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For someone that crossed him earlier in the season with some unappreciated comments about playing time, Dusty Baker of late has been showing an awful lot of loyalty to Jerry Hairston Jr, and it's somewhat hard to work out just why. Hairston has become a regular in the outfield, and while that was slightly desirable earlier in the year for a lack of better options, things have since changed with the emergence of Matt Murton. Dusty, who was far too slow moving Hairston into the lineup at the expense of the ill-fated Jason Dubois and Todd Hollandsworth arrangement, is now too slow getting him back out. Jerry Hairston is a very fine utility player. He's also a very decent second baseman, though Walker is comfortably better. But there is one thing that Hairston's not, and that's an outfielder. The biggest problem really is that he plays the outfield like an infielder. As a result of spending a lifetime dealing with grounders and popups, his handling of flyballs off the bat, in terms of reads and jumps, is poor. To try and compensate for that, or perhaps because it's what he's done all his life in the infield, his initial reaction is invariably to step in. On occasions, that can help him get to shallower flies, and he's even not too bad going from side to side, for certainly Hairston can run when he stretches his legs. But anything over his head, and Hairston's original forward motion, combined with the sideways then back routes that he then takes, promises either Hairston getting his body into shapes you never knew were possible or, more often, the ball landing untouched and rolling to the wall for extra bases. Hairston also has very much a second baseman's arm, leading to players as unrenowned for their speed as Albert Pujols tagging up from first to take second on flyball outs that don't even come close to making the warning track. It's just not pretty and it's costing the Cubs a lot of runs. Then there's the issue of his bat. Hairston over the last three years has managed a .278/.355/.381 line, which is exactly bang in line with what his peripherals suggest is his natural level. That uncanny ability to get on-base should not be underestimated. That said, his complete lack of power, while not as much of a factor as long as he's stationed at second base, becomes a significant problem if he's going to play the outfield. While the average NL second baseman this year has hit .278/.340/.414, relative to which Hairston's numbers don't come out at all unfavourably (and Walker's come out extremely well), the average NL left fielder this year has hit .272/.346/.460. Those eighty points of slugging mean that Hairston's bat simply doesn't stack up in the outfield, and it never will. That and his glove ought to have the Cubs very much on the lookout for a better option in left field (and his glove ought to preclude any ideas of him playing centre field, where Burnitz would be a far better option if push came to shove). It quickly became obvious that Jason Dubois wasn't such a better option in left field, and that's why Hairston first got a job out there. Matt Murton though is a different ballplayer to Dubois, and one that Dusty needs to now be giving the playing time. We know that Hairston can do out there, and we know that it's not good enough. Murton's not a top prospect, but he has the tools - the ability to hit for average, and very advanced strike zone judgement - to fashion a solid Major League career. He's done with the minors, and he deserves his shot. Speaking of the minors, Corey really should have remained put there. Since his return from Iowa, Patterson has essentially picked up where heíd left off before his demotionÖ
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Itís all very well criticising Corey for such lamentable performance, and he deserves it since heís so oblivious to whatís best for him, but the Cubs apparently donít know any better, and thatís the greater crime. It was essential that Corey stayed at Iowa until heíd learnt the necessary new hitting processes - recognising balls and strikes, being more selective, laying off the high fastball, going the other way and not pulling everything, and so on ñ and not only learnt them, but had them stick so tight that he wouldnít ever be able to shake them off again if he tried. The new processes needed to become second-nature. They also needed to yield results, the kind of results thatíd make even Corey sit up, take notice and once again have confidence in his own ability, a real and unflappable self-belief. Only then would he once again be ready for the big time. When Corey was recalled he was nowhere near that point. As a result, the Corey we see now is no different to the one that was dispatched to Iowa in July with his tail between his legs. He can still run, he can still field and he can still throw, but at the plate heís a man convinced of his swing and miss fate before the pitcherís even come set. Baseball is a game of failure, but Corey has become enveloped and overwhelmed by his failings. For Corey then, the best thing now would be to not play another game all year, to not see another game all year, to not think about another game all year, to become as removed from the game of baseball as possible. Extradition to England for five months at the Cubsí expense with immediate effect could do the trick. Then, come January, say, let the overhaul of his game begin once again, and let it not be interrupted until itís complete. Thereís no guarantee itíll ever be completed, that itíll ever work, but itís increasingly looking like the only chance he has right now of a worthwhile Major League career. Heck, right now, Iíd almost rather have Hairston in centre field. Better yet, let Adam Greenberg build on his 1.000 career OBP in the big leagues. Or, if you want him to enjoy the Southern League playoffs, call up Calvin Murray. Or Ben Grieve to play right, and shift Burnitz to centre. I don't care, just do something.
