Writing About the Chicago Cubs and Looking at the Team’s Past
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The Cubs re-signed Kerry Wood to a one year deal with a 2013 option. Used as a set up man, Wood racked up 57 strikeouts in 51 innings and he finished with a 3.35 ERA. His strikeout rate is intact and his walk rate actually came down and is at a best he hasn’t seen since 2008.
Wood will turn 35 during the season and it seems like he’s been around forever. He’ll make $3 million in 2012 and there’s a club option for 2013 that will make him 2013 if he pitches well enough. He did have knee surgery in October but it’s expected he’ll be back in time for spring training.
The Cubs made another deal as they traded left handed reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds for Travis Wood and some prospects. Marshall was one of the best relievers last year but Theo Epstein sold high and picked up Reds starter Travis Wood, Dave Sappelt and Ronald Torreyes.
Wood has a nice rookie campaign but he had a tougher time in his sophomore year last as he was shuffled back and forth between the Reds and their Triple-A affiliate. Wood had a 4.84 ERA and a 1.491 WHIP. His walk rate was up and his strikeout rate was down which isn’t a good trend but he doesn’t turn 25 until February so he definitely can be worked on.
Sappelt is a major league ready outfielder who made his debut last year with the Reds. He turns 25 next month. He wasn’t very effective at the plate but he was really good for Louisville so he could end up at a fourth or fifth outfielder. Torreyes is only 19 and he was really good for Dayton in 67 games. Not too shabby for a second baseman and while he’s a few years away, he could be a gem if he continues to develop at the plate.
The Cubs locked up journeyman outfielder Reed Johnson to a one year deal yesterday. I like these kind of moves. The Cubs aren’t going to compete this year, so let’s plug some holes with some temporary veterans to let the farm system play out. Johnson has some nice doubles power and he finished with 22 doubles in 266 plate appearances. He doesn’t walk much though which hurts him but if he can replicate his .816 OPS next year, I’ll be happy.
There’s a physical pending so the financial aspects of the deal haven’t been released. He made just under a million last year and my guess the deal is for about that same amount.
The Cubs signed Oakland Athletics outfielder David DeJesus to a two year and he’ll most likely end up as the team’s starting right fielder in 2012. He’ll earn $4.25 million in each of the next two years and then there’s a third year team option that would pay him $6.5 million with a $1.5 million buy out.
I like this deal. DeJesus was never the batting champion everyone thought he’d be as a prospect and while there’s have been some durability issues the past couple of years, he’s put up some solid numbers and he has a good eye at the plate. He has a career .815 OPS against right handed pitching and that goes down to .690 against lefties but that just means we might see DeJesus taking a spell now and then when a left hander is on the mound. It’s not a lot of money so that’s nice and he’s what you’d call a professional hitter.
The Cubs offered arbitration to two of their sluggers. Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez were both offered arbitration and it’s expected that both will decline it. With both being Type B free agents, that means the Cubs will pick up a couple of sandwich picks when another team scoops them up.
Kerry Wood was the odd man out. He wasn’t offered arbitration but the Cubs are expected to be where Wood lands. They’ll just take it outside of the system and hope they can strike a better deal, and brush off potential suitors, better then if they went the arbitration route.
The Cubs have a lot of work to do and there’s a lot of holes. Throw in the sub-par 2011 season and it’s obvious that Theo Epstein has his work cut out for him. Still, we all knew this wouldn’t happen overnight so we’ll have to see how it all plays out.
Theo Epstein is your new Cubs president. The Red Sox purge is going to be the Cubs gain as they pick up one of the better administrators in the game. The Cubs are going to have to compensate both the Red Sox and then the Padres for their GM to get everything done, but I think it’s going to be worth it. You hate to keep bringing up the 100+ World Series drought but you hope this is the move that finally brings the Cubs their first World Series since 1908.
