March 2008

For an Opening Day loss to a bitter in-division rival in which our ace had to leave the game prematurely, our leadoff man looked overmatched, and our new closer was tagged for three runs in an inning, that was a pretty satisfying game. All the credit goes to you, Kosuke. Thanks.

But former and perhaps future Cubs had a hand in games all across the land, and there were other Cub connections evident on this, the true Opening Day 2008.

Here is a Cub-flavored summary of today's already completed games:


D-Backs 4, Reds 2
.
Dusty loses his first game in the Cincy dugout. Corey Patterson goes
0-for-4, but doesn't strike out. Not once. In the whole game.


Nats 11, Phillies 6
.
Following their one-game home series against the Braves, the Nationals
traveled to Philadelphia to play the Phils. I can't find any way to
connect this game to the Cubs, except for the fact that scheduling a
Cubs-Brewers game in Chicago in late March when there's a perfectly
adequate domed stadium 90 miles north of Chicago is asinine...much like
scheduling the Nationals for a one-game home stand and then sending
them on the road.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Carlos Zambrano SP Ben Sheets
2007 Record 18-13, 3.95 ERA 2007 Record 12-5, 3.82 ERA
2B Rickie Weeks SS Ryan Theriot
CF *Tony Gwynn Jr. LF Alfonso Soriano
1B *Prince Fielder 1B Derrek Lee
LF Ryan Braun 3B Aramis Ramirez
3B Bill Hall RF *Kosuke Fukudome
RF Corey Hart 2B Mark DeRosa
SS JJ Hardy C Geovany Soto
P Ben Sheets CF *Felix Pie
C
Jason Kendall P #Carlos Zambrano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Day 2008 has arrived and the season starts off with a division rival tilt between our beloved Cubbies and those Brew Babies from up north. This will be Zambrano's fourth straight Opening Day start, he's 0-1 with an 8.16 ERA in the previous three. Maybe it's Mother Nature's way of calming his nerves with the impending rain delay.

Additionally...(from Cubnut)

The Cubs need to get off to a fast start and not just because it's no fun digging yourself out of the kind of hole Lou's boys escaped last year. Between now and the end of May, the Cubs have 33 home dates; the Brewers, just 25. (Six of those Cub home games are against Milwaukee.)

At the end of the season, the situation is reversed: in September, the Cubs play just 9 home games; the Brewers, 16...the final three when they host the Cubs.

because it's not working right...

There are two known bugs with it currently which are that it will duplicate each "event" or injury as soon as you try and navigate to a new month or change the way you want to view it.

Also, in Internet Explorer, the calendar will get cut-off on occasion.

 

Taxonomy upgrade extras: 

While the rest of his teammates spent the weekend in Las Vegas before heading back to Chicago for Opening Day, Rich Hill remained in Arizona and made his final Spring Training tune-up start versus the Angels' Salt Lake AAA club at the Diablo Park minor league complex in Tempe this morning.

Hill struggled with his control a bit in the 1st and 3rd innings (he walked a batter to load the bases in the bottom of the 3rd and then hit a batter to force-in a run), but he also retired the side in order in the 2nd, 4th, and 5th innings, including the last eight men he faced.

With a mandate from Larry Rothschild to throw between 80 and 90 pitches, Hill ended up throwing exactly 80 pitches (22-14-23-10-11 in innings 1-2-3-4-5, including 50 strikes and 30 balls).

In his five innings of work, the left-hander allowed one run (earned) on three hits, with two walks, four strikeouts, and a HBP, with a 6/5 GB/FB. 

 

"Why, I remember when my father and I used to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and watch the season start in Japan."

--The Onion ("On Baseball's Opening Day")

Has Opening Day lost any of its luster since Major League baseball trash-canned the quaint tradition of starting every season with a single game, played in Cincinnati, the home of the game's first professional team, where the occasion was celebrated with a parade down the city's streets? Is the day less magical now that it has unfolded in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Japan, and the weekday game in the Queen City has given way to a made-for-ESPN event played on Sunday night? Of course it has.

