Tagged: Alfonso Soriano

A Picture Says a Thousand Words

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                              Charles Rex Arbogast – AP
Enough said.
Photo Credit – Associated Press/Charles Rex Arbogast
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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.

Should we start to get excited?

Since the All-Star break, the Cubs are 9-2 and have moved into first place in the NL Central.  They swept the Washington Generals…er…Nationals.  A National disgrace, the Nationals have been.  They’re 37 games under .500.  The Cubs should have swept them.  They swept the Reds, who really have the look of a team that has thrown in the towel.  The Reds are falling faster than a skydiving elephant.  My point is I can’t judge how good this team is playing right now.  The Cubs lost two out of three from the Phillies.  This current stretch of games between the Astros, Marlins, Rockies, and Phillies will go a long way in telling me how excited I should be right now.

Reasons to be excited
Aramis Ramirez is back and has been swinging a hot bat.
Carlos Zambrano has been pitching like an ace.
Rich Harden pitched well at Wrigley.
Reasons to worry
Ted Lilly is on the DL with both shoulder soreness and a knee problem.
Are they rushing Ryan Dempster back too soon?
We need another starting pitcher.
The Astros have always been a second half team.
The Cardinals have greatly upgraded their offense.
The Phillies look like a team poised to repeat.
Yesterday’s 13 inning victory over the Astros was huge.  Despite the struggles of Alfonso Soriano, he does have a flair for the dramatic.
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Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / July 27, 2009

Soriano’s grand slam is one heck of a way to start a four game series with surging Houston.  Let’s hope the Cubbies can beat Roy Oswalt tonight.

Photo Credit:

I know I’ve lost the bet

I’m resigned to the fact that I will not win the Cubs/Cardinals wager with my Father.  I’m already looking a the calendar to see when I can get over to Wrigley Field to be photographed in Cardinals attire.  After yesterday’s 8-3 beating of the Cubs, the Cardinals now own a 7-3 head to head advantage.  Since the teams only play 16 games head to head, if the Cardinals win one more game against the Cubs, I cannot win the bet.  The best I could do is a draw.  That’s if the Cubs would win the remaining five games.  Yeah, that’s not happening.  Have you seen the Cubs lately?

47994567.jpgMy sentiments exactly, Rich.
Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune/ July 10, 2009
The Cubs are a game under .500 and tied for fifth place.  The Houston Astros have now passed the Cubs!  To make matters worse, the revolving door of injuries keeps spinning.  This week, both Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto have landed on the DL.  Dempster got there by breaking his big toe jumping out of the dugout to celebrate a win.  That totally epitomizes the Cubs.  Soto’s DL stint began because he strained an oblique during batting practice.  Both of these injuries do not sound serious, but they are the type that can linger.  My wife once broke her toe and she says that the one month absence they are projecting for Dempster is very optimistic at best.  And an oblique strain can be bad, because you use it every time you swing.
The way I see it, the Cubs definitely have to trade for another starter.  Just expect Dempster to be out a while.  Last night, my wife and I talked about two trades the Cubs could possibly make.  One is a garbage contract for garbage contract trade.  It involves the Cubs trading Alfonso Soriano to the Giants for Barry Zito.  Both have big contracts and both could probably use a change of scenery.  The Giants need a power bat.  The Cubs could use a starter.  
The other trade senario has the Cubs trading for Roy Halladay.  The Cubs should offer Toronto Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, and/or Josh Vitters.  Zambrano is younger than Halladay and recently signed a contract extension.  Wells is another pitcher who could move right into the starting rotation.  If these two trades would happen, it would leave the Cubs with a rotation of Halladay, Lilly, Zito, Harden, and Dempster/Marshall.
If nothing else, baseball is about wishful thinking.
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A knee-jerk reaction

