Now a Staff Writer for Baseball Digest

Dailies

In addition to covering the Cubs on Prose and Ivy, I will now also be writing about baseball in general for BaseballDigest.com.

While some of the articles will be Cubs-centric, others will not. It will really all depend on what assignments I receive from their assignment editor.
 
I’m excited to have my writing showcased under the Baseball Digest banner. I used to read the print version cover to cover, every new issue that came out when I was growing up. They are the oldest baseball publication in the country and it’s exciting to be a part of their staff.
 
You can read my first article on BaseballDigest.com by clicking here: http://www.baseballdigest.com/2011/03/13/baseball-digest-birthdays-johan-santana/
As part of their popular Baseball Digest Birthdays feature, I was assigned today’s birthday: Mets pitching ace, Johan Santana. Santana turns 32 today.
 
I hope you enjoy it!
On a separate note, I watched the Cubs battle the Dodgers today on WGN. Baseball in Vegas? Make that…Cubs baseball in Vegas??  Sounds AMAZING. Another Cubs item on my absolutely-must-do list!
 
Zambrano looked great and even though the games don’t count, always fun to see the Cubs win. I’m excited Castro looks as strong as he does. Can’t wait to see what this team is capable of this year. Go Cubs Go!

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

Dailies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I believe he is.

Go Cubs Go!

So Far, Quade’s a Hit…But Too Much of a Good Thing?

Dailies

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

Sometimes when people try too hard or try to be too cool, they fail miserably. That’s why Quade has to be careful not to be too much like Kraegen in the above video.

I like that Mike Quade is making this team his own by doing things a little differently, however, he needs to remember to keep the tough love leader as part of his game plan as well considering how well it was received by the team at the end of last season.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the Cubs hiring Quade. I like that he’s enthusiastic to see his guys start putting on display what they can bring to the team. I like that he is looking to further evaluate guys he’s familiar with within the Cubs’ system. I even appreciate the fact that he listed lineups three games in advance. I believe it will help players prepare and learn their roles. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you can’t have a successful team without everyone knowing and embracing their role.

I think Quade has kicked off Spring Training the right way. Let the veterans know what is expected of them and let the youngsters know they are getting a fair look. That’s all any of them can ask for. But are the Cubs in danger of having too much of a good thing the way Quade has started off camp? Is he in trouble of setting a tone where there is too much of a good thing going here (loss to Oakland aside, that is)? Will the players get too used to feeling like they know what to expect and not ready to easily adapt when need be during the season? Like anything, I suppose it’s simply a matter of opinion. Many of you are still upset that Sandberg isn’t running the show. However, in answering the last question, I believe everything is going to be just fine and anyone who is freaking out over Quade’s system of three days heads-up being too soft needs to relax and enjoy having Cubs baseball back on the air. 

I understand that people like to pick at the bone for things to complain about, especially when we’re only one game in to Spring Training. Not a whole lot to get worried about but we’re sports fans and when nothing is there, sometimes we create things. I’m feeling pretty good about Quade’s leadership so far and don’t think you should be expecting or worried about any crazy flying basket locker room meetings out of Quade. He may have his own way of running the show that wasn’t done by Piniella or guys before him, but so far I think he’s taking this team in the right direction and has not discarded the Quade that got him the job late last season.  

It speaks volumes about Quade’s interest in respecting veterans and leaving windows open to surprises coming out of camp. He referenced Colvin the other day as a recent pleasant Spring Training surprise/success story. I’m glad that he is looking to fill in the roster spots around the guarantees with guys who earn the spot and want to play hard. Of course we’re going to see the guys you can wear. If you can buy a jersey with a player’s last name on it, it’s basically a guarantee you will see them play a major role, at least in the first month or so of the season. It’s the bench players that make a team great though. Stars make you ‘really good’. Depth makes you great.

When I was in Vegas for my honeymoon, I bet on the Cubs three times and won two out of three bets. It would be wild to log into a baseball spread site and predict which players made it out of camp. They very well may, I’m not sure. I know the regular season matters so as a fan of course those games are already fascinating. However, I wonder how many people buy the season previews or the annuals or the minor league prospect reports and try to bet on who will come out of camp. If they are then I’m sure these Spring games are taking on a whole new significance and importance to those particular fans. Imagine watching a Spring game and truly caring how long a player stays in the game. I love the fact that Quade left Garza in the game to hit instead of replacing him with a pinch-hitter. Quade’s right, he has to learn to hit sometime. Now is the time to do so.

I wonder what Zambrano had to say about it privately to Garza afterwards. I know it was reported that he didn’t see it but Z is one of the best hitting Cubs pitchers on the team. While Garza is working with Jaramillo to feel comfortable hitting after hardly doing so for the Rays, he must also be talking to the other guys on the staff and who better to ask than Zambrano? Of course, Garza did get shelled in his first appearance as a Cub in spring training including a grand slam to Coco Crisp. But (cue Fred Armisen’s Joy Behar) who cares, so what? It’s Spring Training. I’m sure the guy was nervous and worried about making a good impression. I’m sure it was just one pitch that got away that led to four runs. Do I want to see it during the regular season? No. Does Quade leave him in the game in a situation where he should replace him with a pinch-hitter when the game counts? No. So far Garza has a hit and the ball to place on his mantle. So far, Quade has been a hit with the Cubs and fans alike.

Is posting game lineups three games in advance too coddling? Is giving veterans reasonable expectations and laying all of your cards on the table too much? Is giving young players the feeling like they could possibly leave the minors behind and join the club for Opening Day or very soon into the season the wrong way to handle your business when it comes to prospects? No. No to all three.

I like what I’ve heard from Quade so far this Spring and I don’t think any of these things are a bad thing. This is Quade’s team now. It’s his time to put his stamp on it and run the show the way he thinks it should be run. At the end of last year he essentially had all of his players’ support that he should be hired as manager as well as mine.

I believe while it’s still early, Quade still has that support 100% and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the Spring plays out leading up to Opening Day. Go Cubs Go!

AUDIO: Guest Appearance on I-70 Baseball Radio

Dailies

Monday night, I had the pleasure of making a guest appearance on Bill Ivie’s I-70 Baseball Radio podcast on blogtalkradio.com.  It is a great compilation of Cardinals and Royals fan bloggers and always a fun listen.  This particular episode, they gathered up bloggers representing every team in the NL Central.  I took part in the panel discussion and made my case for the Chicago Cubs winning the Central in 2011. Some of you may have already heard it as it was their highest rated episode since launching in July of last year.  (For a more in detail description of what I expect out of the Cubs in 2011, check out the post below this one).

It really was fun to do and I think you’ll enjoy it.  The Cardinals fans hope they lock Pujols in before Spring Training although they don’t think it’s a hard deadline, the Pirates fans seem to believe they will once again finish in the basement of the division, the Brewers folks are confident they will contend and everyone (except me) believes either the Reds or Cardinals is the best team in the Central.  Pretty sure they thought I must be delusional to think the Cubs can pull this off in 2011, although Bill Ivie was on board with the concept that it’s not impossible for things to fall into place and make 2011 the Cubs’ year.  Hey, crazier things have happened and this division is going to be one of the tightest in all of baseball.
Go Cubs Go!
Listen to internet radio with Ivie League Prod on Blog Talk Radio

We’re a Major League Baseball team.

Dailies


cubs amex commercial.jpgEverybody
: Hello. Do you know us?
[Everybody, except Zambrano, puts on their caps]
Everybody: We’re a Major League Baseball team.
Lou Piniella: But since we haven’t won a pennant in over 100 years, nobody recognizes us – not even in our own home town.
Ryan Dempster: That’s why we carry the American Express card.
Derrek Lee: No matter how far out of first we are, it’s cool. You know, it keeps us from getting shut out at our favorite hotels and restaurant-type places.
Aramis Ramirez [pointing to us] So if you’re looking for some Big-League clout, apply for that little green home-run hitter.
Tyler Colvin: Look what it’s done for US. People still DON’T recognize us but…
[Tyler snaps his fingers]
Carlos Zambrano: We’re contenders now.
[Also dressed in a tuxedo, Starlin slides into home plate and holds up a green credit card]
Starlin Castro: The American Express card: Don’t steal home without it.

17.5 games out of first in the NL Central.  Go Cubs Go!


Padres Disappoint a Cub Once Again

Dailies

If you read Prose and Ivy regularly, then you know that I also have a podcast at BlogTalkRadio.com that compliments what you read here on-line.  I’m due to record another Prose and Ivy podcast so I will set that up soon.  However, as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, I also co-host a podcast occasionally for the BBA.  Tonight, I was supposed to co-host the podcast with the gentleman “Web”, from the San Diego Padres blog “WebSoulSurfer”.  Well, Mr. Web never showed up.  So I had to host the hour all by myself.  Have you ever talked about baseball to no one but yourself for an entire hour?  I hadn’t either.  However, now I can say I have.

Hopefully all is well with Websoulsurfer…even though once again the Cubs side of things were let down by the Padres (like 1984 all over again).  I tweeted about the show and asked fans what they’d like for me to say to the Padres fan.  One gentleman said “Ask him if we can have Andy Masur back” (funny).  Another guy said tell him, “See you in the playoffs”.  I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but it may have to considering so far in the podcast arena, the Padres are a no-show.  Check out what happens when one is left to his own devices for an entire hour talking to no one but himself by clicking here.  Enjoy.  Go Cubs Go!  

Blessing in Disguise

Dailies

When it comes to Chicago Cubs baseball, if recent events have taught us anything, it’s never say always.  One of my favorite things to say here at Prose and Ivy is, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  Given our performance in the past against the lowly Pirates, it always appeared on the year’s schedule as a gift-wrapped blessing.  A small three day break if you will where wonderful things happen like Cubs home runs flying out of the park, pitchers dominating on the mound, Cubs ending up on the right end of a blow out and W flags are hooked to the flag pole rope at the top of the first for it’s inevitable rising after the top of the ninth.  Plan to head home early folks because the Pirates are coming to town.  There won’t be any Cubs batting in the bottow of the ninth because there won’t be one.  These games are given.  The Pirates can’t handle the talent and the skill level the Cubs bring to their games.  Regardless of how the Cubs were going, if you see Pittsburgh coming up on the schedule, get ready for at least a three game turnaround and find your brooms.  The Cubs were about to seem the Pirates and all will feel right again in Wrigleyville.

That was then.  This…is now.

