June 2010

I watched the game intermittently last night, and one of my tune-ins happened in the top of the 7th. The Cubs were leading 3-1 but Pedro Alvarez had connected for a one-out single and then Ryan Doumit ripped a 3-1 pitch into the leftfield corner for a double that moved Alvarez to third. The visitors had the tying runs on base with just one out and roughly 100 pitches into the evening, Ted Lilly looked like he might be out of gas. Len Kasper surmised that this was probably the game's defining moment.

Then Ronny Cedeno stepped into the batter's box.

First, the lineups...

Tabata, LaRoche, McCutchen, Jones, Milledge, Alvarez, Doumit, Cedeno, Karstens

vs.

Fukudome, Theriot, Lee, Ramirez, Colvin, Soriano, Hill, Castro, Lilly.

Now, the news...

Before tonight's game against the Pirates, the Cubs announced that Carlos Zambrano will not be back with the club until after the All-Star break. He is going to be placed on the restricted list and will undergo treatment for "his anger issues," as Sullivan wrote in the Tribune.

Zambrano's "indefinite suspension" will end with the conclusion of tonight's game. When he's moved to the restricted list, the Cubs will be able to fill Zambrano's roster spot and Jeff Stevens is going to be recalled.

The Cubs lineup against lefty Paul Maholm—against whom the Cubs have a team OPS of 858 in 11 encounters—follows. 

Cubs  vs. Paul Maholm (4-6, 4.24; 6-1, 6.29 all-time vs. Cubs)
Theriot 4, Colvin 9, Byrd 8, Lee 3, Ramirez 5, Soriano 7, Soto 2, Castro 6, Wells 1

I can't seem to find the Pirates batting order anywhere. Maybe after losing 17 road games in a row, you give up on that lineup stuff altogether and just have the players draw lots as the game proceeds.

Mixing two singles with two walks, two wild pitches, an error, a stolen base, and two sacrifice flies, the AZL Cubs scored four in the 8th to break a 1-1 tie and defeat the AZL A's 5-1 at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park Sunday night in Mesa.


From Paul Sullivan in the Tribune:

After Carlos Zambrano returns to the Cubs following his suspension—the Cubs are trying to find out from MLB how long they can be suspend him and whether they'll have to play with 24 men for the duration—he'll be returning to the bullpen. Tom Gorzelanny is returning to the starting rotation.

Also, Lou Piniella and Assistant General Manager Randy Bush were none too pleased that Zambrano had dinner with Ozzie Guillen last night instead of reflecting on what an ass he was yesterday afternoon. I'm thinking that if Carlos was self-aware enough to reflect on his behavior, he might not have acted that way in the first place. Just a thought.

Cubs lineup vs. Freddy Garcia (8-3, 4.85; 4-0, 1.25 all-time vs. Cubs)
Fukudome 9, Byrd 8, Lee DH, Nady 3, Ramirez 5, Soriano 7, Castro 6, Soto 2, Theriot 4

White Sox lineup vs. Carlos Silva (8-2, 3.01; 4-11, 5.33 all-time vs. Sox)
Pierre 7, Vizquel 5, Rios 8, Konerko 3, Quentin 9, Kotsay DH, Ramirez 6, Castro 2, Beckham 4

Back on June 13th, after Ted Lilly nearly no-hit the White Sox at Wrigley Field, the Sox' record was 28-34, and the Cubs stood at 28-35. The White Sox haven't lost since, and the Cubs have continued to stumble. They're now eight games under .500 and the same number of games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

On this, his 32nd birthday, Aramis Ramirez returns to the lineup after a stint on the DL with that nagging thumb problem, and Chad Tracy has been DFA'd. Tracy hit .250 (11-for-44) in 28 games for the Cubs.

In the big news of the day...

Maybe Jim Hendry just came to Des Moines to escape the heat of the Chicago media. Maybe he dropped in to chat behind closed doors with the trim and ambitious Ryne Sandberg, though if/when Chicago comes calling Ryno back, the call probably won't come in the person of Hendry. In any case, big Jim's reason for being here almost certainly isn't to get a closer look at Sam Fuld, the scrappy leadoff hitter and center fielder. Hendry's mind is made up about Fuld, I imagine, which is tough luck for Sam.