This team has some holes and it’ll be interesting to see what Epstein does. It wouldn’t surprise if he does a bit of a start over and starts with the farm club. That means the Cubs probably have a couple of years to wait to see the gains there. Still, the World Series is the goal. Epstein has been there and I’m hoping he gets the Cubs there in time. It’s also a good time to get your Cubs tickets because if Theo starts making moves quick, they’re going to be flying off the shelf.
There have been plenty of memorable games at Wrigley Field but A&E has decided to memorialize one of these classic games. Back in 1979, the Phillies and Cubs played in a game where they combined for 45 runs on 50 hits in ten innings on May 17, 1979. There were plenty of hitting stars and plenty of pitching goats and you can check out the details here. This is a fun game to own for $12.95.
It’s hard to say who was the hitting star. Mike Schmidt hit a pair of home runs and Dave Kingman went yard three times. Larry Bowa had five hits and Bill Buckner had seven RBIs. If you want to know how the flip side fared, the two teams threw a combined eleven pitchers, nine of which gave up runs and seven of which gave up four or more each.
How the scoring went down was interesting too. The Phillies jumped out to a seven run lead in the first but the Cubs answered with six in the bottom half of the inning. By the fourth, the Phillies held a 17-6 after four and a 21-9 lead after five but the Cubs managed to tie it up with some impressive offense. Ironically nobody scored in the ninth but the Phillies put it away in the tenth. A really fun game.
Jim Hendry is no longer the Cubs general manager. While nobody short of Cubs fans really expected the Cubs to be in the mix for the division this year, it’s been a while since the team even competed for a playoff spot. With that, Hendry did help build the three playoff teams that the Cubs had during his nine years in the front office.
For now, Randy Bush will be the interim general manager. He’s been the assistant general manager. That general manager with also get to determine Mike Quade’s fate so it’ll be interesting to see if the Ryne Sandberg stories start back up. Newer owner Ricketts wants to focus on player development so I’m surprised the Cubs haven’t pulled off more deadline deals then they have to start shoring up the farms system even more.
The Cubs got a win and it was against a good team and a good pitcher. Rodrigo Lopez was solid on the mound and Roy Halladay looked mortal as the Cubs beat the Phillies 5-1. Lopez gave up a run on five hits with three strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Three relievers then shut down the Phillies from there.
Carlos Pena and Aramis Ramirez both went yard in the win. Pena went three for three and he drew a walk in an impressive day.
If the Cubs played in the division with the Phillies, they’d already be 21 games back. The win puts the Cubs at 39-58. Wonder what they’ll do come trade deadline although I know Aramis Ramirez said he was going to stand pat. Still Cubs tickets will sell just like they always do and we’ll have to wait one more year for another chance at the promised land.
The Cubs are sinking fast. They lost their second straight to the Reds and their eight straight overall. That puts the Cubs at 23-36 and in a division with three good teams, I don’t think the Cubs are coming back anytime soon.
Doug Davis took the loss and he’s now 0-5 with a 6.38 ERA. The Cubs have one of the rougher pitching staffs in the National League and with guys like Davis in the rotation, you can see why. John Grabow also had a rough time and he gave up four runs in his one inning of relief.
Edinson Volquez was pretty effective against the Cubs. Darwin Barney went three for four and Blake DeWitt went three for four two doubles, a run and an RBI. The rest of the team had four hits.
It doesn’t get any easier because after we’re done with the Reds, it’s off to Philadelphia for a four game series. Ryan Dempster gets the ball tomorrow.
The Cubs are hardly out of it yet, but they’re as close to the last place Astros then they are to the second place and red hot Milwaukee Brewers. Even worse, they’re tied with the perenial losers, the Pittsburgh Pirates and they needed three straight losses by Pittsburgh isn’t going to cut it. 22-26 isn’t anything to write home about but hopefully the Cubs can still salvage things.
