Archive - Sep 2008

September 12th

UPDATE #2: Game on. Sunday at 7pm CST in Milwaukee and Monday at 1pm. The third game will be made up on Monday, September 29th only if necessary.

UPDATE: Paul Sullivan says the Cubs have decided that no matter what MLB decides, they won't be traveling tonight. So take that MLB and Astros.


It looks like Astros owner Drayton McLane's attempt to keep the games in Houston this weekend were all for naught. An article on MLB.com posted around 9pm CST, says the plan to move to series to Milwaukee is back in play (just like the Cubs originally suggested). If it happens, details will be announced tomorrow.

Some "connected" Brewers fan posted that everything is already in place and there will be games Sunday and Monday at Miller Park. Hopefully he's more connected than those Orioles fans from the offseason.

A Houston Chronicle story posted just a bit earlier paints a still defiant McLane.

“This could be the biggest series in the history of this season,”
McLane said via phone from his home in Temple. “And the fans would be a
tremendously inspirational force for our players. And I didn’t want our
players to be away from their families.

“We’re standing up for our fans and for our players. It’s just
not right to have them leave their families to play at another site
like Atlanta or Cincinnati. I said that to (Selig) several times
(Thursday) and I said it again (Friday).”

McLane said there are three main considerations as the club
consults with Selig and the Office of Emergency Management while
considering whether they can play a doubleheader Sunday against the
Cubs at Minute Maid Park and another game Monday.

One is the feasibility of the Cubs’ charter to land at Bush
Intercontinental Airport on Saturday; the second is to make sure
there’s no flooding near the ballpark downtown; the third is making
sure there is electricity, according to McLane.

The fourth consideration is that McLane would have to refund the ticket money and then where is he suppose to swim?

 

While Bud Selig was busily hiding his head in the sand regarding Hurricane Ike and catering to Drayton McLane's need to collect cotton candy revenue from this weekends games in Houston, the MLB powers that be had the annual coin flip for playoff tiebreaker games.

The Brewers won the flip for any NL Central tiebreaker between the Cubs and Brewers as it will be played in Miller Park. Of course, it's the Cubs home away from home and after the week of July 27th (not to mention the Brewers recent homestand performance against the Mets, Padres and Reds), I guess it's not a bad place for the Men in Blue to play. The regular season ends for the Cubs in Milwaukee on Sept. 28th so why not just do a day night doubleheader? I mean if they are considering rescheduling one or two of this weekends washouts on Monday Sept. 29th. Might as well make a travesty out of the whole season wrapup.

The Phillies got control of the lucky penny as they won all the home field advantages you can gather including wildcard tiebreakers vs Milwaukee, St. Louis and Houston. They even won the tiebreaker homefield if they have to play game #163 vs the Mets.

In the AL, tiebreaker games could be in Boston for both wild card or AL East,  vs Tampa Rays, for the AL East or vs. The Twins for the wild card playoff game.  US Commiscular will be causing havoc on the Dan Ryan, if the WSox tie the Twins after 162 regular season games.The AL didn't need to flip as much this year thanks to the franchise called the LA Angels of Anaheim from the OC near Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm.

Most of the time this stuff is a waste of good coin flippage, but go tell that to the 2007 Padres.

September 11th

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Rich Harden SP Todd Wellemeyer
(NL) 4-1, 1.50, 75 K, 18 BB, 54 IP
12-6, 3.74, 116 K, 51 BB, 168.1 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS *Skip Schumaker
SS Ryan Theriot LF #Aaron Miles
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
RF Mark DeRosa 3B #Felipe Lopez
2B *Mike Fontenot 2B *Adam Kennedy
C Geovany Soto C Jason LaRue
CF Reed Johnson P Todd Wellemeyer
P *Rich Harden SS #Cesar Izturis

 

The Cubs last game for at least two days as they'll head home after the game and wait out Hurricane Ike. Rich Harden returns after skipping a start, now ready to throw 110 mph and strike out the 27 batters on 81 pitches...anything less would be disappointing.