But the thing is, it's still a damn special day on the baseball calendar and in WAY too many of the past 99 Cubs seasons, it has been the one and only day of the season when Cub fans' optimism was in full bloom.

Ryan Dempster's final tune-up before he's unleashed on the National League. The Mariners send out Jarrod Washburn which should give us an idea on the type of lineup the Cubs will send out versus lefties.

Two quick notes from Gordon Wittenmeyer...

The Cubs are getting enough interest from other teams in outfielder
Matt Murton that a deal might get done by the end of the weekend to
keep the Cubs from having to send the .296 career hitter to the minors.

They're just making sure no injuries occur today and Murton will most likely be out of here.

The battle between lefties Sean Marshall and Carmen Pignatiello for Eyre's vacated spot is going down to the final day.

Manager Lou Piniella said before Friday's late game that each lefty
would get an inning of work during the two-game set against Seattle.

It seems Lou really want to give Marshall every chance to win that spot, even though Pignatiello has easily outperformed him this spring.

Absolutely, if you accept the premise behind an analysis in Friday's Wall Street Journal, which ranked 20 big league managers on:

    • Their teams' performance in close games, i.e., games tied through six innings
    • Their teams' won-loss record relative to its projected record based on runs scored and allowed (the "Pythagorean" projection)
    • How players' individual performances improved or declined under various managers, with allowances made for the players' ages

The managers were ranked in each of the three categories, and the ranks were averaged, giving each manager a composite score.

Two more games before they count...Ted Lilly vs. Carlos Silva tonight in Vegas. Cubs were down 5-0 as soon as I flipped it on and Theriot grounded into an rally-crushing double play. We sure we don't Soriano batting leadoff?

It's on the front of Rotoworld, but the Phillies claimed Tim Lahey today off waivers. They'll have to keep him on their 25-man roster all season to keep his rights beyond 2008 without a trade or cash exchanging hands. If he can't stick, he'll go through waivers again, but more likely end up back in the Minnesota Twins organization (if they want him). The Cubs are still owed a player for the Craig Monroe deal from the Minnesota Twins. It's certainly possible that it still might be Tim Lahey, but they'll have to wait for the Phillies to be done with him first.

With Cubs Minor League Camp at Fitch Park ending on Sunday, the rosters for the Cubs four "full-season" minor league clubs (AAA Iowa, AA Tennessee, Hi-A Daytona, and Lo-A Peoria) are just about set.

Several players have been released or demoted over the past couple of days, including former Cubs top prospect Brian Dopirak.

...1,753 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.

- I had been on record saying that the Cubs choosing between Dempster, Marquis, Lieber and Marshall wasn't much of a choice at all. Just pick whatever shade of gray you're in the mood for and go from there. If anything, Marshall still having options made him the obvious choice to get sent down and be available when the inevitable injuries hit. Now that the decision has been made to go with Dempster and Marquis with Lieber to the pen and Marshall suddenly fighting for the LOOGY role, I will say I feel a bit reassured, at least in one area. 

Cubs pitchers have a tendency to run up their pitch counts early in games and it's particularly worrisome with Ryan Dempster early on, who still has to get use to pacing himself as a starter. But, with Lieber, Hart and possibly Marshall in the pen, that really shouldn't be much of a problem, as all three can go multiple innings. I wouldn't be surprised in the least if Dempster and possibly Marquis will be getting some really quick hooks in their games this year to see Lieber come in for three to four innings.

- Sports Illustrated has gone and ruined our season, predicting us to lose in the World Series to the Detroit Tigers. I believe last year they picked the Los Angeles teams to square off and I'm sure we all remember how 2004 went after SI picked us to win it all. Curse you SI....

- Speaking of the Cubs and Tigers in the World Series, I stumbled across this gallery from the 1945 World Series.

- ESPN's Page2 goes through each and every painstaking year since we last won it all. 


