Archive - Aug 2009

I'm back to being connected to the Internet world, I'm not sure if that's good or bad. While I certainly do miss whatever brilliant, well-crafted snark is coming from the comments, it was kind of nice to be untethered from the digital world. 

As for the weekend, the Cubs pulled out 2 of 3 wins from the New York Mets - and with the Rockies getting swept  - sneak to 5.5 back in the Wild Card. Important thing to remember here is they managed to score one run versus Nelson Figueroa and couldn't sweep a team missing David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Johan Santana, Oliver Perez, John Maine, or J.J Putz. Zambrano, who seems to be getting advice from Alfonso Soriano on how to play with injuries and hurt your team, got lit up for 11 hits and 3 earned runs and couldn't make it out of the 4th against the Buffalo Bisons lineup. Color me unimpressed...

The Astros show up tonight and Michael Barrett's favorite ace takes the mound - Roy Oswalt. The Cubs counter with Rich Harden, who along with Aaron Heilman, did not get traded by today's deadline. I didn't really think the Twins would give up anything to grab Harden, they're just not a team to cough up prospects, but why Aaron Heilman is still wasting space is unfathomable.

Theriot, Bradley, Lee, Ramirez, Fukudome, Fox, Baker, Hill go tonight.

Some minor league and roster move info after the jump...

August 29th

Apparently Alfonso Soriano's cranky left knee was bothering him enough during his outfield play this past Friday that his plans to get an elective MRI (magnetic resonance image) in a few weeks got moved up to Saturday morning since he wasn't going to start today. In this video interview he says it's been sore for four months but with (approximately) 40 games left why can't he keep playing with the same pain? The pain seems to bother him more when he runs (rather than when he hits) so it's affecting his limited outfield abilities and I expect it's been a factor regarding his on and mostly off offense this season too.

Soriano was in no hurry to get the MRI as recently as this week.  He originally expected to take the time to get it on their next day off, Sept 10th (after returning from the trip to NY and Pitt), but his limp became more noticeable after his game winning 3 run HR on Friday so they moved it up to Monday and when it was clear he couldn't start today they sent him for the test this morning.

Carrie Muskat from cubs.com reports that the MRI results just showed inflammation and the outfielder will likely get a cortisone shot (based on the manager's postgame comments) and be sidelined a few days. From the horses mouth, in the postgame interview, Lou Piniella said  the team orthopedic specialist (probably Dr. Gryzlo) will look at Soriano on Sunday, and he most likely will get a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

I watched not one second of Friday's affair. I managed about 10 minutes of Internet access and caught the 2-1 score, posted this premature comment and then later flipped on my XM radio to catch the final 5-2 win. The good news is the Cubs got a win and Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano went a combined 6/6 with 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 2 Runs Scored and 2 BB's. The bad news was the comedy of errors from the offensive heroes and the Cubs needing a dramatic come-from-behind win against a team missing their five best players.

Some links and notes after the jump...

August 27th

You can't say that Jim Hendry isn't trying to still do his job. Reports came out today that Aaron Heilman and Rich Harden have both been claimed on waivers, Heilman definitely by an NL Team and Harden most likely by a pitching-starved NL team. Rosenthal's report says the Cubs have until Monday afternoon to complete a deal, but that seems longer than the normal 48 hour window to complete this type of transaction.

Heilman is owed about $270K on his contract this year, might as well just save it if you're the Cubs and let him go to whatever team claimed him if a deal can't be worked out. I highly doubt any team that did claim him was trying to block him from somebody, since you know, it would probably actually hurt most teams that he joined, so there must be some interest there or maybe some drunk GM'ing. Since the Cubs aren't going anywhere with Heilman on the team and they're not going to offer him arbitration this offseason, hopefully Hendry can take advantage of this opportunity and send Heilman on his merry way...where he can win a World Championship and then go broke in the offseason.

