Archive - Aug 2005

Well, let me introduce myself before you read my dull words, that somehow made it into this very-appreciated site. I'm Carlos Rubi, an eighteen year old high school senior from Merida, Mexico; I've been a Cubs fanatic since 1994, and will be one until... well, until I stop caring. Or until I get married. Some of you may know me from the Parachat; I'm usually there to spend every other game, classes-permitting I also run a weblog Dusty Says, along with two other people. Well, then, I shall leave you with the article. Thanks to TCR for giving me this opportunity... He has the stuff to be the Cubs' closer of the future! How many times have we heard that in the past ten years? Try to remember the number. Three, four? Wrong. The closer role is as vital as a bag of carrots; though, in the modern way of playing baseball, it must be a role well defined and set to an individual. Through the minor leagues, and even in the major leagues, several lethal pitchers with arrow fastballs and knee-buckling breaking stuff have joined the spinning wheel that is the Cubs bullpen. Guys like Myers, Gordon, Alfonseca, Veres, Remlinger all have closed games for the Cubs, but all of those were acquired by trades or free agency. This story, though, will focus on the guys scouts have labeled as the perennial closers of the future (COTF); none of them, at the time of this article, have been able to succeed at that role.

GAME 133 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-72) @ CHICAGO CUBS (63-69) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports West 2

August 30th

GAME 132 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-71) @ CHICAGO CUBS (62-69) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports West 2
Mark Prior, RHP
9-5, 3.68 ERA
147/45 K/BB, 21 HR in 132.0 IP
Brad Penny, RHP
6-8, 3.75 ERA
102/33 K/BB, 14 HR in 151.0 IP
CF Jayson Werth CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS *Oscar Robles SS Ronny Cedeno
2B Jeff Kent 1B Derrek Lee
LF * Ricky Ledee RF *Jeromy Burnitz
1B Jason Phillips 3B Nomar Garciaparra
3B Mike Edwards 2B *Todd Walker
C #Dionar Navarro LF Matt Murton
RF #Jose Cruz Jr. C Henry Blanco
P Brad Penny P Mark Prior
It would be nice, if over the last month, Prior could regain some of that confidence and swagger that he once possessed. He's been quite ordinary since coming off the DL, giving up at least 3 runs in seven of his last eight starts, seeing his ERA rise from 3.07 when he shutout the Pirates for eight innings on July 14th to it's current state of 3.68. Not bad, just not great and Prior needs to be great. His problem is easy enough to diagnose, his propensity to give up the big fly. His HR/9 rate is 1.43 this year, compared to 1.06 last year and a miniscule 0.63 in 2003. Keep it in the park, my friend! Looks like Dusty got the message that the kids should play, at least for a day. Let's hope it goes that way for the bulk of the season. Go Cubs!

You'll be seeing a few guest pieces over the next week or so as most of the TCR staff is cruising around the world from all the money we make from Paypal donations and you guys clicking on the ads. You guys do click on the ads, right? Hope you enjoy and we'll be back at full strength in a few weeks to bring you up to date coverage of everyone of Neifi's at-bats in September. Many of you may know me already, but the guys here at The Cub Reporter have asked me to write something. If you don't know me, then let me introduce my self. I am Chris Yarbrough formally from the state of Alabama. I now reside in "The Natural State," which is Arkansas for you guys who are keeping score. I am a sports writer in El Dorado, Ark., which is right above the Louisiana border. I mainly cover high school sports, but I do get to cover the occasional Louisiana Tech football game. This was supposed to run on Monday, but a short staff and a hurricane caused me to forget as I got out of work around 1 a.m. Also you can check out my site, The Yarbage Cub Review. We try to keep things going over there. Now onto our show:

