West Tennessee's MVP shortstop Ryan Theriot has been called up for today's game, a move necessitated by Ronny Cedeno breaking his left hand on Saturday, being most probably out for what's left of the season, and therefore leaving the Cubs light up the middle. Due to expanded rosters, Cedeno avoids the disabled list, but Kerry Wood has been shifted to the 60-day DL to make room for Theriot on the 40-man roster. Daytona infielder Carlos Rojas will replace Theriot in the Jaxx's championship series versus the Jacksonville Suns, which now begins on Tuesday rather than Wednesday after a scheduling change. Congratulations to Theriot, but wouldn't you hate to leave your team when they're on the brink of a championsip, even if it's just the Southern League? And why do we need him with the big club? Neifi will play shortstop, Walker plays second and the combination of Hairston, Macias and Nomar can back all those positions up. It seems pointless, especially when you have Mike Fontentot already on the 40 man roster. I suppose there's a reason behind this and it might actually be good, but quite a blow to the Jaxx and their championship aspirations. As for Theriot's skills, he's been considered an absolute defenseive wizard through his years with the farm system and a lightweight with the bat. That is until this year, when he scrapped switch-hitting and went to hitting exclusively from the right side. He's way old to be considered a prospect (he'll turn 26 in December), but he did hit a robust .304/.365/.391, stealing 24 bases in 34 attempts with 45 walks to 38 strikeouts.
I had a chance to go to Saturday's game at SBC Park, what will most likely be my only chance to see the Cubbies up close this year. Here's a few things I noticed, pardon my bullet pointing: - Did the insane thing of driving up from L.A. to San Francisco for the day(and then back). Don't ask why, but I have my reasons, none of them were all that comforting when I was up at 4:00 am though. I made the trip with a pal of mine who's never been to SBC park and then introduced me to the Carl's Jr. breakfast burger, which we affectionately named "Death on a Bun". Not only does it include hash brown nuggets on the burger, they throw an extra dose of hash browns as a side order, for an extra cost you can purchase a defibrillator.
Abbreviated organizational report this week since the minors league seasons are over except for the AA Jaxx. I'll get a post up with the final minor league numbers in the next few weeks. For more info on the Cubs' minor league system, check out Rudy Kamman, writing at Road to Wrigley. Team Records updated through 9/12/05
Organizational Records
TeamW-LGB/Pos.Last 10
Chicago Cubs71-72(Div)19.5/3rd
Iowa Cubs64-758.5/4th3-7
West Tenn Diamond Jaxx*39-31
Daytona Cubs34-34
Peoria Chiefs33-37
Boise Hawks34-423.0/3rd5-5
AZL Cubs9-19
Cubs Ex W/L: 72-71; (2003) 76-67; (2004) 79-64 * West Tennessee swept their first round series over the Carolina Mudcats and face the Jacksonville Suns for the Southern League championship starting on Tuesday, September 13th.
By virtue of an 11-2 rout (recap, boxscore, play-by-play), the Cubs beat the Marlins in the playoffs. Or, to be more precise, they swept the Marlins in the playoffs. And Dusty Baker was nowhere to be seen. No, I'm not day-dreaming about October 2003 and what could have been, but rather I'm talking about the Cubs' Double-A affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, who yesterday completed their three-game sweep of their Marlins' counterpart, the Carolina Mudcats. They'll now progress to the Southern League Championship Series for the first time since 2000, where, starting Wednesday, they'll take on either the Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers) or the Birmingham Barons (White Sox) in another best-of-five series [Update: Suns it is, they completed their own sweep of the Barons on Saturday].
