Mike Wellman's Archives

Updike to Williams to This?!

John Updike was as fine a writer as Ted Williams was a hitter. Updike won two Pulitzers, Williams a pair of MVP’s.

When the former died in January of this year I marked his passing by listening to a recording of Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu. It’s a classic essay he wrote for The New Yorker in the aftermath of Williams’ last game at Boston’s Fenway Park in 1960; a day when The Kid famously and fittingly homered in the final at-bat of a career that was both tempestuous and illustrious.

It’s beautiful; something that could turn non-believers into baseball fans the way Handel’s Messiah might call pagans to church.

It could not have been an accident that Updike was there to observe the event and later share his thoughts with whomever they concerned, although a preface to the recorded essay makes it sound as though it was just that. His first purpose for being in Boston that day was adulterous but, finding his paramour not at home, he went to the ballpark instead.

When Williams died in 2002 the poignancy of his death was overridden by the announcement that his head was to be frozen for future reference. His son, John Henry, who I recall accompanied his father on an autographing expedition to Des Moines in the mid-90's to raise funds for the Bob Feller museum not far from here, was having Ted posthumously decapitated and iced on the basis of a signed cocktail napkin that came with no certificate of authenticity. How at once cryonic and ironic.

I-Cubs, Samardzija Break Even

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.

Minor Observations on a Major [?] Event

Was it worth all the trouble?

The Iowa Cubs had a 5:00 A.M. wakeup call after Saturday's game in Des Moines. The team's traveling party chartered to Midway and bussed to Wrigley for the ultimate matinee following a night game.

As for your intrepid correspondent, my trip began a week ago today when we piled the family into two cars instead of one so I could leave them a day early and triangulate my way home from our lake vacation in Minnesota via a stopover at yesterday's "Road to Wrigley" contest in Chicago.

Derby Champ Does Des Moines

Epifanio [Sandy] Guerrero has a new nickname. It’s Derby, courtesy of the apprentice ballplayers he‘s been working with this season.

That, a ring and a late dinner are his rewards for being what I guess you’d have to call the winning pitcher in MLB’s slugging orgy in St. Louis on Monday night.

Guerrero was Home Run Derby champ Prince Fielder’s hand-picked soft-server. His regular gig is hitting coach for the Nashville Sounds, Triple A affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. Last night I talked with him while the Sounds prepared to face the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines.

Bad News/Good News - Peter's Been Robbed/Paul's Been Paid

Paul Sullivan had a piece in the Tribune on the Fourth of July that noted the heavy lifting being done in Chicago by players who started the season in Iowa. It got me to thinking...

Pending any roster impact that Geovany Soto's obliqueness might have, over half of the Cubs' current 25 man roster came to the NL Central via the PCL American North. Granted, not all of the baker's dozen were original signees of the organization, but each of the 13 have logged significant time in Des Moines on their ways up.

Collectively, you'd have to say that they've contributed more than their fair share to this point of a teeter-totter season. Put another way, the Cubs are getting more than their money's worth from this bunch. If the same could be said for the rest of the bloated payroll, well...

Please stand when I call your name. Hold your applause until the whole group has been recognized:

Gimme the Sausages; Hold the Goose Eggs...

The Iowa Cubs haven't scored since practically before Sam Fuld got married and that was over a week ago here in Des Moines. While Fuld's big league honeymoon continues his ex-mates have been one-upping the C-Cubs in offensive futility.

Last night the team dropped its second straight 1-0 tilt, and this one went 14 innings. Post-game fireworks displays scheduled for the next two nights may have to wake up the expected large crowds if the silly between innings sideshows can't keep them alert.

I'm Just A Fuzz Machine & I Don't Work For Nobody But You...

No official word yet as to whether or not the mysterious "fuzz machine" made the trip from Des Moines to Chicago along with Von [when there's somethin' wrong in the neighborhood who you gonna call?] Joshua. The unorthodox device is a pitching machine contraption that somehow both accelerates and decelerates a batter's swing, according to Carrie Muskat's expose earlier in the season. If Joshua couldn't get it through security at Des Moines International he may have just rented a car, thrown it in the trunk and headed east.

The Sun-Times has a piece this morning about "three Cubs to watch." In that spirit, here are three I-Cubs who currently bear a little closer watching:

Rich Looks Hardened; Aaron's Miles Away

He doesn't exactly pack 'em in like Wood and Prior used to.