All of a sudden, the Cubs can’t be counted on to beat one of the worst teams in all of baseball and the cellar dweller or the NL Central.  See that .342 winning percentage and the 17 games that they currently sit behind the division leading Reds?  Don’t let that fool you!  When the Pirates have had the all-of-a-sudden priviledge of playing the Cubs, they are a surreal .800 ballclub!  In ten games against the Cubs this year, they’ve won 8 and lost 2.  What?!?  WHAT!?!  There are certain things that this blog feels it can count on:  baseball magazines and websites and blogs will have the Cubs listed as contenders in the Central, talk whether this is the year and then the Cubs will let you down come October (some seasons even earlier); Dempster will predict the Cubs will win it all; Carlos Marmol will be responsible for at least six heart attacks across the midwest throughout the course of a season; Sox fans will hate on Cubs fans and vice versa; and if nothing else is going our way, hey hey…at least ‘We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh’.  Well, that last one apparently no longer applies.  And it just may be a blessing in disguise.

Think about how this season is going.  The Reds lead the NL Central and the Cubs currently sit in fourth place looking up at the unfortunate view of Brewers behinds, hardly even keeping the Cardinals in sight, while the Reds are a ******** 10 games out in front of them.  The offense thinks it’s still the off-season.  Carlos Zambrano is seeing a shrink.  Piniella seems to be snoozing through the first half of the season.  All of our ‘all-stars’ suddenly look too old, too injured, or too apathetic.  Castro started out hot and then cooled off to an average pace.  Wells can’t seem to find the form that kept him one of the club’s most dominant pitchers in ’09.  And for some reason, we CAN’T beat the Pirates.  Fine.  If that’s the way it is…if that’s the way it’s going to be, then perhaps the rest of the things we’ve come to expect can start to make a change as well.

Perhaps the head shrink can get Zambrano under control and he can perform out of the bullpen upon possibly returning after the All-Star break.  Perhaps Wells can find his form and start to lead this club through a charge to possibly make up 10 games to the top of the division.  Our crosstown rivals just made a huge push to put themselves in the club of relevant baseball teams for this year, and if they can do it I KNOW we can do it.  Perhaps we will find a way to win one run ballgames in the 2nd half of the season.  Those eighteen losses in one run games might just be the single most frustrating aspect of 2010.  Perhaps since what has become the norm against Pittsburgh has been turned on it’s head, maybe all of these other things we’ve come to expect from this team this year can take a change of course as well.  Perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.

Of course, if it does happen there is a very good chance that we may have a few different guys wearing that same disguise as there are rumors that everyone from Zambrano to Marmol to Fukudome to Lilly are on the trading block.  I’m not sure how far behind we need to be for Ricketts to consider himself a seller as opposed to a buyer.  He’s a good business man it seems, but he’s also a fan.  I wonder how hard it must be for him to make rationale decisions when analyzing at point this particular team is no longer going to make the push it needs to contend.  I wonder if Ricketts thinks Pittsburgh is just another symptom of an extremely frustrating and disappointing Cubs season.  I wonder if he can find a way out of this mess and find the blessings in all of this turmoil.  So many fans on-line if you read around the Cubsblogosphere have already said ‘please, no more’ or are very close to taking that flag and throwing it in like a towel.  I don’t like our odds against the rest of the league if we can’t even handle Pittsburgh.  However, I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to put the beating on us the way they have.  Hopefully an unexpected 180 on this season’s trajectory is around the corner as well.  If not Pittsburgh, we’ll always have fool’s hope, right? 

(Any thoughts you’d like to share can be done in the comments section, or if you’d like, you can call into tonight’s Baseball Bloggers Alliance podcast.  I’m guest hosting tonight at 11pm EST and you can find the show’s site and information here!  And since I’m hosting with WebSoulSurfer who runs a Padres blog, I’ve included a clip of the Derrek Lee/Chris Young fight.  Why not?  Enjoy.  Go Cubs Go!)


Now We’re in a MUST Win Sitch

Dailies

Screw it.

The MLB championship is out of our Cub reach for 2010.  Time to accept that…but who cares.  That trophy is overrated.  Let’s be honest with ourselves…the Crosstown Cup is our coveted ark.  If this season were an action film it’d be Lou Piniella Jonesin’ with the Cubbies After the Lost BP Ark.  Now is the time to step up and make all of our Cub dreams come true…win the next two games in an epic fashion and tie the Chicago White Sox for the BP Crosstown Cup.

The BP Crosstown Cup awaits and we are now in a must win situation.  Dave Roberts and the Red Sox in 2004?  That’s nothing compared to Lou Piniella and the Chicago Cubs of 2010.  Time to make history.  Time to go get the greatest prize in all of sports.  Get the ticker tape and the police horses ready.  There’s going to be a whole lot of thrilled Cubs fans crowding the city of Chicago come Sunday night when the whole town rejoices the Cubs claiming the BP Crosstown Cup over the Chicago White Sox in a historic comeback of epic proportions.

Never in the history of baseball has any team ever come back from being in a 3-1 deficit in a Cup clinching series with two games to play and the opportunity to tie for the Cup.  Never.  The Cubs can be the first.  Starting this weekend’s series already down 2-1, the Cubs rolled into Sox territory on Friday and lost it….and then lost it.  Zambrano gave up some hits that he thought should’ve been stopped by Cub fielders.  It resulted in him serving the team with all that he had for an entire 1 inning.  After closing out the first and giving up four earned runs including one three-run bomb, he got to the Cubs dugout and immediately let loose on his teammates.  Holding nothing back in what was probably a mixture of Spanish and English, Carlos Zambrano let his battlemates know how unhappy he was with their performance and followed up his 2009 signature game with another strong outing in the dugout destroying another Gatorade machine.

This was the type of performance that will be mentioned along side some of the greatest pitching performances of all time.  Schilling’s bloody sock game?  Mariano Rivera’s overall career in the post-season as an absolute shut-the-door-kinda-closer?  Good luck measuring up and reaching the number one spot when the greatest moments to ever take place in the game of baseball are discussed.  Carlos Zambrano went out and put forth an effort that left manager Lou Piniella nearly speechless in the post-game press conference.  The team, mind-blown from their ace’s outing, have no idea what to do next with their Opening Day Ace-turned bullpen stop plug-turned best option to fill a void in the rotation.  What else does he have left to achieve?  What else does Carlos Zambrano have to do to prove to people his place in the game of baseball?

Soto escorted Zambrano out of the dugout after the amazing course of events took place clearly wanting to take the great one away from the mere mortals around them.  Lee was so taken by the great pitcher’s display of effort, ability, passion and love of the game that he too started to yell along with Zambrano hoping to fire up his teammates and share in this historic moment with one of the greatest characters in the game.  Galarraga not flipping out after a perfect game was stolen from him?  Give me a break.  Carlos Zambrano knows what it takes to gain respect from his teammates, manager, coaches, GM, fans and opponents.  This is exactly the kind of attitude and effort the Cubs need this weekend to stake a shared claim to the sport’s biggest prize. They all need to look at how Zambrano presents himself as a winner, follow his lead, and dig out of this 3-1 hole to a victorious 3-3 games a piece in the Crosstown Cup series for 2010.

With two games to play the Cubs can tie and share the parade with the team on the South side of town. Piniella said repeatedly after the game that he is embarassed.  Of course he is.  It’s embarassing how good we are right now and the opportunity that’s been presented to us to tie for baseball’s prized joy, the reason players play this great game.  It’s embarassing how fortunate this franchise is and has been for the past century.

Down 3-1, the Cubs are in a must win situation over the next two games in order to tie for the BP Crosstown Cup.  You probably never thought the day would come.  You think the Lakers’ victory in the NBA Finals brought commotion and disorder to the streets?  Wait until Chicago has their Cubs at the top of the BP Crosstown Cup world, tied with the White Sox.  No taxi will be safe my friends.  The Cubs win the next two and history will have been made, dreams finally realized.

Go Cubs Go!

Then What?

Dailies

So we may have found a way to improve our record in one-run ballgames!  Easy!  Just wait to win until the 13th inning!

Lilly was great yesterday and it’s a good thing the Mariners were even worse at cleaning up the basepaths than the Cubs were.  Tons of men left on base resulted in a marathon of a game for the Cubs in Seattle and Piniella enjoyed getting the best of his former ballclub.  Of course one-run ballgames happen often in baseball so we’re going to find a new way to come out victorious. It’s not even July and we’ve already played in 27 one run ballgames out of the nearly 80 games played.  Do that say 30 more times this season in the second half and the time leading up to the break and then add 4 innings to each of those games and you’re looking at playing 120 extra innings!  While those wins would certainly come in handy, adding about 11 games to your schedule with this group of old fragile Cubs is not exactly a recipe for success.  Clearly that won’t happen, but you get my point.  Grateful for the win, nervous about us finding a way to keep it up in one run ballgames.

Today Zambrano, Mr. Opening Day starter to the bullpen, back to the rotation, takes the mound against the White Sox.  Now, I dislike the White Sox just like you.  What do I dislike even more?  The Crosstown Cup.  That’s right.  I dislike the Crosstown Çup even more than I dislike the White Sox.  This Cup is ridiculous.  The Blackhawks won the only Cup that should be in Chicago right now.  And at least they had a plan for how to get the damn thing if they ended up in a tie…because they’d play until there wasn’t one!

What happens if the Cubs take two out of three this weekend?  The series will be tied at 3.  The first year of the city’s beloved Crosstown Cup…and no plan for a series tie?  Does it simply end with no one winning the cup? Do they go to runs scored?  Whose team had the bigger idiots in the stands?  Number of gatorade coolers smashed?  Best insults thrown from fans of the opposite team?

Zambrano v. Peavy tonight to kick it off.  Cubs look to either sweep or win two out of three to tie the crosstown series up.  They better sweep with regards to the Cup, because of they don’t and only manage two out of three…..then what?

Go Cubs Go!


Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

Dailies
  1. Carlos Silva with the best start a Cubs pitcher has had since the beginning of time.
  2. The Braves are one of the hottest teams in baseball.
  3. The Mets are 22-9 at home.
  4. Galarraga came one out away from a perfect game and still recorded what would’ve been 28 outs in a perfect world.
  5. It would’ve been the third perfect game thrown this season.
  6. The Baltimore Orioles were the first team to fire their manager this season.
  7. Carlos Silva is 8-0!
  8. Zambrano starts a record of consecutive Cubs Opening Days, moved to pen, then back to rotation all BEFORE June.
  9. Schilling has hardly said anything controversial this season.
  10. Griffey Jr. retires during the season instead of waiting until the off-season.
  11. Jimenez of the Rockies leads the majors in wins (11) and ERA (0.93)
  12. Robinson Cano is hitting .363
  13. The Rays own the best winning percentage in the majors at .649
  14. The Reds holding strong in the NL Central at 33-25, .5 games behind the Cards and 6.5 games up on the third place Cubs.
  15. The PIRATES are 12-6 in one-run games.  The PIRATES.
  16. Dontrelle Willis is a D’back.  How is he not the Tigers’ own long time dominator he was supposed to be?
  17. I actually watched about 10 minutes worth of the MLB draft.  I guess that’s something.
  18. Ted Lilly is 1-5.  Leading the club at 8-0?  Flipping CARLOS SILVA!!!
  19. The Blackhawks are in the Stanley Cup finals.  WHAT?!?
  20. Seriously.  That Carlos.  Unreal.
This season has been full of surprises. Some more unfortunate than others. Most unfortunate: Griffey. Next: Lilly. Least unfortunate: Silva leading the club in wins and being the man. Someone tell the Reds that’ll be enough out of them please. I mean, really. Go Cubs Go! Let’s start surprising some folks and move our way on up the NL Central standings!

Baker and Z to the Hospital=Perspective

Dailies

Are we sitting exactly where we’d like to be coming up on the final weekend of May?  No.

But we’re not in horrible shape either.  Have to keep at it.  The Reds have a great young pitching staff and they’ve set themselves apart from the rest of the Central atop the division accompanied by really only the Cardinals so far this year.  Most of our injuries have found themselves in the rotation as we were without Lilly to start the season and we’ve already had a wild start with the Zambrano to the bullpen move, Colvin’s contribution to the team, moving Soriano in the order to help his bat (now he leads the team in nearly every major hitting stat) and a slow start by Lee and Rami (although according to ESPN: During the home stand against the Dodgers, Lee was 7-for-9. In his last 14 home games, Lee’s hitting .400 (22-for-55), with one homer, six doubles and 9 RBIs.)

The Spring is getting old but the Summer has yet to rear it’s head yet and we’ve got a ton of baseball left to play in 2010. I’m not getting worried about our place in the standings as long as we continue to hover within six games or less throughout the Summer and then get hot through August and September and make a move on the division.  I am concerned about Zambrano and Baker though.

Zambrano was in the hospital with appendicitis type symptoms and let me tell you, that can be extremely painful.  Hopefully he’s ok.  He’s due back against Pittsburgh, who we could use him against considering they are all of a sudden playing us in 2010 unlike the reliably lousy Pirates team of recent years justifying my fun Pitt slogan of “We’ll always have Pittsburgh”.  They are playing us tough this year and we need Z and all guns firing on all cylinders to even compete with the Pirates.  This division is going to be tougher than I thought overall this year and we need guys healthy.

However, more important than being on the field, is being able to simply get around and live a happy, healthy lifestyle.  Baker had a scare where he couldn’t see at all out of his right eye and got pulled from a game when he didn’t even make a move on a liner that came right by his left side.  That is some scary stuff right there. We need our guys performing but more importantly, we simply need them healthy.  Let’s hope this weekend provides some entertaining baseball with W’s against the Cards, but more so, let’s get some good news on Z and Baker.

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
more cubs fans.JPG
In the end though, Mets fans had the last laugh and had a blast wherever this guy was:
PIC_0042.JPG
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:
PIC_0037.JPG
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: New Beginnings and Opening Day with carLos

Dailies

The Cubs kicked off the 2010 regular season today and Atlanta brought out the big guns right away.  Out came Atlanta baseball legend, Bobby Cox.  Introduced was MLB Hall of Famer and home run king (just like the same way you still call former Presidents, Mr. President even after their term/s are over) Henry Aaron.  And then after the Cubs looked like they may set the table for Zambrano and friends to jump out to a quick start, Atlanta introduced baseball fans to the newest addition to the highlight reel, Jason Heyward with a three run blast to tie the game in his first major league at-bat, as a result of his first Major League swing.

Zambrano was clearly off his game surrendering 8 runs in 1 1/3 innings, the Cubs recorded two errors, used seven pitchers in total and were dominated by a tough Atlanta team, 16-5.  Today’s Opening Day was simply a case of the Braves being the better team in all areas, all day long.  (Although, Z doesn’t fare too well on Opening Day.  Might be time to hand the ball to someone else??)

A bright start to the game was the three runs right away in the first inning.  Nice to see us jump on an opponent quick and not wait until late in the game to make up ground for a change.  Also, nice to see Byrd, the Cubs’ newest addition, put up three runs on a huge blast scoring his first home run in a Cubs uniform.  Welcome to Chicago Mr. Marlon Byrd.

We’re going to enjoy an off-day tomorrow, hopefully put this one out of our mind and come back strong in game two against Atlanta on Wednesday.  Cards, Pirates both won and the Brewers suffered a notch in the loss column in their opener as well.  I expect 2010 is going to be a thrill ride and we are just getting started.  To new beginnings, a new season and new possibilities.  Let’s get a W in game two!

Also related to new beginnings, I moved into a new apartment a few days ago hence the slight slowdown in posts (I HATE PACKING AND MOVING).  The new place is a great find and the extra space is going to be needed big time.  Why?

(this part of the post was written nearly three months ago, only I was waiting to include the news on my blog):

I think I know what video game characters feel like when they stand there waiting for you to make a move and tell them what to do next.  You know that look when the character you control through an alternate universe just stands there tapping their foot, or just simply breathing with no mind of their own as to whether they run, walk, shoot, jump, etc.  I feel like I am just living a blank stare waiting for someone to snap me out of it and tell me what to do next.

Why?

Because of this:

OH.  MY.  GOD.  My wife is preggers.

According to the first test she took this morning:

It was kind of like, “wellllll, I guess you’re KIND OF pregnant….maybe?”  The one solid line you see is the control line.  That line is apparently always there.  Then, after you take the test, if you’re pregnant, the second line shows up.  Well, as you can see there, it is so faint it was hard to tell if it knew what it was talking about.  I couldn’t take it.  We had to get a second opinion.  I’m going to freak out over a device that can’t tell me for sure whether there is a player to be added to this team to be named later?!?!?!?  No.  So, we went out and got another.  The pregnancy test for dummies as my wife puts it.  Much like a contestant on a Bravo clothing line competition, it’s either yes or no from the expert panel.  Pregnant or Not Pregnant.  Our only choices.  No kind of’s.  No maybe’s.  No, ‘ask again later’ (I’m kidding, my wife didn’t pee on a magic eight ball).

And now here I am totally out of my head.  If this test is correct and the doctors confirm it as such this week when my wife, Sasha, goes in for a blood test, then we’re looking at a due date of sometime in October.  Right smack in the middle of the World Series.  Talk about overwhelming.  What if the Cubs are in the World Series and all of this is taking place?  Isn’t having the Cubs in the World Series enough to worry about?!?  And now potentially the Cubs in the Series PLUS our first kid!??!

And, oh man.  What if my book idea actually becomes reality.  What if I’ve put potential financial income on the line that could benefit not only my wife, but my kid too!?!?  The stakes just got a lot higher for sure.  The first test was totally nonchalant about it and the second was a glaring YES, YOU ARE PREGNANT!   If this season puts that much at stake with every ball, strike, walk, out, win, loss, injury, trade, W and L flag raised at Wrigley…my goodness.  An intense season of Cubs baseball like never before.

(Regular readers of this blog know exactly what I’m talking about regarding the book.  If you’re a first timer, here is the book pitch I put out there about five weeks ago.  An absolute passion project that I believe would be an amazing account of one Cubs fan’s take on experiencing the ultimate season of lovable-loser Chicago Cubs baseball with more at stake for me than for any of the players, managers, coaches, owners, etc.

Regular readers of Prose and Ivy know I’ve been emotionally invested in the ups and downs of Chicago Cubs baseball for years.  I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years now and writing about sports in general since I would cut out pictures from the sports section and tape it to construction paper which I would type up imaginary sports articles on when I was little.

I’ve written reviews and articles for MLB.com/Entertainment and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance.  I’ve written and produced television shows for Fox Reality, A&E, Travel Channel and Showtime.  I’ve performed stand up for over 12 years, shot pilots for shows I’ve created and written comedy for Comedy Central.  It’s all been a blast and I look forward to doing more when the opportunities present themselves.  Unfortunately, today’s economy has made these opportunities few and far between lately and like many, I am displaced working day jobs needed to pay the bills but not necessarily in situations classified as ‘ideal’.  When it comes right down to it, all in all, I love writing and I love baseball.  The ultimate dream for me would be writing an entertaining, timeless classic account of being a fan of the Chicago Cubs.

But how do you write about the Cubs and take it in a direction that hasn’t been covered before?  There are countless books about Wrigley Field. (Not literally countless).  There are endless books about the best Cubs players by the numbers (not literally endless) and a ton of books about individual Cub personalities or listing interesting factoids about your favorite Cubs players/organization of all time (not literally a ton, I don’t believe).

The question: How do you write an engaging, entertaining, timeless book about being a Cubs fan and the greatest organization in baseball without blending in and reiterating everything that’s been said in Cubs based books previously published?  What could I write that is unlike any book sitting on the baseball shelf at your local bookstore today?

Today, I believe I’ve figured it out.

I had a thought today about raising the stakes for myself as a fan and having the outcome of the 2010 Chicago Cubs baseball season actually effect my life, win or lose.  That thought?

“What would happen if I bet it all on the Cubs?”

Here is the pitch:  I write a book about my experience as a fan of the Chicago Cubs during the 2010 season.  The twist, I am the one fan in the world with more at stake than the players themselves.  While the athletes may have incentive based contracts, those incentives are simply bonuses on top of their salaries.  Come the end of the day, they get paid something (a very large something at that) no matter whether they win, or lose.

The deal: my entire advance and residuals for the book are at stake.  If the Cubs win it all in 2010, I get paid.  If they don’t…I don’t.  Simple as that.

Aside from your actual ‘life’ itself, there are no higher stakes one could gamble than the quality of your life itself.  I’ll have more riding on the 2010 Chicago Cubs season than any other fan out there.  More than any player, coach or manager.  Players, coaches and managers get paid, do or die.  I won’t have that luxury.

Every decision Hendry makes behind the scenes will directly effect my life come the end of the season.  I will share my thoughts on every move he makes throughout the year. I’ll follow the team during Spring Training, recap each game and keep an eye on the players that will determine my fate including a visit to Spring Training to see the team perform in person.

During the regular season I will travel to Chicago from New York to see the Cubs play in person.  When the team visits the East Coast, I will get tickets and check out the team’s performance at each Northeast stadium they visit.  It will be the Cubs roster that decides whether I get paid for a passion project and make my dream come true. Wouldn’t you want to evaluate and see them for yourself as much as you possibly could?  Me too!

