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.
The Lakers are once again Western Conference Champions!!! For the 30th time, by the way.
Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times
Now, that’s more like it!
Even my son has been caught up in the excitement of the playoffs and his favorite player, Kobe Bryant.
It was a great sports day for me. The Cubs downed the Dodgers 2-1 in a great pitchers duel between Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsly.
But tonight is all about celebrating the Lakers!
The Cubs offense finally breaks out tonight against the Pirates by scoring eight runs, but they still lose. The pitching, which has been the one bright spot during their current seven game losing streak, collapsed tonight allowing 10 runs on 17 hits to...the Pirates? Well, the losing steak is now at eight and nothing is going right for the Cubs right now.
The Cubs are starting to become a powder keg waiting to explode. Ryan Dempster beat up a gatorade dispenser after walking in two runs in the third, Ted Lilly got himself ejected by arguing with an umpire over the strike zone in the fifth inning from the dugout, Milton Bradley believes their is a conspiracy by the umpires to destroy him. It probably is only a matter of time before Lou Piniella goes off and explodes. I thought that was going to happen tonight. With Nate McClouth at first and Freddy Sanchez at second with two out in the seventh, Adam LaRouche grounded to Ryan Freel at third and Freel seemed to beat Sanchez to third, but the umpire called him safe. Piniella came out of the dugout to discuss the play with the umpire and then went back to sit down. I thought for sure we’d all see a classic Piniella outburst. No, disappointment there too. Things are bad right now, so there’s a lot of built up tension.
I predict that there will be a huge outburst or fight with the Cubs in the near future and it will involve either Ted Lilly, Milton Bradley, or Lou Piniella. Or maybe all three of them. Ted Lilly is a hot head; remember that incident a few years back when he wanted to punch out the Toronto manager John Gibbons during a visit to the mound? Milton Bradley’s liable to go off at any moment and throw a bag of balls, and Lou is Lou.
Come on, Cubbies, get mad! If you’re gonna play like garbage, at least be entertaining.
The Cubs now find themselves under .500, at 21-22. They are five games behind the Brewers. True, it is not the end of the world, but if they can’t take care of the Pirates the next two games, they’ve got the Dodgers coming in for a four game series this weekend. It doesn’t get any easier.
Kosuke Fukudome is hitting .308. He’s been one of the few Cubs to consistently hit well this year. Why does Lou Piniella continually sit him in favor of Reed Johnson and Milton Bradley. True, it could be because he sits him against left handers. But why? Bradley and Johnson are not hitting left handers or right handers, for that matter. I think you have a better chance with Fukudome in the lineup, left hander or not. For whatever reason, Piniella doesn’t seem to care much for Fukudome.
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 I go back in time? Did I fall asleep and then wake up in 2006? Tonight, I thought I was watching the Cubs of the Dusty Baker era. Swing at the first pitch every time, not making the pitcher work, three pitch innings. For a team that prides itself on its ability to work counts and maintain a high on base percentage, tonight’s game was the complete opposite. Did they all have somewhere to get to after the game? Joel Pineiro is a decent pitcher, but he’s not this good. Piniero pitched a complete game shutout against the Cubs in St. Louis tonight, throwing only 92 pitches. The Cubs only had 3 hits.
Tom Gannam, Associated Press/May 19, 2009
The thing that hurts the most was the Cubs wasted an awesome outing by Ted Lilly. In fact, Lilly may have had the best stuff he’s had all year. His curveball was really working tonight. Lilly really made only one mistake tonight and that was the batting practice pitch he threw to Colby Rasmus. If it wasn’t for that two run homer, this would have been a 1-0 game in the ninth. It wouldn’t have mattered anyhow. The Cubs had no patience tonight, for whatever reason.
Well, I’m down 4-3 now in my wager with my father. If the Cubs were to lose the next two, then I’ll start to get worried. Let’s see what Carpenter has tomorrow in his return for the Cardinals. Ryan Dempster needs to be up the challenge tomorrow. Let’s go Cubbies!!!
On Wednesday, Jeff Samardzija was sent down to Iowa and right handed reliever Chad Fox was called up to the majors. From what I’ve read, the Cubs intend to start Samardzija for Iowa on Saturday. Why did they bring him up to put him in the bullpen? Piniella said today that they have a young bullpen and they could use a veteran reliever in the pen. Fox is a 38 year old journeyman. From all accounts, Fox pitched well during the spring. So, why didn’t they just call up Fox instead of Samardzija in the first place? Samardzija needs time in the minors. He has one pitch, a fastball, and major leaguers clearly have have caught up with it. On Tuesday, Aaron Rowand was in an 0 for twenty something slump and the cure for that turned out to be Jeff Samardzija. He’s not fooling anyone right now. I realize they have a huge stake in Samardzija, they did pay him some huge signing bonus with a ton of guaranteed money. For now, the Cubs should stick to developing Samardzija as a starter. I believe that is where he will have the most value to the team.