Brewers and Phillies start a four game set, so there's a good chance one of the Cubs magic numbers will go down today although the playoff magic number is now muddled by the Cardinals and Astros who are tied with the Phillies in the lost column. The best thing is to just win tonight - let's say 15-0 - and then let the other teams duke it out while the Cubs watch the carnage over the weekend.

The Cubs will get at least a two game rest after tonight thanks to Hurricane Ike bearing down on the Texas coast. There were thoughts of moving Friday's night game up to a day game and then likely a doubleheader on Sunday. Now it seems like they'll try and get a doubleheader on either Sunday or Monday and one game in on the other day with both teams having a scheduled off day Monday.

So barring any more rainouts, it looks like Saturday will be the last Cubs off day of the regular season. I'm sure Lou will tweak his rotation accordingly and it will likely mean another Sean Marshall start. 

UPDATE: Thanks to reader "The Joe" for finding the video of the collision which is at the bottom of the post.


With the Cubs in desperate need of a dominating pitching performance to take the pressure off the struggling offense, Ted Lilly delivered. 90 pitches, 8 IP, 5 H, 5 K,1 ER and a KO. All good for a 73 game score that could have been a bit higher if Lou didn't curiously go to Kerry Wood in the 9th. Padding save stats is nice and all and I'm sure Kerry's bank account will appreciate it next year, but when your team is in a funk and Lilly retires 11 straight and is only on 90 pitches, I'm not sure it's the best time to just give Kerry some work.

Nonetheless, the Cubs prevailed and our pals at TLFC couldn't be more thrilled with the performance. The other play of note was Lilly knocking over and knocking out Yadier Molina. In the theater of baseball, it was one of those plays that makes you stand up and cheer and hope it riles up the team to reel off 10 straight wins. When you think about the foolishness of your pitcher leading with his throwing arm to bowl over someone who outweighs him by 40 pounds, the shine wears off pretty quick. 

But damn, it sure was fun to watch (Pictures after the jump)...

September 10th

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP *Ted Lilly SP Braden Looper

13-9, 4.43, 161 K, 60 BB, 176.2 IP
12-11, 4.09, 87 K, 41 BB, 174 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano SS Cesar Izturis
SS Ryan Theriot 3B #Felipe Lopez
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
C Geovany Soto C Yadier Molina
RF *Kosuke Fukudome LF Josh Phelps
2B Mark DeRosa 2B *Adam Kennedy
CF *Felix Pie P Braden Looper
P *Ted Lilly CF *Skip Schumaker

 

With the NL Central race now firmly under his team's control, Cubs manager Lou Piniella sounds like a guy who is prepared to enjoy a low-stress wind-down to his team's regular season before he has to deal with the high drama of the National League playoffs.

"After that little rough patch on the last homestand, it's good to see us clicking again," Piniella said following Tuesday night's one-sided win against the Cardinals. "We're playing like we expect to win and doing the things that got us here. It's fun to watch this club play right now."

Another day, another disappointing Cubs loss....

One of the many sad parts of this run of losing is that the Cubs have been competitive in all but one of these games. Scores of 5-2, 5-3, 3-0, 9-7 (11 innings), 3-0, 10-2, a 14-9 win, then back to back 4-3 losses. The pitching hasn't been great, but good enough to win a couple of those games. The bats though have certainly struggled since August 30th:

Player  BA  OBP  SLG  OPS 
Soriano  205  295  513  808 
Lee  364 432 424  856 
Edmonds 176  364  353  717 
Johnson  200  250  200  450 
Fukudome  176  300  176  476 
Ramirez  216  237  297  534 
DeRosa  219   306 406  712 
Soto  382  400  529  929 
Theriot  303  361  394  755 

 

A few of our regulars are performing adequately, but no one is really on much of a hot streak. The only one that screams to be benched is Fukudome and we have seen his playing time dwindle lately. Out of the bench guys, Fontenot has a .771 OPS and Cedeno 1.303 out of anyone that has gotten some AB's. 