Brad Hennessey, RHP
4-6, 4.96 ERA
51/42 K/BB, 13 HR in 89.0 IP
Mark Prior, RHP
10-5, 3.69 ERA
160/47 K/BB, 23 HR in 144.0 IP
CF *Corey Patterson CF #Randy Winn
LF Jerry Hairston SS #Omar Vizquel
1B Derrek Lee 1B *J.T. Snow
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF Moises Alou
3B Scott McClain 2B #Ray Durham
2B #Todd Walker 3B Pedro Feliz
SS Ronny Cedeno RF #Dave Ortmeier
C Henry Blanco C Yamid Haad
P Mark Prior P Brad Hennessey
How about that Matt Cain last night? I fell asleep right after Derrek Lee's home run (I'm old), and apparently I didn't miss much else besides a sterling pitching performance from the 20-year-old Cain. The Giants still apparently think they're in the NL West race. They're seven games behind the Padres (the Cubs are closer than that to the wildcard lead), but the Giants announcers, the excellent Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, kept talking about what the Giants needed to do to catch San Diego. Why is it that I didn't think that was crazy, the way I would if Bob & Len were saying it? The Cubs are going to miss the reactivation of Barry Bonds -- it looks like he'll come back tomorrow, once the Cubs re on their way back home. What, exactly, did Corey Patterson do to deserve the leadoff spot? Was it getting picked off on Thurday? Is it the 2-for-15 he's currently on? Maybe it's the fact that he's hitting 177/217/291 since his recall, or 153/196/260 since June 21st. It must be something...
After winning last night's game 2-1 in the ninth (recap, boxscore, play-by-play) to take a 2-0 series lead, the residents of West Tennessee have their brooms out tonight as the Jaxx look to go sweeping. Ricky Nolasco was simply outstanding yesterday, pitching eight scoreless frames. Though he had just the two innings in which he kept the bases clean, and a number of runners got themselves into scoring position, Nolasco immediately slammed the door shut every time, dialling his sinking fastball up to a very impressive 94mph in the late innings and inducing huge strikeouts with his excellent "Uncle Charlie" (or curveball, to you and me). 8 innings, 6 hits, 2 walks and a hit by pitch, 11 strikeouts, and, most importantly, 0 runs. Impressive.
Matt Cain, RHP
1-1, 2.25 ERA
6/5 K/BB, 1 HR in 12.0 IP
Jerome Williams, RHP
5-7, 4.77 ERA
56/36 K/BB, 12 HR in 88.2 IP
LF Jerry Hairston Jr. CF #Randy Winn
SS #Neifi Perez SS #Omar Vizquel
1B Derrek Lee 1B *J.T. Snow
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF Moises Alou
3B Nomar Garciaparra 2B #Ray Durham
2B #Todd Walker 3B Pedro Feliz
C Michael Barrett RF #Dave Ortmeier
CF *Corey Patterson C Mike Matheny
P Jerome Williams P Matt Cain
Jerome Williams gets a chance to pitch at his old haunt, while attempting to gain enough Dusty points to keep him in mind for next year's rotation. For the Giants, it's one of their top propsects, 20-year-old Matt Cain on the mound. The Giants 1st round pick in 2002, his ascent through the system has been swift and for the most part justifiable. After putting up a respectable season in AA ball at age 19 last year (6-4, 3.35 ERA,40 BB, 72 K, 7 HR, 86.0 IP), he followed it with an average year at AAA Fresno (10-5, 4.39 ERA, 73 BB, 176 K, 22 HR, 145.2 IP). Considering he won't reach his 21st birthday until October 1st, that's not too shabby, not to mention the PCL is certainly a hitter's league. His numbers look like the perfect candidate to be a Cub, don't they? Lots of K's, lots of walks and lots of home runs allowed. Baseball America had him rated as the Giants top prospect before the season and possessing the top curveball in the whole system. He ranked as the 13th best prospect in all of baseball as well. As for the Cubbies, the march to .500 continues, player development be damned. I'll be at the game tomorrow and with the Giants throwing out righty Brad Hennessey, it's unlikely I'll get to see both Murton and Cedeno play and potentially neither. Wouldn't mind seeing them in person. I do get to see Prior pitch which is always fun and could be made more fun if he plunked Barry Bonds right in the armguard (if he happens to play). Go Cubs and Congratulations to the Jaxx, who swept their first round series tonight with an 11-2 thrashing of the Carolina Mudcats!!!