- Nate Silver of Baseball Prospectus takes a look at the Cubs signing of Reed Johnson and thinks it's another "uncreative use of resources", par for the Cubs' course.

- Doug Glanville's second career as a freelance writer sure looks promising. He writes in the New York Times about some of his past spring training exploits.

3 days until Opening Day....

A few weeks back, we had our draft for the TCR MLB Open league. We had enough willing participants for a seconds league and their draft was Saturday. I wasn't in this league, but reader "big lowitzki" is and provided me with the draft results. A quick reminder of the rules first:

H2H weekly play

No trades

Set your lineups weekly

Point system (Single = 1, Double = 2, Triple = 3, Home Run = 4, Run = 1, RBI = 1, Walk = 1, Stolen Base = 2, Caught Stealing = -1 )

Draft entire Pitching Staff, not individual pitchers (basically Wins, K's, ERA and WHIP are counted)

That's the basics, so let's see how they drafted.

Catching up on day-old news here, but former Cubs manager Preston Gomez was critically injured Wednesday morning when he was struck by a pickup truck in Blythe, California.

The 84-year-old Gomez, who has been a special assistant for the Angels for many years, was on his home from spring training at the time of the accident. Gomez stopped for gas and after refueling his car, "stepped out around the end of the gas pumps and into the path of a large pickup truck," according to the Blythe police.

Micah Hoffpauir slugged two home runs to help rally the Cubs from an 8-4 deficit, but then grounded out with the winning run on third with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, leaving the Cubs and Brewers tied at 10 in what was the final Spring Training game for the Cubs in Arizona.

box score

There are some known bugs with this currently. Please check our FAQ if you're experiencing any problems

The Cubs final game in Arizona this spring, as they'll hop on a plane to Vegas to finish off the spring training schedule this weekend versus the Mariners. With the Brewers and Cubs set to play next week, both managers go with minor league pitchers, Cory Bailey versus Mark DiFelice.

Time will tell if the Cubs just lucked out by not acquiring Brian Roberts. His strength wouldn't have been in the field as we already have a solid second baseman in Mark DeRosa. Roberts would have given the Cubs a leadoff switch-hitter with a track record of well above average OBP and basestealing ability. Not making the trade keeps the Cubs farm system talent pool of near MLB ready talent available for the future, whether it be a different transaction or if those prospects develop further, maybe a spot on the roster if an injury occurs. Could Sean Gallagher replace one of our 5 starters if more than one breaks down? Will Eric Patterson become a bona-fide mlb leadoff hitter? Can Jose Ceda or lefty Donald Veal become the power arm that teams drool over with just a little more seasoning? Will Roberts back spasms limit his playing time this year devaluing his baserunning skills and therefore his trade value on a team which needed to completely rebuild with young talent?

I tried to think of deals that were rumored but never happened, but ultimately worked out better than if the trade had occurred. Last year Jacques Jones was almost dealt to the Marlins while being nearly useless to the club the first half of 2007. After that "almost trade" he started hitting again and some would say that was the difference the team needed to make the playoffs.

I'm sure Cubs history is full of rumored deals that never happened giving credence to the cliche that "not making that trade was the best thing that could have happened". So here's a chance for TCR readers to chime in on trades that almost happened (but never did) and the historical hindsight that goes with it.

The Cubs travel to Tempe today to face the suddenly depleted Angels. Carlos Zamrbano's final tune-up before Opening Day and he'll be opposed by Jered Weaver. The game is on MLB.tv.

The Cubs also settled on their position players to start the season, choosing the lefty bat and infield abilities of Mike Fontenot over the superior righty bat of Matt Murton's. A difficult, but understandable decision on the Cubs part. While Murton is the better hitter, the addition of Fontenot gives the Cubs two lefty bench bats and someone besides Ronny Cedeno to back up the middle infield. The bench will consist of Henry Blanco, Daryle Ward, Ronny Cedeno, Reed Johnson and Mike Fontenot. I can't say I'm thrilled, but I do hope that if Soriano or Fukudome go down with an injury that Murton is still the top choice to replace them on an everday basis. The Cubs also released non-roster invitee Alex Cintron.

