October 2008

Trick or Treat

On this morning's WSCR-AM, The Score sports talk show, hosts Mike Mulligan and Brian Hanley asked for input on what the Cub players were handing out for Halloween as trick and treaters knocked on their door. Some of the obvious treats were:

Derrick Lee's house was handing out double plays

Carlos Zambrano was handing out Gatorade

Ted Lilly was giving out tickets to NLDS game #4

Jim Hendry was shoveling out donuts

The Cub infielders were passing out Butterfingers...

Gentlemen... Start Your Agents!

With the Phillies having polished-off the upstart Rays last night to claim the 2008 MLB World Series Championship, today marks the official beginning of the MLB off-season, and more specifically, the start of the Free-Agency Filing Period for players eligible to be free-agents under Article XX of the CBA.  

The Cubs have eight players on their 40-man roster who are eligible to file:

Ex-Cub Not A Bud Selig Fan

There's a whole lot of nothing going on as Mother Nature and the Rays have ruined the Fall Classic. Part of the fun over the last two days was a supposedly anonymous quote by a Phillies pitcher after seeing the beleaguered Commissioner roaming the halls of the Phillies locker room.

Barry Rozner Plays With the Hearts of Cubs Fans

The Padres called, the Cubs said they're interested, and it's a possibility.

According to a West Coast source, the Cubs are the
Padres' best option for a trade partner if for no other reason than
they're not the Dodgers, who are Peavy's first choice, and they're not
the Braves, who at this point are saying they won't deal their best
prospects.

Brenly for Grace Would be a Lousy Deal for the Cubs

Cubs color man Bob Brenly interviewed for the Brewers' managerial job on Thursday, leading Paul Sullivan to wonder if former Cub and onetime Chicago playboy Mark Grace would replace Brenly in the Cubs' booth, assuming BB lands the Milwaukee job.

According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Brewers GM Doug Melvin will probably limit the number of candidates to three, with Brenly competing for the slot against former Mets manager Willie Randolph and former A's manager Ken Macha. Brenly's appeal vis a vis the other two options includes his having won a World Series with the Diamondbacks and his deep knowledge of the Cubs personnel. Melvin expects to make his selection next week.

Why Does Bill James Hate The Cubs?

For the second year in a row, Bill James has ranked the Cubs in the lower third in his top young talent inventory. Last year, the Cubs were 29th, this year they jumped all the way to 26th. He didn't even have the decency to rank Geovany Soto in the top 25 players under 30.

Bastard.

It's Just a Jump to The Left

The Cubs finished up their organizational meetings in Arizona and as expected, they'll attempt to find some left-handed bats.

''We're going to try to add some different wrinkles, offensively
especially,'' Piniella told the Sun-Times. ''We are going to add
left-handed hitting to this mix. From an offensive standpoint, that is
definitely the No. 1 priority. And if we can get a little more athletic
in the process, we're going to do that, too.''

The Cubs 2008 MVP

Be sure to vote on the poll below...


Now that the Dodgers have been rightfully ousted and played like the team I expected them to play like (bad defense, no one hitting besides Manny, overrated starting pitching), I can go about acknowledging baseball again. I know, sounds like a bunch of sour grapes and I don't really care. The Dodgers weren't a good team, the Cubs just beat themselves and I have always had a healthy distaste for the Dodgers and their fans.

Before I start looking forward to 2009 later in the week, let's take a look at 2008 and revisit the Cubs MVP talk. Bold indicates team leader...

Warming Up the Hot Stove

The entire TCR staff is still in mourning, what can we say, we take this shit personally. A relatively decent rumor though has gone through the wires as we start prepping for the most inconsequential regular season ever for the Cubs - the 2009 season. Because even if the Cubs are  fielding an All-Star at every position, win 120 games and outscore their opponents by five runs a game, none of that shit will matter to anyone until they win some playoff games and get to the World Series.

As for the rumor, the Padres are suffering some money problems as one of their owners is in the middle of divorce proceedings that may cause him to sell his 49% stake in the club.  The Padres debunked that rumor...sort of, but nonetheless San Diego is a pretty small market and are coming off a 99-loss season with not a whole lot of talent to build upon. They did have quite a few injuries last year, but not enough to warrant that bad a season.

R.I.P., Kevin Foster

Former Cub pitcher Kevin Foster died over the weekend after losing a six-month battle with cancer. He was 39.

With a career ERA in the upper 4's and a middling won-loss record, Foster hardly stands out from the many forgettable Cub pitchers who populated the roster between 1994 and '98. ('"Jim Bullinger,'" anyone? Do I hear a "Willie Banks" or a "Rodney Myers"?)

Foster was different in at least one respect from the others, however. He was a local kid, who attended Evanston High School and grew up a Cubs fan.