The dismantlement of the 2005 Chicago Cubs continues. Todd Hollandsworth, like Matt Lawton and Mike Remlinger before him, possesses no value to the Cubs beyond this year, since his contract expires over the winter and promises no compensatory draft picks. Furthermore, any value he holds this year has been rendered an irrelevance by the Cubs' 62-69 circumstance. Moving him, and others in the same boat, to teams that still harbour dreams of October baseball is an inarguably sensible strategy, for, even if the typical return in players is similarly valueless and irrelevant, the transaction at least saves dollars that can ideally be spent more effectively at a later point. And, in some instances, the faceless names acquired in such deals do end up possessing long-term value. If possible then, the Cubs should perhaps also be considering moving Ben Grieve and Neifi Perez over the next day or two, while monitoring the markets for Ryan Dempster, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Jeromy Burnitz, although the need to clear waivers makes deals there unlikely. Moving Todd Walker would be far less wise. In the Cubs' particular instance as regards these small trades, there's also the Dusty Baker factor. It has to be at least wondered if putting such tantalising options such as Lawton, Hollandsworth and Reverse-split Remlinger just out of Dusty's otherwise inescapable reach plays any part in these moves, even if it's just a secondary motivation. From this vantage point a good few thousand miles away, Dusty Baker's misuse of the roster he's been afforded is as clear as day, even if the extent of the impact of that misuse, both absolute and relative, is far more debatable. Just what the view looks like from Hendry's much more privileged viewpoint, and just what difference, if any, that view is responsible for when it comes to his roster construction - those are the predominant thoughts on my mind when it comes to the Cubs these days. Are these moves, or any moves, what he believes to be best for the team, or best for the team as long as it's managed by Dusty Baker, on whom Hendry has all but staked his own position too? If the latter, I think it's entirely possible that Hendry's self-compromise is having just as great a detrimental effect as the much more obvious (and therefore much more maligned) mis-management of Dusty Baker. I spoke yesterday about Hendry's courage with regards to the Matt Lawton mistake, but if he sees Dusty Baker as a mistake, one that's compromising him and the team as a whole, the greater act of courage would be to send Dusty Baker packing, even if by doing so he runs the risk of going the same way himself. On the other hand, if he doesn't see Dusty Baker as a mistake, and this year's team is his own way of constructing a team capable of winning the World Series, I personally don't think he's got a good enough grasp of the big picture to be a general manager anyway. Discuss.

August 29th

Todd Hollandsworth was traded to the Atlanta Braves tonight for minor league (wait for it)....pitchers Todd Blackford and Angelo Burrows. If you're too lazy to click the link, here's what the Cubs PR department has to say about the 2 "prospects":
Blackford, 20, is in his second professional season, having been selected by Atlanta in the 13th round of the 2004 draft. In 27 career games, the right-handed pitcher has gone 6-5 with a 4.60 ERA. This season, Blackford has gone 5-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 12 games for the Class A Danville Braves. He has held opponents to a .219 average and issued just two homers in 59 2/3 innings of work. Burrows, 25, was selected by the Braves in the ninth round of the 1999 draft. The right-handed pitcher has split the 2005 season between Class A Rome and Myrtle Beach, combining to go 4-3 with three saves and a 3.32 ERA in 30 relief appearances. Burrows, who began his career as an outfielder, batted .250 in 334 career games before being converted to a pitcher in 2004. In his first season on the mound, he was 2-5 with a 4.10 ERA in 22 relief appearances. He struck out 30 batters and allowed five homers in his 37 1/3 innings of work.
Matt Murton will be called up tomorrow to take Holly's spot and it looks like Jermaine Van Buren will be called up and placed on the 40 man roster to take Kerry Wood's spot, who will be placed on the DL tomorrow. Trans: To quote Bob Dylan,
Goodbye's too good a word, babe So I'll just say, "fare thee well." I ain't saying you treated me unkind. You could have done better but I don't mind. You just kinda wasted my precious time. But don't think twice, it's all right.