And while every Chicken Little sports reporter out there is just dying for another Cubs collapse so they can wax poetic about the 1969 and 2008 Cubs, the magic numbers have continued to go down over the last week for the 2008 team. The same can't be said for the 1969 club who watched the Mets bullrush past them in the standings when they lost 12 of 13 including 9 straight at one point and a five game lead turned into a 4.5 game deficit. The 2008 team has lost all of one game in the standings thanks to the Brewers suffering their own, far more worrisome, meltdown.

That isn't to say there's nothing to worry about, but it is to say that the baseball gods seem to be showing some restraint on our poor, fragile Cubs hearts. 

 

September 9th

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Ryan Dempster SP Kyle Lohse

15-6, 2.99, 167 K, 72 BB, 183.2 IP
13-6, 3.76, 106 K, 44 BB, 182 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF *Skip Schumaker
2B *Mike Fontenot 3B Troy Glaus
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Aramis Ramirez RF Ryan Ludwick
RF Mark DeRosa LF *Rick Ankiel
CF *Jim Edmonds C Yadier Molina
C Geovany Soto 2B #Felipe Lopez
SS Ronny Cedeno P Kyle Lohse
P Ryan Dempster SS Cesar Izturis

 

The Cubs and the Cardinals meet in the first of three at Busch and the first of six matchups between now and the end of the season. The Cubs lead the season series, 5-4, and have won 10 of their last 15 in St. Louis.

Dempster won his only start this year against the Cardinals, allowing 2 ER over 6 2/3 in a 6-2 Cub victory in early August. Lohse is 0-1, 6.92 in a pair of starts this season vs. the Cubs, but is otherwise having a fine year, producing more ground balls, yielding fewer long balls, and allowing fewer walks than at virtually any other point in his MLB career.

September 8th

After yesterday's heart-ripper-outer of a game, the Cubs have lost seven of
eight for the first time since last June. They still have a four-game division
lead and an 84.5% chance
of winning the division, thanks to the Brewers losing five of their
last seven, so things are not actually as bleak as they may seem.
(And yes, the chances of them missing the playoffs entirely are very, very small. But we're not discussing that. Yet.). Still, with Zambrano and Harden in various levels of gimpitude, the
collective angst here in Chicago is not unfounded. As Rob wrote earlier today, Harden is scheduled
to pitch on Thursday, and Zambrano on Saturday, so we'll know more (and
know just how freaked out to be) in a week or so.

In the meantime, maybe WXRT's Lin Brehmer
is right and the Cubs are suffering under The Curse Of Jon Bon Jovi.
Apparently the Cubs are playing "Living on a Prayer" during pitching
changes. "Living on a Prayer"? Seriously?

It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not.
We've got each other and that's a lot for love
We'll give it a shot.
Whoah, we're half way there
Whoah, livin' on a prayer

I don't think "it doesn't make a difference if we make it or not"
adequately captures the true feelings of Cubs fans (not to mention players
and management). The Cubs aren't "living on a prayer," either; they're
living on strong pitching (expect for the 9th inning yesterday), solid defense (ditto), and the best offense in the
National League.

Of course, a textual analysis of the problems with "Living On a Prayer" doesn't address just how crappy Bon Jovi is. I mean, seriously, I understand how the desire to appeal to the widest possible audience often manifests itself in a rush to the lowest common denominator, but this is ridiculous.

I wish I had a long list of viable, higher-quality alternatives to offer,
because we're all about solutions here at TCR, but alas the last few weeks have
reduced my brain's capacity for that sort of critical thinking to
almost nil. But for starters, how about "Nothing To Fear (But Fear Itself)" by Oingo Boingo?

I await better suggestions in the comments. In the meantime, I will officially add my voice to Lin Brehmer's: no more Jovi at Wrigley. Not
now, not ever. Life's too short to listen to bad pop metal.

With the AAA Iowa Cubs having been eliminated from the PCL playoffs yesterday and with veteran RHP Jon Lieber having suffered a possible career-ending arm injury, I would think that there will be some additional players added to the Cubs active roster today or tomorrow. 

