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!

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!
 

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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Soto’s Slump Solved

Dailies

Congratulations Soto.  The one guy tested for drug use and it’s his lack of power numbers that is explained by his drug use.  

Weed try to figure out why the slump this year even further…but now, no need.  This all makes complete sense.  Let’s focus a little more on baseball and a little less on the mary-jane huh Cheech?  
Another tough loss for the Cubs today.  Playing well, but we have to win these one-run games if we want to win the division again.  Dropping too many close ones so far this year.  Definitely has to stop.
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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Fried and Tried

Dailies

Three weeks since my last post.  No excuses.  I started a new job on April 6th and I’ve never learned so much or felt like my brain had been squashed and fried to a level mush as I have in the past three weeks.  I get home and all I can do is ‘tweet’ and watch the game.  Statistical analysis and even witty retorts when I get home regarding the Cubs and the Majors are hard to come by when you feel like 90% of your brain isn’t working.  You’ve heard the term ‘leave it all out on the field’?  That’s how I feel like my brain capacity has been performing.  I get home at night and I feel like I have 10% left.  That’s basically enough for me to remember how to put the key in the door, eat dinner and log on to MLB.TV and watch the game.  A few nights I didn’t even get out of the office until 11:00pm.  I was able to log in at the office and watch the game because no one else was around but man my brain could use a little performance enhancing drugs lately.

But like I said in the above paragraph, no excuses.  I should be blogging.  It’s one of the things I enjoy most and if I’m going to hope you guys keep coming back to visit, I know how important it is to keep posting.  I kick this one off like this because of the comment Jeff left in the Prose and Ivy Chat room in the column to the right.  You’re right dude, my bad.  This baseball season has been unreal so far…lots to talk about.  Whatever I can muster up, I’m sure I can manage to unlock the door, eat dinner and log on to MLB.TV on only like 5% brain power and blog with the other 5%.  You’re right, my bad.
I’ll admit too, without going into details, I’ve been straight up bummed lately.  I’ve been performing stand up comedy for eleven and a half years now, acting for about half of that and producing tv/film projects for half of THAT, including a few pilots for my own shows that I created and have pitched to networks.  Simply to get this off my chest before diving into baseball because I really haven’t told anyone about it and it’s really effected my desire to write lately, I recently found out that an idea of mine may have been straight up stolen by a network.  I won’t say who and I won’t say what, but I will say this.  A production company I have a deal with to represent my pilot in the marketplace recently pitched the project to said network.  They loved the idea.  They thought it would be a great companion to another show they have in the same genre.  When they said what they show was, I couldn’t believe my ears.  They were basically telling the production company in the pitch that my new idea would pair up nicely to a show they have coming out and without them knowing that the production company that was pitching it to them was representing me…basically…without them knowing who they were talking to…stated that they have a show I pitched to them a year ago.  They loved it and thought it’d be perfect for their demographic yet nothing happened.  ONE year later and all of a sudden they have a show JUST like it coming out…that I CREATED.  It’s up to the lawyers to do their thing now, but I seriously can’t believe it.  I commit eleven and a half years of my life to my career in comedy and just like that, instead of enjoying what should be an amazing time in my career, successfully getting a show I created that I would write, produce and star in on the air…I have to deal with this crappy side of it where it seems to have been stolen out from under me.  Some executive at the network with no tie to the dedication and amount of time that I’ve poured into my career does something completely unethical and now here I am in this position.  It sucks.  It seriously sucks.  And it’s effected my desire to do a whole lot of anything accompanied with the exhaustion of the new job.
Anyway.  I came to the page today and while I’ve occasionally posted a comment in my chat box or a tweet on Twitter over the past few weeks, I hadn’t really blogged.  When I came on today and saw Jeff’s comment about me not blogging in a while, it bummed me out further.  I love this blog, I love following the Cubbies and love communicating with everyone on here about the season.  Can’t let frustration or exhaustion get in the way of my enjoyment on here and I’ll have to remember that going forward.  Thanks for the kick in the **** there Jeff, appreciate it.
ALL of that being said (phew) game and a half out tonight as it stands and a crazy season so far across baseball and in the NL Central.  I can’t believe we’re looking at four team race and I can’t help but wonder if it will hold up the entire season.  I can’t help but hope the Big Z comes around and the injury bugs decide to fly elsewhere for a bit.  The article on here about Fukudome and his old batting coach recovering his old stroke was really interesting.  Comparing hitting to boxing is really smart.  Have to use your legs and transfer the power properly or else you’re going nowhere.  Hopefully Fukudome will keep it going throughout the entire season this year since he’s got one year under his belt and doesn’t have to worry about things like moving his entire family over and adapting completely to a whole new environment and batch of new teammates.  
Soriano looks great, it’d be great if Lee would wake up.  Bradley for that matter. I feel like if Bradley were to come around and Lee wakes up, this is going to be a whole different race in the Central.  I can’t believe we’re only 1.5 games out with the injuries we’ve had to Z, Lee, Zambrano, Bradley, Ramirez, Soto…and on and on.  This team, healthy…very dangerous.  Can’t wait to see us heal and start tearing away in the Central.  No expectations…but come on.  This roster, healthy?  Good stuff.
I don’t know about sticking with Gregg.  Long term anyway. I understand we’re only midway through May so I wouldn’t quite jump the gun and make the switch yet either (to Marmol) but seriously, Gregg has to be on the on the edge of his seat and looking into his rearview mirror all season long knowing that there is a perfectly capable firethrower that could step in and take over in a second.  We’re lucky to have the situation we have with two capable pitchers with some teams barely competing with closers that can hardly claim to put any real fear in the opposing batters.  Just need Gregg to be more consistent and then no reason to look in the rearview and all the world to be confident, use Marmol’s gun to set him up and close out the eighth before Gregg shuts ’em down in the ninth.
I like the way Piniella has worked the rosters and obtained the most out of this bunch this year.  Can’t be easy when the middle of the lineup is mush.  I know about mush.  Not easy to work with.
Here something maybe some of you Cubs fans can answer for me…here’s Cubs.com photo of this year’s Cubs to vote for for the All-Star game.  
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Listen tonight as I guest on the United Cardinals Bloggers Radio Hour