Finally, a loyal reader has four tickets for the April 2nd game at Wrigley versus the Brewers. I'm not too interested in becoming a ticket exchange or broker, but he's offering them at below face value, so I thought I'd pass along the note. Drop me an email and I'll forward it to him if you're interested. They're in Aisle 434, Row 2 and retail for $23 each. He's willing to break them up into pairs and is only asking $20 for each ticket. In other words, $40 or $80 instead of $46 or $92. I take no responsibility for their authenticity and don't think I'll do this for everyone.

No, this isn't a bold Ryan Dempster-like statement about the Cubs 2008 chances. We're going to hop into the DeLorean we have sitting around here at the sprawling TCR headquarters and visit my all-time favorite Cubs team - the 1984 ballcub.


I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who can point to the 1984 Cubs as the reason why they're still Cubs fans today. As a young nine-year old living in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, I had not yet quite sworn my life-debt to either Chicago team. If anything I was leaning towards the White Sox as they had just come off of a successful 1983 season and Dad G. fancied himself more a White Sox fan over the Cubs. Plus me and my brother scored like 8 White Sox helmets on a giveaway day the year before and that was kind of cool.

Then 1984 hit and the Cubs-love swept through Chicago. The mix of the "Daily Double", WGN, Harry Caray and being able to catch the end of most Cubs homes games right when I got home for school was enough to sway me to the Northsiders.

But, this piece isn't about my reasons for being a Cubs fan, rather about one man's bold prediction.

So the Cubs' Extra Righthanded-Hitting Outfielder spinner stopped and it landed on...former Toronto Blue Jay, Reed Johnson. The Cubs signed the 31-year-old Johnson to a one-year contract on Tuesday, in time for Johnson to make his Cactus League debut this afternoon against the Giants. (He went 2-for-5.)

With the Cubs most-recent roster cuts, there have been an accompanying series of roster moves at Minor League Camp at Fitch Park: 

Among the more noteworthy are:

Rich Hill's last or second to last chance to straighten things out before the Cubs start the regular season. He'll battle fellow south-paw Jonathan Sanchez.

The Cubs announced more roster cuts today with Eric Patterson and Sam Fuld being optioned to Triple A and Micah Hoffpauir, Casey McGehee and pitcher Les Walrond being assigned to minor league camp. With the addition of Reed Johnson, that leaves 32 in camp with 2 non-roster invitees (Alex Cintron and Chad Fox). Angel Guzman was also put on the 60-day disabled list.

I've updated our 40-man roster page and our new Cubs Depth Chart to reflect the changes.

Bruce Levine on ESPN1000 is reporting that the Cubs have come to terms with recently released Blue Jay Reed Johnson. Johnson was a 17th round pick of the Blue Jays in 1999, back when Tim Wilkin was running things over there and I'm sure the connection helped his cause with the Cubs. He's mostly played the corner outfield spots in his career, but has played 64 games in center in the majors. He had a great 2006, hitting 319/390/479, but has a career line of 281/342/410 with little ability to steal a base. He's also coming off a back injury that derailed his 2007 season. His scouting report on TSN.ca says:

Hustle is his strongest suit. He makes consistent contact and hits well
with runners in scoring position--especially against lefties.

Hustle? Mix that with a little grit and you've got yourself a ballpayer.

BP projected him at 262/324/387 this year which certainly isn't encouraging. On the other hand, he's hit 308/371/462 versus lefties over his career, and that'll likely be his primary role with the Cubs. It's a low-risk, high reward deal for the Cubs to fill out the need for a right-handed hitting center field option. If he stinks up the joint, he'll be easy to cut, and if he hits and plays "good enough" center field defense, it'll be a wise, low-cost move that didn't cost us any trade chips.

Felix Pie went 3-3 with a bunt single, a double, a triple, and a sac bunt, leading the Cubs to a 7-6 victory over the Texas Rangers before a capacity crowd at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny Mesa.