Also, if Andre Dawson is voted into the Hall of Fame this year, a trip to Cooperstown would definitely be included!  Interviews with other fans regarding the Hawk and being a Cubs fan in general as well as their thoughts on my venture along the way would be hilarious no matter how the team is doing.  What an exciting detail that would be to add to the experience, an honor for the Hawk well earned and much deserved, without a doubt!

Now, I have a wife.  I live in New York City, arguably the most expensive city in the world.  Committing a ton of time to a passion project with no guaranteed financial benefit is not something every wife would be supportive of and I have no idea how she’d react.  Would she get angry?  Would she become as addicted to knowing the in’s and out’s of Cubs baseball as I am?  What would her reaction throughout the season be?  How would I react?  What would it feel like to see the W flag raised with so much at stake?  How would it feel come the All-Star break with the Cubs sitting pretty in first place in this situation?  And what if they’re losing?  What if Bradley wasn’t the problem and the chemistry still isn’t there in 2010?  What if injuries are a problem once again and all of our stars, one year older, are spending even more time on the DL?  What if Hendry makes a bonehead move (in addition to Silva, that is)?  How would it feel to see an error in the field cost me more than just the once in a lifetime opportunity (potentially) to see the Cubs win a title?  What if I had this deal going at the time of ‘The Bartman Game’?  What would that excerpt have been like?

As a social experiment, I will write about my day in and day out experiences rooting for the Cubs, putting complete faith in them to change my life by winning the World Series.  Something the team hasn’t accomplished in over 100 years.

I imagine the stress will be immense.  I picture the frustration with poor play and cold streaks at the plate to be unmatched.  I predict the heartbreak over an injury to be unbearable.  Box scores will be reviewed closer than a Biggest Loser trainer breaks down ingredients and calories for completely invested contestants.  The 2010 season will play out like a fantasy baseball team with results that are unparalleled.

For years people have wondered why, when I refer to my favorite sports teams, I use words like ‘we’ and ‘us’.  ‘How do you benefit if they win?’ they ask.  ‘Don’t say we.  It implies you win as well’, they say.  Well, this would make that comment completely irrelevant and obsolete throughout the 2010 Cubs baseball campaign.  Imagine letting it all ride on arguably professional sports’ least lucky, most cursed team.  If you ask me, that story and experience would be absolutely fascinating.

If there is anyone reading this with the power to make it happen and is at all interested, please email me: proseandivy@cubsmvp.com.  And readers should feel free to leave their thoughts here as well.  I expect some of you to think it’s cool and some of you to think it’s the dumbest proposal they’ve ever heard.  No matter which side is right…I think it would be amazing to be so invested in one season of Chicago Cubs baseball.

2010.  The Chicago Cubs.  World Series Champions.  It could happen.  I mean, someone will win it all next year.  Why not the Cubs?  What would that be like with the ultimate dream at stake?  And that my friends is why I’m willing to bet it all on the Cubs in 2010.)

I thought the stakes were high five weeks ago.

“Pregnant”.  Yikes.  Go Cubs Go! 

And as an update, of course, yes, it was all confirmed and we are just out of the first trimester.  Expected due date is in October.  Wouldn’t a Cubs World Series appearance be the perfect way to kick off your first few weeks in life?  Hard to argue with.  Looks like the Cubs may need some convincing.  Let’s hope Z comes back strong and we move forward with a W against the Braves in game two on Wednesday!

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!
 

‘Lil’ Worried

Dailies

Anyone else concerned about Ted Lilly?

Our most consistent pitcher over the past few years has only begun throwing lightly after having arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder two months ago.  Hendry mentioned at the Cubs Convention today that Lilly is expected to be back by the third week of the regular season putting him on the mound end of April/first week of May.  Now, he’d only miss about four or five starts in that case, but I don’t know.  
I already don’t feel super confident in our starting rotation.  Not the way I did in ’07 and ’08.  Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Harden and Hill.  All healthy, on paper that just sounds solid.  Even when we were going into the first season of Dempster as a starter and Wood as our closer, it just felt like a decent experiment that would lead to a positive outcome.  Cut to ’10…Big Z, Dempster, Wells…Lilly after surgery and a number five guy that is completely up in the air.  
The organization is apparently interested in Contreras and going to take a look at Sheets.  I think Sheets will have an average season but his asking price is going to be too high for the Cubs budget and honestly, too high for what teams will get out of Sheets.  This isn’t Ben Sheets a couple of years ago.  This is Ben Sheets now.  And Contreras?  Can we rely on him to be a decent stop gap until Lilly is back?  Maybe?  And what about when Lilly comes back?  How will he perform?  Will he give us the kind of season we need out of Lilly in order to compete in the NL Central?  Without Lilly’s all-star worthy campaign and Lee’s unbelievable (out of nowhere) turn around in 2009, we would have finished in third or fourth place in the Central easily.  And now we have Lilly, arguably best as our number two pitcher, coming back from surgery on his pitching shoulder?  Yikes.  I don’t know.  Honestly, I’m a little worried.
One name I haven’t really heard thrown around a whole lot as an option in 2010 as a number four or five guy is Pedro Martinez.  He was phenomenal in the couple months that he gave the Phillies at the end of last season, including the playoffs.  I think he’s healthier and less risky than Sheets, has done more than Contreras and is a known warrior.  He comes to play every game he’s listed as the starting pitcher for the day and is amazing in the clubhouse.  He’s respected all over baseball and would add a lot to the chemistry and atmosphere among the ball club at Wrigley if brought over to the Cubs.  I was at Opening Day at Shea in 2005, Pedro’s first year with the Mets.  The place went insane when he was introduced.  I know this is five years later and he has a few seasons behind him on his downside, heading towards the end of his career.  However, there is just something about the fight in Pedro Martinez and what he brings that I believe is an option Hendry should be seriously considering.  Not sure where the Phillies stand regarding bringing Pedro back, but if they don’t want him, Hendry should make a call and an offer.  I just feel like Z, Demp, Lilly, Wells and Pedro would be a solid 1-5 and if any of them were to go down to injury or end up unable to perform for an expected stretch of time we still have significant five spot options already signed to wear Cub pinstripes in 2010.  
Something to think about.  I don’t know Contreras is the answer.  Not expecting Sheets.  Would be thrilled at the roll of the dice with Pedro.  Just a little worried about the rotation is all.  And by little, I mean very.  Anyone else?
Go Cubs Go!
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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!

Not a Whole Lot Going On

Dailies

Since I last posted, the Ricketts family took over ownership of our beloved Chicago Cubs.  Love their stance on looking at the Cubs from their owner seats the same way they would have if they still owned bleacher seats.  Someone like that will hopefully help convince them to put a little more money into a deal here and there than they may have done otherwise if they didn’t have an emotional attachment to the team.  On the flip side, hopefully they have plenty of people helping them deal with their heads when necessary and not always their hearts.  Need to make sure the deals they make are strategically sound business wise and baseball wise.

I mean think about how fans treat fantasy baseball drafts.  Most of us go after the big names and load our team the best way we can.  Often we take guys we enjoy rooting for and do so on the field in real life and in the fantasy fields.  We can’t have owners wanting the best for our Cubs but not thinking soundly the way we need those running the show to do.  People with a passion for the ball club and dreams of the team finally winning again is a plus and I’m happy we don’t have folks who are only in it for the dollars they can make in the long run.  And if you don’t know much about them, check out this interview with them here conducted by the Chicago Tribune:

 http://chicagotribune.vid.trb.com/player/PaperVideoTest.swf

That said, I think Wells got ripped off and should be the NL ROY.  (See what I mean about making decisions with your heart and not your head?)  Still, Wells had a great year, kept the Cubs in the thick of the NL Central and wild card berth races, longer than they could’ve hoped for without him.  No one expected to need such a contribution from Wells this year but we did.  With his help, we hung in there through the middle of September and kept things interesting.  Interesting doesn’t win you hardware though.  Numbers and results do.  That right there is the problem.  

Zambrano won the Silver Slugger award once again, but really, who is his competition?  Any other pitchers out there looking to go deep during BP?  I think not.  Zambrano can enjoy making more room on a mantle for all of his silver bats.  We need him to start a new wing for some pitching awards if we’re going to end up on top any time soon.
Bradley is still a Cub and I’m not sure how much longer that will remain as such.  If we can’t move him, I think he’ll be a sore spot on a team with a lot of potential once again and we can’t have that.  I think his numbers would be better but his head and mouth would remain the same.  My guess anyway.  And we can’t have that.  Have to trade him and see what we can get.  And Granderson?  I guess that’s cool, but I don’t know, it doesn’t really get my blogging juices flowing.  
Anyone else excited or upset about anything going on with the Cubs since the World Series ended?  Excited about any free-agent filings?  Have a Cubs holiday shopping list you’d like to share?  Does it involve Holliday?  Please feel free to share.  With Halloween over, Thanksgiving on it’s way….winter meetings will be here before you know it.  ‘Tis the season.
(Oh yeah…and ex-Cub Sammy Sosa’s getting lighter.  Ok.  I guess there have been some things going on).
Go Cubs Go!
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Straight out of Central Casting

Dailies

’07.

