Tagged: Albert Pujols

Take me to your leader

Today’s trade of Ivan Rodriguez to the Texas Rangers reminds me of a missed opportunity for the Cubs.  After Rodriguez’s Marlins stunned the Cubs in the 2003 NLCS and went on to win the World Series, he became a free agent.  At the time I thought it would be a good idea for the Cubs to bring in Rodriguez.  I felt the Cubs could use a strong, smart catcher like Rodriguez to work with the trio of young pitchers the Cubs had, Wood, Prior, and Zambrano.  Rodriguez is also a winner and would quickly become a team leader the Cubs also needed to put them over the top in 2004.  Well, it never happened.  The Cubs went cheap and signed Michael Barrett instead.  We all know how Michael Barrett worked out.  Let’s just say I think it was no coincidence that the Cubs took off in 2007 after Barrett was shipped out.  All this led me to think about the Cubs of the past three years.  Who is the team leader or leaders?  I don’t think the Cubs have any.  The Cubs have a good collection of talented players, but they don’t have any leaders.  You know, the kind of player that will push others, get in others’ faces when need be, driven with a passion to win.  The Yankees have Derek Jeter.  The Red Sox have Jason Varitek.  The Cardinals have Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina.  The Cubs don’t have any such players.  Derrek Lee is a great talent, but watch his body language after a strikeout or an 0-4 performance.  Head down, walking slowly back to the dugout, dejected.  Not inspiring.  Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs most important offensive weapon, seems shy and doesn’t say much.  Soriano and Bradley are all about themselves.  Zambrano is a headcase, who admits his recent injury problems are due to his being out of shape.  Great.  Soto’s a mess.  The Cubs should have signed Pudge this past offseason.  He could have mentored Soto.  Maybe then Soto wouldn’t have become the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.  Ivan Rodriguez to the Rangers leads me to believe we might in fact see the Rangers in the postseason.  Pudge now gets to work with the young pitchers over there as well as Mike Maddux, who is quickly becoming one of the elite pitching coaches if he isn’t already.  The Cubs seem to lack a team leader.  Maybe that’s one reason the Cubs have disappeared in the postseason and are quickly disappearing from this years pennant race.

Let’s face it, the Cubs season is on life support right now with a weekend four game series at Dodger Stadium while the Cardinals have a four game series against the Padres.  The Rockies keep winning, putting the Cubs further out of the Wild Card race.  Now the Cardinals seem to be ready to sign John Smoltz.  I’m sure LaRussa and Duncan will work their magic and get the most out of him whether it be as a starter or in the bullpen.  I believe Smoltz is a pretty good team guy as well.  Oh, and he knows how to help a team to the postseason and win once there.  Good luck, Cubbies.
On another note, I was happy to see that Shane Victorino filed a police report against that imbecile who threw the beer on him.
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St. Louis

What a busy summer it’s been!  This past weekend was barbeque city with my extended family’s summer get together at my parents and my son’s second birthday party on Sunday. For the record, my son got lots of Cardinal stuff from his Opa.  

On the weekend of July 18th and 19th, my brother and I took my father to St. Louis as a retirement gift.  We got to see a game at the new Busch Stadium on Saturday the 18th.  I had a great time in St. Louis with my father and brother.  New Busch Stadium is a great stadium, but very expensive.  I thought I was in Chicago for most of my time there.  Nine dollars for a beer.  Really?  Eight dollars for four chicken strips?  It seemed like most people in the upper deck with us were eating at Hardees because the food prices were more manageable.  It was like a fast food place in the mall that charges a little more because of the rent.  O.K., a little more expensive than that.