The Cubs and Rangers were tied 6-6 entering the bottom of the 9th. Facing Rangers reliever Robinson Tejada, Mark DeRosa struck out swinging and Henry Blanco lined out to short to start the inning, but then Pie smoked a triple into the right-centerfield alley, setting up a chance for Eric Patterson to be the hero. And that he was, as E-Pat lined a game-winning single into center, scoring a hand-clapping Pie from 3rd with the winning run.

box score

site: 

Ryan Dempster takes the mound today to celebrate his appointment to the starting rotation. The Rangers counter with lefty Kason Gabbard.

In site news, I've added the TCR blogroll  which you can access via Quick Links on the left sidebar or under TCR Junk Drawer up top. I'm sure I missed a few Cubs blogs, so drop me a note if you want yours added.

As promised, Lou Piniella announced the rotation and closer duties today. After going on back-to-back days, Kerry Wood apparently woke up still able to move and will be the Cubs closer to start the year. When he eventually goes on the disabled list this season, Carlos Marmol or Bob Howry should be able to step right in.

The Cubs starting five will be Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster, Rich Hill and Jason Marquis. Jon Lieber will start the year in the bullpen in a long relief role, ready to step in when/if Rich Hill continues to struggle with the strike zone or when/if Ryan Dempster continues to be Ryan Dempster or when/if Jason Marquis continues to be Jason Marquis.

The Cubs bullpen will likely look like this to start the year:

Jon Lieber

Kevin Hart

Scott Eyre*

Michael Wuertz

Bob Howry

Carlos Marmol

Kerry Wood

* If Eyre's elbow tightness lands him on the disabled list to start the year, either Carmen Pignatiello or Sean Marshall will likely take his spot.

I have always wondered that if someone could make a minor change here and there to the timeline, how different being a Cub fan might be. Cub history is littered with so many momentary adverse events that with an occasional tweak, the one hundred year World Series drought would never have been an issue. With just a little help from Mr. Peabody and the Wayback Machine--voilà: Lee Smith throws a different pitch to Garvey, Leon Durham bends just a little lower to field that grounder or Alex Gonzalez actually turns that 8th inning double play.

Here’s a time-warped tale of modern day Orthopedics coming to the Cubs rescue! In order to tell the story of the World Series Shuffle, I went to one of my favorite TV programs of the 1990’s and discovered there were missing episodes in the archives.

QUANTUM LEAP – The Chicago Cubs Episode

Happy Easter to all!

Jason Marquis hopes for a few goose eggs in his basket in his last opportunity to impress the coaches before the rotation is announced Monday. Everyone's favorite Mad Dog goes for the Padres in Peoria.

The Cubs rallied for three runs in the bottom of the 10th to tie the score, but the winning run was left stranded at 3rd, as the White Sox and Cubs played to an 8-8 Selig Special at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny and warm Mesa.

box score

The Cubs return to Mesa to take on their city rivals. Ted Lilly goes for the Cubs versus Javier Vazquez.

Following the most-recent cuts from big league camp and reassignments (demotions and outright releases) at Minor League Camp, here are (best as I can determine) the current rosters at Fitch Park:  

The Cubs complete their home and home series with the Rockies today, as they travel to Tuscon. Sean Marshall will go for the Cubs against fellow south-paw, Mark Redman. Carlos Zambrano is scheduled to throw against some minor leaguers in Mesa.

UPDATE: The Cubs trimmed their roster down to 36 by optioning Neal Cotts to Triple-A and assigning Koyie Hill to minor league camp. That leaves 5 non-roster invitees still left in camp: pitchers Chad Fox and Les Walrond and position players, Micah Hoffpauir, Casey McGehee and Alex Cintron.

Matt Murton doubled twice and Henry Blanco homerred, as the Cubs rallied to defeat the Colorado Rockies 8-6 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park this afternoon in sunny Mesa. 

But the real story today was Rich Hill.

box score

Pages

X
  • Sign in with Twitter