The DonorsChoose Blogger Challenge

So I was approached a few weeks back to be part of a donation drive for an organization known as Donors Choose. You may have noticed it on the right sidebar. Since Kirk buttered me up by saying he's a regular reader of the site, I couldn't help but take kind to his cause.

So if you have any extra money left over that you were planning on spending on playoff tickets or World Series merchandise (sigh, slams forehead on desk), consider making a donation to a very worthwhile cause.

News & Notes

- Crane Kenney says the Cubs will increase payroll next year regardless of an ownership change.

''And when it all works, this is what it looks like,'' he said,
referring to back-to-back postseasons and a 97-win season. ''It's like
the Braves. That's the model -- the Braves and the Red Sox and the
Yankees. Play like a big market, flex your muscle like a big market and
hopefully perform like one on the field.''

Tags: 

Post-2008 Roster & Projected 2009 Organizational Depth Chart

OCTOBER-DECEMBER 2008:

CHICAGO CUBS RESERVE LIST (40-MAN ROSTER) AS OF 10/7/08:

* bats or throws left
# bats both

NOTE: There are presently 40 players on the Cubs RESERVE LIST (40-man roster), plus two additional players on the 60-day DISABLED LIST (players on 60-day DL do not count against the roster limit) 

Stuff

This all still sucks donkey balls, but I'm starting to look at the positive. The only one being that my October is suddenly going to have a lot more free time.

I moved some stuff around on the right sidebar and there's a handy payroll cheat sheet to help you plan out the 2009 Cubs team.

Tags: 

One and Done

So how do you revenge fuck a baseball team?

You follow a baseball team for six months, 161 games, and just about every play of every inning and then they go and just tear your heart out. The one time you really needed them, the one thing you ever wanted out of this relationship and they can't even be bothered to show up. For six months they were the best girlfriend a guy could imagine - not only did you have that special spark with them, but they had all the fundamentals as well. They were the kind of girl that you needed more than she needed you, but still would bring you lasagna at work...just because it was a Wednesday.

And then it's the big weekend corporate retreat with your promotion on the line and she ends up forgetting to take her anti-depressants, sleeps with your boss, then the guy you were vying for the promotion with and you find this all out when you walk in on her taking on 3 guys from the sales team. On top of that, the only reason she brought you lasagna on Wednesdays was she was meeting up with your boss at a hotel room around the corner once a week.

Fuck the Cubs!

I feel like I should go root for the White Sox or Brewers now, just to show them. Or try and bang some of the player's wives, but I don't think the Angel Fan wife will approve of that one.

Observations from the ballpark after the jump...

Game 3 NLDS / Cubs @ Dodgers

 

Rich Harden vs.
Hiroki Kuroda
  *5-1, 1.77, 89 K, 30 BB, 71 IP 2008   9-10, 3.73, 116 K, 42 BB, 183.1 IP
  1-2, 6.43, 5 K, 7 BB, 7 IP Post   (None)
  *NL stats only      
         
LF Alfonso Soriano   SS #Rafael Furcal
2B *Mike Fontenot   C Russell Martin
1B Derrek Lee   LF Manny Ramirez
3B Aramis Ramirez   RF Andre Ethier
C Geovany Soto   1B *James Loney
CF *Jim Edmonds   CF Matt Kemp
RF Mark DeRosa   2B *Blake DeWitt
SS Ryan Theriot   3B Casey Blake
P *Rich Harden   P Hiroki Kuroda

 

Our very own Rob G. will be in the stands at tonight's game. Be sure to look for him on the broadcast.

Thoughts on Hiroki Kuroda from "Blue Notes," the L.A. Times blog about the Dodgers:

...when the Japanese import is on, dude typically gets into a serious,
sometimes unhittable groove. But he's often the Bizarro-version of
that pitcher after the first bit of trouble, more often than not
tossing himself further into trouble than figuring a way out of it.

In two starts against the Cubs this year, Kuroda has pitched 15 1/3 innings and allowed one earned run. In other words, we really haven't come across that "first bit of trouble" part.

Infected

Somewhere along the way the Cubs contracted the "paralyzing suck" virus and it seemed to spread from one Cub to the next last night. I felt like I was watching 28 Days Later, just waiting for the Cubs fans at the park to start ripping each other apart. It started with Ryan Theriot, and not on that ill-advised bare-handed play. After Soriano singled and took second, Theriot flailed away looking thorougly overmatched by Chad Billingsley. What a fantastic time for a guy who hits the ball to the right side about 95% of the time to fail.

He sure made up for it later though when he attempted a bare-handed do-or-die play on a ball he should have probably have just gloved. I admit I stepped away for a second and only saw the back end of the replay.  The Parachat crowd was 50/50 on whether Theriot would have even gotten Loney had he tried to field it cleanly, but nonetheless, it certainly wasn't a good play.

