What would it take to make the Cubs unstoppable?

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!

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)

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

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

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:
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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!

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

Cubs at Mets

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Byrd CF

Baker 2B

Lee 1B

Nady RF

Ramirez 3B

Soriano LF

Soto C

Theriot SS

Wells P

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Cubs Go!

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

Head

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

Happy Thanksgiving

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!