GAME 137 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (66-70) @ ST LOUIS CARDINALS (87-50) BUSCH STADIUM, 1:15 pm CDT, TV: WGN, FSMW
Fifteen of the Cubs' last twenty-seven games are against either the St Louis Cardinals or the Houston Astros, for there was supposed to be a big three horse race down the stretch. But none of the teams have kept their end of the bargain. The Cubs fell out of things far too soon, and the Astros have had serious problems scoring runs. The Cardinals, meanwhile, just picked up where they left off last year, and ran away with the division before the others had even noticed it was gone. What the Cardinals have done so far this year is remarkable. This is a team that's been without Scott Rolen, Reggie Sanders, Larry Walker and Yadier Molina for large chunks of the season, that's had to weather the decline of Jim Edmonds, and that was thoroughly ripped off in the Mark Mulder trade. And yet, regardless, they've put the excuses aside, and have simply got on with the business of winning, day in and day out. As much as I hate to say, I wish our Cubs were more like these Cards.
GAME 136 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] CHICAGO CUBS (65-70) @ PITTSBURGH PIRATES (55-80) PNC PARK, 12:35 pm CDT, TV: WGN
Once again, Dusty has decided that in pursuit of the division title the wild card a winning record the right to pick first in next year's amateur draft, Ronny Cedeno and Matt Murton get in the way. Or rather, to quote the official line, they'll learn more from sitting on the bench watching Neifi Perez slap at the ball and Jerry Hairston turn every single flyball, routine or otherwise, into an adventure in body contortion...
I feel completely cut-off from what's happening in the U.S., but thanks to the Internet I can sort of follow the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and it's absolutely heartwrenching. Private relief organizations are struggling to provide the most basic necessities (food, water and shelter) to the residents of Louisiana and Mississippi whose lives have been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. If you would like to help by donating your money or your time, here is a list of relief organizations to contact: American Red Cross", 800-435-7669 Operation Blessing International, 800-436-6348 America's Second Harvest, 800-344-8070 -- Food Bank Catholic Charities USA, 703-549-1390 Lutheran Disaster Response, 800-638-3522 Mennonite Disaster Service, 717-859-2210 -- The Mennonites were especially helpful in my area after the Cedar Fire Salvation Army, 800-725-2769 If you have the ability to open your home to hurricane evacuees, contact MoveOn.org's Hurricanhousing.org.
Today's piece was written by Don Nelson (twinscubsfandon) and he has been a practicing Cubs fan since 1969. He lives in suburban Chicago and frequently talks about starting his own blog, which, he notes, requires a lot less energy and commitment than actually doing it. He works in advertising and carries a 1970 Don Kessinger baseball card in his briefcase. The beauty of having your favorite baseball teamís season reach a virtual end before its actual end is that you can get a head start on your season retrospective. (ì2005: A Kansas City Royals Year In Reviewî could have been penned in mid-May.) When I look back on the Cubs season, one of the more noteworthy events, I think, was the Red Soxí visit to Wrigley back in June. Youíll recall that series offered a satisfying result (two Cub wins out of three), the proverbial ìplayoff atmosphere,î and a lot of media blather about how the two franchises simply belonged on the same field.
Well, let me introduce myself before you read my dull words, that somehow made it into this very-appreciated site. I'm Carlos Rubi, an eighteen year old high school senior from Merida, Mexico; I've been a Cubs fanatic since 1994, and will be one until... well, until I stop caring. Or until I get married. Some of you may know me from the Parachat; I'm usually there to spend every other game, classes-permitting I also run a weblog Dusty Says, along with two other people. Well, then, I shall leave you with the article. Thanks to TCR for giving me this opportunity... He has the stuff to be the Cubs' closer of the future! How many times have we heard that in the past ten years? Try to remember the number. Three, four? Wrong. The closer role is as vital as a bag of carrots; though, in the modern way of playing baseball, it must be a role well defined and set to an individual. Through the minor leagues, and even in the major leagues, several lethal pitchers with arrow fastballs and knee-buckling breaking stuff have joined the spinning wheel that is the Cubs bullpen. Guys like Myers, Gordon, Alfonseca, Veres, Remlinger all have closed games for the Cubs, but all of those were acquired by trades or free agency. This story, though, will focus on the guys scouts have labeled as the perennial closers of the future (COTF); none of them, at the time of this article, have been able to succeed at that role.
GAME 133 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-72) @ CHICAGO CUBS (63-69) WRIGLEY FIELD, 1:20 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports West 2
GAME 132 IN-GAME DISCUSSION THREAD [PARACHAT] LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-71) @ CHICAGO CUBS (62-69) WRIGLEY FIELD, 7:05 pm CDT, TV: WGN, Fox Sports West 2
Mark Prior, RHP
9-5, 3.68 ERA
147/45 K/BB, 21 HR in 132.0 IP
Brad Penny, RHP
6-8, 3.75 ERA
102/33 K/BB, 14 HR in 151.0 IP
CF Jayson Werth CF Jerry Hairston Jr.