’08.
Oh no.  Two years of division titles in the Central for the Cubs and that is where it stops.  Cubs are hot lately but it’s too little, too late if you were hoping for a three-peat.  Cardinals beat the Rockies tonight in the ‘I really don’t want to root for either of these teams Bowl’ and clinched the NL Central.  They had the better season.  Their superstars had the better year.  Their pitchers stepped up and outperformed us.  Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for taking the Central.
Now we’re looking at the Wild Card.  Granted, we’re looking at it with horrible seats but at least we got tickets.  A few teams are standing in our way of claiming the Wild Card and our down in front chants aren’t doing much in making a difference.  It hasn’t seemed to work in our favor this last month of the season no matter what we do.  It seems any time we pick up a game on the Rockies, so does everyone else.  And if we lose a game, well, they do too.  And the Rockies have pulled a ton of comeback wins out making our late season heroics attempts moot.  We’re not out of it yet and it’s becoming quite the final couple weeks of the season.  Don’t know that I’d use the word ‘wild’ to describe it, but at least the games still mean something anyway.  For three more games that is anyway, possibly less.
Our elimination number is down to 3.  Any combination of Rockies wins and Cub losses that add up to three and we’re done.  These few games against the Giants have been a blast.  I must admit, when I saw Zambrano v. Lincecum as the opposing pitchers the other night, I thought we were toast.  Figures that’s when Z steps up and delivers his best pitching performance since his no-hitter a year ago.  Also figures that while Lee has been on a tear, he just happens to be the guy on base in front of Baker, who just happens to hit a 2 run shot to win a ballgame in the ninth, who just happens to drive in Lee, who just happens to be the victim of an overzealous Guzman celebration, who just happens to hit Lee (not Baker, who actually hit the home run) and who just so happens to injure Lee’s neck while doing so causing him to miss a couple games.  And that my friends is what we call the Chicago Cubs.
I wish this team would continue to play all out while we aren’t mathematically eliminated but it has been nice seeing the young talent shine.  I understand being careful with guys for next year, but since we’re still in it…I guess since we’re still in it, it does bother me a little shutting down guys like Harden and being so careful with Lilly who’s been our star all year on the mound.  And in total contrast, if you’re giving up on the season and looking to next year and giving guys a bit of lighter workload, why are we allowing Dempster to push to try and reach 200 innings?  Who cares if Demp wants to hit 200?  You want to save him and make sure his arm doesn’t throw any unnecessary pitches in 2009 we could use in 2010…then allowing this push to 200 is something I just don’t get.  Gorzellany has been great and the lineups and results have been working in our favor, but really who would’ve thought that’d be the case.  I kind of feel like the organization gave up on the season too soon and have simply been lucky that the make shift line ups have come through the way they have.  
So here we are three games away from elimination.  Let’s just keep playing hard and see where the chips fall.  Central is no longer a possibility…but let’s keep pushing and see if we can somehow make our way down front and capture the wild card.  Never know.  Right Yogi?  
Wells up again tomorrow.  Do your thing Wells and get that W.  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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Top 9 on 9/9/09 and not a bad 9 today at that

Dailies
“We’ll always have Pittsburgh”.
I say that a lot here, but it always hold true.  Swept the Pirates today and it feels good to see the Cubs have that kind of success on the road.  But, you know then again, of course we did.  We’re supposed to beat Pittsburgh.  We’re supposed to win when Zambrano pitches.  Even post-DL Zambrano is still supposed to be a victorious Zambrano.  Outscored the Pirates by 10 runs over the past few days including a record tying performance of getting eight straight hits to start a game.  Incredible, but like Lou asked, ‘where was this all year?’
Maybe a little too late….like Lou’s pep talk.  It’s apparently lit a fire under the Cubs but now instead of controlling our own destiny, we need to rely on sad teams like Cincinnati.  They haven’t done us any favors this week against the Rockies as they keep losing and the Rockies keep matching us result for result.  At this rate we’ll gain no ground and that’s what’s so frustrating.  Relying on teams that can’t hold a light to true contenders is no way to spend September.  Yet here we are…we need to keep winning though in order to have a shot at grabbing the wild card.  The Reds are currently up 3-2 in the top of the ninth so we’ll see.  Would be nice to pick up a game tonight though.
Not sure why the media is making such a big deal over today’s date, 9/9/09, but they are.  Last year the Olympics started on 8/8/08.  Cool, but that was the Olympics.  You know what today is?  Just Wednesday.  Anyway, MLB.com took advantage with a fun opportunity for fans to select the best all-time hitting performances in a season for players at all nine positions.  Even for the Cubs, it’s not as easy as you’d think.  Cubs fans should fill it out and let me know how you voted.  Here’s how I voted:

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What do you think Cubs fans?  Would you vote differently?  Why?  I’ll break down my rationale over the next couple days.  Wanted to get this out there today though while it was still 9/9/09.
Off day tomorrow, then back at Wrigley, Harden vs. the Reds.  Let’s hope Cincy can do us some favors there and fall to the Cubs the way they gave this past series to the Rockies.  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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Six back, Diamondbacks and Upper Deck

Dailies

Heading out to Citi Field in a little bit.  Seats in the upper deck behind home plate, good seats to scoreboard watch from and root for the D’backs to beat the Rockies and the Cubs to beat the Mets.  Hoping to catch Cubs batting practice.  Not expecting a lot of home runs tonight with Citi’s horrible dimensions when it comes to the long ball.  If it’s true that chicks dig the long ball, I doubt chicks dig Citi Field.

sept 4pitchers.pngLet’s hope they keep Zambrano under control if he takes BP.  Don’t need him pulling anything or adding to his back problems trying to yank one out of Citi when it doesn’t even count.  Zambrano needs to have his first quality start since coming off the DL.  Last time he faced the Mets he was extremely ineffective.  Hopefully he’s worked out the mechanics issue he’s had of late and is back to his old self tonight.  Mets will have Parnell on the mound.  With a record of 1-4 after five starts and an ERA of 10.29, this is another guy looking to get on track so I guess it’s a race to see which pitcher can put it together the fastest.  With the park dimensions, it’s going to take a lot of small ball to beat the Mets at their own game tonight.  81 degrees and partly cloudy at game time is the forecast.  Should be a beautiful night for baseball.  Expecting to see a lot of others at the game wearing Cub blue.  You know how we do in turning out at road games.  LET’S GO CUB-BIES!  I’m sure to be matched by many LET’S GO METS cheers.  Can’t wait.  Go Cubs Go!  Back later tonight with a recap!

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Is This too Matchy-Matchy?

Dailies

YES.

We have no shot at making up ground in any race if we decide to match those above us win for win, loss for loss.  The Cubs just wrapped up a pathetic 5-0 shutout effort against the crosstown Chicago White Sox.  And the whole game was a horror to watch, aside from Dempster that is.

Another strong pitching outing by a Cubs starter thrown away by the team’s hitting and defense.  Like Lilly as of late, Dempster controlled the Sox for a majority of the game until a couple errors put the Sox up 3-0, all three runs unearned.  No run support for Demp and no quality defense either.  One error on Soriano was ridiculous.  He slipped running over to catch a fly ball.  We all know what was coming next…the hop.  Now is the hop the reason for the slip?  I don’t know.  The Heckler recently had a headline about the Cubs initiated a prayer section in left to help out Soriano’s defense.  Wouldn’t be a bad idea honestly.  Yesterday I applauded the decision to replace Soriano with Fuld as a defensive replacement and that should’ve happened today.  I believe Sori should only be playing through seven innings.  Give him his at bats to see what kind of damage he can do with the bat, then, late in the game, prevent him from doing damage with his glove in the field.  I like having him on the team, he’s a vital cog to the Cubs success.  Unfortunately lately he’s also a huge reason why we get the L’s that we do…whether it’s his slump, his hop or his glove…we can’t afford anything but perfection right now. Oh, and honestly, if this cortisone thing isn’t working out, pull him all together.  He may be in so much pain right now it’s effecting his play.  Anyone else notice how pathetic those three swings were when Sori struck out to end the game?  It’s like he wasn’t even trying and just wanted to get it over with.  If he’s not able to do the job, sit him.  The few games we have left are too valuable to take a chance on a guy who may or not be feeling good enough to do what it takes.  Especially when there are no signs that he is healthy enough to do so.  Think Lou, be smart when putting that lineup card together man.  If he can’t go, put in someone else.  (sigh)

The Rockies are currently down against the Mets in the seventh inning 6-2.  Chances are they will lose.  The Cardinals are losing 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth.  As we all know, with the Cards this year, anything is possible.  But if they lose, yet again we’ve successfully combined our outcome with the Rockies and Cards and matched them result for result.  Forget the division, no threepeat, I get it.  But the Wild Card is not impossible.  Not if we win and they lose.  Will they lose?  Yes.  SO…WE HAVE TO WIN.  A pathetic 5-5 showing in the homestand and now off to New York to take on the Mets.  The Mets, who could only potentially take one of three against the Rockies, not helping the Cubs at all.  The Mets, who could possibly find a way to turn it on against the Cubs this weekend and do some more black cat voo-doo by sweeping the series while the Rockies blow up, not guaranteed or likely, but it wouldn’t be surprising the way things are going.

And to the Sox!  Vomit.  I said yesterday, no one better to play spoiler against than your crosstown rival.  Unfortunately the Cubs ended up on the wrong side of the final score and the fans in black left Wrigley happy today.  With the Rockies losing we lose a chance to make up ground but at least if the Mets hold and close this thing out, we won’t lose any ground.  Just such a shame to see the scoreboard and see the Rockies losing and know that we blew a chance to make up valuable ground in the WC race.  Have to take advantage of these opportunities.  The match game won’t do us any good at all.

Heading to Citi tomorrow to watch Zambrano take on the Mets.  Let’s hope the bananas and fluids are on the menu this evening and the mechanics come out to shine.  Need Z to dominate tomorrow and for the first time this season, Go Arizona (they’ll be playing the Rockies).  Tick tock boys.  Let’s get some runs and make up some ground!  Go Cubs Go!
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Teddy Must-win

Dailies

When my brother was about seven years old or so, he got a toy called Teddy Ruxpin.  This robotic creature was a cross between a teddy bear and a boom box.  It had everything.  Cassette deck in the back to play the storylines, storytelling ability, soft exterior making it an attractive soft teddy bear best friend and a mechanical inside making the whole thing work.  Wasn’t a whole lot this little guy couldn’t do.  Was the go to toy that year and was easily the most popular kid’s entertainment around at the time.  Had a best friend named Grubby who was a fatter, sloppier version of Teddy Ruxpin, yet still had the same mechanical make up, great for entertainment, just not as sharp on the outside and not the number 1 guy in toy sales that year.

This year, Ted Lilly is the Cubs Teddy Ruxpin.  Sounds ridiculous I know.  But this guy is the man this year and there isn’t much he doesn’t offer.  Eight solid innings today giving up only four hits shut down the Astros and gave the Cubs a much needed series win.  Like I said yesterday after the night cap W, currently quoted on the MLB.com home page (at the time of posting anyway….September is the season for scoreboard watching.  And now after Lilly did his thing, we have to sit and wait. 

But Lilly was the man today.  Eight innings, base hit…trying to generate and manufacture runs by attempting to even steal second base.  Unsuccessfully of course, but still the fire and desire was there.  Aside from Lee’s going yard for 2 runs, today was all Lilly.  Can’t blame him.  All quality starts since the break and just one win to show for it.  The Cubs offense hasn’t shown up to support his brilliant pitching so of course he was out there trying to grind in the runs himself. Whatever he can do to get the W because the Cubs need them now more than ever.  Hardly any season left and it’s on every Cub to give it all the way Lilly did today.  Go a little further.  Push a little harder.  Do the extra things that help the team end up victorious at the end of the day. 

