Tagged: Aramis Ramirez

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.

Mythbuster

It’s only August 11th, but the Cubs are well on their way to being C.U.B.S. (Completely Useless by September).  Sure, the guys that tow the corporate line on TV will say the Cubs are only three games behind St. Louis and they have the best NL record since the All-Star break (well they did before this weekend; they may not have that distinction anymore), but anyone watching the games can’t be fooled.  I feel a need to debunk five common myths about the Cubs right now.

1.  The Cubs are 15-9 since the All-Star Break.  They’re playing their best baseball of the year and are the hottest team in the NL since the All-Star game.

If you watched the Cubs on TV this weekend you would have heard something like the above statement.  Really?  Out of their 15 wins, 9 of them are against the Nationals and the Reds.  The Nationals are an abomination and the Reds completely quit after the All-Star Game.  The Cubs have lost a series to the Phillies, the Marlins, and the Rockies and have looked horrible in each of these series.  The Cubs are better than the Nationals, Reds, and the Astros.  They are much worse than the Phillies, Marlins, Rockies, and Cardinals.  If the Cubs did make the playoffs, who would they be playing?  Not the Nationals or Reds.  The Cubs can not compete with the Phillies, Rockies, or Cardinals.  Can you actually see them winning a playoff series against the Phillies?  No.  I don’t event want to see them make the playoffs if that’s the case.  Another three and out like the last two seasons.  Why bother?  The White Sox are in the same position in their division that the Cubs are.  But at least if the White Sox make the playoffs, it is conceivable that they could reach the World Series.  They just beat up the Yankees and Angels.  For the Cubs, winning the Central would just be a booby prize.
2.  Milton Bradley is now red hot and has brought his average up to .266 and his on base percentage to .401.

It seems like we should be excited about Bradley.  I’m not.  He’s been a bust.  It seems like Milton goes 4-5 only in games that the Cubs are losing 11-1 or winning 11-1.  His hits are completely meaningless.  It’s kind of like when Juan Pierre led the league in hits in 2006.  You couldn’t find 200 more meaningless hits than that.  Yeah, Bradley has raised his average to .266.  Do people think he needs a medal?  If the Cubs lose 2-1. I’ll bet Milton was 0-5.
3.  The Cubs minor league system has saved their season with stand outs like Jake Fox and Sam Fuld.

These two guys are middle aged minor leaguers.  If the Cubs are depending on them this year, GOOD LUCK.  Aside from their ownership questions, the Cubs could not pull off a decent trade this year because they have nothing to move.  How many of the Cubs minor league prospects are coveted by another team?  Ryan Theriot is the best position player the Cubs have produced in I don’t know how long.  Teams like Boston and Philadelphia can orchestrate big trades because their farm systems are loaded.  The Cubs can’t.  The minor leaguers the Cubs have will produce for the short term, but over the long haul they won’t once teams get their scouting reports on them.
4.  The Cubs will win the division because the other teams are not good.
St. Louis has re-energized their team with the additions of DeRosa, Lugo, and Holliday.  Pujols will always be the man, but now he really doesn’t have to be the man night in and night out.  Someone tell me the Cubs now have a better lineup than St. Louis, with or without Aramis Ramirez.  I don’t see it.  The Cardinals pitchers have quietly put together a great season.  They’ve found a closer, something they haven’t has the last two years.  Dave Duncan is probably the best pitching coach in the business.  Tony LaRussa will out manage Lou Piniella any night of the week.  Right now, as much as it pains me, I’m seeing visions of 2006.  It would not surprise me if the Cardinals won the pennant.
5.  None of the Cub injuries right now (Zambrano, Ramirez) look that serious.

Yeah, I’ve heard that one before.
I couldn’t end this entry without a comment about Patrick Kane.  I don’t think too much of him right now.  20 cents?  Really?  No tip?  I do have one question for Mr. Kane, where was all that toughness in the playoffs against Detroit?

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:

It’s Good to be Back

My family and I had a blast on our week long road trip out East.  While in Philadelphia we saw the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, we ate Philly cheesesteaks (Geno’s is the best!  And definitely have the cheez whiz!), and we did the cheesy touristy stuff like have our picture taken at the Rocky statue.