He'd run into, if not through, a brick wall for the chance to stick in the big leagues. The problem is he's about the same height as Hack Wilson [listed at 5' 10" which means Eddie Gaedel wasn't a dwarf after all] without the pipes and the power.

Two nights ago he ended consecutive innings by throwing a tagging runner out at the plate and making a circus catch. Both times he trotted in to standing ovations.

Last night he went 4-4. Did you see that, Jim?

Plus he's smart. The guy holds an economics degree from Stanford. Maybe he could help the front office out with some payroll reduction strategies and cost-benefit analyses.

I want there to be a spot for players like Fuld. He plays at full tilt, like a winner. He's Fukudome without the bloated contract and personal hitting coach in many respects, except that he would have been hustling on the bobbled grounder that Kosuke trotted out yesterday.

Any team can use what Fuld supplies. Especially the one that flew over Des Moines on its way from Seattle to Chicago last night.

In the time it took John Isner to beat Nicolas Mahut, the Cubs scored once, lost twice, fanned 17 times while walking three times, dropped nine games behind the NL Central-leading Cardinals, fell a season-worst nine games below .500, and went 1-for-16 with RISP. Oh, yeah—that one hit was a double by Alfonso Soriano which came with Geovany Soto on second base but only got Soto as far as third.

Down to their last out, the AZL Angels rallied for three runs in the top of the 9th to defeat the AZL Cubs 6-4 in Arizona League Opening Day action at Dwight Patterson Field at HoHoKam Park in Mesa this evening.


After eight weeks of Extended Spring Training and another couple of weeks of mini-camp work-outs, the AZL Cubs begin league play tonight, as they face the AZL Angels at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.  

In preparation for the Cubs' three-game series beginning tonight in Seattle, Larry Stone of the Seattle Times interviewed former M's manager Lou Piniella over the weekend. The use of the word "weary" in the headline gives you a pretty good idea of the portrait which Stone paints. I thought this passage stood out.

I reminded Piniella of a quote he gave me back in 2007, when the Mariners played at Wrigley during his first season. Noting the difficulty of the Cubs' challenge, he said, "It ain't going to drive me crazy. I want to get it done, but it's not going to drive me crazy." That's still his story, and he's sticking to it. "Our organization hasn't won in a long time," Piniella said. "Because of that, there's a lot more scrutiny here. And because of it, it makes managing probably tougher than it should be."

Saturday night I watched 14 innings of baseball at Principal Park, the same number it took the Iowa Cubs to sweep a doubleheader earlier in the week.The I-Cubs were down to their third-string first base coach by the time this one ended on a walk-off play at the plate with lightning crackling in the distance. Until then the highlight was my leaping grab of a hot dog burped up by the bazooka that scoots around the perimeter of the field on a golf cart between innings. I say burped because we were seated in the front row between the visiting dugout and the visiting bullpen. Maybe bunted would be a better verb.

The game broke from the box quickly before settling into a pitching duel. Sam Fuld played a first-inning single into a triple going for another highlight reel catch. Then in the bottom of the first he was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single. He plays like a kid and I enjoy watching him. The second out of that frame was a tag play at the plate after Ryne Sandberg appeared to change his mind from stop to go in the third base coaching box. Albuquerque seemed on their way to a 27- hit shutout.

The Cubs try to avoid the sweep and hopefully save my little Katie and I from years of humiliation. Colvin sits against another lefty (don't ever go 0/4 again kid), but Baker still gets to play after yesterday's Brook Robinson impression. I should be in chat for most of the game if anyone is around and still cares.

cf byrd, 3b baker, 1b lee, rf nady, c soto, lf sori, ss castro, 2b riot, p zambrano

Have you felt like there's been a lack of timely hitting by the Cubs and wasting good starts by their pitchers? Well reader WISCGRAD was wondering the same thing and calculated the numbers of wins as a percentage of quality starts. Unsurprisingly the Cubs are worst in the NL and third worst in the majors behind the poor Mariners that can't buy a run and the Land of Misfit Cubs Toys known as the Orioles.

