting in the All-Star game.  Kendall who?  Fukudome’s #1 taking on a whole new meaning with the second major injury to Soriano this season.  This season just keeps getting more and more interesting with Zambrano now experiencing some pain and will miss his next start.  It’s one thing to lose Soriano for 6+ weeks, but losing him and Zambrano?? I don’t know if we can handle that honestly.  Hopefully Zambrano doesn’t miss too much time.  While Dempster is having a great year and the rest of the rotation is holding it’s own, to lose our ace and our leadoff hitter could be too much.  The last thing we need to see is the Cubs in a great place in mid-June and then struggle through the Summer because of injury.  As soon as I saw Soriano get hit by that pitch, my first thought was ‘did that hit him in the face?’  Then I couldn’t believe it ended up being 6 weeks because it broke his hand.  I’m glad he didn’t suffer a serious head injury, but this broken hand…I know I’m harping on the injuries and may be making too much of it, but come on…this isn’t good.

I love Fukudome and think he’ll be great in the leadoff spot but Soriano was finally coming around to having a great season performing like he should up top.  Hitting home runs, getting on base and adding that much needed speed to the lineup that Piniella has mentioned a few times.  In the Spring I thought it was a shame some of the guys I felt were deserving of sticking with the club had to be sent down as there only so many outfield positions to fill but getting them up here like this isn’t what I had in mind.  Edmonds, Johnson, Fukudome and Derosa when necessary.  Edmonds has a foot problem and Johnson is having back spasms.  Maybe being still interested in Coco Crisp isn’t such a bad idea.  Who would we give up for him?  Middle-tier pitching, I guess.

Big weekend this weekend taking on the White Sox.  Both teams lead their respective divisions, first time for interleague play.  The city is going to be locked in all weekend as many experts are saying it could be a preview to the ’08 Series.  That would be crazy.  What’s even crazier though…they were saying the same thing about our series with the Rays.  THE RAYS!  (How do you give up seven runs in one inning to the RAYS?!?  I don’t care how good they are…c’mon Marmol!  It’s Tampa Bay!!!  That certainly couldn’t have been the homecoming Lou was looking for…swept??  Home Sweep Home for Lou unfortunately).

Lilly’s looking strong as of late and he’ll kick off the weekend today against a guy who has never faced the Cubs before.  Let’s hope Danks’ day is as bad as Zambrano’s is good as his shoulder is being looked at today.  We definitely can’t lose Big Z for any extended period of time if we’re going to do this this year.  Just can’t.  That is of course unless…how’s Fukudome’s fastball?

Well, regardless, I suppose when something as serious as your ace’s shoulder could possibly be coming up lame on you, you can always focus on something far less serious yet, nearly as interesting: one of the most interesting articles about the Cubs’ uni’s I’ve ever read. Enjoy the game, enjoy the article.  Beat the Sox…Go Cubs Go!

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They Could All Be Fun

Dailies

reds v cubs.pngAs I write this, the Cubs are up 11-3 in the middle of the 8th inning tonight against the Cincinnati Reds.  Cincinnati was down by more than Ocho by the middle of inning numero Cinco and there was no looking back.  What an unbelievable game.  Zambrano looks amazing.  7 innings and only 2 runs given up on 8 hits and 5 strike outs.  He even doubled and had an RBI.  Now if only the rest of the starters could follow suit. 

I didn’t really know what to expect with this being the first game with Soriano.  15 days.  Wow.  That is horrible.  It’s unfortunate it happens on a move (the hop) that isn’t even necessary to field his position…and odd that it happened doing something he does game in soriano swinging bat close up.png and game out, fly ball putout after flyball putout.  I like the fact that it opens up the opportunity to get the Theriot/Fontenot LSU double play combo on the field and it gives great value to Derosa’s existence on the roster.  Still though, losing Soriano is huge and it will be interesting to see how it affects us over the next couple weeks. 

Now, when I created the D Lee News and every other link list in the sidebar, I had the freedom of using them and adding to them anytime I wanted.  Since the blog format change, they haven’t been working properly always so I haven’t been able to keep the D Lee News or the Pitchers/Beer section as I’d like.  So let me say this, as for the pitcher/beer result for today’s game, it’s obvious, no?  Zambrano, this tall, ice cold, frosty mugged beer is on us.  You may be expected to stay off the soda and coffee…pull up to the bar with a bunch of bananas, a potassium pill and some pretzels my friend.  This beer’s for you…and its on us.

As for the D Lee News…if you look at the archives or have been a regular visitor to Prose and Ivy since Spring Training…you’ll know how worried I was about Lee.  He looked so amazingly bad in Spring Training, regardless of whether it counted, I really thought it mattered.  Turns
D Lee.png out…I was wrong.  Lee is having an unbelievable start to the season.  Fukudome has totally stolen the show, but Lee is probably the biggest reason the Cubs kick things off at 8-5 (about to go 9-5 as they are now up 12-3 in the top of the ninth with one out, about to put this one away).  Coming into tonight’s game Lee leads the team in AB, R, Hits, Doubles, HR, RBI, total bases, slugging %, and batting average (not counting Blanco who only has 8 AB on the season).  Are you kidding me?  No.  I did not see this coming.  And it is probably the second best surprise of the season.  Fukudome is the first.  He had another great game tonight going 2-for-3, scored twice, 2 RBI and walked twice.  He’s hitting .353 on the season and leads the team in on-base percentage.  Imagine this lineup when Soriano is healthy and hitting and Ramirez is hitting and in a timely manner and for power as expect, at that.  Incredible.

