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Two developments on the ownership front:

As reported by Chris de Luca in the Sun-Times and noted by a reader under the previous post, there is z-e-r-o chance that MLB owners will approve beer-drinkin' regular guy/billionaire Mark Cuban as the next owner of the Cubs. According to de Luca, this seems to place "the group headed by John Canning, Jr.—(Commissioner Bud) Selig's personal favorite—back as the frontrunner."

On a related note, Friday's Wall Street Journal reports that Tribune Company may retain 50% ownership of the team anyway.

In recent weeks, an early plan to sell a 95% stake has fallen to about
half as suitors' ability to buy the team and its landmark stadium on
Chicago's North Side waned, according to two people involved in the
negotiations. On Thursday, bidders were preparing to receive a request
to submit new purchase proposals with financing details, those people
said.


The shift in strategy is a result of the tight credit market and a
heightening fear that few, if any bidders, would be able to complete a
transaction once valued at more than $1 billion. Under the new
scenario, the windfall to Tribune would be far less.


"This will still generate substantial cash," said one person with
knowledge of the sales process. "We're talking hundreds of millions of
dollars."


While the Cubs and Padres dance around a possible deal for Jake Peavy, there was another bit of Padres news this week that is very loosely connected to the Cubs.

Matt Vasgersian, who has done TV play-by-play for the Pads since 2002, is leaving San Diego for the job of lead studio host with MLB Network. Vasgersian, who worked Brewers games before heading west, was mentioned as a candidate for the Cubs job when Chip Caray left and was ultimately replaced by Lenny Kasper.

The greater connection between Vasgersian and the Cubs, however, lies in the fact that it was Vasgersian on the mic during a Padres game in May, 2006, when former Cub great Rick Sutcliffe stumbled into the booth (literally) and made his infamous drunken cameo appearance. (Kudos to Gaslamp Ball for retaining this unforgettable piece of baseball history.)

 

Cubs color man Bob Brenly interviewed for the Brewers' managerial job on Thursday, leading Paul Sullivan to wonder if former Cub and onetime Chicago playboy Mark Grace would replace Brenly in the Cubs' booth, assuming BB lands the Milwaukee job.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Brewers GM Doug Melvin will probably limit the number of candidates to three, with Brenly competing for the slot against former Mets manager Willie Randolph and former A's manager Ken Macha. Brenly's appeal vis a vis the other two options includes his having won a World Series with the Diamondbacks and his deep knowledge of the Cubs personnel. Melvin expects to make his selection next week.

Former Cub pitcher Kevin Foster died over the weekend after losing a six-month battle with cancer. He was 39.

With a career ERA in the upper 4's and a middling won-loss record, Foster hardly stands out from the many forgettable Cub pitchers who populated the roster between 1994 and '98. ('"Jim Bullinger,'" anyone? Do I hear a "Willie Banks" or a "Rodney Myers"?)

Foster was different in at least one respect from the others, however. He was a local kid, who attended Evanston High School and grew up a Cubs fan.

 

Rich Harden vs.
Hiroki Kuroda
  *5-1, 1.77, 89 K, 30 BB, 71 IP 2008   9-10, 3.73, 116 K, 42 BB, 183.1 IP
  1-2, 6.43, 5 K, 7 BB, 7 IP Post   (None)
  *NL stats only      
         
LF Alfonso Soriano   SS #Rafael Furcal
2B *Mike Fontenot   C Russell Martin
1B Derrek Lee   LF Manny Ramirez
3B Aramis Ramirez   RF Andre Ethier
C Geovany Soto   1B *James Loney
CF *Jim Edmonds   CF Matt Kemp
RF Mark DeRosa   2B *Blake DeWitt
SS Ryan Theriot   3B Casey Blake
P *Rich Harden   P Hiroki Kuroda

 

Our very own Rob G. will be in the stands at tonight's game. Be sure to look for him on the broadcast.