Lilly’s effort, heart and desire today is what we need day in and day out.  Clearly the wild card victory is Colorado’s to lose, but let’s keep winning and keep the pressure on them to win or else give up ground to us DAILY.  No time to waste.  Our lone all-star stepped up and set the standard that all other Cubs should look to live up to and surpass if possible.  Lee is finally healthy and he’s inching closer to a potential .300 30HR 100RBI season and it couldn’t come at a better time.  Bradley prides himself on the fact that the media was wrong to harp on ‘can he stay healthy’ considering he’s hardly missed all that many games.  Ok, great.  But you need to produce in these games Bradley.  Stay hot and produce.  Support great pitching performances like the one Lilly put in today.  And don’t stop putting the pressure on those above us.

Colorado has the Mets, hopefully the Mets can pull their JV team together and upset the Rockies tonight.  If so, we’ll pickup a full game in the standings.  Atlanta beat Florida last night.  Best thing that can happen tonight is for Florida to beat Atlanta.  Let them share the beating and games lost in the standings during their intra-wild card standing series this week.  If that were to happen and the Giants lose as well.  We could be looking at five teams within five games of each other with a month left to play.  Gotta love it.

Going to Friday night’s game at Citi Field against the Mets.  Zambrano will be starting for the Cubs.  He would be the Grubby to Ted Lilly’s Teddy Ruxpin.  When Lilly pitches, those games are absolutely must-wins.  Same with Wells and also Zambrano.  Lilly is the unofficial ace of the staff this year with his all-star status and Wells has high expectations to live up to with a stellar rookie campaign as he and Lilly share the team lead in wins at 10.  But Zambrano needs to step up and deliver the great story with the mechanical side of him and not continue to simply produce the sloppy, fiery, entertaining outside of Zambrano.  He is the official ace of this ballclub and we need to be able to count on him.  His games are must-wins as well, so come Friday, that’s exactly what he needs to come away with.

Tomorrow we get the White Sox and those games are always interesting.  If any one team is going to play spoiler to another, can’t think of any other team better to do so against than your crosstown rival.  Let’s hope the pitches keep finding their places and the bats stay hot.  First thing’s first though.  We did our part today in getting the win.  Now, once again, something we’ll be getting real used to over the course of September…time to sit back, stress out…and keep a real close eye on that scoreboard.  Thanks MLBlogs for showcasing Prose and Ivy on the MLB.com home page today.  I’m sure it helped attract a whole new batch of MLBlog readers, perhaps some Cubs fans, and hopefully some return readers over the course of the final month of the regular season.  Feel free to comment regarding anything Cubs/MLB related in the blogs or in the chat section to the right…and enjoy the rest of the season.  This one is getting REALLY interesting….Go Cubs Go!

(And just for fun, for those of you unfamiliar with Teddy Ruxpin and Grubby, take a look at this):

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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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Marmol Aida

Dailies

I don’t know that it came down from Mitch and Murray, maybe just Hendry…but finally Piniella took a stand and made the switch to Marmol as the Cubs’ closer.  Grabow and Guzman were considered but this round goes to Marmol.  Just like anything else, I’m sure it could play out to a situation by situation component of the Cubs pitching staff.  Lou was quoted as saying that Grabow and Guzman will get opportunities to close games as well and that there is no timetable for how long Marmol closes. 

But now what.  How will Marmol respond?  Will he step up and be the guy I’ve seen him as in the closer role in my mind?  Or will he let the pressure go to his head as he’s had some mental toughness issues this year?  29 opportunities and six blown saves by Gregg.  Finally Lou admitted it was time to go after these close ballgames different and secure some tough wins as opposed to constantly sweating tough losses.  The Cards are real strong right now and are considering bringing on Smoltz.  Out of the bullpen that will only make them stronger.  Why the Cubs didn’t make another pitching move to bolster their own pitching (you can never have enough) I don’t know.  At least if the pieces don’t change, we can rearrange and maybe finally figure out how to successfully put his puzzle together.

It’s good too to hear Lou admit they’ve been headed in the wrong direction with Gregg.  A lot of admittance going on in the Cubs clubhouse with Lou speaking up and Z finally admitting that perhaps he’s not exactly the spokesperson for 7 minute abs.  Now if only we can get him to admit he’s not paid to hit home runs during batting practice.  That would be a real accomplishment.

I actually thought we were in decent shape last night until we were defeated by of all things, an inside the park home run.  Is there any other way to lose a ball game that we haven’t seen already this year?  Have we seen them all?  Anyone else notice that whomever is at the plate, whichever team it may be, always scores or does something positive when MLB Network checks in on a game?  It says it’s live, but I feel like any time I’ve seen them check in on a game, like last night’s Cubs game for instance…they score.  I was watching MLB and they checked in on the Cubs game.  Soriano was up, Cubs down 3-2.  And it kind of took the drama away because I just knew they were going to tie it up with the way the check-in’s work.  Sure enough, bloop single by Soriano, RBI, tie game.  Just saying…anyone else notice this?

Good to see Dempster putting up 10 K’s.  Would be better to see him get the W as well.  A lot of that of course comes down to the bullpen taking better care of leads.  Let’s hope Marmol and the newly organized bullpen do just that.  Second place may be a set of steak knives, but as Gregg found out…third place is you’re fired. 

On a more amusing note…I’ve never been to San Diego.  However, if ever there were a time I wished I was, it would be seeing Piniella get stopped for jaywalking.  How he restrained himself from firing his hat down and kicking dirt on the traffic cops shoes would have been a hilarious sight to see.

Harden up tonight.  Here’s to him getting over the .500 mark.  Go Cubs Go!

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I’m Lovin’ It

Dailies

No, it’s not a McDonald’s advertisement.  Simply my response to Game one of today’s doubleheader against the Cards.  Z threw a gem and even hit a home run.  Talk about the talent out weighing the crazy!

I don’t root for anyone to fail, but I must admit I enjoyed watching Pujols botch that grounder today allowing two Cubs runs to score.  He’s catching Obama’s first pitch to start the All-Star Game festivities.  Hopefully that one doesn’t get through as well.
Game two tonight, can’t wait.  Pulled within 2 1/2 with the win.  Would be great to go out 1 1/2 out come the break at the end of the night.  Lilly will see an inning or two over the next couple days, everyone else will get some much needed rest.  But first, we need to pick up another game against the Cards tonight.  Wells on the mound and this kid is hot!  Let’s hope he adds another win to his streak….and let’s hope Piniella enforces the ‘use the stairs’ rule…we don’t need any more stupid injuries like Demp’s.
Also feeling good about pledging to fellow MLBlogger Zack Hample‘s charity effort for Pitch In For Baseball.  Arguably the BEST ball hawk in the game, Zack is snagging baseballs for charity.  You can pledge a certain amount per ball snagged (your choice) and at the end of the World Series, your donation makes it possible for kids all over the world to enjoy, and at time, be introduced to the game of baseball.  Sounded like a great cause to me after hanging out with Zack today, so I’m on board!  You can be too by clicking here!
Mark Newman of MLB.com, Heath Bell of the San Diego Padres and now your friendly neighborhood Cubs blog Prose and Ivy are all helping make a difference…what are you waiting for?  Click the link above and support a great cause!
Beat those Cards tonight Cubbies…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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As Long as the Talent Outweighs the Crazy

Dailies

Zambrano notched his 100th win yesterday in his first game back from serving a six game suspension.  In the game he earned the suspension, he went off reality-tv-star style on the umpire, bumped the umpire, threw a ball into left field (maybe to see if Soriano was paying attention?) and proceeded to enter the dugout and destroy the Gatorade machine.  Reporters were calling him crazy.  A headcase.  Out of control.

Perhaps that day he was a crazy headcase out of control and the dugout was all out of bananas to boot.
But as it is with many things in life, if the pros outweigh the cons then all’s well that ends well.  Like dating.  Do you know how many crazy women I have dated in my life?  In all honesty, not that many.  However, the ones that were crazy also had to be incredibly attractive.  Otherwise, why in the world would one put up with the crazy?
That may sound horrible to some people and I don’t mean it to be taken the wrong way.  They weren’t crazy all the time, but often.  And there had to be pro’s to the relationship that outweighed the crazy moments…otherwise…we’re done.  Being attractive didn’t hurt and the relationship lasted as long as the pro’s outweighed the crazy (con’s).
That’s pretty much what the Cubs have in Zambrano.  A crazy hot headcase.  And his pro’s definitely outweigh his cons.  
The guy went off and got a six game suspension.  First game back, he homers in a game his team won 2-1 which makes his run the difference in the game arguably, struck out seven, dominated throughout and notched his 100th victory in a Cubs uniform.  And with great timing too.  This team has been up and down all season long with the injuries and headaches along the way.  When Zambrano was suspended six games, ultimately since he’s a starter we only really lose him one game due to the pitcher rotation.  But still, we need Z this season more than ever.  Our bench isn’t as deep and our performance has more holes in it than the team’s previously used Gatorade machine.  When it’s Z’s turn to pitch, in order for us to have a shot this year. we have to get the W.  And that’s exactly what Z delivered yesterday.  His turn.  His game.  Our W.
Is Zambrano the most mentally stable player on the team?  I don’t know, I haven’t really spent any time with any of them one-on-one or in person for that matter.  From what I’ve seen on TV and in the news and during games?  I’d say no, he’s not.  But does that necessarily make him a hinderance?  I don’t hear anyone complaining about wins.  And aside from the dugout refreshment coordinator, I don’t see anyone having a whole lot else to complain about.  So no.  Zambrano’s talent definitely outweighs the crazy…and it’s June, which is usually where a tantrum kicks us into gear.  So let the ump-bumping and gatorade smashing be appreciated I say.  Until he starts returning with ground outs and L’s…then and only then would he possibly no longer be attractive enough to us Cubs fans to be acting so crazy.
(And since fans of other teams read this blog as well, I’d really be interested to hear who your team’s crazy hot headcase is and if you think they’re truly ‘attractive’ enough to be deal with all of their ‘crazy’!)
Go Cubs Go!
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May I Have a Minute of Your Time?

Dailies
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Hey, hey there Cubs fans, it’s me your friendly neighborhood Gatorade dispenser.
 
Make that, your not so friendly Cubs dugout Gatorade dispenser.
  
Gone are the days when pitchers would beat up catchers to take out their frustrations.  I’ve never missed Barrett more than I have recently, that’s for sure.  A quick message to the Cubs: I am not the reason you are a hot mess right now.  Not one bit and I’d appreciate it if you would please STOP beating the crap out of me to make yourselves feel better.
 