Alfonso Soriano is finally coming back into form. After a rough couple of years, Soriano looks like he’s back to his 30 home run pace. He’s not driving in runs although nobody in the league is. The Cubs are second in batting average with .277 but they’re sixth in runs with 205.
Offense isn’t the problem though, it’s been the pitching. The Cubs are dead last in the NL with a 4.69 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. They’ve also walked more batters then any other team in the league. Take away Matt Garza who’s on the disabled list and this is just a horrendous rotation.
The Cubs get a chance to fight for fourth place because they start a three game series against the Pirates. Doug Davis and his 8.31 ERA gets the start tomorrow.
The Cubs got back to the .500 mark this past Saturday but their time at .500 didn’t last long because since then they’ve lost three straight. They finished up with a loss against the Dodgers then dropped two straight against the Rockies before yesterday’s game was rained out. They’re in fifth place at 10-13 but the good news is the top team barely has a winning record so the Cubs sit just 2 1/2 games back. There’s still plenty of ball left to play so the Cubs can get themselves back into this.
While his batting average isn’t much to write home about, it’s nice to see Alfonso Soriano hitting the ball out of the park again. His seven home runs and sixteen RBIs leads the team. Darwin Barney is off to a nice start with a .329 average and thirteen RBIs while Starlin Castro is hitting .350 with 17 runs. The Cubs team batting average is nice at .280 but they’re closer to the middle in slugging and down near the bottom in home runs.
Of course the pitching has been downright horrible. The big trade guy, Matt Garza, leads the team in ERA but it’s just 4.11 and he’s 0-4. Still, I like the 41 strikeouts and only nine walks. Carlos Zambrano is 2-1 despite a 5.28 ERA and Ryan Dempster has been downright awful.
The Cubs head out west to Arizona for a four game set and hopefully Dempster can right the ship tonight. Any wins at this point can help push them up that NL Central ladder. You wonder if the Cubs keep this up, whether it’ll be easier or not to get Cubs tickets later in the season. I like some of this team’s pieces, but I don’t know if they have the staying power.
Randy Wells continued his solid spring with a nice start in the Cubs 3-2 win over the Giants yesterday. He gave up a run on just two this in six innings with seven strikeouts. Marcos Mateo also had a nice outing and he struck out two and walked one in a shutout tenth inning.
Marlon Byrd went two for two with a run and a walk. Bobby Scales went two for four with a run and an RBI while Scott Moore doubled, walked, drove in a run and scored.
Next up for the Cubs are the Angels. Andrew Cashner gets the start in the afternoon game.
Well, this wasn’t a good start. Carlos Zambrano pitched two shutout innings to open things up for the Cubs but then the A’s rattled off 15 runs in the next seven innings. Garza gave up five of those while Justin Berg gave up seven. Not a good start and thankfully it doesn’t count.
The offense did do some damage though. Alfonso Soriano went three for three with a pair of RBIs. Marlon Byrd went two for three with a run and an RBI while Starlin Castro went two for three with a run.
Randy Wells gets the start today against the Brewers. Game time is 3:05. Also worth noting is single game Cubs tickets are on sale. I’d like to come in for a weekend series but I have to see what’s available and when.
The Cubs inked Geovany Soto to a one year, $3 million deal and in the process, they avoided arbitration with the backstop. Soto hasn’t been able to find the stick that helped him win the Rookie of the Year back in 2008 but his 2010 wasn’t nearly as bad as his 2009 season. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s recovering from shoulder surgery since that’s what cut his season short last year.
The Cubs still have four guys they have to contend with that are arbitration elgible including the newly acquired Matt Garza. Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol and Tom Gorzellany are also on that list.
The Cubs put a major contributor into their starting rotation when they traded a bunch of prospects to the Rays for Matt Garza. When the dust settled, the Cubs got Garza, Fernando Perez and Zachary Rosscup and they gave up Chris Archer (top pitching prospect), shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, Brandon Guyer, Robinson Chirinos, and Sam Fuld.