Rich Harden is owed about $1.2M on his deal, but his true value will be beyond this season. The Cubs could try and resign him to a long-term deal, although that's doubtful. With a pretty bare market for starting pitchers, Harden will likely snag some sort of multi-year deal, so offering him arbitration is a no-brainer and if he does happen to accept it, I'm sure not going to complain about getting him back in a Cubs uniform for 2010. If Hendry does work out a trade, he will have to get back something resembling two 1st/2nd round talents from whatever team claimed him and in this case, I could see the Giants trying to block the Dodgers here and they're probably not looking for starting pitching right now.

And while teams generally put the bulk of their roster through waivers during this time period, it's somewhat interesting that the Cubs waited until the end of August here to put one of their most tradeable pieces in Harden. If Hendry can squeeze out two top prospects, preferably at higher levels in the minors, he can avoid the arbitration and paperwork headache in the offseason, avoid any potential late season injury to Harden that we're always worried about and hypothetically pick up two prospects closer to the show. A prospect in the hand is worth two in the draft so to speak....

UPDATE: Bruce Levine has a source that says the Minnesota Twins put in a claim, but that doesn't necessarily mean they were awarded it. On cue,  Paul Sullivan says it was an NL team that won the claim but does not specify which team. Baseball Musings cites Andrew Kneeland saying it's probably the Rockies, but the link goes to the Paul Sullivan article which does not mention the Rockies at all, although the Rockies, Dodgers and Giants all had scouts at Harden's last game according to Levine's article.

The Cubs and Nationals battled to a 2-2 tie through 6 innings, before Milton Bradley drove in his third run of the night on a fielder's choice to score Koyie Hill in the bottom of the 7th. Bradley had homered earlier in the game for the Cubs first two runs. The Cubs piled on in the 8th with five runs and ended up winning easily 9-4. 38 games left to bear unless we luck out with some rainouts.

Following up yesterday's comments, Bradley claims he has no regrets signing with the Cubs, but says he dreads extra inning home games:

"...so I can be out there the least amount of time as possible and go home."

Not quite as poetic as "I'd play this game for free", now is it?

He goes on to talk about facing hatred on a a daily basis including at restaurants, but sarcastically doesn't believe it has anything to do with race.

"America doesn't believe in racism."

That one made me chuckle.

Then he pulls a little Stuart Smalley on us.

``I feel love for me, because I love me,'' he said. ``I look in the
mirror and go out there and play and feel love for my teammates and
love for the coaching staff and for myself.''

That one made me laugh out loud.

August 26th

(Click on the thumbnail for the full size image)

Just when you think it couldn't get worse, the Cubs get absolutely spanked by the worst team in baseball at home.The wind appeared to be howling straight out tonight and the Cubs managed 6 runs, Josh Willingham managed 6 RBI's all by himself, including 2 HR's, 5 Runs scored and a 4 for 4 night with a walk. Z did hit a home run though (mild applause) and Milton Bradley went 4 for 4 himself with a home run and a walk and then decided it was another good moment to take some frustration out on the fans.

"It's hard to be comfortable when you don't get a hit, you get booed
every time," Bradley said. "When I go home and look in the mirror, I
like what I see. My family's there, and I have people I can talk to who
are supportive in spite of everything and all the adversity and hatred
you face on a daily basis. I'll be all right. I always have." 

A bunch of other fun news after the jump...

August 25th

The Deadline for signing players selected in this past June's Rule 4 Draft ("1st-Year Player Draft") has passed, and the Cubs ended up signing 31 of their 50 picks (including their top 12 picks, and 14 of their top 15), although two of the players they signed (17th round pick RHP B. J. Dail and 23rd round pick OF Jeffrey Pruitt) had their contracts voided last month and are now free-agents.

The Cubs also signed two Non-Drafted Free-Agents (NDFA), but one (LHP Daley Cox) has already been released.

There is no deadline for signing college seniors who have exhausted their eligibilty, but the Cubs signed all of the college seniors they drafted this year.

Rosters for the Arizona Fall League should be announced sometime this week.

Hat tip to Bill Simmons twitter feed for the link, these 2 made me chuckle as well.