Chart after the jump...

A little late on this, but as many of you know I live in a mixed marriage...the wife affectionately known as the AngelFan Wife around these parts. This morning I reminded the 5-year olds that the two clubs play each other today and the rarity of the scenario, gauging their reaction to see where their allegiences may be swaying. My little Gracie, who has an incredible ability to figure out exactly the opposite thing you want her to do or say, jumped on the Angels. You're dead to me blue eyes. This left Katie to redeem all my hard work over the last 5 years. Her eyes darted around the room nervously between my wife and me, unsure of who she wanted to please more. Then with a big toothy smile, she exclaimed, "Cubbies!" A pony for you. I walked upstairs for a few minutes to finish getting ready before heading off to work and could hear them exchanging chants of  "Cubbies"..."Angels" for the next few minutes reminicent of "Left Field Sucks" and "Right Field Sucks" that you'd hear at the bleachers.

It's the little things...

Kazmir vs. Silva is happening right now, no score through three. If the Cubs win this series, the AngelFan wife promises the Angels will take Derrek Lee and Ramirez's contracts off the Cubs hand. If the Angels win, I'll let the girls date before they turn 21.

Though it sounds like Jim Hendry truly couldn't care less, it's the first day of the Ari Kaplan Era at Wrigley Field. As for the game on the field, mlb.com reports that Randy Wells is looking at today's start against the A's as hitting the reset button on his thus far rocky season.

The irony, of course, is that Wells's employers might not be able to overlook the past quite as easily: since the beginning of May, the righty is 0-5, 6.47. His first-inning troubles have been especially ugly. In 13 Wells starts this year, opponents are hitting .357 against him in the opening inning and Wells's first-inning ERA is a Grabow-esque 11.25. (Stats from Baseball-Reference.com.)

The Iowa Cubs swept the Round Rock Express last night behind the strong starting pitching of Casey Coleman in the opener and Jeff Samardzija in the nightcap.

Coleman retired the last 21 men he faced after the first two got hits in going the route [PCL doubleheader games last only seven innings].

Samardzija ran his record to 5-0 with five scoreless innings in game two. It was his second straight start after pitching out of the I-Cub bullpen since his demotion from Chicago in April. His return to the rotation was brought about by the brief promotion of Mitch Atkins who's now been returned to Iowa in exchange for John Grabow.

The A's make their second-ever visit to Wrigley Field—the Cubs are the only National League never to have played in Oakland—having been swept this past weekend in San Francisco.

The weather forecast is not promising, with Weather.com saying there is a 100% chance of precipitation through the shank of the evening. Is there a rainout-forced doubleheader in these teams' immediate future? If there's anything better than interleague play, it's an interleague doubleheader made necessary by the screwy MLB schedule...which became infinitely screwier when MLB adopted interleague play.

6/15 UPDATE: BOISE OPENING DAY ROSTER HAS BEEN RELEASED (see COMMENT #11 below)


Arismendy Alcantara singled, doubled, and tripled, stole a base, drove-in three runs, and scored two more, Richard Jones and Wes Darvill had three hits a piece, and Alvaro Ramirez clubbed a two-run HR, but it wasn’t enough, as Kyung-Min Na had three hits, stole two bases, and scored twice, and Xavier Batista had three RBI, leading the upstart AZL Cubs (Mesa Cubs) to a 9-7 victory over the Boise Hawks at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning. The game was a pre-planned eleven-inning contest.

This was the final tune-up for the Hawks, who will fly from Phoenix to Boise tomorrow morning. Their first game will be Friday night at Yakima.

Addendum: In cycling through Cub no-hit history, ESPN's Jon Miller mentioned that the Cubs have not been on the short end of a no-hitter since Sandy Koufax tossed a perfect game against the Cubs back in 1965. That was the game that saw Cub loser Bob Hendley allow the Dodgers just one hit. Joe Morgan intoned that he heard the ninth inning of that game on the radio as he and his Houston Astro teammates drove into the city from the L.A. airport; they were scheduled to play the Dodgers the next night. Morgan said he specifically remembered Koufax striking out Ernie Banks in the 9th to preserve the perfect game. Would it surprise you to know that Morgan was wrong? Nope. Didn't surprise me either.