For now though, Soriano is out and we’re looking to make due.  Tonight was a great start coming away with the W.  9-5 on the season including a nice two game smackdown of Dusty in his return to Wrigley.   Hard to complain about too much so far.  A few pitchers need to pick up their game a bit and they know who they are, although I have no problem with the press harping on their struggles.  Hopefully it will motivate them to turn things around and join the rest of the team on their level of extraordinary play so far this season.

A number of publications in the beginning of the season picked the Cubs to win the Central and many picked them to win the whole thing.  I’ve been thinking about that (who hasn’t) for a while now and if that were the case…I was thinking about what it would be like to play the American League champion whoever they may be.  Lots of thoughts on facing every American League team in the Classic.  Those thoughts to be posted in the upcoming days…but let’s face it, if the Cubs are representing the National League in the World Series, bring on anyone from the American League…they could all be fun.  Tomorrow, to kick things off: the AL East.

Great game tonight!  Go Cubs Go!
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.500 After 2 Series. Now Let’s Ruin the Pirates’ Home Opener!

Dailies

Great weekend!  Went back to my alma mater to do some comedy and had a great show!  Saw some friends and family I hadn’t seen a while…good times. 
Cubs Win Wrigley Field Sign.pngAnd if that wasn’t enough, the Cubs got their first series win of the season and some of our guys are looking great so far!  Fukudome has taken over Chicago.  They may call Matsui “Godzilla”, but even he couldn’t take over a city the way Fukudome has taken over Chicago.  He’s basically done exactly what I expected…brought a complete playoff atmosphere/excitement to every home game at Wrigley.  Some players just do that (like I’ve said in an earlier blog ie, Lebron James, etc) and Fukudome is definitely one of them.  How exciting it must be for him to be making such an impact in a new league, in front of new fans.  Making the decision to make such a move with his career and family couldn’t have been easy and I’m happy to see its working out for him so far.

The Cubs are in a place now where no matter who they’re playing, I feel like they’re going to win.  And not in that love-is-blind kind of way either.  No homer predictions day in and day out here…I genuinely feel like they are going to win every game they play (not literally, but you know what I mean).  They are .500 after six games, against two division rivals.  As of now the Brewers and Cardinals are 5-1 leading the NL Central up 2 games over the Cubs in the standings.  Good luck with that.  That 2 game lead is about to evaporate very quickly.  I believe the team is still coming together and shaking off some winter rust.  Lee came through huge today with his third home run of the season and even Soriano hit one out!  Fukudome looks great, Zambrano has had two strong starts and Wood looks like he’s coming into his own in the closer role.  Dempster and Marquis showed they deserve those last two spots in the rotation in the Spring and now that they’ve completed their first starts of the season and shook any nerves off about it, I’m hoping they’re ready to move forward and raise some ‘W’ flags in the process. 
soriano runs out of the box.pngD Lee.pngIt’s a long season but there is just something about this team.  I believe .500 is going to be long in the rear-view mirror come the end of the season…and in a good way.  Milwaukee spoiled our opener in an exciting fashion and tomorrow we roll into the Pirates home opener.  Here’s hoping the Cubs pull off the same thing with the Pirates that the Brewers did to us.  The schedule organizers do a great job with all the division games right up front.  This division is probably going to be tight all the way down to the wire this year, just like last year (I realize this, it’s just fun to talk a little trash every now and then).  Having these divisional games up front is an exciting way to start the season…you always want to get out of the gates quickly…but especially against teams in your own division.  Let’s keep winning these series.  Zambrano looked awesome today…must’ve had a whole bunch of bananas laid out for him in the locker room before this one!   (Hey, whatever it takes…)

Looking forward to tomorrow’s game with Lilly on the mound.  Before I sign off, just want to say thanks to Mark and MLBlogs.com for putting Prose and Ivy on the MLB.com homepage!  As always…Go Cubs Go!
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You Know What It Could Be?

Dailies

Worse. 

It could be a lot worse.  So what, two games down, no wins to show for it.  Its two games.  Soriano will be leading off tomorrow and well see how that goes.  It wont be the first time Lou switches up the line up and thats to be expected.  Its not like we were going 1-8 like that for 162 games anyway.  Lets see if Soriano up first against the Brewers makes a difference.  Soriano loves the leadoff spot and Theriot says the spots where hes most hit most and is most comfortable.  It was all about Sorianos legs…protect Sorianos legs in the 2 hole…and now Piniella feels hes running just fine so he will hit him lead off.

It was great to see Lee go deep today.  He had a great day which is refreshing after his Spring…the sooner he can get going the better.  Especially with Soriano and Ramirez drawing nothing but zeroes today.  Somebody has to be counted on and hopefully with one game left against the Brewers in this opening series, we can get a W and leave only down a game kicking off the season.  Again, its one thing to lose games up front, but to lose them to a team in your division is a whole other story.

lilly pitching game 2.pngI would have liked to have seen Lilly have a good first outing.  He got batted around pretty bad.  Hopefully hes able to pull it together for his next time out.  Tomorrow, Dempster will find himself warming up in a whole different scenario.  Lets hope he has a different outcome and the bats show up to help him out.  Would love to see him get to a save situation so we can see if Woods horrible outing was just nerves or something else.  I still think Marmol should be the closer, but if were going with Wood, the sooner he can get it going (just like everyone else on this team), the better.  And Im sure he will.  Im sure everyone will and we will be just fine.  (Did I convince you?  Not even sure I convinced myself…)

Go Cubs Go…beat those Brewers tomorrow!
(And as for all those apostrophes that were left out of this post?  I left them out on purpose in honor of Mr. Cub and his new statue outside Wrigley.  I can’t believe they forgot the apostrophe!)  Here’s the story if you haven’t heard alreadyLETS PLAY TWO)
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