Thoughts on Hiroki Kuroda from "Blue Notes," the L.A. Times blog about the Dodgers:

...when the Japanese import is on, dude typically gets into a serious,
sometimes unhittable groove. But he's often the Bizarro-version of
that pitcher after the first bit of trouble, more often than not
tossing himself further into trouble than figuring a way out of it.

In two starts against the Cubs this year, Kuroda has pitched 15 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run. In other words, we really haven't come across that "first bit of trouble" part.

 

SP Chad Billingsley   SP Carlos Zambrano
  16-10, 3.14, 201 K, 80 BB, 200.2 IP   2008   14-6, 3.91, 130 K, 72 BB, 188.2 IP
  0-0, 0.00, 3 K, 0 BB, 2 IP Post   0-1, 4.37, 20 K, 6 BB, 22.2 IP
         
SS #Rafael Furcal   LF Alfonso Soriano
C Russell Martin   SS Ryan Theriot
LF Manny Ramirez   1B Derrek Lee
RF *Andre Ethier   3B Aramis Ramirez
1B *James Loney   2B Mark DeRosa
CF Matt Kemp   CF *Jim Edmonds
2B *Blake DeWitt   C Geovany Soto
3B Casey Blake   RF *Kosuke Fukudome
P Chad Billingsley   P #Carlos Zambrano

 

It has taken a good 21 hours of self pity and a bracing White Sox defeat to clear my head and even let me think about previewing Game Two.

Yes, last night went down harsh, but from reading Rob's post and many of the ensuing comments earlier this afternoon, it is clear that there are still some optimistic souls in Cubdom. All I can say is, God bless you all.

 

Starters' Records Since 8/1/08

    W  
 L   
IP   
 H/9  
 K/9  
 BB/9  
 ERA  
 HR/9  
 No-Hitters Thrown
Billingsley 5 1 62 10.2 8.1 3.5 3.34 .73 0
Zambrano 2 2 47 8.6 6.5 5.0 7.28 1.80 1

 

Billingsley pitched twice against the Cubs this season. On both occasions, he matched up with Ryan Dempster. Once, Billingsley threw well (7 K, 2 ER in 6 IP); the other time, he threw not as well. The Cubs won both contests.

Among Cub hitters, only Jim Edmonds has more than 10 career plate appearances against the 23-year-old Billingsley, though Fukudome, Lee, and DeRosa have all tagged him for homers.

Zambrano, meanwhile,

--At the Baseball Analysts, Ross Roley explains why the Cubs have a 22% likelihood of winning the World Series. That's the marginally bad news. The good news is, that's the highest probability for any of the competing playoff teams, according to Roley. The Brewers come in second at 16%. The Angels, with the best record in baseball, weigh in at just 13%. Predicting the result of a short series is an inexact science at best. Still, it's nice to see a headline that reads, "Why the Angels Won't Win the World Series (and the Cubs Will Win It All)."

--At ESPN.com, Tim Kurkjian poses Five Questions relevant to the Dodgers/Cubs series and so as not to ruin it for you, I'll just provide the answers here: considerable, yes, very, as much as possible, and a good thing. Kurkjian likes the Cubs in five games.

--Tim Dierkes at The Hardball Times also likes the Cubs in five, pointing to the Cubs' superior hitting and fielding over the Dodgers' miniscule edge in starting pitching.

--There was a lunchtime rally of Cubs fans today in Daley Plaza with Jim Belushi "among the luminaries," according to the Tribune. I must have missed the last luminaries election, but I wouldn't have voted for Jim Belushi.