 


 

The Cubs held on to beat the White Sox, 1-0, Sunday night at Wrigley Field. The game saw Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd locked up in a double no-hit duel until Alfonso Soriano collected the game's first hit, a double inside the leftfield line with two out in the Cubs seventh. Chad Tracy then followed with a sharp ground-ball single that plated Soriano with the game's only run.

 

Little Jack Horner

Sat in the corner, eating a Christmas pie;
He put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum...

Just to take our minds off the train wreck that the 2010 season has become, I'm going to tangent into just what made Aramis Ramirez so miserable this year. His left thumb injury (diagnosed as a deep bone bruise) may or not have been related to his season long slump or it just may have prevented him from coming out of it as the weather warmed up. He's been 'missing', even when present for most of 2010 which is somewhat different than his absence last season, starting on May 9th, 2009 from what happened at a similar point in the season, when he dislocated his left shoulder diving for a ball on May 8th in Milwaukee.

From a Gordon Wittenmeyer, Sun-Times article:

Ramirez, mired in a two-month slump, first hurt the hand on a swing-and-miss May 9 in Cincinnati. When it got worse two weeks later, the Cubs considered putting him on the DL, ''but I didn't want to do it because I thought I was good enough to play,'' said Ramirez, who got a cortisone shot instead. Manipulating his bat handle to take pressure off the top of the left hand also didn't work because it was uncomfortable, he said.

''This is the right time to do it. This is the right thing to do,'' he said.

He'll be eligible to return June 23 in Seattle, but a return then is anything but certain considering the down time that'll require before he is even allowed to resume normal baseball activities.

Supposedly, his injury was a deep bone bruise. I have not read any reports about an injured ligament. He has tried to play through the soreness but his thumb kept getting re-traumatized from his attempts at hitting. He didn't want to go on the DL until it was clear he couldn't shake the injury.

The Cubs and White Sox square off for the first time to try and win the BP Crosstown Cup. Each member of the winning team gets an oily bird delivered to their doorstep.

The lineup for the Cubs from Muskat over twitter:  rf fuke, 2b riot, 1b lee, cf byrd,
lf sori, 3b tracy, c hill, ss castro, p wells

And the White Sox lineup: Pierre lf, Ramirez ss, Rios cf, Konerko 1b, Jones
rf, AJ c, Beckham 2b, Nix 3b, (Peavy)

According to a caller on WSCR, Randy Wells was out partying with Ryan Dempster and the Blackhawks into the wee hours of the morning. Might as well just warm up Gorzelanny along with Wells to start the game.

Last, but not least, Mordecai Hill has these flattering words to say about your 2010 Cubs.

"It was a perfect situation for the Brewers," Hill said. "They had a guy up there at the plate [in Counsell] who takes a lot of pride in what he does and he practices those situations, so when it does come up, he gets the bunt down to the right side of the field. They have the perfect guy on first base [in Gomez], who is one of the fastest guys in the league, and they had one of the worst fundamental teams on the field, so it was a perfect situation for them."

eh, Go Cubs?

The Blackhawks celebrate Z's first win since returning to the rotation.

Congrats to the Hawks and drawing the attention away from the Cubs for a few more days.

ROUND 31 (940): Benito Santiago, Jr, 1B (Lon Morris JC)
L/R, 6'5, 225, 20 years old
COMMENT: JC Sophomore... Also plays basketball... Will probably transfer to Evansville or St. Francis (NY) to play basketball if he doesn't pursue career in baseball... Son of ex-MLB catcher Benito Santiago...


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Join the fun in Parachat if you're going to be tuned in to watch Stephen Strasburg's debut and stay for the Cubs game that starts an hour later or if you want to talk about the Blackhawks game(which doesn't happen until tomorrow).

Aramis is out of the lineup and is getting his hand checked out again according to Wittenmyer who hints a DL trip could be looming. With Chad Tracy having another 4-hit day down in Iowa, might not be a bad time for a couple weeks off.