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The iconic St. Louis Arch commands ones attention.  I had a sudden urge for a Big Mac.
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The ballpark is in sight.
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A shot of the park from our parking garage.
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Busch Stadium still had All-Star fever.
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My dad found the legend, Jack Buck.  Notice the “L” T-shirt.  Surprisingly, we did not see any anti-Cub T-shirts in or around the stadium.  We didn’t see anyone selling any vulgar T-shirts.  Maybe we really weren’t in Chicago.
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My brother next to Stan the Man.
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All-Star fever.
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I wore my Zambrano jersey and did not get heckled at all.  People were very polite in St. Louis.
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One of the many statues outside the stadium.
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The only blue in a sea of red.
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The best thing about new Busch Stadium is the skyline view of the Arch behind the outfield.  Very nice.
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I like how they cut the Arch onto the field.  I wonder how long that took?
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Big Mac land.  Pujold knocked out one of the letters this year.
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Here comes Fredbird.  I bought my son a Build a Bear Fredbird as a souvenir.  My father bought out the Cardinals clubhouse for my son Joshua.  I may be fighting a losing battle.
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As you may or may not know, the Bowling Hall of Fame is in St. Louis.  It used to be across the street from the old ballpark, but they moved it to make way for a Nike All-Star store.  I’m not sure where they moved it to.  I had to take this picture because ever since we saw Popeye throw out a first pitch at Wrigley Field, my father has said that stuff like that is only for idiot Cub fans.  Real fans, like in St. Louis, are at the games to follow baseball.  My father had nothing to say about this seen before the game.  I feel sorry for the bowling pin, however.  It’s not an easy act following up President Obama in throwing out a first pitch at Busch Stadium.
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Neil Rackers of the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals also threw out a first pitch.  It’s hard to believe it’s been over 20 years since the Cardinals called St. Louis home.
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It’s good to see Mark DeRosa get another chance with a contender.
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Even as a Cub fan, I have to admit that Albert Pujols’s swing is a thing of beauty.
After seeing a few of the newer parks in Major League Baseball this summer, I really have to admit that something has to be done with Wrigley Field.  It might be time for the wrecking ball, or at least leave the field and ivy and completely gut the interior.  The facilities at Wrigley really are antiquated.  I’m sure the players wouldn’t mind to have a real clubhouse and amenities.

It’s Only April, Right?

The second game of the Cardinals/Cubs weekend series began with Lou Piniella’s modified lineup being sent out there.  The new lineup was as follows:

Theriot, SS
Fukudome, RF
Soriano, LF
Lee, 1B
Fontenot, 3B
Johnson, CF
Soto, C
Miles, 2B
Marshall, P
Going into this game we found out that the injuries of Carlos Marmol and Aramis Ramirez are thankfully not catastrophic.  Both are said to miss only a few days.  Ramirez may be out about a week.  The Cubs went into the game shorthanded.  Alfonso Soriano actually was the backup second basemen and catcher Koyie Hill was the back up third basemen.  Why are the Cubs this shorthanded?  In addition to Marmol and Ramirez, Milton Bradley is still out.  Why don’t they just put him on the DL already so they can call someone else up?  If Ramirez will be out a week, why not just put him on the DL, too.  Is this going to be the theme of the Cubs season, never putting anyone on the DL so their bench can be thin for a week or more at a time?  
The game began as a strong pitcher’s duel between Sean Marshall and Mitchell Boggs.  Marshall really had his breaking ball working today.  The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the 4th when St. Louis struck for three runs.  The big inning was set up by Soriano misplaying a Khalil Greene hit that went for an RBI double.  The Brian Barden promptly delivered a two run single.  The Cubs answered in the top of the fifth with a two out rally.  Sean Marshall reached on an error.  Theriot later singled him home to make it 3-1.  The Cubs then had runners on second and third in the fifth.  Soriano came up and completely demonstrated why he should not hit anywhere except lead off.  Boggs threw him three pitches low and outside, one actually bounced in the dirt, and Soriano swung at all three.  Eric Karros, who was the color commentator for Fox echoed what I’ve been saying all along.  Soriano is best suited hitting leadoff.  He will not get the same pitches hitting third, fourth, or fifth in the lineup.  Karros also said the obvious, that Soriano is too undisciplined a hitter to hit in the middle of a lineup.  I agree.  Plus, he doesn’t seem to have the mindset to hit anywhere else but leadoff.  Soriano is now 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position this year.  
What is with the Cardinals defense?  The lead the majors in errors thus far.  They’re just lucky they are scoring enough runs to overcome the sloppy play.  We can only hope that the Cardinals bats eventually cool off and the shoddy defense ends up costing them games.
In the top of the seventh, Joey Gathright came in to pinch hit for Sean Marshall.  Gathright reached on an infield hit.  Theriot was up next.  Threiot is hitting well now and he’s a good contact hitter.  With Gathright’s speed, why not hit and run?  Well, nothing seemed to be in motion.  With the count 3-2 on Theriot, Gathright was picked off.  Gathright has not been playing much.  That may continue.  In the bottom of the seventh, with the score still 3-1  David Patton came in to relieve Marshall and promptly walked the bases loaded.  Who was up next?  Yep, Albert Pujols.  I told my wife, “Well, it’s about to be 7-1”.  David Patton then proceeds to throw a batting practice cookie to Pujols that he crushed over the Gateway Arch. You could see Geovany Soto throw his arms up in disgust as soon as Pujols hit it.  I’m sure Soto did not call for a home run derby pitch to Pujols with the bases loaded.  Unbelievable. Game, set, and match.  One milestone did happen.  Neal Cotts was brought in with two outs in the eighth and got Colby Rasmus to fly out to center.  Woo hoo!  He actually retired a major league batter!  There was much rejoicing in my household.
So the Cubs now trail the Cardinals by 4 games.  The head to head record is now Cardinals 3, Cubs 2.  It’s only April, right?
In other news, Kobe finally took matters into his own hands, scoring 38 the rout the Jazz.  The Blackhawks have gone up 3-2 on the Flames.  The Bears still do not have a legitimate wide receiver.  Let’s see what they do tomorrow.  Tomorrow morning is my wife’s 5K.  Tomorrow afternoon it’s Rich Harden vs. Todd Wellemeyer.  I’ll be flipping back and forth between that game and the race at Talledega.  Should be an exciting Sunday.