So the Cubs have fired hitting coach Gerald Perry.  The same Gerald Perry who was given credit for guiding the Cubs offense to a .278 average in 2008 and a .271 average in 2007.  The Cubs offense has been a complete disappointment this year, hitting only .246 as a team.  Even the Washington Nationals are hitting .259!  I believe that this is just a knee-jerk, desperate reaction to the disappointing season the Cubs are experiencing.  If Perry had great success in 07 and 08, then what’s different in 09?  The team is replacing Perry with Von Joshua, because they believe that since Joshua worked with the AAA players currently on the Cubs roster, then he can have better luck at getting guys like Bobby Scales (.241), Andres Blanco (.212), Micah Hoffpauir (.261), and Mike Fontenot (.236) to hit better.  As if the young guys have been the only problem.  What about Alfonso Soriano hitting only .229?  Aaron Miles hitting .200?  Milton Bradley hitting .227?  These aren’t young guys that Joshua coached in the minors.  Why put all the blame on Perry?  At what point do you look at the players?  Perry was heralded as a big reason behind the team’s division titles the past two years?  What is the difference now?  Let’s look at some of these players.

Mike Fontenot hit .305 last year in 243 at bats.  He hit .278 in 2007 in 234 at bats.  In each of those years he mostly played shortstop and second base.  This year he’s hitting .236 in 182 at bats.  By the all star game he will be close to the at bat totals he had for each of the last two seasons.  Plus he’s played exclusively at third base this year because of Ramirez’s injury.  So, the numbers prove that Fontenot is better as a part time player playing one of the middle infield positions.  The Cubs have a utility player playing every day out of position.  His fielding percentage is .951 this year, the lowest of his career.  That could affect a player’s batting average.
Alfonso Soriano, a .279 career hitter, is hitting .229 this year.  There is talk that he has an injured knee that might be hampering his play.  His defense hasn’t been great this year.  His .953 is the lowest as an outfielder.  Is the injury to blame?  It’s obvious what’s wrong with Soriano.  He cannot lay off the ball that is two feet outside and in the dirt.  A 59 foot pitch in the dirt gets him every time.  I’m sure Gerald Perry has told Soriano to be more selective and not swing at garbage.  If he doesn’t listen, whose fault is that?  Will he magically start listening to Von Joshua?
I don’t know what to say about Milton Bradley.  Bradley has said, “I give 250 percent every day.  If you can’t see that, then something’s wrong.”  I guess something’s wrong.  Bradley’s been in and out of the lineup all year because of his myriad injuries.  Could that have some bearing on his average?  The guy gets hurt jogging to first after a walk.  Bradley’s nickname should be Buyer Beware.
Most of the minor leaguers the Cubs have brought up do not look like major leaguers.  Bobby Scales was a great story, but the fact is that he is 31 and there has to be a reason he did not make the majors sooner.  The other teams are not dumb.  They get advance scouting reports on these guys.  They know their weaknesses.
The loss of Ramirez is also a big part of the offensive woes.
All of this leads to my final point.  At what point does the finger point at Lou Piniella?  Piniella actually told reporters over the weekend when asked about the teams offensive woes that he had no answers and did not know what to do.  He said he juggled the lineup, but that didn’t work so he didn’t know what to do.  Does that inspire confidence in a team when the manager basically comes out and says he doesn’t know what to do?  I get angry because this town blasted Dusty Baker for saying the exact same things.  Dusty used to get made fun of on talk radio for saying things like, “I don’t know, dude” when asked about the teams woes in 2006.  How is Piniella’s response any different?  Why is Piniella getting a free pass?  Piniella seems to be going through the motions.  Why wasn’t Bradley benched the day after his blunder filled day Friday especially after he got defensive and said he gives 250 percent?  More and more it seems that Piniella is losing control of the team.  Is the answer firing Gerald Perry.  Piniella said he didn’t know what to do, so the firing of Perry does seem like a knee-jerk reaction of a desperate team.
The Von Joshua era begins tonight as the Cubs and White Sox battle in the first edition of the 2009 Cross Town Classic.  I predict Soriano hits a home run and the move will be immediately heralded as genius.  But how will it turn out by October?

It Finally Happened

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Mark J. Terrill, Associated Press / October 4, 2008

Rich Harden is headed to the 15-Day DL.  That’s never been seen before.  Actually, it took longer than I expected.

