Tagged: Cardinals

It must be great to be a baseball player

This week Rich Harden told the Cubs that he doesn’t want to pitch any more this year.  I don’t believe any reason was given, meaning it’s not an injury issue.  I guess he just doesn’t want to waste the energy for a team not going to the playoffs and go out there and earn the money the team is paying him.  When Harden made his request, the Cubs just said, “O.K.”  While Milton Bradley made some idiotic comments recently, he was right when he said that there are reasons why this team hasn’t won in so long.  What a joke.  Being a teacher I can only imagine what would happen if I went into my principal’s office in May and said “I don’t want to teach for the rest of the month, the school years just about over anyway.  Oh, and by the way, keep my job for me in September.”  I’m sure someone else would be in my classroom come September.  I wonder if Rich Harden is giving back his salary for the last two starts or so that he will miss.  Somehow I doubt it.  If the Cubs wanted to grant his request, fine, but they should have also told him where the door was, take Milton with you, and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.  If he’s back next year, it will be 102 years and counting for the Cubs. 

So, the Cubs have suspended Milton Bradley for the season.  That’s about three months too late.  Eat his salary and get him out of here.
The wager will be collected sometime in October.  I don’t know what Cardinal gear I will be wearing, yet.  I’ll have to have something blue under it so that the St. Louis stuff doesn’t touch my skin, right Dad?  By the way, congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals for winning the NL Central last night.  They’re my pick to go to the World Series, but watch out for the Rockies.  I’ve been watching a lot of Rockies games this month, and let me tell you, that is a TEAM.
I’m very happy that my son is really starting to get into baseball.  Of course, there’s the fear that he will become brainwashed into being a Cardinals fan, but if that’s the case, then so be it.  Joshua has been throwing everyone through the loop be his identification with the Boston Red Sox.  As I’ve mentioned before, we have the MLB baseball package on DirecTV, so we spend evenings with baseball on TV.  We’ve pretty much been watching the Red Sox games on NESN and the Rockies games after 9:00.  We switch back and forth to the Cubs game, but it’s been painful.  Without being prompted, Josh correctly identified the Red Sox when I asked him who was playing.  Did he hear it on TV, did he notice the bright red Sox logo on the sleeves of their road jerseys?  Whatever the reason, if Josh is asked if he wants to watch baseball, he always says the Red Sox.  I was at Target recently and bought him a Red Sox hat, which he loves.  He now knows who Big Papi is.  I even gave him my old Starting Lineups of Roger Clemens and Wade Boggs to play with.  Hey, he likes baseball.  On my iTunes, I did have the song “Dirty Water”, by the Standells.  I played it for Josh and told him they play this song when the Red Sox win.  He went nuts.  Yesterday, I filmed him listening to this song.
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Fly the “L” Flag

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Congratulations, Dad.  You’ve been spared the embarrassment of wearing Cubs gear down at Wrigley Field.  And to think, you actually did not want to take this bet out of fear the Cubs would actually win the season series against the Cards.  You had nothing to worry about.  I’d like to make this photo op of me in Cardinals gear happen sooner than later.  Let’s get it over with.

Photo Credit:

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?

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.

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.
Photo Credit:

Two Stinkin’ Runs?

A huge series against our biggest division rival and all we can muster is two stinkin’ runs?  No one to my knowledge as figured out a way to win a baseball game without scoring a run, so it really doesn’t matter how good your pitching is.  The Cubs wasted three very strong outings by Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, and Sean Marshall.  If you give up only eight runs over three games, you should expect to at least win one of them.  A maddening thing I’ve noticed about the Cubs over the past five years or so is that they are prone to long streaks when absolutely no one is hitting.  Sometimes one or two guys are slumping, but a couple of other guys will step up and pick up the slack.  With the Cubs, the whole team slumps together.  I did notice a few other things about the Cubs while watching this painful three game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals.

1.  Mike Fontenot is not an everyday player.  One thing about Chicago fans is that they tend to elevate a moderately OK player to Hall of Fame status is they have a good weekend.  I’m not saying that anyone has ever suggested that Mike Fontenot is a Hall of Famer, that would be silly.  However, last year when he’s get a pinch hit home run or would have an occasional 3-4 game, a lot of people would rave about him and say he should play more.  Mike Fontenot is hitting below .200 right now.  While he is not that bad, I am saying that I would not expect Fontenot to hit anything over .250 if he plays every day.  Sure, he’ll end up with 15 or so homers because he does have some pop in his bat, but that pop should be reserved for the bench.  He’s an above average utility/bench player.  He’s not an everyday player.  I know he has to play third because Ramirez is out.  Getting rid of both DeRosa and Ronny Cedeno looks real bad about now.
2.  The Cubs still struggle against teams that have all right handed starters.  The Dodgers had an all right handed staff and that doomed the Cubs in last seasons postseason.  This year, the Cardinals have an entire right handed starting staff, and the Cubs are now 3-6 against them this year.  The Cubs thought they addressed the problem of lack of left handed power by signing Milton Bradley and having Fontenot play every day.  Yeah, that’s really not working out as they planned right now.  Milton Bradley is hitting .184 with 4 homers and 9 RBIs.  Raul Ibanez is hitting .349 with 15 homers and 40 RBIs.  Bobby Abreu is hitting .300 with a .400 on base percentage.  Not to beat a dead horse, but the Cubs could have had either of these two instead of Bradley.  Makes me sad.
3.  I’m now down 3-6 in my wager with my father.  I’m getting a little worried.  The Cardinals have to win only three more games against the Cubs for my father to have won the wager.  I’m getting used to wearing red by wearing my Blackhawks t-shirt.