Tagged: Derrek Lee

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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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.

Three in a Row!

The comeback kids do it again!

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                               Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune / June 20, 2009
For the third straight game the Cubs come back to claim a walk off victory.  Thursday, they erased a 5-1 deficit to beat the White Sox 6-5.  On Friday, they erased a 7-0 deficit and beat the Indians 8-7.  Yesterday, it was only a 5-4 deficit in the 13th inning.  It’s nice to see a little fight from the Men in Blue.  However, let’s hope our starting pitching isn’t going into the tank while the offense improves.
The one constant in each of these three comebacks has been Derrek Lee who is red hot.  Lee has homered four times in his last three games and has a 17 game hitting streak.  Finally.  A 17 game hitting streak?  Hmm, that means Gerald Perry was the hitting coach for at least 13 of those games.
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                     Phil Velasquez/Chicago Tribune / June 20, 2009
Another constant has been the emergenge of Andres Blanco as a major contributer in the Cubs late inning offense.
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The final constant has been Kerry Wood, the Indians bullpen, and the Indians infield defense. Oh, my God!  How must Eric Wedge feel know that you’ve got a seven run lead and you will likely lose the game?  It’s not just against the Cubs.  The Indians blew two five run leads in a game earlier this week versus the Brewers.  The 15-12 loss was capped off by a Prince Fielder grand slam.  That game, and the last two against the Cubs, are the signature games of the Indians 2009 season.  They tell exactly what has gone wrong for them.  The theme song of the 2009 Indians should be “Give it Away” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

O.K., Cubbies, you’re facing Jeremy Sowers today.  Sowers is 1-4 with a 5.14 ERA and has gotten to the sixth inning only once in his last seven starts.  There should be no need for a comeback win today.  Knock him out early.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there!
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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.
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A Look at the Division

While the Cubs enjoy a day off, I decided to take a look at the state of the NL Central.

Who says the NL Central is a weak division.  Right now, four of the six teams are over .500.  The top four teams are separated by 3 and a half games.  As of the end of play on May 18, here are the standings.
                Milwaukee 24-14   —
                Chicago    21-15   2
                St. Louis   21-17   3
                Cincinnati  20-17   3.5
                Houston    17-19   6
                Pittsburgh 17-21   7
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The Brewers have been red hot as of late.  In their last three series, the Brew Crew took 2 out of three from the Cubs, swept three from the Marlins, and swept three from the Cardinals.  Trevor Hoffman has been lights out, converting all nine save opportunities.  The offense has been clicking, led by the Villainous Braun and Prince Fielder.  The starting pitching has been better than expected.  Will it last?  Prince Fielder is the absolute worst defensive first baseman I’ve seen at the big league level.  Having watched a lot of bad Cubs baseball over the years, that’s saying something.  The strain he puts on the pitching staff over the course of the season by giving teams extra outs is great.  The Brewers should trade him the to AL for some starting pitching.  At least there he can be someone’s DH.  Milwaukee got some bad news today when they learned they had lost Rickie Weeks for the season with a wrist injury.  Weeks had nine homers, 24 RBI, and a .517 on base percentage.
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I really don’t know how the Cubs have the record they have considering how erratic their starting pitching has been, how dreadful the bullpen has been, and how many key injuries they’ve had.  Piniella’s team has found a way to persevere.  This does give me hope for this season. Bobby Scales and Randy Wells have been pleasant surprises thus far.  Will the Cubs be able to maintain their offense during Ramirez’s absence?  Has Derrek Lee finally turned the corner with Sunday’s big performance?  Can Marmol be lights out again?  Can the Cubs really rely on Kevin Gregg?  Will Fukudome have another second half swoon?  These are some of the questions the Cubs face.
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The Cardinals came out of the gate like gangbusters.  Their high powered offense, led by Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick, was clobbering everyone.  Albert Pujols is the best player in the game right now, but things are going to get tougher for him now that his protector in the lineup, Ludwick, has gone on the DL.  They were just swept by Milwaukee in a series where they produced little offense.  Their bullpen has looked shaky at times once again.  They don’t have a true closer.  Sorry, Dad, But I think the Cardinals are beginning their slide down the standings.  Don’t forget who they play next!
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Cincinnati was my sleeper team this year.  They have a boatload of really good young talent. Could this be the Tampa Bay Rays of 2009?  Cincinnati is finding out “In Dusty, we trusty”.
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Houston has a scary offense with no pitching.  If they try hard, they could end up .500.
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The Pirates started out strong.  It looked like their young pitchers, such as Duke, Snell, & Gorzelanny had turned the corner like Verlander & Bonderman had for the Tigers in 2006.  However, they’ve slid back down in the last couple of weeks.  They still could figure in as a spoiler for the contenders down the stretch.
Extra! Extra!
Meet Jose Ascanio, the Cubs new reliever extraordinaire.
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Here are the results of the first four batters Jose faced in Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Astros.
Batter 1 – Hit by Pitch (Hey, watch it!)
Batter 2 – Hit by Pitch (Ouch! That had to hurt.)
Batter 3 – Single to right, RBI
Batter 4 – Oops! Wild pitch, run scores
Someone actually figured out something Larry Rothschild hasn’t been able to, how to make Kevin Gregg, Neil Cotts, & Aaron Heilman look good.  Watch it now, these guys have got some competition.
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The Villainous Braun

It’s always good to see Ryan Braun look like this after an at bat.
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                       Darren Hauck, Associated Press / May 10, 2009     


Braun is
one Brewer who is starting to rub me the wrong way.  He seems to have an
arrogance about him   When he hits a home run, he throws his bat, runs
around the bases with his arms extended and his tongue sticking out.  If
the Brewers win, he pulls his shirt out of his pants right away and struts
around with an arrogant bravado.  He’s the perfect villain in the Cubs vs.
Brewers rivalry.  We couldn’t contain him Friday, but thankfully we did yesterday.

46809840.jpg     Darren Hauck, Associated Press / May 8, 2009

See what I mean?

Yesterday, the Cub bullpen finally did its job in preserving a 4-2 win in Milwaukee.  Marmol looked shaky again in the 8th, having loaded the bases, but he managed to pitch out of it.  Gregg was actually effective in closing out the ninth.

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                          Darren Hauck,
Associated Press / May 10, 2009     

Sean Marshall turned in another strong outing.  He struggled early, but only gave up two runs.  He really settled down after the rocky start.

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                                  Darren Hauck,
Associated Press / May 10, 2009  

I heard that Piniella feels that fixing the bullpen should be priority number one.  Yeah, no kidding.  The Cubs did call up reliever Jose Ascanio to replace the injured Chad Fox.
Finally, here’s some good news coming out of Cubs camp.  Derrek Lee had an MRI on his neck and it was determined that he will not need to go on the DL and should be back in the lineup during the upcoming home stand.
It’s a good thing that there is no Cubs game tonight, because all eyes in Chicago will be on our beloved Blackhawks as they look to close out the Canucks at the United Center and punch their ticket to the Western Conference Finals.
Hopefully, we’ll see more scenes like these.
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      Darryl Dyck, Associated Press / May 9, 2009

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               Jonathan
Hayward, Associated Press / May 9, 2009  

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                 Jonathan
Hayward, Associated Press / May 9, 2009  

Let’s start the chant now.  “Let’s go Hawks!”  “Let’s go Hawks!”
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