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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  • video of Maddon.

    http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561343809737202839-4

    always nice that he actually tries to honestly answer questions. Does mention that he wanted to give Zastr? a chance in a meaningful spot rather than a mop-up role.

    Rob G. 7 hours 26 min ago view
  • from Muskat:

    #Cubs Maddon: "I'm not going to make up an excuse for why I did what I did. It has nothing to do with lack of confidence" ... "It was the right thing to do today based on what I saw, what their lineup looked like and Rob Z.'s availability." #Cubs

    Rob G. 7 hours 31 min ago view
  • http://www.espn.com/espn/now?nowId=21-0561339391889382475-4

    Hammel not particularly understanding of getting pulled out...as he should. Be curious what Maddon had to say. All I can think of is is keeping arms fresh and maybe wanting to see if Zastr? is worth considering for the playoffs and how he'd do against the Dodgers.

    Rob G. 7 hours 36 min ago view
  • great defense

    Heyward, Russell, Baez, Bryant, Ross in particular...although Bryant's a bit hard to judge with all the positions.

    Fowler and Rizzo in the top half of the NL for their positions as well (per fangraphs)...Zobrist right at the halfway cutoff for 2b in the NL.

    I'm sure some luck is involved too, but the Cubs and Maddon knew what they were doing.

    Rob G. 7 hours 48 min ago view
  • If all the starters have FIP > ERA, is that luck or good defense?

    Craig A. 7 hours 59 min ago view
  • #Cubs plummet to 19-5 in August.

    Fun with FIP

    • J. Hammel   3.07 ERA/4.27 FIP (3.68 FIP last year)
    • J. Arrieta     2.62 ERA/3.05 FIP (2.35 FIP last year)
    • J. Lester     2.81 ERA/3.67 FIP (2.92 FIP last year)
    • K. Hendricks  2.19 ERA/3.37 FIP (3.36 FIP last year)
    • J. Lackey     3.41 ERA/3.72 FIP (3.57 FIP last year with Cards)
    Rob G. 8 hours 24 min ago view
  • zastyryzryzryzny put in 3.2ip 1h 0bb 3k

    he's great when his control is "on"...problem is it's rarely "on" consistently. he could vault up the cubs prospect list if he ever gets better with that aspect of his game.

    crunch 9 hours 5 min ago view
  • JD's take was just trying to get in a lefty to better deal with mostly lefty Dodgers lineup.

    My second thought was what you came up with. My first thought was he was trying to light a fire under Hammel.

    Jackstraw 10 hours 17 min ago view
  • Maybe he was trying to spare him another brutal road start? NY, Colorado...

    billybucks 10 hours 34 min ago view
  • joe got a pitcher up for hammel at nearly the 1st sign of trouble in the 3rd...pulled after 2.1

    not injured and though it wasn't his day so far he wasn't looking like a pure disaster.

    really short leash on him. zastryznzryzryny in.

    crunch 10 hours 38 min ago view
  • Russell and Soler can attest that Urias has a pretty good curve/slider - two big strikeouts looking to get out of that jam in the first.

    Eric S 11 hours 23 min ago view
  • Classic Scully - great stuff.

    Thank God we'll still have Hawk next season. (cricket cricket cricket)

    Eric S 16 hours 14 min ago view
  • Here's Scully's call on Bryant's 10th-inning homer:

    "And it's a long fly ball, a mean fly ball, and a gone fly ball."

    VirginiaPhil 17 hours 27 min ago view
  • When the Cubs were the old, hundred-year Cubs, one bad hop did not undo their opponents.

    VirginiaPhil 17 hours 31 min ago view
  • If only he was clutcher. More clutcher.

    Jackstraw 18 hours 49 min ago view
  • cubs win...bryant with 7HR in his last 8 games.

    crunch 1 day 2 hours ago view