The Long & Winding Road
Yesterday’s tease piece in the Sun-Times that envisioned a reunion in Chicago next year of Walt Jocketty, Tony LaRussa and Albert Pujols got me connecting some dots of my own.
Years ago, before Pujols was born in fact, Jocketty and LaRussa first teamed up as the GM and skipper, respectively, of the Iowa Oaks. The year was 1979 and before that season ended LaRussa, at the mere age of 34, replaced Don Kessinger as manager of the White Sox.
I was an adrift 25 year-old quaffing beer in the stands, usually from a vantage point right behind the home dugout, courtesy of a buddy whose widowed mother was then consorting with one of the Oaks’ owners.
Bobby Molinaro was the driveshaft of that team; the player we most approved of and had most occasion to cheer. The ascendant Harold Baines was also catching eyes. LaRussa cut his managerial teeth against the likes of Jack McKeon, Jim Leyland and Lee Elia that summer, each of whom also had clubs in the American Association at the time.
Marv Foley was on that team. Years later, in 1993, he managed the Iowa Cubs to a pennant and spent some (after) hours in my pub helping me pass the time between last call and the janitor’s arrival at dawn. I still have a sleek, black fungo bat he bestowed upon me in return for my hospitalities. A couple of times I rescued it from the clutches of my two boys when they drug it into service in neighborhood sandlot games despite that they stood hardly taller than the bat.
I’d forgotten that Bobby Douglass did a cameo turn with that ’79 team. According to the archives I consulted he completed seven innings of work without fanning anyone while walking 13. Apparently the left-handed fastballs he winged in the general direction of receivers while quarterbacking for the Bears were no more accurate when aimed at someone equipped with a bat.
The last beer I had was at the same ballpark where LaRussa and Jocketty first collaborated. That was in 1994. By then they had both moved on and Pujols was 14, probably just coming into the natural hormonal supply that would fuel his unparalleled career, the commencement of which was still seven years distant.
Everyone mentioned here, with one exception, either moved on from Principal Park, nee Sec Taylor Stadium, to work in major league sports or, in the unusual case of Douglass, already had when they arrived in Des Moines.
But I, too, have come a long way.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.
101 wins...most since 1910 (104).
neat. ...or sad. pick one. pick both. 'murica.
Just looked up Grimm's stats -- after a great run, he gave up 2 runs vs. MIL then didn't pitch for 10 days. Don't remember why?
Sean Rodriguez's helmet looks like it's taking a dump
Grimm not doing himself any favors lately re: making the playoff squad. Seems to have lost the feel for his curveball.
j.grimm is literally worse than hitler.
felix pena, your turn.