Garza looks like one of those guys where the numbers don’t really tell the story. 2009 looks disappointing with an 8-12 record but he also saw a spike in his strikeout rate that year (which came back down to earth in 2010). I do like the durability (200+ innings the past two seasons) and he had a career best 2.8 walks per nine innings in 2010. And he’s only 27 years old.
If you want to know more about the minor leaguers in the deal, this is a good profile. Perez is 27 so I’m not too excited there but Rosscup could find a spot in the pen some time down the line.
In short, I like what the Cubs have been doing. They have some burdensome deals but they’re still trying to get better. It’s going to be a tough division, but just in case the Cubs surprise everyone, I’m buying my Cubs tickets early.
Kevin Goldstein published his list of the Cubs top eleven prospects and while there’s no real blue chips in the system, there’s a little bit of depth. In all, he gave three players four stars with 2009 first round draft pick Brett Jackson topping the list. Goldstein says he won’t be a star, but this is a guy who can do a lot of things well and could help out the Cubs when he makes his debut which will be most likely this year.
Number two is the top pitching prospect in the system, Trey McNutt. The right hander pitched for three different teams and looks to be a major steal by the Cubs because they got him in the 32nd round. He struggled when he got to Double-A but it was his third stop and Goldstein thinks that’s where McNutt will start the 2011 season.
Chris Archer may not have McNutt’s upside, but he’s closer to major league ready. He’s already gotten his share of outs in Double-A but Goldstein thinks Archer could be an early call up. Josh Vitters (former top prospect, now needs to climb back up the ladder) and Hak-Ju Lee round out the top five.
Aramis Ramirez will be a Cub for another year as he picked up his own $14.6 million option for 2011. Man the Cubs payroll is going to be high and you hope they have something better to show for it then they did last year. Ramirez’s numbers are down although that’s due in part to his health. If he could stay healthy, maybe he could back to form.
The Cubs have a $16 million option next year and I don’t see that happening even with the hefty $2 million buyout. The Cubs have to get out from under some of these deals if they’re going to better compete in the NL Central.
The City of Mesa overwhelmingly approved a new spring stadium complex for the Chicago Cubs in last night’s election. With most of the votes in, the measure got a 63% positive response. There’s some land that has to be secured so a deal hasn’t quite been finalized but this appears to be the biggest hurdle the team faced. Most of the funding for the complex will come from an increase in the local hotel tax.
After taking the first two games from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Cubs appeared to be on their way to another victory on Saturday. They took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning due to a tremendous performance from Randy Wells who threw seven shutout innings. He did not make it easy for himself, giving up at least one hit for every inning he pitched, but it was another quality start for the right-hander. Wells is now 1-1 with a 1.63 ERA in his last four starts after struggling for all of May and much of June.
Carlos Marmol was supposed to come in and shut the door in the ninth inning and give the Cubs a chance at a sweep on Sunday. Instead, Marmol ended up being the first Cub in 90 years to walk five batters in less than one inning of work. The last man in a Cub uniform to accomplish this feat went by the name of Speed Martin, who walked five Philadelphia hitters and did not make it out of the first inning. Inevitably, all of these walks led to four runs and yet another painful loss for a team that has had more than its share already this season.
Marmol has been good for the most part this season, but anyone who has followed his career knows that he is capable of losing the strike zone completely like he did on Saturday. When Dusty Baker used to run him out there as a starter, five walks in a game was almost a norm for him during his rookie campaign. His control has certainly improved since then and he has become an effective closer, but not an elite one. Opponents are hitting just .153 against the Cubs closer and he does lead all relievers in strike outs with 81, well ahead of the next closest reliever. However, you have to force the other team to actually make contact to beat you and that is something Marmol still doesn’t always do.