While watching tonight’s game at a local sports bar/eatery in our area, my wife and I couldn’t help notice how aggressive Ryan Theriot is becoming at the plate. Does he now think he’s a home run hitter? In the second inning he opened the at bat with two consecutive home run hacks. Sure, I was happy to see the recent power surge out of Theriot, mainly because it helped the Cubs win some games. Ryan, you’re my favorite player, but you’re not Aramis Ramirez all of a sudden! Keep doing what you do best, working the count, drawing walks, timely base hits, etc. Derrek Lee is the player I’d like to see more aggressive at the plate.
It was good to see the Cubs give Rich Harden some immediate run support. The Cubs’ four run outburst in the first inning against the Astros was highlighted by a three run triple by Reed Johnson. Harden, in turn, reciprocated by tossing what was probably his best outing of the year. Cubs win 6-3.
Ted Lilly goes for win number four in game two against Houston.
I need to take this time to rant about my Lakers. Tonight, the Lakers beat the Rockets 111-98 to tie the series at a game apiece. They absolutely needed to lose that game one the other night. The Lakers have not played a four quarter game in about a month. Sure, they’ve been winning their games, but when you consistently build 15 to 20 point leads in the second half over opponents only to let them get back to within four or five late in the fourth, something is wrong. They’re unfocused. They’re not making free throws. We’ve seen glimpses of the Incredible Shrinking Gasol. They’re committing stupid fouls putting the opponent in the penalty with like 8 minutes left in a quarter. Something has to give. Getting embarrassed Monday at home was probably the best thing for the Lakers. A crack over the head to wake them up. They cannot take the Rockets lightly. They’ll probably pull out this series, but honestly, right now Denver’s going to beat them in the next round. The Lakers are at a crossroads. One of two things can happen. Either they will play like the champions they think they are or their erratic play will catch up to them.
He did it again! In the bottom of the first today against the Marlins, Ryan Theriot launched a two run homer. It was Theriot’s second homer in as many days. Where did this come from?!
Associated Press / May 2, 2009
It’s great to see the power from Theriot, an unlikely source.
Derrek Lee also launched a monster home run onto Waveland Avenue. The bats are starting to heat up!
Ted Lilly pitched one heck of a ball game today, going eight innings and only allowing a solo home run.
Associated Press / May 2, 2009
Tomorrow, the Cubs will honor Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux by retiring the number 31 each of them wore. They are both deserving of the honor. As I said before, I do wish that the Cubs would have retired Jenkins number before Maddux came up so that each of these pitchers could have had their own special day. I won’t let that detract from what will be a very special day in Cubs history.
by Ed Wagner / February 16, 2004
I have some fond memories of Fergie Jenkins. I actually got his autograph twice. The first time was at my first Cubs game on July 1st, 1982. My father took a couple of my friends and I to the game and we got Fergie’s autograph on a scorecard before the game. This was when stadiums were more lax about fans going down near the field. Nowadays they’d probably tell you to sit down. I’ve framed that scorecard not only for Fergie Jenkins and Jay Johnstone’s autographs that are on it, but also for it being my first ever Cubs game. The second time I got Fergie’s autograph was when my family went down to Wrigleyville before the first night game in 1988. We went to get a “First Night Game” t-shirt and who did we see walking into the same souvenir shop across from Wrigley? Feguson Jenkins. My father was actually the one that recognized him first. After he signed an autograph for us, the clerks in the store asked who that was. My father told them Fergie Jenkins. Of course, we had to hear about the fact that Cub fans don’t even know who their players are and that they don’t know anything about baseball. Blah, blah, blah. Cardinal fan. Fergie Jenkins is a great guy so I’d like to congratulate him on the honor, as well as congratulate Greg Maddux.
archive photo / September 8, 2008
If you go to http://www.chicagotribune.com, you can read Dave Van Dyck’s interesting article entitled “31 Things About Fergie Jenkins and Greg Maddux.” It’s a good read.
Congratulations to Kyle Busch on winning the race at Richmond on his 24th birthday no less. Happy birthday!
I also have to congratulate the Blackhawks who came back to defeat Vancouver in Game 2 of their second round series. Do I dare start thinking they have a chance here?
Associated Press / May 2, 2009