Closure For Billy Buck?
Former Cub Bill Buckner threw out the first pitch before the Red Sox home opener Tuesday against the Tigers. In a tearful press conference--lot of that going around this week--Buckner said he had finally been able to forgive the media for the brutal treatment he and his family had received following Buckner's fateful error in Game Six of the Sox' 1986 World Series loss to the Mets.
For a whole generation of fans, Buckner's connection to that Mookie Wilson-hit ground ball has obscured the fact that the guy was a terrific baseball player. The onetime Dodger played seven full seasons on the North Side after the Cubs had acquired him and Ivan DeJesus in a January, 1977 trade for Rick Monday.
Buckner played on some terrible Cub teams between '77 and '83, and he played for some terrible managers, including Herman Franks and Lee Elia. In fact, Buckner's first season with the Cubs was the only one in which the club finished .500. But Buckner hit better than .300 four times for the Cubs and won the NL batting title in '80 with a .324 mark. He managed to do that while limping around on chronically sore ankles that required extensive treatment and taping before each and every game.
The Cubs eventually traded Buckner to Boston in May of '84, a deal that opened up an opportunity for young Leon Durham to play first base full-time and brought Dennis Eckersley to Chicago. Durham and Eckersley were key figures in the Cubs' 1984 NL East championship. (Durham, of course, had an unfortunate post-season encounter of his own with a ground ball.)
Buckner was not as productive in Boston has he had been with the Cubs, though he did collect better than 100 RBI in his two full seasons with the Red Sox. Then Mookie Wilson happened to him. And the jokes. And the bitterness.
Buckner, who ended his 22-year career in 1990 with 2715 hits and a .289 lifetime average, was one of my favorite Cubs in the years he played here. And I am happy to see that on Tuesday in Fenway Park, where he received a long standing ovation as he hobbled out to the pitching mound to throw that ceremonial first pitch, Buckner seems to have closed a miserable chapter in an otherwise distinguished Major League career.
For the record, Buckner's numbers in his seven full seasons with the Cubs ('77--'83):
Buckner's contemporaries included the likes of Steve Garvey, Ken Griffey, Eddie Murray, Pete Rose, Robin Yount, and Dave Winfield. And in the years Buckner was a Cub, he had a higher batting average than all of them.
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Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
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?