Tagged: Carlos Zambrano

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.
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.
Photo Credit:

The Tour

Yesterday, my wife and I went on a tour of Wrigley Field.  It was a fun thing to do for our anniversary.  I feel very lucky that my wife loves sports so much; she felt that going on a tour of a baseball stadium was a great way to celebrate our anniversary.

I highly recommend going on one of these tours.  I thought I knew a lot about Wrigley Field, but on the tour I still learned some new things.  For example, did you know that home plate and the pitchers mound are not lined up with centerfield and the scoreboard?  I’ve been to Wrigley so many times and, honestly, I never noticed.

Here’s a picture from the press box.  You can clearly see that home plate does not line up with centerfield.  This was done when they shifted the stadium to add more seats.  What does it mean?  I don’t know, but maybe the Cubs haven’t won for so long because their stadium is misaligned.  Let’s stop blaming the goat.  Maybe after five or six Old Styles, it starts to straighten out!
The baskets were put in during the 1970 season to prevent Bleacher Bums from falling on the field since then liked to walk along the wall to go from right field and left field.  As you can imagine, many of them had more than a few beverages.
Here I am in the visitor’s clubhouse.  I had no idea how small the visitor’s clubhouse is, and they expanded it for the 1990 All-Star Game.  This is the same clubhouse all visiting teams to Wrigley Field have used since the park opened in 1914.  It’s amazing to think of all the players who sat in this room, such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, etc.
Here I am in the Cub’s clubhouse.  While it is nicer than the visitor’s clubhouse, it still is small.  The clubhouse was all set up for the Cubs return Friday for inter league action agaisnt the Twins.
Here’s Fukudome’s locker.
Where it all begins.
Tina in the Clubhouse.
I got a different perspective from the Cubs dugout.  Dusty Baker was right.  The Cubs dugout is sunk down very low so that it is hard to see all the action on the field.
Tina enjoying the view from the dugout.
Lou Piniella’s perspective.
Some more dugout pictures.
The Cubs couple.
I’m smashing what’s left of the Gatorade machine.
I’ve seen enough of Heilman.  Let’s get Guzman up.
The rain stopped momentarily for us to go on the field for a picture.
Curtain calls.
We got to see as much as we did because the Cubs are in Cincinnati.  Yesterday, the Cubs lost a game they probably should have lost.  Dempster had a rough first inning, spotting the Reds a 3-0 lead.  However, that was all the Reds would get through nine innings.  The Cubs would chip away and eventually tie the game in the eighth inning.  However, the Reds eventually won in the eleventh.  Boy, Fontenot had a really rough inning.  I still can’t say it enough, the loss of Ramirez is killing the Cubs.  Fontenot is not a natural third baseman and more and more he is being exposed out there at third.
So, Zambrano is done after his contract is up in 2012?  After Big Z got his 100th win this week, he was asked if he had a shot at 300 like Randy Johnson.  He said no, saying that he did not feel like playing after his curren
t contract is up.  We’ll see. With Carlos, you never know.

The Curse of Being a Fan

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a few days, but I’ve just been totally consumed by the Lakers.  Since they clinched last Friday, I’ve been pretty much thinking and worrying day and night about how they’re going to win this title.  They have to win.  Well, they rewarded me tonight with their second best effort of the playoffs (the closeout of Denver was still more dominating).  Apparently, the Lakers are interested again, which is good for me because I can at least sleep good the next couple of nights.  I know it’s silly, but those of you that are obsessive about your teams will understand.  I think.  One not so humorous thing about tonight.  Well, it’s something I’m sure we’ll look back and laugh about.  Tonight is the eve of our fourth anniversary, the fruit anniversary.  My wife went out and got her hair done.  Our son was staying with my parents today, so I went to pick him up and take him home.  They live 40 miles from us, so I did not get home until the player introductions for the game.  My son was cute, because he knew Kobe right away (I’ve taught him well).  Well, when I came in and put my son down, I became consumed with the game and did not notice my wife’s hair or make a comment about it. (She looked beautiful, but then again she always does).  Finally, when the Lakers started to open it up in the second quarter, I noticed.  I apologized profusely.  My wife understood.  She blamed Kobe.  I am so sorry, honey.  I did bring home a dozen roses, however.  And I did plan a great outing on Saturday to celebrate.  It still doesn’t excuse it, though.  Why do we get so consumed by a game on TV played far away by people who don’t know us?  It’s the curse of being a fan.