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I just fell in love with Baltimore.  The Inner Harbor is just awesome!  The crab and crab cakes were delicious.  We went to the National Aquarium and I have to say I was blown away by it.  I don’t think I could ever go to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago again.  It just doesn’t compare.  My son had a lot of fun at the Aquarium as well as the Children’s Discovery Museum.
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While in Baltimore, we went to a game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.  I’ve been to ten different major leagues parks and this by far is my favorite.  I love how they incorporated the B&O Warehouse into the design of the park and the use of Eutaw street as a fan walkway.  Before the game we saw the Geppi’s Entertainment Museum next to the park.  Geppi’s is a pop culture museum and it is very impressive.  For someone who has collected toys and comic books like myself, it is a must see.  Next to Geppi’s is a sports museum, but we only went into the gift shop.  Despite being a Cubs fan, Cal Ripken, Jr. was my favorite player while growing up.  When I found a reasonably priced Ripken jersey in the gift shop, I bought it as a souvenir of Baltimore.
Camden Yards had me before we walked through the gates, but the park sealed the deal with me when the ticket taker noticed my 23 month old son and asked if it was his first ball game.  I said that it was.  He then told us to go to the guest relations office and they would give us something.  My wife and I said, “O.K., let’s go.”  We went over there and they gave my son Joshua a certificate with his name on it and the date signifying it as his first major league baseball game.  I thought this was class.  That certificate will be framed in his room along with pictures from the game.  It was great taking my son to his first game.
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Most of the people around us were Red Sox fans, so Joshua cheered along with everyone else whenever to Red Sox got a hit.  He started to get a little antsy, so we started to leave in the fifth inning.  The Red Sox were putting a hurt on the Orioles and ex-Cub Rich Hill.  It was 9-1 when we left.  Before we left, Joshua got to run around all the retired Oriole numbers they have outside the park.
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Actually, it was good that we did leave because the rain came and I guess the game was delayed almost two hours.  There was no way we could stay through a rain delay with a 23 month old.  We were shocked the next day when we heard the Orioles actually won the game 11-10.  I guess we can always say we were at that game, despite not seeing the end.
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On the way back to Illinois, we stopped in Cincinnati and saw a game at Great American Ballpark.  Joshua seemed to have more fun at this stadium.  He stayed in his seat, happy, until the seventh inning.
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The only reason he started to melt down was because they had a car race up on the jumbo-tron and after it ended Joshua started crying that he wanted more racing cars.  I liked this stadium, also.  It is a very family friendly park.  The best thing of all was that our tickets were only five bucks each and parking in a garage two blocks away was only eight dollars.  So for 23 bucks, we got three tickets and the parking.  I don’t think you can buy one ticket for 23 bucks in Chicago.  Parking at US Cellular Field is either 20 or 25 dollars.  Unbelievable. For the record, the Reds beat the Diamondbacks that night 1-0.

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So we had a fun, family vacation.  It’s great to be back home, however.  While on the road, I kept up with the Cubs.  Let’s see, our catcher has smoked pot, Milton Bradley was sent home during a game by Lou Piniella, the White Sox took two out of three from the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano can no longer hit, and Derrek Lee has been on fire.  We also took the first two games from the Brewers before losing badly Saturday.  In the end, the Cubs are .500, but still within striking distance.  It’s good to see Aramis Ramirez beginning his rehab stint with the Peoria Chiefs.

Let’s Get Randy a Win Already!

Hey Cubs, could you please score a few runs Tuesday and get Randy Wells his first victory?  What else can Wells do?  In four starts this year, he is 0-2 with a 1.80 ERA.