The original lineup had Tyler Colvin sitting against Gallardo but Lou had a change of heart and is sitting Soriano instead. I give up trying to make sense of it.

Theriot, Fukudome, Lee, Colvin, Byrd, Fontenot, Hill, Castro, Lilly

vs.

Weeks, Gomez, Fielder, Braun, McGehee, Hart, Escobar, Kottaras, Gallardo

ROUND 2 (65): Reggie Golden, OF (Wetumpka HS - Wetumpka, AL)
R/R, 5'10, 210, 18 years old
COMMENT: Top position player prospect in Alabama... Has plus-bat speed and power, but lacks plate discipline... Hit a HR at Wrigley Field last August in Under Armour All-American game... Above-average arm... Projects as RF... Only slightly above-average speed... Signed NLI with University of Alabama...


+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++


ROUND 3 (97): Micah Gibbs, C (LSU)
B/R, 5'11, 207, 21 years old
COMMENT: College junior... Top defensive catcher in draft, although he has just an average arm... Won Rawlings ABCA Gold Glove in 2009... Was leading hitter at LSU among starting position players in 2010, hitting 388/438/592 with 10 HR & 60 RBI with 14 2B in 62 games... Hit just .212 with wood bat in Cape Cod League in 2009... Was Baseball America 1st Team Freshman All-American in 2008... Was teammate of Daytona Cubs INF D. J. Lemahieu on LSU College World Series Champion team in 2009... SEC Academic Honor Roll... Cubs GM Jim Hendry has long-time friendship with LSU Head Baseball Coach Paul Mainieri going back to when Mainieri was the coach at Notre Dame...


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ROUND 4 (130): Hunter Ackerman, LHP (Louisburg JC)
L/L, 6'1, 19 years old
COMMENT: JC freshman... Throws an 88-92 MPH fastball... Has a solid change-up... Breaking ball needs work... Went 8-1 with a 1.41 ERA, 38 hits allowed, and 24/92 BB/K in 57 IP for the Hurricanes in 2010... This guy was very likely recommended by Cubs ace bird-dog scout Billy Swoope, who has a lengthy track record of finding quality arms in VA and NC...


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ROUND 5 (160): Matt Szczur, OF (Villanova)
R/R, 5'11, 190, 20 years old
COMMENT: College junior... Last name is pronounced "Caesar" (like the emperor Julius, or if you prefer, like the comedian Sid)... Football player (WR & PR) who might get selected in 2011 NFL draft... MVP in 2009 FCS Championship game... Has been compared to Patriots WR Wes Welker... Hit 443/487/667 for Nova in 2010, with 4 HR & 38 RBI, 13 2B, 7 3B, 10 SB (5 CS)... Played both catcher & OF for the Wildcats but will likely play CF or LF in pro ball... One of the fastest players in college baseball... Below-average arm... Slash hitter with below-average power... Patient hitter who profiles as a lead-off man... Gets high marks for work ethic and intensity... Missed several weeks during 2010 baseball season after donating bone-marrow to one-year old girl with leukemia...


The I-Cubs are supposed to play at noon today, but I wouldn't count on it. It's been raining for hours and isn't supposed to stop. So I thought I'd rummage through the fridge and throw something together while waiting for the draft to resume.


ROUND 1 (16): Hayden Simpson, RHP (Southern Arkansas)
R/R, 6'0, 175, 21 years old
COMMENT: College Junior... Features a 91-93 MPH fastball that tops out at 96... Throws both a 82-83 MPH slider and a 78-80 MPH curve... Has a change-up but rarely throws it... Went 13-1 with a 1.81 ERA, 99 IP, 73 H, 35 BB, 131 K, 6 CG and 4 Shutouts at SAU in 2010... Threw 42 consecutive scoreless innings at one point in 2010... Rawlings/ABCA NCAA Division II All-American and Rawlings/ABCA NCAA Division II Pitcher of the Year... Was rated the #191 best prospect (6th round talent) by Baseball America pre-draft...