GAME 131 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] LOS ANGELES DODGERS (59-71) @ CHICAGO CUBS (62-68) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: ESPN, CSN, Fox Sports West 2
Jerome Williams, RHP
4-6, 4.74 ERA
51/31 K/BB, 12 HR in 79.2 IP
D.J. Houlton, RHP
4-7, 4.83 ERA
72/33 K/BB, 11 HR in 96.1 IP
3B Antonio Perez CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS *Oscar Robles 2B *Todd Walker
2B Jeff Kent 1B Derrek Lee
LF *Ricky Ledee RF *Jeromy Burnitz
1B Jason Phillips 3B Nomar Garciaparra
CF Jayson Werth LF *Todd Hollandsworth
C #Dionar Navarro SS #Neifi Perez
RF #Jose Cruz Jr. C Michael Barrett
P D.J. Houlton P Jerome Williams
You think we have problems, the Dodgers have Ricky Ledee batting cleanup and Jason Phillips starting at first base over Hee-Seop Choi even though a righty is on the mound. And every time I point out the deficiencies of another team's lineup, they pound us. Not to mention they have a relatively bad pitcher on the mound, who's certain to throw a gem tonight. You know when you look at Jerome Williams' numbers, he's not that good. Doesn't strike out a lot of guys, way too many walks for a guy who doesn't strike out all that many hitters and for a guy who's suppose to keep the ball on the ground, he's given up way too many dingers. He does have youth and "upside" going for him though. Why is Todd Hollandsworth in the lineup? That is really going to be the worst part of the rest of the season. Cause everyone including the Cubs brass has declared the season over, but Dusty just can't live with being below .500. So he's going to trot out marginal vets (Perez, Holly, etc) in an attempt to say he's a winning manager, thus not only is this season ruined, he's going to screw us up for next year too. Awesome!!! And how the hell is this game on ESPN by the way? Go Cubs!!

The white flags are upon us and here's another one. Kerry Wood will go under the knife on Wednesday for arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder. When they first discussed surgery, I recall reading something about a 3 month recovery period and that is was very similar to the procedure that Matt Morris underwent for the Cardinals last year. That means he could start throwing once again in December, plenty of time to start addressing the issues with his mechanics that are probably the source of his problems. Whether that will happen is another story of course. I wonder if the Cubs will DL him and call someone up or just wait until Septemeber 1st when rosters expand. Could this finally be a way to get Jermaine Van Buren up? My limited roster knowledge tells me they could put Wood on the 60 day DL and get Van Buren on the 40 man roster. Speaking of the 40 man roster and September call-ups, any guesses? Here's mine for what they're worth. Adam Greenberg (once AA playoffs are over) Jermaine Van Buren (see above) Mike Fontentot (only if Todd Walker gets traded) Matt Murton Rich Hill Sergio Mitre Geovany Soto (almost always call up a 3rd catcher) I think John Koronka is a small possibility and Ronny Cedeno will stick around once Aramis comes back off the DL. I don't see any point in wasting money to bring up Ben Grieve.

Thanks to Steve Holley of Inside the Ivy for helping to fill in the blanks on some of the injuries to our minor leaguers. If you care what is going on with our lil' Cubs, you'll certainly want to check out the site. Some of the best inside info you'll get. MVN also has new minor league site devoted entirely to the Chicago Cubs. Check out Road to Wrigley. Team Records updated through 8/28/05; Individual Stats updated through 8/28/05
Organizational Records
TeamW-LGB/Pos.Last 10
Chicago Cubs62-68(Div)20.5/4th
(WC)7.5/7th
4-6
Iowa Cubs62-696.5/4th5-5
West Tenn Diamond Jaxx*34-281.5/2nd5-5
Daytona Cubs30-316.0/5th6-4
Peoria Chiefs29-335.0/6th5-5
Boise Hawks29-373.0/3rd6-4
AZL Cubs8-179.0/9th4-6
Cubs Ex W/L: 65-65; (2003) 68-62; (2004) 71-59 * West Tennessee clinched the first half North Division title of the Southern League