How the Cubs and their NLDS opponents stacked up in a variety of statistical categories. (Team's National League rankings appear in parens; "DER" refers to Defensive Efficiency Ratio and "RZR" refers to Revised Zone Rating. Throughout, * means stats are through Saturday, 9/27. ) 

CUBS
  L.A.
 Hitting
855 (1st) RS
700 (13th)
184 (5th) HR
137 (13th)
.355 (1st) OBP
.333 (6th)
.445 (1st) SLG
.400 (13th)
 800 (1st) OPS
733 (11th)
     
 Pitching
668 (2nd) RA
645 (1st)
3.87 (2nd) ERA
3.68 (1st)
2.30 (3rd) K/BB
2.51 (2nd)
711 (2nd) OPS vs.
691 (1st)
66% (4th) SV %
65% (5th)
     
 Fielding*
.706 (1st) DER
.693 (9th)
.832 (6th) RZR
.825 (12th)

 

Here's another interesting set of numbers—the performance of the Dodgers offense before and after the acqusition of Manny Ramirez:

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Angel Guzman SP *C.C. Sabathia
0-0, 7.04, 6 K, 4 BB, 7.2 IP (NL)
10-2, 1.78, 121 K, 24 BB, 121.2 IP
       
LF Alfonso Soirano CF Mike Cameron
SS Ryan Theriot 2B #Ray Durham
1B Derrek Lee LF Ryan Braun
3B Aramis Ramirez 1B *Prince Fielder
CF Reed Johnson SS J.J. Hardy
RF *Micah Hoffpauir RF Corey Hart
2B Ronny Cedeno 3B *Craig Counsell
C Henry Blanco C Jason Kendall
P Angel Guzman P *C.C. Sabathia

 

First, Paul Sullivan writes that despite his recent travails (5.40 ERA in September), Jeff Samardzija has made the post-season roster and that Chad Gaudin will likely be a spectator.

As for today's game, Mark DeRosa (calf strain) was hoping to get in a few swings so he
didn't have to go into the playoffs cold. Alas, he is not in the starting
lineup. Geovany Soto (sore hand) is also sitting.

The Brewers begin play tied with the Mutts for the Wild Card, with a one-game tiebreaker tomorrow at Shea in the teams' futures if things don't get settled today. (As I post this, the Marlins and Mets are waiting out a rain delay at Shea.)

 

"It's not going to matter because, well, it is going to matter but it's not going to matter,"

Translated into English, it means that Lou Piniella decided that Carlos Zambrano would not pitch the first inning or two of today's regular season finale at Milwaukee and Angel Guzman will.

Translated into Sullivanese...

So maybe you and a group of acquaintances divvy up some Cubs season tickets. Now that the boys are going to the playoffs and playing an as-yet-undetermined number of games at Wrigley, what do you do? What else—you sue!

The Tribune offers this story about litigious Cub fans, including Laurence Wright, a Northbrook businessman who is sick of getting ground under the heel of The Man...even when The Man is an 84-year-old with heart and hip problems.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Rich Harden SP Pedro Martinez
(NL) 5-1, 1.66, 85 K, 25 BB, 65 IP
5-6, 5.50, 78 K, 40 BB, 103 IP
       
LF *Felix Pie SS #Jose Reyes
SS Ryan Theriot LF *Daniel Murphy
1B *Micah Hoffpauir 3B David Wright
CF *Jim Edmonds 1B *Carlos Delgado
2B *Mike Fontenot CF #Carlos Beltran
3B Casey McGehee RF *Ryan Church
RF *Kosuke Fukudome 2B Ramon Martinez
C #Koyie Hill C Robinson Cancel
P *Rich Harden P Pedro Martinez

 

The Cubs play their last-ever regular season game at The House That Jesse Gonder Built. In 44 years of play at Shea (the Mets played their first two years in the Polo Grounds), the Cubs have a 146-164 record.

Mark DeRosa and his strained calf muscle will enjoy tonight's game from the bench. Rich Harden makes his first-ever start against the Mets and Pedro Martinez, who is making his first start against the Cubs in 11 years, when he was still with the Expos.

A Cub win will give the team 97 wins for the first time since 1945.

WIth last night's extra-inning battle taxing the Mets' bullpen, Jerry Manuel has said he would consider using starter John Maine out of the pen tonight if/when he has to lift Pedro, who has only won twice in his last 11 starts.

I can't wait for all of these exhibition games to end so we can get down to real baseball.

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