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KYLE ERICSON,
Associated Press / May 21, 2009     

So Lou Piniella is playing around with the idea of moving
Soriano to second base to allow for Micah Hoffpauir to play left field.
 The move is seen as an effort to generate more offense to what has become
an offensively offensive team.  Don’t want to panic yet, Lou.  I know
Soriano originally came up as a second baseman, but there is a reason that he
no longer plays that position.  He was a complete butcher at second.
 Will this move really help the Cubs’s offense?  I don’t know, but
it’sbeginning to look like Lou may be running out of answers.

Last night, the Cubs dropped their fifth game in a row, losing
to the Padres and Jake Peavy 4-0.  In those five losses, the Cubs have
scored a grand total of seven runs. Actually, they’ve scored just 2 runs in
their last four games.  The sad thing is that the Cubs pitchers have
allowed an average of a little over 3 runs a game over their current losing
streak.  The pitchers, including the bullpen, have started to do their
job.  Now, the hitters have gone into the tank.  The thing that scares
me is that a few of the hitters have never been out of the tank at any point
this season.  Soto is hitting .206, Fontenot is hitting .193, Miles is
hitting .207, Bradley is hitting .182, Johnson is hitting .232.  Derrek
Lee has started bring up his average, but he’s still only hitting .240.
 With stats like these, they can’t expect to score many runs.
 Ramirez being out is killing them right now.

Photo Credits:


http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/chi-rich-harden-chicago-cubs-photos,0,3994655.photogallery

 

http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/chi-chicago-cubs-photos,0,6973722.photogallery

Vintage Gregg

Randy Wells has had a pretty remarkable start to his career as a starter.  In two starts this year, he has pitched 11 shutout innings.  He actually has pitched 16 and a third shutout innings if you go back to his relief appearances last year.

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                                      Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

Despite his success, he has no record this year.  In both of his starts, he left the game with the lead only to see the bullpen lose that lead.  Yesterday, the Cubs led 4-0 going to the top of the ninth.  One would figure Wells would get his first big league win.  One would figure that.  Enter Kevin Gregg.

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                               Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

Let’s recap yesterday’s ninth inning.  For those of you not familiar with the work of Kevin Gregg, yesterday was “Vintage Gregg”.

Lance Berkman – Home run to right center field.
Carlos Lee – Home run to left field.
Miguel Tejada – Single to left.
    Pitching coach Larry Rothschild comes out to have a “chat”.
Hunter Pence – Single to center that was deflected off of Gregg.
Geoff Blum is hit by a pitch.

Five batters, four hits, one hit batter.  Cubs lead is cut to 4-2.  Bases loaded.  None out.  Gregg’s looking better each outing.

Gregg exits stage left.  Aaron Heilman to the rescue!

Ivan Rodriguez singles to left scoring Tejada and Pence to tie the game.  Two on and no out.  What a game!

Heilman gets Michaels and Matsui both the fly out to Fukudome.  What, is Aaron Heilman auditioning for the role of a relief pitcher?
Heilman walks Michael Bourn to load the bases.  Maybe not.

Heilman exits for Sean Marshall who gets Lance Berkman to ground out with the bases loaded.  The Cubs escape complete disaster.

In the ninth, Soriano bails out the Cubs with an RBI single scoring Bobby Scales with the game winning run.

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                              Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

And there was much rejoicing!

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      Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 16, 2009

I think that Alfonso Soriano needs to take Kevin Gregg out to dinner at Gibson’s just to thank him.  Hey, if Gregg wasn’t the worst closer in the National League, Soriano wouldn’t have all these chances to be the ninth inning hero.

The Cubs will have a decision to make when Carlos Zambrano comes off the DL and goes back into the rotation.  I think that they should consider keeping Randy Wells in the rotation as the fifth starter and move Sean Marshall to the bullpen.  Marshall’s had success out of the pen before.  He would give the Cubs another lefty arm out of the pen.  Marshall could also act as a long reliever on those days when Rich Harden can only pitch three innings or when Carlos Zambrano has to leave in the second inning because he decided to slide head first into first base or something.  Just something to think about.

The good news is the Cubs have won five in a row!  Today, Rich Harden will try to bring hom
e a series shortened sweep of the Astros.  I’m thinking that Alfonso Soriano may be secretly hoping that Kevin Gregg gets to pitch the ninth inning again.

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