I was in beatiful Fresno, CA this weekend for a baptism and was forced to follow the Cubs through cell phone updates. First, hanging out in 96 degree weather is not fun, I don't care how damn dry the heat is. And driving up to Fresno has all the charm of driving through the nine circles of hell. I can't tell you how many wonderful smells we discovered along the way.

What also sucks is checking updates on the game to see the Cubs go up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the ninth with the Brewers getting shellacked and thinking all will be well with the world, only to check an hour later and have my heart drop when I saw the 4-3 Reds win. I quickly checked the play-by-play info and when I saw "Two runs score on a double to shorstop Ronny Cedeno", I knew this wasn't your garden variety 9th inning blown save. This was one to chalk up with the many legendary Cubs meltdown games.

Sigh. That sure makes for a miserable off day.

I thought it was time to start looking just how alarming this September swoon is compared to some past World Series winners. Is losing seven of eight something that happens to the best of them or are the Cubs approaching epic failure status?

September 6th

Update: We decided to try the losing thing all over again. A brutal, brutal, brutal 9th inning made possible by Kerry Wood's lack of control, Ronny Cedeno's inability to field a ground ball, and the offense's inability to take advantage of the myriad opportunities it had to crush a horrible team.

Good news—the Brewers lost and nearly got themselves perfect-gamed by Chris Young of the Padres, thus ending a 2-5 homestand which included a four-game split with San Diego. What's more galling: splitting four with the Padres at home or losing two of three to the Reds in Cincinnati? (There appeared to be so many Cub fans at the Great American Ballpark this weekend, I think these games should go against our home record.)


Update: The losing streak is over; the winning streak has begun.

Jason Marquis gave up just two ER over 7 1/3 Saturday night, and Cub hitters beat the Cub bullpen, 14-7.

Micah Hoffpauir started in right field, and Dave van Dyck writes that former Rookie of the Year candidate Kosuke Fukudome may want to get used to the view from the dugout.


If adversity really does build character, the Cubs are on their way to having a locker room full of Albert Schweitzers and Abraham Lincolns. Since August turned into September, the Cubbies, losers of six in a row for the first time since last June, are hitting .228 and the pitchers have a cumulative 6.32 ERA.

September 5th

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP *Ted Lilly SP Bronson Arroyo

13-8, 4.23, 160 K, 57 BB, 174.2 IP
13-10, 4.97, 137 K, 57 BB, 166.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soriano CF *Chris Dickerson
SS Ryan Theriot SS Jeff Keppinger
1B Derrek Lee 2B Brandon Phillips 
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Joey Votto
2B Mark DeRosa 3B Edwin Encarnacion
CF *Jim Edmonds RF *Jay Bruce
C Geovany Soto LF Jolbert Cabrera
RF *Kosuke Fukudome C Ryan Hanigan
P *Ted Lilly P Bronson Arroyo

 

That well-known rabble-rouser, Mark Sheldon of mlb.com, is billing this series as a showdown between NL Rookie of the Year candidates Geovany Soto and Joey Votto.

Actually, I don't know anything about Mark Sheldon's rabble-rousing, but the comparison is not entirely off-base:

I posted something regarding the Cubs post-season roster options here at TCR last month, but here is the updated Cubs 2008 post-season roster eligibility list.

It looks like I'm four months late on this, but it appears that Rookie of the Month honors in the MLB is voted by the fans. The Cubs have two nominees, Geovany Soto and Jeff Samardzija and they'll go up against Cardinals reliever Chris Perez and Rockies third basemen Ian Stewart. Soto is looking for his second win of the year and voting runs through Monday.

 Samardzija provided a bullpen boost for the first-place Cubs. In 14 1/3 innings, he was 1-0 and didn't allow a run. Samardzija had 13 strikeouts during the month. Soto won rookie honors in April and has continued to be a firm offensive and defensive presence for a Chicago team that has taken charge of the NL Central. Soto hit .355 in August with five doubles, three homers and 21 RBIs. Soto drew 13 walks and scored 17 runs while handling himself well behind the plate and providing a level of comfort for the Chicago pitching staff.

 

A look at Geovany Soto's year compared to other Cubs catchers of years past after the jump...

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