Cross Your Fingers

The Cubs lost much more than a game against the Cardinals last night.  Both Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Marmol had to leave the game with injuries.  Ramirez left the game in the 5th when he strained his calf running to second.  From what I’ve read, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a trip to the DL.  Marmol had the bad luck to have an Albert Pujols line drive take his glove off of his hand in the bottom of the eighth.  In doing so, Marmol twisted in such a way where he felt some kind of discomfort in his left knee.  That’s what it says on Cubs.com.  All I know is that when I saw Piniella and the trainer come out to the mound for Marmol, my heart and the heart of every Cubs fan sank.  Ron Santo probably graoaned and asked something like, “Why does this always happen to us?”  And Pat Hughes would have turned and said, “I don’t know, Ron.”  I didn’t hear it on the radio, but that’s the exchange I imagine.  We have to cross our fingers and hope neither of these players miss any significant time.  Especially Marmol.  The Cubs cannot afford to miss him.  If Marmol went out, it could be curtains.  Who would be the set up man, Neal Cotts?

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Piniella has the “What next?” or “Why me?” look.  My wife calls it the “constipated look”.  
No one said it was gonna be easy, Lou.
In all reality, if Ramirez cannot play for a few days, they may be better served putting him on the 15 day DL so they can call someone up from the minors.  The Cubs’ bench is thin right now.  If Ramirez can’t go, you can add him to to a disabled list that includes a player who can’t play if he is 99% healthy.  Before the Cub game, I was watching the pregame for the Red Sox-Yankees game on NESN and Jerry Remy was talking about Mike Lowell and how he is playing really well despite not being 100%.  How is he able to play if he is not 100% healthy?  Do you think Lou Piniella was being sarcastic when he said that a certain player whom I promised not to talk about would not play until he is 100% healthy?  I’m beginning to think so.  But if this is the case, then put him on the DL and call someone else up.  Is Piniella souring on Bradley?  Well, it sounds like he wanted him.  He’s got him.
I found a way to watch Cubs games that are on Comcast Sportsnet.  Since we have the MLB Extra Innings on DirecTV, the local games are blacked out.  Since we don’t have Comcast Sportsnet, we can’t watch that channel normally anyway.  I now have to turn to the MLB Mix channel where 8 games are being shown simultaneously.  I can scroll to the game I want to listen to.  So I got to watch a 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.  It was a good pitchers duel between Ryan Dempster and Adam Wainwright until the Cardinals scored three in the fifth.  The Cubs clawed their way back in the seventh tying the game, but I felt they should have had more.  That inning probably cost them the game.  They had the bases loaded and no one out with the score 3-2 and could only muster one more run to tie the game.  They should have broke it open.  Oh, well.  In the bottom of the eighth, Pujols and Ludwick combined to get the Cardinals the winning run.  After Pujols singled, he stole second and scored on Ludwick’s single.  Pujols and Ludwick are becoming one of the games premier 1-2 punches.  I’m frightened.  By the way, Milton Bradley pinch hit and drew a walk.  He has exceeded my expectations.
Hey, Dad, what happened to the Cardinals defense?  Aren’t they usually solid on the fundamentals?  Did Tony LaRussa moving around his fielders lead to Skip Schumacher dropping an easy pop up in the seventh yesterday?  As Nelson on The Simpsons would say, “Skip Schumacher.  Ha Ha!”
Piniella shuffled the lineup yesterday because the Cubs have not been scoring runs.  Piniella had the hot hitting Theriot leading off while dropping Derrek Lee to 5th and Soriano to 3rd.  I’m on record on this blog saying that Lee needed to be dropped in the batting order.  I don’t agree with Soriano.  He was doing fine leading off.  I hope Piniella does not drop Fukudome out of the number two spot.  Moving Fukudome around in the lineup last year seemed to screw him up.
So, I’m sure my father is smiling today.  The wager is now 2-2.  I do not look good in red, so the Cubbies better get their act together here real quick.
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