April 2008

Four games into their season-opening eight game homestand the Iowa Cubs are off to a sputtering 1-3 start.

THE GOOD NEWS: Both Seans [Marshall and Gallagher], Neal Cotts, Eric Patterson and Matt Murton.

THE BAD NEWS: Micah Hoffpauir, Sam Fuld and Matt Murton.

Marshall started the opener and retired all nine batters he faced, six of them on strikes, as he pitch-counts his way back from an ill-advised audition for a spot in the Chicago bullpen.

The next night Gallagher tossed five economical innings, allowing only two hits and a run with one walk and five strikeouts.

Cotts went two perfect innings and fanned three in his only appearance so far.

In Saturday's day-night doubleheader you might say that Patterson rode a tandem cycle. After notching a single and a double in the matinee, he spanked a triple down the left-field line and pulled a homer over the scoreboard in right in the nightcap. He's been playing at second base.

Murton makes both lists because he's hit safely in every game and drawn a couple of walks to open at a .357/.471 clip, but all five hits are singles. He's scored once without driving in a run.

Hoffpauir tweaked an oblique in an exhibition tilt versus the University of Iowa and headed straight back to Arizona. He's expected back in another week or so.

Fuld is on the active roster but has played in only one of the first four games, going 1-4 when he patrolled CF in the opener of Saturday's DH. Probably not coincidentally, the weather Saturday afternoon offered easily the best playing conditions of the week.

Mark Holliman starts tonight in the opener of a four-game set with Albuquerque.

The five hits that did the most to enhance the Cubs' chance of winning this week, as measured by FanGraphs' Win Probability Added (WPA):


#5 Big Hit:
Saturday v. Houston, 3rd inning--Derrek Lee cracks a solo home run off Roy Oswalt to tie the Astros, 2-2. Lee would later employ his game-tying skills to more good use. (See #4 Big Hit.) WPA .120

A few years back, TCR brought you "Cubs Week in Quotations"...we know you missed it.

--------------------------------------

Before we get down to business, time to honor our past
"It's the best. This is the epitome of American
life to be able to have this honor bestowed upon me; think about that.
Just me. And when I'm no longer here, I'll still be here. It's amazing.
This is amazing to me."
-Ernie Banks

"It's a miracle that I made it from there to here. When I had my number retired, I thought it was the
greatest honor because it was the first number ever retired by this
franchise. It will still be there 100 years from now, and that's how I
feel about this statue. I know it'll be here 100 years from now. It's a
miracle. But it is proof that if you find satisfaction in your life,
miracles can happen."
-Ernie Banks

"What apostrophe?"
- Sculptor Lou Cella responding to his grammatical error on the Ernie Banks statue

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Up to .500

 

 

W - Zambrano (1-0), outfield arms, broad strike zones, Derrek Lee
L - Villarreal (0-2), Budweiser shills
S - Wood (3), the home-stand

 

Things to Take from This Game

 

1. Cubs pitchers cruise
Zambrano
pitched 7 relatively strong innings with 7 Ks and 2 ER. His worst
trouble came in the first, which began with runners at 2nd and 3rd
before Erstad struck out and Lee flew into a 7-2 DP, with Soriano
nailing Bourn at the plate. Cubs pitchers didn't allow a walk,
and Zambrano cruised through the middle third of the game with 9
straight outs. No one reached base against Marmol or Wood in the
8th and 9th

 

2. Derrek Lee is crushing the ball
Lee
finally made an out, and even that was a lined shot that might have
cleared the wall on another day. His go-ahead home run off of
Villarreal was hit about as hard as a person can hit a ball.
Everything is getting smokback up the middle of the field.

 

3. Soriano helps out
Soriano's
throw home in the top of the first was perfect.  He also hit one out,
just scraping over the basket in the left field wall to give the Cubs a
2-1 lead. Hopefully it's the start of better days ahead.

 

After a shakey start to the homestand, we at least walk into Pittsburgh as a 3-3 team. Details below.