The Lakers success has taken some of my attention away from the Cubs.  Right now, this may not be a bad thing.  Where do I begin?  Let’s recap the rain shortened series against the Braves.
The still suspended Carlos Zambrano misses the team flight to Atlanta on Monday.  Way to go, Carlos.  Lou said he gave him a talking to.  Big Z was supposed to pitch today, but that game was rained out.  He’ll go tomorrow in Cincinnati instead.  I have a bad feeling about that.
Milton Bradley got hurt again.  Yawn.  However, the Cubs just call him day to day again and won’t put him on the DL.  They can’t say when he’ll play, though.  Are they serious?  You know, I would not care if they just cut him and ate the two years remaining on his contract.  There is a silver lining to his injury.  It means Reed Johnson will get to play more.  The Cubs are better with Reed Johnson then they are with Milton.
With the injury to Ramirez and the injury of the week to Bradley and others, the Cubs are becoming a team of Triple A players.  Andres Blanco, Bobby Scales, Jake Fox.  These guys aren’t young, either.  Scales is 31, Fox is 27, Blanco is 25.  Micah Hoffpauir is 29.  I admit, I liked the Bobby Scales story, but if the Cubs are going to depend on these three guys for a long stretch of time, they are not winning the division.  To remain in the minors until your 29 or 30 tells me there are some fatal flaws to your game, otherwise they’d be up sooner.  The other teams will figure the flaw out and exploit it.
Carlos Marmol and Kevin Gregg turned in a tag team effort to blow Tuesday night’s game.  Poor Randy Wells had a no hitter into the seventh inning and left leading 5-0.  Marmol gives up 3 runs in the eighth and Gregg gives up two in the ninth to force a sure win into extra innings.  In the twelfth, Heilman provided the cherry on top by giving up the winning run.
The next night, the Cubs blew a 2-0 lead and had the game go into extra innings.  Fortunately, they won this game to stay one game over .500.
Now the Cubs start a big series with the Reds, who are a game ahead of them.  Now would be a good time to start a winning streak.  OK, Big Z, your the ace.  Go and pitch like one.

Taking Another Look

Yesterday I made light of the fact that Carlos Zambrano went nutso at Wrigley.  It was a needed eruption to get his deflated team pumped up again.  Today, I actually saw the whole footage of the outburst on TV by my parents house while picking up my son.  I was at work when this game was played so I didn’t see the whole thing.  What I saw put a sour feeling in my stomach. I’ve changed my tune.  I still think that an eruption by a player or manager can have a positive effect on a team.  However, Zambrano crossed a lot of lines yesterday.  The biggest line crossed was that of the bat to the Gatorade machine.  It’s scary to see how close he came to hitting Larry Rothschild in the chest.  He swung the bat at the machine without any regard to the safety of his teammates on the bench.  I honestly think that the Cubs themselves should suspend Zambrano.  He’s out of control.  He should be suspended by the team and forced to take an anger management class or get counseling.  I actually saw an interview with Big Z on the news where he said with a straight face that he never got into it with an umpire before or had an out burst like that.  What?  No, there’s something wrong.  The Cubs right now seem to be taking the stance people associated with the Red Sox took with Manny Ramirez when they would say, “It’s Manny being Manny”.  However, I don’t recall Manny putting his teammates safety at risk.  Would the Cubs be singing a different tune right now if Rothschild took the bat to the chest, or if the bat’s backswing caught a player on the bench in the head.  Or if a piece of the Gatorade machine hit a player in the head.  Or a fan, for that matter.  Seeing this outburst reminded me somewhat of a scene in the Jimmy Piersall biopic “Fear Strikes Out”.  If I was a Cubs player on the bench, I would have actually have been scared.  We can go back to many out bursts from Zambrano.  From hitting batters to the fight with Michael Barrett, Zambrano has shown time and again he is his own worst enemy.  Can the Cubs really count on him?  Is he really a number one starter?  A stopper?  I don’t know.  He keeps proving that he’s a loose cannon that does more harm than good to the team at times.  Why would the Cubs keep pursuing San Diego’s ace pitcher?  Maybe because deep down they know that they can never know what to expect from Big Z.  If Lou Piniella and the coaches are just going to look the other way, then Jim Hendry needs to step in and demand a level of professionalism.  The Cubs cannot continue to apologize for Big Z’s behavior and look the other way.  The need to get him help.  If not, he’s only going to end up hurting the team.