It has been a disappointing first half for the Chicago Cubs, a team that was expected to compete for the division crown prior to the start of the season. However, GM Jim Hendry has watched his team flounder and instead of adding as the trade deadline approaches, he will be subtracting. Here is a rundown of players who may be headed out of town in the near future:
Ted Lilly- Here is the kind of guy that you hear about every year at the trade deadline. A left-hander that can eat innings and give you quality starts that nearly every contender is interested in. Lilly is in the last year of a four year deal which makes trading him almost inevitable at this point. The most recent rumors show interest coming mainly from the Mets, Dodgers, and Tigers but other teams are still in play. Hendry and Ned Colletti (Dodgers GM) reportedly discussed the possibility for a deal involving Lilly, as he seems to be their top choice at the moment in terms of starting pitching.
Xavier Nady- The Texas Rangers are already big winners in the trade market after acquiring Cliff Lee on Friday. Now they have their sights set on the veteran Nady who would come in and platoon at first base with Chris Davis. The Cubs would likely receive a solid Single-A or Double-A prospect in return which would make this a nice deal for both sides.
IF Trio of Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Jeff Baker- Expect one, or possibly two of these three to be in other cities by the time August rolls around. Ryan Theriot is receiving the most attention from other teams, and talks with the Tigers were heating up last week. However, discussion between the Tigers and Cubs has slowed and now the Colorado Rockies appear to be very interested in the Cub second baseman. Once one of these guys go, expect the Cubs to bring up prospect Darwin Barney as they look towards the future.
Tom Gorzelanny- The Giants had a scout at Wrigley Field last week watching Gorzelanny pitch. The left-hander has thrown the ball well this year, and would be a good addition for whoever gets him. However, this is a guy that I would like to see the Cubs hang onto for the future. He is still young (about to turn 28) and they can keep him on the team for a low price. With what he has showed this season (4-5, 3.16 ERA) I think it would be wise to not let him go.
Two sluggers that helped lead the Cubs to the playoffs in 2008 are finally getting on track here in the 2010 campaign. Aramis Ramirez and Geovanny Soto combined for five hits and four runs batted in during Saturday’s 7-3 win over the Dodgers out in LA. Each player’s stat line includes a home run, the ninth of the year for Soto and the tenth for Ramirez, who saw his average climb to .209. Normally a .209 average is not a good thing, but it is a far cry from the .160 average that he was sporting in June. As for Soto, he has a .429 average (15-35) over his last ten games with nine RBI’s. Both of these players are counted on as run producers in the lineup and they are finally starting to come around which should mean more success with runners in scoring position. The Cubs actually went 4-6 with RISP, a gargantuan improvement over a week ago when they stranded 17 runners in a win over Cincinnati.
One more positive from Saturday’s game is we finally got to see some fire from Piniella. It certainly was not the classic kicking his hat down the third base line outburst, but he did enough to get himself ejected for the first time all season. It’s interesting that baseball is the only sport where coaches are praised for getting tossed out of games. Bobby Cox, one of the most revered managers in the history of the game has been thrown out 132 times, more than anyone else. Consequently, he is praised by both his players and the media for his actions. In baseball, when a manager gets thrown out he is said to be standing up for his team. In any other sport, he is just a man with a very short temper.
The Cubs and Dodgers will complete their four game series on Sunday, as Chicago looks for the split. Carlos Silva (9-2, 2.96 ERA) will pitch despite minor calf problems that he has been experiencing.
Wednesday’s 8-3 Cubs victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks led to the rarest of occurrences this season. It gave the Cubs a convincing three game sweep, only their second of the season with the first coming back in April against the Brewers. The Cubs also swept a two game set at Wrigley in May against the Colorado Rockies. This also marked the team’s first three game win streak since late May when they took three straight from the Rangers and Dodgers. This sweep is certainly no small feat for a team that has struggled mightily to string a couple of decent performances together since the beginning of June.
There is still no word on Carlos Zambrano’s return to the team. Big Z has been going through anger management treatment as the Cubs advised him to, and is still on the team’s restricted list. The fiery right hander who has been off duty since his meltdown on June 25th is not expected back before the all star break. When Zambrano returns he will be headed back to the bullpen which should be…interesting.