 

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Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Brandon Backe SP Carlos Zambrano
(2008) 0-1, 3.60, 3 K, 3 BB (2008) 0-0, 0.00, 5 K, 1 BB
       
CF *Michael Bourn LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Hunter Pence CF Reed Johnson
1B *Darin Erstad 1B Derrek Lee
LF Carlos Lee 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Miguel Tejada RF *Kosuke Fukudome
3B #Geoff Blum 2B Mark DeRosa
2B #Tomas Perez SS Ryan Theriot
C JR Towles C Henry Blanco
P
Brandon Backe P #Carlos Zambrano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it took 4 games to bench Felix Pie who was struggling just as much as any of the other hitters? Meh. I can understand sitting him against Oswalt and giving Reed Johnson some at-bats, but with Tom Gorzelanny set to go to tomorrow, that'll be at least four days in a row he'll sit...how Dusty-ish.

The Astros made me feel better though by batting Darin Erstad third. 

Zambrano heads back to the mound after yet another episode with dehydration and forearm cramps. Hopefully Lou called in his partnership with Aquafina and has a case waiting for Z on the bench today. Cubnut tells me that he heard part of a radio interview with Jim Hendry, in which Hendry offered assurances that the Cubs training staff will get to the bottom of Zambrano's recurrent cramping problem. Hendry also said "...and the Gatorade people are all over it."

We think it's fair to predict that their solution will involve Zambrano drinking lots of Gatorade.

 

It's... It's.... It's.....
Cubs Game Recaps!

W-
Hart (1-0), the Lees, extra-base hits
L- Oswalt (0-1), relief pitchers
S- Wood (2), hope for this homestand

Things to Take from This Game


1. No easy innings

Other than the sixth
and the half-inning ninth, no inning went without someone scoring a
run. Marquis struggled through five and a third, featuring
rolling sliders and fastballs that kept moving back over the plate, but
getting out of potentially disasterous innings with 3 GIDPs.
Oswalt gave up ten hits and a walk without striking anyone out in six
and two-thirds.

2. The Lees

Derrek
and Carlos combined for seven hits, five runs, four rbis, three
doubles, two home runs, and awful defense. Derrek dropped a ball
at first that started a 2-run sixth inning for the Astros. Carlos
Lee wandered about aimlessly in left field, occasionally drawing stray
baseballs closer to him by virtue of his gravitational field.

3. More love for Fukudome

KF's
day featured a fine running catch, a bunt single that surprised the
whole ball-park, and the go-ahead, two-run double in the five-run
seventh inning.

4. Then, there's Soriano...

Whose 0-5 with 5 LOB day leaves him with a .045 average to start the year.

That je ne se qua of mine that you didn't know you missed until you saw it again, the dinge an sich goodness inherent in a recap, below

 

Tags: 

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SP Roy Oswalt SP Jason Marquis
(2008) 0-1, 5.06, 6 K, 1 BB (2007) 12-9, 4.60
       
CF *Michael Bourn LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Hunter Pence CF Reed Johnson
1B #Lance Berkman 1B Derrek Lee
LF Carlos Lee 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Miguel Tejada RF *Kosuke Fukudome
3B Ty Wigginton 2B Mark DeRosa
2B Mark Loretta C Geovany Soto
C Brad Ausmus SS Ryan Theriot
P
Roy Oswalt P *Jason Marquis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here's where we are:

The Cubs need to win a game started by Roy Oswalt or be assured of having lost the season's first two series, at home, to division rivals Milwaukee and Houston.

Yeeech!

The good news is, the Cubs have had at least a few productive offensive games against Oswalt (11-10, 3.97 lifetime v. Cubs), which is more than they can say about their encounters with Chris Sampson.

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Chad Fox threw a 25-pitch "live" BP session and the recently suspended Robert Hernandez threw a 50-pitch simulated game, as the Cubs Extended Spring Training team (EXST) had a full-squad work-out at Fitch Park this morning.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Chris Sampson SP Rich Hill
(2007) 7-8, 4.59 (2007) 11-8, 3.92
       
CF *Michael Bourn LF Alfonso Soriano
RF Hunter Pence SS Ryan Theriot
1B #Lance Berkman 1B Derrek Lee
LF Carlos Lee 3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Miguel Tejada RF *Kosuke Fukudome
3B Ty Wigginton 2B Mark DeRosa
2B Mark Loretta C Geovany Soto
C J.R. Towles CF *Felix Pie
P
Chris Sampson P *Rich Hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Profiling the Astros:

we kid...we kid.