The Jaxx made a good start to the Southern League playoffs last night, winning the opening game of the series 3-0 (recap, boxscore, play-by-play) on the back of Renyel Pinto's fine pitching and multi-hit games from Eric Patterson, Casey McGehee, Brandon Sing and Jose Reyes, who is not the Mets' shortstop. Last season Renyel Pinto won the Southern League Pitcher of the Year title, but this year it was not to be. Why's that? Because, keeping it in the family, it was tonight's Jaxx starter, Ricky Nolasco, that took home the prize, leaving poor Pinto this year had to settle just for being named the best left-hander in the league. Yes, indeed, it would seem that the Jaxx have orchestrated something of a monopoly over the pitching prizes.
Noah Lowry, LHP
12-11, 3.71 ERA
153/67 K/BB, 18 HR in 174.2IP
Carlos Zambrano, RHP
12-5, 3.16 ERA
174/75 K/BB, 14 HR in 188.0 IP
CF Jerry Hairston Jr CF #Randy Winn
SS Ronny Cedeno SS #Omar Vizquel
1B Derrek Lee 1B *J.T. Snnow
3B Nomar Garciaparra LF Moises Alou
C Michael Barrett 2B #Ray Durham
RF *Jeromy Burnitz 3B Edgardo Alfonzo
2B #Neifi Perez RF #Todd Linden
LF Matt Murton C Mike Matheny
P #Carlos Zambrano P Noah Lowry
On June 22nd, Carlos Zambrano gave up eight runs in two and two-thirds innings to the Milwaukee Brewers. It was his 15th start of the year and he's had 13 starts since that ill-fated game. As of June 22nd: 4-4, 4.27 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 4.0 BB/9, .97 HR/9 Since June 23rd: 8-1, 2.08 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.2 BB/9, .38 HR/9 On the opposing mound, will be crafty left-hander Noah Lowry, who was just named the pitcher of the month for August. Does he have an equally defining turning point to his season? Well it looks like the Brewers once again inspired a pitcher to greatness. Lowry gave up four runs in five and a third innings on July 31st to the Brew Crew. As of July 31st: 6-11, 4.48 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 3.7 BB/9, 1.18 HR/9 (22 starts) Since August 1st: 6-0, 1.19 ERA, 7.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, .20 HR/9 (6 starts) I'm going to guess that August was the exception to an otherweise mediocre season. The one thing the above comparision does tell us is that major league pitchers get pretty fired up when they get trounced by the Brewers. Barry Bonds may return later in the series, and I have plans to see the game on Saturday (Prior vs. Hennessy). Could hurt my ability to secure some cheap tickets. Fiddlesticks!!! Hey, a sweep and we're above .500. It could happen, no, really, mathematically it could happen. Go Cubs!!!
It's not all doom and gloom in the Cubs' system. No, the team's Double-A affiliate, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx, have qualified for the postseason by virtue of winning both the first and second halves of the season in the Northern Division of the Southern League! Today, the Jaxx commence a best-of-five series against their biggest rivals this season, the Carolina Mudcats, a Florida Marlins affiliate, and given that the Cubs aren't giving us much to cheer about at the Major League level, why shouldn't we revel in the fact that the Jaxx have enjoyed a terrific year? It's pure escapism!