Right now I probably would have to say the Dodgers are the best team in baseball and they showed it tonight in their 2-1 win over the Cubs.  The Dodgers are a fundamentally sound team.  Their games may not always be pretty, but they get the job done.  The Cubs hope to even the series tomorrow afternoon with Ted Lilly taking the mound.
Can someone please convince the Lakers that they lost yesterday’s Game 5?  Phil, you’re the “Zen Master”, could you hypnotize your players and make them believe they lost?  It will be the only way that the Lakers will come out and win Game 6 tomorrow night.  The Lakers only come to play hard when the absolutely must.  Their boredom with the playoffs is maddening.  They have the mentality of “oh, well, we have home court advantage.  We’ll win Game 7”.  In a sense, that may not be a bad thing because they are showing that they can respond to adversity.  But, why does it have to come to that?  Just show up and win tomorrow night.  Use your height advantage against the Nuggets.  There is no reason the Nuggets should be beating the Lakers on the boards.  Yes, I’m calling out Pau Gasol.  The Nuggets should be leading in tattoos, not rebounds.
How big was Lamar Odom last night?  Odom is the key to the Lakers title hopes.  If he consistently plays as he did yesterday, as a force defensively as well as offensively, the Lakers will not lose.

The Powder Keg Explodes!

I said it was going to happen.  I said that it needed to happen.  Someone on the Cubs exploded in rage.  While it wasn’t Lou or Bradley, Big Z provided plenty of fireworks for the faithful this afternoon at Wrigley.

With the Cubs leading 2-1 in the seventh, Big Z threw a wild pitch with Nyjer Morgan on third.  Morgan came home just as Geovany Soto threw the ball back to Zambrano for the tag.  It was a bang-bang play, and the umpire called Morgan safe to tie the game.  Well, Zambrano went nuts. It was good to see a little passion and fight out of the Cubbies, even if it will cost Zambrano a pretty good suspension.  Big Z bumped the umpire, mocked him as he was ejected, threw his mitt, threw a ball out into left field and finally took a bat to the poor gatorade machine in the Cubs dugout.  What do the Cubs got against that machine, anyway?  Only two days before, Dempster went and beat it up.
Here are some pictures from the Chicago Tribune that tell the tale.
Maybe the Gatorade machine should change it’s name to Dr. Pepper or something.  It needs a doctor after this week.
Tell him, Big Z!
Carlos, you might have a future in the WWE!
You know the players have got to be trying their hardest not to laugh.
Here’s my favorite!  Lou’s just walking away going, “I’ve taught him well.”  The expression on pitching coach Larry Rothschild is priceless!  Anyone out there care to come up with a funny caption to tell what Larry is saying?
Well, that should loosen up the Cubs.  If they were tight before, they’re for sure loose now.  I’m not advocating childish, unsportsmanlike behavior, but the Cubs need something to get them going.  They can enjoy their current TWO game winning streak!  That’s right, thanks to Reed Johnson’s home run and some insurance in the eighth, the Cubbies won 5-2.  We’re now above .500 once again.  That’s good because we now have the Dodgers coming in to town for a four game weekend series.  Even without Manny, the Dodgers own the major’s best record at 33-15.  Like I said before, it doesn’t get any easier.
Anyone care for some Gatorade?
Photo Credits:
Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 27, 2009
Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 27, 2009
Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 27, 2009
Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press / May 27, 2009
Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune / May 27, 2009