Next up was DeRosa, who turned two routine outs into none when he muffed an admittably hard-hit ball. Had he not been infected with "the paralyzing suck" virus, he might have realized he still had plenty of time to at least secure one out, but instead rushed his throw to still try and get a double play which was gone as soon as he didn't fieldl the ball cleanly.

Around the diamond it went and next up was Derrek Lee who did all he could to keep a hot smash in front of him, but unfortunately the "paralyzing suck" virus must mess with your equilibrium because he couldn't pick up where the ball went. And to complicate matters, Zambrano was a little late getting to the bag.

I think somewhere in that exchange, Zambrano caught it because a few hitters later, he left an absolute cookie up for Russell Martin that pretty much sucked the air right out of Wrigley.

Quick sidebar: That was just an absolutely fantastic drag bunt single by Furcal right before that. Hope Hendry can land him this time around in free agency.

Oh but, it wasn't done. Aramis booted a ball later in the game and the entire offense started hacking away down five runs rather than remain patient and try to chip away one run at a time. In the 7th, the virus spread to the dugout when Neal Cotts was brought in to face Andre Ethier and James Loney. Problem being with Bob Howry warmed up in the pen, Lou left Cotts out there to face Matt Kemp who predicatbly singled in a run. You ask, what's the difference between 6-0 and 7-0, I say a whole lot when you have as talented an offense as the Cubs do. They're in every game and the manager doesn't need to be giving up in the 7th inning.

By the 8th, Lou decides to go with his bullpen aces and they certainly weren't immune. Marmol gives up another two and Wood - in possibly his last game as a Cub in Wrigley - gives up one more. Everyone gets a ride on the "suck ass" carousel.

More ranting after the jump....

Psandberg 23

Psandberg 23: "The Cubs are my Ballclub"
 
The Cubs are my Ballclub, I shall not want.
They maketh me to watch games in green fields.
They restoreth my soul:
they leadeth me in the path of happiness for their name's sake
Yeah, though we walk through the valley of the shadow of elimination, I will fear no Dodger:
for Harden art with us;

NLDS Game 2 Recap: Cubs 3, Dodgers 10

Booted

W - Billingsley (1-0)

L - Zambrano (0-1)

Box Score, Photos

Things to Take from This Game

1. Alex Gonzalez Redux

Second inning with Ethier on first, the dodgers put on a hit and run.  Loney hits the ball to shortstop.  But with Theriot covering the bag, he's out of position, can't make the barehand stop of the chopper.  Ruled a hit.  Correctly. Two batters later, DeWitt hits a potential inning-ending double-play ball right at DeRosa, but it pops out of his glove, and everyone's safe with a run scoring on the play.  Lee makes an error on the next play, a chopper right at him hit by Blake, loading the bases.  A Furcal bunt and a Martin bases-clearing double to the left-center Gap, and the Cubs found themselves down 5-0 going into the bottom of the second. A particular shame as Z had looked really focused, sharp, pitching quickly, with an awesome fastball, only to have his defense betray him and then give up a legit double.

  • Ramirez also made a lame error a couple innings later.  No damage was done, save to our pride. 
  • And Theriot gives the Cubs infield the Defensive Anti-Cycle, an error by each infielder, when he throws one away in the ninth.

2.  Manny Ramirez Redux

Manny hit a gargantuan home run.  He's good. 

3. Ah, screwit.

Cotts and Marmol struggled, the Cubs got through 2/9ths of a 9-run comeback in the bottom of the ninth, other things probably happened to.

 

The "we have not yet begun to fight!" "No, really...  we haven't yet begun to fight...." details, below.

Tags: 

Game 2 NLDS / Dodgers @ Cubs

 

SP Chad Billingsley   SP Carlos Zambrano
  16-10, 3.14, 201 K, 80 BB, 200.2 IP   2008   14-6, 3.91, 130 K, 72 BB, 188.2 IP
  0-0, 0.00, 3 K, 0 BB, 2 IP Post   0-1, 4.37, 20 K, 6 BB, 22.2 IP
         
SS #Rafael Furcal   LF Alfonso Soriano
C Russell Martin   SS Ryan Theriot
LF Manny Ramirez   1B Derrek Lee
RF *Andre Ethier   3B Aramis Ramirez
1B *James Loney   2B Mark DeRosa
CF Matt Kemp   CF *Jim Edmonds
2B *Blake DeWitt   C Geovany Soto
3B Casey Blake   RF *Kosuke Fukudome
P Chad Billingsley   P #Carlos Zambrano

 

It has taken a good 21 hours of self pity and a bracing White Sox defeat to clear my head and even let me think about previewing Game Two.