Mark Mulder, LHP
15-6, 3.62 ERA
96/59 K/BB, 16 HR in 176.1IP
Greg Maddux, RHP
11-11, 4.41 ERA
112/30 K/BB, 24 HR in 183.2 IP
CF Jerry Hairston Jr SS David Eckstein
SS Ronny Cedeno 3B *Abraham Nunez
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
3B Nomar Garciaparra CF *Jim Edmonds
C Michael Barrett RF *John Mabry
RF *Jeromy Burnitz LF So Taguchi
2B #Neifi Perez C Yadier Molina
LF Matt Murton 2B Hector Luna
P Greg Maddux P Mark Mulder
Maddux should have 5 more chances to win 4 more games to keep his 15 wins a season streak alive. Assuming the Cubs keep a 5 man rotation and don't skip any starts, here's Maddux's slate for the rest of the year. Tonight 09/07 @STLC 9/12 vs. Cincy 9/17 vs. STLC 9/23 vs Houston 9/29 @ Houston Pre ASB #'s: 2004: 7-7 4.51 ERA/18 BB/77 K/20 HR/112.2 IP 2005: 8-6 4.67 ERA/20 BB/72 K/16 HR/115.2 IP Post ASB #'s: 2004: 9-4 3.48 ERA/15 BB/74 K/15 HR/101.0 IP 2005: 3-5 3.97 ERA/10 BB/40 K/8 HR/68.0 IP He should surpass his innings mark tonight to get his contract to vest for next season as well. It would be real nice if he helped knock the Astros out of the playoffs to keep the streak alive. The Cubs trounced Mulder the only time we faced him this year in Chicago, to the tune of 7 runs in 4 innings. Murton was actually the only hitter to not get a hit that day among the starters. Maddux happened to start that game for the Cubbies as well, throwing a 101 pitch, complete game for his 9th victory of the season. This is the last game we'll all see the Cubs play at Busch Stadium and I can't say I'm the least bit sad. It's been the house of horrors for us throughout the years and there is something communistic about artificial turf (yeah I know they went to grass, but the glory days were 115 degree days in the middle of August watching Willie McGee, Vince Coleman and Ozzie Smith run all over us). A win today and the Cubs take the season series at Busch Stadium, I believe that hasn't happened since 1995(we really need a fact-checker here at TCR). It would also give them no worse than a tie for the overall season series, even with 4 games left at Wrigley before the season ends. Go Cubs, but more importantly GO JAXX!!!
On the day of the Cubs' last-ever game at the current Busch Stadium, guest writer Justin Hamm checks in with his thoughts on the stadium. He's not misty-eyed about its impending demise, that's for sure. ---------- On the Implosion of Busch Stadium Sometime in late October or early November, not long after what is no doubt going to be another insufferable playoff run by the Cardinals, a demolition crew will gather in downtown St. Louis to perform a glorious and long-overdue act. Theyíre finally going to blow the complete and holy hell out of the ballpark-size Cubby-bear trap they call Busch Stadium. Yes, Busch is the place where shortstop/defensive artiste Ozzie Smith did his best and most memorable work, and the place where Big Mac hit dinger number 62. But itís also the place where the Redbirds keep the 9 World Series and 16 NL pennant banners to which their fans allude when lording it over Cubs fans, and the place where, 18 years ago, a certain chubby seven-year old with a missing front tooth and a haircut he still insists was not a mullet caught his first-ever glimpse of live big-league action.
Matt Morris, RHP
14-6, 3.91 ERA
101/27 K/BB, 15 HR in 161.0 IP
Glendon Rusch, LHP
5-8, 4.83 ERA
92/47 K/BB, 11 HR in 113.2 IP
LF Jerry Hairston Jr SS David Eckstein
SS #Neifi Perez CF *Jim Edmonds
1B Derrek Lee 1B Albert Pujols
RF *Jeromy Burnitz C Yadier Molina
3B Nomar Garciaparra 2B Mark Grudzielanek
2B *Todd Walker LF So Taguchi
C Michael Barrett 3B *Abraham Nunez
CF *Corey Patterson RF Hector Luna
P *Glendon Rusch P Matt Morris
What's the point of this lineup? Whatever... If you haven't heard, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon was fired today. Any chance we could get a managerial platoon of Lloyd and Dwigh Smith? That worked well in 1989, at least the left-field version.
The second line in the minor league records are the teams overall records. The seasons are over for Iowa, Daytona, Peoria and the Arizona Summer League. Team Records updated through 9/05/05; Individual Stats updated through 9/05/05
Organizational Records
TeamW-LGB/Pos.Last 10
Chicago Cubs66-71(Div)21.5/4th
Iowa Cubs64-758.5/4th3-7
West Tenn Diamond Jaxx*39-31
Daytona Cubs34-34
Peoria Chiefs33-37
Boise Hawks+34-401.0/3rd6-4
AZL Cubs9-19
Cubs Ex W/L: 68-69; (2003) 71-66; (2004) 74-63 * West Tennessee won both halves of the North Division title of the Southern League; Their playoffs begin on Wednesday, Sept. 07 against the Carolina Mudcats in a best of 5 series. + Boise Hawks have 2 games remaining versus the Spokane Indians and must win both and have the Tri-City Dust Devils lose to the Yakima Bears to clinch the division.
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
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.


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