Soto gets knocked over by Weeks
Observations from the first three games:

  • A bad idea is a bad idea and I'm glad Lou doesn't take 20 games to come to these conclusions. Theriot batting leadoff was just never a good idea and Soriano batting second is even a worse idea. Soriano doesn't have the patience or bat control needed for that spot and Theriot doesn't get on nearly enough that it's going to help the teams bottom line - scoring runs. Kudos to Lou to for the willingness to admit his mistake quickly and moving on just as quickly.
  • Has Geovany Soto been listening to Henry Blanco or did he dust-off a copy of "Michael Barrett's Defensive Drills for Catchers"? It's never good when between you and Jason Kendall, Kendall looks like the better defensive backstop.
  • While legal, Weeks took one heckuva cheap shot at Soto. I'm not sure if Weeks was just angry at getting plunked a few times, but he's made a career of getting hit by pitches, so he needs to get over it quick. As for the play itself, the ball wasn't all that close to Soto and it wouldn't have taken any effort by Weeks to go around him. I'm frankly shocked that the Cubs didn't retaliate later in the game. On the other hand, we needed the win pretty badly and maybe it's best to save that for down the road.
  • This Fukudome character is pretty good.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Dave Bush SP Ryan Dempster
(2007) 12-10, 5.12 (2007) 2-7, 4.73
       
2B Rickie Weeks LF Alfonso Soriano
CF *Tony Gwynn, Jr. SS Ryan Theriot
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 Dave Bush CF *Felix Pie
C
Jason Kendall P Ryan Dempster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cubs find themselves in the precarious position of having to count on Ryan Dempster to avoid an embarrassing opening series sweep to what is expected to be our biggest challenge to repeating as NL Central Champs. I know I feel confident.

The big news being that Lou has switched Soriano back to the leadoff spot and I have a feeling that I'm one of the few (besides Lou) that doesn't mind this move. Is it because I think Soriano hits better out of the leadoff spot? Absolutely not. What it does is knock a few PA's off Theriot's total over the course of the season which is good. It would be better if he was replaced by DeRosa or Fukudome in the two spot though. But for those who watched the game yesterday, in the 5th inning Theriot reached on a single with two outs with Soriano due up next. With two outs and Jason Kendall behind the plate, that would be the perfect time to send Theriot to get him in scoring position. But, possibly being afraid of running themselves out of the inning and taking the bat out of Soriano's hand, Theriot stayed put. Now, Theriot's usefulness on offense is pretty much limited to scrappiness and stealing bags on those rare occasions he reaches base. If you're going to be afraid to steal with him, he becomes that more useless. Of course, I have plenty of other reasons that I don't mind those move, but that's at least one small, albeit important one in my mind.

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Jeff Suppan SP Ted Lilly
(2007) 12-12, 4.62 (2007) 15-8, 3.83
       
2B Rickie Weeks SS Ryan Theriot
CF Gabe Kapler 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 Jeff Suppan CF *Felix Pie
C
Jason Kendall P *Ted Lilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun is shining over Lakeview, The Cub Reporter made it through April Fool's Day without hearing from a single corporate attorney, and the Cubs are only one game out of first. A good day to be alive.


Kosuke Fukudome's Cub debut
was so riveting Monday afternoon, it was almost enough to distract from Kerry Wood's ninth-inning failure and the larger disappointment of losing the opener to the Brewers.

But terrific as it was, Fukudome's plate performance didn't quite match up to what one of his countrymen, Kaz Matsui, did when he first took the field for the Mets four years ago. On that evening, Matsui slugged the first pitch in his Major League career 429 feet, well over the center field fence in Atlanta's Turner Field, and set his new team off on a 7-2 season-opening victory. In addition to the homer, Matsui ripped a pair of doubles and walked twice, so he reached base five times in five PA's.

Given the way Matsui eventually stunk up New York, it could be argued that his Met career went straight downhill following that first game.

In any case, here's a review of the most prominent Japanese hitters to cross the Pacific and how they fared in their first regular season games on American soil:

Enough with the April Fool's Day hijinx, time to hand out some prizes from some of our past contests.

MLB '08: The Show PS3 Giveaway

It was a simple 6 question contest with a tiebreaker and three folks got all six correct, with another six getting five correct answers. Unfortunately I only have five games to give as prizes, so it came down to the tiebreaker for those who got five correct. Before I reveal the winners, the correct answers:

I can't believe it has gotten to the point where I feel compelled to say this, but...