After a two week holiday, it's nice to be back. Or at least it would be if I wasn't coming back to the realisation that the Cubs are now tied for fourth in the division with the Cincinnati Reds (who've gone 35-25 since they fired their manager), and that Matt Lawton has been traded. Not that Matt Lawton being traded in itself is a bad thing: not at all, for while the Cubs mustered just an unremarkable pitching prospect by the name of Justin Berg, who like most pitching prospects deep in the system enjoys only the slightest chance of ever contributing at the big league level, that's a whole lot more than they'd have got had they held onto him. Had he stayed, Lawton, a free agent at year's end whose current contract rules out offering arbitration with a view to draft pick compensation as a viable option, would have walked away leaving the Cubs with nothing, and he'd have left the Cubs a million dollars lighter in the pocket between now and then too. This trade isn't a case of the Cubs' front office being cheap though, it's a case of them being sensible, if not courageous too, for it takes a big man to be at as ease with his mistakes as Hendry has shown himself to be here. That said, there is only so much praise you can heap upon someone for clearing up their own mess. On deadline day I wrote...
Whichever way Hendry tried to spin it in the press conference, this trade is a rental. Matt Lawton is entering the final months of a four year deal that's paying him $7.5m this year. And when this season is done, Lawton, whose contract includes no options, will file for free agency. With Lawton turning 34 in November, and doubtless looking for a multi-year deal all the same, this being a rental or not, it's probably best left that way. But it is a rental. And that says much for the Cubs' attitude towards this season, it says that they still clearly think they can make the playoffs. But this team right now stands at just 53-52 and is very much flawed, as this lousy homestand against lousy Western opposition [Giants, Diamondbacks] has demonstrated. Nomar, Wood and Williamson, who Hendry is viewing as mid-season pickups, will not change that, promoting Van Buren won't either, and neither will Matt Lawton, whose simply not an impact ballplayer.
The Cubs only gave up Jody Gerut, who managed just 18 plate appearances with the Pirates before succumbing to the problems with his knee that have ruined his season, but right now the Cubs' delusions of competitiveness mean that in the long-term they've exchanged him for Justin Berg, and that's just an unjustifable trade. In the short-term, Lawton gave Dusty Baker a convenient excuse to screw over Matt Murton, and the Cubs threw in a million dollars or so too. And for what? Parity with the Cincinnati Reds in 2005? I need a holiday.

August 28th

GAME 130 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] FLORIDA MARLINS (69-60) @ CHICAGO CUBS (61-68) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 pm CDT, TV: Fox Sports Florida, WGN
Carlos Zambrano, RHP
10-5, 3.03 ERA
159/69 K/BB, 13 HR in 172.1 IP
Josh Beckett, RHP
12-7, 3.45 ERA
128/45 K/BB, 10 HR in 140.2 IP
CF *Juan Pierre CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
LF Jeff Conine 2B Todd Walker
3B Miguel Cabrera 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Carlos Delgado RF *Jeromy Burnitz
RF Juan Encarnacion 3B Nomar Garciaparra
SS Damon Easley LF Todd Hollandsworth
2B #Luis Castillo SS Ronny Cedeno
C Matt Treanor C Henry Blanco
P Josh Beckett P #Carlos Zambrano
Go Cubs!!

August 27th

GAME 129 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] FLORIDA MARLINS (68-60) @ CHICAGO CUBS (61-67) WRIGLEY FIELD, 12:20 pm CDT, TV: Fox
Greg Maddux, RHP
10-10, 4.56 ERA
104/29 K/BB, 24 HR in 169.2 IP
Dontrelle Willis, LHP
17-8, 2.67 ERA
124/41 K/BB, 7 HR in 178.2 IP
CF *Juan Pierre LF Jerry Hairston Jr.
LF Jeff Conine 2B Todd Walker
3B Miguel Cabrera 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Carlos Delgado C Michael Barrett
RF Juan Encarnacion 3B Nomar Garciaparra
2B Damon Easley RF *Jeromy Burnitz
SS Alex Gonzalez SS #Neifi Perez
C Matt Treanor CF *Corey Patterson
P *Dontrelle Willis P Greg Maddux
Maybe Dusty will figure out how a double-switch works today. Maybe pigs will fly... Go Cubs!!!