The MLB Rule 4 Draft (AKA “First-Year Player Draft”) starts at 7 PM ET tomorrow (Monday June 7th) and will continue Tuesday and Wednesday. The first round (plus the 1st supplemental round) will be televised “live” on the MLB network Monday night, with the balance of the draft to be conducted via conference call (rounds 2-30 starting at noon ET on Tuesday, and rounds 31-50 starting at noon ET on Wednesday).


The Cubs will have the 16th pick in the 1st round, followed by the 65th overall pick (2nd round), pick #97 overall (3rd round), and #130 overall (4th round), and then every 30 picks (#160, #190, #220, #250, etc) after that until the 50 rounds are completed. More than 1,500 players will be selected by the 30 MLB clubs before the drafting is finished.

Here are the FINAL unofficial statistics for EXST Cubs players. (There is no Official Scorer at Cactus League Extended Spring Training games, so the stats are not official).

Jesus Morelli reached base three times and extended his hitting streak to 20 games and Cubs pitchers fanned 14 EXST Brewers through the first eight innings,, but the Brew Crew hung-on to edge the EXST Cubs 5-4 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning. This was the final 2010 Extended Spring Training game for both teams.

Jose Guevara bounced a two-run single back through the box past a drawn-in infield, driving-in what proved to be the winning run, as the EXST Cubs scored six runs in the last two innings to blow open a close game and defeat the EXST A’s 7-1 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Fitch Park Field #3 in Mesa this morning.


Jesus Morelli extended his hitting streak to 19 games when he beat-out an 8th inning infield single (a dribbler to 3rd base), and RHP Chris Huseby showed no evidence of wildness, throwing two perfect 1-2-3 innings, striking out three (all swinging).


Cubs Player Personnel Director Oneri Fleita, Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dave Keller, and about a dozen Cub scouts were at Fitch Park today (and have been there for most of the week), working out high school and college players in preparation for next week’s Rule 4 Draft (AKA “First-Year Player Draft”). One of the players who was at Fitch Park showing his wares was invited to play in today’s game, and he made the most of his opportunity.

I don't know about you guys, but I've haven't been this disinterested in a Cubs team since the mid 90's. It might just be continuing resentment over how 2008 ended or the fact that I disagreed with the majority of their moves since then and since most of it's not working, I just feel no connection to the team. But personal feelings aside, the Cubs are 5 games below .500 and 6.5 back in the division and 7 out of the wild card. They could turn it around, of course, but they probably won't. Knowing Jim Hendry and the Cubs desire to sell seats, they'll wait far longer than most of us would like to pull the plug on 2010, but if they do, here are some possible trade partners with my reasoning. I'm sure you guys will have your own ideas.

The Cubs rumor mill is starting to churn and the vultures are circling over the Cubs carcassas.

- Bruce Levine writes that teams are already sendng scouts to follow the Cubs and a bad road trip could mean the Cubs start selling. That might just be wishful thinking by the other teams, but losing 7 of 8 to the Pirates (so far) will send out a bad stench.

- Depending on who you want to believe, the Angels seemed to be interested in some of the Cubs first basemen. Dave Kaplan and Fred Mitchell are saying it's Derrek Lee.  The L.A. Times says it's Xavier Nady and Gordon Wittenmyer agrees. The L.A. Times also lists all the other first basemen in the league that the Angels could go after which includes Adam Dunn, Lance Berkman, Paul Konerko, Adam LaRoche, Ty Wigginton or Russell Branyan. It'll come down to which teams are quitting their season the first and how little the Angels will have to give up. It should also be noted that the Angels are hoping Morales returns by September, so a more versatile and cheaper option like Nady may make more sense for them. Nady does have no-trade rights until June 15th and Lee has them for the rest of the season of course thanks to 10/5 CBA rights.

Cody Shields had three hits, an RBI, and an outfield assist, Wes Darvill reached base three times on two singles and a walk, and Jesus Morelli extended his hitting streak to 18 games, but Eduardo Figueroa and Jose Rosario were tagged to the tune of seven runs on ten hits (including two doubles and a HR) and four walks in five combined innings, as the EXST A’s edged the EXST Cubs 7-6 in Cactus League Extended Spring Training action at Papago Park Field #2 in Phoenix this morning. The game was pre-planned as a ten-inning affair, to allow more pitchers to get work.

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