Eight losses in a row and then two W’s.  Probably six more to follow to match the previous eight that’s how unpredictable and consistently inconsistent you guys have been.  And now Z get’s suspended six games…for bumping the umpire.
  
Um, excuse me…didn’t anyone happen to catch what he did to me?!?!  Hello?
  
And how about you Demp…how’s that pitching hand feel after punching the CRAP out of me, huh?  Feel better now?  Think busting up your hand on my lightning rod logo is going to help things?  Is that listed in your book o’ tricks “How to get out of a horrible rut”?  Don’t think so.
Maybe a little less time getting suspended and losing your crap and a little more time getting timely hits, knocking in some runs and striking some opposing batters out.  
 
I mean, I’m not one to throw folks under the bus, but how about we look around and suggest a few other potential punching bags in the dugout to take your frustrations out on?  How about Soto, maybe a backhand upside the head will knock some sense into his sophomore slump of a season.  How about a quick right to Lee…maybe be Hoffpauir even…take Lee’s spot and in receiving your first sign from Sweet Lou, your first action is smacking Lee upside his head to maybe rattle something inside that head of his in a place that makes hitting for power and average happen?
 
Speaking of Sweet Lou, how about since June is coming up, somebody rough up Lou a bit and shake out one of his famous quarter of the way through the season tantrums that always seems to light a fire under your behinds and get those W’s piling up?  We’ve seen it before and we win with a bench coach filling in for Lou’s managing….hard to win with our team relying on tantrums from Z, Lilly and potential injury causing moves by Dempster to try and light a fire.  C’mon Lou, you and I say hi at least a dozen times a game…slug down some ‘ade, cleanse that pallet and get out there and light a fire, man!
 
I love being in the Cubs dugout.  I dream of a day where I get poured out on someone in celebration of a Cubs World Series.  I’ve already been repaired once this season and this beating Z gave me was WAY over the top.  I want to be here for you guys, but I can’t continue like this.  I’m happy to do my part, but please go back to beating up each other and leave me out of it.  In fact, run around the bases so many times we’re destroying teams like the Cardinals and Brewers or please, stick to destroying each other to light that fire and then come see me for a cold beverage after you’ve both come to and the team is on a tear, ripping up the Central.
 
This team is better than this.  We couldn’t have been held together by Rami and DeRo last year, right?  It’s time you guys step it up and use that energy in a productive way.  Let’s start with the Dodgers.  And most importantly, please stop hitting me.  Hit the Dodgers, hit the Dodgers pitching, hit each other, hit the bars in Wrigleyville.  Whatever it takes.  But please, more W’s and less bats and fists to me.  I’m not the reason you’re losing.  Figure it out fast though because if I have to listen to the Brewers, Cardinals and Pirates dispensers gloat about how awful we are one more time…I’m going to grab one of those bats myself and there’s no telling what might happen then.
 
In tribute to the NBA playoffs…get the W’s this weekend and beat L.A.!  (And it’s hit parade.  Not hit gatorade, for crying out loud).  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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‘Chicago’

Dailies

My dad and stepmom came to visit this weekend.  They hadn’t come to visit for about eight years and it was great to have them here.  My dad especially always thinks the city is going to be too hot, too cold, too crowded, too…something. Lately it’s been beautiful outside.  60’s.  Upper 70’s.  Spring.  Baseball weather.  Beautiful.

And then came Sunday.  90 degrees beating down on the NYC pavement…and of course, the one day in nearly the past decade that my dad chose to visit.  Figures.

We had a great time regardless.  He and my stepmom had never been to Central Park so we took a long walk.  Beat the heat with some ice cream and waters bought at those carts you find in parks across the country.  I only just recently decided to eat hot dogs sold from a cart.  A baseball hot dog is a wonderful thing.  Something about buying a hot dog from a baseball vendor or at a concession stand at a stadium just feels right.  Buying a hot dog from a weird man with a dirty cart filled with old hot water…not quite the same appeal.  However, they are $2 and sometimes, especially lately, a two dollar lunch is just what the checking account ordered.

There were kids all over the Alice in Wonderland statue.  People driving remote controlled boats at the boat pond.  A Greek parade pouring down Fifth Avenue.  Lots of people out sunbathing and people walking their dogs everywhere.  A great Summertime scene in 90 degree weather smack in the middle of Spring.

We went out to eat for every meal which something I really only do when company is in town visiting.  My stepmom was talking about the Yankees/Red Sox games she caught over the weekend and how exciting they were.  Great games sure, but on top of that, the Red Sox won.  She’s one of those fans who have recently come back around to baseball.  She’s in her early 60’s and after the 1994 strike, she had had enough.  Too much focus on money and greed for her to respect the game she once loved.  Enough years passed though and she’s come around again.  Rooting for the Red Sox like she always has.  Of course for a while there it was because she liked to go sit in the outfield and check out Dwight Evans booty.  Now though, it’s simply for love the Sox and having something in common with her grandchildren who live in CT.

We had tickets to see ‘Chicago’ on Broadway Sunday night and she kidded about skipping it to watch the Sox/Yanks on Sunday night baseball.  She decided she could hang in there though (of course) and enjoy the show based on the movie she’s loved since she saw it.  I hadn’t seen the movie so I didn’t know what to expect.  Let me tell you…this show (and I’m sure film) does not paint a very pretty picture of Chicago.  Murders, crimes, lies, etc…I understand the city has a reputation for crooked politicians…but they sure didn’t try to shine a light on anything positive with regards to Chicago, that’s for sure.  I mean come on, throw a baseball fan a bone and mention Wrigley or something, ya know?  Of course with the way this show was going, if there had been a baseball reference, it surely would’ve been about the Black Sox scandal.

Anyway, the show was great.  Not one of my favorites of all the shows I’ve seen in New York, but up there among one of the better performances…especially when it comes to less is more.  They do a lot with hardly any set or stage frills and you’re entertained the whole time.  Which really, is a lot like the Cubs now that I think about it.  Wrigley Field.  Barebones.  Old school.  No real frills.  No cookie cutter park.  Bare essentials.  Few thrills or real ‘characters’ when it comes to our lineup.  Just hardnosed baseball that entertains you the whole time you’re at the park or following the season.  Pretty cool in that respect considering the show is called ‘Chicago’.

Some of the songs in the show remind me of some of the Cubs roster though.  Just for fun (considering we’re a few games in back of the Cards right now…not exactly the April I had hoped for) here are some of the songs that made me think of Cubs players and the players that match up:

“I Can’t Do It Alone” – Carlos Zambrano.  Ace of the staff.  No-hitter last year.  We know he’s going to bring it every time he takes the mound.  But he is not going to be able to do this thing alone. Demp, Lilly, Harden and Marshall are all going to have to step their games up if we want to repeat in the Central again this year.

“My Own Best Friend” – Aramis Ramirez.  Pretty much our only quality at third base.  Without a true backup, he’s basically his own best friend on the hot corner. Aramis goes down and we’re pretty screwed at third.  We need his glove and bat all season long.  Injuries will come and go…let’s hope Ramirez isn’t effected too often in ’09.

“Mister Cellophane” – Micah Hoffpauir.  This really applied stronger during Spring Training.  Lately Micah has been getting his share of at bats and his talent is no longer see through to Lou.  He’s giving him a chance to shine in the regular season like he did in Spring Training.  Not ready to give up on Lee by any means, but like DeRosa was great to have as a quality anywhere kind of guy, Micah is the closest thing we have to that right now on the ballclub and it’s good to see he’s finally getting noticed.

“All I Care About” – Chicago Cubs fans.  While the character that sings this in the show is rather sarcastic in singing that all he cares about is love…I think Cubs fans would be genuine.  Sure we want the trophy after all these years…but there has to be a reason we come back year in and year out.  For love the Cubs, we wouldn’t come back if it was all we really cared about.  Championships are nice and a World Series title would be insane, but be honest, you’ll keep coming back regardless.

All in all it was a great weekend.  Took my dachshund to the dachshund festival on Saturday and it was hilarious.  Dad and stepmom came in on Sunday and we had a blast in the big city, can’t wait for them to come back again.  The show was a great time and a real treat for them to take us.  Chicago needs to do something to change that rep though, it really doesn’t come off all that great in the show.  Maybe something big is needed to make people think about it differently…like I don’t know…a Cubs championship perhaps?

Couldn’t hurt.  Go Cubs Go!

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!

Well, that was different!

Dailies

From this:

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To this:
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5 days ago, brilliant.  Today, horrendous.  Let’s hope it just wasn’t Z’s day today and that it’s not some sign of things to come…some kind of warning sign of the shape Z’s shoulder is headed in when we need him at his best the most.
The Brewers are currently losing.  That’s cool.  Too bad we couldn’t do our part today.  For anyone who didn’t see the game, it was nowhere near as close as the 12-6 final score reads.  No, I know…six runs isn’t close.  
That’s my point.
I couldn’t believe it when half way through the fifth I was pretty sure I’d already seen 3 or 4 Cubs pitchers in the game.  It was just that kind of day.  Soto was out of the lineup too…that can’t be anything serious either, otherwise we could be looking at a situation where injuries prove to be this year’s goat, cat, and Bartman all in one.
Was hoping today was clinching day with Zambrano on the mound.  Didn’t happen.  Definitely disappointed but let’s face it…still have an 8.5 game lead in the Central at this point and tomorrow’s another day.  Brewers lose tonight, it’s back up to nine games and it’s all in our hands tomorrow.  
Still a great situation to be in as far as the division is concerned.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Oooh…magic

Dailies

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Magic is fun….but magic is hard to believe in unless you see the magician actually pull off the trick. The Cubs magic number to clinch is down to six.  I’ll be a lot more excited about it when I see them complete the trick officially.
Today was a beautiful step in that direction, for sure.  Ted Lilly…talk about tough acts to follow.  A day after Zambrano pulls off the first Cubs no-no since 36 years prior (no wait, let me rephrase that, just in case, and let’s say since 36 years earlier), Lilly had to take the mound and try to match the level of success Z accomplished not even 24 hours before.  And by match success, I mean simply get the ‘W’.  He did…and then some.  Lilly came out firing on all cylinders and no-hit the Astros even further, for a combined 15 innings when coupled with Z’s performance!  It started to get to the point where I felt bad for the Astros.  It didn’t quite get to that point, but it was close.
I don’t know what’s going to happen and where the Cubs will be come the end of October, when there’s no more baseball to played in ’08, but there’s no doubt that this season has been full of special moments no matter what.  Fukudome’s start, Soto’s year, Dempster’s return to the starter role, Wood’s surge to All-Star form, Theriot’s all around great play, the incredible diversity and contribution of Derosa, the surprise addition of Edmonds, the up and down year of Soriano, Zambrano’s no-hitter and today’s performance by Ted Lilly.  Lots of great moments, definitely worth the price of admission both financially and emotionally up until now.  HUGE expectations exist though for the final trick of the season.  The anticipation certainly has been exciting…have to wonder if they’ll be able to pull it off…
Great game today, unbelievable lead in the Central all things considered and the magic number sits there at six.  Let’s hope Dempster continues to saw opponents half and doesn’t begin a Cubs disappearing act with tomorrow’s start against the Brewers.  The series are just going to get bigger and bigger from here on out.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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No Stadium? No Problem. No Hitter.

