Archive - 2009

September 11th

- Chone Figgins loves his Orange County Angels.

"...when you find a home, you want to stay here. I love what this
organization is all about -- winning, playing hard. I love being here."

September 9th

The Cubs record against the Pirates the last three seasons and its affect on the team overall record.

Against Pirates
Record w/o playing Pirates
2007 85-77 .525 8-7 .533 77-70  .524
2008 97-64 .602 14-4 .778 83-60  .581
2009  70-67 .511 8-2 .800 62-65  .488

I was expecting it to make a bigger difference to be honest. Even at a .581 winning percentage, the Cubs would have had the best record in the NL last year and - at least in the Brewers case - they had plenty of success against the Pirates as well in 2008 (14-1). This year you could definitely make a case for them living off the fat of the land.

- The Cubs tied some major league record with 8 hits in the first inning yesterday. The 2009 season has now been redeemed.

- Some fans will be happy to hear that Milton Bradley left after the first inning because of some hamstring tightness.  He was going to get a day off on Wednesday anyway and the Cubs were up big, so probably no big deal. According to the article, if he plays in 23 of the last 24 games, he'll match his career high in games played in a season.

- The same article says Andres Blanco and Sam Fuld probably won't be available until Friday. 

- Reed Johnson is likely out for the season.

September 7th

For the Iowa Cubs the final tally is six dozen up, six dozen down. For Jeff Samardzija it's half a dozen of each after today's season finale at Principal Park in Des Moines.

The team finished with an even split of their gross of games in 2009 after their struggling pitching prospect lost to Albuquerque this afternoon to even his personal slate in what's been an up and down season in more ways than the win/loss ledger.

The last game of the year was clipping along at the ultimate getaway day pace through four innings. The 1st frame required only seven minutes. Both teams scored little league runs in the 4th. Albuquerque broke through in the top when Samardzija bounced a wild pitch that ended up on the concourse behind the box seats. Iowa tied it in the bottom when Matt Camp drew a walk, stole his 18th base in 21 tries and came all the way around on wild throws to both 2nd and 3rd.

In the top of the 5th Samardzija labored [lower case] and finally broke down in the face of the Isotopes' daunting lineup. The Dodgers' top affiliate parades a statistical juggernaut to the plate one through six in the persons of Tony Abreu, Xavier Paul, Blake DeWitt, Mitch Jones, Hector Luna and Dee Brown. Iowa's depleted squad looked like a high school team taking on professional athletes. 

A two-run double by Paul and a two-run homer by Jones finished Samardzija's day and season after he got in trouble with a walk and a squibber between the plate and the mound that he threw away down the right field line. I watched him trudge dejectedly from the dugout to the showers after the bottom of the 5th before I left too. He may as well have walked backwards because that's the direction his career seemed to go in 2009.

Both the organization and Samardzija himself must be wondering what exactly is in store for him in 2010 and beyond. Can he be a big league pitcher or not and, if so, is he a starter or short reliever?

The big question for me personally is whether or not his next manager might be Ryne Sandberg. As a Des Moinesian I'm banking on Ryno climbing the farm system ladder to Triple A after taking Tennessee to the Double A playoffs this year. Next year he'll replace Bobby Dickerson here before returning to Wrigley Field in 2011.

As of this afternoon his chances look better than Samardzija's.

I had brought up the name Chone Figgins earlier in the season as the one free agent name I thought the Cubs would try and pursue. That is if they can figure out how to squeeze him into their already bloated payroll for next year. There's also the insanity of paying him 10M+ per year, for someone who is not anywhere near that kind of money, but he's got that "true leadoff" label that worked out so well the last time the Cubs overpaid for that skillset.

Nonetheless, the Sun-Times conjectures that he is indeed in the Cubs' crosshairs and has been ever since the Brian Roberts talk from a couple offseasons ago. They also reveal what the offseason mantra will be. Last year it was of course to get more left-handed, this year it's going to be: More Team Speed. Print up the T-Shirts! Makes you wonder why they ever traded Joey Gathright away this year.

Figgins is definitely fast, although Wrigley will take away some of those triples he's use to hitting at Angel Stadium and Lou isn't nearly as aggressive as Mike Scioscia when it comes to stealing, so don't expect similar stolen base totals if the Cubs can sign him. He does fit the super-utility role that Mark DeRosa so aptly filled, although he's been playing mostly third base for the last three seasons. The Angels actually considered center field to be his best position, but I assume the Cubs would pursue him to play second base.

Insanely early start today in Pittsburgh, I'm sure you're all going to be glued to your TV sets to watch Ted Lilly vs. Dan McCutchen. Congrats to Tennessee on winning the second half division title in Double A. Congrats to Iowa for proving Cubbery extends through the entire Cubs organiztion and finishing anywhere from 4-6 games back depending on today's games after getting within a half game earlier in the week.

September 4th

Maybe the Cubs read TCR afterall...