Dailies

I’m going in.

Cardinals/Cubs series this weekend Thursday-Sunday at Wrigley.  The Cubs will have home-field on their side…I won’t be so lucky come this evening.

If you get a chance tonight, listen in to the United Cardinals Bloggers Radio Hour (link here) and hear me guest as we chat about all things baseball, including this weekend’s Cubs/Cards series.  Not so sure that there will be any other Cub fans included as guests so Cubs fans should feel free to call in and back me up!  (Actually, the guys mentioned that they’d keep it civil…but you never know when it comes to this rivalry!  I’m definitely looking forward to it so if you get a chance, dial it up on-line.  Also on tonight as a guest is fellow MLBLogger Redbird Chatter.  Should be a great time and an even better series this weekend!

Had a chance to watch today’s game on-line and man…does it hurt to get beat by Marquis!  Losing at Wrigley is always a horrible feeling…but having a cast-off and lay down the beating?  Not cool.  And Marquis and his stuff?  Please.  That was pathetic.

Opening Day on the other hand was awesome.  Cubs have opened the first week of the season up strong going 5-3, currently in second place behind the Cardinals.  Lilly was amazing through seven delivering the goods no one is to speak of until it’s over (you know what I’m saying) and it’s great to see him come out strong.  Not concerned at all about Zambrano, can’t wait to see him this weekend.  I feel bad for teams who don’t have that ace that makes you believe every five starts you are going to win.  Great fun in having that with Zambrano…wish I could make the Apr 21 game against the Reds to get the Zambrano no-hitter statue.  That thing is pretty cool and a great symbol of an amazing pitching performance.  Love Dempster and expect great things from him this year.  Harden got roughed up today but again, it’s early, not concerned.