Carlos Silva has been experiencing some soreness in his right knee, however manager Lou Piniella said that he should be able to make his scheduled start on Sunday against the Dodgers.
Final piece of news, the Cubs sent reliever Brian Schlitter to the 15-day disabled list after he hurt his shoulder last Friday against the Cincinnati Reds. Mitch Atkins has been called up from Triple-A Iowa to assume his roster spot, it is his second stint with the major league team this season. However, Atkins never made an appearance during his time with the team in June. With this addition, the Cubs now have four rookies in their bullpen. This is certainly not an ideal situation for Lou Piniella and the Cubs but they have been forced into it due to poor performances and injuries.
The wind was blowing out on Sunday afternoon and the Cincinnati Reds took full advantage of it, bombing the Fighting Colvins 14-3 while the rest of the Cubs took the day off. Well, that’s not quite how it actually happened but it sure felt like it as Tyler Colvin’s two home runs accounted for all the team’s offense on this day. The Reds did most of their damage against starter Ted Lilly and reliever Jeff Stevens. Lilly gave up four home runs in 6.2 innings, and allowed nine runs to cross the plate. Piniella then called for Stevens who faced six batters and failed to record an out while surrendering four runs and two more long balls.
Cincinnati added another home run in the ninth inning off Andrew Cashner giving them a total of seven on the day. You know it’s a bad day when light hitting OF Drew Stubbs goes deep not once, not twice, but THREE times (Stubbs entered Sunday hitting .233 with 8 HR’s). Things got even worse when seldom used backup catcher Corky Miller and his glorious mustache launched his first home run of the season into the seats in left. I would put Miller’s mustache up there in the modern day pantheon of great sports staches, right there with guys like Wannstedt, Ditka, and even newer members like Michael Phelps and Carl Pavano. If you have not seen it yet, seriously, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Overall, with the exception of Tyler Colvin’s two home runs it was just a bad day for the Cubs. They are now 35-47, putting them in fourth place in the Central, and 11.5 GB of Cincinnati. Two series remain before the all star break as the Cubs will head west to take on the Diamondbacks and Dodgers. Even though 80 games still remain it feels like we are approaching “last gasp” time with this team. If they don’t catch fire by the end of the month they will simply be too far out of the race to even think about tracking down the Reds or the Cardinals.
It was announced earlier today that Marlon Byrd will be the Chicago Cubs’ lone representative in this year’s all star game. This does not come as much of a surprise as none of the other offensive players have made much of a case to be a part of the game. I think that a case could be made for a couple of the pitchers on the staff such as Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol, but certainly no complaints about them not making it. This will be Marlon Byrd’s first career all star game appearance and he will be a reserve.
Aramis Ramirez apparently reinjured his left thumb on a swing during Friday’s game and will sit out and work with team trainers to try to get back to full strength. Ramirez is hitting just .177 on the season with six home runs, but he had been better since coming off of the disabled list on June 25 granted it was in a very limited number of at-bats. No timetable has been placed on his return, but it does not appear as though he will be put back on the disabled list.
Lastly, with the trade deadline nearing, several Cub players could be on the trading block. The most recent names being thrown about are infielders Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Jeff Baker. Theriot had carved out a role for himself the past two years as a scrappy, hit-machine but he has not been at that level this season. As for Baker and Fontenot, both have been inconsistent and Piniella has moved them in and out of the lineup. I do believe that these guys could help a contender as a utility player, but they are being looked at for more than that. Teams such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Detroit are all looking for help at second base, but if they are thinking that one of these three can be an everyday player for them they should probably look elsewhere. It should be a very interesting month for the Cubs with the potential for a lot of player movement.