Dailies

Carlos Zambrano is the man.

Sore shoulder and all, back from a little time off, Zambrano returned triumphantly to the Cubs rotation by shutting down and shutting out the red-hot Houston Astros.  It was the first Cubs no-hitter in over 36 years and it comes at a great time for the Cubs.  
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It extends the Cubs lead in the Central to 7.5 games over Milwaukee and the beauty of this beast of a performance also exists in the location it took place in…Milwaukee.  Mind if we borrow your stadium quick to play a game against the Astros?  It won’t take long…only one over the minimum batters required to get the ‘W’, thanks.  One walk away from the perfect game along with 10 strikeouts along the way.  Cooled off the Astros and pushed back the Brew Crew in their own stadium.  Good times.
Alfonso Soriano kicked things off with his 49th career leadoff home run and it was all Zambrano needed.  A huge statement was made for sure.  I panicked a little bit as to how Ike was going to affect our pitchers and the performance/mindset/quality of play of each and every Cub.  Apparently, that was unnecessary.  So far so good.  Big thanks from Big Z to Derosa and Lee for their spectacular D in the field, I’m sure.  Congrats on a great game Z…Astros up again tomorrow.  Your turn Lilly.  GO CUBS GO!!!
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Harden’d Criminals

Dailies

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.  

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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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Heil-Yeah! And No Need to Rename it the ‘L’illy Flag

Dailies

Ted Lilly got his first win of the year and all is well in Cubville.  zambrano_pumping_fist_1.pngMonday night Zambrano picked up another win with seven strong innings, allowing only one run and looked absolutely dominant.  Not only physically, but mentally too, the way he looked hungry for even more success and more domination after every strike thrown and out collected.  Having a warrior like Zambrano pitching for your ball club every five days is such a treat to look forward to, in between starts.  He’s the type of personality I love having on this team.  His scuffle with Barrett in the dugout last year came from his passion for winning and it ended up being one of the things that sparked the Cubs to success last year.  That fire in his eyes is the type of thing that, once contagious, can really propel a team to their best start since 1975…huh, what do you know…exactly the position the Cubs are in after 20 games into the season.

The Mets’ Heilman couldn’t keep up with Zambrano and the Cubs hit him hard over and over…a theme that continued throughout the evening.  Even one of the Cubs’ least effective bats found a way to put an exclamation point on the team’s dominance when Pie hit a 3 run shot in the eighth to put the game away.  I haven’t enjoyed a home run like that since Opening Day when Fukudome went yard to tie it up.  Sure, any Cubs home run is exciting, but these two came for guys in moments I really wanted them to come through and exceed expectations…or to some degree, meet them.  I couldn’t have been happier for Pie when the ball found its way into the cage just over the ivy in right.  A great ending to a great game.

cedeno slam.pngAnd then today…my goodness.  Not only does Lilly show signs of coming around and matching the results put up Demp and Big Z finally, but he even comes away with the win at that.  No ‘L’ flag for Ted today.  The Cubs’ bats are on a ridiculous streak and I LIKE IT.  Seriously, it’s hard to remember the last April that was this much fun to follow the Cubs.  Every single one of our starters today got a hit and six of the eight position players are hitting .300 or better.  What a rough couple games the Cubs gave Sosa there with Pie going yard after being in such a slump and then today Cedeno comes in and jacks him out of the park for a grand slam putting the game out of reach on a whole other level.  CEDENO.  Not Lee, not Ramirez…Cedeno.  Everyone is hitting.  I mean, look at this box score:

4/22/08

Chi Cubs AB R H RBI BB SO LOB AVG
Johnson, LF 4 0 1 2 1 1 3 .339
Pie, CF 5 0 2 0 0 0 4 .206
Lee, 1B 4 1 1 0 1 0 3 .353
Ramirez, 3B 4 1 1 0 1 0 3 .280
Fukudome, RF 3 2 3 0 2 0 0 .357
DeRosa, 2B 4 1 1 1 1 0 6 .309
Cedeno, SS 5 2 2 5 0 2 7 .345
Blanco, C 2 1 1 0 1 0 3 .357
  b-Ward, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .077
  c-Soto, PH-C 1 0 1 0 1 0 0 .317
Lilly, P 2 0 1 0 0 0 0 .200
  a-Fontenot, PH 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .206
  Howry, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  d-Murton, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .111
  Marmol, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
  e-Marquis, PH 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .250
  Hart, K, P 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000
Totals 36 8 14 8 8 3 33

Also, great to see Marmol lock down 2 more K’s and the Cubs get out with the win without wasting innings from Wood and get a chance to let him rest today.  The more days we can do that for Wood, the better. 

And now next up, Hill on the mound in the high altitude, higher expectation environment of Coors Field.  With all the recent success the Cubs have had to start the season including this five game win streak, Hill is going to be expected to continue to show signs he deserves to be one of our starters and to keep this thing going…especially when it comes to the bigger picture: the 10,000 all-time win mark for the Chicago Cubs.  Now, does that really matter in the long run for this season?  No, but it would still be a cool milestone for the organization to hit.   With all the hitting that is going on, I don’t expect it take very long to get there. 

Tomorrow night, a six game win streak and 10,000 all-time Cub wins is certainly not out of the question.  Go Cubs Go!
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We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh

Dailies

52-24 and 2 sweeps.  That’s our record so far against Pittsburgh this season.  We’re 6-0 against the Pirates with an overall record of 12-6 on the season.  Thanks to this last win against the Pirates, we took over first place by 1/2 a game over the Cardinals.  And this weekend, it wasn’t even close.

Unbelievable.  I feel like I’m saying “I’ll take that anyday” a lot so far this season.  Well, roughly 12 times anyway.  One run wins.  Ugly wins.  Completely dominating wins.  Completely dominating wins back to back.  And even wins that come back-to-back-to-back in a sweep.  It’s been a great first month so far.  I mean look at these two box scores from the past two blowouts over the Pirates:

4/20/08
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4/19/08
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That is an amazing weekend of baseball.  With the new format here, I’m not even sure they lined up correctly honestly, but really…what’s it matter?  Both days happened regardless of whether they line up with the correct date here and the Cubs look great.  I think it’s amazing it’s happening without our All-Star outfielder and leadoff hitter but boy, signing Johnson sure does look like a really smart move now, huh?  Why do we continue to see rumors that the Cubs are looking at Coco Crisp?  Maybe, they’re just that, rumors.  With Johnson in the leadoff spot, I’d be interested to hear what the Cubs record is opposed to others leading off, besides Soriano (anyone know?).  Lee is amazing.  Even people in the message boards (my point being not just me) are talking about Lee killing it this year and predicting he finish with the triple crown.  Hey, who am I to argue?  He looks great.  And Ramirez seems to be coming around lately too, especially today with his four hits (matching Theriot’s four hits as well). 

I’m glad Fukudome’s deal isn’t more serious, just a cyst over his eye.  It does go to show again how valuable Derosa is though as he played right field today.  He’s supposed to be our starting 2B and he has since played LF and RF (could Brian Roberts do that? I don’t know that he could).  Eyre is supposively coming back, so that will be interesting.  We haven’t gained too much from those who took his place in his absence, but I certainly don’t want the Eyre of 2008 that we’ve seen so far to come back.  We don’t need that now.  We already have Weurtz.  Isn’t that bad enough?

And if Dempster was unhappy about his inning management today, well then somebody help him out with that or tell him something that he thinks will help.  Because whatever he’s doing is working as I was right.  Demp is justified as a starter starting the season at 3-0 and having one of the best starts among all Cubs starters. 

Speaking of which, Zambrano goes tomorrow against the Mets.  A much truer test of the Cubs’ abilities.  MLB.com’s story is right.  I believe the Pirates are a team you should beat.  But the Mets are another story…so…we’ll see.  Maine is on the mound for the Mets and he’s having a great season too.  Should be another pitcher’s duel Zambrano finds himself in.  Let’s hope the Cubs didn’t waste all the good offense on the Pirates.  Time to ‘meet the Mets’ all right…with a giant offensive onslaught.

Let’s keep it going…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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‘Z’ Day is Finally Here!

Dailies

OPENING DAY AT WRIGLEY!  FINALLY!
zambrano openind day 2008.pngAbout two hours from now the Chicago Cubs will start their quest of winning the Major League Baseball championship for 2008.  After following every move the team made all offseason closely and watching every Spring Training game available, I couldn’t be more excited, or more ready.  I think Lou has the team ready to go mentally and physically and I think they’ve made all the right decisions with the roster.  Last year’s battle with the Milwaukee Brewers will probably closely resemble this year’s outcome only I believe the Cubs will win the division by five games over the Brewers this time.  Nothing of course makes this more likely then beating them head to head and today is our first shot at ’em for ’08.

Wrigley is going to be rocking, I just know it.  I can’t wait to hear what people think of the adjustments made to the field and the stadium.  I can’t wait to hear what the players think of it.  I can’t wait to hear the right field bleacher fans’ reaction to Fukudome the first time he takes his place in the outfield wearing number 1, ready to go.  I can’t wait to see if bats that were heating up at the end of Spring continue to do so in the frigid Chicago weather.  I can’t wait to see Zambrano take the mound completely pumped to take the first game in the battle of the Cubs/Brewers and ready to win his first Opening Day.  I can’t wait to see if John Kruk is right about D Lee and that he’s going to be in NL MVP form this year out of the gate and throughout the season.  I can’t wait to see the first ‘W’ flag of the season raised above the scoreboard.  I can’t wait to watch the final out of a game and then see it actually count in the standings.  And I can’t wait to understand how this new blogging format works so I can fully communicate/take advantage of all its functions in enjoying this season with you.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about an Opening Day before and I’m not sure what exactly is making this one so different.  I’m definitely glad the wait is over though!

Let’s Play Ball…GO CUBS GO!
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