Tagged: Lou Piniella

Good Bye, 2009

I do not want to see the 2009 Cubs succeed.  To do so would be to go against every baseball sensibility I have.  It would be to go against any sense of justice and fairness in this world.  To see the 2009 Cubs succeed would be a slap in the face of the baseball gods (sorry, Dusty Baker).  To see the 2009 Cubs succeed would validate stupidity. When a G.M. takes a 97 win team and needlessly overhauls them in the offseason with head-scratching, nonsensical moves, it should not be able to win.  I want to see the Cubs win a World Series, but my God, not this team.  Cub fans deserve better than this ill-conceived team Jim Hendry has put together and Lou Piniella has watched over.  I’ve heard people say the Cubs will actually make the playoffs because they play most of their remaining games against sub .500 teams such as the San Diego Padres and Washington Nationals.  Sure.  I’m so glad that we have the MLB Extra Innings package on DirecTV so I can actually watch real baseball this September. 

Why is Milton Bradley still on this team?  I don’t care if the Cubs buy out his contract and cut him tomorrow, it is painfully obvious that he cannot remain on this team.  Hey, he even said he does not feel comfortable at Wrigley Field.  Who actually thought Milton Bradley would behave differently on the Cubs, a team that has no obvious leaders?  No, to root for the 2009 Cubs to succeed would mean Milton Bradley succeeding.  It may be juvenile, but I can’t do it.
Good luck to Rich Harden and Aaron Heilman after being claimed off waivers.  Hopefully for them, they will indeed end up someplace else so they don’t have to ride out this train wreck.
Now that the Cubs have new owners, the Ricketts family (Isn’t that the name of a disease?  Maybe it’s fitting for the Cubs), we should expect a lot of moves.  At least I hope so.  Do they really know what they’re getting into?  Will they completely sever all ties with the Tribune and start anew, or will it just be business as usual?  The new owners have a lot of work to do.  I wish them well and hope that they can deliver a Cubs World Series with a team that would live up to the image of a champion.

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?

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.

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?

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.
Lakers/Nuggets
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.
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Maybe the Gatorade machine should change it’s name to Dr. Pepper or something.  It needs a doctor after this week.
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Tell him, Big Z!
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Carlos, you might have a future in the WWE!
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You know the players have got to be trying their hardest not to laugh.
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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

Eight is Enough!

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Tonight, Mother Nature stepped in and decided there had been enough losing for the Cubbies.  The rain washed out the game in the bottom of the sixth giving the Cubs a 6-1 victory.  I’ll take any kind of victory right now, even a rain shortened one.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow for the day game finale with the Pirates.  Maybe the Cubs are on to something here.  Get the lead after five innings and pray for rain.  In the words of John “Hannibal” Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
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I got it!  The answer to all their problems is to create their own A-Team.  Lou would be Hannibal because he’s the brains of the outfit.  Milton Bradley would be B.A. Barracus, Ryan Dempster would be “Howling Mad” Murdock doing his Harry Caray impersonations, Reed Johnson could be Face.  The N.L. wouldn’t know what hit them!
Speaking of the A-Team, it was great to see Mr. T at Wrigley yesterday!
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                                 Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune / May 25, 2009

Even Fukudome got to play tonight.  And low and behold, he did something positive, like homer in the first to put the Cubs ahead for good.  Putting your best hitter this season in the lineup.  Got to love it when a plan comes together.
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                              Scott Strazzante/Tribune photo

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