The Cubs got the good Randy Wells on Saturday. They got the Randy Wells that pounds the strike zone (71 of 99 pitches were strikes), makes it deep into games, and keeps hitters off balance. It was certainly a welcome sight for Lou Piniella as Wells took a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds, surrendering just one walk through the first 19 batters. Wells eventually got the win ending his six game losing streak making him 4-6 on the season. Unfortunately, they needed every ounce of effort from the young right-hander because well, the offense was doing a whole lot of nothing…again. Chicago went on to win the ballgame by a score of 3-1, and it took everything that the Cubs had to push those three runs across.
In recent days, the Cubs were not scoring because they were not creating any chances for themselves. On Saturday however, there was no shortage of scoring opportunities. Seventeen. That is the number of runners that the Cubs left on base, one shy of the National League record of 18. For the game they were 3-16 with runners in scoring position, a trend that simply will not go away. It is in the players’ heads and they have said as much. It is too bad that even in a Cubs victory where the starting pitcher took a no-hitter into the seventh that the main story continues to be their inability to drive runners in.
The Cubs and Reds will play the final game of this four game series today at 2:20. Chicago is looking for the split by sending Ted Lilly (3-6, 3.12) to the mound against rookie right-hander Mike Leake (5-1, 3.30). Ted Lilly has received little to no run support this season, and the offense already has a difficult task today going up against Leake. Tough assignment for a team trying to break records that nobody wants.
The Cubs avoided the sweep and ended the White Sox 11 game winning streak on Sunday, topping the South Siders 8-6 at U.S. Cellular Field. Ryan Dempster went through his usual first inning struggles giving up two runs and putting the Cubs in an early hole. Dempster has now allowed 11 first inning runs in 16 starts. This premise has generally meant disaster for the team, but today was different. The Cubs grabbed control of the game by scoring the next six runs and never looked back. They took an 8-3 lead into the ninth before things got dicey with the normally dominant Marmol on the mound. The White Sox fought back to cut the deficit to 8-6 before Alex Rios struck out to end the game.
Tyler Colvin proved once again that he deserves the increased playing time that Lou Piniella has been giving him. He went 3-5 with a home run and four RBI’s, making it 27 on the year. That RBI mark is just nine below both Lee (36) and Soriano (36) but in far fewer at bats. Colvin has had just 130 AB’s this season compared to 270 for Derrek Lee. The rookie outfielder also has 10 home runs already which is one for every 13 AB’s.
Next week will feature the final home stand for Chicago before the all star break. First up will be the Cubs’ biggest nemesis, the Pittsburgh Pirates. After three with the Bucs, they will play four against the division leading Cincinnati Reds. People keep waiting for the Reds to fade away and for St.Louis to take control of this division, but it just has not happened. The Cubs are currently 33-42, which puts them at fourth place in the National League Central. They are now 8.5 GB which doesn’t feel right with how poorly the first half of the season has gone. It feels like this team should be farther out, but no team has seized control of the division.
A day after the Carlos Zambrano incident, the Chicago Cubs were looking for a fresh start. After Aramis Ramirez tied the game with a solo home run in the seventh inning off of Freddy Garcia, it looked like it might be there night. However, White Sox slugger Paul Konerko had other ideas crushing the eventual game winning home run off of an Andrew Cashner fastball in the eighth inning. It was a 99 mph. fastball coming on a 1-2 pitch, so you have to give credit to Konerko on that one. Matt Thornton then came in and closed out the Cubs, clinching the season series for the White Sox.
Carlos Silva was very good yet again. He only let in two runs on three hits over six innings, while striking out four. He had his usual Silva like command walking only one batter, but ended up getting a no-decision in this one. Cashner pitched the seventh and eighth innings, and was very impressive despite giving up the game winner to Konerko. After the game Cashner said he thought he had his best stuff of the season. He had all of his pitches working, it was just one minor mistake that he made and he paid for it.