Thankfully, May is now over.  During the month of May, the Cubs made it a habit of wasting good outings by their starters.  The offense was pretty much AWOL for the month.  The Cubs need to have a solid road trip to Atlanta, Cincinnati, and Houston.  I say this because their interleague schedule scares me.  This year the Cubs will be playing the AL Central.  Besides the White Sox (who can’t seem to lose right now), the Cubs will be playing Minnesota, Cleveland, and Detroit.  Minnesota and Detroit will be tough.  The Cubs should beat up Cleveland, but you never know.  The Cubs really need to go at least 7-2 in their upcoming road trip because I really don’t see them being more than .500 the rest of June.  Don’t forget, the Cubs have four against Milwaukee and four against St. Louis to open their July homestead.
It sounds like Aramis Ramirez will need surgery on his shoulder, but he says he will have the surgery at the end of the season.  He hopes to be back right before or right after the All-Star Game.  Let’s hope he doesn’t rush back until he absolutely can go.  I still think Derrek Lee came back to soon from his broken wrist in ’06, and he really hasn’t been the same since.
It seems that the biggest distraction to the Cubs so far in 2009 has been that sad sack Gatorade machine.  Well, they won’t have it to kick around anymore as the team is removing it from the dugout permanently.  Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Happy Memorial Day

To all the troops, past and present, who have fought for the freedoms we enjoy, thank you.  

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The Cubs are really not worth talking about right now.  I really can’t say anything about them that I haven’t said before.  The loss of Aramis Ramirez is exposing their weak bench.  Geovany Soto looks more and more like another Jerome Walton or Rick Wilkins if you want a catcher comparison.  Signing Milton Bradley was dumb.  Getting rid of Mark DeRosa because they figured Mike Fontenot could play every day was even more dumb.  You know, there’s a reason why a player stays in the minor leagues until their late twenties or early thirties.  There has to be some flaw in their game.  Over the weekend I think I saw one of Bobby Scale’s flaws.  He has no arm.  Scales played third base on Saturday and looked like he had to put everything he had and more to get the ball to first base.  Mike Fontenot and Micah Hoffpauir are both twenty-nine.  Why did they stay in the minors as long as they did?  Can the Cubs depend on Hoffpauir to be an everyday player?  He’s playing more, and his average has been plummeting.  
Derrek Lee was scratched before Sunday’s 7-2 loss to the Padres due to illness.  Watching this garbage at home is making me sick, I can only imagine what it does to you to see it up close.
Weather wise, this was one of the best Memorial Day weekends I can remember.  If Memorial Day is the kickoff to summer, then we may be in store for a great summer.  It was great to break the grill out over the weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather!  
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Maybe my 22 month old son Joshua could teach the Cubs a thing or two about hitting.
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Yeah, this didn’t happen.  I hate the Red Wings.
Photo Credits:

Meatballs

The new rumor floating around is that perspective Cubs buyer Tom Ricketts has been looking for celebrity investors to help him buy the team.  Stars that he has been rumored to have approached include Bill Murray, John Cusack, and…gasp…Jim Belushi.  Jim Belushi?  The biggest meatball Chicago fan ever?  Say it ain’t so.

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Whenever the Bears play on national TV or the Cubs are in the postseason and the network wants a Chicago fan in the booth, who do they get?  Jim Belushi.  He’s like Chicago’s unofficial mascot.  However, the persona he projects reinforces all the negative stereotypes of Chicago fans.  Loud, obnoxious, thinks Mike Ditka is a Hall of Fame coach, the Bears should never throw the ball, the secret to coaching is having fire, etc.  If he were to become an investor in the Cubs he no doubt would be in the booth with Len and Bob almost every game.  Every little ground ball hit and we’d have to hear Belushi screaming, “get in there!”  Get Belushi in the booth with Santo and we’d really be in for an experience.  All we’d hear would be screaming and grunting.  Poor Pat Hughes would be drowned out in the corner with ear plugs in.  Just think of the entertainment at Wrigley we’d have.  Do we really need to see any more of Jim’s lame incarnation of The Blues Brothers?

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                          photo
credit James Stewart

I really do not want to see this happen.  Imagine if Jim Belushi actually gets to call any of the shots concerning the team?  Please, Mr. Ricketts, find someone else.
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Round 3
Tonight is the time for Cubs vs. Cardinals, Round 3.  We’re tied 3-3 right now, so this will prove to be a pivotal series.  Red is definitely not my color, so go Cubbies!!!  I know my father will complain that the Cubs are getting the Cardinals right when they have a rash of injuries, namely Ryan Ludwick.  Well, those are the breaks.  Anyway, what about an all star third baseman by the name of Aramis Ramirex?  You don’t hear the Cubs complaining.
Tonight, it is Ted Lilly (5-2) vs. Joel Pineiro (4-3).
Photo Credits:

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