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To say the least, I'm not particularly motivated these days to write about the Cubs. The road trip disaster and the reality of the standings coupled with the anemic offense has pretty much put an end to the season. Never say never and all and Carlos Zambrano will be back this week, but I'm expecting nothing more than the same frustrating Cubs team the rest of the way. At 62-60, I figure 90 wins gets them in the picture and that means a 28-12 run over their last 40 and that still might not be enough for the wild card or the division. So as the season winds down, I'll probably be talking a lot about the new ownership and 2010 and the Chicago Bears. Live with it...

I did go to the game Saturday afternoon...happened to be the AngelFan Wife's birthday as well. I know how to treat the ladies. For her gift, I got her a washing machine...for Christmas I'm thinking a vacuum cleaner or a big screen TV.

Brief description of the day and photos after the jump...

August 23rd

August 22nd

Sorry about the rather epic error message at the top of the site, working on trying to isolate the problem which seems to be somewhere on line 174 of the database. Considering I haven't changed anything recently, not sure what's going on and unfortunately I've got a full day planned around the Cubs game and the Angel Fan Wife's birthday. I hope to get it fixed by tonight.

UPDATE 7:47 PM: I think it's fixed.

UPDATE #2 7:48 PM: I'm done with this season.

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August 20th

Not for the major league team, but some of the lil' Cubs are making a push for minor league post-season glory.

AAA - Iowa Cubs

There are four divisions in the 16-team PCL and they play a full season, as opposed to some lower levels splitting their season into halves. The Iowa Cubs are making a bid for a second straight playoff appearance and trail the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals affiliate) by two games and the Nashville Sound (Brewers) by a game and a half as of this writing. Iowa will have 20 games to close the gap, 14 of them at home. The season ends on September 7th, so they'll have to deal with September call-ups raiding the roster. Don't be surprised if the Cubs make some minor league free agent signings to help them out, plus some Double A promotions.

AA: Tennessee Smokies

No surprise that a team with many of the 2008 Florida State League Champions would be doing well as a team at the next level. The Tennessee Smokies are tied with the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx (Mariners) atop the North Division thanks to a 5-game winning streak. There are 17 games left in the season and they finish with a 5-game set at West Tennessee.

Hi-A: Daytona Cubs

They finished the first half in second place, but 7.5 games back in their division. The second half has been unkind though and it doesn't look like a two-peat is going to happen as they're in last place, 14.5 out.

A - Peoria Chiefs

It was a strong 38-31 first half for the Chiefs, but that was only good for third place. They second half has gone even better though and they sit at 31-20 with a 3.5 game lead in the division. Carlos Zambrano pitches for them tonight in a rehab outing, probably the closest he'll get to post-season fever. The Chiefs have 18 games left on the year.

Lo-A: Boise

The good news is that Boise is in second place...the bad news is they're 7 games back and 4 games under .500. 

Some other Cubs-related notes after the jump...

August 19th

Pinpointing the Cubs demise this year is worthy of a dissertation, but if I were to paint some broad strokes, I'd start - in order of importance -  with the overreaction to last year's playoff loss, injuries, underperforming players (duh!) and good-old fashioned luck (good last year, bad this year). I did take a look at some team offensive numbers from ESPN.com and Baseball Reference just for fun.

 Stat  2008 2009
BA w/RISP .278 .241
BA w/RISP, 2 outs .222 .230
BA w/Runners On .279 .257
SLG w/Runners On .438 .404
BABIP .321 .294
SO% 18.6% 19.2%
BB% 9.5% 10%
AB/HR% 30.4% 32%
LD% 19% 18%
SO/BB 1.86 2.03
GB/FB 0.76 0.78

That .321 BABIP the Cubs put up last year was tops in the league by the way, so some of that regression should have been expected and i do think to a degree many of us expected some drop-off to the Cubs offense this year. The 30 pt drop in BABIP has contributed to the 30 pt drop in BA and SLG with RISP and Runners On, which has coincided with the Cubs leaving runners on base. The patience that many of us wished for during all the Dusty years is still there, but they basically just can't get the big hit. And I know we don't need a lot of fancy numbers to tell us that, but I like the fancy numbers and often times our perceptions don't match up with reality. In this case, they do seem to do just that.

Tail spin

Thanks to our pal Tim at Cubby Blue for the animation...

I ask, can anything save the Cubs season at this point?

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