A crowd of about 7,000 gathered last night at Principal Park. Some portion of it was there for the express purpose of watching Rich Harden tune up for his return to the big leagues this weekend.

I watched Harden warm up in the bullpen before he took the mound. From less than 10 feet away he sure doesn't look the 6'1" or the 195 # attributed to him in the media guide.

The other thing I noticed right away was that his pant legs went all the way to his shoetops. The rest of the team tucks 'em below the knee, knickers style. I'm guessing he paid for the fashion privilege with a post-game clubhouse spread before catching the first plane out of town.

He retired the first six batters he faced on only 22 pitches without topping 90 mph. The second inning required only eight.

In the 3rd his velocity rose noticeably and he struggled a bit. I'm not alleging  cause & effect there - just reporting.

My Kingdom for a Tater!

Granted, any lineup that undergoes a triple crown-ectomy is gonna be sore. But Jake Fox's promotion to Chicago leaves the Iowa Cubs really hurting.

The team hadn't even homered in Fox's last six games on the roster. After yesterday's doubleheader split and today's 9-1 matinee loss to the Sacramento River Cats on getaway day the dubious streak is at nine and counting as the team heads south for a road trip versus its divisional rivals in Memphis and Nashville.

Fox left town with 17 homers.

Can Any Cub Anywhere Play This Game?

Taking a cue from his counterpart in the big leagues, Iowa Cub manager Bobby Dickerson held a pre-game meeting yesterday in the team's clubhouse at Principal Park in Des Moines. The team had made 10 errors in its previous three games.

After the meeting the troops went out and made three more in the process of losing 5-3 to the Sacramento Rivercats.

The battle of capital cities was also a battle of pitching prospects as former Cub Sean Gallagher opposed current hotshot Jeff Samardzija.

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  • The Tucker Barnhart reactions after each Kris Bryant HR are kind of priceless.

    Rob G. 3 min 5 sec ago view
  • ...but, he's also good at home runs, too.

    also, rizzo.

    crunch 7 min 6 sec ago view
  • technically a wp...that said, a good catcher can turn a good amount of wp into blocked balls that don't show up on the stats.

    schwarber, for instance, was really bad at stopping wild pitches because of how stiff he was behind the plate.

    crunch 8 min 13 sec ago view
  • Was that a wp or pb really? Unbelievable turn-around with this club. 8 runs will not be enough to win this game.

    The E-Man 11 min 47 sec ago view
  • The Rich Harden Experience 2.0

    Rob G. 25 min 16 sec ago view
  • 35sb, 2cs...3pb...playing in his 36th start (39th total)...

    miggy is not having a good time behind the plate this season.

    crunch 39 min 44 sec ago view
  • He hasn't been able to consistently throw his off speed for strikes since the beginning of the season and batters are starting to wait him out. He said this week on the radio that he hasn't had a feel for the off speed stuff all season but he was the same way last season and was better the second part so...hopefully? I'm a bit worried.

    Also I seem to be a bad jinx lately where when I start watching the Cubs start losing and once I stop watching they score runs. So I am sorry everyone.

    johann 44 min 23 sec ago view
  • fair point.

    Rob G. 45 min 34 sec ago view
  • Yes

    johann 48 min 49 sec ago view
  • bryant is good at doubles.

    crunch 53 min 47 sec ago view
  • is Arrieta staying in to try and get him the win or because the bullpen has been the sucks?

    Rob G. 56 min 31 sec ago view
  • well duh...

    fwiw, Arrieta is the 2nd easiest pitcher in baseball to steal off of behind Lester.

    *edit* at least for this year, actually Syndergaard is by far the easiest to steal off of (23 SB allowed...now 28 after tonight's game). Lester just 10 so far (no one is getting on-base anyway and Ross has 6 CS for him...and I don't even know if that counts the pick-offs by Ross).  Arrieta with 10 allowed so far ...I think 12 now with tonight's game.

    Rob G. 1 hour 3 min ago view
  • that's an opposite field HR by Arrieta....Stephen A. Smith hot take coming soon.

    Rob G. 1 hour 9 min ago view
  • arrieta gets his 2nd HR on the year...2 hit day.

    crunch 1 hour 11 min ago view
  • didn't expect to have to clarify WHICH Bryant HR I was talking about...(it was the first).

    Rob G. 1 hour 35 min ago view
  • bryant is good at home runs.

    crunch 1 hour 37 min ago view