Soriano is having one of his best Aprils so far ever, especially in the past few seasons and Fukudome seems to be in his April zone like last year.  With Bradley injured with a bum groin (surprise) it’s going to be important he performs like he’s capable of.  I love the balance in the lineup Bradley brings, but this injury is a great opportunity to see Reed play a whole lot more. Nothing wrong with that.

Hopefully Soto comes around.  Sore shoulders and catchers?  Not a good mix.  If Soto is healthy I don’t foresee a sophomore slump so hopefully his body holds it together.  Same with Ramirez and Gregg actually.  Injuries could be a huge problem for this team this year, something that could ruin plans we’d all love to make come October.  Ramirez’s bat and glove don’t have the back up Gregg does.  Marmol can step up and close I feel without a real problem…backing up Ramirez?  That’s much tougher.  Miles at 2B and Fontenot at 3B isn’t exactly the ideal.

Lee on the other hand.  Aside from today’s solo shot, it’s been a slow start and really the only weak link in the healthy part of the Cubs lineup right now.  I’m kind of hard on Lee because I expect a lot from him.  He needs to step it up and be his a Cardinal killer this weekend.  Any time we get the Cards at Wrigley, we have to take advantage of it.  Playing in St. Louis is never easy…need to get these four games this weekend while we’re inside the Friendly Confines.

We’ll see how friendly the podcast/radio hour confines are this evening.  Can’t wait to talk Cubs baseball with hard-core baseball fans.  Again, call in if you get a chance and say hey.  Come back soon for a new post recapping the experience!

Go Cubs Go!

Are we there yet? YES!!!

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Thankfully, yes…FINALLY.  Tomorrow is:
And the games finally count!!!
Huge changes this year.  No DeRo.  Milton Bradley’s bat balances the lineup.  Gregg as our closer.  A possibly recently disgruntled Marmol as our setup guy.  More playing time for Fontenot and a new guy named Miles.  Soto with a solid all-star season under his belt raring to go in an effort to avoid the sophomore slump.  All this and more equals a very interesting prospect that is the 2009 Chicago Cubs MLB season.  And I am ready.
I got my new gear:
I got my new Cubs Club card:
I got my MLB.TV:
I got my New York Chicago Cubs Fan Meetup group:
And the Opening Day roster is set:
I’m ready.
I decided at the end of 2008 I would no longer expect anything, simply enjoy the ride.  That’s exactly what I’m going to do in ’09.  I have no expectations.  Zero.  Simply go out and enjoy the season, all of it’s ups and downs and bumps and bruises and highs and lows.  Come October, we’ll see where that brought us.  It will be hard to maintain this mindset for sure, but it’s my new approach to being a Cubs fan.  I think we have a great chance and I wouldn’t devote as much time to the team if I didn’t always think this was the year.  However, after 101 years of it not, it’s time to stop expecting a change and simply enjoy the ride no matter the outcome.  That’s going to be tough like I said, but it’s definitely worth a shot.
That being said, here are my 2009 MLB Predictions.  Predictions that is.  Not expectations.
AL EAST
1. Boston Red Sox
2. New York Yankees
3. Baltimore Orioles
4. Tampa Bay Rays
5. Toronto Blue Jays
AL CENTRAL
1. Cleveland Indians
2. Minnesota Twins (WC)
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Kansas City Royals
5. Detroit Tigers
AL WEST
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Oakland A’s
3. Seattle Mariners
4. Texas Rangers
NL EAST
1. New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Nationals
NL CENTRAL
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Cincinnati Reds
4. St. Louis Cardinals
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates
NL WEST
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. San Francisco Giants (WC)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres
ALDS
Red Sox over Indians
Twins over Angels
NLDS
Cubs over Giants
Mets over Dodgers
LCS
Red Sox over Twins
Cubs over Mets
World Series
Cubs over Red Sox
And there you have it.  Your 2009 MLB World Series Champions, the Chicago Cubs.  Streak dead.  AC000000.  No expectations.  Simply a prediction.  Go Cubs Go!!!

One for Me. One for Brew.

