Tagged: Ryan Dempster

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:

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.
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Here’s Fukudome’s locker.
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Where it all begins.
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Tina in the Clubhouse.
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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.
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Tina enjoying the view from the dugout.
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Lou Piniella’s perspective.
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Some more dugout pictures.
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The Cubs couple.
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I’m smashing what’s left of the Gatorade machine.
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I’ve seen enough of Heilman.  Let’s get Guzman up.
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The rain stopped momentarily for us to go on the field for a picture.
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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 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

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.

Did the Cubs make the April grade?

April has come to an end.  Twenty-one games are in the books.  Being a teacher, I’m used to grading my students’ performance.  I’m going to take this opportunity to grade the Cubs players’ April performance.

Outfielders
Alfonso Soriano, B
        He’s personally won at least two games this year.  His batting average has started to
        dip.  I’s now .284.
Reed Johnson, C+
        Outfield play has saved Cubs on a number of occasions.  Great attitude and seems to
        be a great team guy.  He is hitting only .216, though.
Kosuke Fukudome, A
        Solid start to season with his .338 average.  He leads team with 15 RBI.  We’ve seen
        this before, however.  Can he extent the hot hitting after the All-Star Break?
Milton Bradley, F
        Should be an incomplete, as he hasn’t played much.  His attitude and distractions
        earn him an F.
Joey Gathright, INCOMPLETE
        One hit in nine at bats.  The jury is still out.
Micah Hoffpauir, B-
        .303, two homers, nine RBIs.  Sloppy defense at times.
Infielders
Derrek Lee, C-
         Good defense.  Some timely hits, but still hitting only .189.  Time to move down in the 
         order.
Aramis Ramirez, B+
         When he’s in there, he’s the Cubs most dangerous hitter.  .358 with 14 RBIs.  Has
         battled injury issues thus far.  The Cubs CANNOT afford to lose him for any extended
         length of time.
Ryan Theriot, B+
         Hitting .317.  Plays hard and is dependable.  Base running gaffes are a weakness.
Mike Fontenot, B-
         Hitting only .232, but has four homers and ten RBIs.  A good team guy.  His defense is
         better this year.
Aaron Miles, C+
         Cubs are getting what they should have expected from this light hitting infielder.
Catchers
Geovany Soto, F
         This saddens me.  Slow start, hitting .109 with only five hits on the season.  Is he
         still hurt?  Can’t throw out any base stealers.  A Cubs Rookie of the Year off to a slow              
         start the following year.  Anyone remember Jerome Walton?
Koyie Hill, B
         A solid backup.
Starters
Carlos Zambrano, C+
         Can be inconsistent.  Still will let his emotions take over at times.  4.64 ERA.
         36 hits allowed in 33 innings along with 13 walks.
Ryan Dempster, C
         29 hits allowed in 30 innings along with 14 walks.  5.40 ERA.
Ted Lilly, C+
         2-2 with a 3.80 ERA.
Rich Harden, B
         If you take out the awful game I saw him pitch against Colorado, he’s probably been the 
         best of this bunch so far.  2-1, 3.86 ERA.
Sean Marshall, B-
         3.32 ERA is best among the starters.  He keeps the Cubs in the game.
Bullpen
Aaron Heilman, C+
         I was actually ready to give him an A- before todays game because of his 0.82 ERA.
         I’m so mad after tonight, I’ve downgraded him.
Angel Guzman, C-
         His 3.97 ERA now actually looks good in this bullpen.  Sad.
Kevin Gregg, F
         11 hits in 9.2 innings pitched and a 5.59 ERA is not going to get it done as a closer.
Davis Patton, F
         Threw a home run derby pitch to Pujols with the bases loaded.  Has a 9.35 ERA.
Carlos Marmol, C+
          Mr. Reliable started out strong.  Even he has struggled of late, even before his injury.
          6.00 ERA.
Neal Cotts, F
         Only because there isn’t a grade lower than F.
Jeff Samardzija, F
        You see Jeff Samardzija, I see Kyle Farnsworth.  6.75 ERA.
The Overall Grade = C
The Cubs finish April at 10-11.  They are a very average team right now with a lousy bullpen.  
They’ve scored 97 runs and given up 104.  They are 4-5 at home and 6-6 on the road.  The Cubs face a challenge right now.  They trail St. Louis by five games right now.  St. Louis has three more games against the woeful Washington Nationals this weekend.  The Cubs have three more games against the first place Marlins.  The Cubs don’t want to start digging themselves too deep of a hole.  There’s an old baseball adage that says while you can’t win a pennant in April, you can lose a pennant in April.  Thank God it’s May.