SS *Oscar Robles SS Ronny Cedeno
2B Jeff Kent 1B Derrek Lee
LF * Ricky Ledee RF *Jeromy Burnitz
1B Jason Phillips 3B Nomar Garciaparra
3B Mike Edwards 2B *Todd Walker
C #Dionar Navarro LF Matt Murton
RF #Jose Cruz Jr. C Henry Blanco
P Brad Penny P Mark Prior
It would be nice, if over the last month, Prior could regain some of that confidence and swagger that he once possessed. He's been quite ordinary since coming off the DL, giving up at least 3 runs in seven of his last eight starts, seeing his ERA rise from 3.07 when he shutout the Pirates for eight innings on July 14th to it's current state of 3.68. Not bad, just not great and Prior needs to be great. His problem is easy enough to diagnose, his propensity to give up the big fly. His HR/9 rate is 1.43 this year, compared to 1.06 last year and a miniscule 0.63 in 2003. Keep it in the park, my friend! Looks like Dusty got the message that the kids should play, at least for a day. Let's hope it goes that way for the bulk of the season. Go Cubs!
You'll be seeing a few guest pieces over the next week or so as most of the TCR staff is cruising around the world from all the money we make from Paypal donations and you guys clicking on the ads. You guys do click on the ads, right? Hope you enjoy and we'll be back at full strength in a few weeks to bring you up to date coverage of everyone of Neifi's at-bats in September. Many of you may know me already, but the guys here at The Cub Reporter have asked me to write something. If you don't know me, then let me introduce my self. I am Chris Yarbrough formally from the state of Alabama. I now reside in "The Natural State," which is Arkansas for you guys who are keeping score. I am a sports writer in El Dorado, Ark., which is right above the Louisiana border. I mainly cover high school sports, but I do get to cover the occasional Louisiana Tech football game. This was supposed to run on Monday, but a short staff and a hurricane caused me to forget as I got out of work around 1 a.m. Also you can check out my site, The Yarbage Cub Review. We try to keep things going over there. Now onto our show:
The dismantlement of the 2005 Chicago Cubs continues. Todd Hollandsworth, like Matt Lawton and Mike Remlinger before him, possesses no value to the Cubs beyond this year, since his contract expires over the winter and promises no compensatory draft picks. Furthermore, any value he holds this year has been rendered an irrelevance by the Cubs' 62-69 circumstance. Moving him, and others in the same boat, to teams that still harbour dreams of October baseball is an inarguably sensible strategy, for, even if the typical return in players is similarly valueless and irrelevant, the transaction at least saves dollars that can ideally be spent more effectively at a later point. And, in some instances, the faceless names acquired in such deals do end up possessing long-term value. If possible then, the Cubs should perhaps also be considering moving Ben Grieve and Neifi Perez over the next day or two, while monitoring the markets for Ryan Dempster, Greg Maddux, Glendon Rusch and Jeromy Burnitz, although the need to clear waivers makes deals there unlikely. Moving Todd Walker would be far less wise. In the Cubs' particular instance as regards these small trades, there's also the Dusty Baker factor. It has to be at least wondered if putting such tantalising options such as Lawton, Hollandsworth and Reverse-split Remlinger just out of Dusty's otherwise inescapable reach plays any part in these moves, even if it's just a secondary motivation. From this vantage point a good few thousand miles away, Dusty Baker's misuse of the roster he's been afforded is as clear as day, even if the extent of the impact of that misuse, both absolute and relative, is far more debatable. Just what the view looks like from Hendry's much more privileged viewpoint, and just what difference, if any, that view is responsible for when it comes to his roster construction - those are the predominant thoughts on my mind when it comes to the Cubs these days. Are these moves, or any moves, what he believes to be best for the team, or best for the team as long as it's managed by Dusty Baker, on whom Hendry has all but staked his own position too? If the latter, I think it's entirely possible that Hendry's self-compromise is having just as great a detrimental effect as the much more obvious (and therefore much more maligned) mis-management of Dusty Baker. I spoke yesterday about Hendry's courage with regards to the Matt Lawton mistake, but if he sees Dusty Baker as a mistake, one that's compromising him and the team as a whole, the greater act of courage would be to send Dusty Baker packing, even if by doing so he runs the risk of going the same way himself. On the other hand, if he doesn't see Dusty Baker as a mistake, and this year's team is his own way of constructing a team capable of winning the World Series, I personally don't think he's got a good enough grasp of the big picture to be a general manager anyway. Discuss.

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