The Cubs traded Matt Lawton to the Yankees today in exchange for minor-league righty Justin Berg. Berg was a late-round draft-and-follow in 2003 and played for the Wisconsin Woodchucks (!) of the Northwoods League until he signed in May of '04. After struggling as a reliever in rookie ball, he was moved into the rotation at Class A Staten Island this year and went 6-2 with a 3.53 ERA and 52/20 K/BB ratio. So the Cubs ended up trading Jason Dubois for Jody Gerut, Gerut for Lawton, and Lawton for Berg. I'll grade that as "incomplete" and wait to see how Berg pans out. To take Lawton's spot on the roster, they called up Scott McClain, the 33-year-old career minor leaguer (except for a 9-game cup of coffee with Tampa in '98) who just hit 291/358/578 with 30 homers for Iowa. He is nominally a third baseman though all in all it would be better if he left his glove in Iowa City and concentrated on being the righty bat off the bench that the Cubs need (as evidenced by Todd Hollandsworth's pinch-hit appearance in yesterday's game).

August 26th

GAME 128 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] FLORIDA MARLINS (66-59) @ CHICAGO CUBS (61-66) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 pm CDT, TV: WGN, ESPN
Glendon Rusch, LHP
5-6, 4.21 ERA
87/43 K/BB, 10 HR in 107.0 IP
Jason Vargas, LHP
4-1, 2.43 ERA
33/16 K/BB, 0 HR in 37.0 IP
CF *Juan Pierre CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
LF Jeff Conine LF *Matt Lawton
3B Miguel Cabrera 1B Derrek Lee
1B *Carlos Delgado C Michael Barrett
RF Juan Encarnaciony 3B Nomar Garciaparra
2B Damon Easley RF *Jeromy Burnitz
SS Alex Gonzalez 2B #Neifi Perez
C Matt Treanor SS Ronny Cedeno
P *Jason Vargas P *Glendon Rusch
Sorry about the title.... Well at least Ronny will get to play, what an interesting lineup. Nomar at third is interesting as well and I have no doubt that he could thrive there. He's got the arm and won't have to worry about covering all that ground that he can't really cover anymore at short. Of course he has absolutely no use there as a Cub in the foreseeable future. As for the game itself, Jason Vargas and his wild locks look to shutdown the Cubs as well as auditioning for my fantasty team. (See I could use one more pitcher for the stretch run). The Marlins are my pick to take the Wild Card, I love their rotation (Beckett, Burnett, Willis, Vargas, whoever) and the lineup isn't too shabby. Although their missing a few guys today that makes it not look so hot (Castillo, Lowell). Plus the high comedy of more press conferences with Jack McKeon possibly mispronouncing his own players names should be played out for a nationwide audience. The good teams seem to bring out the best in the Cubs, sure we lost to the Braves, but the losses were close games. Let's hope for more of the same this weekend. (The close games and generally well-played basesball, not the losing) Go Cubs!

Aramis Ramirez has been placed on the DL, and Ronny Cedeno has been recalled to take his spot on the roster. Of course, with the Cubs a mere 7 1/2 games out of the wildcard with five whole weeks of the season left, we can't expect Cedeno to actually play! This also explains why a third baseman (like, I don't know, Mike Fontenot, who's sporting a .374 OBP in Iowa) wasn't called up to replace A-Ram; we're going to need the veteran presence of Neifi Perez and Jose Macias at third in order to jump past Philadelphia, Florida, Houston, New York, Washington, and Milwaukee and make the post-season. Ramirez will be replaced, at least for today, by Nomar Garciaparra, making his first-ever appearance at third base. Iiiinteresting. Is it a one-off thing, or is it a way for Nomar to make himself a little more desireable on the free-agent market? Once the game starts, he will become the 103rd player to man third base for the Cubs since the Ron Santo trade.

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