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magic number down to two.png

The magic number is down to two.  One win for the Cubs…one loss for the Brewers.  That’s it.  That’s all that is standing between the Cubs and a repeat title in the National League Central.  151 games played.  92 won. 59 lost.  And at home, a record of 53-25.  Tomorrow at Wrigley they get another opportunity to celebrate on the home field, for the 54th time this season…and if accompanied by a Brewers loss…this celebration will come with the division and another trip to the postseason…another chance to get to and win the World Series.

Zambrano is on the mound tomorrow.  Last time out we all know what happened.  Lilly and company nearly repeated the feat the next day.  The chances of that were ridiculous low.  The odds on Zambrano coming out and throwing another no-hitter are so stacked against the ace, it’s seriously ridiculous to even discuss it.  
The Cardinals are trying to make headway in the wild card race so they’ll be a team that will fight through the game and no matter what kind of lead the Cubs get on them early in the game, they won’t go away easily.  The Cubs will have to come out strong and not let up the whole game.  Exactly the way Piniella has preached for September and October to go if they’re going to finish this thing the way we all hope they do.  To get a victory like today’s and not capitalize on the opportunity it presents would be a shame.
When I lost my internet connection while watching today’s game on-line, the Cubs were down 5-2 and it wasn’t looking good.  I assumed we’d be stuck at four games at the end of the day and look to move forward with the countdown tomorrow.  When I got the text message that said the Cubs won 7-6 I couldn’t believe it.  I saw Ramirez go deep earlier in the game.  The guy has been a part of so many clutch moments this year, its a shame his stats aren’t better overall or I’d consider him someone with great chances to be the Cubs and the NL’s MVP.
soto 3 run hr game winner vs brewers sept 18.png
My favorite part aside from the simple fact that they won is the fact that a young player in Soto was the guy who stepped up with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to deliver the game tying three run blast.  He was the NL’s starting catcher in the All-Star game, has handled the staff well this season and has clearly made an impact on this year’s team.  It’s good to see him keep that momentum going in clutch moments such as today.  The more the merrier and we’re going to need everybody flying on all cylinders in order to have a chance at beating the ghosts of Cubs past this October.
Of course the guy who is favored to be the NL MVP this season is Pujols and he’ll be a bat we’ll need to keep under control tomorrow if we’re going to do our part in obtaining a chance to clinch on Friday.  Another title, another win closer to retaining the best record in the National League and home field through the NLCS potentially and the chance to do it all at home is on the line tomorrow.  One more win from the Cubs…and of course one more loss from the Brewers.  Voluntarily or not…sure would be great if all parties involved would corporate tomorrow.  What do you say Brewers?  Feel like losing to the Reds tomorrow?  C’mon…you know you do…
…please?  GO CUBS GO!!!
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LIVE (not really)…From The All-Star Game Red  Carpet!

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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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Harden’d Criminals

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Cubs give up practically nothing and in return they steal away a great pitcher to add to their collection.  I like Murton and I liked what Patterson was starting to show…but hey, this is Harden and in response to the Brewers getting Sabathia…Harden sounds good to me.  Just come in and look around Harden and you’ll see plenty of great examples of how we do things here with the Cubs.  Seven All-Stars (ultimately eight when Marmol was voted in as a replacement), three voted to be starters…two starting pitchers voted in and our closer as well…the veterans are leading the way and the rookies are standing out as some of the best in the game as well: Fukudome and Soto headed to the big showcase in the Bronx as starters…a lot to be proud of right now as a Cubs fan.  

All Cubs' All Stars.png

And if you want to see what we expect out of our pitchers, take a look at Dempster, Wood and Zambrano.  All of them leading the way in what’s been an amazing season so far, including Zambrano’s gem this evening.  8 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, 5 strike outs.  If we weren’t being so careful with him, he would’ve finished the game.  He’s truly the ace of the team and is even getting things going with the bat adding a single to his resume tonight and is hitting over .350 on the season.  
Some of the Cubs’ players were joking about Big Z participating in the HR Derby…why not?  He’s doing everything else for us lately, why not give the derby a shot too?  Too bad Ramirez isn’t up for it, I think he’d destroy.

Rounding the first half of the season out on a strong note…nothing to complain about there.  Go Cubs Go!

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