The Cubs need to take a close look at what their crosstown rivals have done over the past two weeks because these two teams were in very similar spots. Both teams had solid pitching, but offenses that just were not getting the job done. However, over the past 11 games the White Sox have just found ways to win games. They are playing with extreme confidence and collecting wins even though the offense is still not producing many runs. The Cubs have the same kind of potential, but will they be able to get on a roll like the White Sox are on right now? I would not predict it to happen, although it certainly looked like it was never going to happen for the White Sox this season either.
The latest outburst by Carlos Zambrano should be his last one in a Cub uniform. On Friday afternoon, after allowing four runs on just 21 pitches, Zambrano exploded at teammates when he returned to the dugout. He exchanged words with Derrek Lee (who did not look pleased with what Zambrano had to say) before throwing down a cooler, dumping its contents all over the dugout. Piniella then banished Big Z to the clubhouse as most of his teammates stood around looking dumbfounded at what had just occurred. This incident has been such an embarrassment for the organization that they finally said enough is enough and suspended the nearly $19 million per year pitcher. Piniella also announced that if/when Zambrano returns, he will be in the bullpen and Tom Gorzelanny will assume his spot in the rotation.
There is no reason that the team should be forced to put up with Big Z’s antics any longer. The situation is outrageous on so many levels and there is no justification for the way that he acted. Zambrano believed that his teammates were not giving maximum effort, but it comes off looking like a frustrated pitcher having yet another meltdown. It should also be noted that the Cubs have had no direct contact with their pitcher since the incident, however Zambrano reportedly had dinner on Friday night with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. If you are going to make a mistake this egregious, at least stand up and apologize and handle it the right way. Not only has Zambrano been publicly embarrassed by this incident, but the entire organization as well. When something like this happens it gives the perception that the team is dysfunctional. Whether that perception is correct or not is almost impossible to figure out from the outside, but with the way the media operates today they will surely be jumping to that conclusion.
So, what do the Cubs do now? They have already reinstated Gorzelanny back into the rotation which in my mind is a good thing even if this incident never occurred. Simply put, Gorzelanny has been far better than Zambrano this season. It was a shame that they took him out of the rotation in the first place because his performance justified him staying there. The other thing to watch is what will Zambrano be like when he returns to the team. I am assuming that the players will welcome him back, and they will try to manufacture some good vibes upon his return but will Zambrano be able to perform? Looking at what Zambrano has done over the past year and a half, I don’t think anybody can answer that question.
The Cubs were able to salvage the final game of the series on Sunday in resounding fashion as they crushed the Los Angeles Angels 12-1 at Wrigley Field. Carlos Zambrano delivered his best performance of the season throwing seven innings and allowing just the one earned run. He also struck out seven and walked just one hitter. When Zambrano has his control, he can still be a dominant pitcher and it showed today.
Meanwhile, the offense finally showed up producing 12 runs on 18 hits. Most of the damage was done against the Angels’ starter Joe Saunders and reliever Brian Fuentes (11 of the 12 runs). Every Cub starter recorded at least one hit including Carlos Zambrano who went 2-4 with an RBI. Derrek Lee also had a big game collecting two hits and tallying four RBI’s. With Aramis Ramirez still out of the line up, Xavier Nady took his turn in the clean up role and had a solid day going 2-5 with two runs scored. Finally, Tyler Colvin did not start but he still made an impact coming up with a pinch hit, two-run single. He now has a pretty impressive 22 RBI’s in limited action this season.
One final positive from today’s ballgame, the Cubs did not give up any unearned runs. If they really want to get this season turned around they have to curtail their habit of giving away runs. Chicago currently leads the league in unearned runs allowed with 44, and had committed 11 errors in their previous five games heading into Sunday. Jeff Baker did commit his third error of the series and the season, but unlike Friday night it did not cost the team any runs.
The Cubs will get Monday off before beginning a three game series in Seattle on Tuesday. The Mariners have gotten outstanding starting pitching, but the offense has struggled mightily. Seattle comes into the series with a 28-41 record.
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