After Dr. Hecht pleaded with the Cubs to liberally use the DL and get Alfonso Soriano off the field, they announced he's been shut down indefinitely to rest his knee. Piniella says Soriano was agreeable to the decision. Yes, one of the five worst players in baseball this year(with meaningful at-bats), is okay that you sit him. Well phew, I'd hate it if he was upset.

I'd applaud the Cubs for the move if this was July, but now it's just desperation and an offseason talking point.

In roster move news, Bobby Scales has been called up and Derrek Lee is still in Chicago for the birth of their second child. Fuku, Theriot, Bradley, Ramirez, Hoffpauir, Baker, Soto, Fuld and Z are taking on the Mets as we speak.

The Cubs were awarded a waiver claim today, acquiring 26-year old RHP Thomas Diamond from the Texas Rangers.

Allyssa Milano says have a happy Labor day holiday. 
Just a little rant from me after a game where Soriano left his pants on the left field chalk line. After he did the pretzel dance, I thought that chalk outline was from a CSI scene. Someone should press criminal charges for that effort.Tired ol' Lou Piniella just grunts and shrugs his shoulders. "Ah, ah, ah...Whaddya expect me to do about it?" Clearly he's been beaten into submission by overexposure to Cubbery.

After torturing myself by listening to local sports talk outlets, with the only brief reprieve coming from occasional banter about a meaningless preseason Bears game, I think I've had enough pain to land on my own personal DL. Steve Stone with glee in his voice said, "that's what you get for playing a DH in left field." I get the message. Listening how the Cubs are held hostage to their long term contracts with no end in sight (well it's 3-5 years before we see the end to this tunnel), forcing them to play overpaid, under performing players (Soriano in the role of 40/40 guy and Bradley in the role of rbi machine) or under performing players with a brief track record of performance (Geo Soto, Kevin Gregg, The not-Hanks...Aaron Miles and Heilman) or under performing players without a track record of performance (better when in small doses, Fonte-NOT), it dawned on me that there is a simple solution. 

September 3rd

The White Sox arrive today to finish off the Cubs 10-game homestand. A win for the Cubs would mean a winning homestand at 6-4 and keep the Cubs perfect September in tact. More importantly possibly - he says facetiously -  is a win for the Cubs would tie up the season series, which in turn would tie up the decade series record, which in turn would tie up the the all-time interleague record between the two clubs. See the Cubs and White Sox have been staging their own little Spy vs. Spy since interleague play started back in 1997. Each team taking turns knocking the other out, but ultimately ending up in the same place that they started.

The Cubs throw Ryan Dempster today, the White Sox do not counter with Jake Peavy. Instead it will be rookie Carlos Torres and a 6.75 ERA in two starts. 

The minor league playoff chase has soured for the Iowa Cubs. They've dropped three in a row after winning five straight and find themselves 2.5 back and in third place with just five games left to play. Double A Tennessee has a one-game lead heading into their 5-game set versus West Tennessee(Mariners). To complicate matters, Chattanooga (Dodgers) has also moved within a game, so there will be a little scoreboard watching to go along with the dueling Tennessee's.

September 2nd

Randy Wells continued his dominance of the Houston Astros last night. He's started three times against them this season, won two of them and has yet to give up an earned in 20.2 IP, with just one unearned run last night in the 7th. The win last night was his 10th on the season, the first Cub rookie to accomplish that since Kerry Wood in 1998. I took a look at some of the more advanced metrics too see how fluky Wells' season may have been and you know, it's not to bad. While a low 3 ERA is probably a bit much to ask for next year, his .285 BABIP isn't ridiculously out of whack, like let's say his ROY competition J.A. Happ and his .249 BABIP. Wells' FIP (Fielding Independant ERA) is 3.85 and his xFIP (a fancier version of FIP that tries to 'normalize' for expected home runs per flyball) is higher at 4.30, which is still pretty respectable for a guy that will barely make over the league minimum next season.

I think if they did vote today, J.A. Happ would likely win the Rookie of the Year vote with a better ERA in a tougher park, nicer win-loss record(thanks Cubs bullpen) and the strength of a better team. A quick look at some of the other competition.

J.A. Happ: 2.63 ERA, 10-3, 143.2 IP, 97 K, 51 BB

Tommy Hanson: 3.15 ERA, 9-3, 88.2 IP, 73 K, 32 BB

Randy Wells: 2.90 ERA, 10-7, 133.1 IP, 82 K, 35 BB

Chris Coghlan: 9 HR, 301/377/446/823 OPS in 422 PA's

Colby Rasmus:  14 HR, 259/315/427/742 OPSin 418 PA's

Andrew McCutchen: 11 HR, 288/362/495/857 in 354 PA's and 15/18 in SB's

Garrett Jones:  17 HR, 295/365/614/979 OPS in 233 PA's

(I missed McCutchen and Jones on the first pass)

Today's must-win lineup is Fukudome, Blanco (wtf?), Lee, Bradley, Fox, Fontenot, Baker, Hill and Lilly.

September 1st

And here are the 29 players eligible to play in the 2009 post-season for the Chicago Cubs:

August 31st

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 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:

" 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.


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