 

Tags: 

Christian here (well, sort of -- more on that in a sec). I was supposed to wait until later this afternoon to announce this, but I had to jump the gun a bit and I hope the other writers don't mind. When the Motorola deal was announced, Rob hinted at other sponsorship deals, some of which have already been mentioned.

Take a second and check out the "Our Writers" page, and then come on back. I'll wait.

OK, are you back? A few weeks ago a major Chicago corporation approached me with an unusual offer, one that could change more than just the way the site runs. As you all know, there has been a lot of news recently about the possiblity of Sam Zell selling off naming rights to Wrigley Field. Lots of speculation has been bandied about concerning who might buy those rights, would whoever bought them keep the name of the park the same, etc. One of the possibilities that had been mentioned was the possibility that the Wrigley company would buy them and keep the name as it is.

As it turns out, that possibility was discussed at the highest levels of the Wrigley Company. Ultimately, though, they decided that they could not justify the cost to the corporation. The usual reasons were cited -- the impending downturn in the economy, off-shoring pressures, increasing raw materials costs, etc. However, the Wrigley Company wanted to make sure that their connection to the Cubs, which extends back nearly one hundred years, continued.

In early March I got an email from someone claiming to be an assistant to Wrigley Company CEO William Perez. She said that the company was interested in discussing sponsorship possibilities with The Cub Reporter Presented by Motorola. After a few emails back and forth to determine that she was in fact who she said she was, I emailed Rob G. Presented By Motorola to let him know about the contact. It was at that point that Rob let me know that of all the companies we had approached about possible sponsorship opportunities, Motorola was looking the most promising. What followed was a frenzied week of phone calls and emails between me, Rob, Cubnut Sponsored by "Nuts On Clark," and the various emissaries of Wrigley and Motorola (and a few others).

The final outcome was two-fold. First is the site-wide sponsorship from Motorola, the beginning stages of which you're seeing today. The second is a much bigger deal, at least to me personally:

I'm announcing today that, as a result of one of the most unique sponsorship deals in corporate history, I am officially changing my name from Christian Ruzich to Wrigley Field.

Yes, you read that right. I am actually on my way to a Pennsylvania courthouse later this afternoon to file the papers. I'll be going back through the site over the next few days and doing a global search & replace, and any posts or comments from this point on will be made under my new name (no middle name, by the way). In addition, instead of using the nickname "Ruz" (which no one ever pronounced right anyway), I'll be known as "Extra" (or, possibly "Big League Chew," I haven't decided yet).

By the way, this is one of those situations where it was a good thing my wife didn't take my name when we got married. She doesn't need to change her name at all, which she's happy about. She's also happy about the lifetime supply of Wrigley's products which will be heading our way. Personally, I'm happiest about the season tickets to my namesake stadium and the free airfare from Harrisburg to Chicago whenever I want to go see a game, though the money is nice too.

This deal allows the Wrigley Company to remain associated with the Cubs without paying what surely would have been an exorbitant naming rights fee. It also moves them into the 21st century and establishes themselves as one of the most forward-looking corporations in America. Seriously, how many companies have made a deal anything like this? Other than that online casino that pays boxers and streakers, I can't think of one.

On a day to day basis, not much is going to change. It certainly won't cause much of a Hubbabubba around the site.  I'll be posting a bit more (I'll probably Doublemint my output), and I'm only contractually obligated to mention the company once per post or comment, which means I have plenty of Freedent to post what and how I want. I certainly won't let the sponsorship deal Eclipse my desire to tell it like it is.

Anyway, that's my big news. Now, if you'll excuse me there's a box of Altoids with my name on it (literally -- look for the Cub Reporter Presented By Motorola branded Altoids to go on sale in Chicago in mid-May).

Tags: 

Check out that headline...thanks to the hard work of Cubnut, we've struck a sponsorship deal with Motorola. As far as we know, it's the first of its kind. We actually need to still cross a few T's and dot a few I's on the final deal, but we felt the off-day was the perfect time to make the announcement. We realize the whole thing is a little unorthodox and some folks will call us sellouts. That's fine, we'll accept the criticism knowing that this will be better for the site in the long run.

The deal is pretty simple, in exchange to referring to ourselves as "The Cub Reporter Presented by Motorola®" or "TCR Presented by Motorola®", Motorola backs up the Brink truck and gives us a bunch of cash to run the site. And of course, like any sponsorship deal, Motorola gets their name and logo plastered on the site.

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