Yes, last night went down harsh, but from reading Rob's post and many of the ensuing comments earlier this afternoon, it is clear that there are still some optimistic souls in Cubdom. All I can say is, God bless you all.

 

Starters' Records Since 8/1/08

    W  
 L   
IP   
 H/9  
 K/9  
 BB/9  
 ERA  
 HR/9  
 No-Hitters Thrown
Billingsley 5 1 62 10.2 8.1 3.5 3.34 .73 0
Zambrano 2 2 47 8.6 6.5 5.0 7.28 1.80 1

 

Billingsley pitched twice against the Cubs this season. On both occasions, he matched up with Ryan Dempster. Once, Billingsley threw well (7 K, 2 ER in 6 IP); the other time, he threw not as well. The Cubs won both contests.

Among Cub hitters, only Jim Edmonds has more than 10 career plate appearances against the 23-year-old Billingsley, though Fukudome, Lee, and DeRosa have all tagged him for homers.

Zambrano, meanwhile,

Strangely Confident

It's not that I have any good reason to be, losing the first game of a five game series seems to be pretty close to a death sentence. I believe the stat being bandied about is 24 of 28 NLDS Game 1 winners have gone on to win the series, although it' s only 14-14 for the ALDS (that's what I heard on XM this morning). Now, I have no idea why the disparity between two leagues and there's really no logical explanation on why the designated hitter would make a difference, so I'll chalk it up to just one of those statistical oddities that litter baseball's history. Nonetheless, circumstances don't favor the Cubs to win this series.

As for why I think the Cubs are still going to, you should all know that I still believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Okay, that's silly, everyone knows it's just your parents sneaking into your room with a quarter for your incisors. I mean, what kind of rationale being collects teeth? And I have yet to meet a bunny that lays eggs. But no one has still given me a good explanation on how that Atari 2600 showed up for Christmas when I was five, so I'm sticking with the man in the red suit.

As for this series, in the theater of my mind, I saw the Cubs dropping Game 1 and that's why I picked them to win it in four. I just didn't like the match-up of Lowe vs. Dempster. Lowe seems to have had great success against us, especially in Wrigley, and despite the extremely impressive season Dempster had, he's still too walk-happy for my tastes. It's not that I even think it was the wrong decision to start him in Game 1, because other than a healthy Rich Harden, I wouldn't have liked any match-up against Derek Lowe in Game 1.

NLDS Game 1 Recap: Cubs 2, Dodgers 7

Gyeh.

 

W - Lowe (1-0)
L - Dempster (0-1)

 

 

Things to Take from This Game

1.  Cubs out to an early lead

DeRosa lofted a home run down the right field foul line for a two-run homer in the second.  His first swing in a week.

2.  Dempster's wildness catches up to him

Dempster looked really sharp in the first, but the Dodgers didn't chase the splitter out of the zone, the umpire didn't call fastballs just off the corners, and Dempster lost progressively greater command of his fastball.  Seven walks by Dempster alone, three of them in the fifth inning, and after nearly, nearly, nearly escaping with a near-strike out of Loney on a foul tip, Loney lined a grand slam out to center.
 
3.  Not much good to report from there
Manny Ramirez hit a remarkable home run on a pitch at his shoelaces, and Martin also hit a shot into the basket.  Wrigley was quiet most of the second half of the game, save when a few fans found the energy to boo.
 

The worrisome details, below...

Tags: 

Game 1 NLDS / Dodgers @ Cubs

Game Chat | Press Pass | BR Preview

SP Ryan Dempster SP Derek Lowe
17-6, 2.96, 187 K,76 BB, 206.2 IP (2008)
14-11, 3.24, 147 K, 45 BB, 211 IP
    (Playoffs) 5-4, 3.34, 43 K, 23 BB, 67.1 IP
LF Alfonso Soirano SS #Rafael Furcal
RF *Kosuke Fukudome C Russell Martin
1B Derrek Lee LF Manny Ramirez
3B Aramis Ramirez RF *Andre Ethier
C Geovany Soto 1B *James Loney
CF *Jim Edmonds CF Matt Kemp
2B Mark DeRosa 2B *Blake DeWitt
SS Ryan Theriot C Casey Blake
P Ryan Dempster P Derek Lowe

 

The calender page flips to October and the Cubs are in the unfamiliar position of being the favorites. Well maybe not the favorites to win it all, I think that honor belongs to the Angels or Red Sox, but certainly the team to beat in the National League. TBS will wax poetic about curses and goats and I'll set the over/under line on a Bartman clip at top of the third. And I'll roll my eyes with each and every mention. 

But here we are, on the cusp of the playoffs with a Cubs team that is as good as many of us have ever seen; on the heels of a season that exceeded even the loftiest of expectations. Is this the team to break the drought? I don't know, but I sure do believe it is. 

As for today's game... 

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